With another RV manufacturers open house in the books, the industry continues to push ahead with new models, new floor plans, and new innovations on the horizon. This year I spent two days at the event, and I’m glad I did. One day just isn’t enough time to hit all of Thor and Forest River, as well as visiting the smaller manufacturers. Next year I’ll be sure to make it a two day affair to get everything in. For this post, I’m just going to give an overview and a few thoughts in this post. I’ll work on some individual reviews in the months to come. What I’ve noticed from last week is that in the small trailer arena, more and more manufacturers are going with a Murphy bed in a lot of their lines. Demand for this option is strong among consumers who wish to have some versatility in their trailers, and the industry is listening. I was somewhat cool at best with them a few years ago. Just seemed a hassle, but the more I’ve seen of them, the options they provide for seating has sold me on them. And considering we’re all here for small trailers, we know our options are limited on seating in a trailer that’s 20 feet or less, so the Murphy bed, dare I say, in some instances is a necessity depending on how many you’re camping with.One of the most unique things I saw came from the folks at inTech RV. They have found a way to put a cassette toilet INSIDE their Luna teardrop trailer. I’ve wracked my brain and I sure can’t think I’ve ever seen a permanent toilet inside a teardrop before. Will it be a hit? Time will tell. When I posted a video I shot of it on The Small Trailer Enthusiast Facebook page, opinions were mixed. Even though it is enclosed after use, some who responded wanted no part of their head next to a toilet while they were sleeping. Others said it was a great idea and not having a toilet has prevented them from buying a teardrop in the past. Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem with it if it were just me camping in it. But knowing my wife, there’s no way she would use it if I were in there, and she certainly wouldn’t want to be in there if I were using it. I have a hunch that’s probably the common opinion with most married couples. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of Canadian manufacturers make it to the show trying to expand their dealer network in the United States. Both Pro-Liteand Helio had a nice mix of trailers on hand. There are a handful of U.S. dealers that carry both manufacturers, and hopefully we’ll see more after this show. They offer a few different perspectives from the usual you find in U.S. built trailers.I’ve heard for a couple years now about the plans for the Little Guy Micro Max from Xtreme Outdoors.The prototype didn’t disappoint. If you like the Serro Scotty trailers from the 1960’s with the drop floors, you will see some of that same design in the Micro Max. It will go over with a lot of consumers in the market for something lightweight (1700 lbs) that you can stand up in. It’s just 16’3″ from hitch to tail, and the best part? With a 6’6″ exterior height, it will easily fit in most garages, saving a lot of people precious money in offsite storage fees. After a few minor tweaks, look for production to begin sometime in late Spring of 2020. Another trend I saw last week was that of the rear entry trailer gaining steam. We know the Aliner Ascape has been around a few years now, but I counted 3 new ones from different manufacturers, including Gulf Stream’s Amer-Lite, Riverside Retro, and Cherokee’s Wolf Pup. And all were a bit different from won another, yet with the same general layout. I’ll be watching these to see if they garner public acceptance in the small trailer community. Personally, I’d have no problem with one. I like the uniqueness of the design, and if you’re in a site that backs up to the woods, you get a sense of privacy. Plus, it’s just something different and I applaud the designers for coming up with something that’s new and refreshing.Overall I’m happy with what I’m seeing. Even the entry level stick & tin models continue to fine tune their lines and make them look a little less entry level. I really liked what I saw from the R-pod192. Honestly, it was the one that really made me wish my wife and I were in the market, because it hit a lot of buttons for me. That will be one of the first features I do when I start putting these together in posts in the months to come. I also liked the new Coachmen Catalina Expedition, a No Boundarieswith rear twin beds, and an innovative unit from Palominocalled the Revolve, which is powered by multiple lithium batteries as well as solar. I got a lot of material to do a ton of blog posts on in the coming months. Now it’s just finding the time to get it done!
Tag Archives: r-pod
It started a little over a year ago when Forest River filed a lawsuit against Winnebago Industries, citing “trademark and trade dress infringement and unfair competition” in regards to Winnebago’s introduction of the Winnie Drop. Forest River contended the Winnie Drop was “confusingly similar” to their R-pod, citing consumers who couldn’t differentiate the two trailers.
According to INiplaw.org, Winnebago’s legal representative “Overhauser Law Offices, LLC, filed a partial motion to dismiss with the court, arguing that Forest River had neither sufficiently identified the features that constituted the claimed trade dress nor provided any factual support for its assertion that such features were non-functional.” Furthermore, “The court agreed with Winnebago, concluding that Plaintiff had relied on “conclusory and meaningless” assertions in its pleadings. Consequently, it granted Winnebago’s motion and dismissed without prejudice Forest River’s claims concerning trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1125(a) as well as similar claims made under common law.”
As a result of this, Forest River withdrew its suit against Winnebago. According to an article in RV Pro today, “Overall, more specific details needed to be provided for the lawsuit to constitute trade dress infringement. For this reason, Winnebago asked to dismiss Forest River’s claims, which the company and judge then agreed to on Feb. 14”.
