Coleman Monterey Camping Trailer

June 1, 2003
Filed under RV & Trailer Reviews, Trailer Reviews

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Necessity really is the mother of invention. And no where is this more apparent than with the all new Coleman Monterey, a fully automated (electric) folding camping trailer. For some, the physical aspects of setting up a folding camping (tent) trailer once their campsite has been reached or taking it down when it’s time to break camp and hit the road has been an issue. You may be camping with small children and no other adult, mobility challenged or have reached those “golden years” when cranking, lifting, pulling and shoving can do more harm than good. Most of these “manpower” (or womanpower) issues, however, have faded away with the introduction of the 2003 Coleman Monterey.

The touch of a button on the Coleman handheld control will initiate the lifting of the top on this folding camping trailer, raising it to its full interior height of 81 inches. Another button starts the front and rear kind-size beds gliding out. When it comes time to break camp and head for the next destination, this camping trailer folds up just as effortlessly. Operations that until now required physical effort can be achieved with minimal effort when camping in the Monterey. When set up for camping, the width is a spacious 11 feet, 8 inches, and the Monterey stretches to 25 feet in length. When folded for traveling, the Monterey’s width is 7 feet, 5 inches, 19 feet long, and the height is just 4 feet, 8 inches.

The handheld control pad is at the end of a long coiled cord. The cord is elastic, allowing it to stretch and recoil. This allows the operator the opportunity, whileraising/lowering the roof or extending/retracting the beds, to walk around the Monterey and ensure everything is unfolding/folding as it is supposed to. This is especially helpful when you are working alone to prepare the trailer for travel, since the fabric and clear vinyl walls need to be tucked in as the bunk platforms slide in and the roof lowers.

The roof has separate control buttons (up and down), as does each of the king-size platform beds that are powered in and out by electric motors. There is a sequence of events that must be followed when raising and lowering the roof and when extending and retracting the beds. However, Coleman provides a single auto-button function so that when the auto-button is pushed the roof raises and the front and rear beds extend in sequence of evolution. There is a one-step auto switch for retracting the beds and lowering the roof as well.

Completing the setup after the roof and beds have been electrically raised and extended requires the support poles be placed below the bed platforms. Next, two outside latches are unlocked, allowing the slide-out dinette to be manually pulled out. The poles that give shape to the fabric that surrounds the beds, dinette and the bay window behind the galley can then be snapped into place. Once the two stainless steel poles that support the dinette table are in position, the interior of the Monterey is good to go. As a backup, a manual hand-crank system permits opening and closing the Monterey should the electric/automatic system fail.

The Coleman system features a stainless steel mechanism that is designed so the lift arms extend through the sidewalls. The lift arms are attached at the bottom end to the trailer frame and at the top end to the Coleman AlumiTite composite roof. The lift arm-tubes provide a drain path for rain to flow to the ground. The roof includes a built-in track for an optional roof rack and an optional cargo basket. The roof is also pre-wired to accept an optional air conditioner.

The entryway to the Monterey includes Coleman’s Stepper Door. A solid door that measures the same height as the wall of the trailer box (creating a flush surface with the exterior wall when the door is up and closed for travel), the Stepper creates an extra-wide entry step when it’s lowered. The Stepper also incorporates a nonskid surface for secure footing. A full-length door with screens can be lowered into place from its perch on the ceiling when the Stepper is lowered.

Above the aluminum walls are fabric walls made of Sunbrella 320 tenting, a breathable woven acrylic material that is hypoallergenic and waterproof. This fabric is also fire retardant. Roll-up, see-through acrylic windows permit or restrict the flow of outside air through panels of fine mesh screen. Curtains can be drawn across the panels/screens for privacy.

A massive exterior storage trunk (23 cubic feet) stretches across the front of the unit, and features a top door for full access to the cargo area. Exterior doors at each end and doors on the inside provide access to this storage compartment, as well.

