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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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.
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
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)
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
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.
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.
On Friday, February 15, Hymer North America terminated their 900 person workforce, effectively killing the anticipated Touring GT travel trailer. The Cambridge, Ontario based Hymer North America group informed their workforce yesterday of the closure of the plant, effective immediately. The Touring GT travel trailer had been in the works for a larger release for a few years now, but never made it. It appeared last year that it was “this” close to hitting the US markets, as they had a nice representation of their trailers at the Elkhart RV dealers open house last September.
Hymer North America is formerly RoadTrek Motorhomes, makers of the popular RoadTrek Class B motorhomes. RoadTrek was purchased by German-based Erwin Hymer Group in 2016, and the plan was to use that acquisition as a means to bring Hymer’s popular Eriba Touring travel trailer to North America, which would then be built by Hymer North America in Ontario. However, that all changed in 2018 with the announcement that Thor Industries would acquire the Germany-based Erwin Hymer Group. As reported in the Toronto Star, “the $3.1 billion takeover was delayed amid an investigation into financial “irregularities”.” On February 1, the final acquisition cut Hymer North America out of the deal, effectively shutting its doors.
It’s a shame this is the outcome for a trailer that had a lot of potential, and one I know some of you were anxious to see. Who knows, once the dust settles, perhaps someone will acquire the rights to the Touring GT and resurrect it. Or perhaps Thor will find a spot for it one day within one of their lines. Either way, for the foreseeable future, it looks like the Hymer Touring GT will be a footnote in small trailer history in the U.S.
Back in September when I was attending the Elkhart RV open house in Elkhart, IN, I came across this little offering in the Coachmen RV section at the Forest River compound. The shape and size of it instantly caught my eye for a further look. It was a new model Coachmen was introducing in both the Clipper and the Viking lines of camping trailers. The one on display was a Coachmen Viking Express 9.0TD.
Key Features: Unique hybrid design, with elements of both a teardrop and a pop-up camper; Rear entry door; 5,000 BTU air conditioner; Bluetooth stereo; Full pass-through storage; 20,000 BTU furnace; 1.2 cubic foot 110 volt refrigerator; Zamp solar prep; USB charging ports; Side mount grill with quick-connect propane hook-up; Four heavy duty stabilizer jacks; Optional rear awning.
Key Specs: 9′ box length; 13′ total length; Weighs just under 1,100 lbs; 54″x74″ bed; 13″ aluminum wheels; 20 lbs propane tank; 12″x24″ baggage doors; 15″x24″ windows.
Why I Like It: The Clipper/Viking Express 9.0TD hits all the right notes for me in a small camping trailer. Who’s it for? I see it for those who want to “get off the ground” from tent camping and into something with a little more amenities, but without breaking the budget. I’ve seen these advertised for less than $7,000, so they’re quite affordable for most. It’s also excellent for those with low tow capacity, as it weighs under 1100 lbs. While it is a step up from tent camping, you’re still responsible for your potty facilities, as it does not have a toilet, which will be a deal breaker for some. However, it’s safe to say you’ll already know that based on the size of the Clipper/Viking Express 9.0TD. If you like cozy, without having to pay a king’s ransom, this is the ticket. You’d be spending more than half of what an upscale traditional teardrop is going for these days. But one thing the 9.0TD has going for it that a traditional teardrop doesn’t is that you can actually stand in this once the pop-up is popped up. The 5,000 BTU air conditioner should more than take care of you on a hot summer day when you have the tent portion zipped up. And to add to that, you’ll get excellent cross ventilation from the two windows that are on each side of the camper near the head of the bed. And it’s got decent storage for what it is as well, featuring a bed that flips up for storage access, as well as interior cabinets as well as a shelf above the head of the bed, which also houses two speakers for the Bluetooth stereo. Add the optional tent room and you’ve got a nice little set-up that you’re not spending a fortune on. These are slowly starting to show up on dealers lots and websites, but I suspect that will increase over the next couple of months just in time for spring. So if you’re in the market for a teardrop, or if you’re a tent camper and just want to get off the ground, give either the Coachmen Clipper Express 9.0TD or the Coachmen Viking Express 9.0TD a look. I think you’ll find they’re a really nice alternative for your budget and camping experience.
You can find more info of either model at:
(photo courtesy Boe RV & Marine)
Recently I’ve been doing a few winter projects on our 2016 Shasta Oasis, two of which I tackled the same day. The first that day was the addition of a Heng’s Vortex II fan that I wrote about here. Once that task was completed inside, I moved up to the roof, thanks in part to a mild November afternoon in Indiana. The final task in my ventilation upgrades was the installation a MaxxAir FANMATE vent cover.
The FANMATE is one of the more popular vent covers in the RV industry. It’s made of a high density polyethylene with UV inhibitors to help withstand the elements for extended durability. It offers excellent rain protection while your vent is open as well as less than 5% airflow restriction while using your fan. An optional bug screen insert is available to help from bringing in unwanted flying pests.
Installation of the FANMATE is really quite simple. It’s even more simple if you have a MAXXFAN vent fan, as they have integrated mounting tabs that hold the four EZClips in place. But if you have a different brand, there are four mounting brackets that are included, which is what I needed to use on my vent. Simply mark your bracket location on the side of the vent, drill a hole into the side of the vent for each bracket, attach the brackets with the provided screws and nuts, then you’re ready to attach the cover with the EZClips.
By sliding out just two of the clips after you’re done, you can hinge the FANMATE to one side for maintenance.
I purchased my FANMATE through Amazon. Currently they’re going for around $55 there, which you can find by clicking this link.