Trailer Life Everything about Travel Trailers and How To RV from Trailer Life Magazine 2019-09-19T23:54:14Z WordPress Bob Dawson <![CDATA[Through the Camera’s Eye, Sponsored by Tamron]]> 2019-09-18T20:29:58Z 2019-09-18T17:37:28Z

Our seven-part video series on travel photography features the Tamron 18-400 all-in-one zoom lens.

We’re on a photo safari with the Tamron 18-400 all-in-one zoom lens. In each episode of this seven-part video series, we’re exploring ways to up your travel-photography game. So follow along with us up the Southern California coast as we put the Tamron 18-400 through its paces.

Episode 1: Introduction to the Tamron 18-400

Episode 2: Low Light Photography with the Tamron 18-400

Episode 3: The Bokeh Effect with the Tamron 18-400

Episode 4: Shooting in the Magic Hour with the Tamron 18-400

Episode 5: Near-Far Composition with the Tamron 18-400

Episode 6: Macro Photography with the Tamron 18-400
Scheduled for September 30, 2019
Episode 7: Putting Together Your Vacation Story
Scheduled for October 31, 2019

See Related Story
Shoot to Thrill: Travel Photography Tips

Headshot of Trailer Life Production Director Bob Dawson.Trailer Life Production Director Bob Dawson is a second-generation RVer as well as a fitness, photography, video, tech and outdoor enthusiast. Bob was a photojournalist in a previous life, and his photos and articles have appeared in Trailer Life publications for more than 20 years. You can see more of his video work on our TrailerLifeDIYTV YouTube Channel.

Bruce W. Smith <![CDATA[Diesel Tech Q&A: Hard-Starting Cummins]]> 2019-09-18T16:09:55Z 2019-09-16T21:23:18Z SEPTEMBER 2019
Hard-Starting Cummins

I have a 2005 Dodge Ram dually Cummins that has begun having starting problems when the weather gets below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. It started tripping the Check Engine light, even when the block heater was plugged in overnight. The codes were MAP sensor, IAT sensor and battery-temp sensor. The air-intake heater works fine, and replacement of all sensors was performed. The block heater makes it easier to start, but why is the minimally cold weather here in southern Arizona affecting it starting?
John Arcari

What is the main cause of a 2003 Dodge Ram Cummins with 150,000 miles that starts really well in warm weather or with the heater plugged in but is very hard to start in cool or cold weather? The engine cranks well, and no codes show up when checked, with the ignition switch on and off using the “three-times” method.
Ralph Rickstrew

One of the most common hard-start-when-cold issues on the 5.9-liter, 24-valve Cummins is that the batteries are no longer supplying the load needed to spin the starter as it should. Bad or weak batteries begin rearing their ugly cells when temps drop down below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Have the batteries load tested. If they don’t pass muster, replace them as a pair.

The second common issue that could be causing hard starts in cooler temps is that the grid-heater relay or the grid heater itself goes bad. The Cummins 5.9-liter doesn’t have glow plugs but rather a single heater that mounts between the air-intake horn and the intake manifold. When temps are between 15 and 59 degrees F, the two heating elements inside cycle on for 10 seconds, providing about 500 degrees of air heating. Each heater is controlled by its own relay, and each is controlled separately by the engine control module (ECM).

The grid heater is both a cold-weather starting aid and an emissions control device. Normally, a bad grid heater will throw a P0380/P0382 code. To see if it is working, watch your voltage during startup. If the grid heater is working properly, “the headlights will dim as the grid heater cycles on, and the volt gauge will read about 12 volts at start, 13.5 volts during grid cycling, and then jump back to around 14.5 volts after the heater cycling stops,” according to Shawn Smalley, owner of Mobile Diesel Service in Oakland, Oregon.

Smalley says when his techs don’t see any change in voltage during startup, they pull the intake horn and take a close look at the terminals where they bolt to the battery cables. Vibration and age can fatigue the ends, and sometimes they aren’t making contact and never heat up. Same with checking the battery-terminal connections. Grid heaters take a lot of juice to operate correctly.

If the batteries and grid heater aren’t the issues, the third possibility is the injectors. What generally happens is the injectors will not fire unless the rail pressure has reached 5,000 psi, and excessive return flow from a worn-out or cracked injector(s) can make it take longer or prevent this rail pressure from being reached while cranking. If the injectors are the problem, it could be about a $3,000 repair, depending on whether or not you use new injectors or remans.

One last thought: On the 2003 to early 2005 Cummins, there was also an ECM reflash that fixed an injector-supply timing issue with the number-6 injector, which had caused rough-idle issues.

A certified diesel tech should be able to diagnose and fix any of the above with ease.

Join the Conversation

Scroll down to the Leave a Reply box to add your comments to this discussion.

Have a Diesel Tech Question?

To ask Bruce W. Smith a question about maintenance, repairs or upgrades to your diesel truck, SUV or van, go to the Diesel Tech Q&A home page, scroll down to the Leave a Reply box and type in your question. Please include your full name and hometown.

Bruce W. SmithA respected automotive and RV journalist and longtime Trailer Life contributor, Bruce W. Smith has held numerous editorial titles at automotive and boating magazines, and authored more than 1,000 articles, from tech to trailering. He considers his home state of Oregon a paradise for RVing and outdoor adventure.

