By Tony Barthel
There is a certain design simplicity that walking through an IKEA brings about. The clean lines, uncluttered design… they’ve really set themselves apart from any other furniture store. That’s what the nuCamp T@B 400 reminds me of: an IKEA store. Except for the fact that these trailers come fully assembled (thank goodness!).
But like IKEA, the interiors are very clean, fresh and modern in a trendy fashion but not too trendy. The clean lines of your IKEA furniture will probably still be in style in five, ten or even 20 years. That’s the interior of this, too.
The TAB 400 is another product from nuCamp, an innovative RV manufacturer whose designs seem more European than American. You might not be surprised to see the TAB 400 at the big German RV show Caravan Salon. In fact, that’s originally where the designs came from.
At the local dealer that sells these, they seem to move very quickly. And why wouldn’t they? The TAB trailer line resembles the classic teardrop trailers but some models, including the 400 that we’re looking at here, are much larger than the traditional teardrop. The 400 line has virtually all the comforts of most any travel trailer and a few especially inviting features, including the Alde hot water/heater system.
That Alde system circulates heated glycol throughout the trailer creating a convection type system and is reportedly very comfortable in use as well as being almost completely silent. This system also heats the water for the shower and sinks. But, unlike a traditional RV furnace, it doesn’t blow hot air throughout the coach. Instead, it’s more passive.
The Alde system does maintain the interior temperatures well, according to friends who have these, but they don’t raise the interior temperature as quickly as would a fan-forced furnace. There is some electrical draw to the system as a pump circulates the heated glycol throughout the coach. This kind of fancy heating system isn’t what you’d expect in a smaller trailer, where you usually get a single, non-ducted furnace.
Other features include the fully welded aluminum construction where the walls are laminated with fiberglass on the exterior and then Azdel as both interior and exterior substrates. Azdel is a man-made material that is not affected by water.
The windows on the TAB trailers are dual-paned, European-designed Lexan windows including the front windshield, which flips up. All the windows in the trailer share this characteristic, and there are shades that pull up for privacy with a screen that pulls down if you have the window open. You can leave the screen out of the way if you choose.
Unless you look at the 2020 model parked next to a 2021 model, you may not notice that the company has moved the axle forward to reduce tongue weight, which is a scant 318 lbs. dry. That means no propane or water or that incredible collection of thimbles and shot glasses aboard. But the TAB trailers do come with batteries which, in this case, are two six-volt AGM (Advanced Glass Mat) batteries wired in series to deliver 12 volts of power.
There are essentially three floor plans for the TAB 400 model: two have the queen-size bed in the rear, with the third offering just a single bed and sort of a padded ottoman. In the queen bed models, the major difference is whether you get a smaller three-way (12volt, 110vac, propane) refrigerator or a more traditional two-way fridge (110vac, propane).
There is also a “Boondock” version with larger and more aggressive tires, a utility platform on which you can stand, greater ground clearance and a more capable solar package.
Most RVs do not come from the factory with batteries. It’s usually the selling dealer that includes them or doesn’t. Those are typically lead acid “flooded” batteries, which are the most common for RV use. However, AGM and now lithium-iron-phosphate batteries offer more performance and less maintenance at a higher initial buy-in.
Another big change is the Nautilus P3 water system in a bay, which is interesting as I’ve seen this more in fifth wheels and motorhomes but not travel trailers. This basically gives you all your water inputs and choices in one area.
As to the IKEA references, the new hardware on the cabinets incorporates positive latches (hooray!). Another change to the newer model is that the rear stargazer window has been moved up the back an additional 10 inches. The large window has been retained and opens up with both privacy and screen shades, as with the rest of the windows. This, too, is a dual-pane Lexan window.
Part of the popularity of these has been the fact that exteriors are available in a number of color combinations with two base colors, either white or gray, and then five accent colors. A new aspect of this color choice for 2021 is the fact that there are two exterior decal offerings, either the one that has been available all along which is sort of a brushed/swipey look, or a new, very simple stripe.
I appreciate the option and like the new minimalist sticker package. But if you’ve read many of these reviews, I’m probably very predictable in this respect.
In a trailer this size, part of the appeal is that it’s lightweight, so it’s towable by a wider variety of vehicles. But, with the small size come some compromises. One of those is that all these TAB trailers have a wet bath. Now, this is made better by the Alde on-demand hot water system, but the toilet placement isn’t going to appeal to someone who spends their days staring at a computer or traveling to find breweries and distilleries. It would be a very tight fit for me.
The dinette in the front is interesting in that the table is almost like a tongue in its shape and sort of extends from the wall at an angle. On the opposite end of the trailer is a fixed RV queen-sized bed that sits on the Froli™ sleep system, from Europe, which is a grid of plastic springs that reportedly can make even an RV mattress feel close to comfortable.
That front dinette does convert to a bed if you have a smaller traveler with you.
Like IKEA, the woods in this trailer have the Swedish feel to the color choices. One of the two choices for that wood is actually birch, which harkens back to vintage trailers. The other choice is simply listed as gray.
When you look at the profile of these you won’t notice a lump on the roof for the air conditioner. That’s because this has a “Cool Cat” air conditioner on the road-side under the dinette. This little 10,500BTU AC is almost like a window unit and does incorporate a heat pump, so you’ve got a backup to the Alde heat system if you’re on shore power or brought a generator of substance. Not having the AC sticking out of the roof does make this trailer more aerodynamic and also means you’re not as worried about branches or other things smacking that AC off the roof. Plus, that’s just one less hole in the roof – and that’s never a bad thing.
There are a few other changes including the larger diamond plate front, which now incorporates a tub to hold the two propane bottles.
The biggest disappointment, to me, was that a trailer at this price doesn’t have a power tongue jack. There are so many higher-end features in this trailer that seeing that manual tongue jack was almost a shocker. Sort of like a supermodel who also has a third eye or something. Yes, this is easy to fix, but it’s still pretty chintzy for something with an MSRP of more than $40K.
I can already imagine the comments where people compare what else they can buy for the same price, just as they do when you show them the price of any product that’s not entry level. But it’s not good to equate size with value, as sometimes what you don’t see beneath the skin or in materials usage is more important than the overall length of the RV.
These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.