Trailer Life Everything about Travel Trailers and How To RV from Trailer Life Magazine 2019-07-19T20:56:41Z WordPress Rick A. Diaz <![CDATA[Taming Your Dump Snake: Valterra Adjustable EZ Hose Carrier]]> 2019-07-18T21:58:07Z 2019-07-17T23:54:55Z

RV sewer-hose storage that’s easy on the hose…and you

Camping is fun, but one thing RVers agree on is that dumping the black- and gray-water holding tanks is not a fun part of the experience. In fact, most would say it is the least-fun aspect of RVing, hands down. Unfortunately, it is a necessary task that can’t be ignored, whether you boondock or camp with full hookups. At some point, you will have to dump your holding tanks.

Box noting Cost of $44.95, Difficulty of 1 on a 1 to 3 scale, and Setup time of 30 to 45 minutes.One thing that makes it so unpleasant is having to store the dump hose. For years, many RVers simply slid the hose inside the rear bumper, a practice that many square-tube RV bumpers are designed for. That can cause problems, though. Tight fitment of the hose’s coupler ends can make it difficult to get the hose in and out, while many RV bumpers are somewhat abrasive inside and can wear a hole in the dump hose over time from rubbing against the wire coil inside the hose that keeps it from collapsing.

Owners of an RV without this type of bumper can be forced to put their dump hose inside a storage compartment. That’s not exactly something you want to do with a hose you just emptied your rolling toilet with, unless you have a nonabsorbent molded-plastic compartment at the utility point that’s designed for such storage and the dump tube has been properly flushed and rinsed.

Valterra has been making RV-related products for decades as both an aftermarket and original-equipment supplier. One such product line is Valterra’s Adjustable EZ Hose Carriers. Available in 34-to-60-inch and 50-to-94-inch models, in black or white plastic, the carriers are available to fit almost any RV and length of dump hose, and they add the ability to clean the dump hose while in the carrier by connecting a garden hose to it.

Black hose carrier in place on back of white travel trailer.
Our choice of a black Adjustable EZ Hose Carrier gives our Minnie Plus a stealthy look. We hardly notice it’s there.

We mounted a black 50-to-94-inch Adjustable EZ Hose Carrier to our Winnebago Minnie Plus travel trailer with frame rails that are 69 inches apart. At this frame width, both of the hoses that make up our overall 25-foot dump hose fit into just one tube. If you have an RV with a smaller frame width (making the carrier shorter) or need to store additional hoses, it is easy and affordable to mount a second Adjustable Hose Carrier to accommodate them.

It took us less than 45 minutes to install the carrier and required drilling four holes into the frame from underneath. There’s a third mount for the middle, but it isn’t needed, and we had nothing under our trailer to mount it to anyway. Having something comfortable to lie on under your RV will make the job a lot easier.

Now, we can handle that big snake without worrying about it biting us in the…well, you know where.

Valterra Adjustable EZ Hose Carrier

Headshot of author Rick A. DiazResiding in West Palm Beach, Florida, Rick A. Diaz is an avid mountain biker, woodworker and former Hollywood, California, custom Harley-Davidson shop owner, as well as a motorcycle and truck journalist. Rick will be taking his fiancée, their two retired racing greyhounds and an Italian greyhound puppy on adventures in their Winnebago Minnie Plus while contributing to Trailer Life.


<![CDATA[Perfect Pair: California Central Coast Wine and Great Food]]> 2019-07-15T17:29:38Z 2019-07-12T17:58:39Z

What’s more rewarding after a long day of driving than sipping a crisp and bright, perfectly chilled glass of wine at the campground? Well, if you’re like me, you’d like to end your journey sitting under the lush shade trees at Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground in Buellton, California. The resort sits in the heart of California’s Central Coast, the second-largest winegrowing region in the state.

Leave the campground and head over to Highway 154 in the Santa Ynez Valley for a quaint and lovely town that’s just waiting for you to discover more than 30 wine tasting rooms in just a few short blocks. From delicious restaurants to art galleries and historical buildings, Los Olivas is a dynamic town that boasts a population of just under 1,200.

Light blue bicycles parked in front of white cabins on dirt road
The Santa Ynez Guest Ranch at Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground. Grab a bike & take a ride! Photo credit: Highway West Vacations Facebook page
Silver Airstream parked in nice campground with wooden chairs
Photo credit: Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground Facebook page

My favorite time of the year to visit is in the spring. The hills surrounding the valley are bright green from all the spring grass growth. Cattle are having their calves and the vines burst with green foliage. Vintners are hard at work with their crews making sure the harvest will yield the brightest and most delicious grapes.

The Wineries to Visit

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

Your first stop should be to Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard. Does that name sound familiar? After a successful career in film and television in roles that included Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, actor Fess Parker changed careers to become a vintner. In 1988, Fess purchased 714 acres hoping to create a small winery and family business to one day pass down to his children. One of the two choice wines you should taste include Crockett, named after the famed character he portrayed. This deep red wine is rich in berry flavors, dark fruits, hints of dark chocolate and fragrant French oak. The second tasting I would suggest would have to be Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Viognier. Aromas of white flowers, honeysuckle, white peach and nectarine waft out of your glass. It is a full-bodied viognier, with a crisp, clear citrus and vanilla finish.

Large wooden winery buildings with patio area amidst green trees
Fess Parker Winery, photo credit Fess Parker Winery

Carhartt Winery

This vintner has been creating beautiful wines since 1996. One of their top varieties is their Estate Sangiovese with its oak, berry and pepper notes. This wine is the perfect choice for pinot and cabernet lovers. Noted as their Friday night wine, this is what you want to bring to a fun night with friends while enjoying a great grilled steak or having fun at the campground making pizzas. The Estate Petite Sirah, with its deep mocha and coffee flavors coupled with the brightness of boysenberry and a mellow hint of tobacco, is your choice for any grilled food with rosemary in the marinade or spice mix.

Two wooden outdoor chairs with footstools
Carhartt Winery, photo credit: Trip Advisor

Larner Vineyard & Winery

One of the most unique tasting room locations along Grand Avenue is the Los Olivos General Store, where the Larner wines tasting room sits proudly in a former garage. Here, you can sit back in Adirondack chairs under the old awning and enjoy my favorite picks. First, the Estate Rosé, with its blushing watermelon and soft pink hues is one of the best of this varietal I have tasted. Tasting notes include soft, sweet fruits, lemon peel and hints of vanilla, and just the bare waft of lavender. The 2015 Estate Mourvèdre should be tasted last, possibly because you will not believe its intense yet relaxed flavors. The spicy and robust red offers aromas of blackberry, clove, rosemary wood and crushed pepper. Aged in Russian oak then French oak barrels, the finish is wine silk. I’d pair this wine with a peppercorn-crusted fillet or a rosemary-marinated leg of lamb.

Saarloos & Sons

“Welcome to our home” is not only their motto, it’s their way of life. Family, family and a little bit more family is at the heart of this three-generation operation. From the beautiful images that grace their wine labels to the family members who work tirelessly in the fields, then the hands that pour wine in their tasting room, this brood will eagerly welcome you to the house of Saarloos & Sons winery.

I have a special place in my wine-tasting heart for Keith Saarloos, his father, and the whole Saarloos family. I loved sitting back at their tasting room, sipping the day away while learning about wines from farmers who love their land, their vocations and each other. Funny and sometimes bold, Keith has branded himself as a flannel-wearing, trucker-hat loving, open-road adventurer/poet who’s a true believer in 16-plus hour workdays.

Old Victorian looking wine tasting house with front porch
Saarloos & Sons, photo credit: Saarloos & Sons

Look over their website or social media pages, and you’ll be amazed. Sweet and sincere videos, combined with heartstring-pulling clips show how much this winemaking family loves their vocation, craft and customers.

“We planted the vines, we farm it ourselves, we pick it ourselves, we make it ourselves and you can only buy it from us,” they explain.

There’s an enormous amount of pride with this family and it shows throughout their company. Visit their tasting room, join their wine club and truly see what being a part of their business means.

Sit back and enjoy a tasting flight under the covered porch of their tasting room house. Grab one of the deepest lounge Adirondack chairs I’ve ever sat in and just breathe, sip wine and enjoy all the laughter and friendship that surrounds you.

If I ever had to narrow my personal picks from Saarloos & Sons I would first have to choose MOM 2017 Grenache Blanc. Keith tells the sweetest story about his mom, and how this wine got its name.

“My mom has the glow of a campfire in the wilderness. If you get to stand near, her love just makes you feel better.”

This wine is best chilled, then served along with a fantastic cheese platter or with delicious grilled chicken or spicy grilled shrimp.

