Shipshewana, Indiana based KZ RV in joining the arena of micro campers that sport the wheel wells outside the sidewalls that weigh around 2800 pounds and are around 20 feet long. You all know what style I mean. While the industry tends to call the style “teardrop” (well, it’s not a teardrop), it’s that design that looks like an R-pod, Winnie Drop, Hummingbird, and Comet. OK, now that you have that mental picture, it’s time to add to that list with the KZ Escape Mini.
There’s a lot to be learned about the Escape Mini, but there’s quite a bit out there on the KZ website. However, as of this writing, they’ve yet to show up on dealer lots. What we do know is that it’s starting out with four floor plans, all listed at 20’11” total length. Two of them don’t have the weights listed, but these should be in the 2800-3000 lbs range. All come with a slide out, GRWR of 3750 lbs, and have a spacious 6’10” interior height. Now one thing I’d like to get clarification from on KZ is the width. Specs list the width at 8′. If true, that’s a good foot and a half wider than competitors, which are usually at 6 1/2′ wide. However, that 8′ listed “may” be from tire to tire and not wall to wall. If it’s tire to tire, then chances are the body width is probably the usual width of a model of this type.
There are some interesting aspects of the Escape Mini when compared to the other competitors in this class. First you’ll notice the shape. It has more of an angled front and rear walls instead of the arch style of its competitors. That’s a nice touch that sets it apart. Another interesting observation from the four floorplans are the bathrooms. Three have a full bathroom and the fourth has just a toilet and shower, but is NOT a wet bath, based on the schematics on the KZ website. As for the four floorplans, they look like this:
As for some of the interior features, the Escape Mini gives you a standard 2 burner stove, 4.2 cubic foot refrigerator, convection microwave, MaxxAir fan, 20K BTU furnace, and optional 13.5K BTU air conditioner, optional wireless backup system. The optional Off-Road Package includes 15″ mud tires, additional ground clearance, heated holding tanks, and double entry step.
As for some construction aspects, it has your standard R-7 insulation, 5/8″ tongue and groove plywood decking, and a one piece seamless fiberglass roof with aluminum rafters. Also there’s full front pass through storage on all four models.
So that’s about all we know on the Escape Mini so far. But as they start rolling off the line and making it to dealer lots, we’ll learn some more on them. Hopefully the local dealer here will carry these and I’ll be able to bring you a first hand report. But if you’d like to check out more on them, visit KZ’s website at https://www.kz-rv.com/products/escape-travel-trailers/floorplans.html
Back in November at the RVIA show in Louisville, I came across a manufacturer who had a listing of sales of the top 20 travel trailers that were under 20′ in length for 2015 and 2016. Obviously since those lengths are what I cover here, I was quite interested in the results. Before I tell you about the #1 trailer in sales for 2016 (and it garnered that honor in 2015 as well), I grabbed a few numbers that shows that our beloved small trailer segment is on the rise, and rising at a faster rate than the RV industry as a whole.
Let’s take a look. In 2015, the small trailer segment saw sales of 33,207 units. Those numbers jumped to 39,713 in 2016, an impressive increase of 19.59%. When looking at the entire RV industry, total sales for 2016 jumped some 15.1% to 430,961 compared to 2015 (Source: RVIA.org). This includes all forms of RVs, including motorhomes, fifth wheels, etc. So this shows the small trailer segment is outpacing the entire RV industry as a whole by some 4.5%. This might explain why manufacturers are coming out with new and unique offerings in 2017.
Now for the news you’ve been waiting for. I want to first preface this by saying that the previously mentioned list was compiled by the company that held the number 1 spot, so take that for what it is. So without further adieu, the trailer 20′ and under with the most number of sales at a whopping 4,366 is……
the Forest River R-pod. The R-pod has been around since the 2009 model year and is the “granddaddy” of the vintage canned ham shaped campers. Since it’s come out, there have been others come on the scene in recent years with a similar design, but so far no one has come close numbers-wise. Actually, the R-pod is the leader with a nearly 11% market share, while the #2 trailer on that list, the Coachmen Viking, is back in a distant 7.89%. The R-pod’s sales rose over 21% in 2016 when compared to the year prior. So while the competition continues to come after the R-pod with clones of their own, not only has the R-pod fought them off with ease, but have also held the top position of all trailers less than 20′ long, regardless of style. It continues to increase in popularity, as it’s 21% increase over 2015 sales would indicate.
