By Tony Barthel
Forest River’s Cherokee division has been making waves in a lot of ways by delivering huge value and features at relatively affordable pricing. But they’re doing something else that breaks some ground as well – two kinds of skin on basically the same trailer. The difference between them is that there are the regular old Cherokee Grey Wolf models and then the “Black Label” edition models.
The Grey Wolf models are your typical “stick and tin” or aluminum skin on a wood frame – the way trailers have been built for decades. This build methodology is an inexpensive way to build a trailer and while it may require more attention to the skin (the windows don’t fit flush on the irregular skin shape), this isn’t really a big deal.
There are a lot of RV shoppers who want a fiberglass-skinned trailer and, for them, Cherokee has their Black Label models. These are essentially the same trailers except that they have a gel-coated fiberglass skin over the wood structure underneath. In addition, they feature frameless windows outside and sealed-edge countertops inside.
The interiors of the Black Label models have different upholstery coloring and other upgraded items as well.
In this case, a friend of mine in the RV business was showing me around a 2021 Cherokee Grey Wolf 23MK. A Black Label model of the same trailer coincidentally had just shown up.
This has been a banner seller for Cherokee for good reason. While this isn’t a large camper, the floor plan features a couch along the rear of the trailer as you walk in through the back door, and a large dinette in a slide room on the street side.
One of the hallmark features that sold a ton of Cherokee trailers to my customers when I was selling RVs is the included Furrion fireplace and, in this case, that fireplace is on the wall at the far end of the living space. Above that are all the hookups for a TV, but Cherokees don’t come with a TV. This is smart, to me, as you can BYOTV.
Opposite the dinette is a wedge-shaped kitchen that features a huge farmhouse sink in black-toned stainless steel along with a black faucet. Cherokee also paints its cabinets black, and I haven’t liked it in the other models. But with the different upholstery colors and other accents in the Black Label model, it wasn’t as confining or unpleasant as the regular model seemed with this color choice.
The blinds are interesting “zebra” blinds. That means there are alternating blackout and light sections and moving the blind up and down varies the amount of light they block. It’s interesting.
Even with the slide in, this trailer is fully usable – which makes it great for stealth overnighting. The bathroom is beyond the living quarters and the toilet has a huge amount of space around it.
Oh, we’re not done in the dinette yet, so hold your horses. Cherokee has made a name for itself with these huuuuuuge drawers that extend under the entire side of each dinette seat. Pulling those drawers out was almost comical because they’re so long. It’s a great solution because you know whatever you want from under the dinette seats is going to be “back there.”
On the list of “I didn’t expect that but got it and was pleasantly surprised” is the fact that the Cherokees come with an inverter that is capable of handling lithium batteries – which have a different charging profile than traditional lead-acid or AGM batteries.
Since these models have been shipping with a 12-volt compressor-based refrigerator lately, having a higher battery capacity is not a bad idea. There is a “juice pack” when you get the 12-volt fridge that has a 50-watt solar panel on the roof. However, that’s not a lot of power, and mounting solar to the roof doesn’t mean it’s always in the best spot.
After all, if you’re like me, you’re going to want to camp in the shade and that’s not the best place to maximize your solar return. A solar suitcase is a great addition.
You might also appreciate that the controls for this trailer are the traditional buttons you’d expect. However, you can also scan a QR code with your smartphone and use that to control lighting and several other aspects of this trailer. Buttons and smartphones. That’s the way to go!
A few more of those surprise features include the outdoor “ultra refreshment” station which has a 110vac mini-fridge, an ice maker (also runs on 110vac), and a shower head with hot and cold running water. These all are behind a flip-down door that stays horizontal thanks to two cables. It sort of makes itself into a table.
Lastly, out back there’s a flip-down rack that’s rated to hold 200 pounds of cargo. Think generator or bicycles – that sort of thing. The roof is fully walkable, and Cherokee has moved to a PVC roof membrane that is warranted for 15 years.
One of the things I like about the Cherokee line is that, even if you choose the standard aluminum skin, the front cap is smooth – which helps a wee bit with aerodynamics. Many trailers with this kind of skin use a corrugated nose – and that doesn’t help with dragging a big box through the breeze.
I used to show people how the stripes on these are painted onto the aluminum-skinned models rather than being stickers.
I can see why Cherokee is taking so much market share. The number of things you get that you might only expect in higher-end RVs is surprising. Things like the fireplace, the rear cargo rack and much more.
I think I’m pretty clear about the fact that I really, really dislike the 2021 models’ black painted cabinet interiors – so if you share my feeling that these make the interior feel smaller, you might see if someone has a 2020 model… or just hit your local hardware store’s paint department.
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.