R-pod 196 tabbed for 2nd Annual Girl Camper charity raffle

In 2018, founder of the Girl Camper podcast, Janine Pettit, organized a raffle to benefit the HoldYou Foundation, an organization based in Sherman Oaks, California that assists families facing financial hardship due to a child with a life threatening illness or injury. The foundation assists with services such as rent & mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, gas, child care, transportation, and insurance premiums. The prize was a 2019 Little Guy Mini Max, and the raffle generated some $61,000 in ticket sales at the close of the raffle in February 2019.

In September 2019, the 2nd Annual Girl Camper charity raffle was started, and will conclude February 14, 2020. This year, the grand prize is a 2020 R-pod 196. But it’s not just any R-pod. As Janine tells us, “We partnered with Spoonflower to take it from “Factory to Fabulous.”  Spoonflower is a fantastic company that creates custom fabrics, wallpapers and linens from your own designs. You can upload your own artwork or use any of the art other designers have already created. I chose three different designs from three different artists and installed them in our r pod 196 to give it a home feel. What is great about the Spoonflower paper is that it is very easy to install and it is also removable if you decide to go with a different aesthetic.”

“I chose a pattern called Freedom Arrows by domesticate for the “bedroom” of our little home on wheels. I love the complimentary colors of the rust and navy. It was a nice complement to our Beddy’s Bed pattern as well.  The bed in the 196 is a standard size Queen with lots of storage underneath it. On ether side of bed are nice wardrobe closets that provide lots of space for hanging clothes. The doors are frosted and when the interior closet light is turned on at night they make a pretty nightlight.”

Continuing on to the bathroom, “Modern Geometric by Lemonni was the winner for our bathroom paper. I love how sunny it is and it fits this bathroom that, while small, packs a punch. There is an overhead fantastic fan in the bathroom and the shower stall has a large skylight that lets in so much natural light. The lower sink has cabinet space for toiletries and the medicine cabinet has three pretty deep shelves. There’s also a towel storage shelf with bungee netting and a slightly bowed shower curtain for a little extra elbow room. The US map is a treasure of mine at home that I just had to lend to the project because it is such a great match to this wallpaper. Don’t look for it if you win the trailer though, I’m keeping it!!”

The living area features a jackknife sofa that converts to a twin bed for additional guests. It too had a makeover with new fabric installed on it. As Janine says, “When we took this camper from “Factory to Fabulous”, we took the sofa out and had it reupholstered to give it the comfort of home. I was pleasantly surprised it went far beyond aesthetics…that couch was really comfy. It has a large widow behind it to bring in lots of sunlight.”

The kitchen is basic, yet useful. It comes with a recessed two-burner stove, which gives you ideal cutting space. And the sink is a deep, stainless steel that comes with a swivel faucet. The convection microwave oven makes cooking a breeze and there is ample pantry, cabinet, and drawer space. The refrigerator is a 6 cubic foot, gas, electric, and battery powered double door with separate freezer.

Some basic R-pod 196 specs include a length of 22 feet, dry weight of 3578 lbs, fresh water tank holding 36 gallons, and gray and black water tanks each holding 30 gallons.

To enter the drawing , you can buy your tickets online here: https://www.rafflenetwork.com/public/102/1444 Tickets are just $10 each, and currently just under $21,000 worth of tickets have been sold. This is a great cause, so let’s get onboard!

For an in-depth walk through with Janine, click on the video link here:

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And now a word from our sponsor: Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers

Over the years I’ve followed several small manufacturers I’ve become aware of, typically via social media, and have watched how they progress over time. One that fits that category is Pilot Mountain, North Carolina based Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers, and I couldn’t be more pleased they’ve chosen to partner with us on The Small Trailer Enthusiast.

Founded in 2013 by Jonathan and Kathy Sechrist, 2nd generation owners Levi and Magon Sechrist now run the family business, located southeast of Mount Airy.  Rustic Trail has put out over 400 campers in that time, which is quite impressive considering they only have about 8 employees total. And when you factor in their wait time on a build is about 90 days, they are keeping everyone busy.

