There comes a time in the life of most tent campers when they start to think, “It’s time to get off the ground”. I’d venture to say some of you can raise your hand to the affirmative with that sentiment. While it’s uncommon for a tent camper to jump right from their $89 tent they got at the big box store into a $400,000 42’ diesel pusher, it’s not uncommon for them to jump into something that’s not that much larger than the tent they’re leaving behind. Some folks just like small spaces, whether it’s on the ground or on two wheels. One such trailer that fits that mould is the lightweight and light on the pocket Aliner Scout Lite.
Key Features: Opening or closing an Aliner can be achieved in less than a minute; Azdel thermoplastic composite interior wall and ceiling panels; Performax 500 premium marine grade flooring; City water hookup; Dinette that converts to a 40”x76” bed; 30”x76” bed; 14” aluminum wheels; 10″ electric brakes; Diamond plate stone guard; Solar port; 35 amp converter; 3000 lb axle; Optional front soft dormer; Optional Command A/C Heat Pump; Sink; Two skylights with night shades (Dormer option eliminates skylight with night shade).
Key Specs: At a dry weight of 1,180 lbs before options (which are few) and a total length of just 13’, the Aliner Scout Lite can be hauled by just about anything.
Box length: 10’
Total length: 13’
Height closed: 57”
GVWR: 3,000 lbs
Tongue weight: 130 lbs
Cargo capacity: 1,320 lbs
Why I like it: The Aliner Scout Lite gives you a lot of the same features as a teardrop trailer does…with more. It gives you a lightweight trailer, but unlike a teardrop, it gives you the ability to stand up and move around. And unlike some high end teardrop trailers, it gives you a much more favorable price point, checking in at just over $10,000 depending on options. Aliner the company has been building A-frame campers in their Mount Pleasant, PA factory for close to 40 years now, and have been the pioneer of this design.
I’ll be honest, this is not going to be a trailer for everyone. However, Aliner does make other A-frame campers that give you a stove, a refrigerator, more room, and even a wet bath in some. But knowing my readers like I do, I’m pretty sure there’s a large group of you that will be intrigued by this lightweight, low cost option to get you out of that tent at a reasonable price.
For more info on the Aliner Scout Lite, visit their website at https://aliner.com/campers/scout-lite/
Special thanks to Aliner dealer Mount Comfort RV for having me out to check out the Scout Lite and many other Aliner they have in stock.
This years RV manufacturers open house in Elkhart, Indiana offered a lot of the same small trailer floorplans that we all know and love, but as usual there were some new introductions as well. Despite some heavy rains on Tuesday that made parts of the display areas quite the swamp, I covered just about everyone I found with the exception of Winnebago, which I’ve been told had nothing new but a narrow bodied fifth wheel. I was fortunate to get inside the Forest River display this year, thanks to Cody Schade with the No Boundaries/R-pod division. I’m going to touch briefly on some of the new and/or updated offerings I saw. Down the road I’ll likely feature a few of these for more of an in depth analysis.
KZ RV had one new floorplan that caught my eye. The Escape E191SS is a narrow bodied with a super slide which supports a dinette as well as a sofa. If this floorplan looks familiar, Cherokee’s Wolf Pup 18TO has this same general floorplan, which came out last year. One stark difference in the two is the back wall. The Wolf Pup leaves the wall open to mount a TV, but the Escape utilizes the back wall for storage cabinets, which is a smart choice considering the overall design limits the amount of places where storage can be engineered into the trailer. Specs on the Escape 191SS can be found here: https://www.kz-rv.com/products/escape-travel-trailers/E191SS.html
At the Jayco display, there were just two Hummingbirds on display: a “box drop” and a larger sized unit. I really liked the floorplan of the larger 17MBS. It’s a murphy bed with a dry bath that shares the back wall with the rear kitchen, and a slide out for the fridge, microwave, and pantry. This is a nice and tidy floorplan. It gives you the flexibility of the murphy bed that, when not in the sofa configuration, converts into a 60″x75″ queen bed. One stand out feature of the Hummingbird 17MBS is the excellent interior storage. More info can be found on the Jayco website here: https://www.jayco.com/products/travel-trailers/2019-hummingbird/17mbs/
At the Little Guy display, there were a handful of Little Guy Max and Mini Max models, as well as one myPod. I was informed by Little Guy owner Joe Kicos that they’re in fine-tuning mode with both models. Their efforts seem to be working as I got an unsolicited comment from one dealer indicating how much they’ve improved since he saw them at the open house in 2017. And that walnut interior option in either model is starting to grow on me. More info can be found on the Little Guy website at https://golittleguy.com
At the inTech RV display, the star of the show was the new Sol. They hustled to get it ready for the show, as the prototype was still being put together the week prior. But that said, it was done and looks like it’s going to be a jaw dropper. It’s not on their website yet, so I don’t have any specs to pass on, but it’s in that 18′-20′ range. The craftsmenship is very good on all the inTech products, including their smaller Flyer and Luna lines. I realized when I was going through display and opening and closing doors and hatches that they remind me a lot of the Camp Lite trailers did several years ago prior to being absorbed by Thor which ultimately killed the brand last year. I always viewed them as one of the best trailers that no one knew about, and inTech has that same feel. However, people are starting to know about them rather quickly. While the Sol is not currently on their website, it will be soon, so check back there in the weeks to come for more specs and features at http://www.intechrv.com.
