Cargo Capacity

One specification that will get a fifth wheel knocked off the short list of what we would buy are those with a lighter cargo capacity. Since first starting to research trailers in late 2014 I consistently read 3,000 pounds of cargo capacity or more is suggested for fulltime RV living. A quick check of nine full-timer rigs, who weighed their trailers and posted results, averaged closer to 3,448 of cargo capacity.  Some say their next trailer will have way more than that. I would really appreciate your opinions on the matter!

For us we might be hauling around the following “extra” items:

  • Full grey and black tanks at times: We plan to boondock at times so I could see hauling in fresh water and adding to that tank from jugs. If we are looking at trailers having in the range of 75 grey water capacity and 45 black water I suppose just the water in these tanks if full would be 996 pounds. What’s the chances of having to haul that any distance outside a camping area to dump? I have considered we might purchase a blue boy. We have stayed at electric only sites and found not having to worry about water or sewer connections for shorter stays is a bonus.
  • Hobby items for entertainment: We are not yet sure of what hobbies we might haul around with us. Board games, bikes and tent camping equipment. We already own an inflatable kayak and love it. I’d think all that could add up to less than 200 pounds. And Karen loves real books she can hold in her hands so we are going to haul a few around.
  • Extra battery and maybe solar someday: Although we are leaning towards an RV gas/electric refrigerator we might go with a residential. For sure we are starting off with at least two batteries. If we add a solar system we could see adding several more batteries. At 60 pounds apiece or so that can add up. Six batteries could be around 360 pounds plus the solar panels and components.
  • Washing machine: Karen wants at least a combo washer/dryer for smaller loads of laundry. We have used the ones in campgrounds and she is thinking it would be convenient to have a unit in the trailer. I’d rather just have two weeks worth of clothing and haul it to a laundry twice a month. That adds 148 pounds. I don’t view any compromise as reasonable if both persons can’t live with it. In this case if she wants a combo unit then we are getting it.
  • Generator: For sure we will have at least a portable setup that can power up to one air conditioner. That adds about 94 pounds. And if we were to go with a full size 5500 watt propane unit that would add about 279 pounds.

These above items total at least 1,973 pounds. We could see having a few other lighter weight amenities we read about such as solar shades that hang from the edge of the awning, a screened room for the picnic table and such. From what I understand when an RV manufacturer lists the estimated cargo capacity in their advertising the weight assumes what comes with the basic build. The advertised cargo limit does not include optional equipment such as a second outside awning, backup camera and more that are of lighter weight. But what about upgraded insulation packages, larger propane tanks, a heavier pin or whatever?

Realistically one should be able to compromise and just be willing to give up what would not fit within the weight limits. We can do that. But I’ve read where people can’t fill half their cabinets because of weight capacity limits. Or they found out they enjoyed Rving so much they were going full time and only had a couple hundred pounds capacity remaining, having used their trailer for extended stays.  In one extreme I read where a motorhome technically did not have the carrying capacity to haul all the passengers.

I started this year looking at 38 trailers with the basic floor plan we were interested in which is a rear living room fifth wheel. The list is now 24, chiefly because the floor plan comes with less than 3,000 pound of cargo capacity. More importantly, this knocked out a few serious brand names which are trailers commonly used for full timing.

We are going with a dual wheel truck and I suppose one needs to research methods of storing items on the truck rather than the trailer.

Am I thinking in the wrong direction on this one?

 


July 13, 2017 the 100,000th Keystone Montana rolled off the factory line.


Good video compilation on what we wish we knew before we started Rving from seven full-timers.

These Things Break – Do You Really Want to Buy One?

This blog post may turn out to be just another summary of the bad side of RV repairs as reported by so many other writers.  I’ve thought about the topic for the past several months and had started research well before that.  I found myself asking why post it at all? I thought surely everyone has read about the potential for catastrophic RV repairs blamed on poor manufacturing. I suppose the best reason to write this is to make sure my wife has an idea of what can go wrong with our future RV and maybe readers would appreciate sharing this information with their spouse.