Rustic Trail specializes in lightweight teardrop and stand-up trailer floorplans, with five floorplans ranging in weights from 1,000 to 1600 lbs and lengths up to 14 feet from hitch to tail. The base color is white, with the exception of the Kodiak Stealth which is gray. You can also have a 3″ colored stripe along the sides as well, at no additional charge, with several colors from which to choose.  For full specs and options, click on the individual links to the models below:

The E-Koala starting at $4950:

The Kodiak Stealth starting at $8450:

The Papa Bear starting at $6700:

 

The Grizzly Bear starting at $7700:

The Polar Bear starting at $8750:

I remember seeing a Rustic Trail at a rally in southern Indiana – I believe it was a Polar Bear. Since there was no one on the site, I just scoped it out from the peripheral. Just from the exterior, I liked what I saw. What I have learned over the past couple years following them on Facebook is they are well connected with their customers. Rustic Trail has an exceptional website that’s easy to navigate through, as well as quite thorough. Their Facebook page covers a lot of bases as well. Informative without the non-stop little camping memes that too many RV manufacturers & dealers continually post that has no relevance to their product (Can you sense a personal pet peeve here?). Their company Facebook page (click here) has over 4,500 followers, but there’s also a very active Facebook group for owners and potential owners to communicate (click here) that has nearly 3,000 members. There’s also an annual reunion rally for owners to congregate (click here).

Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers does not have a dealer network. However, their owners can be found nationwide, and if you’re not in the North Carolina region, it’s safe to say you can find owners in your area to check theirs out. But mark your calendars if you’re on the New England area, as they will be at the Springfield, Massachusetts RV, Camping, and Outdoor Show, February 14-17, 2020 – click here for details. They will have on hand a Polar Bear, Grizzly Bear, and Kodiak Stealth.

But if you can make it to their home base in Pilot Mountain, NC, you’ll get to see everything there. To learn more, visit their website at https://www.rustictrailteardrops.com, or visit them at 1281 West Dodson Mill Road, Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, or give them a call at (336)444–4017.

And to give you an idea how a Rustic Trail Teardrop Camper is built, check out this cool time lapse video. As you can see, the crew there enjoys what they do and puts together a well built product. My take: Buy with confidence.

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Small Trailer Snapshot: The Lance 1475

This summer I made a trip Mount Vernon, Indiana, a city in the southwest tip of the Hoosier state, to visit one of my favorite small trailer dealers, Gerton Auto Sales. Owner John Gerton recently became a Lance travel trailer dealer this past year and being the only Lance dealer in Indiana, I had to take a trip to the Ohio River city to check them out.My focus was on the Lance 1475, a unit that’s been out a couple years now. It started out as a no-slide, 19’8″ single axle couple’s camper with two captain’s chairs for the primary seating. Since that first year, they’ve added a short slide out on the curb side of the trailer, replacing the two captains chairs with a sofa paired with two Lagun tables. When I first heard about this floorplan with a slide out on the door side, I was a little skeptical. I’ve seen a lot of trailers with deep slides on the door side that intrude into your outdoor sitting area. But not the case with the slide on the 1475, as it is around a foot or so, and the intrusion into your campsite is minimal.

 

 

Key Features:  PVC roof, Azdel interior paneling (instead of luan wood), and interiors are made of Euro-Lite™ which is a light weight and formaldehyde-free product that is imported from Europe. One key option is the All Weather Package, which includes enclosed, insulated, and heated holding tanks, plus insulated hatch doors. The bathroom features a curved shower (with skylight) to better utilize space, as well as a foot flush toilet and a vanity. The refrigerator offers 5 cubic feet of space in a 3-way (propane, 12 volts, and 110) power option with separate doors for both the freezer and the refrigerator. The kitchen gives you a 3-burner flush mount stove with glass cover, with the option available for an oven. The deep, round undermount sink features a residential single lever faucet with a pull-out sprayer. Optional is the microwave that features a flat bottom, which eliminates the need for the usual rotating microwave plate.