Campsite with silver Airstream and park benches with palm trees
Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, Photo credit: Kambria Fischer Photography, Flying Flags

When the boss says, “She’s in charge, we don’t harvest until she says it’s time to,” he means it. Since she was 4 years old, Keith’s daughter, Brielle Saarloos, has been the guiding light for the family’s sauvignon blanc harvest. She is the one and only in the family whose divine right it is to utter the magic words, “It’s time to harvest them.” Now 15, this young lady is a true force in the Santa Ynez Valley. Other wineries know of her talent and are waiting for her to make her own mark in the family business in due time. But for now, for a taste of this brilliant and flavorful wine, I truly suggest the Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy the handwritten note from Keith to his daughter. It will paint the picture for you about the love, passion and purpose of this family and their winery.

Cast iron skillet with chicken and orzo
Chicken and orzo, photo credit: Kate Dunbar

What should we do with all of this wine? Well, I’d say it’s time to cook! Above, I mentioned food that pairs well with vino. Now, I’ll show you how to make delicious one-pan white wine-seared chicken thighs and orzo. Pour yourself a nice glass while it cooks away; you’ll be glad you did.

Nice place setting of chicken and rice dish
Chicken and orzo, photo credit: Kate Dunbar

Wine and Herb Roasted Chicken Thighs with Orzo

Serves 4

4 bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup diced onion

1½ cups orzo

1 cup chardonnay

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

½ teaspoon dried parsley

½ teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the trimmed chicken thighs; season both sides of the chicken with poultry seasoning and place in the fridge until ready to cook.

Preheat a medium-size cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then the chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a clean plate. Add the onions, and sauté until fragrant and translucent for about 2 to 5 minutes. Add the orzo and toast for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the wine and cook until it’s absorbed.

Carefully add in the chicken broth, dried herbs and lemon zest, stirring frequently. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and add the chicken thighs back in the pan along with the juices. Cook covered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed and orzo is tender. Remove from the heat; allow to rest for 10 minutes, still covered. Use a thermometer to test the chicken for doneness (165 degrees), taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.

Serve and enjoy.

Bob Livingston <![CDATA[Nonlethal Self-Defense]]> 2019-07-11T22:36:25Z 2019-07-11T21:31:41Z

PepperBall brings law-enforcement experience to RVers with its LifeLite launcher, designed to neutralize criminal aggression

Personal protection is a subject that is constantly debated among the RV community. The sheer nature of using lethal force to prevent or stop an attack by an unscrupulous person is controversial, and RVers must make critical decisions on whether to carry a weapon to protect themselves. Guns, of course, are at the forefront of this debate and are usually the weapon of choice. But, what if you are not comfortable with handling a gun? After all, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility that goes with gun ownership. Unless you are properly trained, using a gun can be dangerous, and in some cases lead to personal injury and issues with legality — possession and the use of lethal force, depending on the state.

Pepperball info graphicAn alternative, or even a supplement, to owning a gun is to use a pepper product to stop aggression that can lead to bodily injury or death. PepperBall, a company that supplies nonlethal weapons to law-enforcement agencies, markets a uniquely designed propellant device, the LifeLite launcher, that “shoots” pepper balls at assailants to stop aggression and defuse a bad situation immediately.

Packaged into a device that looks like a large flashlight, the LifeLite has built-in LED and laser beams that make hitting the target easy, even for those who are not experienced with the use of weapons. The launcher uses CO2 cartridges as a propellant and can be loaded with five pepper balls that explode on impact. When the red laser dot is on the subject, the pepper ball will hit the intended target as long as the person is within a range of 60 feet.

To put that distance into perspective, that’s about three car lengths, which means users need to be well versed when interpreting what constitutes a threat to one’s self, family and even friends. The performance of the LifeLite projectile far surpasses the capability of pepper spray or a taser, which have effective ranges of 12 and 15 feet, respectively, according to PepperBall.

Sequence of photos to show the loading of the pepperball launcher
A) The plunger is unscrewed and removed from the front of the launcher for loading the CO2 cartridge (B), which is not punctured until the first round is triggered. The cartridge is good for launching five pepper balls. C-D) Removing the rod in the rear of the launcher makes it possible to load five rounds. Photos by Bob Livingston

To test the accuracy of the LifeLite launcher, inert practice balls are pro­­-vided with the kit. We set up a target at a distance that would be easily recognized as “close enough” for an assailant to be a real threat, and test-fired the launcher. Accuracy was good, and getting ac­climated to the flashlight, laser and trigger took only a few minutes. While the launcher is on the heavy side, it’s ergonomic enough to be comfortable to handle by just about anyone.

The pepper is pharmaceutical grade (PAVA), and when it explodes, the powder immediately affects the nose, throat, chest and eyes. After impacting the target, the ball bursts, allowing the pepper powder to disperse into air, forming a 12-foot “cloud” around the attacker. While the laser is accurate, adrenaline can easily affect aiming accuracy, so as long as the ball bursts close to the assailant, the pepper cloud is designed to build an adequate defense zone. The debilitating effects last for 15 minutes, according to the company, which gives the user enough time to diffuse the situation or retreat. And the impact alone on one’s chest might be enough to encourage the assailant to retreat, since it is equivalent to the sting of a paintball.

Most people, and especially crooks, have good respect for a red laser dot. There’s a profound psychological effect one experiences when seeing a red dot on their chest, which could palliate the situation. Bad people will not want to stick around long enough to find out if the other end of the red dot is a gun, which in a crook’s world is likely the case.

As far as the effectiveness of pepper is concerned, we were not able to find a willing volunteer to test the product, for obvious reasons. The company has a strong track record, and I checked with a couple of law-enforcement officers who confirmed that pepper in the concentrations provided by the LifeLite will do the trick. Both officers were impressed with the design and feel of the device.

While it’s easy to build confidence in the capability of the launcher, firing the projectile inside the close confines of an RV might result in collateral irritation for the user. Since the pepper powder is said to produce the aforementioned 12-foot cloud, there is a good chance of getting a rebound effect from the pepper inside a trailer or fifth-wheel. For example, if the launcher is fired in a fifth-wheel from the bedroom into the hallway at an intruder who forced open the entry door, the pepper will likely also affect the residents. But that might be a small price to pay for preventing a serious crime.

Loading the launcher is a pretty simple process. The CO2 cartridge loads from the front through a screw-down plunger. The end of the cartridge is not punctured until the trigger is pushed for the first time, and after that it will propel the other four pepper balls. Five balls, stored in the sleeve used for transporting, are loaded through the end of the handle. The live “rounds” are red, and the practice (inert) balls are purple. One CR123 battery powers the flashlight and laser sight only. Depending on flashlight time, the battery should last for a while, but a rechargeable version is available for $24.95.

A couple of accessories that we found useful were the mounting bracket ($19.99) for storing the launcher in a logical, easy-to-grab location on the wall inside an RV, and the holster ($29.99) that has a clever design for hanging on a belt. It’s on the larger side, but the holster comes in handy while on walks. Refill kits, including five inert and five live balls, and two CO2 cartridges sell for $19.95. Practice balls are available in packages of 20, but live rounds are not sold independent of the refill kit.

PepperBall’s LifeLite launcher provides good peace of mind when it comes to self-defense, but it’s prudent to check with local and state laws as to possession and firing legality.
Obviously, it’s best never to be in a situation where a weapon is needed for self-defense, but reality suggests that it’s better to be prepared.

bob-livingston-headshotAn RV/MH Hall of Fame inductee and publisher emeritus of Trailer Life and MotorHomeBob Livingston has written countless RV technical and lifestyle articles and books, and created and appeared on the weekly television show RVtoday. A lifelong RV enthusiast, Bob now travels and lives full time with his wife, Lynne, in their fifth-wheel trailer. He continues to be a regular contributor to Trailer Life.


Home While We Roam <![CDATA[Solar-Power Survival in Yosemite]]> 2019-07-10T22:07:31Z 2019-07-05T18:00:27Z

Off-the-grid lessons learned from one family’s DIY solar install

Last fall, our family embarked on a journey across the United States in our 30-foot Winnebago travel trailer. We knew our trusty Toyota Tundra and Winne Minnie Plus would keep us safe on the road and in the wild. But there’s always room for improvement, and one modification we decided to make before departing was a completely self-contained power system that included solar panels for charging a lithium-ion battery bank.

The project took about 50 labor hours and a healthy budget. When completed, we felt confident knowing we could generate our own power. This would allow us to journey into the most beautiful and untamed parts of the country while maintaining the safety and comforts of home. Little did we know, we’d soon be putting our hard work to the test.

Always Field Test First

See Related Stories:
• Unplugged: RV Solar Systems
• Electrical Independence

The first real field test of our self-contained power system was in Yosemite National Park in December. As you might have guessed, Yosemite in winter isn’t an optimal scenario. Let me explain how we found ourselves field testing our only means of power in snowy conditions in the semi-wilderness that is California’s Yosemite Valley.

