By Tony Barthel
There are two realities of towing a travel trailer. The first is mentioned often – the weight. Less talked about is the second reality – wind resistance. After all, a travel trailer is just a giant air dam that your tow vehicle is hauling through the air. These large, square boxes create tremendous resistance, which is one of the reasons almost everybody reports that they get about 11-14 miles per gallon towing one, no matter the tow vehicle.
It takes a certain amount of energy to overcome a trailer’s wind resistance.
When tow capacity is measured, one of the factors that usually isn’t considered is wind resistance. The towing capacity of vehicles is generally measured with a flatbed trailer loaded with weights, often concrete blocks or something similar.
The point of all this is that the folks at TrailManor know this and have created a unique trailer to overcome this obstacle. In fact, they’ve built a whole business around it. I had honestly forgotten about TrailManor until Victor Bobbitt suggested we review them.
TrailManor trailers are all uniquely designed. The top and bottom are separate entities and you raise and lower the top to create a finished travel trailer. This is sort of like a pop-up trailer and, technically, that’s what this is. But it’s so much different than the typical pop-up trailer.
First of all, TrailManor’s mechanism is surprisingly simple and very durable. It’s also guaranteed for the life of the trailer. There are no complicated mechanisms or gearing, just springs that effectively lift and open up the trailer. Anybody can easily do this alone – there is not much effort required.
When the trailers are in towing position they generally sit behind the profile of just about any vehicle. They don’t create additional drag that you have to burn fuel to overcome. One TrailManor owner who posted videos of their trailer said that their trailer only slightly dropped the fuel mileage of their SUV when towing.
That’s another advantage: There are TrailManor trailers that expand up to 31 feet in overall length yet still weigh less than 3,500 pounds.
All TrailManor trailers are single-axle designs. They essentially have very similar floor plans including king-sized beds.
How do they do that?
I’m sure some readers have already written these off as being slightly inconvenient. To be honest, there is some work involved in converting the TrailManor from tow mode to camp mode. But, really, it’s not an extraordinary amount of work. And the fuel savings and garage-ability of these overcome the inconvenience for many.
As mentioned, the top is counterbalanced in a TrailManor trailer, so lifting it takes almost no effort. As the top moves up it also moves out, thereby lengthening the interior space and making the whole thing much larger. The seals are well designed. You can open or close these in the rain without flooding the interior.
The smallest model, which starts life at about 18 feet in length, expands to 25 feet in length when open.
Once the top is up and the entry door latched into place, there are a few more steps to prepare for adventure. You pop up the walls in the bathroom and secure the underside of the bed.
There are optional overhead cabinets for the kitchen as well as a closet near the bed. The overhead cabinet needs to be hung on a set of hooks. I can imagine this gets heavy if you’re not judicious about what you pack in there. The closet is interesting because it slides along the bed and then folds down. That means the wall that faces the front of the trailer is now the floor of the cabinet.
Weight-watching in the TrailManor trailers
Once you’ve got everything opened up, you’ll find that these trailers offer essentially much of what you’d expect in a travel trailer that weighs twice as much – if not more. Part of the reason TrailManor trailers are light is how they’re built.
Typically laminated trailers (those with smooth skins) are made with a series of aluminum ribs. Between those ribs is closed-cell foam insulation. The interior and exterior wall surfaces are often Luan, a wood pulp-type product. Then, on the outer wall is a fiberglass skin and on the inner wall is wallboard.
TrailManor trailers’ walls are different. They are a sheet of aluminum on the outside and inside laminated to a single sheet of closed-cell foam insulation.
Typically the aluminum ribs in a trailer’s walls are a thermal disaster offering very little insulation. So even though the walls might be thick, those aluminum ribs allow a lot of thermal loss. These walls are lighter and stronger, and they also offer better insulation. But, it’s a more expensive process.
Looking at the 2518KD, you walk into a dinette on the right. Ahead of you is the kitchen featuring a three-burner stove with 17-inch oven. There’s a small, two-way bar-sized fridge under the counter that the stove shares.
Behind you is the kitchen sink. Ahead, on the road side, is a full dry bath. Not bad for such a lightweight trailer. Getting to that bathroom is part of your setup process. It might be more difficult if you’ve had a lot of coffee on the road and just have to get to the potty before anything else. But it’s really an easy thing. The walls flip up on either side of the bath and, again, there’s a Dutch door much like the trailer’s entry door.
Opposite the bathroom is where that hanging closet would go if you choose that option. You’ll have to set that up, as well, before you get to the bathroom. But, essentially, all that’s involved is picking it up by its handle and sliding it over the countertop.
There is some cabinet space below the counter. The company brags that the counters, walls and even the floor are constructed of a laminate material that saves on weight but provides terrific durability.
History of TrailManor trailers
The company history is as interesting as the trailers themselves. William J. Hulsey has a Ph.D. in Metallurgical Engineering and more than a quarter of a century of experience in developing high-tech products. Dr. Hulsey wanted to have a trailer to tow behind his Chevrolet station wagon that was light and easy to tow but still offered all the features of a travel trailer.
After a decade of testing and refinement along with a lot of interest in campgrounds, the TrailManor was born and went for over two decades before landing in the hands of the current owners. Today, the trailers are built in a Hutterite colony in South Dakota.
Why would you want one of these? They’re all hard-sided, unlike most pop-up tent trailers, and they fit into a garage. Furthermore, they can actually be towed by mid-size SUVs and pickups with plenty of safety margin. In other words, you get all the features of a real travel trailer in a size that’s easily manageable.
The downside is just the fact that there’s no quick stops for lunch. Even though the trailers set up in under two minutes, it’s still something you have to do – although it’s not the worst thing in the world. But you will have to open the top to access the fridge to stock it for the weekend. Also, there are no roadside potty breaks without the top being up.
But for people who travel part-time and want something you don’t need a semi-truck to pull that also won’t cause a huge decrease in fuel mileage while pulling, a TrailManor trailer might make a tremendous amount of sense. Plus, even if you get over the cool factor of putting the trailer up and down, you’re always going to be the center of attention at any campground when you do this. There’s just something cool about that.
Correction: I have since spoken to the company’s officials and learned that this floor plan features a cartridge toilet rather than the recirculating model.
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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