The R-pod comes in 9 different floorplans to choose from, and one that will likely fit most small trailer enthusiasts needs. To learn more, check out their website at: Forest River R-pod
A while back when I had my Serro Scotty Hilander, vintage 2010, I decided the fall after it was built that I’d pull off the Chinese made bias play tires that were on it. I had read online so many issues with “China Bombs” as most Chinese built trailer tires were called, that I felt for peace of mind that I’d invest money into the best tire I could find. The tire that came on it from the factory was an H188ST bias ply by Tredit Tire…made in China.
Most RV manufacturers like to put as little money into components as they can to help keep production costs down, which I think we all understand, albeit a hard pill to swallow as consumers. Once I started reading several RV forums about tires and blowouts, I soon found that I was educating myself pretty well. I decided one night to inspect the tires on my Scotty and noticed on one side wall there was a nick. That was enough of a red flag for me to get more serious about getting a new set of tires for my 3 month old trailer. That is, GOOD tires. After a good week scouring the internet, the consensus was two choices: Goodyear Marathons (the ones made in America – not China), and Maxxis. Although Maxxis is made in Thailand, they had an excellent reputation in the industry and did their job: they didn’t blow out. This was about the time that Goodyear sent production of their Marathons over to China, and reports were already online of Chinese Marathon failures (blowouts) in some cases with just a couple thousand miles logged on the tires. I went with the Maxxis, and it was an excellent (and only) choice I could’ve made. The Scotty tracked much better behind my truck than it ever did with the bias ply tires. I had those Maxxis on it some 4+ years with no signs of wear when I sold it in 2015. I was sold on Maxxis and highly recommended anyone searching for a replacement trailer tire to make Maxxis their choice with confidence. And I still feel that way today.
However, I might need to make room for another tire that fits that confidence level. Recently Goodyear Tire has introduced a second trailer tire to go alongside their Marathon called the Endurance. The Endurance is a much more stout tire in comparison to the Marathon, as its load range are only D and E to handle heavier loads. Some of the features of the Endurance include:
An optimized tread depth and decoupling groove, which help it remain cool while towing heavy loads;
Rugged fabric-steel construction, which offers improved durability and carrying capacity while remaining compatible with tire pressure monitoring systems and typical tire inflation stations;
A specialized inner liner, which minimizes air loss in trailer applications; and
A scuff guard, which helps protect sidewalls.
One big reason for the confidence that consumers should look forward to is that the Endurance is built right here in the United States. For years, RV owners have chastised…and rightly so…tire manufacturers for sending production overseas where it is felt quality control is lacking, thus causing the many tire failures that foreign made tires are noted for. But the Endurance will be made in the U.S., which should bring some comfort to the majority of RV owners who are savvy about their tires. Jayco has already announced that all of its products will leave the factory on Goodyear Endurance tires, so the industry is starting to listen to what consumers have been wanting for quite some time: an American made tire on their RV instead of something that they’ll need to replace in a couple of thousand miles.
For those reading who think a tire is just a tire, look at it this way. Most of your small trailers that I cover on this page are going to be single axle trailers. It’s even more critical for owners of single axle trailers to have the most reliable tire on their trailer that money can buy. Why? In the even of a blowout, a single axle trailer can put you in a compromising position especially if on the highway at highway speeds. However if your trailer is on a twin axle and have a blowout, you still have three tires on the ground, and instability will be less of a factor than a blowout on a single axle trailer, leaving you with just one tire on the highway at highway speeds. That’s why tire safety is one of my biggest “causes” I like to preach. It’s worth spending an extra $200 or so to have an excellent set of radial trailer tires on your trailer. After all, the trailer that’s sitting on top of your tires is in the thousands of dollars, so isn’t a cheap investment in a quality tire that you can reduce the risk of catastrophic failure worth it? It’s a cheap insurance policy and smart money spent. So when looking at new tires, do your research, ask questions, and make a good educated decision. Hopefully after reading this you know what my choice would be, but with the Endurance now on the market, you know what my choiceS would be.
At most jobs, we get that dreaded yearly review from our boss where we beg for mercy to keep our jobs another year. OK, maybe not that bad, but they can be a little on the stressful side. Today I turned the tables and I was the boss and my 2016 Shasta Oasis 18BH was the employee I was reviewing. It didn’t need to beg for mercy, as I was pretty sure I was happy enough with it to keep it for another year of camping.