This occurred on the middle leg of our cross-country trip. We’d spent the fall meandering northwest through the Teton Valley in Wyoming, across the sand dunes in Bruneau, Idaho, and through Oregon’s eastern high desert. During this trek, we were lucky to camp at many well-appointed RV resorts and also had sunny boondocking days. We’d been so busy enjoying the full hookups, Wi-Fi, hot tubs and saunas — along with the sunshine and a full battery charge — that we neglected to confirm whether or not our next stop in Yosemite had power. We discovered that bit of crucial information only after we pulled up to the campground gate. The ranger asked with eyes round and full of concern, “You didn’t know that Yosemite campgrounds are dry camping only?” I confidently responded, “Don’t worry, sir, we have a whole off-grid power system!”

We learned a very important lesson during our stay in Yosemite: testing DIY modifications is critical to your ability to stay safe in challenging camping conditions.

Two kids playing in snow with red travel trailer in background
Despite cold temperatures and power challenges, we had an amazing time field-testing our DIY solar system in Yosemite National Park. Photo: Alaina Elliott

Components You Need

OK, before we discuss the next episode of our Yosemite adventure, let’s get into the basics of installing a solar system.

Find Good Sam Parks in Yosemite

While implementing our DIY system, we fell into the same confusion that afflicts many of our fellow DIYers: “So we understand that we need solar panels and we need batteries, but what else do we need?” The biggest mistake we made was not understanding the difference between the solar charger and the inverter/charger. Initially, we did not purchase a solar charger because we thought that the inverter/charger we purchased included the solar-charger functionality. That turned out to be a mistake. We soon realized we did need both an inverter/charger and a solar charger.

Here’s the complete list of system components:

1) Solar Panels — Do the math for what you need. We went with a 400-watt setup and have enough roof space remaining to double that if we choose.

2) Batteries — After a lot of research, we went with LiFePO4 lithium-ion batteries. They’re much more efficient (and expensive) than lead-acid batteries because they can be discharged to much lower levels without risk of damage. This means that if you have a 100-amp-hour lithium battery, you will get nearly 100 amp-hours of power. This compares favorably to a traditional lead-acid 100-amp-hour battery, where getting 50 amp-hours is a good outcome.

3) Inverter/Charger — This is the core of your battery system. It converts 12-volt DC battery power to 120-volt AC power. You need one of these to run your AC-powered equipment, like the microwave or coffee maker, from battery power. You also need one of these to charge your batteries when plugged into shorepower. We went with a 3,000-watt inverter/charger, and this provides just enough horsepower to allow us to run the microwave while we watch television. However, it’s not enough to also run a hair dryer while running the microwave and a TV. Breakers will flip for sure in that scenario.

4) Battery Cables — Do not skimp on battery cables. Get the correct size as specified by your inverter/charger. You can blow fuses and even cause a fire if your battery cables are undersized. Our system required 4/0-gauge battery cables.

5) Solar-Charge Controller — The solar charger functions independently from the inverter/charger. The solar charger is connected directly to the batteries and enables the charging of the batteries by harvesting power that the solar panels generate. The solar-charge controller ensures that your batteries charge within the specifications they were designed to charge in. The charge controller ensures that the batteries are not overcharged and keeps them topped up via a “float” routine when they are fully charged. You must have this component if you want your solar panels to be able to charge your battery bank. You need to be as efficient as possible in harnessing that energy from the sun. Consider purchasing the most expensive charge controller you can afford. Every watt you harvest counts when you depend on your off-grid power system.

Components You May Not Need

There are a few items we chose not to include in our system. Because we elected to disconnect our RV’s ability to receive a charge from the truck’s alternator, we did not need to install a battery-isolation manager. Because we chose LiFePO4 batteries and did not worry about damage caused by low voltage, we did not purchase a battery guard used to automatically disconnect the battery at a certain low voltage. Lastly, we chose our inverter/charger’s install location for its easy access. That allowed us to forgo purchasing the remote-control add-on because we could just turn it off and on manually at the inverter itself.

Running Air Conditioning and Heat on Battery Power

There are lots of tips and success stories about enabling RV air-conditioning units to run off battery power. It can certainly be done with the help of some type of easy-start soft starter, which will ensure you don’t blow fuses during the first phase of starting the air conditioning. We had to stop and ask ourselves if it was worth it. The air-conditioning system pulls a tremendous amount of amps and would drain our battery bank very quickly. The only way to work around this is to have a much, much larger battery bank than is required to run the rest of your AC-powered systems. If we chose to go with top-of-the-line lithium-ion batteries, we would have been looking at north of $10,000, just for batteries. If we attempted traditional lead acid to reduce costs, we wouldn’t have had room on the rig.

As we progressed through our solar research, we decided to discard any plans to try to run the air conditioning off the batteries. We saved a lot of time and money by instead designing a trip that kept us in cool weather where we would need only our MaxxFan system and open windows to stay comfortable.

What about heat? The battery bank has no trouble handling the furnace. Because most RV furnaces run on propane, the electrical demands are very low. The only electrical requirement is a small draw to keep the pilot light running. The takeaway here is that you can plan to be in cold weather on batteries only, but consider that your boondock planning should keep you out of the heat of high summer as well.

Freedom from a Generator (But You Still May Need One)

Prior to arriving at Yosemite, our power system had worked so well that we hadn’t even considered that we might need a generator. We spent many nights boondocking in Walmart parking lots with no hiccups, so having a generator seemed like a waste of precious cargo space. But thanks to our cloudy and snowy experience in Yosemite, we gained an appreciation for having power at the pull of a starter cord. We’ve also come to deeply understand why most RVers dislike generators as a necessary evil.

We became generator owners when we realized we couldn’t risk another cloud-blanketed day in the shadow of Glacier Point. Our solar panels generated 10 to 20 watts and only a few amps of power, which was not remotely enough to provide a lasting charge to the battery bank. Clearly, that ranger at check-in understood that our solar gear was inadequate for those conditions.

So on the morning of day three, we made an emergency run out of Yosemite Valley on California Route 140 heading east. At the time, Route 140 had a road-condition status of R1. For native Floridians like ourselves and others from warm climates, R1 means snow chains are required but snow tires are allowed. We had neither, but we do drive a 4×4 Toyota Tundra, so we decided we could make it. Shortly before 10 a.m. on a snowy morning, the whole Home While We Roam crew set out to obtain a generator in Merced, some two hours away.

We were triumphant in our return to the valley at around 4 p.m. with our newly acquired generator. But this new piece of hardware — like the evil beast it is — quickly wiped out the levity from our moods. The generator started nicely on first crank after being filled with fuel and oil. Oh, but the noise! Its engine’s roar ruined the winter tranquility that came with being one of only two RVs in the last open section of Yosemite’s snow-covered Upper Pines Campground.

Prior to this, for the first two days of the visit, the only noise we’d added to the environment was the laughing of our children and the barking of our dogs. Then we found ourselves dependent on a roaring machine that slurped dirty petroleum products with no regard for where its next feeding might come from. Thankfully, the National Park System has the good sense to know these beasts can’t be left to run free and must be contained to morning and evening exercise sessions only.

On day three of our nine-day stay, we realized why the solar lovers prefer off-grid power to combustible engine-generated electricity. It isn’t about saving the earth and being the best “you” you can be. It’s about preserving the freedom that you seek from being in a remote destination in the first place. You begin to live by generator hours. You don’t dare wake and go for a hike because you might miss the full two hours needed to charge, meaning you may not have heat when night falls. Instead of looking forward to a snowy visit to the meadow in front of El Capitan, you wish the snowstorm will break so you can make yet another journey over R1-rated Route 140 eastbound to the closest fuel station, 35 minutes away.

The generator is the giver of heat but robber of freedom. It’s something to contemplate as you consider a DIY RV solar project.

Yosemite mountain on cloudy day
Half Dome in a winter-wonderland Yosemite National Park. Photo: Alaina Elliott

What Have We Learned Living on Solar?

Hands down, the greatest benefit we’ve received from our self-contained power system is freedom. Can we demonstrate a return-on-investment for the system install versus savings from more boondocking?

If we didn’t say it was challenging, we wouldn’t be honest. This power system was expensive! But it gets a lot easier to justify when we consider the nonmonetary benefits of our solar-powered energy system. About 99 percent of our trips don’t involve the weather conditions we experienced in Yosemite, and this is where solar really shines. Very soon after the weather in Yosemite challenged our solar power system and won, we were back out to the Pacific coast, staying on Ventura, California’s Rincon Parkway with no campsite electricity and had no troubles.

We never worry about getting a generator out and chaining it up to the rig or annoying our neighbors with generator noise. We never worry about having coffee in the morning or being able to microwave a snack for the kids. As long as the sun is shining, we feel a freedom unique to life in a self-contained solar-powered RV.

Young couple smiling wearing hiking gearHome While We Roam is an Atlanta, Georgia-based family who love RV life. They’ve traveled more than 15,000 miles around the United States with their red Winnebago Minnie Plus travel trailer in search of simpler living, deeper family ties and epic adventures! Find them on Instagram @homewhileweroam.

