By Tony Barthel
I was recently looking at a cool vintage Shasta trailer that a friend of mine bought and is embarking on the restoration of. It made me nostalgic. Shasta used to be a big name in RVs for a very long time. But, like many other storied brands, the recession of 2008 really hurt them.
But then my search found brand-new Shasta trailers on the market. In fact, Forest River is now producing the Shasta brand. So what is a Shasta today? I took a look at the 2021 Shasta 21CK to get some idea.
Shasta 21CK travel trailer
The floor plan in this trailer is one I’ve seen a number of folks use. It’s also one that was very popular when I was selling trailers under a different brand altogether. Essentially this is a mid-sized no-slide model – though Shasta has a variety of configurations available. Since none of the vintage rigs had slides, that’s where I thought I should focus.
The Shasta 21CK offers both a couch and dinette in a trailer that’s just 25’ 7” long and does not feature a slide room. The way they pull this off is by having the couch on the road side wall facing the dinette. They both make into beds that are smaller in size. That couch has a flip-down center armrest that incorporates cup holders and USB charging ports. Nice.
Surrounding the dinette and couch at the rear of this coach are three very large windows. That was the appeal of the Bullet and Springdale copies of this floor plan that we used to sell where I worked. It’s a nice place to be with lots of light coming in from the outside. These trailers would often sell below $20,000 (before taxes and all of that). So that was another reason they were popular.
I’m not sure if either the couch or the dinette would be a great place for an adult to sleep. However, both would serve younger children to some extent. There’s also storage under the dinette accessible by both a cabinet door as well as a plywood top. The top has a finger hole in it which you can access by lifting the respective cushion. But it would be a plus if there were a door to the outside as well to get to this space. Remember this when we get to the summary.
I’ve seen a variety of images of this trailer both with and without an oven. That is interesting, and I wasn’t able to get a solid answer on whether the oven is an option. I assume it is. However, it’s specifically mentioned by Forest River in their description, but their photographs show it without the oven.
One thing that’s disappointing is that the microwave, located above the three-burner flush stove top, is not a convection model. So there’s no provision to bake in here if you don’t opt for the oven – if that’s even a possibility.
What is nice is the solid-surface countertop and it’s not a bad amount of space – all things considered. The stove top is a flush-mount model and the sink covers also fit flush. So you can prioritize food prep or cooking based on your own needs – so that’s good.
Behind you is the source of the cooled grub and that refrigerator is an EverChill 12-volt DC compressor-based model. Let’s set another point to revisit in the summary here, shall we?
Sharing the road side with the refrigerator is the bathroom – which is a dry bath.
Lastly, there’s a RV queen-sized bed here with cabinets on either side and a shelf along the top.
History of Shasta
At one point in time, Shasta was the largest RV manufacturer in the U.S. Vintage Shasta RVs are highly collectible and quite restorable. As is typical of older RVs, these are wood framed with aluminum skin. One of the styling highlights is the little wings on the upper rear edges of the trailers. Those little wings were actually missing from my friend’s trailer. However, there are so many groups of enthusiasts that she doesn’t believe it’ll be a problem to find replacements. In fact, there’s even a guy who specializes in reproducing these.
It’s also funny how a little detail like those wings can really change one’s perception of something. In a vintage trailer rally the Shastas stand out, and it’s those wings that do it. So it makes sense that these current models pay tribute to that with wing-shaped stickers on the outside. The winged logo on the front and back (also a sticker) also pays tribute to the company’s legacy with “1941” as part of the detail of this sticker.
That reference is to the first year Robert Gray, founder of Shasta, started producing little mobile residences for military personnel in Los Angeles, California. The brand grew to include all sorts of configurations, including motorhomes, and was the largest RV manufacturer in the country when they were acquired by W.R. Grace Company in 1972. Four years later Coachmen Industries bought Shasta and continued production of the brand. Nowadays they’re built in Indiana by Forest River.
I’m a bit frustrated in this review for a number of reasons. First of all, I just don’t get how a manufacturer can build a product and provide such minimal information about it – including conflicting information. Is there an oven or not?
Also, since there’s a 12-volt refrigerator, does this include solar panels on the roof as many others have done when going to a DC fridge or not? Other than the wings on the roof, which are stickers, what sets Shasta apart from other brands?
In addition, there’s a lot of conflicting information out “in the wild.” For example, the mandatory “Camping with Ease Package” specifically lists magnetic baggage door hold-backs. Yet every product image I saw and every video I watched to get a better picture of this model had those cheap plastic baggage door hold-backs.
I know a lot of people aren’t going to notice this nor are they going to care. But I hope some of the value I bring to you is that I use my experience in the RV space to share with you the things that might make for a better ownership experience over time. Also, I hope that some of what I share here helps you if you’re in the market for a new RV. Perhaps some of these points will make it to your own checklist if you’re shopping.
Another thing you might want to take note of is that tiny handle at the entry door. Many RVs use a fold-out handle and it’s really useful. This small plastic lunchbox-style handle is as worthless as a parachute to a scuba diver.
Finally, let’s look at this trailer compared to my recent review of the Grand Design model, which is literally just a few hundred dollars more. That did feature magnetic baggage door hold-backs. But the company also had a heated basement so the tanks don’t freeze, and outstanding wet bay inside a locked compartment, an innovative manual crank that let you operate it with your power drill and many, many other features.
Grand Design’s website had plenty of features and pointers and there were a lot of dealers and others who have created pretty informative videos of the product. So, if you do want to do some research, you are able to.
So it really does pay to shop when you’re looking for a new travel trailer and know how differently the various brands manage what they’re doing. It just seems that Forest River has taken the Shasta name and phoned in a bunch of designs that others offer as well. It seems they’ve really done as absolutely little as possible to tell the story or even differentiate the product.
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.
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