The 18BH is our second Shasta Oasis in as many years. We traded our Oasis 25BH for it on January 21, 2016. It was a trade down of some 7 feet of trailer due mainly to some tow vehicle issues hauling the 29′ 25BH. Had Shasta had the 18BH floorplan when we bought the 25BH in 2015, it never would’ve been an issue, as we would’ve bought the 18BH back then. But despite going through multiple tow vehicles and trailers over the past two years, we finally are set for hopefully several years to come with the 18BH and our GMC Yukon XL.
Now for the meat of the post. Overall, I don’t have any complaints after our year of camping in the 18BH. I did take it in for some minor fixes, like an air conditioner adjustment and tank sensors, but nothing structural – and no leaks! As mentioned, we tow it with a Yukon XL and I’ve found no need for a weight distribution hitch and sway control. The 350 lbs tongue weight is light when compared to identical floorplans from other manufacturers, which generally are checking in at 450lbs and more in some cases. Our 18BH weighs in at 3329 lbs and offers an impressive 1420 lbs of cargo carrying capacity, which leads this floorplan among manufacturers by several hundred pounds.
The tanks on the 18BH blow away the competition as well: 42 gallon fresh water, 36 gallon black, ad 36 gallon gray. Many…and I emphasize MANY…with this floorplan give you fresh water tanks half the size as the 18BH. The benefit is the extra tank capacities give you the luxury of camping off the grid for an extended period of time when compared to the competition.
Shasta put a nicely sized 12 foot awning on the 18BH, which gives excellent coverage of most of its 21’9″ hitch to tail length. I’ve done a few upgrades to it and have more in store. One of the first things I did was swap out the tail light assemblies for LED. etrailer.com had the same LED assembly that the 18BH had with its incandescent. You can change out just the bulb and save some time and money, but I’ve never been a fan of the barrel style LED bulb. The flat board type LED distributes the light better, in my opinion. The license plate lights also give the added benefit of acting as almost a backup light, which comes in handy when backing into a campsite at night.
Another upgrade I recently completed was replacing all the incandescent interior light fixtures with identical Optronics LED fixtures. There are 5 double lights and 4 single lights in the 18BH Oasis. This was a simple upgrade that cost less than $100 shipped. The result is more than 75% energy saved, a brighter and whiter light, and better ability to camp off the grid. This was by far the biggest upgrade I’ve done and the results far exceeded my expectations. The 2017 18BH models now come with LED lighting, so unless you have a 2016 or older, this wouldn’t be a necessary upgrade.
The last thing I did wasn’t much, but a little “dressing” up the wheels by adding plastic chrome hub centers. Sure it’s not much, but when I add some stainless steel beauty rings this year, it’ll add some additional flair to it.
As for the 2017 18BH models, Shasta has given them a makeover, as well as added a few extras. Gone is the combo white/gold paint scheme in favor of a tan/cream look. They’ve also made the entry door as well as baggage door the same color as well. It’s been out a few months now, but I’m still on the fence which I like better. I guess they both look nice…just different from each other. Aside from the exterior colors, they’ve also added a back-up camera prep as well as solar prep.
If you’re looking for this bunkhouse floorplan, there are A LOT of manufacturers that carry it. I would venture to say that this is one of the most common floorplans among all RV manufacturers. I looked at a lot of them just over a year ago. I traveled a lot of miles to look at brands that dealers didn’t carry in central Indiana. While I liked some features of others, we kept coming back to the Shasta. The storage in it exceeds any floorplan by any other manufacturer without debate. I completed a nearly 30 minutes walk thru video of ours earlier today where I talk more in depth of how the Oasis blows away the competition in terms of interior storage.
The price is right for what you get too. Sure another manufacturer may put in a stereo system and throw in a TV, but I’ve got my own radio and my own TV I can bring to the party. I look for bang for my buck when buying a trailer and the Shasta Oasis 18BH delivers. The dealer where we bought ours, Mount Comfort RV, currently has 2017 models for under $13,000. So if you’ve been searching for this floor plan and you were to ask my opinion, this blog post should give you my answer. You can feel confident in its structure and functionality, all while not needing a pot of gold to buy one.
