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Trailer Review: A-Liner Expedition

May 22, 2006
Filed under RV & Trailer Reviews, Trailer Reviews

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My favorite camping trip of the season is an annual weeklong sojourn I share only with my dog. We always go to the same remote state forest campground that is nearly always empty and offers few facilities other than a fire ring, picnic table and a level place to pitch a tent — which is what we did for years.


Dog and I decided that this year would be a good opportunity to check out the 2006 A-Liner hard-sided, A-frame-style folding camping trailer fitted with the company’s Expedition Package. It was surprising how simple the A-Liner’s set up was. The two main roof panels are hinged to the front and back ends of the main camper box and are spring-assisted. After you go through it once and figure out the order of things, the roof sections are easy to lift and lock into place.

After loading the refrigerator with perishables the next morning, I folded my “tent” and headed north. Once plugged in to the bumper receptacle on the tow vehicle, the Tahoe’s electrical system powered the variable-powered ’fridge, which could switch from propane to 12-volt to 110-volt sources automatically.

On the Road With The A-Liner Expedition

The A-Liner towed very well, better than a high-profile camper, and even with the optional 14-inch tires I could still just see over the top of the camper in my rear-view mirror. My fuel figures showed that towing the trailer reduced my fuel economy by about 2 mpg (from 15 to 13), but the Tahoe was loaded to the gills and its roof rack carried a kayak to boot, so the trailer was not solely responsible for the drop in mileage.

Preparing my first meal in camp, I discovered that there was an abundance of countertop space inside the A-Liner, thanks to spring-loaded, swing-up panels that seemed to be available at every turn. The propane hose on the portable, two-burner stove used a quick-connect coupling to hook up to the inside port located just forward of the galley console, so setting up the stove was a snap. A second propane port is located on the outside of the camper.

I fell asleep that night to the sound of sleet slapping the steeply pitched roof above my head; snug and secure with the warmth from the heater. About midnight, a beeping commenced and the next thing I knew the heater and the refrigerator shut down. I reached up to switch on the 12-volt ceiling light over the bunk and it dimmed to brown, and then was out, too.

I realized two things as I curled up and prepared for a few hours sleep sans heat: The furnace and the refrigerator, despite being propane-powered, still required a source of electricity to operate their fans. And I had drained the house battery during the day and it was now dead. Because I was set up on a primitive site, my options for recharging the battery were limited: I could remove the battery, take it somewhere that had 110-volt power, hook it up to a battery charger for a few hours each day and try to get a few hours of power out of it each night. I also could move the Tahoe close enough to attach the electrical harness to the tow vehicle and run its engine to power the accessories; or could fire-up the portable generator that I always bring along and plug it into the A-Liner’s electrical system for a recharge that might take several hours.

By running the generator for two hours while I prepared my meal outside by the campfire, I could get enough charge in the house battery to keep the refrigerator and heater running through the nights. That kept me warm by night and my food cool through the next day, when it was time to use the generator again. A battery (or two batteries) with a much higher “reserve capacity” (used to be refered to as “amp hours”) is needed for use at campsites that don’t offer electrical hook-ups.


Inside The A-Liner Expedition

It was comfortable inside the A-Liner, with a full-size sofa/bed at the aft end and another bunk option forward, incorporating a large dinette table that drops to form a bed between the bench seats. The headroom inside was more than ample, offering 8 feet of height directly under the peak of the roof. The “elbowroom” in the galley/cabin was considerable, with the more than 6 feet of width.

The camper’s living space was enhanced by the optional canopy. By moving the stove to the outside position, we created a country kitchen of sorts. In warmer weather, the optional screen house would be welcome as well.

Its optional Expedition Package (a must-have in our book) adds a huge forward cargo area that spans the width of the A-Liner trailer. With two lockable handles to secure the lid, the storage space is perfect for stowing lanterns, generators, fishing tackle and other large items that you might not want to leave out when you are not in camp.

Packing Up The A-Liner Expedition

When it came time to break camp, I appreciated the small doors that allowed access from the outside to load the under-bunk storage compartments at both ends of the camper. The zippered case that holds the awning along the edge of the roof was large enough to accommodate the canopy and its support poles even when I didn’t fold it exactly like it came from the factory, and the stabilizing jacks went up as easily as they came down.

It took me a little longer to break camp than to make it, mainly because my motivation to leave was not nearly as strong as that to arrive. But within an hour of waking, I was packed, the trailer was packed up, and the Tahoe and the remarkably easy-to-use-and-tow A-Liner Expedition compact camper were hooked up and headed home.

Major Standard Features. Two rear stabilizer jacks, sport wheels and 13-inch tires, Sure Lube hubs, torsion axle for independent suspension, 20-amp converter with battery charger circuit, six GFCI-protected electrical outlets, 28-foot power cord, two opening roof vents, three tinted opening windows with screens, stainless sink with cover/cutting board, 20-pound LPG tank with two-stage regulator, icebox, three-burner stove, two interior ceiling lights, outside entry light, 12-gallon water tank, two-way hand pump faucet.

Major Optional Features. Auxiliary battery setup, galley package with microwave and 2.5-cubic foot refrigerator, 16,000 BTU electronic ignition furnace, six-gallon water heater, air conditioner, AM/FM/CD system with two speakers, outside shower, electric water pump, propane tank cover, awning, screen room, Flexsteel sofa, front stabilizer jacks, stone guard, Thetford Porta Potti 555, dual propane tanks w/auto changing regulator, electric fan ventilation, electric brakes.

Optional Expedition Package: 2500-pound capacity axle with Sure Lube hubs, pullout step, front storage chest (32-cubic feet), extended heavy-duty frame, 14-inch tires with white sport wheels.

A-Liner Expedition Specs

Base Price: $8,743

Price As Tested: $14,539

Overall Length: 18’

Overall Width: 78’

Overall Height Deployed: 116”

Overall Height Folded: 58”

Dry Weight: 1380 lbs.

Dry Hitch Weight: 135 lbs.

GVWR: 2655 lbs.

Cargo Capacity: 1275 lbs.

Headroom: 8’

Fresh Water: 12 gals

Hot Water Capacity : 6 gals.

Sleeping Capacity: 4 adults

MANUFACTURER:

Columbia Northwest, Inc.

One Main Street

Kecksburg

Mammoth, PA 15664

724/423-7440;

aliner.com.

Thanks to: Post’s Traveland USA (614/471-9325; postrv.com) in Columbus, Ohio, for the loan of this trailer for our review.

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