Read More: Diesel Tech Q&A

See Related Column: RV Clinic

Donya Carlson <![CDATA[Tricked-Out Truck Camper: Lance Altimeter]]> 2019-09-19T23:54:14Z 2019-09-14T20:15:55Z

Lance outfits a project Ford F-350 pickup hauling a model 855s truck camper for a combination that doesn’t stop where the road ends

Piloting a decked-out, custom-built 4×4 Ford F-350 carrying a four-season Lance camper, we bounced along a deserted dirt road with an open meadow on either side and blue skies overhead. It seemed like the landscape went on forever, and in the distance, snow covered the tops of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Then we disappeared into a grove of pine trees so dense that it became noticeably darker inside the crew cab.

See Related Story: Lance 1172 Truck Camper

Our unique home on wheels was vinyl-wrapped in a custom-designed graphic sporting the squiggly lines of a topographic map, as well as mountains, rivers and ocean that flowed from the camper onto the truck. It was the perfect RV “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” to quote Captain James Kirk. OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration — others have gone here before, but the bears and deer certainly outnumber people where we were headed.

Truck camper with snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains in background.
The author’s husband, Bill, unloads a pair of mountain bikes from the back of the Lance Altimeter for a scenic ride in the Mammoth Lakes, California, area. Photos: Donya Carlson

When the dust settled, we hopped out of the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 diesel-powered truck and breathed in the fresh mountain air. Ahh, the perfect boondocking campsite at almost 8,000 feet with a stream meandering among the trees. The 855s Lance camper, bound to the Ford by Torklift Talon aluminum tie-downs and stainless-steel, quick-disconnect locking FastGun turnbuckles, is an example of how far you can go — literally and figuratively — to create a truck camper that knows no boundaries.

Lancaster, California-based Lance performs these special builds — this one named the Altimeter — to get the message out about truck camping to a broader audience. Said Bob Rogers, Lance’s director of marketing, “We want to raise awareness of the amazing versatility of truck campers and the Lance Camper brand.” Following up with that, Jim Waters, marketing coordinator, said, “We want to educate younger buyers that they can go farther off-road and camp longer off-grid with a truck camper.”

The 855s camper was stock with a few options, but had several prototype features: a Truma AquaGo instant water heater and VarioHeat furnace, both of which the company is considering installing in future RVs.

Altimeter crossing bridge in campground at Mammoth Lakes, California.
On the road to adventure, the Altimeter crosses over a bridge in Mammoth Lakes, California.

Off-road and off-the-grid is how we spent a week, stopping in at an RV park once to fill up the 30-gallon freshwater tank, and running the 2,500-watt Cummins Onan generator a couple of times to charge up our computers. Otherwise, we relied on the 100-watt solar panel and two 5-gallon LP-gas cylinders.

At this writing, Lance had just installed an inverter and several more 100-watt solar panels in addition to two 170-watt models that will charge four Battle Born 100-Ah 12-volt GC2 lithium batteries. This may be a good excuse to ask if we can get our hands on the Altimeter again!

Smack Dab in the Middle

With an overall length of 18 feet and a box length of 8 feet, 11 inches, the 855s floorplan lands in the middle of the company’s truck-camper lineup that ranges from a box length of 6 feet, 10 inches to just under 12 feet. At a claimed wet weight of 3,331 pounds, this single-slide, shortbed-truck model is roomy and can sleep up to four people. Because the Altimeter’s looks turned heads wherever we went, fellow campers wanted to peek inside and were impressed with the creature comforts in the 855s.

Overhead, just inside the entry is a Fan-Tastic Vent fan. A key hook resides over the door — handy, since that’s where the keys were located much of the time because of the keyless entry system (optional). What a convenience the keyless entry was when we were out mountain biking or hiking, and even snowboarding one day — in July! Outside, a Yakima bike rack was attached to the Altimeter via a Torklift SuperTruss extension. The swing-down steps and heavy-duty fold-up ladder to grab onto made exit and entry easy.

Lance 855s camper's living area, kitchen, door into bathroom and queen bed.
Housed in a slideout, the elevated dinette transforms into secondary sleeping space in a minute or two. The mirrored door slides open to access the wet bath. Floor space is large enough for one person to be cooking while another reaches into the fridge, opposite the sink. A comfy queen bed is flanked by storage on each side and windows, plus there’s an overhead escape hatch.

Centrally located and housed in the slide is the elevated four-seat dinette with 4-inch-thick cushions that are made for relaxing. Clearly, some craftsmanship went into the leatherette cushions in the Roadster decor’s rich, warm brown tone. The space between the base of the table and seats is almost 8 inches, and seat-cushion depth is 20 inches. The cushions have just the right amount of padding for that “ahhh” feeling when plopping down and leaning against the 14-inch-high supportive backs.

Dual-USB, 12-volt DC and 120-volt AC charging stations are placed at the base of the dinette’s first step, a couple inches above floor level. It’s not the handiest place to reach when sitting at the table, plus you need to watch cord placement so that you don’t pull an electronic device with you when stepping down. Storage space under the 10-inch-high step is great for tossing things in like shoes.

Smooth-rolling glide-out drawers, 7 inches deep, 17 wide and 26 long, are under the dinette benches and lock for travel. We stored everything from pots and pans to a large cutting board and bags of chips here, and because the drawers are a foot and a half above floor level, reaching into them was not backbreaking.

Seated at the dinette, there’s a front-row view to the outside through the large tinted window with two panes that crank outward from the base via smooth-operating hand cranks. Dimming lights over the dinette set the mood, and there’s plenty of LED lighting throughout. Transforming the dinette into secondary sleeping is a snap: flip a release lever on the table, push down, move a couple of cushions around, and you’re done. At 71 by 44 inches, it can sleep an adult, possibly two.