Key Specs: With a dry weight of 2600 lbs (before options), a GVWR of 3700 lbs, a 250 lbs dry hitch weight, and an overall length of 19’8”, the 1475 is a hit in the small trailer community. The fresh tank is 26 gallons, grey tank 26 gallons, and the black tank is 26 gallons. Structural dimensions:

Floor Length 14’10”
Overall Length 19’8″
Exterior Width 84-3/8″
Exterior Height w/Optional 13.5M A/C 9’10”
Interior Height 78″

Why I Like It: The designers at Lance laid out the Lance 1475 very well, given the overall size limitations. There’s easy access to storage underneath the front queen bed thanks to a handy door underneath the side of the bed. Also, you’ll find a pantry next to the refrigerator as you walk in, plus overhead cabinets above the kitchen counter as well as cabinets and drawers below the kitchen. Above the sofa (or rockers depending on which floorplan you choose) you’ll find additional cabinets. Above the bed you’ll find a full width shelf for storage which has a netting in front to secure those items.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a huge fan of the trailers Lance offers. I’ve been hearing from frustrated RVers for years how they want the trailers they spend good money on to last more than a few years without having to continually the service department of their RV dealer. From what I’ve seen from Lance over the years, they are one of those rare exceptions. The proof is in the build, and the fit & finish of the Lance 1475 is as good as it gets. Lance is a brand that when you buy one, you keep it for a long time.

 

The MSRP on the Lance 1475 slide out is around $42,000, and as we know, no one pays MSRP. For more information on the Lance 1475, visit the Lance website at: http://lancecamper.com. And to support a true mom & pop dealership, check out our friends at Gerton Auto Sales at http://gertonautosales.com.

photos courtesy myself and Lance Camper

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2019 Manufacturers Open House Recap

With another RV manufacturers open house in the books, the industry continues to push ahead with new models, new floor plans, and new innovations on the horizon. This year I spent two days at the event, and I’m glad I did. One day just isn’t enough time to hit all of Thor and Forest River, as well as visiting the smaller manufacturers. Next year I’ll be sure to make it a two day affair to get everything in. For this post, I’m just going to give an overview and a few thoughts in this post. I’ll work on some individual reviews in the months to come.

What I’ve noticed from last week is that in the small trailer arena, more and more manufacturers are going with a Murphy bed in a lot of their lines. Demand for this option is strong among consumers who wish to have some versatility in their trailers, and the industry is listening. I was somewhat cool at best with them a few years ago. Just seemed a hassle, but the more I’ve seen of them, the options they provide for seating has sold me on them. And considering we’re all here for small trailers, we know our options are limited on seating in a trailer that’s 20 feet or less, so the Murphy bed, dare I say, in some instances is a necessity depending on how many you’re camping with.One of the most unique things I saw came from the folks at inTech RV. They have found a way to put a cassette toilet INSIDE their Luna teardrop trailer. I’ve wracked my brain and I sure can’t think I’ve ever seen a permanent toilet inside a teardrop before. Will it be a hit? Time will tell. When I posted a video I shot of it on The Small Trailer Enthusiast Facebook page, opinions were mixed. Even though it is enclosed after use, some who responded wanted no part of their head next to a toilet while they were sleeping. Others said it was a great idea and not having a toilet has prevented them from buying a teardrop in the past. Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem with it if it were just me camping in it. But knowing my wife, there’s no way she would use it if I were in there, and she certainly wouldn’t want to be in there if I were using it. I have a hunch that’s probably the common opinion with most married couples. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of Canadian manufacturers make it to the show trying to expand their dealer network in the United States. Both Pro-Liteand Helio had a nice mix of trailers on hand. There are a handful of U.S. dealers that carry both manufacturers, and hopefully we’ll see more after this show. They offer a few different perspectives from the usual you find in U.S. built trailers.I’ve heard for a couple years now about the plans for the Little Guy Micro Max from Xtreme Outdoors.The prototype didn’t disappoint. If you like the Serro Scotty trailers from the 1960’s with the drop floors, you will see some of that same design in the Micro Max. It will go over with a lot of consumers in the market for something lightweight (1700 lbs) that you can stand up in. It’s just 16’3″ from hitch to tail, and the best part? With a 6’6″ exterior height, it will easily fit in most garages, saving a lot of people precious money in offsite storage fees. After a few minor tweaks, look for production to begin sometime in late Spring of 2020. Another trend I saw last week was that of the rear entry trailer gaining steam. We know the Aliner Ascape has been around a few years now, but I counted 3 new ones from different manufacturers, including Gulf Stream’s Amer-Lite, Riverside Retro, and Cherokee’s Wolf Pup. And all were a bit different from won another, yet with the same general layout. I’ll be watching these to see if they garner public acceptance in the small trailer community. Personally, I’d have no problem with one. I like the uniqueness of the design, and if you’re in a site that backs up to the woods, you get a sense of privacy. Plus, it’s just something different and I applaud the designers for coming up with something that’s new and refreshing.Overall I’m happy with what I’m seeing. Even the entry level stick & tin models continue to fine tune their lines and make them look a little less entry level. I really liked what I saw from the R-pod192. Honestly, it was the one that really made me wish my wife and I were in the market, because it hit a lot of buttons for me. That will be one of the first features I do when I start putting these together in posts in the months to come. I also liked the new Coachmen Catalina Expedition, a No Boundarieswith rear twin beds, and an innovative unit from Palominocalled the Revolve, which is powered by multiple lithium batteries as well as solar. I got a lot of material to do a ton of blog posts on in the coming months. Now it’s just finding the time to get it done!

