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RVs revisited
Old 06-25-2007, 09:05 PM   #1
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RVs revisited

Here is the perfect RV storm: we've had great little Class B RV (a Great West Legend Sprinter) for less than a year. It was our experiment to see if we could get into this hobby (not a lifestyle for us, but a great side dish). We decided that we really like this, and could enjoy doing trips for a long time, especially in retirement, kids in distant burgs, etc.

We have only two major logistic problems - the bed in the RV is a bit cramped for me (6' tall, sleep stretched out), and the air conditioner is a bit loud (this is Florida -- a/c's get used big time). Living in an urban neighborhood, its compactness is great - we can store it in the driveway. We really love this thing.

Fast forward: my wife's 10 y.o. Passat is showing signs of defeat. It will need replacement soon. So, I'm thinking, why not have her get a vehicle with some towing power, like a 4Runner. No sense owning 3 vehicles for 2 people, right?

Web research. There is something called a TrailManor, a telescoping hard-sided travel trailer. It collapses by 7 feet in length and 1 feet in height in about 2-3 minutes so will fit in the driveway with ease. In fact, a 31 foot model collapses to 24 feet long, 5'6" high. Gone are all the concerns about the dangers of a travel trailer, and it can be hauled by a modest SUV at 16-17 mpg. Huge bed, distantly situated air conditioner, plenty of ... everything. Found the forum, the reviews, and the history of the thing. Impressive. And we don't have to own a testosteronemobile, like a dual cab heavy duty pickup (apologies to those who must).

Gotta break even on this. Not sure quite which way it'll go but stay tuned...
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Old 06-25-2007, 09:22 PM   #2
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Looks pretty interesting.

But I'll express a concern...

I'd be sure to not come even close to overloading a smaller vehicle with this...seems like they're suggesting that a 5000lb class 3 rig is what they really recommend while implying that you might get away with a 3500lb hauler. I'm betting the 3500lb hauler takes a lot of brakes and transmissions, and maybe a motor in the process.


Due to the design, they're putting a pretty good tongue load on this. I'd bet that in a smaller tow vehicle, going downhill and into a curve you're going to have a few white knuckle moments.

Have you seen this?
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Old 06-25-2007, 09:50 PM   #3
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For some reason I don' t see too many of this type of travel trailer.

See if you can find a discussion group for this type of trailer they usually are very helpful.

Another clue as to their value would to take a look a the resale value.

Let us know what you find out.
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Old 06-25-2007, 09:57 PM   #4
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Looks pretty interesting.

Have you seen this?
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Been all over that forum.

The towing capacity of the 4Runner is >5000 lbs. You add a weight-distributing hitch to move the CG toward the axles of both towing vehicle (front and rear) and trailer. The low profile and low weight of the trailer make it unusually stable and maneuverable. I would not buy a conventional travel trailer for that reason - sway, lifting of the tow vehicle's front axle, etc. They have such a high profile to cross and headwinds that they make me too nervous.

The thing was designed by a disgruntled metallugical engineer and is a mature product. He uses tension bars rather than springs or jacks to pop this thing up like a kids' transformer.

Clearly a niche product. You trade some increased setup time (5 minutes perhaps) for compactness, safe towing, and large space when expanded. At least that's what the ads say . We spent some time in them last weekend and it's a lot of living space for such a compact unit. The king bed is 78" x 78". 31 foot unit collapes to 24 feet in a couple of minutes.

