Pop-Up Trailers Reviewed
Where once they were cute and cuddly, now they are, well, tough and rather fierce looking. All of a sudden, the lovable, ever-faithful pop-up trailer has changed into the kind of rough-and-tumble RV you wouldn’t be afraid to take out into parts unknown. In short, they’ve gone extreme!
RV designers are now outfitting scores of these campers with front cargo areas in order for travelers to tote along dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles or extra camping gear. Portable ramps allow for uneventful loading, while the trailer itself now often boasts beefed up frames, tires and shocks to get the adventurous set where they need to go.
After many years of dormancy and feeling the effects of the consumer movement toward both lightweight and sport-utility trailers, the pop-up trailer is back. We’re just not sure you’ll recognize it.
Airstream kicks off its 75th anniversary (gee, where did the time go?) with one of this year’s most innovative debuts, the Basecamp. A joint-design effort among Airstream, Nissan Design America and camping equipment manufacturer Kelty, the result is a towable that could fit any number of categories. Company officials are calling it a microlite tent trailer hybrid, but for me and you, we’ll just call it a lengthy tent extension affixed to the back of a hard-sided trailer.
At just under 13 feet in length (not including the tent add-on), the Basecamp is a highly towable, rugged addition to any camping adventure. When the destination is reached, you can unleash the tent area for even greater dimensions. The unit features bedding for two to four, and at 2300 pounds GVWR, that’s a lot of folks in a waifish package. Most stunning of all, the Basecamp’s interior can be configured to suit any number of purposes — from home office, workshop, or ultimate lightweight leisure machine — depending on what furniture and layout you choose.
MSRP: Approx. $20,000
Airstream: 937/596-6111; airstream.com.
Fleetwood Folding Trailers Evolution
Fleetwood Folding Trailers was one of the first pop-up builders to take its units truly off-road. Recognizing that the RV demographic was getting younger — and more active — the company decided it could no longer just do business as usual in this segment. The most obvious example of this new kind of thinking is its Evolution line, which shows just how far the company has, well, evolved.
For starters, the unit is yellow, and what’s not to like about that? Both the E1 and E2 models were built with the mindset that travelers would take these units virtually anywhere. Engineers erred on the side of ruggedness, incorporating a heavy-duty tubular steel frame, steel wheel wells, diamond-plated front and rear panels, steel-rimmed rear lights, and a heavy-duty suspension with shocks.
Like we said, the Evolution was designed to go places. And considering how travelers may want such goodies as an ATV, pair of motorcycles or mountain bikes to tag along, the E2 version comes with a larger cargo deck with ramp for easy loading/unloading; the E1 has a smaller front storage deck for those heavy on gear. Both floorplans feature a pair of large beds, galley, storage galore, and small galley. The E2 goes one step further with a built-in cassette toilet and shower.
Fleetwood: 800/444-4905; fleetwoodrv.com.
More than four decades of towable design has taught Viking a thing or two about staying power. The secret, of course, is to keep moving forward, something the company has done aggressively in 2006. The Viking pop-up line now features several new floorplans: the 1796 E and S units, and the 2106ST.
The pair of 1796s both deliver a travel size of just over 12 feet, while deploying to nearly 17 feet when the destination is reached. Weights for each barely tip the scales, weighing approximately 2100 pounds. Double insulated bunks, a large inside/outside dinette table and booth seats can be found on both models. The major difference comes in amenities, with the E model favoring a more Spartan view of camping with no gas, water or galley. This is the choice for those who still prefer the adventure of tent camping. The S unit offers the same floorplan with the established amenities of a full-comfort towable.
For its part, the 2106ST boasts an L-shaped dinette/lounge, lots of interior storage and greater overall dimensions.
MSRP: $2625-$2995 (1796); $4365 (2106ST)
Viking: 269/467-6321; vikingrv.com.
Starcraft RT Folding Campers
The trend toward off-road fold-down continues with Starcraft’s lineup of RT towables with five floorplans for 2006. What started with the 11RT, an engaging camper with an extended front cargo area for bulkier camping gear (firewood, mountain bikes and even an ATV), has emerged into a full-blown exercise in true backwoods camping.
The RT series has something for everyone. The two new versions, the 13RT and 14RT (4000-pound GVWRs), continue this rugged tradition and also feature a cassette toilet, shower, dual 20-pound LPG tanks, three-way refrigerator, 16,000-BTU furnace, adjustable stabilizer jacks and a sleeping capacity for up to six.
The 11RT unit delivers numerous large storage areas in addition to the front cargo area, as well as an L-shaped lounge, screened entrance door with caddy for important items, and 15-inch radial mud tires to get campers where they need to go.
Starcraft RV: 800/945-4787; starcraftrv.com.
Coachmen Clipper 896
We admire companies that take risks, and certainly Coachmen’s new 896E Clipper model qualifies. At first, it appears it’s the same-old, same-old inside, with a dinette table, bench seats and a pair of double beds bookending the unit. However, it won’t take long before you’ll notice the absence of a galley. Come to think of it, with no cooking features onboard, we’re not sure this pop-up even technically qualifies as an RV.