If all this writing wasn’t enough, here’s the video walk thru I did on it this afternoon. It’s almost 30 minutes long, so grab some popcorn and the kids and enjoy! For more info on the Shasta Oasis 18BH, visit the Shasta website at http://shastrving.com
Liberty, North Carolina based GFM Industries, parent company of fiberglass trailer manufacturer ParkLiner, issued a release today regarding a new partnership with Uniontown, Ohio based Little Guy Worldwide. According to the release, ParkLiner, always a factory direct manufacturer, will team up with Little Guy to market and distribute their fiberglass trailers in a traditional dealer network, something not often…if ever…seen with this type of trailer.
I first told you about ParkLiner way back in 2012, when the then 2 year old company was trying to find its legs. Since then, they’ve changed ownership in GFM Industries and have really started to make some progress. Now with today’s announcement of teaming up with Little Guy, the future looks pretty bright. According to the press release, “This partnership ensures customers are able to receive the highest quality products, outstanding service, simplified parts ordering, and a comprehensive store of accessories to meet your needs as a result of the companies’ combined 20 years of experience serving the RV industry.”
Known for years for their marketing and distribution expertise, Little Guy will undoubtedly give the same energy to the ParkLiner as they have distributing their teardrops, as well as the current Serro Scotty. I hope to be speaking with representatives of both ParkLiner and Little Guy in the near future to get some more insight on this partnership. Stay tuned…
In a story published on January 11, 2017, RV Business magazine crowned the Airstream Basecamp as the 2017 RV of the Year. The Basecamp, which initially was part of the 2008 Airstream lineup for just one year, was resurrected and reintroduced late in 2016.
The award was whittled down to five finalists from various sectors of the RV industry. Aside from the Basecamp, other finalists were the Coachmen RV’s Sportscoach 408DB Class A motorhome, the Erwin Hymer Group’s Touring travel trailer, Keystone RV’s Outback 332FK travel trailer, and Newmar’s King Aire Class A motorhome.
According to Airstream general manager of travel trailers Bryan Melton, “The original unit was a totally different travel trailer. It had the same name and a similar look, but embraced a different concept. It was really geared as more of a toy hauler for an ATV. It didn’t have a bathroom. It really wasn’t a true RV.”
The reincarnated 2017 Basecamp kept essentially the same shape, but added a side door to go along with the rear hatch for loading gear, as well as a cooking surface with stove and sink, a wet bath, refrigerator, and a wireless Bose Bluetooth Soundlink Color speaker. At just under 2600 lbs and 16 feet total length the new Basecamp is geared toward the outdoors enthusiast who you typically won’t find at your local state park campground. Like the Taxa Cricket, the Basecamp is suited for those mountain bikers, fishermen, hikers, and all those others with a hunger for adventure camping who you’ll likely find…or won’t find…camping off the grid in a secluded forest near a stream. MSRP on the Basecamp is set at $35,900, which is about $10,000 less than the similarly sized 16′ Bambi Sport.
The winter RV show season is kicking off in many cities this coming weekend, and the 120,000 square foot Indy RV Expo in Indianapolis is one of them. Some of you long time readers may recall I’ve filled in as a part time salesman over the past few years for local Indianapolis dealers Braun’s Fun Time Campers and Mount Comfort RV. I thought I was going to be an “unsigned free agent” for this year’s show and just be a spectator until an opportunity arose this week to join Braun’s again on both weekends of the show.
As most of you know, this website is not my full time job, and I don’t even make a regular living in the RV industry – I work full time in the retirement services division of a major insurance holding and financial services corporation. So any time I get to escape the daily routine and talk to folks about trailers in person, I’m all over it! I enjoy writing and having you all read my ramblings, but helping dealers at these shows is a no pressure, rewarding venture for me that allows me to get out and help the industry grow. Granted, I like to think this website does just that as well, but talking to people one on one about RVing is one of my more enjoyable things to do. So, for those of you in the Midwest looking to get out of the house, the show starts this coming Saturday, January 7 and runs through Sunday, January 15 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. I’ll be working at the Fun Time Campers corral both weekends of the show from open to close. Braun’s is a dealer mainly of Riverside Retro, Winnebago Towables, and KZ travel trailers. They’re the same dealer we recently bought our Riverside teardrop from, so as was the case with my time working the show for Mount Comfort RV last year, I’m taking the angle of a customer selling for them as well. Honestly, a lot of folks don’t like dealing with sales people, so I try to convey to them my position as a fellow RVer. In some cases, that can tend to enable them to drop their defense shield a bit knowing they’re dealing with “one of them”.