What does this mean? Simply, expect more R-pod type trailers to hit the market by other manufacturers. The R-pod is the top selling trailer under 20′ and expect even more manufacturers to now aim for a piece of that pie without fear of Forest River’s legal team. We’re already seeing new units hit the market since the Winnie Drop came out, including offerings from KZ, Keystone, Jayco, and Starcraft.
I know this has been a hot button topic for many of you, especially you loyal R-pod devotees. If there’s a good thing to come out of this, expect the added competition in this class to improve the quality and options among all the manufacturers in an effort to rise to that number one spot where the R-pod currently sits. I’ve always been a firm believer that competition makes you up your game, and this alone will benefit the consumer. And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?
Back in November at the RVIA show in Louisville, I came across a manufacturer who had a listing of sales of the top 20 travel trailers that were under 20′ in length for 2015 and 2016. Obviously since those lengths are what I cover here, I was quite interested in the results. Before I tell you about the #1 trailer in sales for 2016 (and it garnered that honor in 2015 as well), I grabbed a few numbers that shows that our beloved small trailer segment is on the rise, and rising at a faster rate than the RV industry as a whole.
Let’s take a look. In 2015, the small trailer segment saw sales of 33,207 units. Those numbers jumped to 39,713 in 2016, an impressive increase of 19.59%. When looking at the entire RV industry, total sales for 2016 jumped some 15.1% to 430,961 compared to 2015 (Source: RVIA.org). This includes all forms of RVs, including motorhomes, fifth wheels, etc. So this shows the small trailer segment is outpacing the entire RV industry as a whole by some 4.5%. This might explain why manufacturers are coming out with new and unique offerings in 2017.
Now for the news you’ve been waiting for. I want to first preface this by saying that the previously mentioned list was compiled by the company that held the number 1 spot, so take that for what it is. So without further adieu, the trailer 20′ and under with the most number of sales at a whopping 4,366 is……
the Forest River R-pod. The R-pod has been around since the 2009 model year and is the “granddaddy” of the vintage canned ham shaped campers. Since it’s come out, there have been others come on the scene in recent years with a similar design, but so far no one has come close numbers-wise. Actually, the R-pod is the leader with a nearly 11% market share, while the #2 trailer on that list, the Coachmen Viking, is back in a distant 7.89%. The R-pod’s sales rose over 21% in 2016 when compared to the year prior. So while the competition continues to come after the R-pod with clones of their own, not only has the R-pod fought them off with ease, but have also held the top position of all trailers less than 20′ long, regardless of style. It continues to increase in popularity, as it’s 21% increase over 2015 sales would indicate.
The R-pod comes in 9 different floorplans to choose from, and one that will likely fit most small trailer enthusiasts needs. To learn more, check out their website at: Forest River R-pod
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…
the Winnebago Winnie Drop…
the Jayco Hummingbird…
…and the Starcraft Comet Mini
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!
The Comet Mini offers four different floor plans ranging from 19’11” to 20’8″ lengths. With dry weights from 2708 lbs to 3055 pounds, it makes it towable by most mid size SUVs at a minimum. To keep it lightweight, the Comet Mini offers an aluminum cage and laminated sidewalls.
The floorplans offered aren’t any different than any what r-pod, the Winnie Drop, or the Jayco Hummingbird offer, so all else being equal, this gives buyers an apples to apples comparison where they can narrow their choice down to options, color schemes, and prices. Standards include a convection microwave oven and upgraded pleated night shades, as well as optional 13.5k air conditioning, electric awning, electric tongue jack and bumper mount grill. Interior-wise, I really like the tone of the sugar maple cabinetry when compared to some of its competitors. It’s a color you don’t see in many trailers and brightens things up while separating itself from the others.
With Starcraft being a member of the Jayco family, it also offers a 2 year manufacturers warranty on the Comet Mini, which is something r-pod and the Winnie Drop do not. All in all, the Comet Mini appears to be a sound option for those of you in the market for the so-called European styled exterior design.
To find out more about the Comet Mini, including floorplans and specifications, visit the Starcraft web site at http://starcraftrv.com/products/travel-trailers/comet-mini
(photos courtesy lazydays.com)
We get a lot of web traffic here at The Small Trailer Enthusiast for people searching for information on r-pods. It should come as no surprise as the Forest River built r-pod was the top selling small trailer in 2014. And although not as mass produced as the r-pod, I also see a lot of traffic Safari Alto trailers, which are built in Canada, which I’ve talked about back in 2013.
The Tear Drop Shop is now offering awning accessories for both the r-pod and the Alto from PahaQue. You can get either a regular awning or the small awning visor for either unit.
The r-pod accessories can be found on The Tear Drop Shop here, or by clicking one of the ad boxes on the right column of this site. And the Safari Alto accessories can be found here and also in the ad box on the right column.
In our “who didn’t see this coming” category, Forest River has filed a lawsuit against Winnebago Industries. The suit stems from Winnebago’s recent introduction of the Winnie Drop, which strikes a resemblance to Forest River’s 7 year old R-pod.