The Hymer Touring GT is something I first saw a couple years ago at the Louisville RVIA show. It was nowhere to be found last year at Louisville, but has made its triumphant return at this years open house. News of this over the past couple of years has been sparse, but that should now change as recently it was announced that Thor will be acquiring the Hymer brand. The Touring GT is just about the same as I remember it. It’s definitely a high quality unit, as the upper $20k’s price will indicate. It has the roof that pops up for about a foot of additional head room. It’s light weight at 2500 lbs and total length is just under 19′. More info on the Hymer Touring GT can be found here: https://www.gohymer.com/touring-gt-overview/
At the Aliner display, I was really pleased to see what they’ve done with the Ascape model, as the recently introduced Great Ascape made its debut. The Great Ascape has it all. Previous models of the Ascape has had bits & pieces of various features, but the Great Ascape puts them all together in one floorplan. Hats off! After the shower model came out last year, I was hoping a floorplan would come out that had all the features anyone would want, and that has happened with the Great Ascape and then some. Not only did they include everything such as the TV with soundbar, wet bath, microwave, sink, range, and refrigerator, but they’ve also increased the width some 9″, which despite not being a lot, makes a big difference. The bed set-up is diverse as well. You can leave it as two twin beds, or convert it to a huge 77″x64″. To learn more, click on their website here: http://aliner.com/campers/great-ascape-st-shower-model/
At the Lance display, the 1475 and the 1575 continue to shine. The 1575 is still one of my favorite small trailer floor plans with the huge U-shaped slide dinette. And the 1475 still offers the optional sofa slide. Both units are well under 3,000 lbs, making them some of the lightest weight trailers you’ll find with exceptional quality. To learn more about Lance’s trailer lines, visit their website here: https://www.lancecamper.com/travel-trailers
At the nuCamp RV display, it was no secret the push was for the Boondock option of their trailers. The offroad package was featured on the T@G, T@B Clamshell, T@B 320, and T@B 400 and is available in the Lite or Edge package. The Boondock Edge features a Yakima roof rack, 52″ light bar with two spot lights, as well as Marmoleum flooring. Info on the Boondock editions can be found on the nuCamp website at https://tab.nucamprv.com/tab-teardrop-camper/?package=1
I encountered a very nice surprise when I came across the CRUX Expedition Trailers display. The CRUX is that off the beaten path trailer designed for those you won’t likely see next to you at your local state park. The only time you’ll likely see one in the wild is on the highway while it heads to its destination somewhere in the mountains or forests, far from civilization. That’s where this kind of trailer is designed to be, and where those likely to own one want to be. It comes with a wide range of tent options from basic to elaborate, measuring up to 200 square feet. What’s nice about it is that all tents come standard with each trailer. You just pick when configuration you want to set up each time you take it out on your adventure. Can’t say enough good things about what these passionate folks at CRUX are putting together! To learn more, visit the CRUX website at https://www.cruxexpeditiontrailers.com/crux-1600/
This year I was able secure entry in the Forest River compound. A big thanks go out to Cody Schade, manager for the R-pod/No Boundaries division of Forest River for getting me in this year. And with that, let’s talk about R-pod and No Boundaries. I got word of a new R-pod RP191. Never before in this oversized teardrop segment of the small trailer industry have we seen one with dedicated twin beds, which is quickly becoming a desired feature in a travel trailer, especially among older couples. But R-pod has created a big winner with this floor plan, which I’m pretty sure the competition will mimic in short order. The two beds have a night stand centered in between them. The RP191 features a kitchen slide, with a good sized U-shaped rear dinette that converts to a bed for additional sleeping quarters. The decision to go with the smaller wet bath creates a lot more floor space, which in a footprint this small creates a much larger feel inside, which comes in handy when you’re camping with more than two people. At 20’4″ total length, the RP-191 checks in weighing at under 2700 lbs with a generous 1100-plus lbs cargo carrying capacity I really like this one. You can find out about this and other R-pod floorplans at http://www.forestriverinc.com/product-details.aspx?LineID=173&Image=5054&ShowParent=1&ModelID=4227#Main
