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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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Attendance high for Tearstock rally

The 2018 edition of Tearstock, an annual teardrop and small trailer rally, was the most highly attended Tearstock to date, according to organizers with Liberty Outdoors. Upwards of 275 attendees and 150 trailers converged on Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping in Mackinaw City, Michigan. The four day event attracted teardroppers from not only the Midwest, but as far as New Jersey and Texas.

Thursday night was an indication of how well the attendance was, with some not showing up until Friday. The Duke’s Dogs food truck on hand reported 243 people served, with those not eating could be found sampling various beers and wines provided from various locations by the attendees. Little Guy dealer General RV provided everyone with their choice of brats and hotdogs for the night, as well as having a Little Guy Max and Mini Max on hand to look over.

Friday morning kicked off what was supposed to have been a one hour Camper College, hosted by Girl Camper podcaster Janine Petite and Liberty Outdoors’ Chris Baum. However, thanks to an engaging group of at least 50 attendees, the seminar lasted two hours, and in all likelihood could’ve lasted another hour. The two spoke on not only some features of the Little Guy line of trailers, but also some general RV basics that everyone should know.

While Tearstock was hosted by Liberty Outdoors, which is the parent company of Little Guy Trailers, ParkLiner Trailers, and Serro Scotty Trailers, the event was open to any and all. While there were the expected Little Guy, T@B, and T@G trailers on hand, there were several other brands attending, including Vistabule teardrops, Scamps, and an assortment of other odds & ends.

As for the location, you could not have asked for a more picturesque setting than Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping. Many of their campsites have a great view of Lake Huron, the Mackinac Bridge, and Mackinac Island. I found that many of those who didn’t have a lake view simply brought a chair down to sit along the banks of their one mile of shoreline.

What was really enjoyable for this rally was there was not a lot scheduled in terms of things that were going on to keep you at the campground throughout the day. I talked to Chris Baum about this and he told me that was done on purpose. Mackinaw City is the quintessential tourist destination, and the Tearstock organizers wanted the attendees to get out and explore the area. And that went over very well. Whether it was taking a trip to Mackinac Island, crossing the Mackinac Bridge, or visiting a quirky tourist trap like the Mystery Spot, there was plenty to do. And the cuisine is pretty darned good too…I highly recommend the Mackinaw Pastie & Cookie Company and the Bridgeview Diner.

Liberty Outdoors will have a tough time coming up with a location for Tearstock 2019 (rumored to be somewhere in the Southwest) that will beat Mackinaw City. Then again, I’m a little biased as this has been one of our favorite destinations for many years. A big thanks to everyone at Liberty Outdoors for the great hospitality at Tearstock 2018!

 

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Little Guy expands roster with the debut of the Mini Max

Just eight months after production began on the Little Guy Max, Uniontown, Ohio based Liberty Outdoors today is introducing the next addition to its ever growing lineup in the Little Guy Mini Max. I first introduced you to the Max last July after visiting their Somerset, Pennsylvania factory, and since then the head count of employees at Somerset has grown to over 60 as the Mini Max starts its production cycle.

The Mini Max is a condensed version of the Max.  At 17’2”, it checks in some 4 feet shorter and over 1,000 lbs lighter than its big brother Max, weighing in at 1,993 lbs. But just looking over the specs and features, a few things stand out. It has an improved 6′ interior height when compared to others in this class, as well as a microwave oven and a 5 cubic foot refrigerator. Folks, I have a 22′ bunkhouse trailer that’s 5′ longer than the Mini Max and it only has a 3 cubic foot refrigerator! To find a way to get a 5 cubic foot fridge in a trailer of this size gets a tip of the cap from me. And it’s actually larger in size than that of the Max. Another thing I like is the incredible amount of storage. There’s a substantial pantry/wardrobe with adjustable shelves to the left of the entryway that will go over very well. And the last thing that really sticks out for me is the addition of a microwave. Since it’s mounted below the kitchen counter, you don’t lose any counter space. There’s also a fair share of storage nooks throughout for additional storage.

The Mini Max also has a wet bath, which in this class of trailer is a standard these days. And speaking of the wet bath, the tank sizes include a 20 gallon fresh, 14 gallon gray, and 9 gallon black tank.

The U-shaped dinette can convert into either twin beds or a 75″x70″ queen bed. Overhead and to the side of the dinette you’ll find a 19″ Jensen 12 volt TV.  The dinette also consists of a rotating dinette table top, sitting on a marine style, 3 stage hydraulic action table pedestal. And I wish I could explain it in words, but the hideaway slat system is just cool. Trust me!

The Mini Max also boasts 5 opening windows, including the one in the door that the Max has, for extra ventilation, which also includes a sliding screen door. The windows include integrated shades and screens much like the Max. I’ve noticed they’ve gone with a friction hinge door on this model, which I really like even in my own trailer.

From a construction aspect, the Mini Max has Liberty Outdoors’ 2 year manufacturers warranty. Sitting on a tubular steel chassis, the Mini Max is framed in aluminum (sidewalls and roof), with Azdel paneling and block foam insulation in the sidewalls and roof.

A few other notable standards are a bone chilling 13,500 BTU roof mount Dometic air conditioner, an 8″ deep stainless steel kitchen sink, 16,000 BTU furnace, 2 burner glass top stove with electric ignition, and exterior Furrion speakers with an exterior TV mount. There is also a Keder rail to attach aftermarket visor, awning or tent room.

All of those standard features can be had for an MSRP around $23,000, so I would suspect dealer prices to be around $20K. There are a few options you can add on for an upcharge, including the Rough Rider Package, which includes 15″ off-road tires and a 2.5″ axle lift, a 100 watt flexible Zamp solar panel, walnut cabinetry, Jack-It bike carrier, and a Furrion wireless observation system.

In a press release today from Liberty Outdoors, “We are super excited to announce the Mini Max. Our community has spoken and we are responding with a smaller Max that is much easier to tow, while not sacrificing the best features or the craftsmanship of the larger model. Our operations team and production crew has outdone themselves with the Mini Max. We can’t wait to bring it to the teardrop market,” said Liberty Outdoors Co-founder and Managing Director of Sales and Marketing, Joe Kicos.

“The Mini Max really hits the sweet spot for many more customers,” said Dylan DeHoff, Liberty Outdoors Director of Operations. “The spaciousness, the storage, the huge refrigerator, the electric ignition stove, the bed configuration, the ability to keep the microwave, I could go on. These are things that trailers in this class simply don’t have. I think our community will be thrilled with the Mini Max,” said DeHoff.

As for my thoughts, the Mini Max should do very well for a few reasons. First, it offers more standards than others in this class of trailer for the same…if not less expensive…price. After seeing their factory firsthand and the areas of their trailers you can’t see in the finished product, their stuff is built to last, with exceptional fit & finish. These guys have always known how to market and distribute trailers for years, but now that they’re building them, they’re at that same level as manufacturers. Their interaction with their customers before and after the sale is something you just don’t see much from in the industry, as I’m sure some of you reading this can attest. It’s nothing to see comments on the Little Guy social media pages on a daily basis from either Dylan DeHoff or Chris Baum. It’s that kind of customer service that really builds the foundation for success, and these guys have the Midas touch. As you can see by the lack of an ad from Little Guy on my website, I say this not as someone paid anything by them, but as someone who appreciates an RV manufacturer who goes that extra mile to make the customer happy in an industry where that is a rarity.

For more info on the Little Guy Mini Max and where to find a dealer near you, visit their website at http://golittleguy.com/mini

 

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