Kitchen Chronicles

Across from the dinette, a Dometic three-burner range has a full-coverage rolled-metal grate that is raised above the waterproof laminate countertop. A metallic-look plastic backsplash protects the walls around the range and gets a thumbs-up for quick cleanup. We liked the height of the counter, at 35 inches, and location of the stainless-steel-and-black appliances. Above the range is a microwave, and next to it a cabinet that opens toward the ceiling, leaving 6 feet, 3 inches of head clearance, so even when the cabinet door is left open, most people won’t be hitting their noggins on the edge of it. Cabinets are Euro-Lite construction with raised hardwood panels.

Lance 855s camper kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and black sink.
The Lance 855s truck camper has a roomy kitchen outfitted with stainless-steel appliances, a black double-basin sink, a wooden spice rack and storage above, below and on the left.

The black double sink is set forward in the counter, leaving sufficient space (ranging from 1 to 2 feet deep) between the sink and the kitchen’s crank-open window, clad with aluminum mini blinds. One kitchen criticism: We would have preferred either a single-basin sink or a longer faucet. With the pull-out faucet turned to the left-side basin, it was too close to the sink divider, so when washing our hands or a large skillet that didn’t quite fit into the sink, water sometimes ran across the top of the divider and onto the counter. Placing a towel at the edge of the sink mitigated water runoff.

A spice rack is affixed to the kitchen wall leading up to the cabover bed. Someone came up with an ingenious idea to place a narrow 2-foot-long shelf above this rack and at the base of the mattress, so when climbing out of bed, an errant foot doesn’t accidentally step onto the spice rack and take it out. Plus, that shelf was great for setting a drink while preparing meals.

Additional storage is in the row of cutlery drawers with self-closing hardware and the wardrobe/pantry on the wall between the kitchen and wet bath. We kept a hodgepodge of items in this large cabinet, from hanging jackets to storing a box of peaches that bounced along some rough roads and survived bruise-free.

Panels for monitoring battery power, solar, LP-gas level and holding tanks, and the switch for the generator are located near the kitchen’s overhead cabinet, where they’re also viewable and reachable from the bed.

Sleep Tight

A wide step (where batteries are housed) leads up to the queen-size cabover bed, and another small one is set at an intuitive height to aid shorter folks. A privacy curtain separates the “bedroom” from the living space. If you don’t want to leave the cozy bed to brush your teeth, you can lie on your stomach with your head at the foot of the bed to lean down to reach the kitchen sink below to rinse (ask us how we know this!). And since the three-way, 5-cubic-foot refrigerator is located at the base of the bed, we could reach into it from our sleeping quarters for snacks.

Lance 855s truck camper queen bed.
The comfortable queen-size mattress comes with a Bed-Maid comforter-and-sheet-set-in-one to simplify making the bed.

An option in Lance truck campers and travel trailers is the company’s Bed-Maid sleep system, a comforter-and-sheet-set-in-one that simplifies making the bed and saves occupants from packing a variety of blankets. Slip the fitted sheets (sized for an RV queen mattress) into the comforter, and they stay in place with hook-and-loop tabs. The comforter itself has a heavier-weight side (winter) and a lighter one (summer), so you simply flip the comforter over to match the season.

Our favorite feature is the push-open escape hatch/roof vent over the bed with three height settings for regulating airflow, and it’s a breeze to operate. Lying in bed at night, looking at the stars was also a treat. The hatch has a day and night shade. The screen shade keeps bugs out while still allowing in air. The night shade darkens the space for sleeping. There’s a window on each side of the bed for a wonderful all-around flow of fresh air.

While lying in the very comfortable bed, there’s enough headroom for partially sitting up, though we stuffed pillows behind our backs to compensate for the rounded front wall. Stainless push-button LED nightlights over each side of the bed twist almost 360 degrees to cover reading material without blinding your bed buddy. The driver’s side has USB and 12-volt DC outlets, and the passenger’s side has a double 120-volt AC receptacle.

Most of the bedroom’s storage is on the driver’s side, with a flat wardrobe deep enough to stow my hiking boots and long enough for adjustable twist-lock trekking poles and a tripod. A large wardrobe with a hanging rod near the foot of the bed can be reached from the bed and when standing on the step. On the opposite side is a drawer, and shelves are positioned around the 28-inch Jensen LED TV (with swing-out bracket) and Jensen DVD/VCD/MP3/USB with app and Bluetooth compatibility.

Rise and Shine

The sizable wet bath is accessed through a wood sliding door with a large mirror on the outside. The push lock keeps the door closed during travel but sometimes got stuck, making it difficult to open. With 6½ feet of height, courtesy of the skylight, and good elbow room, there was enough space for my 6-foot, 4-inch husband, Bill, to comfortably shower. The shower pan is 15 inches wide at its narrowest point, and the plastic Dometic toilet is stationed higher than the shower pan. A shower curtain protects the wood door, and a watertight cabinet, located under the single-basin sink, keeps TP dry.

white wet bathroom with sink and toilet
The wet bath is fully outfitted with a mirrored medicine cabinet, waterproof cabinet for TP, sink, shower sprayer with shutoff valve, Dometic toilet, clothing rod, towel rack and electric fan.