In a story published on January 16, 2016 in RV Business, Forest River filed suit in December “for trademark and trade dress infringement and unfair competition.” The term “trade dress” refers to the overall visual image. “The use of our trademarks and trade dress by other manufacturers confuses and misleads consumers and cannot be tolerated. We do not initiate lawsuits without serious consideration”, Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert told RV Business. The article goes on to state that the R-pod “incorporates patent pending technology and copyright-protected floorplans.”
I’ll be watching this closely at it goes through the legal process. Forest River filed suit a few years ago for similar reasons against Heartland and their now defunct “mpg” trailer. Industry professionals I’ve talked to shake their heads when talking about trademarking an RV floorplan. If anyone has ever gone to an RV show, you all know everything is copied by everyone. I’ll make no bones about it, I’m no legal expert and I don’t have a clue where this lawsuit will go, but should Forest River be successful I’d be interested to know if a company like A-Liner has similar patents on their hard-sided A frame campers. They’ve been around the longest, but other companies have developed their own version….including Forest River’s Flagstaff.
My final take on this or any similar lawsuits involving RV companies is that it really does nothing to serve the consumer. If anything it eliminates what makes a product better: Competition. When you eliminate your competition because you have a legal machine like Forest River does, it eliminates the competition that forces you to come up with ideas that make your product better than the other guy. If there is no “other guy”, then your product gets stagnant, and quality and innovation exit the building.
I’ll update this story with future posts as additional news develops.
This week at the RV Open House in Elkhart, Indiana, Winnebago Industries has debuted a new small, lightweight trailer called the Winnie Drop. Details are thin at this point, but I should be able to get some more info and pics soon. This photo was released by RV Business last week of the new trailer to the Winnebago towable lineup.
However, what we do know about the Winnie Drop is that it’ll will be available in five exterior colors in four floorplans, including one with a rear hatch featuring an outside kitchen and an expandable hybrid tent model. If the look of the Minnie Drop and these floorplan descriptions sound familiar, that’s no accident. The Winnie Drop is quite obviously built as a competitor to Forest River’s popular r-pod.
I should be getting some additional info and pictures soon, so I’ll post an update as soon as that happens.
Tuesday morning saw an early departure from home for the 130 mile drive south on I-65 to the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, KY for the 49th Annual RV Trade Show. Despite a 30 minute delay north of the Ohio River due to the I-64 bridge west of Louisville being closed for the past 3 months, I managed to arrive just before 10am.
Since it was my first time at the event, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After several attempts to register, I finally found the press room where us “media types” had to check in. After signing in, I was told that I had some info to get in my mailbox. “My what?” Apparently all the media types had their own mail slot filled with press releases, company info, and even a 1GB flash drive from the fine folks at Go RVing.
I grabbed my mail and off I went. I soon found an area where I could look at the map they provided so I could coordinate a plan of attack for the day. After looking at the map, I wondered if 7 hours there would be long enough. My first part of the plan would be to just walk the entire show to get a feel for where everyone was. Just when I thought I had seen everything on my first walk through, a new wing popped up with either a whole big section of RVs or a wing of suppliers hawking their goods.
After awhile, the stack of stuff from my mailbox was starting to become a hassle to carry along with my trusty Nikon D-40. My mission soon turned from figuring out the layout of the show to finding a booth that was giving away free bags. I stopped by the booth of Denso Heavy Duty and they were kind enough to let me have not only one, but two of their bags for my growing stack of stuff. Now it was time to get serious!
Since I knew this would be my only day at the show and because I was there to find material for the blog, I focused on, obviously, small travel trailers. What I found from all the manufacturers in attendance is that there are a wide array of options across just about all income levels, whether it was the Airstream Sport 16′, which retails for nearly $40,000
to the lower end Jayco Swift SLX, which can be had for just over $9,000.
The majority of the trailers I went through had some nice, usable floor plans, along with various interior features that caught my eye. Then there were some trailers that I just liked because of their eye appeal. Here are some observations on trailers I liked for one reason or another:
The new Springdale Fireside: Not the most attractive trailer out there…
but the interior had this very nice looking rustic/log cabin look on the walls and cabinetry.
It was good to see Forest River has finally got a decent exterior package for the r-pod. What used to look like a circus trailer…
has now been upgraded to a nice cream base and a much more toned-down exterior scheme:
And since this post will likely be a little longer than usual and since it’s nearing 1:30am, I’m going to cut this post into two and continue over the weekend. I’ll return with some more that I liked, one that disappointed, and even my own personal “best of show”. Stay tuned!
Mega RV manufacturer Forest River recently announced the formation of an owners group. FROG (Forest River Owners Group) is a dues-free group for owners of any of the Forest River family of recreational vehicles, including their line-up of small travel trailers such as the Wolf Pup, r-Pod, EVO, and Rockwood Mini-Lite.
The website contains info on FROG rallies, tech tips, camping tips, and other useful info for Forest River RV owners. The first international FROG rally is scheduled for August 2012 in Goshen, Indiana.