Elkhart Open House – Part 2 – inTech RV

Continuing from part 1 of my trip to the Elkhart Open House, I moved on to what I believe to be one of the better up and coming small manufacturers today, inTech RV. InTech has been around less than 10 years, but their quality I’ve seen thus far puts them near the top of the heap of some of the larger teardrop manufacturers. While their teardrops aren’t teardrops in the form of a traditional shape, they are with respect to their size and function. inTech’s Flyer line includes submodels Chase, Pursue, Explore, and Discover. Weights range from 850 lbs on the Chase to up to 2050 lbs on the Discover, which is their toy hauler touting an impressive 7000 lbs GVRW.

 

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inTech introduced one of the most unique teardrop styled trailers you’ve likely ever seen: the Luna.

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There are several trailers this thing reminds me of. I see bits and pieces of an Airstream Basecamp, a Vistabule, and a T@G in it. Construction-wise, the Luna fiberglass body sits on an aluminum frame with a fully welded cage, as do all inTech trailers, and offers a composite floor deck, which will be standard in the production models. The overall length is just over 15′ and weight should be around 1800 lbs, depending on options, with a 2200 lbs GVWR.

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If you think Luna’s huge front window takes a cue from the Airstream Basecamp, that’s not a coincidence, as inTech’s Scott Tuttle told me that day. But unlike any other teardrop out there, the Luna offers a Cool Cat air conditioner/heat pump combo and a HUGE 40″ flat screen TV. The cushions are interchangeable to offer various seating configurations. And because the LP tank is enclosed in the front panel of the Luna, that creates a handy counter below the front window.

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The galley area offers a 12 volt slide out refrigerator, and stainless steel microwave and sink with a pull down sprayer, as well as stove. Counter space looks pretty good for accessories and other “stuff” most teardroppers will bring along. Overall, I was quite impressed. It’s one thing to have a design that’s unique, but when you add a quality build to the mix, it raises eyebrows. There aren’t many Lunas out yet, as production is just now starting to ramp up, but expect an MSRP in the $20-22K range, depending on options. That said, you should see these picked up from the mid to upper teens depending on your location and dealer you’re dealing with.

That does it for this installment from the Elkhart Open House. I realized there was enough just to do a single post on inTech, but I’ll have more posts coming soon!

 

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Elkhart Open House – Part 1

This was the first year I’ve made the trek up to Elkhart, Indiana for the annual manufacturers open house throughout the region. I was able to hit most of the big manufacturers, with the exception of anything under the Forest River umbrella. The gatekeeper decided to flex his muscles instead of letting me come in and (gasp!) promote their products on this website. Their loss. That said, a huge thank you goes out to Thor Industries for supplying me a media pass that allowed me to roam around to look at their selections including Airstream, KZ, Camp Lite, Heartland, and Jayco. I also made a side trip to visit Winnebago, Gulf Stream, Liberty Outdoors, inTech RV, Holiday House, Taxa, Riverside RV, Lance, Sunset Park RV, Travel Lite, and nuCamp. So as you can guess, I packed a lot in a 10 hour period. So I’ll briefly post some pics below with a few comments. I didn’t get pics of everything, but hopefully enough to pique your interest for the upcoming RV buying season.

First off is the KZ Escape Mini. This is in the same class as whatever you what to call the R-pod. Five floorplans at your choosing with all five 20’9″ long and weighing anywhere from 2800-2900 lbs. You can view the Escape Mini floorplans by clicking here.

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I still contend Livin’ Lite’s Camp Lite travel trailers are near the top of the best constructed conventional trailers on the market. Six sided aluminum cage construction with Azdel sidewalls give you all the assurance you’d need that these will last you for a long, long, time. There are nine floorplans of the Camp Lite, start at a mere 15’7″ and 2430 lbs. To view the Camp Lite floorplans, click here.

