You might think of “stick and tin” trailers as being in the realm of affordability first, quality second. But that’s not always true and there are some buyers who prefer wood-framed aluminum-skinned trailers for a number of reasons. Why? Here’s an explanation of that.
So since we looked at what is arguably one of the more premium entries in this class yesterday in the Grand Design Imagine 2800BH, I thought we’d look at an alternative to that trailer in today’s peek at the Forest River Cherokee 284DBH.
While the Cherokee line was one of the more affordable trailers we carried when I was selling trailers, 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.
You can jump up and down in the shower/tub
But one of the more telling things about them was something I got from our rep, Norm, who invited 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 which sort of alternate between black and white. As you raise them, they can let it more or less light depending on which panel is in front of the other. Pretty slick.
Another thing I like is that the Cherokee line doesn’t use seam tape. That’s a common product used in the RV industry to hide the seams between the wall boards. 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 to repair these common failures.
Furthermore, they use a vinyl wall board rather than some of the common materials in other trailers. This is also less likely to get damaged by water.
Unusual entry door
The entry door, too, is really unusual in that the entire exterior panel is now glass with an interior window that features an accordion-folding shade. That 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 really convenient.
Another thing that’s new on the Cherokee is the standard backup camera. While it’s common to offer backup camera prep, the 2021 Cherokees offer backup cameras as standard. There’s also a center high-mounted third brake light, which I think should be a requirement. However, Cherokee is the only trailer company that offers this at all, and it’s a standard feature.
TotalControl technology in the Cherokee 284DBH
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 tablet with your phone, and control functions on the trailer. 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 these.
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.
What’s inside the Cherokee 284DBH
Like yesterday’s trailer, this one also offers two entry doors but in differently places.
The main entry door is at the front of the living quarters. You enter next to the fireplace and TV spot on your right and a recliner placed in front of a very tall window to your left. I like this big window overlooking your campsite.
Interestingly, Cherokee trailers don’t come with a TV – which I actually like so you can bring your own.
Across from the chair is a sofa which folds into a bed, and then a U-shaped dinette. Unlike in the Grand Design, the table here is on two knee-knocking poles. I’d prefer the free-standing table, and this is an easy mod most owners can make.
Next to that is the first of two closet/pantry spaces. Both of them are full height and offer a good amount of space commensurate with what you’ll need in a trailer that can sleep this many campers.
12-volt refrigerator option with “Juice Pack”
Cherokee now offers 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. But 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.
Also in the camp-side galley is the usual three-burner flush-mount stove with too-small 17” oven. There’s a large stainless steel sink with a commercial-feeling faucet. Of course, a few cabinets occupy the space above, and there are two drawers as well as a cabinet in the lower portion.
In the Cherokee 284DBH the bunks are also double bunks (like in the Grand Design 2800BH) but they’re on the road side, rather than the camp side. That puts the bathroom on the camp side. That’s where you’ll find the second door, directly into the bathroom. This is a good arrangement.
Outside on the Cherokee 284DBH
One of the strong selling points with Cherokee was that they all come with ice machines as part of the outside kitchen, which is also standard. This is no exception, but whoever put this together put the two-burner stove directly under the refrigerator on a slide-out drawer. That means you can’t open the fridge if someone is using the stove.
Also, while the Grand Design features a drop frame with a huge front storage compartment, this trailer does not. So the front compartment is smaller for that reason. But the road side isn’t accessible at all as that’s where the water heater is.
No worries, though. There’s a large compartment at the rear of the trailer and that more than makes up for a smaller front storage compartment. Additionally, there is another smaller compartment on the camp side of this trailer.
I think Cherokee is 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 swooshie graphics have peeled part-way off.
What’s to dislike?
So what’s to dislike? Not all buyers want a wood-framed trailer, first of all. 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.
Furthermore I like that the Cherokee 284DBH has a black tank flush – but whose idea was it to put that on the camp side when water spigots are usually on the road side? Probably the same person who put the outside stove under the refrigerator.
But with the combination of value and features, I couldn’t fault someone for getting a Cherokee 284DBH. In terms of wood-framed aluminum-skinned trailers, these may be my personal favorite for a lot of reasons. And you can paint those dark 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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