Wilson Sheep CampsWritten by Heather Hamilton
Heber City, Utah — The widely recognized traditional sheep camp design was standardized in the late 1800s, and even in their earliest days the camps were unique. All were designed as a mobile form of shelter and storage, but beyond that they were as varied as their occupants.
With the rapidly increasing sheep numbers in the 1900s also came an increasing demand for sheep camps. Producers could build their own or have one made through the local blacksmith. These blacksmiths are given a lot of credit for designing and modifying early camps as well as performing upgrades and repairs.
By the turn of the 20th century commercial manufacturers were producing and marketing sheep camps. Studabaker, which originated as a blacksmith shop, was among the best and produced camps from 1899 through 1913. They called their version the, “sheep camp bed.” Today very few commercial manufacturers produce sheep camps. The oldest and most widely recognized is Wilson Sheep Camps, located in Heber City, Utah.
This multi-generational family-owned business started in 1976 when Mark Wilson’s father asked him to come home and run the family farm instead of going into the Air Force. He agreed and was later asked to rebuild some of the family’s sheep camps. Soon neighbors were calling wanting to purchase the camps. Mark went into business with his brother Doyle and Wilson Sheep Camp Trailers was born.
“I built three or four camps for my father and uncle. At that time they were made out of the old cars and were worn out before you even started. I invented a new type of running gear and a new trailing mechanism,” explains Wilson.
The Wilson brothers built sheep camps together for 30 years. Three years ago Doyle retired and Mark’s sons, Brady and Wesley, joined the business. “Both of my sons are college graduates, one is a metallurgical engineer and one is a computer engineer,” says Wilson.
Today Wilson Sheep Camps builds approximately two custom camps each month. Prices range from $14,000 to $23,000 for a standard size camp. The Wilson family has always been quality and design oriented and do all the work themselves to ensure quality control.
Brady and Wesley’s skills are utilized to further improve the strength, design and available options in a camp. “We have recently built some new shops and purchased some CNC equipment. They’ve really improved the camps with aluminum use and modern technology. We make everything using CNC, even wood carvings that can be inlayed in the camp,” says Wilson of computer numerical control technology.
The design is constantly being modified to improve the camps and ensure they are the best money can buy. They are comprised of solid frame construction and the custom chasse designed by Mark. This combination results in a durable camp that can withstand being drug up mountain trails and also pulled down the interstate.
“People found out about them and that they last so much longer than travel trailers. They’re built better and can be repaired if they’re rolled,” explains Mike. “We sell them to government trappers and a lot of hunters and fishermen in addition to sheep producers. They are designed to be used every day out of the year regardless of temperature.”
Camps are well insulated with a combination of fiberglass and foam. They have improved ceilings with aluminum trim and lifetime guaranteed screws. Lifetime hinges and Formica are used inside for increased durability. The same coating used to line pickup beds is applied to the bottom and has been a popular feature with customers.
Other features customers can choose from include solar panels, an entertainment package including TV and DVD player, forced air heat and precision built cabinets. Toilet systems, roll out beds and air conditioning can also be implemented in the design.
“We also came up with an alumna-frame door. That has been a really big improvement that people are trying to copy. It will take them a while to figure it out though,” adds Wilson.
The Wilson’s recently built a big press that allows them to make perfect bows in the roof. This enables them to build longer than the previous maximum 18 feet. They also just came up with a new way of including a bathtub in the design.
“We’re always coming up with new ways to improve the camps and can provide a lot of options,” says Wilson. “We use the best marketing tool there is, word of mouth. Our quality says it all.”