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Last year, Heartland RV debuted the Terry Classic V21. Styled after the early 1960’s Holiday House, the Terry Classic was met with a cool reception, due in part to its weight of around 4400 lbs, which for a single axle is somewhat on the heavy side. This year, they have come out with a much better floorplan in the V22. The front kitchen, rear bedroom offers a much more open floorplan than the V21. However, the V22 is even heavier, as the unit on display weighed a robust 4700 lbs. While still half ton towable, it far exceeds the capability of the 3500 lbs mini van tow capacity, which many retro styled trailers of today are geared for. More on the Terry Classic can be found by clicking here.

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Gulf Stream has introduced what best can be described as a fancy entry level in the new Capri. If you like a retro flair in a basic stick and tin trailer, the Capri may be up your alley. With a white exterior base and mint green trim with the same interior accents, the Capri has a very refreshing look, as entry level units go. It’s basically the same thing as Gulf Stream’s Ameri-Lite with the mint green giving it a much more desirable look than the typical browns. I’d suspect you’ll find these in the low to mid teens price range. There were only two on display, a bunkhouse and a couple’s floorplan. I would suspect they’ll have more on their website in the coming months, but to view what Ameri-Lite has to offer for a rough idea what you’re in for, click here.

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My next stop was at Liberty Outdoors, the parent company of Little Guy, Serro Scotty, and ParkLiner. On hand here were the recently released Little Guy Max. Sales have been brisk with the Max over the first couple of months of production, and the debut of the prototype Little Guy Plus should likely create the same buzz as the Max. The Plus is in the early stages and there are more changes to be made on it. But the overall concept is that it will have a traditional rear galley and also an interior galley with a U-shaped dinette that converts into a sizable bed and a wet bath along with it. Weight on this should be right around 2,000 lbs once production gets going.

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As for the ParkLiner, it still has a few months to go. Taking consideration that it is a prototype that was on display, I keep that in mind, but some of the cabinet push buttons were on the clunky side. However, the physical construction of the unit as a whole was put together really well. The double hull fiberglass construction of the ParkLiner is a huge, yet hidden, feature of it. Stay tuned as this one is a work in progress. For more info on the ParkLiner, click here.

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The Little Guy Max was well represented at Liberty Outdoors. The standard units as well as an off road model were there. The off road model adds about 4″ in axle height. Also on display was a unit with the optional darker interior wood. For more info on the Max, click here.

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About halfway through this post, I realized it’s going to be big and with my work and home schedule, it’s going to take a while before I’d get it done. I then decided it’d be best if I break this up into two posts and get this first one out there for you instead of making one big post that would get done next week. So stay tuned for part two hopefully sometime next week.

 

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Quick news on Aliner, Lance, and the Open House

Aliner has added a new twist to the Ascape ultra lightweight travel trailer with the addition of the Ascape MT. The Ascape MT has the same footprint as the Ascape, which we wrote about here, but without the appliances. The end result is the same 13′ long trailer, but without the stove, refrigerator, microwave, rear overhead cabinets, and sink, it is some 400 lbs lighter than the standard Ascape, bringing the MT’s weight down to 1170 lbs. The two areas in the rear are replaced with flip-up bench seating.  Here are both floorplans, with the Ascape MT shown first, followed by the Ascape:

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In an Aliner press release issued this week, Director of Sales, Allan Reeping, says, “Many of our customers told us that they love the look and design of the Ascape, but they are not interested in the bells, whistles and appliances that come with the current product. They want a sleeping quarters with lots of storage. A light-weight trailer that doesn’t require them to lay down in bed to change their clothes, or crawl through a small door on their knees to get into bed. They want to be able to get out of the rain and sit at a comfortable dinette. A hard-sided travel trailer that can be towed with a small Toyota Rav 4, or a Honda CRV, yet still have plenty of standing head room.”

While the MT might fit a need for some, after I posted on the Ascape last month, I got feedback from several who said they’d be more interested if the Ascape offered a shower, which a similarly priced T@B does. Hopefully Aliner is listening to these folks and the designers are working on putting something together with a wet bath combination. We shall see.