The bathroom is outfitted with particulars not seen in all wet baths, such as a faucet operated separately from the shower, a bath-towel rack, a removable clothing rod for drying (optional) and a mirrored medicine cabinet. The adjustable-head handheld sprayer, with shutoff valve, felt stout, and water pressure was good. Overhead, an electric fan pulls moisture out, though, in the case of the Altimeter, the racks for a roof-mounted Yakima Rocket Box were above the vent, blocking it from opening all the way.

A wonderful touch is the padding above the door so tall folks stepping up into the 8½-inch-high shower pan have head protection. The light switch for the bright ceiling-mounted LED is just outside the door. Drying the wet bath after a shower with a towel was a cinch because all the edges are curved; there are no hard corners for water to sit.

Outside Matters

At one campground, our nightly entertainment was a six-pack of chipmunks that used the Altimeter’s undercarriage as their playground. They gathered on a nearby rock, ran single file under the truck, jumped up into the Raceline Defender wheels and Maxxis Razr tires, ran across the axle, jumped back down, and then reconvened under the truck to discuss their findings. Enjoying the outdoors and watching this was more fun than being inside viewing the TV, which comes with a King over-the-air antenna. A Winegard auto-locating satellite antenna is an option.

Chipmunk in Raceline Defender wheels.
A curious chipmunk checks out the Altimeter’s Raceline Defender wheels and Maxxis Razr tires.

There’s an outside sprayer, and two carpeted exterior storage compartments on the passenger’s side measuring 15 by 13 by 22 inches are at an easy-reach height since they back to the dinette’s drawers. Carefree awnings, a manual one off the back and an electric model on the side, are optional.

After a week playing in the Sierras, we took a slight detour on the way home to spend an evening at the beach. From taking a wrong turn and ending up on a dirt road to nowhere, to checking out a 60-foot-deep earthquake fault, to spending the night in a populated campground and then the next setting up in a remote campsite and falling asleep to the soothing sound of a stream, we enjoyed the versatility of truck camping in the well-equipped Altimeter. The F-350 and Lance 855s are a sky’s-the-limit pairing for exploring new and adventurous places in comfort and convenience.


2019 Lance 855s Truck Camper
Exterior Length: 18′
Box Length: 8′ 11″
Exterior Width: 8′
Exterior Height (with A/C): 8′ 9″
Interior Width: 7′ 10″
Interior Height: 6′ 9″
Construction: Aluminum-framed floor, cabover bed, roof and walls; block foam insulation; Azdel interior walls; laminated and insulated floor; one-piece roof
Freshwater Cap.: 30 gal.
Black-Water Cap.: 25 gal.
Gray-Water Cap.: 20 gal.
LP-Gas Cap.: 10 gal.
Water-Heater.: Truma AquaGo instantaneous
Refrigerator: 5 cu. ft.
Furnace: 11,500 Btu
Air Conditioner: 10,000 Btu
Batteries (2): Group 27 deep-cycle
Weight (Wet, with Standard Equipment): 3,331 lbs.
Lance 855s MSRP, As Tested: $50,543
Lance Altimeter Project Cost, Projected: $164,806
Basic Warranty: 2-year structuralLance 855s camper floorplan

Ford F-350 SRW 4×4 Crew Cab Platinum
Engine: 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 diesel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Lance Project Sponsors

Hellwig: Big Wig Air Spring Kit
Icon: 2.5-inch Performance Suspension System, Stage 5
KC HiLiTes: Gravity LED G34 Pair Pack System
Maglite: ML150LRX LED Rechargeable System
MagnaFlow: Filter-Back Black DPF Series Exhaust System
Maxxis: Razr MT-37×12.50R18LT tires
Raceline: 935BZ Defender Bronze with Black Ring wheels
Scosche: Boombottle MM waterproof wireless speaker
SherpTek: Pak Horse gear and supply carrier (not on tested unit)
Torklift: SuperHitch Magnum 30K frame-mounted receiver, Talon Aluminum Camper Tie Downs, Locking FastGun turnbuckles
Truma: AquaGo instant water heater, VarioHeat furnace
Warn: Ascent front bumper, Zeon 12-S Platinum Winch
Yakima: LongHaul bicyclerack, RocketBox roof carrier

Rear of truck camper with Yakima bicycle rack and roof-mounted Rocket Box.
Mountain bikes stayed securely in place with the Yakima LongHaul RV-approved bicycle rack that was attached via a Torklift SuperTruss Extension.

Donya Carslon in a hot-pink shirt with sunglasses and long dark blonde hairTrailer Life Managing Editor Donya Carlson grew up camping with her family in Southern California and loves spending time hiking, mountain biking, motorcycling, snowboarding and just about anything else outdoors. Before joining the Trailer Life and MotorHome team, she served as managing editor of Rider, a magazine for motorcycle enthusiasts.

Sponsored Content <![CDATA[Dometic Two-Burner Drop-In Cooktop]]> 2019-09-13T20:21:03Z 2019-09-13T20:21:03Z

Dometic’s Drop-In Cooktop features a pair of high-output burners for cooking two dishes simultaneously.

Ideal for making hot meals in an RV kitchen or outside galley, Dometic’s Drop-In Cooktop has two powerful burners that allow RV chefs to prepare a main dish and a side dish at the same time. The 7,200-Btu burner offers plenty of power for cooking all types of food, and the 5,200-Btu burner is perfect for heating side dishes. Linear-flow LP-gas valves enable precise cooking.

