By Tony Barthel
I’m honestly surprised at the popularity of these RV reviews. I am so grateful for the number of you who take your time to read these articles, and I will continue to use my experience in the RV business to provide you the best information I can on these along with my own experience in the RV industry.
A few RVs stand out in various categories and I thought that we could revisit some of those in a look back at the almost 85 RVs I’ve had a chance to review in 2020.
Perhaps the popularity of these reviews is driven by the same thing that drives me: No matter what you have today there might be something more interesting down the road. Sometimes you just want to know about that latest feature and see if it’ll make a difference in the enjoyment of your own RV.
So let’s look at a few highlights of the year gone by in today’s article and then, tomorrow, I will take a look at some of the most innovative and useful features I’ve found in some of these RVs.
I like it when folks do things differently. RVs like the TAXA TigerMoth, the Safari Condo Alto R1713 and the Black Series Classic12 trailers all offer very flexible designs stretching from small, easily towed boxes to much larger spaces. For a lot of people who do the occasional camping trip, these units can really make sense – and the way they go about doing things is what floats my boat.
But my favorite of these was the Safari Condo Alto R1713. I liked that it was essentially usable with the top down or up and offered up most of its interior features in either case. Obviously, with the top up it’s certainly better, but you could easily do some stealth camping or even loading and unloading with the top down.
Second on the list of convertibles was the oddly outstanding Camp365. My dad was an engineer and I always appreciated his approach to a problem and, clearly, the folks at Camp365 must have some sort of engineering background. Nothing on this trailer looks like it came out of the parts bin at the local Trailers-R-Us store. The magnitudes of difference between this model in its folded state and unfolded state are incredible.
While I think toy haulers have been only thought of as vehicles for hauling toys there is so much more that they could do. Think craft rooms, offices, places to get work or hobbies done. Of all the toy haulers I got to check out this year my favorite might have been the Grand Design Imagine XLS 24MPR toy hauler. The two doors on opposite sides of this coach make a lot of sense and the big back room in a relatively light travel trailer is a great idea.
I have friends who are quilters or work with leather and the big back room would be ideal for them to practice their craft. When the weather is more enjoyable to spend time outdoors, the ramp drops down and can become a giant patio, further enhancing relative floor space. Plus there’s that sink in the back area. Forget the toys – this trailer is more of a craft makers’ ideal.
I think I’ve found the floor plan of my next travel trailer and, fortunately, my wife and I are in accord on this. The mid-bath, no-slide floor plans that you can see in the AVIA trailer by nuCamp as well as the inTech Terra Oasis are essentially the same floor plan but the way they’ve executed it is so very different.
That’s the beauty of the RV industry – essentially we’re all playing with the same Legos but some people are doing a much better job of their projects than others.
Yes, there are lots of ways to look at things but my personal preference is a unit with no slides, a bedroom separated by a proper door or sound barrier from the living space and a reasonable amount of sitting space. Add in some big windows and you have the recipe for success to my camping style.
Of these two I actually liked the nuCamp Terra Oasis better, except that the interior felt very industrial to me, especially compared to the AVIA. The AVIA had a much warmer interior. Darn, I wish you could order the Terra Oasis in something other than German Office Building interior.
I just liked the implementation and unique way nuCamp put the Terra Oasis together, including the use of a welded aluminum frame. They’ve also done a really good job with ducting their AC system and the optional outdoor kitchen features a 12-volt cooler. Nice.
However, as mentioned, seeing how these RV manufacturers get to play with the same box of Legos and put them together slightly differently, I have found an RV with this same floor plan that I really like both inside and out. What is it?
Just make sure you don’t miss a future article!
But wait, there’s more.
Fifth wheel favorites
There’s no doubt that Alliance has made some serious waves with their new Paradigm fifth wheels including the Alliance Paradigm 310rl that I wrote about. There was a lot of hoopla about them being a game-changer. Maybe. Maybe not.
But my absolute favorite fifth wheel that I wrote about thus far is the Riverstone Reserve 3850RK. I absolutely love the interior of this unit with the residential area kitchen, the desk, the way the living area is designed and the huge upstairs bathroom.
With the realization that each individual camper and every pair of eyes is going to have their own preferences and one person’s favorite might make another person gag, I just love the decor and style in this fifth wheel. The appliances, cabinets, materials and such make me think of a well-designed new home. I could see someone preparing a rather elaborate meal in that kitchen while friends sit in the adjacent living room and chat. The countertops, coloring and materials in this fifth wheel were, by far, my favorite thus far.
Okay, the one exception was the Samsung refrigerator because I haven’t heard one good thing about the longevity of these, and good luck getting it out of the RV when it dies without completely removing a slide room…
This won an award for “Luxury Fifth Wheel of the Year” by another organization and I have to concur: This thing is just beautiful. When I was selling RVs and we happened to have a lot of customers who were fire survivors, I would think that this would make a perfectly acceptable substitute for a sticks-and-bricks home.
In some other categories, I have to divide my favoritism among several units but this one absolutely won my heart thus far. We’ll see what 2021 brings.
There are two ways to go here – either small and stealthy like a Class B, or just go big. I sincerely appreciate the small and stealthy and there are some very interesting Class B and C models that I have saved up to share with you in 2021, but there was one coach that was my personal favorite this year and that’s the Tiffin Allegro Bus.
I got accused of writing the story about those from the bathroom by one respondent and, actually, that wasn’t the case at all. The idea of that story was to give an overview or benchmark of these vehicles as we’re all concerned that the acquisition by Thor is going to alter the course of the company in a direction that nobody likes. Except Thor.
While the Marathon Coach that I reviewed may or may not be more luxurious, there’s something about the Tiffin that just strikes me. Yeah, yeah, it’s super luxurious, of course. But the details in the build and design of the Tiffin just speak to people who have been RVing for a very long time and know the realities we RVers face on the road.
My favorite floor plan of the bunch is the Tiffin Allegro Bus 40 IP for the seating arrangement as well as the two bathrooms, including the huge rear bath.
But the way these are plumbed and wired and the thought that goes into things like the optional escape ladder and power sliding trays just speak to the fact that I would be a happy camper in something like this rolling down the road.
The funny thing is with my $425,000 for one of these I could, instead, buy the B Box – but, yeah, hard pass for me. Sure, that rig has some incredible features and is very, very well thought out; but, again, the interior is Modern German Office Building. However, I really hope that some of the thinking that went into that B Box spills over into the RV industry in general.
So what was your favorite RV this year? Do you share some of my thinking? Or am I completely off base? Did I miss the must-see RV that you’ve been waiting for me to take a look at? I always read the comments below and appreciate what you all have to say. Most of all, I sincerely appreciate your reading these and I hope to spend more time physically sitting in more of these RVs in 2021.