It is no secret that RV sales are at a historic high and the forecast for next year is even more units will be built. Record production has the potential (that’s a safe way to describe it) of putting an increased demand on repair shops and manufacturers/dealerships completing warranty service.  Unfortunately, my research has been focused on fifth wheels so you will have to bear with me if you own another class of RV.

Most have surely read how RV manufacturers can be terrible at handling after-sales service. Even if we have not owned a unit for years, it does not take long to drift through the forums and read even owners who have few problems will write “they all have issues.”  If you look back in the recent history of RV manufacturing you will discover many of the existing companies are not that old. Many have closed their doors and many have had their brand names bought out by another. All this causes management change and perhaps a step back in customer service.  A short list of what I’ve seen in the past three years include; NuWa stopped building the Hitchhiker then Peterson (builders of the Excel) produced the Hitchhiker only to shut down operations a short time later. NuWa invented the fifth wheel so what a shame they could not stay in business. Lifestyles Luxury RV was said by many to be a dependable brand but suddenly closed their doors.  Some say because of losing financial backing and others said they were so intent on fixing every warranty problem they could not stay in business. Management came from another defunct company to run Lifestyles. What about the Carriage brands which were also popular by full-timers as late as 2010. Gone – sold the brand names to Crossroads who has stopped building the Carriage and the Cameo is just another among average fifth wheels (in my opinion). I could go on. The point is even todays companies who care about the customer may be gone when RV sales eventually decline. And especially if management does not think long-term, guiding a company in a better position for the future.

Now for the meat of this blog post. I want my wife and others to know there is a chance so many things will be defective in an RV that you might decide to leave the road, be injured or take a financial hit.  Personally, I believe the chances are relatively rare as a percentage of RVs that are on the road today. But then again, they are not all used as full time living quarters.

I have been following full-timer’s RV blogs since October of 2014. So far, I have read or talked personally with four of the 23 RV owners I follow who had significant issues with their unit. The brands include DRV, the original Carriage Carri-lite, Lifestyles and Forrest River Cedar Creek. In one case, the person left the road disgusted after trying other brands.  Another had their RVs frame welded and eventually continued on their journey. Another sat in a motel room for months, even working a part-time job, until the manufacturer built them a new trailer. And finally, another has sent their trailer back to the factory for 70 or more issues to be addressed.  Yes, they “all may have problems.” Yes, these may be just a few unique examples. And yes, they may have eventually been repaired. But, these four examples represent 17% of this small sampling. Each was built by what are considered good companies. But most of all – what if we become one of the percentage with major issues? And is it ever satisfactory that any single purchaser, much less these 17%, should have to worry about it. Especially when manufacturers can get banks to finance these things for 20 years which to me implies they will last that long. Of course, if you buy a vacation travel trailer for a lot less than a $60,000 – $120,000 fifth wheel which is built as a “full time or extended stay” unit, most would not expect to get the same longevity.

Okay you can stop reading if you agree or feel warned there could be major issues with an RV that could cause major inconvenience when you are on the road – Or dare read on-

Please don’t get this blog post confused as only a rant, because it’s not. The chance our RV will breakdown in a major way is really a concern of mine. I’m personally willing to risk it and buy a trailer for the likely chance we will not be hindered with a catastrophic repair. If you want to read about the true nature of these issues then click here. This is the only place you will need to go to learn about what is truly behind the problem with RV manufacturers.  Greg Gerber is the past Editor of RV Daily Report and wrote this series of articles titled “RV Industry Death Spiral.” To me, he is a whistle-blower and I appreciated his candor.  Mr. Gerber may have correctly forecasted 2017 would be the year of lawsuits for the RV industry. If his research is correct, there are more than 2,500 active lawsuits by customers after the time he wrote the articles. He predicts 2019 will be the legal turning point for the RV industry as state and federal officials look to pass consumer-friendly legislation. I’ll leave out the politics of his prediction relative to if or if not government is willing to push forward with legislation.