So aside from Riverside Retros, you can expect to see some Winnebagos there such as the Winnie Drop and plenty of KZ products, such as the Escape.
Even if you’re not in the market for a trailer and just want to see what Braun’s and the other dealers have brought out, I do hope you’ll hunt me down and say hello!
The 2016 RVIA show in Louisville featured the usual full spectrum of RVs the industry has to offer. However, this year was one of the best…if not the best…of the six shows I’ve now attended for the small trailer segment. It’s no secret that this segment of the industry is gaining steam and this year proved manufacturers have embraced the small trailer culture with new, innovative models and expanded floor plans of existing models.
Every year I keep telling myself that I’m going to take two days off work to attend this show, and this year was no exception. However, I packed a lot in the full day I was there on Tuesday, November 29. By the time my day was over, I logged a whopping 24,116 steps on my Fitbit, or 11.04 miles! Fortunately I bought a new pair of New Balance before the day began…and they got quite the break-in. But perhaps 2017 will be the year where I take those two days for the show, as this year I wished I had another day to talk more to some of the manufacturers about their products.
Part of my day this year was spent hosting a couple from Indianapolis. Bob & Becky Kevoian are recent retirees now traveling the U.S. part time in their 2014 Airstream International Sterling 25FB. I spent a few hours with them looking at Airstreams and just giving them an overview of how physically big this show really is. Some of you may recognize Bob and his signature LA Dodgers cap. For more than 30 years, Bob was half of the Bob & Tom Show, a nationally syndicated morning radio show based out of Indianapolis. Once Bob hit 65 in December of 2015, he signed off the air for the last time, although the show still carries on with his name. Following his retirement and induction into the national radio hall of fame late in 2015, Bob and Becky have been enjoying the past year spending much of it on the road in their Airstream. Earlier this year, they started a podcast as an accompaniment to their blog about their Airstream, affectionately called “June Bug”. You can follow along on their adventures at their website, junebugjourneys.com where you can catch up on travel updates and listen to their recent podcasts.
In this post, I’m just going to give an overview on what I saw, but not delve too much into anything in particular . I figure I can highlight individual trailers this winter when I’m cooped up in the house. And there should be plenty to individually highlight as well. What made the most impression on me this year was the multitude of new products. But much of this year’s new trailers weren’t just the same old designs and floorplans badged with a different manufacturer’s name. There was plenty of that, but there were also fresh, new designs that strayed from the “same old, same old” that I hear many of you tire of. Some of those were the Hymer Touring series of lightweight travel trailers with a pop-up roof. These aren’t yet available in the US, but that should change in 2017. Their website has little info about the Hymer Touring, but there were four units on display in Louisville. One dealer I spoke with heard MSRP on these will be in the low $20k’s. One note, they have a low entry door head clearance. Don’t ask me how I know this. :-/
One new offering from Aliner is the Ascape. It’s a rear-entry unit that’s loaded with everything a single person needs for a comfortable weekend. And at just 13 feet long and 1350 lbs, it’s towable by a lot of smaller vehicles. It’s not yet up on their website, but look for prices in the mid teens. The Plus model adds air conditioning, cassette toilet, audio/visual package, and awning.
The Travel Lite Falcon is one that easily attracts. While Travel Lite is known mainly for truck campers, in recent years they’ve introduced travel trailers to their lineup and have added to that lineup the slick looking Falcon. It comes in five floorplans and weights ranging from 2480 to 3215 lbs. They’re skinned in smooth aluminum and come on 18″ to 20″ wheels, depending on whether the floorplan has a slide or not. Very good looking unit with good looking interiors. Very nice change from the industry norms.
Forest River is also coming out with some innovative smaller trailers. Rockwood’s Geo Pro and Flagstaff’s E-Pro should be out sometime in the first half of 2017. Geared toward “those campers that value being environmentally conscious and have chosen to drive today’s more fuel efficient crossover vehicles and small SUVs”. An A-frame bike rack, flexible roof mounted solar panel, and 12 volt 19″ TV are just a few of the options these two essentially identical trailers will offer. They’ll have five floor plans to choose from, with the smallest being a teardrop style that has a rear kitchen and a bed you crawl into from the outside, not unlike a teardrop, but not shaped like one. The particular model in these photos (the 14K) has a spacious U-shaped dinette that converts to a bed and also has a wet bath next to the front kitchenette. It has an unloaded vehicle weight of just under 2,000 lbs and is 14′ total length.