Even if you are not into RVing, the product information makes for interesting reading.
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Old 06-25-2007, 11:00 PM   #5
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My brother has a version of this for his family. He is pretty sharp on vehicles and safety, he works for the NTSB investigating accidents and is a rated pilot and logistics officer in the AF reserves. He likes the design and it is easy to assemble, just a bit harder than my VW camper poptop. It has more room than a class B. Good AC. not as good insulation as your class B RV but acceptable. But, he tows it with a full size Dodge van with towing package and a longer wheelbase than a 4runner. But since you are in Florida, and not say Colorado, what you propose may work fine.
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RVs revisited
Old 06-26-2007, 02:11 AM   #6
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RVs revisited

Rich,
You are at the same place as we are! Among other options, we're also looking at the Trailmanor. My SO and I bought a new class B Roadtrek over 4 years ago, and have put about 25000 miles on it travelling through New Mexico, the Southwest, California and Oregon visiting historical sites, ghost towns and music festivals as well as our friends and relatives. We've loved the convenience of being able to park in a regular parking spot and the ease of set up. Our favorite town is Taos and we can drive right through those narrow little streets and park anywhere - taking our own bathroom and refrig with us - not to mention the convenience of being able to take a nap wherever you like! It would be hard to give up!

Our last trip was a month ago - to Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon and Bryce Canyon - all in about 8 days. It was a bit tiring and our little Roadtrek felt a bit cramped this time, though. We are thinking we'll stay in one place longer from now on - up to 2 weeks at one event we attend. Sooo... we are thinking we'd like something with more room and a bigger shower and more storage for our musical instruments and the do-dads we can't resist buying. One option is a used, late model mid-sized RV - probably a 26-28 ft class C with a slideout. We wouldn't need to buy new again if we went this route now we're seasoned(!!) Rv'ers and have a good idea what we're looking for. We'd probably have to get a small tow vehicle, too though. I've been researching Rv.net forum - it gives some good info.

We found the Trailmanor website a few weeks ago, but have figured out that our 2 current vehicles - even though they're both in good shape and less than 5 years old - won't tow it - according to all the specs, so we'd have to buy yet another vehicle. Possibly, we could use our Roadtrek to tow it! Have to look into that. The Roadtrek can be used as a regular van - I'm not sure about towing ability though. Worth considering as the different floor plans of the Trailmanor are very striking and seem functional, too.

Since we don't travel during the coldest months, we're not so concerned about heating. Our main concern, besides the towing issue, would be about ease of set up. How reliable is it? How many people to set it up? What about backing up? Also, and very important for us - I couldn't find any reference to a GENERATOR. We dry camp quite a bit, so need that. And I couldn't find a figure for black water capacity, if I remember rightly. We'll be very interested in what you decide to do. -What a wonderful forum this is!!
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Old 06-26-2007, 06:41 AM   #7
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Wow, that looks nice. Only problem I'd have with it is the 6'4" ceiling height since I am 6'6".

I just towed my 29 foot camper for the first time. It wasn't that bad at all. It was big tho.

I bet this camper tows well, being so short. It looks like it is about half the weight of my 7000lb unit.

Make sure whatever tow vechicle you get can tow it. Don't get too close to the max tow limit as the camper will be much heavier when you load it up with gear, water, etc.
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Old 06-26-2007, 07:56 AM   #8
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Our main concern, besides the towing issue, would be about ease of set up. How reliable is it? How many people to set it up? What about backing up? Also, and very important for us - I couldn't find any reference to a GENERATOR. We dry camp quite a bit, so need that. And I couldn't find a figure for black water capacity, if I remember rightly. We'll be very interested in what you decide to do. -What a wonderful forum this is!!
We should keep one another posted if we learn anything newsworthy about the TrailManor.

Ease of setup seems amazingly easy - the designer really figured it out. Watch the video on their web site. The forum indicates that this is a very reliable design, if unconventional; there are lots of 5-10 year owners of the same trailer on that board. Many buy 3rd party generators, keep it in their tow vehicle. The recycling Thetford helps with boondocking, too - there is a black water tank, but not sure of the capacity. Of course, you always have the tow vehicle for more storage, water, genset, charging the coach battery, etc.

For us, the need to store it in our driveway is key. It is a trailer, and backing it up will take some practice. I've seen some pretty skillful maneuvers in campgrounds, but also some pretty amusing ones. At least it's only 20 to 24 feet long compared to some big 5ths and TTs.