See Related Videos

Jerry Smith <![CDATA[Add a (Veranda) Room to Your RV]]> 2019-07-03T16:32:17Z 2019-07-03T15:49:28Z

Compatible with both power and manual awnings, Dometic’s Veranda Room features a fast hang-up-and-zip setup. The fabric and mesh are durable, quick-drying and nonflammable. The starter kit and additional zippered panels measuring 2, 4 and 8 feet create any size room. Universal attachments fit most patio awnings, and there are models to fit high- and low-profile RVs. The roll-down privacy screens are sewn in, and the doors can be positioned in multiple locations.

MSRP: $575/standard, $583/tall

Sponsored Content <![CDATA[Sponsored Content: Selective Focus with Tamron 18-400mm All-in-One Zoom]]> 2019-07-02T23:35:41Z 2019-06-30T21:09:54Z

Ken Hubbard, PRO PHOTOGRAPHER & TAMRON FIELD SERVICES MANAGERCreate depth in your image using a shallow depth of field and a large dynamic range between subject and background. People first think about creating depth in their images by using good foreground, mid-ground and background subjects. This is true, but you can also create depth in your images by looking for good dimensional light and controlling how much is in focus or out of focus in your image.  First, look at the light hitting your subjects and hitting the background.
Then try to find a subject that has good light hitting it but the background has much less falling on it, this will create a larger dynamic range between subject and background.  This will give the effect of the image above, a nicely lit subject but a darker background creating depth in the image. If the foreground and background are somewhat the same density with less dynamic range, your image will look much flatter.  Also use a shallow depth of field, this will cause the background to go blurry while the subject remains sharp.  Open up your aperture to 5.6 or 6.3 (depending on your focal

Tamron 18-400mm all-in-one zoom
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD (Model B028). For Canon and Nikon mounts Di II: For APS-C format DSLR cameras.

length) and focus on the subject, this will help minimize the depth of field and give that nice soft effect to the background.

—Ken Hubbard
Pro Photographer and Tamron Field Services Manager

For more information on the Tamron 18-400mm lens, 
please go to

See Related Video:



Donya Carlson <![CDATA[All in the Family: Winnebago’s Minnie Plus 29RBH Review]]> 2019-06-21T21:43:38Z 2019-06-30T20:51:33Z

Winnebago’s Minnie Plus 29RBH has an open living space, an impressive kitchen and a three-bed bunk room that allows kids to be kids

I was kicked back in a cushioned lounge chair, tapping away on my laptop under blue skies at an upscale desert RV resort located east of Los Angeles. Not a cloud was to be found on this 78-degree day, and in between the high-end RVs parked across from me, I caught glimpses of the picture-perfect golf course with its fountains, waddling ducks and colorful beds of flowers. Jovial folks walked by my RV site, some on a fast-paced mission to stay in shape, others with dogs impatiently pulling them along, and some on a leisurely stroll who stopped to chat. Everyone was happy, relaxed and friendly. There are worse places to be stuck, but stuck I was for a while until a needed hitch part arrived.

I was “practicing” retirement while hanging out in a Minnie Plus fifth-wheel parked on a site within the five-star resort community. The Minnie Plus 29RBH was introduced by Winnebago in 2018 and is one of four floorplans built on a BAL NXG-engineered chassis. This two-slide, rear-bunkhouse model with its light and bright interior is 3 inches shy of 34 feet and has a gross vehicle weight rating of just under 10,000 pounds. The Minnie Plus line is offered in a half-dozen color choices ranging from bold to subtle, including a green one that may be hard to locate if you’re camping in a dense forest.

Photo of Winnebago Minnie Plus 29RBH fifth wheel trailer interior, galley area
A perfect balance of functional space and eye-catching appeal, the kitchen, with it expansive countertop and window, is the heart of this fifth-wheel. The bunk room is off to the right of the kitchen.

Welcome Home

When not lounging outside in the sun, my seat of choice was in one of the chocolate-brown leatherette theater recliners conveniently located just a few steps inside the entry door. The comfy two-seater placed us in a perfect location to view the 43-inch HDTV on a bracket that simply pulls out without the use of a release lever. Two cupholders are located in the seating’s shared center armrest, and the console is good for stowing TV and fireplace remotes. Overhead are the King Jack over-the-air HDTV antenna controls, and push-button-activated LEDs are affixed to the underside of a large row of cabinetry. The person working in the kitchen can view the telly, too, without blocking the line of sight for the ones lazing in the recliners.

More Family-Friendly RVs

The person sitting with their tootsies up on the footrests closest to the entry door may encroach on walk space at the edge of the kitchen, depending on how much of his or her legs overhang. Naturally, this was my husband’s favorite seat, and with Bill being 6 feet, 4 inches, I had to skirt by his stretched-out legs when passing between the living area and bedroom.

Below the kitchen counter is a 26-inch Greystone electric fireplace with remote control, timer and nine flame intensities. Heat settings range from 59 to 90 degrees, and the fireplace kept us toasty during cool evenings. Our site backed to a high cinder-block wall, and when the 30,000-Btu furnace was needed, it sounded like a V-8 reverberating off that wall, so we preferred the quieter and cheerful warmth of the fireplace.

The living area is welcoming and spacious with its Pearl color scheme, 8-foot-high curved ceiling, big windows, and light-colored walls and cabinets in Sandstone. Floor space is more than 5 feet wide with the slide open. The U-shaped dinette, with its freestanding table and 4-inch-thick cushions, can squeeze in five adults, though legroom is at a premium. Under each dinette bench is carpeted storage, but it’s not especially convenient to get to since it has to be accessed from the top, and the cushions need to be removed before lifting up the plywood base. Drawers would be a better choice.

Winnebago Minnie Plus 29RBH fifth wheel trailer floorplan
A) Bunk beds, B) Refrigerator, C) U-shaped dinette, D) Theater seating, E) Wardrobe, F) 60×80-inch queen bed, >br>G) Entertainment center/countertop

USB and 120-volt AC outlets bookend the dinette, with its pendant light, and a release lever on the table starts the process of transforming it into a 75-by-44-inch fireside bed. Large windows allow for a wonderful cross breeze. At night, pull down the pleated shades on the dinette’s windows and close the aluminum mini blinds on the kitchen window, and the 29RBH’s interior is illuminated with abundant lighting.

With its big marble-look, solid-surface countertop, plentiful storage and 70-inch-long window, the kitchen is what most impressed everyone who walked through the door (and there were a lot since the resort’s curious RVers liked to check out others’ homes). The kitchen’s landing space is accentuated by sunlight that pours in through this window that spans almost the length of the counter.

Photo of Winnebago Minnie Plus 29RBH fifth wheel trailer interior, exterior What we liked

Impressive, roomy kitchen with enormous counter space and sliding window; comfy recliners; light, bright and homey feel.

What we’d like to see

Refrigerator and bunk-room accessibility with slide retracted, more cargo-carrying capacity, drawers in dinette benches.

Working at the expansive, 2-foot-deep countertop was a joy for those of us who like to spread out when cooking. There was room to have multiple bowls and utensils nearby and to plate food right from the three-burner Suburban range, with its flush-fitting fold-down cover. At one point, we had six dinner plates lined up on the counter to the left of the range. Push-button LEDs above the sink and under the cabinets light up counter space.
Over the range is a 1-cubic-foot stainless-steel microwave, the bottom of which is placed at the 5½-foot level, which may be a stretch for shorter folks to reach into or see the controls. On the flip side, it’s out of reach of children.

The two-basin stainless-steel sink, with an arched pull-down faucet and sprayer, is housed in the counter across from the fridge, and the wall behind it is covered with a sealed white backsplash that looks like tile. One swipe of the sponge after doing dishes and water splatters were gone. Sink covers add another 2½ feet of working counter space. In fact, there’s enough room in the L-shaped kitchen that one person can be doing KP duty at the sink while another is cooking at the range without intruding on the other’s elbow room.
Plentiful kitchen storage space is located high and low, with large cabinets under the sink, a double-door cabinet with tempered glass over the sink and four drawers. The corner cabinet is so deep that some of the items on the top shelf ended up so far back that I (at 5 feet, 9 inches) was on tiptoes to retrieve them. The overhead cabinets are set 5½ inches below the ceiling, which leaves overhead space for storing baking sheets and flat items.
Better to take them down before hitting the road, or whatever’s up there may land on the waterproof Congoleum floor.

Photo of Winnebago Minnie Plus 29RBH fifth wheel trailer interior, dinette area
The U-shaped convertible dinette’s freestanding table straps down for travel. Brown leatherette seating
complements the dinette’s light cloth-back cushions and the warm-toned cabinetry in Sandstone.

