By Tony Barthel
What can I tow with my Subaru? Many people wonder this – here in Northern California where every third vehicle is a Subaru of some sort. Or so it seems. And, with the skyrocketing popularity of the RV lifestyle, people want to combine those vehicles with a trailer of some sort and hit the road.
Unfortunately, most Subarus and other smaller vehicles aren’t good tow vehicles, despite the inevitable number of emails we get arguing the point. So what can you tow with one, or with many of the car-based SUVs that are so popular? Perhaps the answer is this Safari Condo Alto R1713.
To say that these are unique would be an understatement, as these teardrop-shaped travel trailers are very light and very capable given their exterior dimensions. The reason for the low weight of these is the extensive use of aluminum in many areas of their construction.
The Safari Condo Alto trailers feature a curved roof that can be raised at the touch of a button. The trailer then goes from a small teardrop with everything inside to a much larger curved trailer that’s actually very usable, especially considering the weight.
You might be surprised to know that there’s a full kitchen, toilet and two dining areas in this trailer that’s just 1,875 pounds dry. There are also fresh, gray and black water tanks aboard and a two-burner stove, microwave and even a two-way refrigerator.
The way these are built is with an aluminum sandwich construction where an outer and inner layer of aluminum are bonded to a honeycomb material, resulting in a structure that is very lightweight but also durable and resistant to water damage. That curved roof and the walls are all made of this material. The frame structure is also aluminum so you get a featherweight trailer that is also very, very impervious to water damage.
Inside cabinets and other structures are also built of water-resistant materials. I appreciate that they use positive latches for cabinets and such so they don’t fly open in transit.
With the top up there are two (27” X 76”) beds in the back that also can serve as a dinette. The table included with this trailer can migrate to the rear so those beds can make a long dining area. You can also use an included cushion between the beds to transform the two twin beds into one large (72” X 76”) king-sized bed. The front dinette can convert to a 36” X 81” bed as well.
The front dinette is innovative and can slide back and forth and rotate so you can easily let other diners in and out or accommodate campers of virtually any size.
The folding roof is really the main focal point of this trailer. With the roof up there are huge windows on either side of the trailer giving it a loft or treehouse-type feel. While so many RVs have a dark, closed-in feel, this is just the opposite of that with windows along both sides of the trailer. Of course, there are curtains for those windows that can block out the sun – or curious onlookers.
One of the surprising things about this trailer is that even with the roof in the travel position you can fully utilize every feature of the interior, albeit with much less headroom. But you could absolutely pull over and enjoy a quick lunch or take advantage of the fact that you have a flush toilet aboard. These are reasons to have an RV in the first place, in my opinion.
You could also still sit in the dinette and even sleep in the rear bed. Again, headroom is lessened by having the roof down but that’s what you would expect.
Of course, there are disadvantages to these trailers, including the fact that the toilet is in a closet whose roof is only as tall as the trailer is when the roof is down. Honestly, for someone built like me (I displace a lot of water in the pool) this toilet would be a challenge and I can’t see being able to use the facilities with the door closed.
There is also no indoor shower – although there is a model that does have this if it’s a priority. However, there is an outdoor shower so you could use one of those shower tents to solve this problem, or just surprise the others in the campground.
This company seems to have a lot of little details handled well, including the fact that the tank monitors are probe-free – which means that the things you put into the black and gray tank aren’t going to foul up the monitors and result in false readings.
Since these are sold factory-direct to us here in the U.S., there are all sorts of options you can have added to the trailer including solar systems, bike racks, a high-performance ceiling fan, and even interior colors other than anonymous brown.
With a very high build quality of lightweight, but not cheap, materials, these aren’t the least-expensive option and there will certainly be folks who kvetch about the pricing of these, but those might be the same people who wonder why RVs are made of components that are easily damaged by water.
So for those who have vehicles that have a lower towing capacity but who appreciate really cool and innovative RVs, the Safari Condo Alto might just be a great choice, and certainly one worth looking into just for the cool factor.
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.