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Xtreme Outdoors moving forward with Little Guy brand

Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk to Joe Kicos, founder of Little Guy Trailers, regarding some of the changes happening with them since the assets of parent company Liberty Outdoors were purchased by Xtreme Outdoors – http://smalltrailerenthusiast.com/2019/07/28/xtreme-outdoors-purchases-liberty-outdoors-assets/.

Production is still happening with their three models they’ve had – the Max, Mini Max, and Camp Rover – albeit at a slower pace. And that pace is due to Xtreme Outdoors using their expertise in operations to re-imagine the way the factory in Somerset, Pennsylvania functions from start to finish.

Several steps have already been made at the factory to redefine the Little Guy brand, including the hiring of a new plant manager with a manufacturing background, as well as being an RVer himself for over 30 years. Also a major change is a total revamping of the warranty department. One of the pain points with customers has been a responsive warranty department, and that’s one of the things being address by the new ownership.

While talking to Kicos, he stressed how Extreme Outdoors’ number one priority is the customer experience. This is why they’ve temporarily scaled back production in an effort to work out the bugs that have plagued Little Guy and streamline the production process itself. An example of the financial commitment Extreme Outdoors has brought to the table is the addition of a rain booth to the tune of some $80,000. Leaks have been an issue for some Little Guy owners over the last two years, and the upcoming rain booth will be a big improvement as it will be a high pressure system that will hit each trailer from various angles, simulating a rain storm while traveling down a highway.

While the changes have not been fully implemented, they have a plan in place to regain the confidence of their dealers, customers, and vendors. And expect some new models to hit the market next year in the Micro Max, as well as the likelihood that the myPod will be reintroduced at some point in 2020.

As for Joe Kicos, despite the fact he’s no longer an owner, he is still on board with the title of Director of Sales. He still owns the popular teardropshop.com website, where you can find all sorts of teardrop and camping supplies. And with that, he’ll be able to focus on the marketing of the Little Guy brand, which is what he did for more than 10 years before they took production in house back in 2017.

Extreme Outdoors will be on hand at the RV dealers open house in Elkhart in late September, and I’ll be spending some time there to give you a sneak peek at their latest offerings, including the Micro Max.

To get another viewpoint on the changes at Extreme Outdoors, Paul Chamberlain of Beckley’s Camping Center in Thurmont, MD paid a visit to the factory in Somerset this week to interview some of the key players at Extreme Outdoors and get their take on what lies ahead.