Part of Dometic’s signature suite of kitchen appliances, the Drop-In Cooktop has easy-to-use burner knobs, a recessed control panel, and the option of a cast-iron grate (shown) or a flat-wire grate. The stainless-steel cooktop’s one-piece surface and sealed burners ensure a cleaner cooking area. An optional dark glass or steel cover increases meal-prep space when the cooktop is not in use, and available wind guards offer protection for use in an exterior RV kitchen.

Bruce W. Smith <![CDATA[Tiny Trailer: Polydrop Limited Edition]]> 2019-09-06T20:04:39Z 2019-09-06T19:54:32Z

Innovative and angular, the Polydrop breaks with traditional teardrop design

Polydrops Inc.’s CEO Kyung-Hyun Lew not only studied to become an architectural designer, he actually built his own towable “study space” while getting his master’s degree. That 680-pound rolling cabin was the impetus for the Polydrop, a futuristic-looking polygonal aluminum-and-wood version of a teardrop trailer, weighing in at a trim 760 pounds (dry) and measuring 12 feet, 5 inches long. If the Polydrop had any bearing on Lew’s GPA, he probably graduated with honors.

Polygon trailer with doors open and a woman inside at the beach.
Gull-wing-style doors and a 43-inch interior height might not fit everyone’s needs, but they do add to the Polydrop’s futuristic, head-turning style. The aluminum-and-wood body rides on an aluminum chassis with a Timbren axle.

Living Area

Flip up the Polydrop’s strut-assisted gull-wing-style doors, and you are greeted by insulated, light-colored pine walls and a bright interior occupied entirely by a thick 48-by-75-inch foam mattress. A trio of LED-lit storage cubbies occupies the space above the leather-padded headboard, which also contains the control panel for the lights, heater, stereo, 12-volt DC power and USB ports.

Two views inside the Polydrop trailer.
Interior storage space is limited to a trio of LED-lit nooks at the forward end of the trailer (left). Door windows, a translucent roof vent and LEDs provide interior lighting. The 12-volt DC LEDs are powered by the battery or the roof-mounted solar panel. Leatherette-covered pads at the rear (right) afford comfort for the head and back while reading or sitting.

The door windows and translucent roof vent provide ambient lighting, while a 100-watt flex-type solar panel on the roof supplies charging power for the LED lights that run off the trailer’s 12-volt battery system. It’s a cozy living space that the company’s website refers to as an “escape capsule from daily life.”

Kitchen and Storage

Rear hatch opens to reveal the kitchen , shown at night with lights.
The rear galley has a prep shelf with a pair of polygon-shaped drawers beneath for storage and a built-in bank of LED lights. User provides the camp stove.

The Polydrop’s compact size and shape preclude it from having the more traditional built-in stove and storage space found in most conventional teardrop’s external rear galleys. But Lew still designed in a comfortable working area to place a camp stove, and the space has two polygon-shaped drawers underneath the shelf for storing basic cooking essentials. Food, water, coolers and other gear will need to be stored in the tow vehicle.

Special Features

SUV pulling trailer with mountains in background.
The Polydrop’s ultralight 760-pound dry weight and 1,200-pound gross vehicle weight rating make this tiny trailer easily towable by just about any vehicle.

The Polydrop is an all-season tiny trailer, with 8-inch-thick rigid foam walls, an insulated roof and a heater. What makes it special is its angular design and ultralight weight. Hitch weight is just 80 pounds, so it can be maneuvered with ease at the campsite, and it can be towed by most properly equipped vehicles.

The first 20 Polygon trailers being manufactured are Limited Edition models selling for $9,000. When production ramps up in 2020, the price jumps to $13,000.

Manufacturer’s Specifications

2019 Polydrop Limited Edition
Exterior Length: 12’ 5”
Exterior Width: 5’ 6”
Exterior Height: 5’ 4”
Freshwater Cap.: N/A
Black-/Gray-Water Cap.: N/A
LP-Gas Cap.: N/A
UVW: 760 lbs.
Hitch Weight: 80 lbs.
Axle Weight: 1,200 lbs.
GVWR: 1,200 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $9,000Side view drawing of trailer on black background.

Bruce W. SmithA respected automotive and RV journalist and longtime Trailer Life contributor, Bruce W. Smith has held numerous editorial titles at automotive and boating magazines, and authored more than 1,000 articles, from tech to trailering. He considers his home state of Oregon a paradise for RVing and outdoor adventure.

See Related Stories:
• Tiny Trailer: Little Guy Mini Max
• Tiny Trailer: Droplet Teardrop
• Tiny Trailer: Forest River NoBo 10.6
• Tiny Trailer: Jayco Hummingbird 10RK
• Tiny Trailer: Coachmen Clipper Express 9.0TD 
• Tiny Trailer: Winnebago Minnie Drop 190BH

Kerri Cox <![CDATA[Family-Friendly RV: Kodiak Cub 179E Hybrid]]> 2019-09-06T16:23:40Z 2019-09-05T23:06:49Z

With three tent-bed extensions and a convertible dinette, Dutchmen’s 2020 Kodiak Cub 179E hybrid camping trailer comfortably sleeps up to eight

For families seeking a smaller, lighter trailer, there might be no better choice than a hybrid model. Hybrids have a reasonably sized footprint for easier towing, and pop-out beds significantly expand the living space when camping. Dutchmen’s 2020 Kodiak Cub 179E is one of the larger hybrids available, offering a trio of canvas extensions and sleeping space for up to eight.

