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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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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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Basecamp Garners RV of the Year Honors

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. 2016rvia-7

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.

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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.


(courtesy Colonial Airstream)

To learn more about the Basecamp’s features and options, visit the Airstream website at https://www.airstream.com/travel-trailers/basecamp

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2016 RVIA Show Review

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.

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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. :-/

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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

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the Winnebago Winnie Drop

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the Jayco Hummingbird

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…and the Starcraft Comet Mini

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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,

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to the mid-range Winnebago Micro Minnie or Keystone Passport Ultra Lite

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or to the higher end Livin’ Lite Camp Lite or Lance,

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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!

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A Look at the Riverside Retro, Jr

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. dsc_1123-2

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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(courtesy Curtis Trailers)

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.

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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!

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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.

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Airstream Unveils NEST Details Via Survey

Not long after it was announced by Airstream of their acquisition of NEST Caravans, I signed up on the Airstream website to receive updates on the NEST. Today I received an e-mail from Airstream with a link to a survey regarding the NEST.

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A lot of the questions had to do with comparing NEST to a traditional Airstream and what other brands you’ve considered. When I got towards the end of the survey, the page consisted of an overall description of the NEST followed by survey questions. It was in the description where it was revealed where the NEST have a starting price of $40,000. You read that right.

NEST is an all-new, compact, 16’6” trailer that provides all the luxury and quality one would expect from an Airstream, plus the added benefits of exterior color options and the ability to be towed by smaller vehicles (such as mid-sized SUVs, light trucks and crossovers).

Within its fiberglass shell, NEST contains a wet bath (toilet, shower), queen-sized bed, dining area, galley with refrigerator and cooktop, plus many other thoughtful appointments — all in a comfortable, light-filled space with 6’6” of standing headroom.

NEST was conceived and developed by entrepreneur Robert Johans in Bend, Oregon; and automotive designer, Bryan Thompson, is responsible for the trailer’s sophisticated and modern exterior styling.

Recognizing Airstream’s DNA in NEST, Airstream purchased the company in 2016 with a goal to improve upon the concept by building it with advanced components and manufacturing techniques. Augmenting its iconic travel trailer line up with NEST’s progressive product design aligns with Airstream’s ambition to further its long legacy of refined innovation within the RV industry.

NEST will start at $40,000 (or $325/mo., if financed). The trailers will be built at the Airstream facility in Jackson Center, OH, and available for purchase the summer of 2017.

So after reading this last paragraph, I think it’s safe to say most of you remotely interested will probably feel like you’ve been priced out of purchasing a NEST.  I hear a lot from readers how a new Scamp in the upper teens is overpriced. I’m completely expecting negative comments on the pricing, but if you’re someone who’d be willing to pay that kind of money for a NEST, I’d really like to hear from  you.  I’d be interested to know a buyer’s rationale in spending more on a fiberglass NEST than you would a traditional 16′ aluminum Airstream Bambi. And one of the questions on the survey is “How likely are you to purchase NEST for $40k?“. You’d think they’d have asked consumers this question before buying NEST and setting a starting price of $40,000, wouldn’t you?

As production starts in the next year, I’ll provide any additional updates as they come along. As always, stay tuned here!

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Airstream Acquires NEST Caravans

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Jackson Center, Ohio based Airstream, Inc. has acquired the assets of NEST Caravans, an Oregon based molded fiberglass trailer company that saw its first prototype produced in just the past year.

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In a press release from Airstream President Bob Wheeler, “We’ve been imagining a small, well-thought-out fiberglass travel trailer for quite some time and are very confident about its potential. Nest is a product that conveys sophistication, simplicity, and upscale modernity, so it made sense for us to partner and help bring this design to market.”

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The NEST is the brainchild of Robert Johans, President and Lead Designer of the Bend, Oregon based company. After moving to Bend  in 2006, Johans started a fiberglass trailer restoration business called The Egg Plant. It was his time spent restoring and modernizing Scamps, Bolers, Trilliums, and other fiberglass “egg” trailers where he envisioned creating his own offering to the fiberglass trailer market, and thus the NEST Caravan company was born.

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The NEST is rear entry, monocoque bodied, 2400 pounds, and is 16’8″ from hitch to tail. It is by far an upscale offering as molded fiberglass campers go. According to the NEST Caravans website, the price on a base model starts at $29,995 and goes up from there, depending on additional options. Perhaps when Airstream gets them into mass production, that price may be a little lower, but when it comes to the price of any Airstream, that’s really anyone’s guess. But considering the upscale features NEST already incorporates, I don’t see Airstream backing off of that philosophy and in reality, they’ll likely raise the bar.

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Obviously this story is developing and much more will be learned in the months to come as Airstream gets production underway. I’ll post here as I hear new updates. For more info on the NEST, you can visit their website (until it shows up on Airstream’s website) here: http://www.nestcaravans.com In the meantime, below is a short video with Robert Johans discussing NEST Caravans.

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Greenlight Continues Retro Trailer Releases

Back in July, I wrote about the introduction of a diecast Shasta Airflyte by Indianapolis based Greenlight Collectibles. That was in their Hitch & Tow Series 4 lineup which have hit store shelves within the past month.