PM me if you want to discuss further or have any tips for me. Thanks.
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Old 06-26-2007, 10:41 AM   #9
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Rich, I second CFB's concern about weight. Many times a new owner will by a trailer/tow vehicle based on the dry weight of the trailer. A consistant thread on most all of the RV site is weigh the new trailer empty and then when fully loaded with all the "stuff" water,food, propane, clothes, camp chairs etc. To be safe you should have 25 % tow capacity above the weight of a fully loaded trailer.
My rig has about a 40 % excess towing capacity and it can still get "interesting' in the long down hill sharp curve scenairo if I'm not paying attention to speed and then need to stop at the stop light at the bottom of the hill.
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Old 06-26-2007, 10:58 AM   #10
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My rig has about a 40 % excess towing capacity and it can still get "interesting' in the long down hill sharp curve scenairo if I'm not paying attention to speed and then need to stop at the stop light at the bottom of the hill.
Much is focused on towing capacity and very little is directed towards stopping capacity. My experience is that the latter is equally if not more critical than the former.

Hard to describe the helpless feeling of sliding through a red light into an intersection, anticipating the T-bone impact at any second...
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Old 06-26-2007, 11:31 AM   #11
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We have never really looked at trailers because of the desire to haul motorcycles. Do these trailers have supplemental braking systems?
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Old 06-26-2007, 11:36 AM   #12
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Much is focused on towing capacity and very little is directed towards stopping capacity. My experience is that the latter is equally if not more critical than the former.

Ding! Ding!....and a .......DING!

I'd feel pretty comfortable hauling this to the campground and back a couple of times a week behind a midsize v6 SUV. I dont think I'd like to try hauling it on the interstates for 50-100 days a year unless I was willing to write off the tow vehicle at 75-100k.

I hauled a similar weight (total and tongue) boat for 10 years, along with dragging quite a few trailers of varying size and weight. Killed an s-10 blazer doing it. Pathfinder was okay. Expedition was easy. Pilot is doing the job but working pretty hard.

My old neighborhood, everyone (and I do mean everyone) had towables and 5th wheels. Mostly F250's or larger, mostly diesels. Quite a few smaller 'hunting' towables. Lots of replaced transmissions, power steering pumps, and a blown engine at 80k.

Add-on class III hitches with the weight distribution bars can put a lot of stress on a vehicle. 4Runners are pretty tough for their size/weight/class...but it still seems like this might be pushing it a bit.

Better than the guy I saw in the walmart parking lot with an rv behind his Rabbit. That looked like a seriously bad plan.
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Old 06-26-2007, 11:42 AM   #13
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Yes, the towing concerns are well placed and appreciated. That's why I would not consider a traditional travel trailer. Those present a billboard to the oncoming wind, and same for a cross wind.

These beasts weigh under about 3000 lbs. Traveling height is 65", presenting a wind profile which is possibly less than that of the tow vehicle. Apparently this creates a whole different set of dynamics. With a weight distributing hitch and a tow vehicle with a 5000 lb capacity, they are said to be remarkably stable. The explanations have some credibility.

It's hard to get firm data on this type of question, as it is for the rollover injury or death risk of a Class A (esp with slide-outs), the stability of a 30+ foot 5th wheel with a massive surface to the wind, etc. The TM forum seems to have some highly safety-oriented and knowledgeable posters. I'll see what I can dig up besides anecdote.
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Old 06-26-2007, 12:04 PM   #14
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Just hate to see you broken down somewhere...although at least you'd have a place to stay.

My marketing BS-o-meter was clicking a little when I was reading the company web site and they were dancing around the trailer capacity issues.

I did read through that forum a bit before commenting. Seems like people are okay with the newer 4runners with the v6 but several folks mentioned that they did a lot better with the v8, especially at altitude.

Too bad the ranks of mid-sized diesel suv's are pretty thin. Crappy jeep, a mercedes that isnt sold in several states due to emissions problems and a really expensive VW.
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Old 06-27-2007, 12:28 AM   #15
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We have never really looked at trailers because of the desire to haul motorcycles. Do these trailers have supplemental braking systems?
Our Scamp trailer has brakes. We have a Prodigy brake controller in our truck and the whole set-up works well. I would expect that any trailer over a certain weight (1500 lbs?) would come with brakes.

