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Introduction and Camper Recommendation


Jim V
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Hi folks, by way of a belated introduction, we're Jim and Karen from northern Virginia.  We are first time campers and since September happy Oliver owners.  We have been lurking in the forum shadows for months and really appreciate the knowledge and experience we've gathered from reading here.  We've reached out personally to a few of you and want to publicly say thank you for your patient and thorough responses to our questions.  So far we've put about 6K miles on our camper.  We love it.  

 

Question:  our son and daughter in law have seen just how much we enjoy the Oliver and are considering a purchase of a new camper.  But they have 3 kids - ages 4 to 11 - and don't have the budget for an Oliver.  They need to be able to sleep 5.  For the group - if not an Ollie, what SOB trailer would you recommend or wish you would have bought?  In a perfect world, I suspect they would like a 3 season trailer (they also live nearby in VA) and would campgrounds (we have been raving about state and COE stays) and occasional boon docking on weekends.

 

Thanks in advance,  Jim and Karen

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Hi. That's a tough one to answer. A lot of variables to consider and hard to speak to quality today since ramped up COVID production has reportedly led to serious QC issues in an industry that wasn't known for quality even before COVID.

So, the first question: what is their tow vehicle?

Stephanie and Dudley from CT.  2022 LE2, Hull #1150: Eggcelsior.

Tow vehicle: 2016 GMC Sierra 6.0 gas dually 4x4.

Our Oliver journey: Steph and Dud B's RV Screed

Where we've been RVing since 1999:

ALAZCACOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKYLAMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNMNYNCNDOHOKORPASCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYmed.jpg.e6391b9064a3f8f0951751f985664135.jpg

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No personal experience with this one, but it's small, light, sleeps 5, dry bath, and has impressive solar and tank capacities for boondocking. It is a regular mass produced RV, with all the inherent issues that might entail. Not a lot of storage or elbow room since it's so small, but there is a slide and it's light enough for smaller tow vehicles.

Winnebago Micro Minnie FLX

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Stephanie and Dudley from CT.  2022 LE2, Hull #1150: Eggcelsior.

Tow vehicle: 2016 GMC Sierra 6.0 gas dually 4x4.

Our Oliver journey: Steph and Dud B's RV Screed

Where we've been RVing since 1999:

ALAZCACOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKYLAMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNMNYNCNDOHOKORPASCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYmed.jpg.e6391b9064a3f8f0951751f985664135.jpg

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Good question, should have provided.  He has a 2021 RAM 1500 with a 5.7 L V8 Hemi, with tow package.  Towing capacity is 11k.  Not sure on cargo capacity 

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32 minutes ago, Jim V said:

Towing capacity is 11k.

Competent truck, so they can go bigger.

Lance makes nice travel trailers, again by reputation, not my personal experience. One thing I like about them is they use stainless steel screws on the exterior body seams where most manufacturers use painted steel screws. That was a point of water intrusion on one of our previous trailers. The painted screws corroded behind the heads and let water into the seam.

From personal experience, both ourselves and our friends have done OK with Rockwood fifth wheels. Ours did have a bad seal on a slide out, but the factory took good care of us with the repair and added some slide toppers at cost while we were there. So, I can tell you Rockwood customer service and factory repairs were good 5 years ago. All other issues have been minor and easily fixed by me.

All Indiana mass produced trailers are really "some assembly required," unfortunately. It's rare to hear of one rolling off the dealer lot without any problems found, and dealer warrantee repairs can take a long time. They could look for a good used rig that has already had most of the bugs worked out and the depreciation eaten by the previous owner. Just make sure to have it inspected by someone competent and experienced before signing on the dotted line.

Stephanie and Dudley from CT.  2022 LE2, Hull #1150: Eggcelsior.

Tow vehicle: 2016 GMC Sierra 6.0 gas dually 4x4.

Our Oliver journey: Steph and Dud B's RV Screed

Where we've been RVing since 1999:

ALAZCACOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKYLAMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNMNYNCNDOHOKORPASCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYmed.jpg.e6391b9064a3f8f0951751f985664135.jpg

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Jim,

I would suggest they look at Safari Condo Alto trailers.  This is a Candian manufacture.

Well-made, huge windows and very light weight.

If we did not camp often in below freezing temperatures, that would have been out pick.

In fact, we put a deposit down on one prior to seeing an Oliver.