The No Boundaries (No Bo) line has been on the scene since last year. It’s a line that gives you the flexibility to camp comfortably in some of those areas where you couldn’t and/or wouldn’t typically tow a conventional trailer. Ranging from 10′ “box drop” trailers to bunkhouses that are over 23′ long, there’s a wide range of camping needs that the No Bo can fulfill. The lightweight construction allows for a wide range of 4 and 6 cylinder tow vehicles to pull these. You’ll also have optional roof racks from Rhino Racks that can handle kayaks, bikes, skis, and other outdoors equipment. While the exterior has an outdoorsy feel, the interior gives you a nice contrast to a more conventional look that will make you forget you may be out in the wild, isolated from any camping neighbors. I took a good look at the bunkhouse 19.7. As the owner of a bunkhouse of another brand, I can say the No Bo 19.7 offered some really nice interior features that would make a comfortable camping weekend. I’ll be looking to feature these on a future post, as they’re going to quickly be player in this off road, adventure camping segment that is exploding. To learn more about the No Boundaries line of trailers, visit their website at http://www.forestriverinc.com/travel-trailers/no-boundaries
A big change recently occurred with the 2019 Shasta RV models. Prior to the ’19 models, there were two lines of Shasta: The entry level Oasis and the fancier Revere. Shasta has streamlined things a bit, eliminated both the Oasis and Revere names and blended the two into a line that is simply called “Shasta”. The price points appear to be closer to that of the Oasis, but you get a lot of new features the Oasis didn’t have, such as tub surrounds, mirrored wardrobes, and tiled backsplashes. Also gone are the familiar tans and browns on the exterior, replaced with grays and blues, which seems to be the trend these days with other manufacturers. As a Shasta Oasis owner of a 2016 18BH, I’ve been pleased with our little entry level bunkhouse that we’ve had for 3 camping seasons now. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit jealous of the accoutrements the new Shastas offer. You can view the specs and features of the revamped Shasta at their website: http://shastarving.com/travel-trailers/shasta
As my day at the open house wore on, I was texting with my comrade Josh Winters, aka “Josh the RV Nerd” of Haylett RV of Coldwater, Michigan, the king of the RV walk through video. Josh has done literally thousands of walk through videos over the years and has seen just about everything. So when he tells me there’s a model I need to look at, I listen. That model is the Cherokee Wolf Pup 16PF. And this floorplan does not disappoint. I see this as putting a huge dent in the popular Wolf Pup 16FQ. I’ll just be upfront with this thing: It gives me trailer envy. ‘Nuff said. There’s not any info on the Wolf Pup website on the 16PF, but keep checking their website for when it shows up: http://www.forestriverinc.com/product-details.aspx?LineID=177&Image=5038&ShowParent=1
Towards the end of my day, I made my way to the Flagstaff E-Pro/ Rockwood Geo Pro area. They’re essentially the same trailer with different badging. The E-Pro that I focused on is the Flagstaff E-Pro 15TB. Love this one! This is a modified…and better…version of the 14RK. The 15TB enables you to have the luxury of two twin beds or convert them into a monster king bed. There’s a tidy wet bath next to the front kitchen. This is a great floorplan for the single or couples campers who don’t need even a 22′ trailer to camp comfortably. This is ideal for the lower tow capacity tow vehicles, with a dry weight of under 2500 lbs. Construction on the E-Pro/Geo Pro lines are excellent, with aluminum framed construction and Azdel wall paneling. This floorplan is nice and cozy that gives you all the amenities you need in a tidy little package. Josh did me a favor by doing a walk through on a Geo Pro version that Haylett RV just got in. As I mentioned, the E-Pro is essentially the same thing, so if you’re interested in this floorplan give our friends at Haylett a call and make that trek to southern Michigan!
