Roughing It Easy
The Nash 22H and Chevy Tahoe LT not only make extended dry camping possible, but also enjoyable
It goes without saying that trailers are designed for the great outdoors, but these days, getting away from it all has a different meaning than it once did. Where primitive camping used to be the only choice in many areas, now we can be spoiled by full hookups and a variety of amenities, depending on where we choose to stay. While this kind of convenience is great for a lot of RVers, the side effect is that most travel trailers are no longer really designed for extended use in remote areas. They usually have only one battery, which goes dead after one or two days, and they don’t come with, or even offer, a generator in most instances. And since they usually spend their time on the road and on smooth, level campsites, their suspension and chassis aren’t designed for roughing it, either. As a result, many RVers must invest in some expensive upgrades to make a trailer suitable for use off the beaten path.
It’s for these reasons that the Nash 22H from Northwood Manufacturing is such a pleasant surprise. At less than 25 feet in total length, it’s small enough to go most anyplace and has all the comforts of home. But that’s where the similarities between it and other small travel trailers end.
For one thing, Northwood Manufacturing prides itself on building its own chassis, which is independently certified and designed to handle the rough stuff. It comes standard with a 20-watt solar panel that, while not capable of fully charging one or more batteries, does provide enough power to provide a trickle charge. For those that want more power, it’s also prepped for a generator. And in keeping with its off-grid theme, the 22H comes with a 10-gallon DSI water heater (instead of the usual six gallons) plus holding tanks that are large for a trailer this size: 40 gallons of freshwater, 42 gallons of gray water and 35 gallons of black water. Additionally, you can equip the trailer with a 2.5-kilowatt LP-gas generator, a 60- or 100-watt solar panel, heated and enclosed holding tanks, a cargo carrier and other hardcore gear.
The 22H has a claimed dry weight of 4,118 pounds and a gvwr of 7,000 pounds, which made it a good match for Chevy’s new Tahoe SUV, which can tow up to 8,600 pounds with the optional 3.42:1 rear axle ratio. Equipped as it was with a standard 3.08 rear axle and 2WD, the test Tahoe was rated to tow up to 6,600 pounds, which was perfectly adequate for our testing purposes. Obviously, a four-wheel-drive model with the lower rear axle ratio would have been a more appropriate pairing for a rough-and-ready trailer like the 22H, but Chevy’s test-fleet size is limited. And besides, the Tahoe is similar in spirit to the 22H in that it is also designed for heavy-duty use, being one of the few SUVs on the market that still uses body-on-frame construction.
Thankfully, rugged intentions on the part of the Tahoe and the Nash didn’t translate into sacrifice or discomfort. The Tahoe in its LT trim comes equipped with standard leather-appointed and heated front seats with memory settings, power adjustable pedals, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, Bose premium audio and an array of “connectivity features.” These include a 4G LTE hot spot with a 3-gigabyte, three-month data trial and a six-month subscription to OnStar featuring turn-by-turn navigation, automatic crash response and other features.
Thusly equipped, the Tahoe LT carries a sticker price of $50,045 — but the test unit was also optioned up with the Luxury Package ($2,940), which adds a lot of things you probably don’t need but are nice to have. These include a so-called passive entry system with remote start, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel with power tilt/telescoping function, a power-folding third row and a hands-free lift gate.
The latter two features really help when packing; simply push a button on the key fob twice, and the lift gate rises smoothly and quickly. Once open, there’s no trickery involved in folding the third-row seats — you push a button in the cargo area, and they fold flat effortlessly. Just keep in mind that if your family is large enough to occupy all three rows, there isn’t much space behind the rearmost seat back to store more than a few grocery bags. You’ll need to invest in a roof pod.
The Luxury Package also comes with several safety features, which got mixed reviews. We like Blind Spot Monitoring so much that we think it should come standard in all vehicles, particularly large, high-riding ones. And the Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Front/Rear Park Assist come in handy when trying to park a large vehicle like this one in densely populated strip mall parking lots. Some members of our family liked the Lane Departure Alert feature that sounds when you stray from your lane, and the Forward Collision Alert, which screeches when cars in front of you stop suddenly. Given the number of people who prefer texting to driving, the latter two are probably good features for many, especially other motorists.
The Tahoe is remarkably quiet and smooth, almost to a fault. The 5.3-liter V-8 runs like a sewing machine — in fact, the loudest sound emanating from the Tahoe at idle was the accessory drive system, which made little more than a soft ticking sound. We may be among the minority, but we miss the V-8 burble at idle — and even during passing, the engine’s sound is muted. Power is good, whether towing or solo, but we could definitely see how much it could be improved with the 3.42 gear; the 3.08 gear made the Tahoe feel lazy, and downshifts were sluggish. We found it best to put the six-speed transmission in manual mode and do the shifting for ourselves, especially on winding mountain roads.
