Story by Helen McMenamin

There's no multimedia space (or connection), no air-conditioning, it's a way for a family of four to camp from early spring through hunting season. There's a propane heater for cold mornings or an icebox for summer. It's light enough to pull behind a family station wagon (that was their original era) and if all else fails, it's light enough for one person to move it.

Ian Giles was a life-long tenter, enjoying many holidays as a child and with his own children. But when he and his wife decided they were too old for crawling about on the ground and the packing and unpacking of tenting, Ian started building a teardrop camper - something he could tow with a small SUV.

He was only part-way through when a 4-week holiday came up. Then, he heard of a Boler for sale, as is. He knew a little of Bolers and enjoys vintage things. He asked his wife whether they should stay home for three weeks while he completed the teardrop trailer and camp for a week, or else buy the ready-to-go Boler, and go camping for four weeks? A passion was born.

As they travelled that summer, Ian and Joan camped in remote places that bigger campers couldn't access, enjoying their Boler enormously. They've towed the little camper through the drive-thru at Timmies. And they've met and enjoyed time with other Boler owners, on the road and online.

Giles replaced the AC-only fridge to one that supported remote power before they left home for their first trip. They found the 48-inch bed a little snug for comfort. And Ian had been thinking of improvements. (He finds few things that meet his standards, and is constantly improving on them).

At the end of camping season, he began rebuilding the Boler, starting at the frame, improving on the design and welding quality. He describes himself as very handy, having rebuilt and changed anything that struck him as not quite right. In the process, he's built up full cabinet-making and metal-working shops, so he can do almost anything - plus, he knows where and when to find expertise when he needs it.

Online information on modifying a Boler was sparse, and much of it was wrong.

"I saw a lot of hack jobs and a lot of campers destroyed by people who didn't know what they were doing," he says. "Something like changing cupboards may seem simple, but they are structural, and taking them out can ruin a Boler."

Giles began blogging about his Boler rebuild. After answering the same questions over and over, Giles launched That site is still active, but the previous owner gave Giles, when he retired. It's now a one-stop site for all things Boler, including a series of videos of the rebuilding of the Giles' Boler, named Buttercup.

Buttercup now has everything a small family needs, packed into a 13-foot trailer six and a half feet wide. There's a full double bed, two bunk beds, a 2-burner stove with an oven, a 3-way fridge, a sink with running water, a 5-foot wrap-around counter and an eating area with room for four. There's even a wine rack that slides away to reveal storage space behind. And yes, there is a (chemical) toilet - stored under the bench - and an awning for relaxing in rain or shine.

Many Boler parts can still be found, but Giles wasn't satisfied with some, so he's developed better ones. He sells them on, along with small items like Boler keychains. And wineglass charms.

Boler gatherings happen by chance, but there are also pre-arranged meets. The Gileses have travelled all over Western Canada and the North Western states to Boleramas and meets. At around 2014, Giles realized the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Boler trailers was coming up, and decided to make a celebration of 50 years of Boler camping his next project. It was quite a project: instead of their usual 40 nights camping, he and his wife had one weekend away and worked close to 24/7 until they left for Winnipeg.

He decided on Winnipeg - apart from being at the centre of Canada, the Exhibition offered plenty of space and help with banking. Plus, Ray Olecko built Bolers in Winnipeg, from 1968 to 1988.

Over 450 trailers and at least 930 participants rolled into the Manitoba Boler 50th Anniversary Celebration, last August. Caravans of Bolers came from the Southern US by eastern and western routes, from Western Canada by northern and southern routes and from Eastern Canada. Bolers came from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, Yellowknife to Southern California, New Mexico and Florida.

Peavey Mart and TSC was a sponsor of the event - one of the senior staff has a Boler he bought from the company's President. Some of the caravaners stopped in to take advantage of a special coupon. One Boler is cute, but several of them arriving at their store was the event of the summer for staff at the stores.

The participants who traveled furthest to the celebration were Michele Huck and Shawn Fraser, and their three children. They live in Regina, but they came to Winnipeg by way of the West Coast, Mexico, and the US midwest - a 4-month, 17,185 km trip. They shared their experience with their fellow Boler enthusiasts.

It was an amazing festival. Each morning started with yoga for all. Later in the day, there were ukulele lessons, geared to beginners, as many people had just bought their first instrument. There was plenty of time for visiting and looking at each other's modifications and upgrades, speakers helping others in something they'd done in their Bolers, and a scavenger hunt.

Some events like this one might include a trade show, but at the Boler 50th Celebration, it's a public show-off. Solar power was a popular add-on, as is an improved ventilation system. There was a cushions-and-curtains workshop, and even help to 3D print a trailer.

In the evenings there was more: beef-on-a-bun, wine and cheese, and a main stage with high-end entertainment.

Boler trailers have been such a long-lived success that other fiberglass manufacturers were invited to the celebration. Happier Campers from California (which offers rentals as well as sales of its solar-ready ultralight glampers) and Armadillo (from Enderby BC), as well as Oliver Travel Trailers, from Tennessee, all attended. Giles owns an 18-foot Oliver trailer that he compares to a town car, as opposed to his Boler - "the sports car" of the RV world. He recommends the cult of Boler (and similar campers) to everybody.