 

Lance Camper is rolling out a lot of new updates and upgrades that affect many of their lightweight trailer models. Their smallest models, the 1475 and the 1575, are seeing some of the most changes.  Standard updates for these two models includes exterior graphics, Euro cabinet design, Euro thermopane windows, Euro thermopane tinted opening front window, single enclosed battery compartment, , new aluminum wheels with color coordinated accents, molded LP cover, and TPO gravel guard with LED dock lighting. For the 1475, a new optional sofa slide with two adjustable tables.

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Now standard among all Lance travel trailer models are US made Goodyear Endurance tires, flush mount stainless steel range with black glass cover, entry step well lighting, larger foot pads on the stabilizer jacks, solar pre-wire, flat bottom microwave (no turntable), and optional “Lance Load” roof rack system and optional “Smart Jack” electronic tongue jack. Lance continues to find ways to make an excellent product better.

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Next week the annual dealer only Elkhart Open House starts in and around Elkhart, Indiana. This event is where manufacturers from all over the region set up either around the RV Hall of Fame or at their own manufacturing facilities for dealers from all over the country to come in and view new and existing models as well as place orders for their inventories. I’ve yet to go to this, but I will hopefully have a media pass waiting for me on Tuesday courtesy Thor Industries. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ve got a contact with a manufacturer that has told me to contact him if I can’t get in and he’ll take care of me.

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photo courtesy RV Business

I’m looking forward to being able to get in, as this show is just as good, if not better, than the RVIA show in Louisville. Many new prototypes and model updates are first introduced at the Open House, so chances are I’ll be able to bring you some new eye candy. And for any manufacturers out there reading this who’d like to talk to me up there about your products for The Small Trailer Enthusiast, shoot me an email at pat@smalltrailerenthusiast.com and hopefully we can set up a time while I’m up there Tuesday to chat.

It’s still a great time in the industry for the small trailer segment, and the Open House should bring us a lot of new additions to the 2018 lineups of small trailers.

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Lance trailer division soars in first half of 2017

In a press release this past week, the travel trailer division of  Lancaster, California based Lance Camper has been identified by Statistical Survey’s RV Business Intelligence Solutions as the top selling composite built travel trailer in the 14′-23′ length range for the first half of 2017.

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“We are very pleased with the market segment growth we have seen with our travel trailer line,” states President Jack Cole. “When we first set out to build travel trailers in 2007 we wanted to bring the consumer a new and exciting option. We achieved that through pioneering composite construction coupled with hi-tech manufacturing in reasonable sized, highly-towable floor plans.”

If you’ve never seen a Lance up close, do yourself a favor and find a dealer near you and see why they have the reputation as one of the finest trailers built in the industry today. And their construction is paramount to their success. It starts with cutting edge synthetic materials such as Azdel paneling, LitePly wood, aircraft grade aluminum, molded TPO caps, high density block foam insulation, PVC roofing and Lumilux high-gloss fiberglass. It continues with Lance optimally arranging those materials utilizing the advantages of Solidworks computer design and implementing them with the precision of CNC laser guided machinery.

 I’ve been a huge fan of Lance for a long time, and that was well before they came on board to partner with us on The Small Trailer Enthusiast. Like I do when anyone asks me about Lance travel trailers, I always direct them to this factory tour video at their Lancaster, California facility. You’ll soon realize they are state of the art and constructed with precision.

You can visit their website and view their ten travel trailer floorplans at https://www.lancecamper.com/travel-trailers

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2018 Aliner Ascape: Firsthand Report

Aliner has been building hard sided pop up campers since 1984, and they’ve been generally accepted in the industry as the standard which other manufacturers follow in that category. In the late 2000’s, Aliner experimented with conventional small travel trailers with the Marco and the Amelia, which were short lived with minimal success. This year, Aliner has made a comeback in the small travel trailer segment with the introduction of the 13 foot Ascape.

