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RV Review: Ember RV ROK—a small but mighty overlanding trailer

Today’s review is of the Ember RV Overland ROK, a small, off-road base camp. All of a sudden there’s a huge interest in the small campers that are sort of square versions of the traditional teardrop camper. Such is the Ember RV ROK, a small, square camper that’s built like a tank but designed to be able to follow your off-road vehicle into those roads that aren’t roads. 

Ember RV

We’ve looked at other offerings from Ember RV in the past including the Ember RV 171FB and the Ember RV 191MDB. One thing that’s certain—these things are built like tanks. While a lot of smaller RVs are really built to price, these seem better made and are built with materials that are far more likely to last a long time. 

For example, this small rig is built on a metal tube frame as opposed to the typical Z- or C-channel frame in travel trailers. One of the reasons this frame just has to be stronger is the suspension. It’s a fully independent coil spring arrangement with shocks that offers a lot of wheel travel and permits the off-road Goodyear Wrangler truck tires to do their thing. 

Tire what? 

Wait, wait. If you’ve been around places where I troll on social media, you’ll have read that I strongly advocate against putting truck tires on a travel trailer. Why do I like them here? 

When a two-axle trailer turns a corner, particularly a sharp turn, one wheel literally scrapes along the ground. That is called scrubbing. This isn’t something normal vehicles ever encounter, so the tires for trucks and cars aren’t really meant to do this frequently. On the other hand, travel trailer tires are designed for this kind of use. 

Further, in an interview I did with Ron Henegar of Goodyear, I learned that travel trailer tires are specifically designed to track well behind towed vehicles. 

So the fact that this is a single-axle trailer, and a shorter one at that, means that these tires should offer good performance in this very unique circumstance. 

Further, Ember RV includes a tire pressure monitoring system with their trailers. So there’s another feather in the cap of this use case. 

Lock ‘em up

Since we’re already down here looking at the tires, let’s also marvel at the locking mechanism. It uses lever action to press up against those tires to act as a brake when the camper’s parked. Not only is this a really cool idea on a lot of levels, but you can also padlock the lever mechanism such that it would provide additional security when the camper is parked. 

A lot of the imported campers such as the Black Series Classic 12 have a hand brake on the tongue—which just makes sense. But, barring that, this is a great plan B. And, the whole ability to lock the system is a plus.

Build quality

As mentioned, there are no natural materials in the structural build of the ROK, so it should last quite a while. The walls are made with an Azdel substrate. That both improves sound deadening and helps eliminate the consequences of water intrusion. Ember is also using a man-made flooring material that the company says both holds screws better than wood and also doesn’t degrade if it gets wet. 

The metal fenders are strong enough that you can stand on them. That makes sense as you can mount a kayak or bicycle to the roof of this trailer. There’s also a handle to help steady yourself if you’re standing on the fender. 

That big metal box on the tongue of the trailer, too, is fully able to support a human standing on it. It features storage on one side and the propane tanks on the other. So that helps with this small trailer’s ability to hold all that camping stuff.

Windows are Lexan dual-pane

The windows in the ROK are Lexan dual-pane windows that can flip up and lock in place. There are rolling screens and shades which can be moved up and down. I really like these. But, as much as I think most RV windshields are silly, this one being Lexan makes sense to me because it’s less likely to shatter after something flies up from the tow vehicle. 

Why, oh why, have trailer makers stopped putting shades over windows as was installed in my own 1970 travel trailer? It made sense then. It would make sense now. Well, okay, or you can use a Lexan window, as is done here. 

On the subject of high-grade features, this trailer also incorporates the Truma Combi system. It acts as both a furnace and a water heater. This is a slick system that takes up less space and offers the functionality of both systems. You can also opt in a Truma Combi Eco system, which uses electricity or propane to provide the heating function. 

What’s inside the Ember ROK

Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of room in this trailer. But I suspect that the folks who like this configuration also are looking more for towability/off-road prowess than for lavish interiors. 

Still, you do get a couch that folds into a bed in the ROK. There’s also a Lagun table which can move around to accommodate the space. I would have liked to have seen Ember put a Lagun table mount outside so you could use the table there, too. But that’s an easy upgrade if the owner sees things the way I do. Other than the couch, there’s not much else in here except for a bit of storage and your control features. 

Inside can take on more meaning in the fact that there is an optional roof-top tent if you need more sleeping capacity. That tent would then increase the number of campers this can accommodate to four, from two. 

Another thing that stands out: The interior lighting is all individually controlled, but there’s also a universal dimmer. 

Boondocking in the ROK

Of course the whole point of a trailer like this is boondocking, and this one comes with almost an entire roof of solar. In this case, that translates into 190 watts of solar power. But that should be enough to keep things humming. Primarily the biggest draw is going to be the included Dometic cooler or the fan in the heater. 

