By Tony Barthel
Smaller trailers are getting more adventurous and Winnebago has really hit the mark with the new “Hike” line, a series of smaller, narrow-body (78” wide) travel trailers designed specifically to be taken off-road and accommodate gear.
Using a steel exoskeleton, which the company has applied for a patent on, the Hike series enables campers to bring along gear by strapping it to that exoskeleton. With steps on the bottom and a tubular frame that might remind race car aficionados of an exterior roll cage, the Hike offers plenty of ways to strap down your adventure gear like kayaks, bicycles, surf boards, skis or whatever.
The exoskeleton will accommodate the Thule rack system but you can simply use ratchet straps or bungee cords to accomplish the securing of your gear as well. The exoskeleton is tubular steel and is fully walkable with extensions coming out of the side of the trailer that serve as steps as well as cross-members along the length of the tubes to hold your things.
One of the challenges owners of smaller trailers face is where to put their gear – and the Hike has done a great job of addressing this. Many of us would like to bring along bicycles, kayaks, skis or whatever but just don’t have the space for them. Problem solved.
As for main cabin construction, the Hike series uses a laminated wall that includes man-made Azdel, which is not affected by water. While Luan has been common in laminated trailers as a substrate, Azdel is not damaged by water intrusion and thus should make for a longer-lasting trailer. The interior flooring is a marine-grade product that can really withstand those who spend a lot of time enjoying outdoor adventure and bring some of that in on their shoes.
The entire Hike line also features dry baths – meaning that you aren’t taking a shower while sitting on the toilet. Not all smaller trailers have dry baths. I particularly like the 210RB, which features a Murphy bed. In total, there are five floor plans ranging in length from 20-25 feet and offering a variety of configurations including a bunk model.
Interiors are very light and airy for this size of camper – thanks to very light colors used throughout. But a nice touch is the darker high-gloss cabinet doors which add an upscale feel.
I also like the powder-coated steel box in the front which is meant to hold the propane tanks and batteries –but you could roll with just a single tank and single battery and use it to store other things. Or keep the tanks and batteries out of the elements – a very nice touch.
Lastly, the axle height is actually user-adjustable by up to three inches. This means you could travel with the trailer in tow at a lower height, thereby improving aerodynamics, and then raise it if you’re going off-roading. This isn’t as simple as pushing a button – you’ll be under there with a jack and wrenches – but it’s at least doable.
Also, it appears that all Hike models that have slide rooms can also be fully functional with those slide rooms in – so you could use these for stealth camping if that’s something you’re into. Not all smaller trailers and particularly narrow-body trailers can be fully utilized if they have slide rooms – so kudos to Winnebago for thinking of this.
Narrow-body trailers have the advantage of not requiring towing mirrors in some vehicles as the trailer body isn’t wider than the tow vehicle. This also means they tow a little easier just by virtue of having less frontal area to drag through the wind. But the inherent challenge of a narrow body trailer is simply that it’s narrower and, thus, has less interior space.
This may be no big deal if your plan is to bring a bedroom with you to relax in after a day of spelunking or whatever type of adventure suits your style.
I like that there is a propane hook-up on the outside of the trailer – but it looks as if you’ll need to have some contortionist tendencies to get to it. Let’s assume this was targeted at younger, more flexible folk and not old people whose doctors delight in telling them all the disadvantages of being heavily affected by gravity.
Lastly, the first thing I’d do if I owned one of these is get rid of the low-budget bathroom fan and replace it with something that actually moved some air like a MaxxAir fan, for example. For as many great features as these have, this seems like a cost-cutting measure that didn’t have to be.
The bottom line is that Winnebago has had challenges keeping up with the demand for these units – and I can see why. They’re very well thought through, use a lot of class-leading components and design elements, and really answer a need in the small trailer industry. While they aren’t the only ones making trailers to appeal to those seeking adventure, it would seem that they have really bested most others doing so.