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Recently Greenlight has introduced the players in the Series 5 lineup, and a Shasta Airflyte is once again featured. This one is a butternut yellow Airflyte towed by a color matching 1967 Ford Custom. According to the Greenlight Collectibles website, the release date for Series 5 is sometime this month, so start looking for these online or at a retailer that carries Greenlight products.

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This doesn’t appear to be the end of Greenlight’s use of the Airflyte. There is a drawing of a 1963 Dodge D-100  pickup hauling a light blue Airflyte, scheduled to be released in Series 6 sometime in early 2016.

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And with that, it appears Hitch & Tow Series 6 will also see the reemergence of an Airstream, which was the retro trailer of choice in Series 1 through 3. The new Airstream will have a new finish on it. The first Airstreams in the series were a polished aluminum and the gold anodized aluminum. Photos released on the Greenlight Collectibles Flickr page show a prototype of an unpolished aluminum Airstream, and a drawing of one hauled by a i968 Chevrolet C-10.

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So there’s the latest on Greenlight Collectibles’ continued honoring of vintage travel trailers. I’ve got three of these myself and for about $10 each, it’s an excellent value, as the quality of these are fantastic. I’ll continue to provide future updates as new releases come out.

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A look at the Bowlus Road Chief

The Bowlus Road Chief. In the history of travel trailers, the Road Chief might possibly be one of the most iconic trailers ever built. Built by Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” Superintendent of Construction, Hawley Bowlus, the Road Chief had much of the same construction methods of airplanes of the early part of the 20th century when it first debuted in 1934. However, it took Wally Byam to take control of Bowlus’ struggling company, and in 1936 rename the Road Chief the Airstream Clipper, which ultimately put Byam’s Airstream on the map for generations to come.

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Now in 2013, a new version of the Road Chief is back in production. Owner and designer John Long started building the Road Chief in 2013 after a 10 year restoration of his own 1935 Road Chief.  The new Road Chief looks as vintage as it gets on the outside, but the interior is anything but that. Creature comforts on the inside include a private “stateroom” in the rear of the trailer that features a king bed that converts to two twin beds, a full size 6 foot sofa with storage drawers underneath, birch interior, 120 watt portable solar panel, separate dinette, 3′ X 5′ bathroom with shower & cassette toilet, 2-burner stove, 3 cubic foot refrigerator, microwave, and as they say “much, much more”.

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However, the exterior is as close to the original version as it could get. Like the original Road Chiefs, the 2013 version also boasts aircraft grade aluminum that is riveted and bonded. And of course it wouldn’t be a Road Chief if it didn’t have its distinctive front entry door (with screen door) on the front of the trailer.

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The 2013 Road Chief checks in at 2800 lbs and just over 23′ long. However, the hitch and bumper are removable, which makes it possible to store one in a 20′ garage, although the 7’10” height would require a minimum 8′ door. The 6’4″ interior head room also makes it comfortable for most.

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Built in Ventura County, California, the Road Chief isn’t for every pocketbook. There is no dealer network and the $1500 reserve is just a fraction of the $100,000 price tag. However, for those with the means, the Bowlus Road Chief is a trailer that will garner the attention of everyone at the campground, and one that will send you back in time.

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To find out more about the Road Chief, visit their website at http://bowlusroadchief.com, or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BowlusRoadChief

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An Airstream with a Sweet Smile

Back in October 2009, a couple of rookie campers had just bought a new T@B and were ready for their first weekend of camping in it. They had joined a T@B online forum to get more info on their new trailer and learn from other experienced T@B owners. Two of those owners were Tom & Ella Brown of Van Wert, Ohio. The Browns had been camping for decades and were definitely two of the more experienced T@B owners, as their 2004 model was the 91st of nearly 5,000 total built in a seven year span, buying it new in 2003.

From the time Tom & Ella met in 1978, their  list of campers included a Coleman pop-up, an 18′ Scotty, and a 22′ Wilderness. Once their boys had grown and gone off to college, Tom & Ella decided to go smaller and  bought their T@B in 2003. Into the 2011 camping season, the Browns decided it was time for a change, and they would set their sights on their next trailer: an Airstream.

They had narrowed their choice down to either a 16′ or 19′ unit, and came across a dealer in Tennessee that carried both for them to compare. After deciding the extra length of the 19′ was mainly in the bathroom, they decided on a 16′ Bambi.

However this wasn’t just any Bambi, they found out. This one has a “sweet” story to it. This particular Airstream was a grand prize in a 2011 contest snack maker Little Debbie had called the “Million Smiles Mission”. The Bambi was dressed up with graphics and hauled all over the U.S. in 2011 while making appearances and being used to pass out sweet treats along the way. And one lucky winner of the contest from northeast Ohio got to claim her.

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Ella hasn’t completely pieced together how it ended up on a dealer’s lot in Tennessee. “Somehow, (we haven’t pieced together all of her ramblings  yet!) she ended up on Chilhowee RV lot in Alcoa, TN – just a few months old and looking for a forever home”, she says.  I would venture to say the grand prize winner probably sold it for cash and the dealer ended up with it in that fashion.

Despite the hoopla surrounding the first few months of excitement their Bambi encountered in its life, it’s now settling into its new life as a weekend warrior in campgrounds around the midwest. But if you do see Tom & Ella and their Bambi (affectionately named “The Silvermine…and His”) at a campground, Ella may just have a nutty bar waiting for you…as well as a smile.

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