The Monterey chassis/frame structure includes a welded tubular steel perimeter. Both the tongue and the rear bumper feature a finish powder coating that resists rust. A seamless, one-piece interior floor of Structurwood prevents dust and moisture from entering through the bottom. This same seamless Structurwood design is also used to create the bed platforms on which the foam-mattresses sit. The walls are dressed with Krystal Kote aluminum skin that retains its original luster and sheen for years to come.

It matters little how well a trailer of any kind is built or how easily it sets up at the campsite, if the unit does not provide a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience. Along with the expansive increase in living space made by the slide-out dinette, Coleman has designed a number of other livability and utility features into this new folding camping trailer.

In addition to the slide-out dinette, the Monterey interior offers one of Coleman’s trademark features, the Swing Level Galley. This galley swings up into place atop a cabinet or down to the floor for travel, but remains upright in either location. The swinging galley structure contains a sink and three-burner cook-top, and offers a surprising amount of storage capacity inside its two drawers. Above the Swing Level Galley is a long overhead shelf designed to provide a temporary place for items during food preparation. At the opposite end of the floor, a large wardrobe capable of holding several garments wrinkle free is hinged at the base so it can be swung up into to its upright position for use. A cassette toilet is standard equipment and housed in its own wood-finished cabinet.

As for utilities, an optional 16,000-BTU can be purchased, and a 20-pound LPG tank services the furnace, the three-burner cook-top and the 6-gallon hot water heater. A dual gas bottle auto changeover system is an option. A standard water filtration system and a hot/cold water mixer faucet are featured. Also included is a second high-pressure stove (two burners) for outside cooking. The trailer’s standard 30-amp, 25-foot long cable delivers 110 volts of AC power to the unit when connected to shorepower at a campground. A 25-amp converter provides a maintenance charge to the optional house battery pack. Rounding out the Monterey’s interior amenities is a large 2.5-cubic foot, three-way (AC, DC and LP) Dometic refrigerator with door-storage room for two-liter soda bottles.

Since the Monterey as we tested it had a recorded hitch weight of 200 pounds, a weight-equalizing hitch was not needed. Also, we didn’t use a sway control device while towing and didn’t feel the need for it during our drive to the campground. We used a full-size pickup as our tow vehicle during this trailer test. Depending on your tow vehicle, you may have different needs when towing this trailer.

For those who want to minimize the effort that goes into setting up for camp or folding down a tent trailer to hit the road, the Monterey offers new and exciting possibilities. While successfully incorporating some key new design aspects, the luxurious Monterey trailer continues to maintain the excellent reputation Coleman folding camping trailers have earned over the years.

Coleman Monterey
Base Price: $13,499
Price as Tested: $13,499
(plus freight, dealer prep, tax and license)
Travel Length: 19’ Campsite Length: 25’
Overall Width (Travel/Campsite): 7’ 5”/11’ 8” Travel Height: 4’ 8”
Wet Weight: 3000 lbs.
Wet Hitch (Tongue) Weight: 200 lbs.
GVWR: 3600 lbs.
Fresh Water: 20 gals.
Gray Water: 15 gals.
Black Water: Cassette toilet
LPG: 20 lbs. Sleeping Capacity: 8 persons

Major Standard Features: Automatic (electric) lift and open system, AlumiTite composite roof, quilted mattresses, 2.5-cubic-foot refrigerator, high-pressure outside stove, porcelain sink, cable TV/12-volt receptacle, crank-down stabilizers, one-piece aluminum screened door, Stepper door, spice rack and cutlery tray, Swing-Level galley, metal seat frames, outside patio light, ABS propane bottle and spare tire covers, lift-up wardrobe.

Major Optional Equipment: 16,000-BTU furnace, sink cover/cutting board, LPG bottle auto changeover system, fitted sheets and pillow cases, door mat, portable gray-water system, bed shelf storage, screen room.

Coleman/Fleetwood Folding Trailers, Inc.
258 Beacon Street
Somerset, PA 15501

Thanks to American Sales, El Monte (626/444-1867) and Stanton (714/895-5066), California for the loan of the Coleman Monterey for this test.

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