Airstream’s introduction of the redesigned Basecamp happened a couple of months ago, and units are just now starting to show up on dealer lots. The first incarnation of it occurred in 2008, and it was really nothing more than a small utilitarian designed unit that never gained traction with the public. After lasting just one year, it was shelved and reintroduced this fall with a new interior package and redesigned on the inside while keeping the same overall shape it had in 2008, with the addition of a side entry door, wet bath, and a few more touches to give it more of a micro travel trailer feel on the inside. So far, feedback has been positive and Airstream has been advertising this thing hard on social media. There were two units on display in Louisville, with one showing the additional tent rooms that can be added to both the side and the rear of the Basecamp. There was also one without the tents to show the sleek design of the Basecamp uninhibited by the tent rooms. The MSRP was a cool $38,000 on the one I looked at. Airstream appears to be marketing it towards millennials and those outdoors recreationalists that you would typically find camping off the grid and not in a typical campground. I’m not sure of too many of those 20-somethings who could afford that price tag when you consider their likely school debt and other financial and career obstacles that generation faces. Time will tell on the Basecamp. If it were me looking for an Airstream in that size and price range, I’d go with a traditional 16′ Bambi Sport for about the same size, weight, and money. After all, if you’re buying an Airstream, don’t you want it to look like an Airstream?
Debuted at the Elkhart Open House in September, Heartland RV again had the yet to be named prototype retro trailer. Its look harkens back to the classic Holiday House built in the early 1960’s. Whether it makes it to production remains to be seen. Although it’s a single axle trailer, it’s got some bulk to it. It sits pretty tall and although I didn’t see a weight on it, it’s weight is likely well north of 3,000 lbs and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s darned close to 4,000. More than one industry professional I talked to about it said that while it’s got a great exterior look, the interior is a little too modern looking and somewhat brings down the trailer as a whole.
Another one that debuted at Elkhart which was a big draw at Louisville was the T@B 400 by nuCamp RV. About 3 feet longer and a foot wider than a traditional T@B, the 400 will weigh in the 2300-2600 lbs range with a 6’7″ of head room. The T@B 400 gives what a standard T@B doesn’t: a separate dinette and a separate bed. One look at the interior styling of the 400 and you’ll immediately know that it takes cues from its European counterpart. I’m sure it’ll gain the favor of loyal T@B owners, but I’m not sure about the fridge. For the size of the trailer, the fridge seemed to be lacking in size, as it appears to be down in the 2 to 3 cubic foot range. Look for it to go into production early in 2017.
That covers most of the new offerings I saw at the show. Now for some other observations. Despite Forest River’s knack for dropping lawsuits on anyone who makes anything with wheels and a fresh water tank (Note to Forest River’s legal department: This is SARCASM. Lighten up, Francis.), that still hasn’t stopped Winnebago, Jayco, and Starcraft from producing their own r-Pod offshoot. And why not gun for them? According to Forest River’s own statistics, the r-Pod is the number one selling travel trailer under 20′ (I plan on posting on this in the near future). But not everyone is a fan of Forest River, so they have a choice in brands, and all four have just about the same floorplans from which to choose. So to recap those four, we have the original, the r-Pod…
But for those you who are just interested in something in that 19′ to 21′ range without the need for your trailer to be the prom queen when you roll into the campground, your options are wide open. Every major manufacturer has something for you, with prices ranging from entry level in the low teens to a little higher end in the mid 20’s, depending on the manufacturer. So whether your budget is in line with the entry level Serro Scotty or Coachmen Clipper,
and everything in between, you WILL find what you’re looking for. This is a fantastic time to be in the market for a trailer less than 20′. Your styles and options are vast and there’s something out there for every budget. So as winter is upon us, start looking for those RV shows in your area, and get out there and see what’s available. Kick the tires, find a floor plan you like and compare brands. Ultimately you will find what you’re looking for in time for the 2017 camping season. There were a lot of other brands out there that brought models in the 19′-21′ range, but I just touched on a few. I’ll be updating the Manufacturer’s Page to include some of the new models set to hit the dealer lots in 2017. And stay tuned this winter where I’ll highlight some of these new models that I’ve discussed here.