Andrew

Andrew, Carianne and Buffy | San Diego, CA


2019 Legacy Elite II Hull #468 "California Burrito" | 2018 BMW x5 35d 

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The Bigfoot 25b25fb has a queen bed, dinette that makes into a queen and a jackknife couch as another bed. This was the trailer which I would have bought, save for tje fack I am 6’6” tall and the bigfoots have max headroom of 6’4”. Before COVID hit this could have been purchased new from the dealer in Denver for $50k. Now, it seems a lot of other dealers are selling these at MSRP+ ($75k). If they can find a used one or work with Trailer World in Denver they might get one closer to the $55k mark. 

 

Bigfoot is a nicely built trailer and they will work with you on some customizations (per Grant, the owner). 
 

Absent Bigfoot, Lance makes a nice camper, but most have slides. 
 

best wishes to them in their search, just stay away from the big three (Thor, Forest River and Heartland) unless they get a screaming deal and treat it as a disposable asset.

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2021 Elite II, Hull# 898

2018 Toyota Tundra, 2003 Dodge Ram 3500 5.9l SRW

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There is mention above about fifth wheel trailers. Their 1500 pickup is not rated to pull a fifth wheel that matches their needs, no matter what its tow rating. I agree with Mountainman198, were it me, at this point in their lives they might be better served buying a "disposable" trailer and using it until they can afford a more capable tow and a larger trailer.

Steve, Tali and the dogs: Reacher and Rocky plus our beloved Storm, Maggie and Lucy (all waiting at the Rainbow Bridge)

2008 Legacy Elite I - Outlaw Oliver, Hull #026 | 2014 Legacy Elite II - Outlaw Oliver, Hull #050 | 2022 Silverado High Country 3500HD SRW Diesel 4x4 

 

             801469912_StatesVisitedTaliandSteve08-23-2021-I.jpg.26814499292ab76ee55b889b69ad3ef0.jpg1226003278_StatesVisitedTaliandSteve08-23-2021-H.jpg.dc46129cb4967a7fd2531b16699e9e45.jpg

 

 

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Bigfoot and Lance are really nice trailers, and expensive in the sizes to accommodate a family of 5. 

I think it's important to look at options to get the kids camping, now. As the oldest is 11, it's not long til he or she will likely want to stay home, or bring a friend. 

I'd look at all the options with a bunkhouse, and a dinette, and hopefully,  a sofa, too. Plus a queen to make mom and dad comfy. Mom and dad should go to some rv shows, and narrow the options.

Winnebago makes some smaller bunkhouse models, aluminum cage, with a queen, bunks, and dinette sleeping. Plus separate shower or toothbrushing sink. (Remember,  5 people here..) this leaves truck bed room for kid and family stuff... bikes, kayaks, scooters, games, etc.

Lance 2185 has a triple bunk model, plus dinette, plus queen. But it's really expensive,  even used. Lance, however, probably builds the best of them, and prices reflect that.

What I'd look for: aluminum cage, one piece roof (preferably one piece fiberglass laminate like some minnie winnies and geos, and some others, or at the very least, tpo roof vs epdm), at least 2 bunks, and decent sized tanks. Decent sized fridge. (Many winnebago models have a 10 cf fridge, ideal for families. If a small fridge, buy a couple coolers, or a 12v portable cooler.) A lot of solar or expensive lithium batteries is pretty much irrelevant for weekend camping, imo.

I think starting next year we'll see some better prices on lightly used campers, as people will be giving up that camper that they barely used. At least, I hope so.

I personally probably wouldn't buy at new price from Thor or Forest River. They're not totally  junk, but they will need some skills, in all likelihood,  to adjust/fix cabinetry, sloppy installation,  fix caulking, etc. , even new. And, certainly,  if used.

But, let's be realistic.  They work, have 3 school aged kids, and we're probably looking at multi  weekend camping, and one or two long trips a year. Maintain whatever they get, and if they can find a nice barely used model, they won't get hurt too bad in 5 years or so. 

A big family tent is even less, and really teaches camping skills. Another alternative, especially if you're not camping in bear country.

The memories are indeed priceless.  Our adult daughter still tent camps with her friends, and occasionally with us.  It's affordable and fun. Even when it rains, or it's cold, the stories make for good memories. 

I have young friends in Georgia who go camping with their young family (8 and 4) almost every weekend.  The kids are having the time of their lives, and I suspect they'll be lifelong campers. They started with a tent, then bumper pull. 

 

 

 

 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

 

 

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1 hour ago, Mountainman198 said:

treat it as a disposable asset

Yes, in a nutshell. Budget is a determining factor. The Elkhart, IN offerings are cheaper up front but will require considerable self-repair and diligent maintenance. Generally speaking, they're good for about 10 years and then you get a few thousand dollars back when you're done with them. Not an investment, but many young families find this workable, especially if they're handy. 