Inside the Kodiak Cub 1795 trailer with a view of the kitchen's light colored countertops and front tent extension.
The Kodiak Cub 179E feels open and roomy, thanks to the light-colored interior and large windows on the pop-out beds.

Travel length and weight are what set hybrids apart from fully enclosed trailers. The Kodiak Cub 179E stetches 21 feet, 8 inches when closed for travel, and has a 5,400-pound gross vehicle weight rating and a claimed 1,626 cargo-carrying capacity. It would be a challenge, if not impossible, to find a conventional travel trailer with those specs with this amount of sleeping space.

Triple Bed Extensions

Two tent beds are extended in the rear of the trailer.
Two roomy pop-out beds are found at the rear of the trailer, creating a cozy corner opposite the bathroom.
Brown bench seats and a folding table.
After dinner, the dinette folds down to make a bed for one adult or two children.

At the front of the 179E, you’ll find the first of three pop-out beds. At the back, one bed extends from the rear and another on the side. Each bed is generously sized at 60 by 80 inches, offering room for two adults. The dinette folds down to make a fourth bed, accommodating one adult or two children.

Hybrids offer nature lovers the chance to bring the outdoors in. Canvas tent walls with large, screened windows flank each bed so you can enjoy a fresh cross-breeze, feel the nearness of a neighboring creek and fall asleep to a serenade of crickets and toads.

Kitchen and Bath

The galley includes everything a family needs. You’ll find a 6-cubic-foot refrigerator, two-burner cooktop and a microwave. The removable sink cover and flip-top glass stove cover increase counter space significantly.

Kitchen with light colored counters, dark wood cabinets, microwave, sink and refrigerator.
The compact kitchen has everything a family needs, plus stylish details like a subway-tile backsplash.

White subway tiles create a modern backsplash and define the kitchen space. Throughout the trailer, coffee-colored woods are a nice contrast to the light gray laminate flooring and flax-colored walls.

White shower with skylight, white sink and dark wood cabinets in bathroom.
A mirrored medicine cabinet and under-sink cabinet add functional storage space in the bathroom.

In addition to the toilet and corner shower, the bathroom includes a mirrored medicine cabinet, storage space below the sink and LED-motion lighting, features families are sure to appreciate.

Outside the Box

Linear graphics and white laminated walls define the sporty exterior of the 179E. Here, as with the interior, little things make the difference. Lights are placed above the stabilizer jacks and incorporated into the grab handle, making nighttime setup and entry effortless.

Dutchmen’s limited three-year structural warranty adds peace of mind, as does the manufacturer’s promise that every trailer has gone through a 230-point predelivery inspection.

Floorplan drawing showing three tent beds and positions of bathroom and kitchen features.Manufacturer’s Specifications

2020 Kodiak Cub 179E
Exterior Length: 21′ 8″
Exterior Width: 8′
Interior Height: 6′ 6″
Exterior Height: 10′ 1″
Freshwater Cap.: 50 gal.
Black-Water Cap.: 28 gal.
Gray-Water Cap.: 78 gal.
LP-Gas Cap.: 10 gal.
UVW: 3,774 lbs.
Hitch Weight: 518 pounds
Axle Weight: 3,256 lbs.
GVWR: 5,400 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $26,882

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.

John L. Stein <![CDATA[RV Review: ATC 8528-FB Toy Hauler]]> 2019-09-06T17:24:20Z 2019-09-03T19:27:43Z

Aluminum Trailer Company’s 33-foot front-bedroom toy hauler proves the ideal solution for hauling some precious metal

Why do we like shiny things, exactly? You know, the good stuff like diamond rings, chrome wheels and platinum wristwatches. Who knows what the evolutionists would say, but my own theory is that we’re hardwired to notice food and threats. Why else would a merganser instinctively chase a shimmery minnow beneath the lake’s surface, and why else would the James Bond villain Jaws’ steel teeth feel so threatening, even on a movie screen?

And so (according to my theory, at least), shiny paint and trim are longstanding staples of the RV, auto, truck and motorcycle markets. But no one outdid Ducati, who brought seven audacious metal-flake silver and turquoise 750cc racers to Imola, Italy, for 1972’s “Daytona of Europe” race, in which victory established the motorcycle manufacturer worldwide. With one of those special bikes in a California collection, we needed a tow vehicle and toy hauler with attitude and aptitude to match.

Ford and the Aluminum Trailer Company (ATC) had them. Ford provided a Silver Spruce 2019 F-250 4×4 Crew Cab Limited boasting a 15,000-pound towing capacity and a 10,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), and ATC came through with a Light Pewter Metallic 8528-FB (front bedroom) toy hauler providing a generous 15 feet, 10 inches of garage length. This is just one of eight ATC toy-hauling trailers and fifth-wheels ranging
from 25 feet to 41 feet, 3 inches.

ATC 8528-FB Toy Hauler Interior galley and dinette area
Using a premium motorsports theme, the ATC 8528-FB offers a built-in kitchen counter with a two-burner cooktop, a microwave-convection oven and an 8-cubic-foot refrigerator. Photos: Seth DeDoes


Two key assets stand out in this 7,300-pound (dry) trailer: the aluminum chassis is lightweight for towing ease and fuel economy, and the frame can never rust. The construction is also entirely wood-free, a welcome feature for RV owners who have witnessed, with pained dismay, rotted wood, delamination and screws pulling out of other building materials.