Speaking of which, after some bite-size pieces of chopped potatoes launched themselves off the counter, requiring me to dive to the floor to stop them from going into the floor register between the range and fireplace, I moved to the corner counter to finish prepping breakfast where there is no register.

Among the plentiful storage is a drawer running the expanse of the kitchen counter that we loaded up with movies for the Bluetooth-equipped Jensen stereo, with DVD player and HDMI port, as well as a handy shelf below the TV with USB and 120-volt AC outlets. This is no wimpy shelf and a perfect place to keep keys, sunglasses, spices, coffee cups and cell phones for quick access. The easy-to-view iN-Command control system is located inside the entry door and can be paired to a cell phone or tablet for monitoring and operating the RV’s systems.

With the galley’s slideout stowed, there’s more than 2 feet of walk space to get around, but one of the theater seats is blocked. Most of the kitchen appliances can be used, except for the 8-cubic-foot Dometic refrigerator, or freezer, for that matter. The two-way (LP-gas and 120-volt AC) fridge almost contacts the upper and lower cabinetry by the sink, and blocks access into the rear bunk room. When packing up the 29RBH from our home, where extending the slide isn’t wise because of traffic, it was disappointing that I couldn’t access the fridge. And extending the slide partially didn’t work since the fridge door swings open from the bunk-room side.

Photo of Winnebago Minnie Plus 29RBH fifth wheel trailer interior, bedroom area
The master’s wardrobe, housed in a slide, extends into the bathroom for quick access to clothing.

Fit for Three

Photo of Winnebago Minnie Plus 29RBH fifth wheel trailer interior, bunkroom area
Catching some Z’s: The 29RBH has five designated beds, with three in the bright, kid-friendly bunk room, and a queen in the well-appointed master bedroom.

Since the bunk room is not accessible with the galley’s slideout retracted, if it’s not practical to open the slide during pack-up, you’ll need to plan ahead for what gets stowed there. Several parents joked that “when you’ve had it up to here with your kids,” you can send them to their room and close the slide! The bunk room is light and bright with windows on three walls — a window/emergency exit next to the top bunk, another large one over the single bunk, plus a window on the right as you walk into the room.

With three 6-foot-long single beds covered with soft Teddy Bear bunk mattress covers, an optional TV, shelving for toys and plenty of storage for more toys (including under one bed), kids will be delighted with their own space. Two bunks are low and one is high, and some parents may have to step on the lower bunk to plant a good-night kiss on the child in the upper bunk.

Bed and Bath

At the other end of the 29RBH, up two steps, is the master bedroom and the bathroom with its two entries via sliding doors that lock for travel. Sitting on the top step by the entry door turned out to be the perfect place to put on my shoes, and the lower step would likely be a good spot for kids to do the same while they’re running out the door.

The bedroom’s light decor, carpeted walk space on each side of the residential-size queen bed and curved wall, with overhead shelf and mirrored wardrobes, emanates tranquility. The shelf has a lip that keeps stuff from rolling off and is situated about 26 inches over the head of the bed. It took us a few hits on our heads from that shelf while crawling into bed to acclimate to it. Overhead are a 120-volt AC outlet, two USB ports and flexible reading LEDs that twist into position for the user.

Photo of Winnebago Minnie Plus 29RBH fifth wheel trailer interior, bathroom
The bathroom’s rounded glass shower door and marble-look counter augment walk-about space. The bedroom’s large wardrobe, housed in a slideout, extends into the bathroom. With the slide retracted, cabinets and drawers are still accessible.

The comfy 7-inch-thick mattress rests on a platform that can be lifted up via gas struts to reveal carpeted storage that is almost a foot deep. A 32-inch TV on a ceiling-mounted bracket over the foot of the bed swings down for good viewing while lying down, and two speakers are ceiling-mounted.

The wardrobe, housed in the streetside slideout, has multiple drawers, adjustable shelves and a hanging clothes rod, and conveniently extends into the bathroom. With the slideout in the travel position, entry into the bathroom from the bedroom is blocked, but all of the wardrobe’s compartments can be accessed, although one drawer opens only halfway. While in our RV site, this wardrobe-sharing-a-bedroom-and-bathroom setup made it convenient to get ready.

The bathroom’s open feel is enhanced by a rounded glass shower enclosure and curved countertop. The curved shower has a wide entry and, with the skylight, offers more than 6½ feet of height. The handheld sprayer has a shutoff valve, and there are two good-size functional shelves for shampoo bottles. For me, the sink, set in the solid-surface 33-inch-high counter, was low, so I had to lean over quite a bit to wash my face, but the height is a plus for kids.

Open counter space allows room for toothbrushes, combs, lotions and soaps, and left a good place underneath to stow a little wastebasket that was out of the way. The bathroom’s LEDs light up the place, and over the mirrored medicine cabinet is a stylish glass light.

Photo of Winnebago Minnie Plus 29RBH fifth wheel trailer interior, outdoor kitchen
The 29RBH’s outdoor kitchen is placed at the rear of the fifth-wheel so it’s conveniently out of the walk path. The two-burner range glides out for quick setup.

Outer Limits

A Lippert Solid Step stores inside the 5-foot, 9-inch-tall entry door and lowers easily for a rock-solid walk up its four steps. An outdoor kitchen, housed at the back of the 29RBH on the curb side, has a glide-out two-burner range, a 1.7-cubic-foot fridge, a plastic sink, an LED and a 120-volt AC outlet. The outside kitchen’s door is held up with magnetic latches, as are the doors on the 29RBH’s huge front pass-through storage that’s accessible from three sides. Power stabilizing jacks are standard, and an electric four-point leveling system is an option.

With such a lovely setting, we spent a lot of time outside under the shade of the 19-foot electric awning, with an LED light strip, operated through the iN-Command system. The bedroom’s wardrobe slide, at 6 feet, 2 inches, is situated high enough that I could walk under it when accessing the battery compartment, water hookups and outside sprayer. The locked docking station for freshwater allows the hose to be routed underneath so it’s not hanging off the side of the RV, and there are satellite and park cable hookups. Standard features include a black-tank flush, an undermounted full-size spare and a Curt hitch receiver rated for 3,000 pounds. The 29RBH came outfitted with the Extreme Weather Package, featuring heated and enclosed holding tanks.

From a space standpoint, the 29RBH can handle a family, but loading will be an issue. The wet weight (full water and propane, and no gear) of 9,408 pounds left only 587 pounds of cargo-carrying capacity (ccc). This is inadequate for a family of five. To carve out more ccc, owners can opt to carry minimal water (which adds more than 500 pounds if full), especially when headed to RV parks with hookups.

I packed up just as the wind was starting to pick up and headed toward home with a multitude of wind turbines in full operation. I stopped to fuel up, and when I went to retrieve the receipt, the attendant said, “Here’s your receipt for your five-star hotel on wheels!”

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but since he’d mentioned it, I started thinking of the Minnie Plus 29RBH as more like a Disneyland Hotel, with its three-bed bunkhouse, inviting central living area, delightful kitchen and comfortable bedroom that will keep the whole family happy. And here, the kids stay free.

Special thanks to Barber RV in Ventura, California.



Exterior Length 33′ 9″
Exterior Width 8′
Exterior Height 11′ 11″ (with A/C)
Interior Width 7′ 9″
Interior Height 8′ living, 6′ 3½” bedroom
Construction BAL NXG-engineered chassis, aluminum framing, fiberglass laminated side walls, TPO seamless roof, tongue-and-groove plywood floor with aluminum supports, enclosed underbelly, heated holding tanks
Freshwater Cap. 50 gal.
Gray-Water Cap. 82 gal.
Black-Water Cap. 41 gal.
LP-Gas Cap 14 gal.
Water-Heater Cap. 10 gal.
Refrigerator 8 cu. ft.
Furnace 30,000 Btu
Air Conditioner (2) 15,000/13,500 Btu
Converter 50 amp
Battery Dealer supplied
Tires ST225/75R15E
Suspension Leaf, Equa-Flex
Weight (freshwater and
LP-gas full, no cargo) 9,408 lbs.
GVWR 9,995 lbs.
GAWR (2) 5,100 lbs.
Cargo Carrying Cap. 587 lbs.
MSRP, Base $51,648
MSRP, As Tested $54,695
Basic Warranty One year


Kerri Cox <![CDATA[A-OK: Easy-Towing Trailers with Iconic Charm]]> 2019-07-16T22:10:13Z 2019-06-29T20:32:11Z

With characteristic peaked roofs and rigid walls, lightweight A-frame trailers are not only easy to set up, take down and tow, they have a charm all their own

Drive through any venerable beach town, mountain retreat or lakeside vacation community, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot an A-frame house. Following World War II, Americans invested in second homes in record numbers, with A-frame architecture being an affordable and stylish option. In the early 1970s, the distinctive triangle shape made its way to the RV industry.

