Saturday, January 28, 2023


RV Review: 2022 Ember RV 170MBH with a flex bunkhouse

Today’s RV review is of the 2022 Ember RV 170MBH, a new floor plan from a new RV company. Something I’m seeing in Ember RV is not only groundbreaking products but a relentless introduction of new models that really set new targets. 

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ashley Bontrager Lehman and Christopher Barth about the company they co-founded with a handful of RV industry veterans. The perspective is so very different than what most RV decision-makers have. One of the biggest takeaways, to me, is that all the decision-makers at Ember RV actually go camping. 

While it might seem that that’s normal, it actually isn’t. One of the biggest surprises when I got into this wacky business was how few decision-makers and even product representatives from RV companies ever actually go RVing. In fact, many of them have never been. And what happens is you get the kind of RVs that we’ve been seeing where there are power cords hanging in front of water heater vents and stupid things like that. 

Ember RV 170MBH

I’ve done a lot of RV reviews of Ember products lately, and more are coming. While it might seem that this is not an especially different floor plan from others you’ve seen in the Ember line, I beg to differ. That’s because you can see the thinking that’s coming from the company in the quick evolution of what they offer. 

In this case, one of the standout features of this smallish camper is that there are two couches in here. They really create a great space to have conversations or meals with friends or family. Often I’ve seen RVs where there are more beds than places for behinds. That’s not true here. 

What Ember has done is placed a couch across the front of the living space and one along the road side. There is no dinette here, but there is a place to eat. Two, in fact. 

Both of the couches feature a mount for a Lagun table. That is a nifty gadget that can swivel and turn such that it accommodates all sorts of positions. So, you can legitimately sit at the couch and have a meal in normal eating position. 

The couch along the front of the trailer also features a fold-down center armrest. The armrests on either side also flip up to store remotes or phones or whatever. 

There are also rails along the side of the couch where you could put drinks or just your electronic gadgetry that you’re supposedly getting away from. But, really, you keep looking at it the entire weekend to see how many people liked your fancy new sunglasses on Instagram. Come on, admit it—we’re all addicted. 

Lighting in the Ember RV 170MBH

Between the two couches are a row of various connectors to keep those devices fat and happy on power. There are also switches for lights including Ember’s nightlight which glows, well, amber. It’s an amber Ember nightlight. 

On the subject of lighting, here’s something you never see in smaller trailers—dimmable lighting. I run a few Facebook Groups for several brands of RV manufacturers. Something I’ve read multiple times was campers finagling lighting dimmers in their rigs. No reason to now—Ember’s got you covered. 

I had mentioned that this is a smaller camper and that there are two couches. That brings up the subject of the bed and may result in the deal breaker for some shoppers—the Murphy bed. This camper has one. 

It’s also a bendy bed—which is not my favorite way to accomplish this. And it’s an east-west bed, although it is a full queen, not a short RV queen. 

You could leave the Murphy bed down

Since this model has no slide room, you could actually leave the bed down all the time if that’s your preference. It is not supported by the couch, so it actually feels solid. This also would allow you to put a mattress topper on and leave it. So, you don’t have to utilize the Murphy bed functionality here if you choose not to. 

In fact, this trailer has lots of ways to use it that aren’t immediately apparent. You could leave the bed down all the time except when the number of people call for an additional couch. That means it becomes almost a jump seat, or jump couch. No, no, don’t jump on it. 

However, there is that Stargazer window above the couch and front bed, which opens for air flow. So, I suppose, if you did jump on it your head would just go up through the window—assuming you’ve opened it. You could also stand on the bed and stick your head out this window and “meerkat” the campground. Of course, there’s a screen and a shade that draw over this window when you want either of those. 

I’ve mentioned before how very much I like this window and how much better I think it is than a windshield. It also has five latch points, so it’s not likely to fly open when driving down the road. But it is a good idea to latch them before you leave. 

Multi-purpose bunks in the back of the Ember RV 170MBH

Another area that can serve multiple purposes are the bunks in the back. 

