Ember RV is a new company that was born out of several experienced RV industry folk including Ashley Bontrager Lehman, whose grandparents founded Jayco. But Ember is a very different RV company building adventure-ready smaller trailers (so far) that really are different from a lot of what’s out there. Today we have our first look at one of their larger non-bunk models in this review of the Ember RV Overland 171FB.
Coming on strong with an unusual entry into the smaller towable market, Ember RV’s offerings feature some very notable features.
For example, the suspension on these is a fully independent swing arm arrangement that uses coil springs and shock absorbers. None of this is typical in the travel trailer world. It would be something closer to what you’d find in a performance vehicle. I’ve also been told that these tow exceptionally well. They also handle adverse and abrupt maneuvers better than virtually any other style of travel trailer.
There is not a splinter of wood used in the main contstruction of these trailers. There’s a tube frame upon which the laminated walls are placed that utilize Azdel substrates and aluminum frames vacuum bonded with a fiberglass outer skin and block foam insulation.
Flooring in the Overland is impervious to water damage
The flooring used is a composite material that purportedly is impervious to water damage. It also offers both better screw retention and insulation properties over wood. Screw retention is basically the measure of how resistant screws are to coming out. The better this is, the better it is.
Other unique aspects of Overland include the fact that the hitch is on an adjustable mount that allows you to raise and lower it to accommodate different heights of tow vehicles. But this mount also allows you to replace the ball coupler, which is what you’d typically find on a travel trailer, with a hitch that would be better for off-roading and accommodate a greater range of motion.
Speaking of the tongue, you’ll find that the tongue jack isn’t your typical model, but rather is more like a stabilizer jack. The advantage of this is that it doesn’t interfere with the space there. So you could drop the tailgate on your truck and not risk damage to it. When the tongue jack is up for travel, it takes almost no additional space on the tongue. This is a great idea.
Since there’s essentially no jack mechanism to worry about, that also means that Ember can put a metal box on the tongue to accommodate the two propane tanks. But there’s also space for other things in this metal box. Further, you can stand on it to access the roof or clean that stargazer window. More on that in a moment.
Options in the Ember RV Overland
There are a number of relevant options while we’re still outside. One of those is the ladder which is that kind of ladder that sort of collapses into itself and gets pretty small. If you do opt for the ladder, Ember puts two brackets on the trailer, one on the back and the other on the side, so you can stabilize the ladder to get on the roof. But then this ladder can be used elsewhere, too. I prefer this functionality.
There’s also an outdoor compartment that comes standard with a bar-sized fridge. You can opt-in a flat-top griddle if you choose here.
Boondocking and travel access
Since the Ember RV Overland is really well-suited to off-grid adventures, this section has a higher priority.
There is a slide room on the road side of the trailer that expands the floor plan. It has either a couch or a dinette, depending on how you outfit your trailer. But even with the slide in, everything inside the trailer is fully accessible—you just have less floor space.
As for boondocking, the Overland comes with a 190-watt Go Power! solar panel on the roof that drives the charging system. That includes a 30-amp solar controller and a 1,000-watt inverter. That may well be enough for a lot of campers. But if it’s not, you can get a 3000W inverter (in place of 1000W), two 100Ah 12V Battle Born® lithium-ion (LiFePO4) batteries, two additional roof-mounted 190W solar panels (570W total), along with an upgraded Bluetooth MPPT charge controller as an option package.
There’s also a 55-gallon fresh water tank with 30 gallons each of gray and black storage. Not bad for a trailer of this size.
The windows in the Ember Overland are all dual-pane Lexan windows that are hinged at the top and open up to 90°. They have integrated night shades as well as screens. Further, one of these windows is almost a skylight above the bed as a stargazer window—which I really, really like. In fact, I like this much, much better than a windshield in a travel trailer.
You can seal this off or leave it open. There’s the aforementioned bug screen integrated into it as well as the shade, but it’s so nice. There are lots of places where I boondock with seemingly endless skies and it would really be nice to fall asleep looking at those.
Truma Combi heater
Heating of both water and the cabin in the Overland are done by a Truma Combi heater. It combines the two functions into one unit and really is very efficient for both energy consumption and space utilization.
Speaking of Truma, that company now has a climate chamber where they can test RVs for their insulation. While the results of that test aren’t in, Ember certainly has done a good job of insulation and being ready for lousy winter weather.
As part of this, too, there are 12-volt tank heaters for all the holding tanks. These are set to not come on until it gets below 40° F.
As part of that unique suspension, Ember also incorporates a hand brake of sorts into the frame that pushes a pad against the tires. This enables you to keep the trailer from rolling without using wheel chocks. It can also be locked with a padlock to keep the trailer from rolling behind a thief’s tow vehicle. Nifty.
What’s inside the Overland
The layout on the Ember Overland features a true queen bed in an east-west configuration along the front of the trailer. There’s storage under the bed, of course. But a good chunk of that storage and the pass-through storage is reserved for that fancy solar/battery/inverter package—whether you get that or not.
Speaking of storage, Ember has very cleverly hidden the hanging storage on this unit behind the TV which swings out and can easily be seen while in the bed or on the couch.
Not a “chef’s kitchen”
While lots of folks talk about “chef’s kitchens” in RVs, nobody’s going to be saying that about the Overland. That’s because the only food prep is a two-burner stove, with those burners arranged in a linear fashion. There’s no microwave standard but, if you do get one, it’s not a convection model. Bummer.
There is that optional outside griddle, but those are your choices.
Lastly, the space around the toilet in the Overland is best described as not fluffy friendly. In other words, if you displace a lot of water in the pool, you’re going to have a tough time completing the paperwork associated with the job you came to do.
Those skinny RV designers need to have someone like me come test things. When I show up at a brewery, their accountants do a little jig.
The combination of the build methodology and materials, unique design, off-grid capability and outstanding suspension really make the Ember RV Overland a stand-out trailer. I would compare it well to trailers from companies like Black Series, but this is made here in the good ol’ US of A by ‘Mericans.
Now, with all these premium-level features and specs, these are not the bargain basement trailers lots of folks are buying. But the company also uses words like “generational” and “lifetime” in their descriptions.
In other words, buy the best and cry only once. Well, until you see what Ember has coming up next at some RV show.
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.com 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 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.
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