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2018 RV Manufacturers Open House recap

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 Gulf Stream display, there were more than enough Vintage Cruisers to go around, as they’re still popular and they show no signs of slowing down. Also on hand in its 2nd year is the Capri, with the addition of baby moons and colored rims instead of last years aluminum rims. Of note, Gulf Stream now offers a 3 year structural warranty. Details on both units can be found at the Gulf Stream website here: https://www.gulfstreamcoach.com/products/light-weight/vintage-cruiser and here: https://www.gulfstreamcoach.com/products/light-weight/capri

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!

http://www.forestriverinc.com/travel-trailers/flagstaff-e-pro

 

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/

 

 

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Small Trailer Snapshot: The Winnebago Minnie Drop 170S

In this entry of Small Trailer Snapshot, I’m featuring the Winnebago Minnie Drop 170S. Not only will I give you my thoughts on it, but I’m tag teaming with Josh “The RV Nerd” Winters, website manager and product specialist at Haylett RV of Coldwater, Michigan. We’ll give you our thoughts on why the 170S Minnie Drop is the best floorplan it has to offer.

Key Features: NXG engineered chassis; High gloss T-60 gel coat fiberglass sidewalls; One piece fiberglass roof; 13.5K BTU low profile air conditioner; Convection microwave oven; Audio Visual system: AM/FM/CD/DVD/USB/Bluetooth; USB charging ports; Gas electric refrigerator; 6 gallon gas/electric/DSI water heater; Power awning with LED lighting; Solar charge prep; 19″ television; Power tongue jack; Full dry bathroom; Kitchen slide out.

Key Specs: Total length 20’4″; Exterior height: 9’3″; Exterior width (body): 6’6″; Interior height: 6’5″; GVRW: 3800 lbs; Dry weight: 2800 lbs; Fresh water capacity: 31 gallons; Black tank capacity: 25 gallons; Gray tank capacity: 25 gallons; Furnace: 18K BTU; Water heater: 6 gallons; Hitch weight: 315 lbs; Awning length: 10′.

Why We Like It:

Josh: They brought a new take on a proven concept that is bringing more and more people into this world of small trailers. The execution of the model is pretty much flawless. And it’s the little details that set it apart like the positioning of the TV on its swing arm so it can be comfortably viewed from either dinette bench or the bed. Easily overlooked features like the jalousie windows for rainy day airflow (which is just so great when you’re boondocking it) are something that really pulls the experience together. The way they handled splitting/sharing the storage area by the entry door and bathroom is perfect. I’ve seen similar layouts across other brands make the mistake of offering no pantry or no bathroom cabinet. The 170s gives the perfect level of attention to both areas. They were the first in this class to offer a power awning (complete with easy tilt arms and LED lights at the base). The elliptical table dinette’s ability to easily float outside for picnic use is the perfect pairing. One of the best aspects of the floorplan is its ability to turtle up and be fully functional. You don’t really NEED the slide for the model to work — it just adds some breathing room you’ll appreciate. A lot of people miss the outside grill quick connect near the front storage door. I love how it’s positioned away from the awning so you’re not trapping smoke that might want to roll into the RV when you open the door.  But, as is the case with ANY Winnebago towable RV, the service records on the Minnie Drop series is superior to anything else we’ve seen in this market segment. There are other respectable brands for sure, but we’ve yet to find one this close to perfect.

Pat: In January of this year, I helped out a Winnebago dealer in Indianapolis, Braun’s Fun Time Campers, at the Indy RV Expo. When they introduced the 190RD floor plan late last year, I thought that would outsell all the other Minnie Drop floorplans combined. There were four of the Minnie Drop floorplans at the show and by far the 170S was the standout, far exceeding the 190RD. So many of the folks I talked to who looked at all four kept coming back to the 170S, noting that it was the floorplan that offered the most storage, the most functional layout, and had the best “open” feel. Besides the spacious bathroom and its great storage, the 170S is the only Minnie Drop floorplan that overlooks your campsite. And that is one of the more underappreciated features of any trailer  that offers it. A lot of folks I’ve spoken with don’t really even consider it until it’s brought to their attention, then that light bulb clicks on and they realize that overlooking your campsite instead of your neighbor’s is an important feature. And that light interior they introduced last year has really opened up the Minnie Drop compared to the darker wood tones that plague the industry. What I also like are all the standards the Minnie Drop has to offer (see key features above). The only options that are offered are wood grain exterior graphics and a 15″ offroad tire & axle option. But we can’t talk about Winnebago without talking about colors. And they offer eight different exterior colors to choose from. Since there is no base color, there is no upcharge, whether you choose champagne, orange, blue, hunter green, cherry, white yellow, or platinum. And that high gloss fiberglass makes those colors really “shine”.  These are well built trailers with exceptional fit & finish that is easy to see. While I post reviews on trailers by giving you the basics so you can make your own judgement on whether it’s a good trailer for you, I say this with the utmost confidence regarding Winnebago, “Buy with confidence”.

Thanks again to Josh for stopping by and contributing to this post! I, as well as other consumers AND sales professionals, have learned a ton from watching the 3,300 plus walk through videos he’s done on YouTube. He provides a lot of thought provoking commentary and no matter if it’s a 40′ fifth wheel or a 10′ pop-up camper, you’re going to learn something new. By all means, tune into his YouTube channel and join the over 18,000 subscribers to the Haylett RV channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRS9u1f7074u0Rrgu05K9Wg                                           And for an added bonus, you’ll see Josh’s walk through video of the Minnie Drop 170S at the bottom of this post.

(Editor’s note: My apologies for some spacing issues between a few of the photos below. Tried editing it all morning, but with no success.)

 

 

 

 
 

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