The bottom bunk swings up and latches in place, using the same structure and latch mechanism as the Murphy bed. There’s also a door on the road side to this bunk so you could just leave the bunk up and use this area to bring your bicycles or whatever all you need. 

There’s still the bunk above the lower bunk if you only have to sleep one additional person. These bunks are each rated for 300 pounds. So, arguably, this could serve for adults as well as for kids. 

In fact, you could forgo the front bed altogether and use the bunks, thereby having two sleeping positions and two couches. Of course, you could also use the front queen and the bunks. But I like the idea of multiple choice. 

Useful, and strong, metal box on the tongue

Another thing I really like about Ember RVs is the metal box on the tongue. It houses the propane tanks (two 20-pound tanks) as well as the batteries, if you don’t choose the upgraded power system. 

Atop the metal box is strong enough to stand on to clean that Stargazer window, for example. But this could also be a place to house a small generator if you’re more into that style of use. The tongue, too, is where you’ll find a very unique tongue jack. It is a foot that drops down instead of the typical travel trailer tongue jack. This means you can open the tailgate on your pickup. This seems more substantial than your typical RV tongue jack, as well. 


With a trailer this size there are bound to be compromises. One of those is the kitchen—which has very, very little counter space. What I’d like to see Ember do is put a third Lagun table mount on the side of the kitchen cabinet by the door. That way you could move that table there for additional counter space. 

But this is also something you could do yourself. 

Also, while the shower in this rig is plenty large, there is little space for feet and legs around the porcelain toilet. You can always put your legs in the shower. Ah, the crazy laws of physics. Smaller camper, smaller spaces. 

Ember RV

If you’re new to these reviews, then let’s introduce you to Ember RV, a company started by a few RV industry veterans including Ashley Bontrager Lehman, whose grandparents founded Jayco. Lehman partnered with a few others to found the company and create something different—and they certainly have. 

Ember RV’s products cater to the adventurous who might take their RVs far off the beaten path. Starting at the bottom, these single-axle offerings all feature a really advanced CURT independent coil spring suspension with dual shock absorbers. Wheels have Goodyear 16″ truck tires. 

There’s also an innovative wheel chock built right into the system that can be locked, making it more difficult to steal these trailers. 

All of Ember RV’s trailers have the Stargazer window above the bed

Further, all the trailers thus far have included a Stargazer window above the bed. This is so, so much better than a windshield. That’s because it’s above the bed with a built-in shade. It also has a screen as you can open the window for air flow. I really like this. And it’s a double-glazed Lexan window, so it’s less likely to shatter than glass. 

That window is mounted to a roof that’s made of the same laminated panels as are used in the walls. They feature Azdel substrates on the inside and out. There’s a fiberglass outer layer, so that means no rubber on the roof. 

All the joints between wall seams on the outside are covered in an Eternabond tape. That is the stickiest permanent thing I’ve ever messed with (I’m rebuilding a vintage trailer and using this stuff). Then a section of the aluminum exoskeleton is placed on top of that. 

Ember RVs are certified to withstand heat and cold

Recently, the company used Truma’s climate chamber to certify that Ember RVs are able to withstand use between 0° F to 100° F. So they’re ready to camp in the cold, and ready to camp in the heat. While some RVs claim to be capable of this, Ember has certified through actual testig that theirs are. 

The company says these are “generational” trailers—meaning they’re meant to last for a very long time. Seeing how they’re made, I don’t doubt that at all. 

Another keynote build feature is the flooring, which is the same Transcore structural composite flooring as used in an Airstream. But there’s a key difference—it’s twice as thick on an Ember.

Boondocking and travel access

Boondocking is a highlight of this brand all around, and this model is no exception. Despite the small size of the trailer, it still has a 55-gallon fresh water tank. That is made more useful with a ShowerMiser valve that diverts the water from the shower into the fresh water tank while you’re waiting for it to get hot. Smart.

Of course, with no slides the whole trailer is accessible all the time.

Also, there is at least 190 watts of solar on this model as standard. Also, Ember offers a more advanced solar package with 570 watts of solar, 200-amp hours of lithium batteries, and a 3,000-watt inverter in place of the standard 1,000-watt unit. You can also further upgrade the batteries in this trailer.