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The Ascape is produced in Aliner’s Mt Pleasant, Pennsylvania’s plant. In these times where every manufacturer is copy-catting what everyone else is doing, it’s refreshing to see someone come out with something that no one else has. And despite its diminutive size, the Ascape is loaded with a lot of amenities.

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One of the unique features of the Ascape is the rear entry door, which includes a drop floor creating a generous 6’4″ of interior head room. When the dinette is converted into a bed formation, it creates a very roomy 64″ x 77″ sleeping area.

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The Ascape packs a lot of standard options, including outside shower, 40 watt front roof mounted solar panel, electric brakes, 13″ aluminum wheels, 3.0 cubic foot refrigerator with freezer, 6 gallon water heater, range hood with fan, Fantastic Fan, screen door, LED lighting throughout, 2 burner range top stove, deep stainless steel sink with pull out faucet, microwave oven, dual 20 lbs propane tanks,  and 16K BTU furnace.

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When it comes to options the Ascape offers, there are just a few and they come in one package: 9200 BTU roof mounted A/C, a 5 foot Carefree awning that mounts over the rear door, Thetford cassette toilet, and a 23′ flat screen TV with a Bluetooth sound bar.

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I did mention above that the optional air conditioner is a roof mount. However, for a period this year, Aliner was installing wall mounted units, which is how these units I looked over at Mount Comfort RV were equipped. I’ve been told that newer Ascapes being produced will have the roof mounted unit. If you go with option package that includes A/C, this will negate the standard Fantastic Fan. However, if you want both the wall mounted A/C and the Fantastic Fan, as you can see from these pics, there are some out there.

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As for the exterior, the Ascape is a smooth aluminum siding with a one piece of aluminum on the roof. Four stabilizer jacks are standard as is the front mounted spare tire. The graphics packages offers four different color options. The green pictured above is standard, but you can also pick from black, red, and blue.

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As for overall specs, the Ascape is 13 feet from hitch to tail, and fully optioned will weigh right around 1700 lbs. Exterior height is 7’5″ without A/C and 8’4″ with the roof top A/C. The box width is 66″ and the total width is 73″. The hitch weight is 170 lbs and the GVWR is 2500 lbs, giving you somewhere around 700-800 lbs of cargo capacity.

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So you might ask who is the Ascape made for? Several! It’s great if you have a tow vehicle with minimal tow capacity. It’s also a perfect fit for a growing segment of buyers, and that would be single females looking for something easy to tow with minimal effort to camp in. I also see this set up well for the adventure outdoors buyers looking for something they can use off the grid, as the standard solar panel and dual propane tanks can offer some extended boondocking. Or it’s also good for those of you who like unique, cool looking small trailers with good features. Overall, my opinion is positive on the Ascape. It would be nice if there was a wet bath feature, but given the small footprint of the Ascape, a wet bath would take away much of its storage, so it would take some creativity. However, Aliner has been pretty creative over the last 30 plus years they’ve been in business, so if it can be done, they’ll be able to.

While at Mount Comfort RV looking over the Ascape, I also did a little 10 minute walk thru video for you to get a little more up close look. A fully loaded Ascape has an MSRP of just over $20,000, so you should be able to fetch one somewhere in the mid teens range.

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Airstream expands Tommy Bahama line

After the launch of the Tommy Bahama special edition 28′ travel trailer and touring coach, Jackson Center, Ohio based Airstream is expanding the Tommy Bahama line with the addition of a 19′ travel trailer.

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According to Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler, “The Tommy Bahama brand embodies the same adventure-loving spirit and freedom as Airstream and we’re thrilled to expand on our partnership. We created the 19-foot Tommy Bahama trailer to allow travelers to enjoy many of the outstanding features of the 28-foot special edition trailer, just in a smaller unit.”