I first became aware of government influence when reading in 2015 Forest River got themselves into a little trouble with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for not sending out prompt recall notices for safety issues.  Later Forest River announced positive changes potentially effecting the timeliness of RV repairs and certainly response to recall notices. Now their dealerships are taking issue with the new warranty policy per an RV Daily Report article written May of 2017. Why is this example so important? Because Forest River is among the top producers of RVs and is one of only a few competing against fifth wheel brands, and others, owned by Thor. And just think, Forest River gained that market share during their short 11-year history.  Personally, I view Forest River’s initiative as a good thing in that they are trying to introduce a system to better supply parts to customers in immediate need. RV Business published an article by June of 2017. Called a Parts Initiative in which they wrote; “An all-industry working group led by members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and RVDA of Canada continues to quietly work on a series of parts delivery issues that could ultimately help improve dealers’ abilities to expedite warranty and other consumer repairs in the field.” Is this the start of RV manufacturers finally taking responsibility for producing sometimes inferior products?

Yet other manufacturers are taking a slightly different approach to better avoid major repair issues in their new units. During my research, I’m finding Grand Design, founded in 2011, is a company where potential customers are looking to provide exceptional customer service. Grand Design recently sold the brand to Winnebago. The founders came from Keystone which is a company claiming to be the #1 builders of recreational vehicles in North America. Keystone is another relatively new company founded in 1996. By 2001 they were owned by Thor. Talk about management changes!  Now back to the Grand Design’s business model, designed to catch flaws before they leave the factory. They built a huge facility where all their products pass through an inspection – after construction.  In their own words;

“Following construction, every Grand Design product goes through an initial quality inspection process. This is usually the final step other manufacturers take before shipping their units. We at Grand Design RV believe that this “industry standard” process falls far short of producing what we would regard as a quality unit. So, at this point in the manufacturing process, we send each unit to our dedicated pre-delivery inspection center where it is meticulously taken through a rigid point-by-point inspection process and final finished.”

I am not qualified to tell any RV manufacture how to run their business. I’ll let my purchasing dollars influence that – to a tiny degree.  But Dr. Deming is qualified!  And I’m not sure Grand Design’s model would be part of the way Deming would suggest the business be run in terms of checking for problems after the fact. How about building quality into the process to start with! In business college, I learned where during World War II Dr. Deming worked in logistics with the US Air Force. Deming would eventually draft what he called the 14 points for management. From what I was taught, Deming took his skills to Japan after the United States drifted into an economy based upon, in rather simple terms, why build it good when you can throw it away and buy another. At the time it might have been easier to get away with poor quality when most of the worlds manufacturing overseas was bombed into oblivion, while ours went untouched. But not for long.

US business management would not listen to Dr. Deming’s ideas. Well, the Japanese listened and with Deming – trashed the US auto market. Legend has it one Japanese executive was in the audience during a day Deming presented his principles. Kaoru Ishikawa listened and later was noted for his own quality management innovations. If you have studied the topic you may have heard of an Ishikawa Diagram which some refer to as a fishbone chart. This is a process of breaking down a problem into its root cause to truly fix the problem.

Dr. Deming believed in erasing anything wasteful. I was taught his motive was not to increase profits, but to rid the world of waste. This included wasteful human effort that could be better spent building something with zero imperfections rather than checking something later to make sure it is built right and if not, build it again. But I get it and I’ll bet Grand Design management gets it better than most. Sometimes things are currently out of one’s control. Perhaps the labor shortage in Elkhart Indiana is having even more of an impact on business. Perhaps Grand Design can’t trust their employees to build it right. Or maybe they have given up during prior attempts.  Who knows for sure.  Maybe they are driven by short term profits because the next recession or major gas price increase will bring an end to them. After a few short years of research, I’ve come to my own opinion of the current RV labor market. And I don’t blame the majority of the employees. If I must blame someone, then I think I’ll blame management because that at least goes with the salary!  I suppose there might be an argument that the consumer could be blamed because they are not willing to pay more for a better built trailer. Personally, I would have to disagree with that, especially since a lot of the parts that are installed into one particular brand of trailer are the same as another brand’s.  More on that later.