ATC 8528-FB Toy Hauler exteriorWhat We Liked

Motorsports focus, aluminum frame and one-piece aluminum roof, wood-free construction, modern interior design, big 36-gallon fuel station, intuitive controls

What We’d
Like to See

Power corner jacks, automatic leveling system, quick-detach entry stairs, one-touch awning functions, improved exterior lighting

Speaking of which, instead of being screwed together, the ATC trailer’s interior and exterior panels, door frames, cabinets and aircraft-style adjustable tie-down tracks (which accept quick-release 5,000-pound tie-down rings) are riveted and bonded in place. Combined with the 7-inch aluminum frame rails (tongue tubes are 8 inches), welded 1-inch wall framing and 4-inch-tall ceiling trusses, this creates a permanent structure that we suspect is unrivaled by other toy haulers.

ATC towed the test trailer to Simi RV Sales in Simi Valley, California, and ATC cofounder Jeff Shenk flew in from the company’s northern Indiana headquarters to introduce us to the 8528. A marathon runner, Shenk showed off the ruggedness of the build by opening a cabinet, grabbing the shelf edge and doing a vigorous pull-up.

Backing up momentarily to the frame construction, as a truck and power-sports guy who uses equipment hard, I was fascinated to learn that the aluminum frame rails are welded together upside-down on a jig, and the four plastic holding tanks are then installed. These include a 100-gallon freshwater tank, 45-gallon gray and black tanks, and a 36-gallon tank for the fuel station. Next, this assembly is righted, and prefabricated aluminum walls, likewise welded on jigs for accuracy, are positioned, rather like a tilt-up building. Finally, the roof structure is installed.

The 8528 is insulated for heat, cold and sound. Sandwiched between the square-section aluminum wall tubing is 1-inch-thick R-3 insulation, while the ceiling uses 3-inch-thick R-11 insulation. Sprayed-on closed-cell floor insulation is optional, as is R-6.5 closed-cell wall insulation. The outside skin is painted .040-inch aluminum sheet. Impressively, to ward off leaks, the entire roof of the toy hauler is formed from a single sheet of aluminum, rolled down at the edges and seamed at the corners, bonded and riveted in place.

Interior walls and ceiling are polypropylene-and-fiberglass composite, and the floor is aluminum, covered with nonslip removable floor mats in key areas. ATC likes to say that the interior is so durable and waterproof that, should it become dirty inside due to all the fun you’ve had, you can simply remove the floor mats and pressure-wash it. No wood construction means no rotting. We like! One caveat, though: Don’t spray the appliances or electronic control panel.

A photo composite showing the various states of the TC 8528-FB Toy Hauler garage area
Operated by a toggle on the main control panel, the rear queen-bed platform raises and lowers in seconds. Clockwise from top left: Various configurations include a rear bedroom, a sofa bed, a low-back sofa and an open garage area. Both beds can be slept in when the queen bed is at half-mast.


ATC started building aluminum-frame motorsport and custom trailers 20 years ago, so the company is well versed in what is needed to haul toys. For instance, the 8528’s 7-foot, 5-inch-long by 7½-foot-wide rear ramp door mounts on seven broad piano hinges and can support 4,000 pounds. That’s more than enough for a two-door Jeep Wrangler or any of
the popular side-by-side off-roaders like the Polaris RZR or Honda Pioneer.

See Related Story:

Shortcut to Toyland with 16 Great Fivers


Based on a proprietary ATC design, the wood-free rear door is counter-sprung, making lowering and raising it reasonably easy for one person. We say “reasonably” here because the door does not have a power assist to open or close. It was also relatively high off the ground in the test unit, which featured an optional 5-inch taller deck height (22 inches versus 17 inches for the standard model) to allow modest off-pavement use, such as along dirt roads leading to off-road areas. No biggie, but just know that the door requires “adult strength” to operate, especially in windy conditions.

We found the dual rear latches easy to use, and both are lockable for security, although one of the pressed-in plastic lock seals fell out on our trip. The ramp door has a nice nonskid working surface and four rubber bumpers that keep it from scratching when lowered. These, and the cross- section of the hollow, insulated door means there’s a significant “bump up” of several inches that vehicles must cover when being driven into the rig. This is no problem for off-road vehicles, but we worried about running the road-racing Ducati’s more vulnerable pavement tires too hard into it. An easy workaround here would be a simple wedge-shaped chock, homemade or otherwise and sized to fit.

As well, the breakover angle (the point where the trailer door meets the interior floor) might cause some low-slung vehicles to high-center. Car racers know all about this and often carry unique workarounds such as extra ramps and pillars to lift the trailing edge of the rear door. There’s always a way….

Inside, for storing a Jeep, side-by-side or ATVs, the three floor tracks are perfectly adequate because four-wheelers are inherently stable at rest. But motorcycles are not, and for the steadiest storage, additional tie-down tracks close to the walls would be in order.

An extra nice feature of the ramp door is that heavy-duty multi-strand wire cables can be clipped into place to hold the ramp level with the trailer floor. This extends the living area by more than 7 feet, when weather permits. An accessory vinyl-and-screen structure turns the ramp into a separate bedroom, ideal for accommodating more guests, so long as they bring sleeping mats or cots.

ATC 8528-FB Toy Hauler floorplan
A) power-lift bed, B) flip-up sofabed, C) refrigerator, D) control panel and bracket-mount TV, E) queen bed, F) flip-up dinette


The 8528 is suspended by tandem 5,200-pound torsion axles, and braking is handled by electrically activated drums. The test trailer had the optional 16-inch aluminum-wheel upgrade and ST235/80R16 LRE tires. A full-size spare tire mounted on a steel wheel
is stored under the trailer.

