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RV review: Riverside RV Retro 165

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Today’s RV review is of the Riverside RV Retro 165, a larger brother to the Riverside RV Retro 135 that we looked at a while ago. I keep looking at these because I count myself a supporter of Janine Pettit and the Girl Camper organization. 

As such, I communicate with a lot of members of the group. One of the names that continually comes up is Riverside RV Retro. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of those is undoubtedly the unique style of this camper. 

I am also involved in a lot of groups for specific brands of vintage trailers, including Aristocrats Anonymous since, until last week, I had a 1970 Aristocrat. We sold our vintage trailer at the last minute rather than dragging it here to New Mexico in our move to this state. 

Another big reason these appeal to people is that they really do look quite convincingly retro, but without the process of rebuilding a vintage camper. While there are certainly a lot of people who undertake such a project, including yours truly, it is almost always significantly more involved than you initially think, and often more heartbreaking. 

So many vintage campers that I know of are now for sale part-way through the restoration process with a big box of parts intended to be used in the rebuild. Bummer. 

So you get all the style of a vintage trailer without a lot of the headaches. You also get a new trailer with all the new trailer features but with the style of a vintage. 

Modern build

Even though the outside and inside can look retro, these are actually modern RVs in their core. In addition to the corrugated aluminum skin, they’re framed in aluminum and use a PVC roof from front to back. Technically, this is as modern as just about any RV. But given the right check marks on the order form, not everybody in the campground will think it’s modern. That’s kinda cool and the whole idea, really. 

What’s inside the Riverside RV Retro 165

This trailer very closely mimics a friend’s vintage Aristocrat with the biggest exception being the fact that all the appliances and lights still work, what with it being new and all. 

The entire rear of the trailer is a queen-sized (60” X 76”) bed, although it’s an RV queen. Up front is a two-person dinette that can fold down to be a bed. Being a retro-style unit, this has the knee-knocker table legs. 

You can also choose a floor plan that foregoes the dinette in favor of a couch along the front of the trailer. 

One of the big appeals of this has to be that, in such a small trailer, it’s a dry bath. In other words, the shower and toilet are separate functions. There is no sink in this bathroom, but I’d rather give up a bathroom sink than have a wet bath. I know a lot of you share my dislike for wet baths and, while I recognize there’s almost no way around this in a small trailer, it’s still not impossible to do a dry bath. Here’s the proof. 

The kitchen in the Riverside RV Retro 165

The kitchen on this is teeny tiny but still features a three-burner stove with 16” oven. Riverside RV is still using the traditional propane-electric gas absorption refrigerator that has been part of the RV world for two-evers. These really do make sense in boondocking. 

One of the particular highlights of this trailer is on the outside, where the entire underside of that queen bed is used for outside storage. There’s more outside storage here than in a lot of larger RVs. 

This also has decent cargo carrying capacity for a single-axle smaller trailer at 1,200 pounds. Not bad and certainly sufficient … for the most part. I’ve seen some people who glamp up their whole campsite with vintage Coleman stoves and refrigerators (guilty) along with other cool accessories that go with the vintage feel of their campers. 

Challenges

For as many things as Riverside has gotten right in this camper, there are a few head-scratching things that make me go “hmm.” Like that song from the 1990s by C+C Music Factory. 

For example, the dry bath features a shower all right. But why in the wide, wide world of sports would they put wallboard in the shower instead of a plastic wall material? That’s just dumb. 

Yeah, yeah, you can wipe it down after each use carefully and it should be fine. But time to invest in some FRP (fiber reinforced plastic) or some other plastic wall material. That is literally the first mod I’d do with this trailer. 

On the subject of moisture, Riverside uses the typical puny, worthless vent fan. So is their goal to make moldy bathrooms? This is such an easy thing to change. 

Opportunities for the Riverside RV Retro 165

There is almost no drawer nor counter space in the kitchen here—and this is a small camper, after all. But I wonder if it would make sense to use a two-burner in-line stove instead of the three-burner model that incorporates the smaller oven?

You’d get more counter space, for sure. Plus, there would be a place for at least one drawer, which is what many owners use those small ovens for in the first place. Perhaps offer a convection microwave to compensate for not having an oven, although I know a lot of campers with vintage rigs that don’t have an oven at all.

Lastly, the available couch in the front would be more awesome if the backrest would flip up and form an upper berth. We’ve seen this very recently on the nuCamp TAB 400, and I’ve seen it a bunch of times in vintage campers.

Boondocking and travel access

Since this camper has no slides, it’s always in a state of total readiness for camping. The propane-electric fridge takes advantage of propane—as we’ve done in RVs for a very long time.

Riverside RV is now offering an upgraded solar package which would work with the fridge to make this a pretty decent off-grid camper. That is how a lot of the RVs at vintage camper events I’ve been to are set up.

Conclusions

I like this a lot better than the Riverside Retro 135 we looked at before just because they have addressed more of the things I didn’t like about that trailer, but not all of them. These trailers offer such a very unique style and feel to them and truly are delightful. With a very few changes, they would really be outstanding to me. So let’s all hope they read these reviews. 

More from Tony

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.

If you’re RV shopping here are some tips on RV shopping from a former RV salesperson—me!

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. He also works closely with a number of RV manufacturers to get an inside look at how things are done and is a brand ambassador for Rockwood Mini Lite with his wife, Peggy.

You can also check out his RV podcast with Peggy. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. They are based on information from a single unit and may not reflect your actual experience. Shop your RV and dealership carefully before making a buying decision. 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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Bob M
2 months ago

I like the vintage trailers, but they seem to have small tanks, especially the black. The underbelly isn’t heated and may not be fully enclosed. When I was 1st looking for an RV i liked the vintage 5th wheel and was thinking about buying. Which I guess they no longer make.

Steve H
2 months ago

I like its vintage look and love the interior wood paneling. But I wouldn’t buy it unless the awning frame, window frames, door frames, and trim around access hatches was white, or, even better, aluminum-colored. All that black, including the AC cover just detracts from its vintage look and shouts “I was built in the 2020’s!

Spike
2 months ago

The decor item that seems very out of place to me is the white subway tile backsplash. My wife and I have watched all of the Flytecamp restoration shows and I can’t ever recall them doing subway tile or seeing an original with white subway tile. Seems like stainless would have been a far more appropriate choice, but could be wrong.

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