Once again, it’s time to look back on a year’s worth of RV reviews and pick out some of the highlights. In fact, one of the most encouraging things I’ve seen is that, despite record sales, RV companies are still doing some innovative things. I’m even seeing brand-new floor plans and other signs that the RV industry isn’t resting on its laurels.
Here are a few of my favorite things, to quote the Julie Andrews song. But these are, of course, RV-related.
Forget the generator
If you haven’t heard, California has banned the sale of small gasoline generators (more on that here). Oh, you can still go buy one today and will be able to for a while, but after 2024, they’ll be off the shelves in the Golden State.
While I know, based on your responses to that article, that you’re not thrilled with this, know that it may not be as big a deal as some think. In fact, there are several RV companies right now that have models on the dealer lots that may never see a generator, including the rig that we bought. Twice.
Our own choice in RV is a Rockwood Mini Lite 2205S travel trailer. The 2023 version of this trailer, which we picked up just two weeks ago in Indiana, features 1,000 watts of solar on the roof and a 400 amp hour battery. Can I run the air conditioner? Well, not at this time of year, but when the weather gets more to my liking, yes. For how long? That depends.
This trailer, and many others that have been announced, feature systems that are different than what has been common in the RV world. Through significant solar systems and bigger battery reserves along with much more efficient systems in the RV, we are able to boondock for extended periods of time. How long?
Truthfully, it used to be that power was what brought us in. But today, the biggest limitation is the holding tanks. While I can be off the grid indefinitely, depending on the sun and the outside temperatures, I can fill up the gray water tank in my RV in three to five days. Then I have to find a solution. Luckily, the Thetford Titan portable holding tank is one of those solutions.
Significant solar and battery systems
But my Rockwood isn’t the only RV that has the option of significant solar and battery systems available.
The pioneer in all of this was Winnebago with their Micro Minnie FLX offering. That trailer combines much more efficient systems along with a good amount of battery and solar power to create a better off-grid solution.
Not to be outdone, Keystone has really stepped up its game by offering at least 200 watts of solar on every RV they make. But the kicker is the fifth wheel trailers they have with the Keystone SolarFlex 1200i package. We looked at a Keystone Montana High Country 385BR that has this very package as an option.
Yes, these options are not cheap. But, at least for me, I love the fact that I can plan getaways without worrying about power—that is very freeing. We often spend days hopping from place to place using only what’s in our RVs. But, even better, I never ever have to have the sound, smell and bother of a generator again.
One of the things Airstream has started to do is put QR codes on their trailers in a few places. These QR codes are a gateway to an owner’s center where you can find information on how to operate the various systems in the trailer. When I first heard about this I was just blown away because it just makes so much sense. You’re camping and you have a question and you just whip out your phone and scan the QR code.
It then takes you to an ownership center with answers and videos and such. This is literally one of the smartest things I’ve seen in the RV space.
Yes. You’re supposed to get a full walk-through when you buy any RV with the dealership showing you how all the systems work. But if you’re new to RVing there is so much information out there to absorb that even the best in-dealership walk-through is going to leave you with questions.
Of course, if it’s been a while since your walk-through and now you have questions about one of the systems in the RV that you haven’t used in some time, this can also help you.
Honestly, this is something that a smart dealer could implement on their own as an advantage to them. But it’s absolutely one of the best things I’ve seen any RV company do and it’s really a simple solution. But it’s also brilliant.
When it comes to RVs, I think we all have one thing in common. The way the RV was configured at the factory is different than how we use it today. So, flexible designs are something I really, really like.
That’s why I’ve been really thrilled with the tote storage in many of the Salem and Wildwood travel trailers we’ve looked at this year.
This is a delightfully simple solution where Salem/Wildwood includes a variety of totes with their trailers and a place to store those. While this is true in all their models, particularly in bunk and toy hauler variants, you could assign each individual who’s camping with you a tote and let them take responsibility for packing their own stuff.
Of course, you know little Johnny would forget all his Spiderman underwear, but a weekend of freedom would teach him to pack it next time.
