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RV Review: A look at 2021’s best – and worst – RV features, Part 2

Once again it’s time to take a look at the RVs we all looked at this year and pick out the best and the worst RV features, from my perspective. This is Part 2. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Generators

While the legislators in California have announced a ban on portable generators, it probably won’t matter by the time the regs take effect in 2028, seven years from now. Why? 

One of those reasons is the charging system in the Winnebago Revel. Rather than have a separate stinky diesel generator, the Revel has an additional high-capacity alternator on the main engine. The charging/storage system aboard can recognize that the solar installed isn’t cutting the mustard, so to speak, so you can set it to automatically start the diesel V6 which runs that alternator and charges up the lithium batteries in the rig. 

This means you don’t have a separate engine to maintain that’s noisy, plus having to give up the space for that second engine. Space in Class B vans is precious – and this is a great solution. 

Likely camping in a towable RV

But if you’re like the vast majority of RV owners out there, you’re likely camping in a towable RV. This is where something like the Ford F-150 with Pro Power Onboard™ is such an intriguing thing. 

Sure, it’s not actually an RV, but you can’t get a travel trailer to a campsite without a tow vehicle. So I’m still going to acknowledge this optional future in some of the Ford trucks. Right now it’s only available in the F-150 line, but I’m hoping that that moves into the more capable three-quarter ton models. Hopefully, competing manufacturers see this and offer it in their trucks, too. 

Having your truck as your generator, again, bypasses the need for a small, stinky and maintenance-hungry generator and also leaves the bed of the truck for other stuff. Emissions systems on gasoline engines in vehicles mean they run very cleanly and, again, no separate engine to tote along or maintain. 

There have been a few all-electric travel trailers we looked at this past year, but using electricity to heat a rig isn’t such a great idea. Nice try, but we just haven’t hit the mark yet to where that’s a good option. 

Another generator

WATT Imperium is a propane fuel cell generator that is almost dead silent (there’s a small fan) and uses the propane you likely already have in your RV. These things are remarkably efficient and surprisingly small. But they can provide all the power you need in your RV without rattling the dishes in the cabinets. 

WATT Imperium almost completely lost their shirts by banking on Hymer’s entry into the U.S. market and riding that wave right into the rocks on the shoreline. They’re now poised to make quite a splash in the market and I, for one, am highly intrigued by this offering. 

Imagine having a small Class B motorhome that had electric drive motors and a big battery but then also had the WATT Imperium to provide power to go beyond what the batteries could provide? I think something like this might make much more sense than an all-electric RV based on how we RVers use them. 

It’s not just more power

I’ve been saying this for years, but bigger batteries and generators aren’t necessarily the best way to spend more time off the grid. Instead, technologies like Truma’s Aventa air conditioner that uses just 8 amps of power at full load are very exciting. 

RV air conditioners and other systems haven’t had to be efficient or modern because we get our power at RV parks and our goals have been to use as much as possible. As many people think, we paid for it so we’re going to use as much as we can. As we spend more time off the grid, though, that motivation has changed and more efficient systems like improved air conditioners and the 12-volt fridges that are becoming more common are making things much better for all of us. 

Suspensions

I’ve noticed that more and more overlanding trailers are employing the Timbren axle-less suspension systems – which leave more space between the wheels for stuff. Like water storage. I also like the torsion axle suspensions in some trailers, as well. It’s good to see some RV manufacturers looking at suspension improvements. 

What’s not

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses out there. If you didn’t know, many of the RV decision-makers don’t ever go camping – and this shows in some of the decisions we see. 

One of those is those stupid 17” ovens in so many RVs. We use the 22” oven in our travel trailer a lot and it does a great job. I wonder what the price difference when you’re buying in bulk between the 17” oven, which is so small it’s almost worthless, and the 22” oven, which is really useful? This is one of those accounting-lead decisions that really do make a difference. I wish they would just discontinue those 17” ovens altogether. 

Color choices

I don’t know what home improvement TV show some designers of RVs were watching. But black cabinetry with gold handles is just not something I think that works in an RV. I follow a lot of RV modification groups and nowhere are people painting cabinets black, except in the case where one cabinet face gets chalkboard paint. I hope this trend stops … and soon. 

You’ll find black cabinets with gold handles in both Forest River’s Cherokee line and Keystone’s Outback line. It’s just as bad in both places. Stop. Now. Dark cabinets make a small space look smaller and gold cabinet pulls when the faucets are silver-colored looks stupid.