To find out more on Xtreme Outdoors and Little Guy, visit their website at goxtoutdoors.com.

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Xtreme Outdoors purchases Liberty Outdoors assets

Announced late Saturday on their Facebook page, Uniontown, Ohio based Liberty Outdoors announced the selling of their assets to Xtreme Outdoors, LLC.

From the Facebook posting:

“On July 24th, 2019, Xtreme Outdoors, LLC completed the acquisition of the assets of Liberty Outdoors, LLC. Xtreme Outdoors will be focused on improving the quality, dealer and customer experience of the Little Guy brand of trailers. A number of the experienced industry staff have agreed to transition over to Xtreme Outdoors. Warranty claims on trailers sold earlier will continue to be honored.

The principals behind Xtreme Outdoors have been successful, individual (not private equity) business owners for over 20 years – they like to own and operate businesses for long periods of time. They have the background to provide substantial operational and financial backing to the business.”

Liberty Outdoors produces the Little Guy Max, Mini Max and the recently released Camp Rover, which will continue to be built in the current manufacturing facility in Somerset, Pennsylvania.

I’m interested to see what this means for the existing Little Guy lines as well as the planned Serro Scotty. My guess is that the initial focus will be on fine tuning the quality before we see any new models hit the market, as well as improving customer and dealer relations. I’ve read and heard firsthand from several frustrated dealers and customers in recent months of communication issues with Little Guy, so here’s hoping for them it will be a positive change.

As I hear more on this acquisition I’ll post it here. In the meantime, the new website for Xtreme Outdoors can be found here: goxtoutdoors.com

 

 

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nüCamp secures deal to bring Barefoot Caravan stateside

Earlier this month, Sugarcreek, Ohio based nüCamp RV announced plans to build the British based Barefoot Caravan in nüCamp’s Sugarcreek manufacturing facility, starting in early 2020.

The makers of the stalwart T@B, T@G, and Cirrus truck campers, nüCamp will add a very unique offering to their lineup that has been on the British camping scene since 2015. The Barefoot features a strong European-retro design, which harkens to “caravan” stylings from Europe in the 1950’s & 60’s. The molded monocoque fiberglass compact trailer comes with a wet bath and kitchenette, and weighs in at just over 2,000 lbs and measures just over 16′ long. Expect MSRP on the Barefoot to be in the low $30K’s, which is in line with other higher end trailers of this size and construction. “We are excited to combine the unique Barefoot design with the hallmark nuCamp quality,” said nuCamp CEO Scott Hubble. “We are thrilled to have Barefoot as part of the nuCamp RV family.”

“This is a very special day for Barefoot,” said Barefoot Caravans’ Managing Director Cathy Chamberlain. “We have had thousands of inquiries from the USA and Canada and wanted to find a partner to meet that demand. We are delighted to be working with nuCamp – they share our same work ethics and quality standards. We know they will do a great job. We are really excited about bringing Barefoot Caravans to this new market and realizing our American dream.”

For more info on the Barefoot, visit www.nucamprv.com/barefoot for future updates. And once production starts up, look for a more in-depth review right here.

 

(photos courtesy nüCamp RV and Barefoot Caravans)

 

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Liberty Outdoors adds Camp-Rover to growing line-up

Uniontown, Ohio based Liberty Outdoors recently has introduced the 21′ Camp-Rover to their small trailer line-up, which already includes the Little Guy Max and Mini Max. Designed with the same foot print as the popular Little Guy Max, the Camp Rover will provide a different floorplan, but with the same construction as the Max, yet at a reduced cost.

To get to that lower cost when compared to the Little Guy Max, the Camp-Rover comes with fewer frills which help drive down the MSRP, which will be some $4000-$5000 cheaper than a Max at around $27,000. It will have the ability to sleep 4, thanks to the 60″x80″ rear queen bed, the front dinette that converts to a single bed, and the optional overhead storage cabinets that can convert to a bunk that checks in at 27″X81″.