Toy haulers are the latest trend in RVs. Our next-door neighbor has a combo trailer with space for both toy hauling and RV living. He races motorcycles so this setup works nicely for him, his wife and kids.

Google "toy hauler" and you will find a lot of trailers and even a couple of RVs to look at.
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Old 06-27-2007, 08:15 AM   #16
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Trying to think of things that might be helpful....

First, maybe just accept that there's no "perfect" entrance to a major hobby (boats, bikes, planes, RV's). The research is extremely useful to eliminate the truely BAD alternatives. But when you're down into the last 10% of the selection process, it pretty much boils down to generally "good" choices which can only be further refined from the "inside" (buying it, using it, experiencing it).

Regarding your tow vehicle, in the long run you'll probably keep your costs down by erring on the liberal side of capacity, or "over-spec'ing". As long as your system is in good repair, you can tow (limiting this meaning to simply PULLING the load) with patience and about anything. Where tow capacity really gathers meaning is in durability and relaxed control of the tow.

The simple fact is that the less significant the tow is to the overall system (tow and pulling vehicle), the more durable your system is and the more you can operate it without absolute unwavering concentration. As an extreme example could pull the trailer you're considering with a VW bug or a Mack truck. In the Mack, you'd never realize it was there. In the bug, you'd never forget it.

There is no "perfect" pulling vehicle. Cost and performance are directly related. If you follow the mfg and user forum advise, you should be within the limits of reasonable safe operation. But what comes next is "customizing" your system as you develop refined views from the inside. This is the RV'ers version of the eternal search for the perfect motorcycle, boat, plane.... you name it... big boy toys and big boy bucks.
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Old 06-28-2007, 06:27 PM   #17
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RVs revisited

We were considering buying a Trailmanor folding trailer and towing it with our Roadtrek since that is the only vehicle we have that could handle towing a loaded trailer. Then, we thought we'd have the best of both worlds - a camper van for short trips and a comfortable trailer for longer trips.

The towing capacity of our Roadtrek camper van with a Dodge 316 engine is 6100 lbs max. Total combined gross wt of the Roadtrek and whatever it tows, including passengers, gas, propane, water etc. is 12500 lbs max. The Roadtrek factory told us to load up our Roadtrek and get it weighed - then subtract that from 12500 lbs to figure out what we can tow.

We think it would cost us 35-40K for the new Trailmanor with the options we'd like, and including taxes, fees, etc So, now we're leaning towards selling the Roadtrek and buying a newer used 26- 28 feet class B RV with a slide, and a small older tow vehicle with manual transmission. It seems newer mid sized class Bs with slides are hard to find though there are plenty of the 30 plus footers out there.
Parking isn't a problem for us - we have plenty of room - if it was an issue, we would probably revisit the Trailmanor.
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Old 06-28-2007, 06:42 PM   #18
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Ooops! In my previous post I meant to say we were looking for a Class C Rv - not a Class B! We already have a class B Roadtrek. Must have had a senior moment there.....
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Old 06-28-2007, 09:22 PM   #19
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The towing capacity of our Roadtrek camper van with a Dodge 316 engine is 6100 lbs max. Total combined gross wt of the Roadtrek and whatever it tows, including passengers, gas, propane, water etc. is 12500 lbs max.
Yeah, it's hard finding just the right combination of TT and TV. Even the heaviest TrailManor weighs in loaded at a little over 3100 lbs so your RoadTrek should have no problem with it. Lots of personal and lifestyle usage patterns factor in.

We'll probably use a 4Runner v8 as our tow vehicle. Rated at 5000lb towing capacity, it's moderate in size. Feels like a good combination for us. When not towing, the 4R should make a great beach buggy with the cargo carrier in the hitch to hold all those sandy beach chairs and umbrellas.

Good luck in your quest. We love our Class B. Check out the Winnebago View if you haven't. A little too wide and high for our driveway, but might be good for you.
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