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The 19′ floorplan sleeps four and has a rear corner bed and rear corner bathroom with a 40″ x 91″ front dinette, 4 cubic foot refrigerator,  entertainment center with Polk audio, and custom plantation wood shutters and blinds. Not to mention most of the upscale accoutrements one would expect from an Airstream with an MSRP of $75,900.

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“The launch of the first two Tommy Bahama Airstream models have been a tremendous success and are driving brand awareness for our guests who seek luxury, fun and relaxation,” said Doug Wood, CEO of Tommy Bahama. “We’re really excited about the addition of this smaller 19’ Special Edition Travel Trailer. It offers another great option for those who have clearly shown a desire for the Tommy Bahama Airstream product.”

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For more info on the Tommy Bahama Airstream 19′, visit the Airstream website at https://www.airstream.com/travel-trailers/tommy-bahama-special-edition-travel-trailer/

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Little Guy transformation kicks off with the Max

 

The report of my death was an exaggeration. – Mark Twain

That famed quote by Mark Twain in a letter he wrote in 1897 is something that popped into my head on the drive back home to Indiana recently after visiting Liberty Outdoors’ facility in Somerset, Pennsylvania. For after the split of Little Guy Worldwide (now Liberty Outdoors) with longtime manufacturer Pleasant Valley Teardrops (now nuCamp RV), a lot of people left the Little Guy team for dead.

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Destined to become more than just a teardrop marketer, Little Guy entered the arena of manufacturing, something quite new to them. With the recently acquired rights to the Serro Scotty brand, Little Guy formed an alliance with Gulf Stream to manufacture an “everyman’s camper” in the Serro Scotty. The Scotty took a beating on the internet, and especially in the vintage Serro Scotty community, due to its perceived lack of styling with its standard travel trailer boxiness prevalent in the industry today. Little Guy assured everyone that this was just the first wave, and more products were yet to come that would be more in line with their roots that they would manufacture themselves.

That day has come.

Fresh from their own plant in Somerset, Pennsylvania, comes the Little Guy Max.

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The Max is just the first of many new lines you’ll be seeing coming out of the plant in Somerset over the next two years. And based on my first hand observations of the Max last month, the product offerings from Little Guy will undoubtedly set the small trailer community on its ear. But until then, let’s first take a look at the Max.

I met Little Guy Director of Operations, Dylan DeHoff, at the Liberty Outdoors Somerset plant one Wednesday morning last month. Along with Dylan to meet me was a celebrity in the world of camping podcasts, Janine Pettit of the Girl Camper podcast. Janine was lucky enough to be taking the 3rd Max built back to her home in New Jersey, as she was going to do some hands on critiquing of the Max for Little Guy on a 4 week trip out west starting this month.

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Janine and Dylan took me on a tour of hers before she took it back to New Jersey. The first thing you notice when you first step into the 21′ Max is the incredibly open feel, due in part to the seven dual paned windows throughout, including a window in the door that opens up for additional airflow. IMG_6686[1]

There are also two windows in the rear of the Max that also open, including the vertical window above the spacious 60″ x 80″ queen bed, with a mattress locally made exclusively for Little Guy.

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If there’s one word that really defines the Max it would have to be space. You really feel the space in the actual physical size of the Max, including an impressive 6’7″ ceiling height. In addition,  the light tones of the real maple hardwood cabinetry open it up to create such a refreshing environment that’ll rival the great outdoors for your time spent camping.

lg max4Space is also highlighted in the form of storage space. And for a trailer of this size, I don’t recall anything have the storage, and it’s smart storage, as the Max. A total of two pantries, a deep drawer below the fridge, storage below both the queen bed and the front dinette, as well as three kitchen drawers, and overhead cabinets and cubby holes at every turn.

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This doesn’t even cover the storage under and around the front dinette either, which there is plenty there as well. You’ll notice in the photo above the 24″ Furrion TV at the foot of the bed. There’s also another Furrion TV concealed at the front dinette that opens up with the press of a button. That front dinette also folds down to make a single bed, as typical in most RVs.