Perhaps inspired by the popularity of A-frame houses, an Oregon do-it-yourselfer built what is thought to be the first A-frame trailer. The concept soon caught on, and its creator, Ralph Tait, packed up and moved to Pennsylvania to go into business selling trailers under the Aliner moniker. Over the years, other manufacturers followed suit.

Technically, A-frames are a type of pop-up trailer, since they fold flat into a towable box for transport and storage, and have to be “popped up” before use. However, unlike traditional pop-ups with canvas sides and plastic windows, A-frames have rigid, insulated walls with solid windows and skylights. When unfolded, they literally resemble the letter A from the outside, with an apex at the center of the roof.

Most A-frames extend less than 20 feet and have a gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) from 2,000 to 3,800 pounds. With their light weight, nimble towing, easy setup and considerable charm, they have an enduring appeal.

Allure of the A-Frame

Who might want to buy one of these nifty little trailers? The A-frame design is most popular with solo travelers and couples but can also suit small families. While many models have room for one or two occupants, larger A-frames have comfortable sleeping space for up to four.

Unlike some new RVs, A-frames don’t come with electric fireplaces or kitchen islands, but their lightweight design offers many benefits. For starters, the trailers don’t require a large vehicle for towing, and owners can often repurpose their daily ride as a tow vehicle. Their light weight and low profile also make them a fuel-efficient option.

Because of their compact size, A-frames can be stored in a home garage, carport or almost anywhere a parked car would fit, and they slip effortlessly into municipal, state and national park campgrounds. Once in the campsite, these trailers can be set up quickly, even by solo RVers. It typically takes no more than five minutes to convert an A-frame from travel mode to living space, especially with models equipped with power roof lifts.
Spring-loaded mechanisms make the setup process easy for even the full-manual models.

While A-frames share many benefits with conventional pop-ups, the laminated side panels might be their biggest advantage, providing protection from the weather and adding an element of security over canvas. A-frames stay cooler than pop-ups in summer and warmer in winter, and they easily block out rain and wind.

Although only a few manufacturers build A-frame models, those dedicated to the design have continued to innovate and update this classic, and a surprising number of floorplans and options are available. When Ralph Tait was tinkering in his garage nearly half a century ago, he probably never imagined that his rolling invention would one day come with bunk beds, much less LED lighting, Wi-Fi extenders and solar-panel prep.

Whether a solo RVer is looking for something simple for road trips or a family of four is seeking a minimalist option, an A-frame trailer just might be the perfect choice. Here are four of our favorites from among the current offerings.

Rockwood A122BHESP

Interior photo of Rockwood a-frame trailerForest River’s Rockwood division rolls out nine A-frame models that the company calls “hard-side pop-ups.” Among them are four A-frames sold with the Extreme Sports Package (ESP). These are ideal for active solo travelers and couples seeking a small trailer for big adventures.

Exterior photo of Rockwood a-frame trailer in raised positionHard-side ESP trailers come with roof-mounted crossbars and an expanded front deck for transporting bicycles and other recreational gear, welcome features for outdoor enthusiasts. The package also supplies added ground clearance and 15-inch Dunlop Mud Rover radial tires for more rugged adventures, along with modern conveniences like an awning, Wi-Fi booster, USB charging ports, and satellite- and cable-TV hookups.Rockwood trailer folded down for travel

One of the smallest of the ESP A-frames, the A122BHESP measures just over 19 feet. Large tinted windows make it seem roomier inside, and an optional dormer adds headroom. A heated memory-foam mattress warms up the 54-by-80-inch flip-up bed that fills the rear of the trailer. Below it, storage space is accessible from the interior or exterior.

If more sleeping space is needed, the 45-by-80-inch front dinette folds down into a bed. A sink, microwave, 1.9-cubic-foot refrigerator and three-burner stovetop equip the kitchen, and a gas grill moves the cooking outdoors. For rinsing off outside, there’s a coiled spray hose. There is no toilet, so when nature calls, campers will need to take their business elsewhere or figure out a way to pack along a portable toilet.

While compact, the A122BHESP has a claimed carrying capacity of 1,372 pounds. Gas-strut
lift assists speed setup, and the white fiberglass exterior has a modern touch with minimal graphics.floorplan of Rockwood a-frame trailer

Exterior Length 19′ 2″
Exterior Width 7′
Interior Height (Open) 7′ 11″
Exterior Height (Closed) 5′ 8″
Freshwater Cap. 26 gal.
Black-/Gray-Water Cap. N/A
LP-Gas Cap. 5 gal.
UVW 2,428 lbs.
Hitch Weight 325 lbs.
Axle Weight 2,065 lbs.
GVWR 3,800 lbs.
MSRP, Base $16,913

Flagstaff T21DMHW

Interior photo of Flagstaff a-frame trailerLike its sister manufacturer, Rockwood, Forest River’s Flagstaff brand offers nine A-frame models. The nearly 21-foot Flagstaff T21DMHW delivers more floor space than the Rockwood A122BHESP, and the headroom-extending front dormer is standard.

Exterior photo of Flagstaff a-frame trailer in raised positionThe side dinette is cozier than the Rockwood’s, at 33 by 64 inches, and the flip-up bed is wider, at 60 by 80 inches, with the same thermostatically controlled mattress. The small kitchenette has similar necessities but a larger 2.5-cubic-foot refrigerator, and the outdoor grill likewise comes standard.

Exterior photo of Flagstaff a-frame trailer in folded positionThe big difference in the T21DMHW is its compact, hard-side wet bath, which includes a cassette toilet that holds 6 gallons, and a square tub and spray hose, requiring a portable tank. While not roomy enough for a comfortable bath, the space is functional, and the outside shower adds a bathing option.

The front of the trailer includes a large exterior storage box with a flip-up lid. Below this, a sliding drawer runs the entire width of the unit. Opening a side door allows easy access to this extra storage, a prime amenity in a small towable.

With a base retail price under $19,000, the T21DMHW is a good choice for cost-conscious travelers who want a small trailer with everything needed for self-contained camping. Cargo-carrying capacity is a respectable 653 pounds.

floorplan of Flagstaff a-frame trailer

Exterior Length 20′ 10″
Exterior Width 7′
Interior Height (Open) 8′ 5″
Exterior Height (Closed) 5′ 8″
Freshwater Cap. 26 gal.
Black-/Gray-Water Cap. N/A
LP-Gas Cap. 10 gal.
UVW 2,700 lbs.
Hitch Weight 353 lbs.
Axle Weight 2,309 lbs.
GVWR 3,353 lbs.
MSRP, Base $18,986

Aliner Expedition

Exterior photo of Aliner-Expedition a-frame trailer in raised position

Interior photo of Aliner-Expedition a-frame trailerAliner is where the A-frame was born, but the company hasn’t stayed in the past. Its 2019 A-frame lineup demonstrates how Aliner has evolved over the years, updating the styling and offering modern amenities. Aliner has nine A-frame trailer lines, and the Expedition is one of the largest, coming in at 18 feet long.

Each of the Expedition’s three floorplans features a front dinette, convertible to a 40-by-80-inch bed. At the rear, choices include a dedicated 60-by-80-inch bed with storage below, a sofa bed or a pair of twin beds with a central nightstand. With sleeping space for up to four, all Expedition models have room for a small family.

The white interior feels bright, spacious and modern, particularly with the natural light and extra headroom provided by the optional front and rear dormers. A Fan-Tastic Vent fan keeps fresh air circulating inside.

Interior photo of Aliner-Expedition a-frame trailerThe central kitchenette has a flush-mount sink, a three-burner stovetop, a microwave and a 3-cubic-foot refrigerator with a freezer. An optional swivel cassette toilet can be added for self-contained camping, and an outside shower comes standard.

The Expedition has a substantial 1,150-pound cargo capacity, but that can diminish quickly when adding options such as the dormers, furnace and wall air conditioner.

floorplan options for Aliner-Expedition a-frame trailer
All Aliner Expeditions come with a dinette that converts to a bed. The main difference is the rear queen bed (left), sofa bed (center) and twin beds (right).

Exterior Length 18′
Exterior Width 7′
Interior Height (Open) 8′ 6″
Exterior Height (Closed) 5′ 8″
Freshwater Cap. 11 gal.
Black-/Gray-Water Cap. N/A
LP-Gas Cap. Optional
UVW 1,850 lbs.
Hitch Weight 240 lbs.
Axle Weight 1,850 lbs.
GVWR 3,000 lbs.
MSRP, Base $20,660

Exterior photo of Chalet-XL a-frame trailer in raised positionChalet XL

Chalet manufactures three sizes of A-frames, ranging from the 12-foot, 9-inch LTW, with a lithe 2,000-pound gvwr, to the XL, which is large enough for a family of four. The XL extends 18 feet, 7 inches and has a gvwr of 3,500 pounds. A standard electric roof lift makes campsite setup almost effortless.