Speaking of that cooler, that’s your refrigeration in this unit—which makes sense. I like these because you can use them with your camper or use them in the house for parties and such. You can use this Lippert cart to tote it into the darn grocery store and already have your groceries chilling on the way to the trailer, if that’s your style. 

The kitchen is at the back of the ROK

Like a teardrop trailer, the kitchen’s at the back of the ROK, and there’s a specific space for the cooler. There’s also a slide-out drawer where you can put the optional flat-top griddle. You can get the Suburban one from Ember or BYO such as a Blackstone. Or, if you prefer, you could also use a traditional propane stove. There’s a propane port at the back to facilitate connecting any of these.

All the shelves and cubbies back here in the kitchen area are made of metal, another plus. There’s also a peg board on the side wall of the kitchen area. This is a terrific idea, allowing you to hang whatever works for you there.

Speaking of this back area, there is a TV back here and, honestly, I wonder what the thinking was with this? I suspect that this kind of trailer appeals to the adventure-seekers who go to get away from the TV. I’m sure Ember has studied this, but I’d rather see the TV be an option than the griddle. We’re all going to want to cook something. I haven’t owned a TV in years.

Also, there is a plug to add a solar suitcase—which is good. But someone needs to go stand in the corner for a day for putting it inside the front baggage compartment. You have to have this baggage door unlatched to access the solar port.

Though, honestly, on my own trailer I had better luck just putting alligator clamps on the battery and then an Andersen plug into those for the portable panel.

In summary

There are more and more of these little adventure trailers coming from overseas, so it’s nice to see one from right here in the good ol’ US of A. I like a lot of what Ember RV is doing and while I am not the likely customer for this trailer, so what? The people who might buy this will likely see this as a home run. 

The build quality and materials are really first-rate, and that suspension is as good as it gets. Further, all the doors and hatches use the same key, I love the windows and the company even has the marker lights flash with your turn signals just like in a Jayco. 

Overall a good trailer in this category and proof that we ‘Mericans are still making some pretty cool stuff. 

Cool names!

Oh, one more thing. I also dig the names—ROK and ROL. They stand for Rear Outdoor Kitchen and Rear Outdoor Locker. But what cool names.  

Lastly, I appreciate Josh Winters from Bish’s RV for the heads-up on this and also letting me abuse his video (below) for the photography of this unit.

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.

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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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Build materials
Suspension
Lighting features
Solar port in baggage compartment

SUMMARY

The Ember Overland ROK is a small trailer that offers exceptional materials use plus a class-leading suspension that enables off-road function and a structure that backs this up.

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bull
6 months ago

I suggest that most of the reviews that will be posted here will be negative as vast majority of readers of this newsletter are RV’ers not Overlander/Explorers.

For those of us that like Overlanding (Hate the phrase however it does convey the idea) and NOT RVing this is a wonderful new product that hits most if not all the nails on the head for buyers looking for a nice well equipped Overland trailer. A buyer of this trailer will never hit commercial campground and already has the proper vehicle and passion for this type of trailer

Expensive?

Not really when compared to the price and lack quality offered by most of the POS RV trailers manufactured and sold today.

The manufacturer’s of this trailer did a great job at building to their target niche market!

Steve
6 months ago

I preferred the review trailer with the kitchen slide that could be used outside or inside the trailer. Perfect for those days when Mother Nature has a surprise for those boondocking so far from civilization that they have no TV, cell service, or even a radio station broadcasting weather reports. Those living in the East may think that’s a fictious scenario, but that jst means they haven’t camped in remote regions of the Rocky Mountains or deserts of Arizona, Nevada Oregon, or California.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago

If I were a single guy, this trailer might just fill the bill for boondocking in the desert and gold prospecting. It’s a step or two above the old “sleep in the back of the pickup” that I used to do. The wheel locking devices are a cool idea, but I wonder how many times they will survive forgetting to unlock them. And again, I don’t see the need for off-road tires. The trailer doesn’t need traction. It goes wherever YOU go no matter what kind of tires are on it. Having to convert the couch to a bed all the time would get old after the first time and I’ll bet it ends up being “deployed” 100% of the time. But, I like the trailer – for a niche crowd.

Last edited 6 months ago by Tommy Molnar
John Irvine
6 months ago

Why have mud and snow rires for something towed? Looks alone.

Darren
6 months ago
Reply to  John Irvine

Nice to only need one size spare tire, when I had two tires blow on a washboard road in Death Valley years ago.
Lucky my buddies Tahoe spare fit my Silverado. I always bring two spare tires when I go out now

RV Review: Ember RV ROK—a small but mighty overlanding trailerThe Ember Overland ROK is a small trailer that offers exceptional materials use plus a class-leading suspension that enables off-road function and a structure that backs this up.

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