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As for construction, the Max is built quite a bit sturdier than your typical trailer in this class. First, it sits on a tubular steel frame that is powder coated to automotive standards. As is the case with most of the components Little Guy uses in production, the frames are locally built. The cage is aluminum and insulated with block foam insulation and covered by Azdel paneling. The one piece fiberglass roof and sidewalls can come in either a white or silver base, with exterior trim in your choice of black, silver, or red.

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The floor is made of a 3/4″ thick product called PerforMAX 500, which is a wood product engineered to better withstand moisture and be more stronger and stable than plywood.

performax500The construction really shines especially in the cabinetry. The dovetail construction used throughout is something you just don’t see much in the industry. I learned during my visit there that they’re building trailers to last you a long, long time. They have the confidence in their trailers that they’ve put a standard 2 year warranty on them, which in the industry is still the exception.

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As for bathroom facilities, the Max has a wet bath with a height of a generous 6’2″, giving ample headroom for most. It also includes a full size multi-speed fan, which is a rarity when it comes to trailer bathroom vents. lg max10

The standards on the Max are plenty, and things you wouldn’t even see as options on other trailers in this class. As for some of the exterior features, they include a 6’3″ Thule awning with LED light strip, 2″ rear receiver for the optional bike rack, 15″ aluminum wheels, sliding screen door, exterior speakers and TV mount, pass through storage with slam latch doors, illuminated aluminum entry step and illuminated grab handle.

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On the inside of the Max, you’ll find (aside from those features already mentioned), an 8″ deep stainless steel kitchen sink with residential style high rise faucet with sprayer, a flush mounted 2 burner gas stove with glass top, a stainless steel microwave, stainless steel 4 cubic foot stainless steel refrigerator, 13,500 BTU roof mount air conditioner, traditional 6 gallon Dometic hot water heater, LED touch screen and switch panel for monitoring tanks and lighting controls, LED lighting throughout including various accent lighting above cabinets, and Furrion Stereo, Bluetooth, MP3, MP4, DVD.

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As for standard specifications, the Max checks in with a dry weight of 2,900 lbs, tongue weight of 281 lbs, and is an even 21 feet long. The holding tanks are 20 gallon fresh water, 14 gallon gray water, and 9 gallon black water. Overall width is 7 feet and height comes in at 9’1″. There’s also an optional Rough Rider package you can buy that gives you a 3.5″ axle lift, black diamond plate, and 15″ matte black off road wheels and tires.

The options on the Max are four: solar panel, bike rack, power tongue jack, and stained cabinetry, if you want your interior a little darker.

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Even though I’ve given you a lot of information here, chances are I’m probably forgetting a few things, which is testament to how loaded this “little guy” really is. It packs a feature punch that honestly I’ve not seen in a trailer this size in the years I’ve been doing this. While some will balk at the $29,999 MSRP, once you see one for yourself, you’ll soon realize that you’re not going to really find much on the level of the Max’s build quality and features. And that MSRP isn’t as high as other similar high end trailers within its size range. And from my visit to their factory, I would consider the Max a high end trailer that will last you many, many good camping years…and look pretty cool rolling into the campground to boot.

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I asked Janine a week after she took to the Max what her impressions were of it and she told me, “Liberty Outdoors just raised the bar in the light weight towable market with their Little Guy Max. It’s built to an exacting standard, thoughtfully designed and affordable. It’s a win, win, win for all RV enthusiasts.”

Based on what I saw of the Max and the other projects set to come online in the next year, that bar will be raised even higher.  Their story is just beginning.

To find out more of the Little Guy Max, visit their website at http://golittleguy.com/lg-max/

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A few updates…

Greetings! Yes, it’s been a while since I posted, but there’s not been a whole lot of small trailer news to report on. However, that’s fixin’ to change! Fingers crossed, but I’ll be heading to a couple of factories over the next couple of months, and one hopefully next week. That one should be big, as this is a trailer that’s not been seen by the public yet, but one that the small trailer community has been waiting for months to get their eyes on. How’s that for a teaser?