Certainly, the way employees are over-worked and paid in a manner that encourages speed over quality could have a little to do with it. Here is a  Reuters article on RV construction labor in Elkhart. Sorry in advance as portions of the article discuss politics. One model is to pay employees by the “piece” where in the employee can go home after producing X number of units with the same pay as if they were there all day. Some manufacturers do not subscribe to this “incentive” and still elect to pay by the hour. Augusta RV and New Horizons come to mind.

I’ll near the conclusion by saying there has to be hope the RV industry will improve either through increased competition, their own initiatives, or hopefully not – through government regulation. Seventeen percent of the 23 full timer’s RV experiences I started off writing about is not going to cut it. Perhaps there will be an awakening in this industry just as there was in the US auto industry brought about through stiff competition by the Japanese. Can you guys remember when one could buy a foreign car at a fraction of the price that lasted a lot longer than a domestic built car? Thank goodness those days are over.

I’m not ready to say the issue is profit driven although it might be. A reader posted this link to See Dealer Profit (thank you Ryan). If what the website is reporting is accurate, RV manufacturers sell to dealerships between about 35% to 50% less than manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). That would mean an RV manufacturer producing an RV with an MSRP of $100,000 is building it, with included cost and profit, for maybe $50,000.  Some may say “these things go through an earthquake everyday” when they are pulled down the road as if to make excuse for repairs even in a new unit.  Well, is that not what they are supposed to be built for? To me $50,000 is a lot of money and is more than most earn in a year.

Why can’t we ask that at least when an RV manufacturer installs another’s part such as a slide motor, water tank or refrigerator as well as their own plumbing and electrical runs or whatever, can’t they do it right the first time. And why would you pay an employee for doing it wrong to start with? And why would you pay a vendor for furnishing defective parts? That makes no sense, especially if it might be at the root of the problem.  And if they cover themselves with short one-year warranties and only build something to last that long well then shame on them. Because that RV might be financed through a bank by an unsuspecting family. And if the management and owners of these companies don’t care beyond a year then there might be a good seat in hell for that attitude.

I’m still buying one!  I’m taking my best shot at finding a good one and crossing my fingers from there on.  Maybe that sums it up as to why they are still selling so many. Maybe my second full-time RV will be a Toyota RV. I hope not.

Augusta RV Factory Tour

We all spend so much time trying to find a new or used trailer that fits our needs. Much time is spent researching the components, frame size, what slide systems are used, do they have disc brakes and more. Most likely the trailer, no matter what upgraded parts it comes with, are only as good as the people who assemble them. Then we consider if something breaks how easy is it to get repaired under warranty; and repaired right the first time. Then comes consideration whether the company who built the trailer will stand behind their warranty.  Like you, I’m spending the necessary time to understand the components of an RV and the reputation of the company that built it.

For my family who reads this blog, and may not be that interest in shinny new RV’s; I’m working on a post regarding Aunt Tancy.  Mary, glad Russ was not with us when we looked at the Mercedes class B’s – we never would have gotten out of there.

Continue reading

RV Research – Augusta RV’s Ambition Fifth Wheel

(update 12/4/16 – Here is a link to our factory tour)

I’ve been doing some research within the 19,000 pound class of fifth wheels to see what’s available compared to the 16,000 pound class.  We are planning to pull our rig with a one ton dually pickup. It seems like staying below 20,000 pounds is recommended for these trucks.  Others say the “better built” trailers are going to be the heavier ones. I’d been watching Augusta RV for some time now and first noticed the company with the introduction of their Luxe fifth wheel. They advertise their trailers as fulltime rigs.  The Ambition caught my eye and someday I hope to tour it. For now, I’ve just been looking at what is published on the web along with photos. For our purposes I rated the Ambition high on my sheet.

 

Karen is in Michigan visiting her family. The next time I’m able to go with her I’d like to take a slight detour and visit the Augusta RV factory. They only sell factory direct and there are no used units in our area. I’d appreciate knowing what you think about buying from a company with no dealerships? To include your opinion concerning if it would be harder to find someone to repair it other than the factory?