Interior photo of Chalet-XL a-frame trailer in raised positionOf the three XL floorplans, the XL-1935 sleeps two in the dedicated 60-by-80-inch rear bed and will appeal to chefs on the go with a wraparound front kitchen offering more countertop than other A-frames. Windows above the residential-height counters allow lots of light when prepping meals.

The XL-1930 furnishes sleeping space for up to three adults, with the same rear bed as the XL-1935 and a front dinette that converts to a 46-by-80-inch bed. While it might be inconceivable that a sloped-roof A-frame can hold bunk beds, the XL-1920 brings this option to the table with two low-height 46-by-80-inch berths and a rear dinette that converts to a 60-by-80-inch bed.

All XL kitchens are equipped with a double-bowl stainless-steel sink with
a cutting-board cover, and a three-burner cooktop with a 3-cubic-foot refrigerator
below. A toilet and shower are part of the optional wet-bath package, and a hard-side front dormer is also an option.

The Chalet XL is not only one of the roomiest A-frames on the market, it is also the priciest. But thanks to the expansive roof height and bright interior, the XL feels more spacious than some similarly priced travel trailers.

Floorplan options for photo of Chalet-XL a-frame trailer in raised position
The Chalet XL-1920 (left) offers a convertible dinette in the rear and bunks up front. The XL-1930 (center) has a convertible dinette and a rear bed. The XL-1935 (right) has the same bed and a U-shaped kitchen.

Exterior Length 18′ 7″
Exterior Width 7′ 3″
Interior Height (Open) 8′ 7.5″
Exterior Height (Closed) 6′ 1″
Freshwater Cap. 15 gal.
Black-/Gray-Water Cap. Optional
LP-Gas Cap. 10 gal.
UVW 1,995 lbs.
Hitch Weight 240-370 lbs.
Axle Weight 1,755-2,165 lbs.
GVWR 3,500 lbs.
MSRP, Base $24,591-$25,675

Author, blogger and photographer Kerri Cox.With her small bunkhouse travel trailer in tow, Kerri Cox has traveled near and far with her husband and two teenage sons, documenting their adventures on her blog, Travels with Birdy. When not on the road, she spends her time teaching and writing. Her words and photographs can be found in print and digital publications, including Trailer Life and the Good Sam Club Blog.

Michael P. Gleason <![CDATA[10-Minute Tech: See and Be Seen]]> 2019-07-10T20:06:22Z 2019-06-28T22:53:52Z

We’ve been towing one travel trailer or another for about 25 years. Many times on multilane highways, motorists in the next lane have “hovered” beside us — far enough ahead that they can’t see the trailer lights yet far enough back that they can’t see my tow vehicle’s lights. To let drivers know that I intend to change lanes, I added midship-side turn-signal lights.

I’m particularly fond of the Grote model 53133 rectangular turn-signal lenses, which retail for about $8 each. The only other cost is the wire extending from the junction box (typically mounted under or near the A-frame) to the mounting point on each side. I usually replace the midship marker light with the dual-purpose Grote light.

An added advantage is that I can now confirm by looking in my rearview mirror that the trailer is plugged in to the tow vehicle and that the turn signals are working. Of course, the lights also come on when I’m braking, and that’s OK, too!

Michael P. Gleason | Bangor, Maine


Read more tips and tricks for making RV travel easier, safer and more pleasurable, submitted by Trailer Life readers based on real-life RV experiences.

Jerry Smith <![CDATA[Rub-A-Dub-Dub: Tips and Supplies for Washing Your RV]]> 2019-07-02T22:42:00Z 2019-06-28T16:38:15Z

Washing the exterior of an RV — especially a large one — can seem like a daunting task, but with the proper planning, products and tools, getting a squeaky-clean home on wheels can be accomplished with minimal effort

Like any big investment, an RV needs proper care and maintenance to keep its value and last for years. Regular washing is one of the best ways to keep it looking new and prevent problems that can dampen any vacation. Getting up close and personal to your travel trailer, fifth-wheel, truck camper or motorhome is a good opportunity to do an inspection and make sure items aren’t loose, and that seams, vents and windows are tightly sealed.

Plan Ahead

Before you think about how to wash an RV, think about where you plan to do it. At home, you’ll need a lot of water — a steady supply, not just a few bucketfuls — and a place for it to drain. The surface should be level and solid enough to support your weight on a ladder without tilting or sinking into the ground. Many campgrounds don’t allow RV washing with water, so you may need a waterless cleaner. If there’s a shady spot available, grab it. Most cleaners work better on cool surfaces than on sun-warmed ones.

Grit Guard’s Universal Detailing Cart, rolling work station is outfitted with three shelves to keep everything needed at your side.Roll With It

Rather than spreading out cleaning products, brushes and sponges all over the ground or taking multiple trips back and forth to the garage, consider a product like Grit Guard’s Universal Detailing Cart. The 40-inch-high-by-24-inch-wide-by-18-inch-long rolling work station is outfitted with three shelves to keep everything needed at your side. A top-shelf cutout is designed to hold a bucket or the company’s Universal Pad Washer, and the cart’s edges are rounded to keep it from damaging the RV should it accidentally bump into it. The durable thermoplastic cart has multidirectional casters for easy maneuvering.
MSRP: $169.95

Next, lay out the cleaning tools. The ones you’d use to wash a tow vehicle will probably do, such as a large bucket, a soft wash mitt, sponges, and several brushes with hard and soft bristles. You’ll also need a long or extendable handle for the brushes so you can reach high up on the sides and across the roof. A car-wash-type brush with a long handle that you can attach to a garden hose for a constant supply of clean water works well. Don’t forget a sturdy ladder, and wear shoes with nonslip soles — there’ll be a lot of soapy, slippery water around.

Use the right cleaner for the particular RV’s surface; if in doubt, check the owner’s manual for recommendations. Painted and coated aluminum finishes can scratch easily. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning because the wrong cleaner can damage or strip off decals, and even damage the clear-coating on aluminum trailers like Airstreams. Painted metal can be cleaned using the same products and tools for washing a car. For fiberglass, use a washing product that leaves a coating of wax behind.

Use a lot of water to sluice off the loose dirt and grit, and then go over it again with
a soft-bristled brush or a wash mitt and a nonabrasive cleaner. Unless you’re a pro with a pressure washer, don’t use one. High-pressure water can blow right past gaskets, silicone seals and the overlap of sliding windows. It can also peel decals off with frightening efficiency. Don’t use more pressure than a garden hose with a sprayer can generate, and let a brush do the job of freeing up the dirt.

Take It from the Top

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. It should go without saying, but it needs to be said anyway: Begin by closing all doors, windows and rooftop vents. Now head for the roof. Besides getting the hard part out of the way early on, a top-down wash means the runoff from the roof won’t stream down the walls you just cleaned. But it will loosen and sluice away some of the dirt on the sides, front and back before you tackle them.

Cleaning and examining the roof is also an important process for ensuring the seals are in good condition. Membrane roofs are the most common in use today, and there are special cleaners and treatment products for these. Don’t use anything with petroleum distillates or citrus oil. Fiberglass and aluminum roofs can be washed the same way as the side walls.

Walking around on top of a wet, soapy RV isn’t the surest path to a long and healthy life, and the roof might not even be designed to bear your weight. Here’s where a stable ladder and a long brush extender pay their way. Climb up and reach across the roof with a brush on a pole, spray water around, loosen the dirt, then rinse well. Apply cleaner and do it all again, scrubbing harder this time. Finally, rinse off the roof with plenty of water.

If there are seals and gaskets that need attention, wait until the roof is absolutely dry before making repairs. If you have a walk-on roof with a ladder built on the RV, carefully walk on the trusses if possible (you’ll feel them), or lay a wide board or two down to distribute your weight across the trusses, front to back, if it makes you feel more comfortable.

All Sides Now

The sides, front and back of the RV can be washed using the brush on a pole. Wet down the surfaces, remove the loose dirt, then rinse. Using the appropriate cleaners and brushes, soap up, brush down and rinse off the sides. With smaller rigs — or taller RVers — you may be able to use a soft wash mitt, but be sure to rinse the loose dirt out of it often. Otherwise, you’re just rubbing dirt, and possibly abrasive sand, onto the surface.
This also means that it’s smart to change the water in the bucket frequently to prevent sediment from getting into the mitt or brush and damaging the side walls. Consider a Grit Guard bucket or insert to keep grit out of the soap solution.

Canopy Cleaning

To clean a vinyl awning, use a good awning fabric cleaner and your extendable brush. Heavy stains can usually be removed using a slightly stronger cleaner like Spray Nine or Simple Green. Mildew can be cleaned using a bleach solution. Plan on getting wet when cleaning underneath.