Keystone RV has entered the micro trailer market with the introduction of the Passport ROV and the Bullet Colt.

colt_exterior_apr17 rov_exterior_mar17Currently both have just two floorplans which are both the same for each model. But the similarities don’t end there. Every aspect of each trailer is identical, except for the names on the outside and their interior colors and upholstery. Take your pick!

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Indianapolis, Indiana based Greenlight Collectibles continues to provide small trailer lovers with a bevvy of vintage and now current small trailer diecasts. They initially started with their Hitch & Tow series and continue it with various combinations of trailers and tow vehicles.

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But now Greenlight has introduced a new line of strictly trailer diecasts called the Hitched Homes series. Currently there have been two installments of the Hitched Homes series released, totaling twelve trailers ranging from a 1958 Siesta to a 2017 Winnebago Winnie Drop. I picked up a Winnie Drop and a Siesta at my local Meijer store, and I have to say kudos to Greenlight for continuing to honor small trailers the way they have AND building an excellent product at a good price, as I paid less than $10 each.

greenlight1 greenlight2I’ve learned that Greenlight actually measures the real trailers to get specs for production. Jim Gratner, sales pro at Braun’s Fun Time Campers in Indianapolis, told me that Greenlight paid a visit to their lot in 2016 to look over a Winnie Drop they had in their inventory. They took pics and did some measuring for their production of the Hitched Homes 1:64 scale Winnie Drop. So these are detailed about as close to the real thing as you can get.

I’ve yet to see this one, but they’re also coming out with a bigger 1:24 scale teardrop trailer that you’ll also want to put on your shelf.

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So there are a few updates for you all. I’m really excited about these factory visits I’ll be making soon, as there are some trailers you’ve been waiting to finally see, and I’ve been told there are some we’re going to be introduced to that aren’t known yet.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

 

 

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Forest River Drops Lawsuit Against Winnebago

It started a little over a year ago when Forest River filed a lawsuit against Winnebago Industries, citing  “trademark and trade dress infringement and unfair competition” in regards to Winnebago’s introduction of the Winnie Drop. Forest River contended the Winnie Drop was “confusingly similar” to their R-pod, citing consumers who couldn’t differentiate the two trailers.

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According to INiplaw.org, Winnebago’s legal representative “Overhauser Law Offices, LLC, filed a partial motion to dismiss with the court, arguing that Forest River had neither sufficiently identified the features that constituted the claimed trade dress nor provided any factual support for its assertion that such features were non-functional.” Furthermore, “The court agreed with Winnebago, concluding that Plaintiff had relied on “conclusory and meaningless” assertions in its pleadings. Consequently, it granted Winnebago’s motion and dismissed without prejudice Forest River’s claims concerning trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1125(a) as well as similar claims made under common law.”

As a result of this, Forest River withdrew its suit against Winnebago. According to an article in RV Pro today, “Overall, more specific details needed to be provided for the lawsuit to constitute trade dress infringement. For this reason, Winnebago asked to dismiss Forest River’s claims, which the company and judge then agreed to on Feb. 14”.

What does this mean? Simply, expect more R-pod type trailers to hit the market by other manufacturers. The R-pod is the top selling trailer under 20′ and expect even more manufacturers to now aim for a piece of that pie without fear of Forest River’s legal team. We’re already seeing new units hit the market since the Winnie Drop came out, including offerings from KZ, Keystone, Jayco, and Starcraft.

I know this has been a hot button topic for many of you, especially you loyal R-pod devotees. If there’s a good thing to come out of this, expect the added competition in this class to improve the quality and options among all the manufacturers in an effort to rise to that number one spot where the R-pod currently sits. I’ve always been a firm believer that competition makes you up your game, and this alone will benefit the consumer. And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?

 

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A Look at the KZ Escape Mini

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.

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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.

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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:

 

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M181KS

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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.

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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.

escape mini-5

 

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

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