I found a great two-part video with details about the 2017 Ambition 38RL construction and amenities.  After spending months studying construction methods I’m feeling more confident about what I’m looking at when comparing rigs. Four pages of notes later I came up with a few of the Ambitions features that were impressive, especially compared to trailers in the 16,000 pound class:

  • Basement is fully finished with no exposed pipes and wires.
  • 40 pound propane tanks compared to the usual 30.
  • The Equalizer six point auto leveling jacks which are found in motor homes.
  • Outside stereo controls with Bluetooth connectivity so you don’t have to go inside to change the channel.
  • 8,000 pound axles.
  • Standard Dexter disc brakes (although the Kodiak brand is higher rated by some).
  • Standard 17.5” wheels with Goodyear H rated tires.
  • MORryde SRE 4000 suspension. (Their Luxe trailer comes standard with the MORryde independent suspension.) As of 2016 many of the trusted sources in the forums say they would not own a trailer without the MORryde independent suspension.
  • Nice separation of bedroom/bathroom space from the living area by a hallway with storage.
  • Nice entryway closet with a seat.
  • Hand laid tile back splashes.
  • Very modern interior design/colors.
  • Standard soft close drawers which are dovetailed. They place the hardware on the bottom of the drawers to allow for a slightly wider drawer space.
  • Real residential four burner stove and oven compared to the smaller RV style.
  • Lights are dimmable and zoned.
  • Heating and cooling temperature sensors spread around the trailer.
  • Thoughtful consideration of which way cabinets open such as easier access above the bed. Outstanding storage in bedroom!
  • Water shut off valves below the sinks.
  • Built-in wireless cell phone charging.
  • 85” sofa and upgradable furniture. The upgrade is Lambright which Augusta claims to be exclusive to them.
  • Colored ceiling.
  • Molded sink in bathroom.
  • Standard king size bed with option for a queen. You can even upgrade to the Sleep Number bed.
  • Heavy closet rods.
  • Up to 4,000 pound cargo capacity.
  • 2.25” exterior walls compared to others with 2”. The trailer is also wrapped with a thermal barrier.
  • Electric rack and pinion for the larger slides.
  • They publish how-to videos on Youtube.
  • 16 gallon hot water tank.
  • Slam latch doors are 1.25” rather than 1”.
  • Full prep for generator to include a button inside the trailer.
  • Setup for Direct TV standard with option for Dish TV
  • True high gloss gel coat exterior.
  • 12” I beam frame with slightly thicker steel. Slide out-rigors are also well designed.

I had a few concerns and have not had the chance to call Augusta RV for comment:

  • Because they have no dealerships I wonder if service work will be harder to get.
  • Not sure there is room for more than two batteries without some changes in the compartment.
  • They advertise as coming standard with a residential fridge running off an 1800 watt inverter. Right now we would prefer an RV type fridge. Again, I’ve not been able to call them to see if that’s an option. (Update – I sent Augusta RV an email asking about a option for a gas/electric fridge. I received a call back and there is an option for this but it is not advertised as an option). I also received an email from the president of Augusta as well as a timely call from one of his staff.
  • I could not find their warranty listed on their web page.
  • I’m still not sure about hung wall construction vs laminated. Although the successful Cedar Creek has hung walls as does the DRV. (update 8/16/16 – There has been a lot of comparison by trusted sources who say their laminated walls were quieter and heating/cooling was easier. However they were comparing hung walls with their laminated walls that had the Blue Dow Foam insulation which is the best of the best.)

In the Ambitions price range we would most likely have to buy a used trailer to meet our budget.  For those that missed it, Howard at RV Dreams posted his article on what trailer he would buy today. This is a well done article using several examples.  In the end, not that he is looking for a new trailer, but he would buy used and spend money hauling it around and getting upgrades.  In one example he suggested he would buy a used quality unit for between $30,000 to $40,000. Then upgrade to a few essentials costing about $8,000 to $10,000. Then spend another $25,000 to $30,000 to remodel it.  That would total $63,000 to $80,000 but includes full body paint. Several others have also suggested that we buy a quality used heavy unit and upgrade it as needed. I’d want to make sure whatever used unit we bought had a frame capable of handling the weight for the upgrades.

