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Curtis UltimaDork
9/6/18 1:48 p.m.

10k buys you a very nice used trailer, especially because there are so many that are lightly used.  Ironically, I have a really sweet Holiday Rambler for sale for $3500, but it's massive.  10k gvw and 34' long.

Look for the nicest SunLine, Holiday Rambler/Alumalite, or Sportsmen you can find.  SunLine is out of business, but its not like RVs need factory parts.  They're all boxes with off-the-shelf RV appliances.

Holiday Rambler, shoot for something before they were bought by Monaco (1996).  The construction is better than pretty much anything I've ever seen.  They use aluminum studs, a smooth aluminum skin, and it's all laminated with foam in between.  Roof is aluminum too.  The beautiful thing is that if it ever leaks, it can't rot structurally.  The way the roof comes down over the sides, it is very unlikely it will leak though.  My 92 Rambler gets abused for at least two months a year and the upholstery looks great, the paneling is good, and its made with "real" materials.  The carpet got a little worn so I pulled it up and replaced it with vinyl, but otherwise it just won't quit.  I'm thinking of trading to a newer Sportsmen 5er to leave at the lake, but I'm not sure its an upgrade.

Look for something with either smooth fiberglass or smooth aluminum sides.  The corrugated aluminum is thin and a good stiff branch can dent or tear it.  It is the cheapest and weakest form of RV construction.

Other, newer brands that pass my test are Forrest River, Thor/Crossroads, and Airstream.

Oh... suggestion.  If you get one with a slide, I strongly suggest one that is not a flush floor.  Those are the kind that go out and then drop down so there isn't a step.  They fail frequently.  In fact, all slide rooms tend to fail at some point.  I like to get trailers that don't have slides.  Another thing to look for with slides... can you use it without sliding the room out?  Some of them are just useless when the slide is in.  If you have a kid who needs to stop for a pee in the trailer, you want to have a nap, or you want to stop for lunch, make sure you get a slide that doesn't make it impossible to use.

mad_machine MegaDork
9/6/18 5:45 p.m.

would like to add that if your trailer has slides, do not use them until you get where you are going. Using them at a rest stop is a good way to not make friends

Trans_Maro PowerDork
9/6/18 7:01 p.m.

Get a tandem axle if you can.

We have a 15' Jayco with a single axle and it sashays around behind the truck a fair bit.

I tow with a 3/4 ton L29 Suburban because I hate light tow vehicles and the way a trailer tosses them around. The Sub pulls a horse trailer too so it's big enough for everything we do. The tow vehicle thing has already been beat to death on here so I won't go into it again.

Learn to use paper plates and burn them in the campfire or buy plastic dishes to use in your trailer. Lots of folks like to put "the old house stuff" in their trailer but those ceramic dishes, cast iron pots and old microwave weigh a ton. Add all your camping gak, two propane tanks, two batteries and a full water tank to it and your trailer starts getting close to or over it's GVW pretty fast.

skierd SuperDork
9/6/18 8:31 p.m.

In reply to Tom_Spangler :

Thanks for the note on the GCWR thing. I assumed that it would be the GVWR + Tow Capacity, but its actually about 1000 pounds less. That puts me at about 5700 pounds max on the trailer, which thankfully still fits in to the 20ft-ish trailers we’ve looked at but it’s good to have as a reference. 

I’m not buying another truck for 4-5 years, and longer if I can help it. 

Getting an older Airstream sounds something between a dream or a nightmare. The used market in Alaska is... interesting. Stuff gets pretty beat up here and is usually overpriced compared to the lower 48. 

I found the Safari Condo r1723 from a google suggested ad (maybe the spyware is good for something!) and we love it.


An RPod or the other super-sized teardrops seem to check a lot of the boxes too, potentially for less cost. Not as cool though.

The most I’ve had in the Tacoma is 2000 pounds of bricks for a project, which it didn’t love but did pretty well all things considered. I haven’t trailered with it yet. 


akylekoz Dork
9/6/18 8:36 p.m.

I found that an outdoor shower was useless, until we setup a dishwashing station with it.

Hasbro SuperDork
9/6/18 8:58 p.m.
Suprf1y UltimaDork
9/6/18 9:01 p.m.
Tom_Spangler said:

We are on our second one now, and my FIL has had 4 in the last 10 years ago. The quality is universally poor, regardless of brand, from what I've seen. We've had a Jayco and a Keystone, FIL has had Heartland, Forest River, and another Keystone. They are cardboard boxes with fancy paint. Interior bits were breaking in our Keystone Outback the very first time we took it camping. The radio died a year after we got it. 