The Camp-Rover offers standard features, including a full kitchen, wet bath with seamless shower surround, A/C, quick recovery water heater and storage including a 13-inch by 30-inch exterior pass-through baggage door. The Camp-Rover has an internal height of 6 feet and 7 inches and weighs 2,900 pounds. It is 21 feet long and 7 feet wide. As with all Little Guy trailers, optional Rough Rider packages with off-road tires including spare and 2-inch lift, as well as solar panels, are available.

Where they drive down costs are there are fewer electronics, and a smaller air conditioner, utilizing an 5,000BTU unit that is mounted underneath the bed. There are also fewer windows in the Camp-Rover as well, which help reduce overall cost of ownership. As Joe Kicos, Managing Director at Liberty Outdoors, told me, the Camp-Rover is for the true camper who doesn’t need the TVs and stereos, although it is pre-wired for those, but is looking for a quality built trailer the gives the basics at an affordable price point.

While not yet on the market, I anticipate we’ll see them hit dealer lots throughout this summer. Once they do, I’ll be making a trip to one of my nearby Liberty Outdoors dealers to get a first hand report. Stay tuned! Until then, be sure to check out the Liberty Outdoors website for future details on the Camp-Rover at https://golibertyoutdoors.com

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Nearly 50 face losing deposits as Lil Snoozy abruptly closes shop

This week I received an email from a reader informing me of a situation with South Carolina based Lil Snoozy RV. In business since 2010, the Lil Snoozy is a uniquely shaped, rear entry fiberglass trailer, created by Alan Smoak, who sold the company around 2013 to Richard Mickle. The email I received from the reader indicated her sister had put a $10,000 deposit on a Lil Snoozy, but the website disappeared and the owner could not be contacted. Sure enough, lilsnoozy.com was no longer active. I then joined the Facebook page for Lil Snoozy owners to find out what I could. Sure enough, on Monday there was a post regarding the closure of the Lil Snoozy facility in St Matthews, South Carolina. What I read there and on the forum, fiberglassrv.com, was rather disturbing. Multiple sources indicate some 45 customers had placed deposits, generally in excess of $10,000 each due to their 40% deposit requirement.

One of those indicated he’d been in contact with Mickle’s lawyer and that he was filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which doesn’t bode well for those expecting to get much, if any, of their deposits back. So those 45 customers who put down $10K-plus each, you can see how this stinks, on multiple levels. Considering there had been just a few employees (as in less than 5) building them, it makes you wonder why you’d let the waiting list grow to 45 deposits with so few people working there, resulting in wait times of some 18 months. As they say, “do the math”. This same person indicated the facility where they were produced had in fact been completely emptied of everything and the door was padlocked. Basically, there appears there’s nothing left for anyone to legally go after. I’ve got more researching to do on this, as it’s just developing. However, it seems like a bad situation for those 45, and here’s hoping they can find some positive resolution in the end. I’ll update this situation when new information becomes available.

Here’s a video I found with Alan Smoak, who developed the Lil Snoozy before selling the company some six years ago.

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And now a word from our sponsor…

The Small Trailer Enthusiast welcomes our latest website partner to the fold, PQN Audio of Ventura, California. PQN manufacturers aftermarket waterproof RV speakers that offer a BIG sound but in a small size. PQN Audio compact waterproof speakers bring a dynamic audio performance typically found in larger speakers.  Designed to fit where other speakers won’t, the SPA series waterproof speakers are perfect for teardrop installations as well as travel trailers and tent trailers. The ECO Series RV speakers are lightweight, offer UV protection, are waterproof, and come in black or white. PQN Audio speakers can be mounted virtually anywhere to fit your specific needs for great sound, convenience and years of quality performance. PQN also offers full OEM support.  PQN Audio products are available through distribution or from authorized on-line resellers.

For more info on where to buy, click on the PQN Audio website here: https://rvspeakers.net/ or look for the PQN Audio ad on the right side of any of our site’s pages.

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