Ride quality is probably what you’d expect from a large SUV, which is to say that it’s pillowy soft even when driving solo. When towing, the tail bobbed occasionally as the suspension coped with undulating pavement, but was otherwise comfortable. Obviously, this is no sports car, but the handling was predictable and the steering felt responsive, even if it was a bit over-boosted for our tastes. The brakes also felt plenty adequate to help slow the weight of the trailer.
Since the intent of the 22H is dry camping, that’s exactly what we did, spending some quality time in the Los Padres National Forest area of Southern California. The trailer tows easily, and its smaller side wall area doesn’t cause much tail wagging for the tow vehicle in light crosswinds. We appreciate the intent of the aluminum rock guard on the front of the trailer, as this standard feature will certainly prevent damage when traveling down gravel roads. However, we wish that it went only as high as the lower third of the trailer. Extended as it was to the same height as the rear window of the Tahoe, the rock guard’s shiny surface could be blinding when looking in the side- and rearview mirrors.
Once we arrived at our destination, we were ready to enjoy the surroundings in minutes, thanks to the manual stabilizing jacks and a power Carefree awning. Unpacking was a little cumbersome, however, as the two exterior storage compartments have doors on the driver’s side only. That’s not a problem when packing, but when setting up camp, you have to walk around the trailer to put things like a table, chairs or a barbecue on the entry side. The compartments go all the way to the curbside wall, so it seems strange that they don’t just go all the way through. They are, however, both accessible from the inside of the trailer by lifting up the bed or the jackknife sofa, the former offering gas struts to make lifting a lot easier.
Though we imagine this trailer being used by a couple of sportsmen or a small family, the sleeping accommodations and aforementioned tank capacities suggest that four to six people could actually camp comfortably. The forward bed, while not quite an RV queen at 54 x 74½ inches, was supportive, and there is a good amount of storage space, courtesy of the overhead cabinets and a long cabinet for folded clothes with two small drawers underneath. Just aft of the bed is the jackknife sofa, which converts quickly and easily to a small bed for an adult or two children. And the dinette, which seats four, converts into a bed using a mechanism whereby the front support leg is folded and the table pivots down into place. It’s not only fast and easy to set up, but it is a lot more stable than a traditional push-in post arrangement.
The opposing kitchen offers adequate counter space for simple meal prep, and if you need more room to spread out, there is a small countertop extension. The plastic sink is topped off with a plastic faucet that mimics brushed nickel, and a plastic sink cover doubles as a cutting board. Directly below the sink’s edge is a cubbie for small items like a brush and sponge, and below that, a large cabinet with a single shelf that can serve as a pantry. Three drawers below and large cabinets above offer more than enough storage space, and there’s additional cabinetry above the dinette. Toward the rear is a three-burner stove with an oven, and a microwave above. Slots in the counter behind the stove provide knife storage. All the way to the rear of the living space is a 6-cubic-foot refrigerator with a wood front that matches the rest of the cabinetry.
Livability of this trailer overall is pretty good, considering its compact dimensions. Although we could not watch TV because this particular unit was not so equipped (a 19-inch, 12-volt DC-compatible TV is optional), we were able to listen to the AM/FM/DVD player with Bluetooth compatibility and four speakers. Sound was a bit on the tinny side, but it was decent enough so that no speakers are required outside to hear the music clearly.
When it was time to turn in for the evening, we discovered a couple of things that we’d like to see changed. First, while we understand that miniblinds are the most cost-effective way to cover windows, they take a beating over rougher roads and get crooked, bent, etc. Northwood tells us fabric shades are optional and will be standard for 2016. We’re also not fans of furnace registers that are in the middle of the living area floor, but this may be necessitated by the huge holding tanks that don’t leave a lot of other routing options.
All the way to the rear is the bathroom, which is quite spacious for a trailer this size. For the most part, it is well executed with a large, mirrored wardrobe for hanging clothes, a toilet with a hand flush, and a large lavatory with storage underneath and a mirrored medicine cabinet above. However, the bath area is also where we found a few problems. The shower hose broke immediately, the enclosure was pulling away from the wall, and the door handle came off on the first day of use. In fairness, Northwood rushed this unit out to us, so a post-delivery inspection (PDI) had not been performed prior to delivery.
Small complaints aside, the Nash 22H really is a unique trailer. It offers standard features and options normally found in much larger, more expensive trailers yet remains lightweight and maneuverable enough for most full-size SUVs and half-ton pickups to tow easily. If you’re shopping for a budget-friendly go-anywhere trailer, your list of possible candidates is likely short — and the 22H should be on it.
Northwood Manufacturing | 800-766-6274 | www.northwoodmfg.com
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