By Tony Barthel
Cherokee is one of those brands that I think some folks underestimate. While they’re a line of affordable “stick and tin” trailers, predominantly, they actually are not a line of price-built trailers in many ways. As such, today I’m taking a look at the Cherokee 274RK which is available as a traditional model, and a “Black Label” model, which uses a smooth side.
Wait. What are “stick and tin” trailers? There are a few primary ways RVs are built. Laminated RVs are when they basically glue the layers together. Then, there is the traditional method where there is a wood frame to which an aluminum skin is attached. Those are affectionately called “stick and tin” trailers. Here’s an explanation of that.
While the Cherokee line was one of the more affordable trailers we sold, there were a lot of “plus” features that they included that were options on even some more expensive competitors. Things like a 15,000btu air conditioner (many trailers only include a 13,500btu AC), ice maker, space heating fireplace and the loooooooong drawers under the dinette.
But one of the more telling things about them was something I got from our rep, Norm, who would invite people to jump up and down in the shower/tub. Why? He was quite proud of the sturdy framing under the tubs and wanted people to experience this for themselves.
There are also Zebra shades that sort of alternate between black and white and, as you raise them they can let it more or less light depending on which panel is in front of the other. It’s pretty slick.
Another thing I like is that the Cherokee line doesn’t use seam tape, which is a common product used in the RV industry to hide the seams between the wallboards. Instead, they use a plastic filler strip that is far, far less likely to come unglued when the interior of the trailer gets moist. I can’t tell you how much seam tape we used to have on hand for just these common failures.
Furthermore, they use a vinyl wallboard rather than some of the common materials in other trailers. This is also less likely to get damaged by water.
The entry door, too, is unusual in that the entire exterior panels are glass with an interior window that features an accordion-folding shade. The door is on a friction hinge so it won’t fly open in the wind.
While I’m no fan of the standard Castle Rock tires on Cherokees, I really, really like the fact that the valve stems incorporate a tip that will show if the tire pressure isn’t where it should be. While there are digital pressure monitors, of course, these very simple tips are convenient.
Another thing that’s new on the Cherokee is the standard back-up camera. While it’s common to offer back-up camera prep, the 2021 Cherokees offer back-up cameras as standard. There’s also a center high-mounted third brake light which I think should be a requirement. But Cherokee is the only trailer company that offers this at all – and it’s a standard feature.
Also new for 2021 are the solid steps which are actually easily removable. So if you’re in a situation where the space between rigs is tight or you just want to remove the steps, it’s easy to do so.
All Cherokee trailers include a high-performance vent fan.
Cherokee also uses a technology called Total Control – which is their interpretation of the Lippert OneControl® system. If you walk into a trailer you’ll see the buttons and switches you might be otherwise familiar with. But if you’re a techie, you can also sync your phone or sync your tablet with your phone, and then control functions on the trailer with your phone. You can open the awnings or slide rooms with the phone. So you could be standing outside the trailer keeping an eye on what’s happening while you open them.
Interestingly, it might be worth the time to look at this video about Lippert’s long-term plans for this system. There will be an article forthcoming on this system.
This was always a popular floor plan. I think the first time I sold one of these was to a couple who were rebuilding their house and wanted something to live in while the construction was happening. In fact, I may have sold two of these to separate couples for the same reason.
The Cherokee 274RK is a trailer that’s not especially large but does offer a really nice space to occupy if you’re indoors. The previously mentioned fireplace adds a nice touch. But the two swiveling chairs perched in front of a large camp-side window were often what sealed the deal.
The interior of this trailer features those two chairs, which incorporate recliner function, opposite a couch that can fold into a bed. This also makes a great conversation place on those days when the weather brings everyone inside. I wasn’t impressed with the sofa in the past, but for 2021, Cherokee has significantly increased the bolstering – so they heard the complaints.
Beyond the couch is a four-person dinette. There’s a pantry around the corner from that – which is pretty large for a travel trailer. This is a floor plan that makes it easy to live in full-time.
Interestingly, our primary lender wouldn’t lend to folks if they knew they were going to live in the RVs. All the ones I sold to people who were planning to live in them were doing so because a fire had destroyed their houses. So usually they were buying these with insurance proceeds rather than renting a hotel room or another house. It was less money for the insurance company and the buyers could live right on their property and watch their new houses being built.
Since those times, Cherokee has offered a 12-volt refrigerator option which includes a “Juice Pack.” Essentially this is only a 50-watt roof-mounted solar panel and charge controller. According to Cherokee, this should give you 55 hours of refrigerator time. However, several RV industry friends have already disputed this. There is a battery shut-off switch for this unit. The solar system will still maintain the battery with the switch in the off position – which is slick.
Still, there’s a solar connector on the side if you choose to supplement this with additional solar. If you’re going to use the solar to do anything more than maintain the batteries, this is a wise idea. Of course, if you’re interested in off-grid camping, you clearly have bigger plans than this. Fortunately, the trailer is equipped to accommodate your upgrades.
Like almost all Cherokee-branded trailers, this one has an outdoor kitchen. Part of that is a new outdoor grill for 2021 that is either a barbecue grill or, with the included flat-top, can substitute for the newly popular Blackstone-style griddle. There’s also a larger two-door refrigerator here as well as an ice maker. This is something you’ll also find in almost all Cherokee trailers.
I know we’ve completely bypassed the rest of the interior in this – but there’s a lot to tell that isn’t usually part of the story.
If you can’t tell, I like this floor plan and I like the way Cherokee has implemented it. I think they’re adding a tremendous amount of value that you don’t see in all trailers at this price point. While a lot of brands are claiming to be the most popular, and the claims are legitimate with the right combination of asterisks, Cherokee is the most popular non-laminated trailer in the business. Period.
Something I really like about these also is the aesthetics – there isn’t an ocean of swoosh graphics outside. Instead, some of the horizontal panels are painted in blue, some in gray and some in black. It gives the Cherokee line a modern, clean look. It also means that the paint will be looking good years after those swooshy graphics have peeled part-way off.
So what’s to dislike? Not all buyers want a wood-framed trailer. Cherokee also uses a pretty basic leaf spring suspension. And, lastly, the almost black cabinetry the company switched to in 2021 just has zero appeal to me. Obviously, there are folks who love it. I’m just not one of them.
But with the combination of value and features, I couldn’t fault someone for getting one of these. In terms of wood-framed aluminum-skinned trailers, these may be my personal favorite for a lot of reasons. And you can paint those black cabinets.
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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