Have you worked your way up to having “too much RV”? Is it a struggle to find parking, storage, or campsites with large enough spaces? Has keeping that 40+ foot diesel pusher in showroom condition become a full-time job? Perhaps it’s time to downsize your RV.
There are times and events in life that cause one to question their camping style and priorities. The loss of a spouse or camping partner, changes in health, or the physical abilities required for managing a large Class A rig will likely spawn thoughts of a switch in type and size of RV. In my case, it was a combination of all of the above.
Like most people, I spent 2020 in virtual isolation, unsure whether it was a good idea to travel and camp during the pandemic. I also became a solo camper for the first time in 30 years. I did attempt a camping reservation in July, only to find that my favorite campgrounds were closed. It didn’t take much to dissuade me from venturing out. I had lost my confidence and zeal for travel.
Time to head out
After a few weeks, as the temperatures increased, my impulse to head out returned, and I decided to try the U.S. Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds in north Idaho and northwestern Montana. It didn’t take long to determine that those campgrounds, almost without exception, were limited to RVs of 35 feet or less. Quite a few were limited to 23 feet or even 30 feet. The campsites were mostly on unimproved roads.
As soon as the COVID-19 restrictions began to ease, the “campground crunch” began. Not only were RV campgrounds sold out, but prices were markedly higher, as well. The typical $32 per night full-hookup spot in the West jumped to $50, then $75, with no end in sight. RVers were reporting instances where they thought they had a site reservation, only to find upon arrival that the campground gave the space to someone else or their spot changed. It got me thinking: Maybe it’s time to downsize.
A smaller motorhome
That kernel of thought began to grow in the weeks ahead as I found myself looking at the websites of various RV manufacturers that I had come to admire over the years. Part of me couldn’t imagine trading my beloved Foretravel in for a smaller RV, but I was finding a lot of high-quality possibilities in the marketplace.
Thinking I still wanted a motorhome, just a smaller one, I began looking at all the Class C coaches built on the Freightliner and Sprinter chassis, with Mercedes-Benz diesel engines. I liked that possibility and still do, but I soon realized that I would be trading my big coach for a much smaller one at six times the cost. On top of that, there was the perennial problem of ground transportation in camp and all the issues surrounding towed vehicles, base plates, brake systems, and the like. But I have a three-quarter-ton truck, so why not a travel trailer?
Whatever I bought, I wanted not just top-quality manufacturing and support but all-weather (“four-season”) capability, as well. That narrowed it down to just a few manufacturers, and I eventually gravitated more and more toward Northwood and the highly regarded Arctic Fox line. Excited, I swiftly analyzed the various models, floorplans, towing weights, and price. I narrowed it down even further to one model I thought best represented the combination of price-point and what my tow vehicle could handle. Here, the learning curve on “downsizing” steepened. Plus, I had a lot to learn about how the dealers conduct their business. I made an appointment at the local Northwood dealer, and the next day got to get up close and inside the Arctic Fox 22G travel trailer.
Impressive trailers, not a great trade-in price
The Arctic Fox travel trailer was impressive, with its superb aluminum frame and crowned roof build. The fit and finish were excellent. I was excited and convinced myself I was making the right decision. In fact, I was so excited that I decided right there on the lot that I didn’t want to wait the weeks or months it might take to sell my very special like-new diesel pusher and would instead trade it in on the travel trailer.
I mentioned this and asked the sales agent for a trade-in value for my coach. He gave me a rather leaden look and said he couldn’t give me a trade-in figure but would have to take that up with the dealership management. He left and returned with a figure so low that I could tell he was embarrassed to mention it. I left the dealership in a paroxysm of apoplexy and never returned. Yet, it saved me from making a mistake I would have regretted later.
While deciding whether to put my coach on the market and use the time it took to sell to find another Arctic Fox trailer at one of the many dealers within 200-300 miles of my location, I made an important discovery. While the Arctic Fox 22G Gross Trailer Weight is slightly under my truck’s maximum towing capacity, I began looking into this online in the various brand forums for trailers and trucks. Bottom line: The trailer loaded to gross weight was right at the maximum towing capacity, i.e., too heavy to be safely towed by my heavy-duty truck! That changed everything. I was back to square one.
Where to go from square one?
Right then, I realized that I only knew a little about two or three legacy travel trailer brands. I knew nothing of what was out there in terms of newer design, technology, lighter materials, or true “four-season” capability. Also, I knew that the Airstreams, most of the Northwood Manufacturing models, and most of the travel trailers claiming “four-season” systems were too heavy. I did not want to add changing vehicles to the already complex matrix of decisions. (Quite frankly, I was indisposed to spending $75-100K on a one-ton diesel truck that would have solved all of my towing problems. I love my Suburban.)
Then it hit me that, right here at RVtravel.com, we have an enormous resource of information on practically every motorized RV and travel trailer in production! My new search began focusing on manufacturer quality and reputation, space and energy efficiency, towing weight, and ease of single-person operation.
As most RVers know, there is a dizzying array of choices in practically every category and class of RV. Not knowing much outside the Class A and C worlds, I had a significant research project before me.
Or did I?
Know the facts before you research
Going in, I knew I wanted a travel trailer, and the weight needed to be in the 3,500 – 7,000-pound Gross Trailer Weight range. I also wanted state-of-the-art manufacturing methods, “four-season” insulation, and plumbing, as well as all of the boondocking capability that solar power and optimized holding tank capacity could provide.
That still left a lot of possibilities, but Tony Barthel’s reviews distilled the research down to a few options that met my criteria. He wrote a very positive review of the Forest River Rockwood Geo Pro series of travel trailers that range from 12 – 20 feet. I settled on the Geo Pro 19FD. At just under 21 feet, this camper will fit into even the smallest space. It has full “four-season” capability (more on this later). The Geo Pro travel trailers all have state-of-the-art solar power, reasonable holding tank capacity for boondocking, and an array of technical advantages best appreciated by reading the reviews.
Coming next, I examine how (not) to sell your RV (or buy one).