Thanks for reading…and may you all have a great holiday season!
Known for 30 plus years as an A-frame fold down trailer company, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania based Aliner is set to bring to the small trailer market an unconventional (for Aliner) travel trailer called the Ascape in 2017.
The Ascape is fairly unique for a trailer in its micro-trailer class, of which that class is rapidly expanding among manufacturers. It has a seldom seen rear entry door, with a drop floor which allows just over 6 feet of headroom yet keeping the total exterior height at under 7 1/2 feet. The walls are constructed with an .030 exterior aluminum skin and high-tech Azdel composites.
“The Ascape is a progressive product that we are sure will not disappoint. For such a small trailer, the space inside is very welcoming,” said Brett Randall, President of Aliner. “Working together with the team members at Aliner, we feel this will truly please that market that has been waiting for a lighter concept.”
The Ascape measures in at 13 feet long and 1350 lbs. It will come in a basic and plus model. The plus model will include a potty, A/C, audio/visual package and exterior awning. As of this writing, the MSRP is to be determined, and other specs, such as tank sizes, are not yet available.
The Ascape will debut next week at the national RVIA trade show in Louisville, which I’ll be attending. I’ll be sure to give it a look and let you know my thoughts.
Some ten plus years ago before I ever became an RVer, my wife and I pondered how cool it’d be to get a teardrop trailer one day. I remember many nights scoping out the various teardrop websites and thinking of how cool it’d be to own the Airstream of teardrops, a Camp-Inn.
But reality always set in and that dream kept getting put off until it was virtually forgotten. However, things changed in September of 2009 when over the span of a weekend in Missouri we saw a great looking Route 66 inspired Pleasant Valley teardrop and a Dutchmen T@B.
After having the luxury of comparing both a traditional teardrop to a T@B over the same weekend, we discussed the pros and cons of both on our drive back home to Indiana. We decided if we were going to do this, it’d be a T@B, and the following weekend sure enough we had our own T@B sitting in our driveway after a purchase from a dealer in Elkhart, Indiana.
As newbies to the RV lifestyle, we soon realized that despite the coolness of the T@B, we needed a little more space…and a toilet. Seven months later, enter a 2010 Serro Scotty HiLander, just about the same size, but with a wet bath and a smidge more space.
But as some of you have followed our story over the years, you’ll know that once grandson 2.0 came along, even the Scotty became too small, as we wanted to make sure both of the boys had a chance to have childhood memories of camping with us. So now we call our 2016 Shasta Oasis 18BH our RV of choice.
The Shasta has given us a good family camper with a couple of bunks, bathroom, queen bed…and a vanilla, generic look compared to the T@B and Scotty we had before it. Gone were the days when it’d take me 45 minutes setting up our campsite, as 35 of those minutes were spent talking to a passerby about the T@B or Scotty. No one’s given a second look at the Shasta. I’ve realized that socialization at campgrounds over the trailer I had was a big part of my camping experience, and one I missed. And after my birthday this past June, one which is taking me closer to 50 and farther away from 40, I realized mid-life crisis was in full effect. I had to do something to tame it. And so with my wife’s blessing, we did.
We put an order in on a 2017 Riverside RV Retro, Jr 509 back in late June. I know a few teardrop builders in the industry, and as you can see on our Manufacturers Page, there are a lot of them throughout the country. And make no bones about it, they build some excellent products. However, I’ve had a previous working relationship with Braun’s Fun Time Campers in Indianapolis, a Riverside dealer. After inspecting some at their dealership, we soon realized the Retro, Jr gave us what we wanted at an excellent price point.
Riverside offers a few color schemes to choose from, but after going back and forth on what we wanted, we realized we needed to go with the white with aqua trim with baby moon hubcaps to pay homage to our former Scotty. But on our first camping trip a couple of days after we took possession, it was like old times. At a busy Starve Hollow campground, it got its share of looks and even some pictures. And once we start taking it out more next year, I’m sure I’ll be speaking of its virtues to any fellow camper interested.
Now for the nuts and bolts of the Retro, Jr. Total length is 13’9″ and dry weight fully optioned is 1,023 lbs. Those options we ordered are air conditioning, sink/stove combo, spare tire package, electric brakes, and a few other minor ones, including a USB/12 volt charging port and solar prep. One thing I did get on my own was a mountable jockey wheel at Menards for about $25 that swings up or down, depending on whether you’re hauling or ready to move it by hand.