Some general advice for newbies:

Rent a couple of trailers before buying. Make lists of what works and what doesn't for your family. For instance, we rented a trailer where the bathroom light switch was on the ceiling light itself. Fine for us, but our son couldn't reach it. We had to get up at night to turn the light on for him. Thus, "bathroom wall switch" went on the must-have list for our first trailer. We wouldn't have thought to look for that. 

Avoid the absolute entry-level trailers (lowest price, aluminum sliding, single pane sliding windows, no wall switches, exposed underbelly, cheap fixtures, steel rims, etc.). These might not make it to 10 years, even with maintenance. Pay more for a better unit, within your budget. I'd spend my money on quality over size, given the choice. 

That said, don't go too small if you have growing kids. We've all seen the family that goes popup, small travel trailer, large trailer/fifth wheel while losing money on every one. Better to get it right the first time. Slideouts have their place when you have a rainy day and a bunch of active children. We had multiple slides on our last 2 rigs. No leaks and one slide mechanism issue I fixed myself. That said, now that we don't need the space we're going with a slide-less Ollie. Different times, different needs, different priorities. 

Remember, the truck tow rating includes the weight of the contents of the truck too, including passengers. Factor that into your decision, along with an extra safety margin. 

If the new trailer comes with anything other than Goodyear Endurance trailer tires replace them immediately. Google "RV China bomb" and you'll see why. Been there, done that. 

Once purchased, get on the roof and check all the caulking multiple times a year. Can't stress this enough. There are lots of seams to leak and water absolutely destroys conventional RVs.

Hope they find something that works for them. 

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Stephanie and Dudley from CT.  2022 LE2, Hull #1150: Eggcelsior.

Tow vehicle: 2016 GMC Sierra 6.0 gas dually 4x4.

Our Oliver journey: Steph and Dud B's RV Screed

Where we've been RVing since 1999:

ALAZCACOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKYLAMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNMNYNCNDOHOKORPASCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYmed.jpg.e6391b9064a3f8f0951751f985664135.jpg

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45 minutes ago, ScubaRx said:

There is mention above about fifth wheel trailers.

I only mentioned our fifth wheel to talk our experience with the Rockwood brand. They make travel trailers, too. Agreed, fifth wheels are usually HD truck territory, no matter what the salesman tells you.

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Stephanie and Dudley from CT.  2022 LE2, Hull #1150: Eggcelsior.

Tow vehicle: 2016 GMC Sierra 6.0 gas dually 4x4.

Our Oliver journey: Steph and Dud B's RV Screed

Where we've been RVing since 1999:

ALAZCACOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKYLAMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNMNYNCNDOHOKORPASCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYmed.jpg.e6391b9064a3f8f0951751f985664135.jpg

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I would add to @Steph and Dud B, it's probably hard to find a trailer for 5 (and figure 7 to 8, when friends join later) without slides. Slides leak air and bugs, in our experience. These require constant attention,  as does the roof, caulking, and everything else.

But, if it's in the budget, and you can devote the time to regular maintenance,  it gets the kids out camping.

Which, imo, is most important.  

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

 

 

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9 hours ago, Jim V said:

But they have 3 kids - ages 4 to 11 - and don't have the budget for an Oliver.  They need to be able to sleep 5.

Could the older kids sleep in a tent? 

Oliver Elite II Twin   Tow Vehicle: Chevy Silverado 2500HD.

 

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I’ll add my two Quarters. Inflation these days😜  As most mention Lance Good quality a little more on a budget  the name will give good return on investment. 2nd choice Tab 400 by New Camp a little smaller but also good Quality build. Always personal preference gets the best Trailer. Good luck 

Grant  2022 GMC Denali 2500 HD 2019  Elite 11😎

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Our son bought at Forest River No Boundaries, it’s the large model (19.8?) with a queen bed, two bunk beds and a dinette that makes into an additional bed.  It’s about 23’ and well under 5K pounds.  He pulls it with a Ram Power Wagon.  He has two kids and two dogs, works well for them.  We camped with them outside of Durango last fall.

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Texas Hill Country | Elite II #135 | Ram 2500 6.7L

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Wow.  I check my computer after a day away and it is filled with thoughtful and helpful responses.  Thank you all, the Oliver forum does not disappoint.  You have given our kids some good counsel and plenty of food for thought, including some innovative ideas - camper brands, “disposable” trailers, tent/camper combo, etc.  A great example of group think on this forum.  Most helpful, thanks very much!

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