As late afternoon and a 3 hour drive back home loomed, the 7 hours of walking had taking their toll on my barking dogs. But on my way out of Forest River, I noticed this little gizmo in the Viking camper display. My apologies for not getting a model number off this, as it’s not on the Viking website, but I still think it’s too cool not to share. My guess it’s around 10′-ish long and around 1,000 lbs, or less. But this little micro pop-up packs a punch. It’s got what appears to be a double to queen bed, based on the width of the trailer. But it’s got a propane grill, A/C, furnace, and fridge, as well as some storage cabinets. If you want simple, lightweight camping with a few amenities that likely won’t break the bank, this thing might be up your alley. Keep an eye on the Viking website when this little fella makes its appearance on there: http://coachmenrv.com/product-details.aspx?LineID=67&Image=6738
So that wraps up my day in Elkhart. There are a lot of offerings in the small trailer segment of the industry. I’ve only highlighted some of the new and unique models for 2019. The mainstay floorplans in the 3,000 lbs and under range are still out there that you’re familiar with. Small trailers are one of the fastest growing segments in the industry as a new generation of RVers enter the market with a different mindset than previous generations. They’re a little more adventure-minded and desire a different style of camping. As it has been the past few years, it’s a GREAT time to be a small trailer enthusiast with the new and innovative models and floorplans the industry is producing. And if you’re reading this website for the first time, don’t forget to look over our Manufacturers page for a comprehensive list of all sorts of small trailers: http://smalltrailerenthusiast.com/manufacturers-2/
It was about this time last year when Aliner introduced the diminutive Ascape travel trailer. The 13 foot, 1350lbs Ascape initially came with a fridge, microwave, stove, and sink, with a TV and sound bar, awning, air conditioning, and potty as a packaged option.
Aliner has increased the floorplans for 2018 for the Ascape to give you four different layouts, ranging from a spartan interior with no appliances to one with a wet bath and kitchen.
The Ascape MT is the spartan layout. It’s geared for maybe those who tent camp that want to get off the ground and into a little bit better shelter. You won’t get a microwave, stove, sink, or toilet with the MT. But you will get lights, a Fantastic Fan, and a solar port. And you’ll get decent sleeping quarters and a very lightweight trailer at just 1170 lbs.
The Ascape Camp is a nice upgrade from the MT. The Camp offers excellent cabinet storage on the right as you enter, and on the left if a standard 2-burner stove, sink, and a 1.9 cubic foot refrigerator, with additional overhead cabinets and storage below the counter as well. This is a very good floor plan if you want storage, a kitchen, and excellent counter prep space. Other standards on the Camp include an outside shower, a 16K BTU Atwood furnace, a 6 gallon Suburban water heater, and a 9200 BTU Coleman Mach 8 rooftop air conditioner. While heavier than the MT, the Ascape Camp is still considerably lightweight at 1495 lbs.
The Ascape ST is a floor plan that Aliner needed to introduce to stay competitive with other brands of similar size. I got several notes after my review of the Ascape last summer from readers lamenting the fact there was no shower in the first Ascape floor plan that hit the market in 2017. And it was my opinion for the Ascape to survive against a similarly priced T@B that had a wet bath, they needed to add one too, and that they did with the Ascape ST. Not only does it offer a fair sized wet bath on the right as you come in, but it also has the same kitchen features as the Ascape Camp with the sink, 2-burner stove, and 1.9 cubic foot refrigerator. However, with the addition of the wet bath on the right, you lose a lot of storage and all that prep space the Camp features. But it doesn’t take much creativity to utilize the table for prep space, or on a good day, take it outside. The standards on the ST mirror those of the Camp model with an outside shower, a 16K BTU Atwood furnace, a 6 gallon Suburban water heater, and a 9200 BTU Coleman Mach 8 rooftop air conditioner. With the shower, you gain a 13 gallon gray water tank. There is not a black water tank for the toilet as the ST utilizes a cassette toilet. The weight on the ST is just a tad heavier than the Camp, checking in at 1575 lbs.