Acrylic and other fabric awnings can dry quickly due to air circulation through the fabric. Sometimes a solution of mild dish detergent and water is all you’ll need, but be sure that the awning is completely dry before retracting it to the stowed position. Spot stains can be cleaned with K2r.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida-based Awesome Products’ Love Bug Eraser simplifies cleanup after a lovebug-filled drive.Close Encounters of the Bug Kind

During the spring and summer months, lovebugs swarm the highways and byways in the southeastern United States and the Gulf Coast, just waiting to hurl themselves at RVs and other vehicles. Left to bake in the sun, their acidic body fluids can damage paint, plastic and fiberglass. Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida-based Awesome Products’ Love Bug Eraser simplifies cleanup after a lovebug-filled drive.

The secret to the Love Bug Eraser is the patented fibers that give it the ability to wipe off bugs, dirt, bird droppings, grime and road tar when using it in conjunction with car-wash soap and water. The 9½-by-6-inch pad is reusable and safe for use on metal, chrome, glass, plastic, paint and graphics, according to the company. Since no chemicals are involved, it’s safe for use around children. If no hose is available, the product can be used effectively with a spray bottle of water. When done, just rinse out, dry, and it’s ready for its next use.

Love Bug pads are sold individually, in multiples or as part of a kit, and the company also offers an RV Roof Cleaning Kit. Coming soon is a wheel-and-tire-cleaning kit.
MSRP: $7.99, $15.98/three-pack

Don’t forget to clean the insides of the windows along with the outsides. While you’re cleaning the windows, be sure to examine the rubber seals and gaskets for drying, cracking or tears, and clean and treat them with the appropriate conditioner. Exercise all the windows and emergency exits as well.

Wheels and Tires

RV wheels — whether painted, polished or chrome — can be cleaned the same way as those on the tow vehicle, using the same basic products and techniques. This is also an
opportunity to inspect the tires for cracks, splits and punctures, in addition to wear.

Don’t use any cleaners or protectants on the tires that contain petroleum distillates or ammonia. Tire manufacturers almost universally recommend nothing more than a mild detergent. Shiny black tires might look good, but some products that give the tires that look play havoc with chemicals in the rubber compound designed to protect it from ozone exposure and premature sidewall deterioration.


The dirtiest part of any vehicle is the undercarriage, and it is often the most forgotten. Dirt allowed to collect on these surfaces can lead to rust and decay of the frame and other components.

The frame is steel, and will put up with any cleaner or water spray thrown at it. However, slideout seals, underbelly materials and such are not, and using too much water spray in the wrong way can cause water damage to the RV. The Spray Nine and Simple Green type of cleaners, your extension brush and a hose with a sprayer are most likely adequate for cleaning these areas. If the frame is particularly filthy, careful use of a pressure washer is OK, but stick to the frame unless you’re a pro and really know what you’re doing. Once dried, touch up the frame with a good quality rust-stop spray paint.

Final Analysis

It’s much easier to spot potential problems on a clean RV than a dirty one, so take the opportunity of a good wash to examine the exterior for damage, rust spots, wear points and anything else that might turn into a bigger problem later. Check outside storage bins and the inside of entry doors and windows for signs of moisture where it shouldn’t be. Small leaks can cause big damage if left unchecked.

While many companies that make or sell RV products include cleaners and wash tools, the following have an outstanding selection of proven cleaning, washing and protectant products.


Black Streak Remover is a cleaner and degreaser that powers through black streaks, bugs, tar, grease, oil and dirt. Awning Cleaner is formulated to remove mold stains, mildew, tree sap and road grime, and, according to the company, is safe for all awning fabrics. Pro-Tec Cleaner for TPO roofs uses a professional-strength blend of surfactant and conditioners to remove black streaks and road grime and extend the life of the membrane. Pro-Tec RV Rubber Roof Cleaner & Conditioner and UV Shield & Protectant is a two-step process to clean and condition, reduce chalking and protect against UV damage. The 40-Foot Coiled Hose Kit comes with a hose with brass fittings, and self-coils for easy storage. The RV Wash Brush with Adjustable Handle adjusts from 43 to 71 inches long and has an on/off valve for easy water control when attached to a hose. An 11-inch-wide cleaning brush has two types of bristles: one to lift dirt and the other to brush it away.


RV Roof Cleaner removes black streaks, dirt, mold, oxidation and other debris using an environmentally friendly formula that permits use virtually anywhere. RV Roof Sealer is
a professional-strength protectant that leaves a silky, UV-resistant finish and prevents drying, cracking and oxidation. Heavy-Duty Concentrated Cleaner cuts through dirt, grease and grime on a variety of surfaces, and washes away black streaks and bugs without harming decals. The easy-to-use Premium RV Awning Cleaner removes black streaks, bird droppings, mildew, dirt and grime, and adds UV protection to extend the life of the awning.

Poli GlowA montage of Poli-Glow cleaning products for RVs

The Poli Glow Kit has everything needed to clean and maintain fiberglass or gelcoat surfaces. The kit includes a 32-ounce bottle of Poli Prep, a 32-ounce bottle of Poli Glow, a Microfiber Mitt Applicator, a Scrub Pad with Handle and a pair of gloves. Poli Strip Concentrate, a liquid stripper, removes Poli Glow, Vertglas and other fiberglass-restorer products so you can start with a clean surface for the next application of Poli Glow. Use the Mitt Applicator to apply Poli Glow. Poli Ox removes heavy oxidation from light- or dark-colored fiberglass, and can also be used to clean and polish stainless steel, chrome and aluminum.

Star briteA montage of Star-brite cleaning products for RVs

Star brite has a complete line of cleaning products and tools for cars, boats, power-sports products like motorcycles and ATVs, and, of course, RVs. Premium RV Wash & Wax comes in 16-ounce and gallon sizes, and cleans and shines in one step. Black Streak Remover comes in 22- and 64-ounce and gallon sizes, and removes black streaks from fiberglass, metal and plastic surfaces. Rubber Roof Cleaner is available in 32-ounce or gallon sizes, and is said to be safe for rubber roofs and fiberglass and painted surfaces. The Long Handle Utility Brush reaches into tight spaces to dislodge dirt and debris. The Standard Extending Handle with 8-inch Soft Deluxe Brush is adjustable from 3 to 6 feet and comes with nonslip hand grips. The Microfiber Reggae Wash Mitt can be used for dusting when dry and washing when wet, and is machine washable.

ThetfordA montage of Thetford cleaning products for RVs

Thetford has a cleaner for almost every job. One is Ultrafoam RV Awning Cleaner with a foaming action that keeps the solution on the awning longer. It removes bird droppings and sunbaked bugs, and its nonbleaching formula won’t discolor fabric. Black Streak & Bug Remover has foaming action that prevents dripping and works on black streaks, baked-on bugs and tough soil stains. It’s safe for fiberglass, aluminum and gelcoat surfaces.

Premium RV Wash & Wax is a wash-and-wax-in-one product that cleans and leaves a protective shine, and won’t harm or fade decals. Premium RV Wax removes oxidation and restores color to dull surfaces. It contains a UV blocker and won’t harm or fade decals.
Rubber Roof Cleaner uses a nonpetroleum formula that removes tough stains from rubber, fiberglass and aluminum roofs, and leaves behind a UV blocker. Protect & Shine contains carnauba wax and is petroleum-free, so it’s safe for rubber roof seals and tires. It leaves no abrasive or greasy residue.

Coming Clean

The following companies offer additional products aimed at efficiently cleaning RVs

Aero Cosmetics
Cleaners and polishes for metal, fiberglass, plastic and glass, degreasers and water-spot removers.

Camping World
Cleaners, protectants and tools to clean and maintain the inside and outside of RVs.
Telescoping handles with brushes and squeegees.

Dicor Products
Rubber roof cleaning, protectant and repair products.

Eagle One
Zap Bug Remover, wheel cleaners and washing products.

Gel-Gloss RV Wash & Wax
Biodegradable cleaner with carnauba wax for fiberglass, metal and rubber.

Iosso Products
Mold and mildew stain remover for awnings, fiberglass reconditioner and compressed sponges that expand when wet.

Cleaners, polishes, waxes and protectants for almost every surface.

Cleaning products, tire and wheel care, wash mitts, nonslip-grip brushes and scratch-free microfiber towels.

Protect All
Rubber roof care, fiberglass oxidation remover, black-streak cleaner and degreaser, and slideout lube aerosol.

The Reliable 1
Cleaners, polishes, protectants and general cleaning supplies for the exterior and interior
of RVs. Super Spray Cleaner for RV washing removes black streaks, grease, rust and mold without water.

Scrub brushes (with and without handles), sponges, wash mitts, flexible water blades, detailing brushes, microfiber towels, and bug and tar remover.

Voom RV Cleaner
All-purpose concentrated cleaner that is safe for all
surfaces, according to the company. Biodegradable and contains no petroleum distillates. Gold formula produces a UV-resistant film to protect surfaces from oxidation.

Walex Green Hornet
Super-concentrated biodegradable cleaner and degreaser works on RV rubber roofs, awnings and black streaks.