That was my thoughts when I saw the title. I wouldn't buy one new unless I got a really good deal but I wouldn't buy anything more than a couple of years old either. Maintenance and storage is critical to the life of these trailers and you can get away with doing nothing for at least a few years but after that you need to be concerned with water leaks.

Of all the normal/cheap/lightweight trailers we really liked the R Pod the best but never found the right deal

ProDarwin PowerDork
9/6/18 10:14 p.m.
Hasbro said:


Thats cool.  I was just talking to someone today asking why nobody builds out heavier duty trailers with the aluminum skin/box tubing walls.

skierd SuperDork
9/7/18 12:39 a.m.
ProDarwin said:
Hasbro said:


Thats cool.  I was just talking to someone today asking why nobody builds out heavier duty trailers with the aluminum skin/box tubing walls.

While neat, I’m not trying to stealth camp in neighborhoods. I also like windows and need a place for the kids to sleep. 

ProDarwin PowerDork
9/7/18 7:15 a.m.
skierd said:
ProDarwin said:
Hasbro said:


Thats cool.  I was just talking to someone today asking why nobody builds out heavier duty trailers with the aluminum skin/box tubing walls.

While neat, I’m not trying to stealth camp in neighborhoods. I also like windows and need a place for the kids to sleep. 

I just mean the concept of using that construction vs. cardboard box.  That execution could use some work.  The stealth part is dumb.

914Driver MegaDork
9/7/18 7:34 a.m.

When we go soaring at Lake Placid, we rent an Aliner trailer.  Folds down like a pop up, but with hard sides it's cooler when it's hot and warmer when it's cold out.  Quite enough for two people, toss in a few kids? 


TGMF Reader
9/7/18 11:19 a.m.

In reply to akylekoz :

Outdoor shower is pretty handy,...not so much as to what its name would lead you to belive, but in sites without septic hookup, where not filling the grey water tank rapidly is desired, its awesome.  Rinsing dishes, the dog, or the kids is all super easy and thanks to a water heater, far more comfortable and functional than just a hose. 

Driven5 SuperDork
9/7/18 12:11 p.m.

In reply to skierd :

If you're looking at the Safari Condo's, then apparently you're willing to compromise on the slide out and separated bunks/dining area?  If so, I would also recommend checking out Escape Trailer Industires and seeing if any of their layouts (or modifications there of) might work for your family. New or used, this has long been my top contender for whenever we do pick up a travel trailer. I don't think I've ever heard anything bad about them as a product or a company. Durable, genuine quality construction, light weight, highly customizable, top notch customer service, and they hold their value extremely well thanks to all of this. So even if you pay somewhat more up front than a mass manufactured stick built trailer, it'll last you longer and you'll get more of it returned on the back end. There is also a favorable exchange rate when buying, so don't let the Canadian pricing sticker-shock you too badly.

Curtis UltimaDork
9/7/18 12:34 p.m.

Personal preference, and it totally depends on your travel style, but I usually travel far enough that being able to use the RV on the trip is handy; pee stops, lunch breaks, naps, etc.  For that reason, I personally don't do pop ups, hybrids, or A-lines.

Anything with fabric will potentially represent additional maintenance, less privacy, greater chance of leaks, and less insulation.  In your situation though (buying used) the nice part is that they depreciate like a rock.  For me, anything with fabric like a pop up or hybrid is one step up from tenting... which I enjoy, but it wouldn't be my choice for RVing.

Again... totally just my preference and I'm mentioning these things in case you haven't thought about them.


skierd SuperDork
9/7/18 1:05 p.m.
stuart in mn said:

I periodically think a trailer or RV would be fun, but on the other hand $20,000 to $30,000 will pay for a lot of hotel rooms...

There are lots of places we’d like to go in Alaska and western Canada that don’t have hotels. Or cabins, or any other accommodations, for rent. 

I also travel for work once a week in summer to Denali National Park and while work pays for my room, it’d be nice to sneak the family down for a long weekend in addition to planned monthly trips around the interior. Hotels in Denali are $200+ per night, cabins are $110+, meals are $20-60 per person per meal. I like the cabins I generally stay in when there’s availability but my own bed sounds great. 

skierd SuperDork
9/7/18 1:23 p.m.

