Today’s review is of the Northwood Nash 18FM, the company’s second-smallest travel trailer and one that fits into the category I’ve been seriously looking at for my own next RV. I am an admitted fan of Northwood products, in general, for a variety of reasons. So this was high on the list. But there were enough factors, in my personal method of choosing, that it didn’t make the cut.
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Northwood Manufacturing is an independent RV manufacturer that builds towables and pickup campers. The company is unusual in many ways. Chief among them is that they make their own chassis, and all of their towable models are certified for off-road use.
There are certainly lots of RV companies who have models whose name suggests that you can take them to distant places and spend long periods of time off the grid. That is, until you actually try that and realize that, no, you really can’t do so successfully.
Part of making these rigs more off-grid-friendly are things like higher ride heights and beefy suspensions and tires. You can even order one of these travel trailers with a built-in generator. That’s highly unusual. Baggage doors, too, are thicker than in many RVs, owing to the good insulation that the company is known for.
But there’s also the option for solar. However, until last summer’s heat wave, I’m not sure anyone in the Pacific Northwest was all that familiar with the sun. I wonder if this sentence is going to get commented on or edited out, considering where RVtravel.com is headquartered? [Editor: It’s safe, Tony. We want readers to think it rains here all of the time so we don’t get too crowded. But y’all are welcome to come visit the beautiful PNW.]
The company also builds thicker sidewalls and higher ceilings, too. The slide box in this trailer uses a Schwintek slide mechanism—but it has three rails instead of the usual two.
I prefer folding steps over solid steps
I also like the traditional trailer folding steps over the solid steps for so many reasons. Those include the fact that they can track dust and mud into the trailer. Plus, they’re difficult to open if you keep your rig in a tight storage facility. Opening them quickly is not going to happen unless you’re magically on a really level spot. That’s because you have to adjust the feet to accommodate the ground underneath. Not doing so properly can result in damage to the trailer itself.
They’re just stupid.
But for a more stable walk-in experience, I did add Lippert’s Solid Stance Step Stabilizers. This means the steps fold like the universe intended steps to do. Plus, they’re solid, but you don’t have to put the feet down for a quick in and out. Like if you’re getting a hamburger at In-N-Out.
The water heater in Northwood trailers is ten gallons, which is something you see in larger fifth wheels but almost never in smaller travel trailers. There’s also a degree of beefiness or sturdiness that you rarely see nowadays. And the words “Lite” and “Ultra Lite” are nowhere to be found on any of their products.
Honestly, when some of the trailers with these words on them weigh more than four tons, it completely negates the value of the label anyway.
The only light I appreciate is over at the Frankenstein Place. And, no, castles don’t have doorbells.
Highlights of the Northwood Nash 18FM
As previously mentioned, the cushions in the dinette and the couch at the front of this unit are much thicker and nicer than what you’ll find in many RVs.
One of the most unusual and brilliant things I’ve seen is that Nash put the power panel outside the trailer—but in a compartment. This means that it’s not inside the trailer but is still weather-protected. I like this because you aren’t doing contortions to see if a fuse is blown—it’s just right there. And since slide rooms and awnings seem to often be culprits in blown fuses, this makes sense.
But I’m also not going to argue with anybody who thinks this is a terrible idea. I just like it.
Life is full of choices
When you’re in the design process of an RV there are a lot of decisions to make. For example, you can prioritize the living room or prioritize the bathroom. A larger bathroom means a smaller living room. Life is full of choices.
In this case, Nash went with the bathroom and it is larger than some of the corner baths. The advantage is, of course, more space around the toilet. And for those of us who displace more water in the pool, this is a bonus.
That’s also true in places like the kitchen, where an “L”-shaped counter absolutely translates into more room for food prep. Typically, this is an area where smaller trailers suffer just because of the realities of space. But adding an “L” offers more surface area and more drawer space.
In fact, that’s an area where this trailer really shines—drawer and cabinet space are in surprising abundance. There’s what you expect under the counter, two large drawers under the dinette, and even two pantries: one next to the fridge and one in the slide room.
No under-mount sink in the Northwood Nash 18FM
I also like that they did not go with an under-mount sink. Think about it. You glue a sink to a counter top and then bounce a trailer down the road. I know a lot of people whose sinks have come dislodged—and it was never at a convenient time. But then, when is it convenient to have the sink literally just fall out of your trailer?
There are also drawers on the road-side bed night stand, which is another unexpected bonus. To accomplish this, the couch and bed sit slightly askew favoring the camp side of the trailer. But it works out fine, since there’s a cabinet in the camp-side night stand as well. I would have thought that would be for magazines but, really, it’s for iPads, right? I mean, that’s where most of my magazines are nowadays.
Murphy’s bed and other observations
While we’re thinking about the bed, know that to accomplish all the space in this trailer, another compromise was made in the use of a Murphy bed.
I make no bones about the fact that one of the few companies that have done Murphy beds well are Rockwood/Flagstaff. But the way they do theirs also takes out some of the front storage. Again, compromise.
The bed in this trailer has a bend in the mattress near the top of the thing and, I suspect, somewhere right around where your shoulders would be.
I will say that the mattress itself is as thick as I have ever seen in an RV. It’s probably thicker than the mattress I had on mine, including the foam mattress topper. So, there is hope for this bed, and Northwood Manufacturing is known for having comfortable beds.
A positive of having a Murphy bed is that you also get a couch—so there’s that. Add the realistically sized “U”-shaped dinette to the picture and you can actually do some legitimate entertaining in here.
Boondocking and travel access in the Northwood Nash 18FM
I had mentioned that the Northwood Nash 18FM was high on my own list until I found out that you can’t open the bed nor get to the fridge or bathroom with the slide room in.
While this might not matter to many shoppers, it is in the “must” column in my own shopping.
This model is, as all Northwood products are, well situated for boondocking with options for those who really want to spend time off the grid. I had mentioned the good insulation and nice suspension already.
There is a small solar trickle charger that comes standard with these. But you can also opt-in a more elaborate solar package that starts with a 170-watt roof-top solar panel and can be upgraded to include three of these. Or add your own portable solar panel.
A generator, too, is an option in these. There is 60 gallons of fresh water storage, which is more than in some rather large trailers.
The beefier build of these trailers means that they’re really not light at all. But that’s another trade off, right?
The Northwood Nash 18FM is not the trailer for folks who, like me, do a lot of mid-journey bathroom and kitchen stops, or like stealth camping overnight. That’s just because you have to open the slide to do almost anything in here.
However, for those who want to get there, and have a surprising amount of storage space in a well-built and comfortable rig but don’t want something huge, this is a great choice.
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.
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