Since many pop-up owners are former tent campers, it makes sense that at least some buyers would still favor meals prepared over an open fire and a more rustic approach to their getaways, meaning no galley required. The major upside, of course, is more room onboard, which is always welcome in towables of such modest dimensions.
If this is not your speed, don’t fret — the new 896S model returns the kitchen back into the mix.
Coachmen RV: 574/825-5821; coachmenrv.com.
Jayco Baja Camo 10D
How does a camouflage trailer strike you? It is almost unfair to use Jayco’s Camo line as a base camp for hunting, fishing or blasting your relatives during a paintball war.
As the name suggests, the Camo really blends in with the outdoors; take the company’s newest floorplan, the 10D. In addition to the cool color scheme, the real story here is the front deck with railing. An optional, built-in tool box compliments this space and your outdoor adventures. Fifteen-inch mud tires, diamond-plated front and rear walls, mud flaps, four-inch tubular steel bumper, and rubber-style truck fenders help earn the Camo its backwoods chops.
A sleeping crew is also properly addressed, thanks to queen- and king-size beds on either side, as well as a sofa/gaucho. Meanwhile, both a carry-out stove and dinette can transport meals out to nature’s dining room, if that’s your thing.
MSRP: Approx. $10,000
Jayco: 800/RV-JAYCO; jayco.com.
Lees-ure Lite Excel
We know your SUV, mini-van and pick-up truck are up to the towing duties, but what about your motorcycle? Why shouldn’t your favorite two-wheeler get in on the RVing act? Fortunately, the super waifish Excel towable accommodates with a dry weight of just 255 pounds, yet still offers up to 200 square feet of living space with the help of optional room add-ons.
With a setup time of less than 10 seconds and the ability to carry up to 125 pounds of gear on the aluminum roof rack, the pop-up Excel makes for a dutiful backup to your next motorcycle excursion. All this, and still an interior height of 6 feet, 4 inches.
The list of standard features won’t bowl you over, but what more can you ask for from such a lightweight, go-anywhere camping add-on?
Lees-ure Lite: 800/660-0933; tent-trailer.com.
It’s business as unusual again at A-Liner, mixing a pop-up camper with a cargo area to create splendidly unconventional results. At first glance, the uninitiated might believe they were simply looking at a box set for delivery on top of a flatbed. However, things are not as they appear, not when the unit springs into life revealing a 44×78-inch dinette/bed, ice box, sink and range. By utilizing the portable loading ramp and six tie-down bolts, owners can enjoy the new trend of bringing along a few selected machines to keep them company, mounted to the 100×80-inch weatherproof decking.
The platform area itself can be used for motorcycles, snowmobiles, and personal watercraft or simply as a back patio, equipped with some chairs and that trusty grill. A front diamond-plated storage rack allows for even more provisions.
A-Liner: 724/423-7440; aliner.com.
Tentrax trailers fall into the rugged-but-compact group of pop-ups. The company is betting on its three models for 2006 that are all based on one of those models, the CargoPac.
The body and lid on the CargoPac, Boulevard and Off Road A/T models are made of fiberglass reinforced with plywood, and come with 2×2-inch steel tubing. Aside from other standard features, you can choose a model that suits your traveling habits, whether camping at a paved campsite or going off the beaten path in rugged terrain.
The Boulevard and Off Road A/T models offer a tent and bed setup for sleeping off the ground under cover, a 12-volt system for operating electrical appliances, rack systems and a 1400-pound Torflex axle for hauling as much as gear as you may need. The Boulevard model is sleeker with a low profile, more for the cruising camper. The Off Road A/T has a 4×4 package that takes you as far into the backcountry as you want.
MSRP: $3495 before package discount
Tentrax: 800/488-2022; tentrax.com.
King Kampers is entering 2006 with its popular flagship Explorer model. In 2005 it gained a slew of new features such as a tropical/winter self-erecting roof that sits on top and folds up automatically into the camper; and a diesel-powered heater that works even in below-zero conditions.
The Gullwing Storage Pak option includes a large lockable storage area in the kitchen area and more than 14.5 cubic feet of storage on the driver’s side for something like a generator or porta potti. At its longest, the Explorer is less than 21 feet and has a tongue weight of 250 pounds.
The company now offers the Sports RV, a new model being called a “purpose built” sports-utility camper for midrange, all-terrain vehicles and four-wheel drives. The trailer body’s core (one-piece liner, canvas tent, stainless pullout kitchen and folding mechanism) is virtually the same as those on a King Kamper.
MSRP: $18,990 Explorer; pricing for Sports RV not available at press time
King Campers: 800/546-4805; kingkampers.com.
The company’s Horizon allows you and your family to relax in remote locations while being able to have a cold drink or a warm shower. It can be configured and built with various fittings and accessories for a custom feel. The main storage area is close to 40 cubic feet in volume. A side compartment holds the kitchen, and space on the other side is for camping gear. The roof-mounted tent is quick to set up and opens to the dimensions of a king-size mattress. A built-in, high-density foam mattress is included. Sleeping capacity can be extended to sleep two adults, two children or three adults.
Towing isn’t an issue with the 1285-pound Horizon. The receiver can be changed for a ball coupler, pintle or off-road coupler.
Adventure Trailers: 877/661-8097; adventuretrailers.com.