But then I don’t watch those home improvement TV shows. So maybe my judgment of this comes from being able to make my own decisions instead of following someone on TV. There are also folks who have to sell these rigs who tell me it would be a more difficult job if they couldn’t sell everything that rolled onto the lot. 

More RVs with attractive graphics

On a positive note, I am seeing more and more travel trailers and Class B RVs with really attractive graphics on them. There are fewer of these that look like carnival floats than in the past – and I love it. 

Images of outdoors scenes and other attractive decals really are appealing, to me. Now, if we could convince the manufacturers of Class A diesel pushers that not all of their rigs will be featured in Mardi Gras parades, campgrounds will get much more beautiful. 

A lot of positive things happening with RVs

There are a lot of positive things happening in the RV space that are very exciting. While there are still challenges, there are also encouraging signs. 

I’m still convinced that one’s RVing experience is made better by having a great dealership and a carefully chosen RV brand. I hope the daily RV reviews continue to serve you all in 2022. And, who knows? Next year we might have awards to give out. 

*****

I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.

Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife. 

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.

Got an RV we need to look at? Contact us today and let us know in the form below – thank you!

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Firefly
18 days ago

Your article yesterday on the Truma Aventa AC got me interested. I could only find specs for the European model which uses 4.2 amps at 240v. So yes, about 8 amps at 120v. What was disturbing was the 28 amps at startup. I would certainly hope that doesn’t translate to 56 amps at 120v. The biggest problem, and the reason for EasyStarts, is that draw at startup. Otherwise I’d love to have that AC and be able to run it with my batteries and solar charging system.

Scott R. Ellis
18 days ago

Yes, your vehicle engine, gas or diesel, has a ton of emissions-control accessories and “runs cleanly.” And charging a house battery with it is using a brick to swat a fly. Lithium batteries that can accept much higher charge rates can change this math a bit, but still. The better option would be a clean-running small generator, or (better yet) more efficient appliances. And maybe even a mind-set that says you don’t actually have to have the biggest and best of every imaginable electrically-powered contraption in a CAMPER.

Gary
18 days ago

Having your Diesel engine automatically start to charge your batteries seems like a significant waste of energy and fuel. Also, it’s against the law in Washington State to idle an engine to warm up a vehicle. I doubt the powers that be would see any difference between warming and charging.

Colin Grant
18 days ago
Reply to  Gary

BC has a 3 minute idle law.

Tommy Molnar
18 days ago

We have the larger oven in our trailer and use it a LOT. Same goes for the stove top. We have a gas stove and an oven at home. and we strive to make our rolling home as convenient and familiar as our sticks & bricks home. Since boondocking is our thing, the microwave is seldom used. Everyone knows what a strain micros are on your batteries with an inverter. Nope, we’re oven and stove users.

Richard Davidson
18 days ago

Who needs an oven with convection microwaves anyway? A good size convection MW will do what an oven does and more, faster. Save the oven space for storage and install larger convection MWs.

Dan
18 days ago

We’re considering removing our little toy propane oven and three burner stove, which we have never, ever used. If so we will replace them with a cabinet to hold a toaster oven and induction hot plate. Might feel different if we were full timers, but we can live without those for our extended weekends. We do most of our cooking on a Coleman Sportster.

Ran
18 days ago

What is worst? Having a generator run, or having your diesel engine constantly running and having to smell that? There’s pollution both ways…… Guess I will TIME-OUT when this issue of generators becomes a reality, if it does!

Dan
18 days ago
Reply to  Ran

I agree. You’re still making pollutants, just thinning the mix. The WATT Imperium sounds interesting, but I couldn’t find any information on it, other than it is supposed to be a 500 watt battery charger, not a generator, and who sells it, what does it cost?

Chris
18 days ago
Reply to  Ran

Experience with both—generator is the worst!

TexasScout
18 days ago

WATT Imperium:

I don’t call 500 watts continuous is “all the power you need in your RV”

HappyCamper7424
18 days ago
Reply to  TexasScout

I was thinking exactly the same thing, seems pretty anemic to me.

Bob p
18 days ago

You really down played the 17” oven, DW uses that oven to store 3 different sized skillets and her screen splatter shields. Lol, they could save money by eliminating all of that and making a cabinet there, because as you say it’s almost useless to bake anything except a pan of 6 biscuits and not the hi-rise either. Lol