In reply to Driven5 :

I have looked at those and initially wrote them off because of not having a slide but have circled back around a little. We like the Safari Condo because it’s pretty and innovative, but it really pushes the budget.  I also didn’t realize that there’s an RPod with bunks and a fold out queen bed.

My only must have is a queen bed with a real or real enough mattress.  No camp mats or air beds or seat cushions that make a reasonable facsimile of a bed, but a real damn bed. If I’m going to sleep on a camp bed, I’d rather keep tenting.  Then somewhere for the kids to sleep that’s preferably long enough for an adult or two to sleep. I think bunks fill that roll best, because I’m gonna guesstimate that 90% of trips in this thing will be the four of us, but I’m not saying no to a convertible dinette either. The idea is still to be outside as much as possible, but being comfortable at bed time. The idea of setting up a pop up or a-liner while being swarmed by mosquitoes sounds terrible too, with the bonus of trapping a thousand of the devils inside the trailer with us once it’s set up, so a hybrid or solid trailer are probably the best bet.

I also think I’d rather pay for something smaller but better built than a larger fiberglass covered cardboard box, but maybe not. I think that’s not something I’m really going to be able to judge until we get something and go out for a bit. 

Karacticus Dork
9/7/18 3:20 p.m.

I've had a sudden recollection of my childhood-- 

Camping out, my parents had a mattress in the van, us kids slept outside on cots under an awning.

I'm not sure if that counts as child neglect now or not, but if it doesn't, maybe you don't really need to size the sleeping quarters to include children. 

Am pretty sure that using suddenly awakened children as an early warning for bears in your camp is probably not kindly looked on though...

Suprf1y UltimaDork
9/7/18 4:18 p.m.

In reply to skierd :

My advice is to look at everything you can, everywhere you can and you will learn pretty quickly your wants, needs and what's out there that suits you best.

We went to dealers, shows and even got to see a few campers while we were camping. Camping people often like to show their stuff off if you show some interest in it. We looked at a lot of trailers and only one consistently pushed all the right buttons.

spitfirebill MegaDork
9/7/18 4:25 p.m.

In reply to Curtis :

Thanks to you I spent much of the afternoon searching for Aluma Lite trailers.  The best one for me was in Wyoming.  

bearmtnmartin SuperDork
9/7/18 5:46 p.m.

In reply to skierd :

I know someone who was in a popup in Northern BC and a bear stuck his arm through the tent part and started to drag him out. There was a lot of screaming and the bear lost interest. So maybe a popup is not the thing for Alaska anyway.

mad_machine MegaDork
9/7/18 11:25 p.m.

I have thought of getting a small popup and turning it into an expedition style camper. Something I can lash down a few kayaks and stuff to the top and then go off to some great places to use the boats

pirate Reader
9/9/18 1:13 p.m.

Motorhomes and travel trailers depreciate at terrible rate with even the best brands losing 50 percent of their value after just a few years. It really doesn’t make sense to buy new. While many RV’s look great in the showroom they are not all created equal when it comes to workmanship and the materials used. Some are rated for occasional use. I would stay away from “entry level” models. Just about all brands have different models from entry level to there top of the line models. Entry level models have cheaper built cabinets, fabrics that wear out fast, and generally cheaper construction.

Most travel trailers have vinyl or fabric roofs that are treated with a top coating. Roof leaks are common and lead to the early demise of travel trailers through rot and mildew. At a minimum roofs need to have through roof fittings and equipment rebedded at least once a year and roof topcoats done every three years. There are some motorhomes and travel trailers with fiberglass roof caps which are superior to fabric. Winnebago has some of these models. 

Travel trailers and motorhomes require a good bit of maintenance even if they spend most of their time in storage. They have to be built light to go down the road so vibrations, road conditions take their toll. Fiberglass exteriors  while much better then the old aluminum siding require a lot of wax or the gel coat gets dull and even chalky with dark streaks. Also vinyl graphics tend to discolor and crack from too much UV. Full paint is easier to maintain but you don’t often see it on travel trailers. 

RV’s can be great fun and we use ours a lot. Unfortunately it is not as simple as use it and forget it until next use. My advice is if you are going to buy check all systems closely, inspect roof closely and interior for leaks. If buying from a dealer do not take their word for anything they are worse then used car dealers. 




nutherjrfan SuperDork
9/9/18 7:36 p.m.

In reply to Karacticus :

they probably scream a lot louder tho'. devil

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