The company is also putting soft-sided totes in a space under the bed, as well. Again, this makes loading and unloading the trailer so much easier and gives each traveler a place for their stuff. Mrs. Traveler would get two totes and Mr. Traveler would get one. I know how this works. I’m married, too!
We looked at this system in a variety of trailers, but one to check out might be the Salem 29VBUD bunkhouse, as an example.
More flexible stuff
Not to be outdone by their own tote system, some models of Salem and Wildwood trailers also feature something called the Versa-Lounge. Again, flexibility with seating and storage in an RV is something that makes my heart happy.
The Versa-Lounge is a long sofa with a dog-leg at the end and a movable backrest. You can take that backrest and place it such that you form a “U”-shaped dinette and a three-butt couch. Or, move it to the other side and now you have an “L”-shaped couch.
Further, the space under the couch incorporates those totes I just blathered on about. This is ideal as you can have different containers for different things and use these to easily get the camper ready for a journey. You could even have seasonal totes such that you have winter gear in a tote that you bring at that time of year or summer gear in another.
If you’re into travel trailers, you might assume that lifting the bed will reveal a big open space. But there’s a better way and, to me, Coachmen has nailed it. We’ve looked at this in several reviews, including the review of the Coachmen Apex Ultra Lite 256BHS.
Coachmen seems unique in a number of their models for how they configure the space under the bed. In this case, there’s sort of a horseshoe area when you lift the bed. It reveals several drawers on the road side and a whole bank of cubbies on the camp side. Directly under the lifted bed are large trays or just compartments whose lid is the bed. These are a great place for rolled-up clothing.
All those cubbies on the camp side are the ideal spot for shoes. There’s even a cushion that you can sit on here to put your shoes on. I’m sure there are some folks who might prefer just an open space under here. But, honestly, this is a great use of the space, to me. It really helps organize a lot of things, especially shoes.
More flexible spaces
Grand Design has also done something interesting with flexible spaces in the dining arrangement in their Reflection 341RDS fifth wheel. Essentially there’s a bar-height counter below, which the dining table is mounted on a rail. The dining table can be pushed in such that it’s a table for two facing one another, or it can be pulled out to seat four.
Like many Grand Design Reflection models, this one comes with two free-standing dining chairs and then an ottoman-type of seat. The ottoman is not attached so it can be left in place for dining or used in the living room, which we’ll get to in a moment. But do know that the two-person ottoman can also be used for storage.
Back to the dining table. That table’s being on a rail means it can be pushed up against the wall. Then, with that bar-height counter, now you have one of the better desks I’ve seen in any RV. It’s really impressive how one little thing can make such a huge difference—but it does.
There is so much about the SylvanSport VAST trailer that it deserves its own review. Oh, wait. Been there, done that here.
This is another example of incredibly flexible space. The beds in the back raise up to create a large open space. The kitchen can be inside or out and transforms on a sliding mount. When the kitchen is outside, the space it was using inside is now a fairly large shower.
There is a lot to like about this trailer, and I had been waiting for it to come out so I could share it with you. Now it has and I did!
I think the future of RVing is flexibility and off-grid functionality. We’ve been writing about campground crowding here at RVTravel.com for some time now and it’s not getting better. If you study economics and feel that we’re in a time of economic challenges as a nation, this is when RV sales drop but campground use remains strong. Makes sense, right? Camping is affordable for a lot of reasons.
Since campgrounds are likely to be more crowded, the RV industry sees boondocking as an opportunity for growth at the moment, and the off-grid capability in RVs is only going to get better.
Look at things like the Ember and Ibex RVs with their very, very capable suspension systems designed for off-road use, along with so many choices today with great solar and battery functionality.
Right now, Class B camper vans are also hot for the same reason: They’re flexible and easy to drive. Many of those choices are also quite capable when it comes to off-grid function.
The RV you likely have today is probably going to evolve rather quickly if you find yourself in the market for something new in the next few seasons. Of course, I’m always curious about your take on this and welcome your input.