I’ve also been spending some time looking at a few trailers which are less costly such as the Jayco Eagle, Grand Design Reflection (my favorite in the class at the show), Montana High Country and Keystone Laredo to name a few.  Some of these trailers are approaching the price range of the 16,000 pound luxury models but would not require a dually truck.

For now, Karen and I are sticking with our goal to “buy our third trailer first.” I suppose this is making our selection more difficult.  The practical side of me says buy something in the middle of the price range. It’s nice to see folks traveling, and having a good time, in rigs within a wide selection of price ranges. I’m sure our budget will dictate what we end up buying.

Below is a good post about a factory tour – where they learned Augusta pays employees by the hour rather than by the piece. Others say only two other custom builders pay by the hour which include New Horizons:

“We just returned from touring many RV manufacturers in Elkhart, IN.  By far the wife and I favorite was the Luxe 39-FB.  We also toured DRV, which isn’t a bad 5th either.  Honestly, it comes down to taste.  I would absolutely chose a Luxe over a DRV.  Mainly because of the color schemes offered and the placement of the vents.  Another thing that really bothered me was the complete chaos at DRV manufacturing.  It left room for error for sure.  They were producing 11 a week compared to the 2 a week at Augusta.  Yes Augusta is new and not well known but they are also hourly employeed and not set to a production number.  I am a commercial aircraft technician by trade and for me its about the little details.  An example would be the insulation being laid in the belly.  Augusta’s was flawless no gaps and went up the side of the frame as well.  DRV not so much, gaps in a lot of places and none on the side of frame.  DRV used screws to hold their side wall structure together.  Augusta welded.  Wall insulation is glued on by both.  Augusta went over the top with the glue using ample, DRV not so much.  They both are custom and say they can make alterations sometimes for the customer.  DRV offers only dark wood.  I asked if a lighter wood could be used as a custom wood.  Nope????  THe icing on the cake for my was usb ports.  Usb ports are becoming a norm in all hotels and you can now get them for your home.  They are standard on a Luxe.  I asked DRV if they could install and the guy laughed and said that was just bling and who really uses them? I wouldn’t worry yourself too much with warranties and all that stuff because anyone whos been doing it for a minute will honestly tell you they are all the same.  About 1 year and after that its like pulling teeth.”

Toured the Cedar Creek Fifth Wheel

Karen and I drove to Grain Valley Missouri. Just got done working a couple of 60 hour weeks and finally got some time off for rest and relaxation. We were needing to use the $25 Camping World coupon we received after joining the Good Sam’s Club in January. We used the membership to get half-off entry at the RV Show.

While in Grain Valley we visited the Cedar Creek fifth wheel dealership to compare the Cedar Creek Hathaway Edition against the less costly Silverback Edition. When we travel to small towns we like to drive down their main street looking for a popular place to eat. We found a nice barbeque restaurant and enjoyed each other’s company. We talked about how proud we are of our daughter and her husband and wondered if they enjoyed a trip they took.

Although I’ve not completed all the research I’m wanting to do about fulltime trailers, at this point I’ve rated the Cedar Creek as among the top five in its class when considering what we are looking for in a trailer.  I found some of the main differences between the Silverback and Hathaway to be the lessor interior trim level in the Silverback, no drop frame so the basement area is smaller, string blinds rather than MCD style shades and no fully wrapped back cap. I’m sure there may be other differences but we decided there was no need to look closer because the smaller basement space took the Silverback off the list for us. The La-Z-Boy living room furniture that comes with both models of the Cedar Creek is very nice. For those that may not know, the Cedar Creek is among the few that are using hung wall construction rather than laminated side walls. So the insulation is not the foam board used by others. Personally, I think the blue Dow foam may be the best material. However, the fiberglass blanket insulation in the Cedar Creek could be better than some of the lessor foam products. And the hung wall construction would be easier to repair than the laminated walls used by others. The Cedar Creek wall insulation is glued in place. Some think it might settle over time. I’m currently studying wall construction methods, such as glued and screwed aluminum framing vs welded. More on that at a much later date.

