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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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Aliner Introduces Ascape Travel Trailer

Known for 30 plus years as an A-frame fold down trailer company, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania based Aliner is set to bring to the small trailer market an unconventional (for Aliner) travel trailer called the Ascape in 2017.

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The Ascape is fairly unique for a trailer in its micro-trailer class, of which that class is rapidly expanding among manufacturers. It has a seldom seen rear entry door, with a drop floor which allows just over 6 feet of headroom yet keeping the total exterior height at under 7 1/2 feet. The walls are constructed with an .030 exterior aluminum skin and high-tech Azdel composites.

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“The Ascape is a progressive product that we are sure will not disappoint. For such a small trailer, the space inside is very welcoming,” said Brett Randall, President of Aliner. “Working together with the team members at Aliner, we feel this will truly please that market that has been waiting for a lighter concept.”

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The Ascape measures in at 13 feet long and 1350 lbs. It will come in a basic and plus model. The plus model will include a potty, A/C, audio/visual package and exterior awning. As of this writing, the MSRP is to be determined, and other specs, such as tank sizes, are not yet available.

The Ascape will debut next week at the national RVIA trade show in Louisville, which I’ll be attending. I’ll be sure to give it a look and let you know my thoughts.

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Aliner to Debut Breast Cancer Awareness Designs

In a press release from Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania based Aliner, they will be launching two new designs for their Scout-Lite and Ranger 10 trailers, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit breast cancer research. With October being breast cancer awareness month, the announcement was no coincidence.

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The two color options will be pink on white, or white on pink. The designs were the inspiration of Aliner president and CEO Brett Randall, who has had personal experiences with breast cancer. 14159836_1280924741974396_175668567_n

“We are very honored to introduce these two special units. We feel a strong connection to all of those who have been impacted by breast cancer,” said Randall. “We are proud of the opportunity to provide our loyal followers a product that may touch them as well.”

According to the press release, as the project proceeded, it became evident that breast cancer touched the lives of many Aliner employees. Several concepts were considered over a period of months before these two designs were chosen, as they believed they represented the Aliner brand and breast cancer awareness.  One touch I noticed is how they incorporated a ribbon as the “A” in Aliner on the sides. Nicely done.

Randall will be available via a Facebook chat on Thursday, September 1 at 6pm Eastern to discuss the designs as well as Aliner in general. You can access the Aliner Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/AlinerInc/

The breast cancer awareness camping trailers can now be ordered via a local Aliner dealer.

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A Look at the A-Liner Limited Edition Retro

When the 2016 Aliner Limited Edition was unveiled at the Louisville RVIA trade show last December, it was an addition to the ever growing retro trailer segment of the RV industry that seemed to come out of left field. After all, the A-frame pop up company didn’t come into existence until 1984, well after the era of canned ham trailers that the recent wave of reproductions has meant to mimic.

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According to Aliner president and CEO Brett Randall, “We like to stay on top of what our customers are looking for in a camping trailer and we believe we have done so with the Aliner Limited Edition as it has a retro graphics package, new exterior porch light, tires with chrome moon hub, tire cover and a certificate of authenticity.”

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Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania’s Aliner has committed to building 84 Limited Editions, which commemorates when they went into business in 1984. It’s based on an Aliner Classic, with a few standards that are options on a standard Classic. Some of the standard features on the Limited Edition include chrome baby moon hubcaps on 14″ rims, a retro graphics package, a 5,000 BTU air conditioner, a rear sofa that converts to a 60″ x 76″ bed, a front dinette that converts to a 40″ x 76″ bed, a 3.0 cubic foot refrigerator, microwave,  a DSI water heater, LED exterior lighting, an exterior shower, and an off-road package.

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alinerse17As for the specifications, the Aliner Limited Edition has a box length of 12′, total length of 15′, and a width of 78″. The gross vehicular weight rating is 3,000 lbs and the unloaded weight is 1635 lbs. The tongue weight is 190 lbs and the maximum carrying capacity is a generous 1365 lbs. The Limited Edition also comes with a special 2 year warranty.

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Recently, Aliner dealer Mount Comfort RV received one of the 84 Limited Editions on their lot in Greenfield, Indiana. They put together a really nice walk through video of the Limited Edition Aliner with President Rusty Eckstein. Rusty tells me the video has received nearly 3,000 views in just a week, so that’s a pretty strong statement as to the interest it’s drawn with potential buyers.

As of this writing on June 10, there are just 7 on rvtrader.com, with prices ranging anywhere from $18K to $28K. You can check out more about the Aliner Limited Edition at http://aliner.com/campers/limited-edition/  Not sure where the closest Aliner dealer is to you? You can find that out at http://aliner.com/aliner-dealers/

 

(photos courtesy Mount Comfort RV, Princess Craft RV, and Aliner)

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Aliner adds new storage boxes

Mt. Pleasant, PA based Aliner has enjoyed a successful 2012 thus far, according to Melanie Spires of Aliner.  “The first 5 months of 2012 Aliner retail sales were up 33% across the board. The Classic, Expedition and Ranger are the three top selling models, they are the core.”

Helping fuel the increase in sales is the new optional storage compartment. Located on the front tongue, the 100% waterproof, 30 cubic foot compartment features lockable full-length top and side access doors, as well as interior lighting. Better yet, the entire box is removable, leaving in its place a tray for transporting larger items. Competitors offer either a storage box or a tray, but not both. Removing the box takes less than 10 minutes.

“As we became aware of the strong consumer demand for such a product, we decided that we could best utilize our technology to provide a cutting-edge option that is unique to the camper industry”, according to Aliner parent company Columbia Northwest CEO Ned Collins.

Aliner has always been synonymous with  hard-roofed, pup-up campers. Most would say they’re the torch bearer for such a niche market. With innovations like the removable storage box, that claim is hard to dispute.

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