The interior bed dimensions are a nice 60″ wide and 76″ long, more than ample enough for two average sized adults. We added a 2″ memory foam mattress topper from Walmart for some extra comfort. There are also storage cabinets on the front and rear interior walls, with the rear cabinets a little bit longer than the front, but both sides large enough to handle your typical bags for clothes you’d bring on a weekend camping trip.
The Retro, Jr is now decked out with all LED lighting, inside and out with the exception of the over the door exterior light. There are two main overhead lights as well as two reading lights underneath the front cabinet that are on either side of the USB/12 volt charging station.
The air conditioning unit is more than adequate for anyone in just about any climate. It was about the time we ordered ours in June when we were informed that Riverside had done away with the interior window-unit style air conditioner in favor of an 11,000 BTU roof mounted Dometic unit. It should be interesting next summer to see how it does in really hot weather.
Moving to the rear kitchen area. With going with the sink/stove combo option, that also meant we’d have to have a 5 gallon propane tank on the front, and in the rear hatch, we’d need the 17 gallon fresh water tank as well as water pump. But should you decide not to get the sink/stove combo, the entire rear storage area is yours, as the fresh water tank and water pump wouldn’t be included.
The rear kitchen area offers ample counter space, an electrical outlet for a microwave, coffee maker, or any other electric kitchen device, as well as a decent sized cabinet for utensils and other small cookware. Also included is an LED light for those late night cooking ventures.
Now one important upgrade that we went with makes our Retro, Jr…as far as I can tell…a one of a kind (for now). And that is the interior Retro package that we asked for. And that is the wood grain interior and kitchen area finish as well as the black & white checkered flooring. This is typically something that does not come on a Retro, Jr and isn’t listed as an option. I’ve scoured every photo and ad for these for the past 5 months and I’ve not seen one with this option. So a typical Retro, Jr interior would look like this:
Kind of a no brainer to go with the wood grain/checker board look for about $300, don’t you think?
Now back to some specs, the Retro, Jr sits on a 1500 lbs axle, supported by two 13″ wheels. The underside is enclosed by the usual black Darco material to keep out moisture. The 30 amp power cord could be a little longer to suit me, so be prepared to purchase an extension for it as it’s probably about 15′ long.
Construction-wise it appears to be built pretty well. It’s got an aluminum cage with a steel frame, aluminum sidewalls and a fiberglass roof. It tows extremely well and at just 1,023 lbs, can be towed by a lot of vehicles. As you can tell, this is a teardrop with doors on each side, which isn’t always the case with some manufacturers. Each door has a deep tented, vertical sliding window for some good cross ventilation and are draped with color coordinated shades for privacy. The one drawback with going with the rooftop air conditioner is that it eliminates the possibility to have an A/C as well as a roof top vent fan. However, a Fantastic Fan is standard if you don’t order the A/C. And one other request I wish I would’ve made is to have an exterior porch light over each door, as they only put the one over the curbside door.
But overall, it appears to be a solid trailer with a good build quality. And coming from me, that says something, as I was rather critical of Riverside’s sloppiness on their Retros when I first saw them at the RVIA trade show in Louisville in 2011. However, in subsequent years, I commented on how they seemed to have got their act together on fit & finish for this price point, and the fact that I’m buying from them should show how much I believe in how they’ve improved.
Depending on where you are in the U.S., you can likely expect to see a Retro, Jr fetch an MSRP starting in the $9,000’s, but your results may vary. I’ll keep you all posted on how things are going on it in the near future. And if you’re wondering, yes, we are a two-trailer family. We’ll be keeping our Shasta for when we take family trips with the grandboys. But the Retro, Jr is for me, or me and my wife to play with. I kind of liken it to this: The Shasta is kind of like a minivan that a guy has to drive throughout the week. And the Retro, Jr is that guy’s sportscar that he drives on the weekends. Hope you follow that analogy!
I’ve put together a walk around video of it that you can find below. Feel free to shoot me any comments or questions either below this post or on the YouTube video. As always, thanks for reading.
The Small Trailer Enthusiast is a home for news on small travel trailers, typically 20' or less. Here you will find info on new models, industry news relating to small trailers, and any other stories I think you might find interesting. Have some small trailer news you'd like to pass along?