 (Silverback Edition basement on the left is not a drop frame)

 

We walked through the Camping World Store, who happens to be the local Cedar Creek dealership and spent our $25 on two flashlights. It’s interesting that both of us are now able to walk up and down the rows of RV related items and understand what all the parts and accessories are used for.

We also stopped at the nearby Jayco dealership hoping to take a look at the new Designer fifth wheel. Unfortunately, the trailer that was being shipped to the dealership was damaged in transport. Apparently something came loose under the trailer and put a hole in a laminated side wall, according to the driver. They sent the trailer back to the factory for repair. When a laminated wall is damaged you might have to replace the entire side of the trailer or take it to a fiberglass repair facility and hope you will not see the patch job. I’ve been wanting to compare the all-new Designer against others in its class such as the DRV Mobile Suites. Oh well, at least we have another reason to visit the RV dealership again. They also did not have a Champagne Edition to tour. This model is a step up from the Hathaway.

I should add we also went in one fifth wheel and noticed the dealership must have been preparing it after it was delivered from the factory. The microwave, water heater and fireplace had been pulled out. I noticed a lot of other minor repairs had not been completed such as a torn window screen and gash in the wood dinette top. I thought back to the last RV show when a Heartland Landmark factory representative blamed a lot of post-delivery flaws on the dealerships rather than the factory’s failure to check the quality of construction. Wonder if the reason the larger components were pulled out was because the dealership was fixing something or installing it?

We took some time to walk through the older used fifth wheels to see how they have held up. Boy they smell different. It was easy to tell which ones had animals in them or pipe smokers. And most had staining around the air conditioner vents, crushed down carpeting and rusted parts. The older units did provide a few more examples of floor plans and options we might want to consider.

Cougar 337fls

Keystone Cougar 337FLS Front Living Room

 

 

For fun, we also walked through a Keystone Cougar fifth wheel, model 337FLS. This is the first front living room I’ve found which had no dinette slide under the main awning and good access to the bedroom and refrigerator with the slides in. Keystone needs to work on the seating arrangements in the living room and figure out how to get more outside storage and we might be sold on a front living room. We are still leaning towards a rear living room floor plan.

One last thing I want to pass along. For those that don’t follow Howard’s blog at the RV Dreams site, he is working on a post regarding what fifth wheel he would buy today. I’m thinking the article will include heavy construction. A while back he mentioned visiting with the folks over at Augusta RV. It will be interesting to see what he has come up with. I’m impatiently waiting for the results.

RV Construction Methods – Solar

Over a year ago I had decided to delay most research and selection of various electronic components we would like to install in our future RV. This is because technology changes all the time and what will be available in 2019 is no doubt very different than what’s out there today.  However, alternative energy tech is just to interesting not to follow the trends. Here is a link to where I’ve been keeping notes about solar for those interested.

I’m of the opinion if we could fast forward to the future we would see hydrogen as a preferred alternative energy.

I’ve reached a decision how we will approach adding solar to our rig.  In short, I’ll use the phased approach to solar. Meaning, I’ll start out with very little to nothing while monitoring our typical electrical needs applicable to whatever level of boondocking (camping off grid) we do. Whatever equipment we do have I’ll want to be expandable without having to throw out most of the old stuff.

Portable Solar For Battery Charging

Portable Solar For Battery Charging

After touring various trailers advertised as “solar ready” I find myself only wanting to start out with at least two batteries in a compartment capable of holding additional batteries. The trailers that have a quick connection for portable solar panels directly linked to the battery area are interesting.

We have already decided upon a gas/electric refrigerator so we should be able to get by with a couple batteries to start off. After renting an RV last summer we found it nice to fire up the air conditioner and use the microwave at rest areas for short stops. So some type of generator is in our future as well.  We don’t want to limit where we camp in our RV but also don’t want to spend a lot on technology we don’t frequently use. Our planned style of travel includes spending extended stays in RV parks while workcamping or volunteering.