In summary

I make no secret of the fact that I really like the products Ember is coming out with. But I also really like how I see that the company is listening to the customers and responding very, very quickly. 

The absence of structural wood in this trailer along with the rest of the build quality and features mean that these aren’t the cheapest trailers. But for those who complain about the lack of build quality in RVs, this might be worth considering. 

Ember RV will have larger units

I also know that Ember RV does have larger units on the horizon, so that’s something to stay tuned for. The flexible-use case of this trailer really makes it a great choice for some. It’s easy enough to get past the Murphy bed that some campers don’t like. Overall, another home run in my ballpark. 

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 having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong 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 an RV podcast with his wife, Peggy. 

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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Bruce C
8 months ago

It would be great if this company made a two person version of this trailer. The bunk area could be used for added space and would reduce weight without it.

Having space alongside the bed so you can get out of bed without crawling over your partner would be great.

8 months ago

No dimensions on the bunks, so I’m not sure what size kids could fit there. However, the jackknife sofa looks pretty short, so it would only be for small children. But, if this can sleep 5-6 adults and kids, where do they all eat dinner? Guess I would rather see two theater seats with footrests in place of the jackknife sofa and a “dinette” with facing benches below the Murphy bed. Even if the dinette only seats two, the other two can use a Lagun table at the theater seats. Ie, this camper should be designed for a max of four people, not 5 -6!

It also has those terrible swing-out steps that would be a “no-sale” feature for me. In addition, I would much prefer the cargo door in the rear, not on the side. Then you could load a couple of non-folding E-bikes or a couple of short, kid’s kayaks in it, instead of just folding bikes, as Josh mentions.

8 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Some might ask, “why do 5-6 people need to eat inside? That’s what picnic tables are for!” Well, it might be because of rain in the East, but then you just eat in camp chairs under the awning. However, in the West, it would be due to winds so strong that no one would dare eat at a picnic table or use an awning.

We just returned from an early May RV trip to UT, NV, AZ, and CO where it was 102 degrees in Las Vegas and 90 in Denver, with 60 mph winds and dust storms in NV and AZ. And it has been like this in the SW US for 6 months. If this continues through the summer, there will be very few picnic table meals and NO campfires for RVers in this region!

8 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Why do you not like swing-out steps?

Jason Johnson
8 months ago

I have been following Ember for a few months now and love where they are headed. I’m looking forward to a slightly larger model which could have a North-South bed as well as a little extra counter space. The most exciting thing for us is that the newly introduced 191MSL allows the rear room to be completely flexed (I suggested they call that EmberFlex™ space). I need an office for remote work and don’t want my kitchen table to be my workspace (I want distinct work/home spaces. Very few options on the market for dedicated workspaces. When I’m pulling the trailer, I can fold up the desk to the wall on the ember track and load our bikes in. Was even thinking I could mount an extra closet rod back there. My only current concern is slides. They seem to have increased quality of so many aspects of the trailer but have they done anything at all to help prevent slides from leaking. Asked sales rep yesterday why they don’t use Truma for a/c when they already use combi for heat/hot water

8 months ago

Apparently you really DO get what you pay for… 🙂

8 months ago

Looks like a nice small trailer. A lot to like if in the market for a unit like this.

One thing I noticed zooming up on the pantry is that it’s just open shelves…no door. Apparently the experienced execs at Ember have never had things fly around in their rigs on rough roads…especially food boxes or canned goods. 😉 I can envision a lot of pantry contents laying on the floor when one arrives at camp.

Timmy V
8 months ago

It’s pretty rare these days when *everything* is disposable that a manufacturer considers its product of heirloom quality. Automatically makes me want to do business with them. This would be a perfect upgrade for our little family from our Aliner (which is also holding up remarkably well despite some Playskool construction and materials). This or an Opus OP15. Off topic, but I always wondered what people do with their fifth wheels and giant travel trailers when they’re no longer repairable or sellable? That’s not a situation I’d ever want to be in.

Bob p
8 months ago

$48K for a 20’ trailer is a hard pill to swallow.

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