The last floor plan, the Ascape Plus, is the original floor plan that hit the market in 2017. It also offers the greatest number of features as standard, including a larger sink, 2-burner stove, range hood, microwave, 5′ awning, 23″ flat screen TV with sound bar, Thetford cassette toilet, front mounted solar panel, outside shower, dual 20lbs propane tanks, Suburban 6 gallon water heater, 16K BTU Atwood furnace, and a 3.0 cubic foot 3-way refrigerator. Again, all those are standard features. The only thing not offered in the Ascape Plus is the interior shower. Having the most number of goodies, the Plus is the heaviest of the four floor plans, but it still comes in at a manageable 1630 lbs.
So as we can see, the folks at Aliner have been busy this past year developing new floor plans for the Ascape. And what they’ve come up with should really satisfy a lot of different camping needs amongst the small trailerists looking for something less than 2,000 lbs that you can stand in. Due to the drop floor in the Ascape, all four models have a maximum 6’4″ interior height, are a total 13′ in length from hitch to tail, are just 6’1″ wide, and 8’4″ tall including the roof top air conditioner (7’5″ on the MT model without A/C). With the dinette in the bed configuration, it produces a roomy 77″ x 64″ sleeping area. All floor plans sit on a 2500 lbs Dexter axle, which equates to cargo capacities ranging from 870 lbs to 1330 lbs, and hitch weights from 170 lbs to 229 lbs. You also have four different exterior graphic colors to choose from in red, black, green, and blue.
Aliner has added a new twist to the Ascape ultra lightweight travel trailer with the addition of the Ascape MT. The Ascape MT has the same footprint as the Ascape, which we wrote about here, but without the appliances. The end result is the same 13′ long trailer, but without the stove, refrigerator, microwave, rear overhead cabinets, and sink, it is some 400 lbs lighter than the standard Ascape, bringing the MT’s weight down to 1170 lbs. The two areas in the rear are replaced with flip-up bench seating. Here are both floorplans, with the Ascape MT shown first, followed by the Ascape:
In an Aliner press release issued this week, Director of Sales, Allan Reeping, says, “Many of our customers told us that they love the look and design of the Ascape, but they are not interested in the bells, whistles and appliances that come with the current product. They want a sleeping quarters with lots of storage. A light-weight trailer that doesn’t require them to lay down in bed to change their clothes, or crawl through a small door on their knees to get into bed. They want to be able to get out of the rain and sit at a comfortable dinette. A hard-sided travel trailer that can be towed with a small Toyota Rav 4, or a Honda CRV, yet still have plenty of standing head room.”
While the MT might fit a need for some, after I posted on the Ascape last month, I got feedback from several who said they’d be more interested if the Ascape offered a shower, which a similarly priced T@B does. Hopefully Aliner is listening to these folks and the designers are working on putting something together with a wet bath combination. We shall see.
Lance Camper is rolling out a lot of new updates and upgrades that affect many of their lightweight trailer models. Their smallest models, the 1475 and the 1575, are seeing some of the most changes. Standard updates for these two models includes exterior graphics, Euro cabinet design, Euro thermopane windows, Euro thermopane tinted opening front window, single enclosed battery compartment, , new aluminum wheels with color coordinated accents, molded LP cover, and TPO gravel guard with LED dock lighting. For the 1475, a new optional sofa slide with two adjustable tables.
Now standard among all Lance travel trailer models are US made Goodyear Endurance tires, flush mount stainless steel range with black glass cover, entry step well lighting, larger foot pads on the stabilizer jacks, solar pre-wire, flat bottom microwave (no turntable), and optional “Lance Load” roof rack system and optional “Smart Jack” electronic tongue jack. Lance continues to find ways to make an excellent product better.
Next week the annual dealer only Elkhart Open House starts in and around Elkhart, Indiana. This event is where manufacturers from all over the region set up either around the RV Hall of Fame or at their own manufacturing facilities for dealers from all over the country to come in and view new and existing models as well as place orders for their inventories. I’ve yet to go to this, but I will hopefully have a media pass waiting for me on Tuesday courtesy Thor Industries. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ve got a contact with a manufacturer that has told me to contact him if I can’t get in and he’ll take care of me.
photo courtesy RV Business
I’m looking forward to being able to get in, as this show is just as good, if not better, than the RVIA show in Louisville. Many new prototypes and model updates are first introduced at the Open House, so chances are I’ll be able to bring you some new eye candy. And for any manufacturers out there reading this who’d like to talk to me up there about your products for The Small Trailer Enthusiast, shoot me an email at email@example.com and hopefully we can set up a time while I’m up there Tuesday to chat.
It’s still a great time in the industry for the small trailer segment, and the Open House should bring us a lot of new additions to the 2018 lineups of small trailers.
Aliner has been building hard sided pop up campers since 1984, and they’ve been generally accepted in the industry as the standard which other manufacturers follow in that category. In the late 2000’s, Aliner experimented with conventional small travel trailers with the Marco and the Amelia, which were short lived with minimal success. This year, Aliner has made a comeback in the small travel trailer segment with the introduction of the 13 foot Ascape.
The Ascape is produced in Aliner’s Mt Pleasant, Pennsylvania’s plant. In these times where every manufacturer is copy-catting what everyone else is doing, it’s refreshing to see someone come out with something that no one else has. And despite its diminutive size, the Ascape is loaded with a lot of amenities.
One of the unique features of the Ascape is the rear entry door, which includes a drop floor creating a generous 6’4″ of interior head room. When the dinette is converted into a bed formation, it creates a very roomy 64″ x 77″ sleeping area.
The Ascape packs a lot of standard options, including outside shower, 40 watt front roof mounted solar panel, electric brakes, 13″ aluminum wheels, 3.0 cubic foot refrigerator with freezer, 6 gallon water heater, range hood with fan, Fantastic Fan, screen door, LED lighting throughout, 2 burner range top stove, deep stainless steel sink with pull out faucet, microwave oven, dual 20 lbs propane tanks, and 16K BTU furnace.
When it comes to options the Ascape offers, there are just a few and they come in one package: 9200 BTU roof mounted A/C, a 5 foot Carefree awning that mounts over the rear door, Thetford cassette toilet, and a 23′ flat screen TV with a Bluetooth sound bar.
I did mention above that the optional air conditioner is a roof mount. However, for a period this year, Aliner was installing wall mounted units, which is how these units I looked over at Mount Comfort RV were equipped. I’ve been told that newer Ascapes being produced will have the roof mounted unit. If you go with option package that includes A/C, this will negate the standard Fantastic Fan. However, if you want both the wall mounted A/C and the Fantastic Fan, as you can see from these pics, there are some out there.
As for the exterior, the Ascape is a smooth aluminum siding with a one piece of aluminum on the roof. Four stabilizer jacks are standard as is the front mounted spare tire. The graphics packages offers four different color options. The green pictured above is standard, but you can also pick from black, red, and blue.
As for overall specs, the Ascape is 13 feet from hitch to tail, and fully optioned will weigh right around 1700 lbs. Exterior height is 7’5″ without A/C and 8’4″ with the roof top A/C. The box width is 66″ and the total width is 73″. The hitch weight is 170 lbs and the GVWR is 2500 lbs, giving you somewhere around 700-800 lbs of cargo capacity.
So you might ask who is the Ascape made for? Several! It’s great if you have a tow vehicle with minimal tow capacity. It’s also a perfect fit for a growing segment of buyers, and that would be single females looking for something easy to tow with minimal effort to camp in. I also see this set up well for the adventure outdoors buyers looking for something they can use off the grid, as the standard solar panel and dual propane tanks can offer some extended boondocking. Or it’s also good for those of you who like unique, cool looking small trailers with good features. Overall, my opinion is positive on the Ascape. It would be nice if there was a wet bath feature, but given the small footprint of the Ascape, a wet bath would take away much of its storage, so it would take some creativity. However, Aliner has been pretty creative over the last 30 plus years they’ve been in business, so if it can be done, they’ll be able to.
While at Mount Comfort RV looking over the Ascape, I also did a little 10 minute walk thru video for you to get a little more up close look. A fully loaded Ascape has an MSRP of just over $20,000, so you should be able to fetch one somewhere in the mid teens range.
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.
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. :-/
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
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,
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!
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
As 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.
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.
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.
The Small Trailer Enthusiast is a home for news on small travel trailers, typically 20' or less. Here you will find info on new models, industry news relating to small trailers, and any other stories I think you might find interesting. Have some small trailer news you'd like to pass along?