The 8528 model is too heavy for a half-ton truck, hence the F-250 Power Stroke diesel we selected for the test. The F-250 has a Class V 2½-inch receiver, so we used an adapter sleeve to allow using a smaller 2-inch draw bar. Easy enough. Simi RV kindly conducted the trailer hookup for us using a Blue Ox SwayPro weight-distributing hitch.

The trailer’s built-in power jack can lift 3,500 pounds, allowing pretty easy and straightforward attachment and adjustment of the load-distributing bars to level the truck and trailer. This is a terrific add, allowing users to adjust weight distribution according to trailer load, from a heavy Jeep to a lightweight racing bike, in our case.

The SwayPro acts as both a weight-distributing system and a sway control, and is not only easy to set up but also easy to move from one trailer to another. It’s also one of the few hitches that can be spec’d for a trailer that has a tongue weight of up to 2,000 pounds. In operation, the load-distributing feature worked nicely, although the windy conditions we found on the mountain and desert parts of our trip did start the trailer wagging subtly on occasion, which is normal for this part of the country; slowing down a bit took care of business.

ATC 8528-FB Toy Hauler interior bedroom with queen bed and end tables
Featuring a queen bed, twin end tables, handy 120-volt AC outlets and USB charging ports, along with HVAC controls, gloss-black cabinets and dual-pane windows with roller shades, the ATC’s forward bedroom has all the right stuff.


Generally, the ATC 8528 and Ford F-250 were a perfect match, and our daylong drive from the Southern California coast into the mountainous Transverse Range, during a rare “super bloom” of the state flower, the orange California poppy, and then on to the 24th-annual Corsa Motoclassica vintage-motorcycle racing event at Willow Springs International Raceway went smoothly. Average fuel economy for the outbound trip, which included a net elevation gain of nearly 4,000 feet, was 10.1 mpg. The return trip netted a modestly better average, and minus the trailer later on, the fuel economy of the Power Stroke turbodiesel jumped to 15.2 mpg.

Silver Ford F-250 towing silver ATC 8528 on highway surrounded by orange poppies.
The Ford F-250 had towing capacity to spare pulling the ATC 8528 over the Transverse Range during the 2019 “super bloom” of California poppies.

The F-250’s six-speed automatic transmission features a “manual” mode. Nudging the gear selector to the M position allows manually shifting the transmission via a toggle on the steering column’s right-hand stalk. This toggle also allows nudging the transmission up or down a gear or two, even when the gear selector is in Drive, a handy feature.

It’s well worth mentioning that, as a turbodiesel, the F-250’s performance is essentially unaffected by altitude, and so with tow capacity to spare and turbocharged power under the hood, it hauled the ATC quite smartly indeed.

While I love trucks, driving and towing, I love racing more, and arriving at Willow Springs is when the real action began. And in more ways than one, because the winds that had been with us since we left the coast had kicked into high gear by the time we arrived at the track on Thursday afternoon before the race weekend. We prowled the asphalt and dirt pit area for a dry-camping spot that was both reasonably flat and out of the way. As a hedge against being blown completely out of our shoes, we parked the truck and toy hauler to expose their left flanks windward, thus creating an area of relative calm near the curbside door.

A Ducati 750 Imola motorcycle is well-secured in the garage of the ATC 8528-FB Toy Hauler using the ATC’s adjustable tie-down tracks and 5,000-pound tie-down rings.
The Ducati 750 Imola was well-secured using the ATC’s adjustable tie-down tracks and 5,000-pound tie-down rings.


The ATC 8528 is a combination of mostly great features and just a few that could stand upgrading, even as options. The 5,000-pound scissor jacks at each corner operate manually, requiring the user to stabilize all four corners with a basic hand crank, which doesn’t even feature hand swivels. Plan on wearing gloves when you use it. Here, a power leveling system would be an epic add that we’d gladly order. Alternatively, a cordless drill with the proper driving tool does the job.

A similar scenario is the aluminum stairs for the side door. The three-step unit nests neatly inside the door frame and is permanently attached via piano hinges. Using it requires only unlatching and swinging the steps to the ground. Simple enough, except we found the side of the step frame can contact the door opening and the door, too, if the door isn’t fully open and latched snugly against the trailer’s side. Also, if the trailer is parked curbside or near a hedge or wall, the steps can’t be fully lowered, or even lowered at all in some scenarios, making climbing into the trailer difficult.

ATC provided a 25-foot-wide power awning system that’s intuitive and effective. Simply pressing a toggle on the interior control panel gets the job done. It’s not a one-touch affair; instead, the user must hold the switch until the awning is fully extended or retracted.

Twin compartments at the front of the trailer hold batteries and electronics, and offer general storage. In front, nested ahead of the trailer body, is a 5,500-watt Cummins Onan generator, while the fuel tank, fueling nozzle and controls are inside the unit. The fuel station and generator share the same fuel supply, and an onboard fuel gauge lets you keep track of supply easily. While we didn’t use it for the Ducati (the bike requires special race gas), the fuel station held more than enough for near constant air-conditioning use over the weekend, as the air temperature reached the mid-90s each day.

ATC 8528-FB Toy Hauler Interior galley and dinette area
The dinette can be repurposed as bench seating or a kid-size sofa bed. When not in use, the entire setup stores flat against the trailer’s curbside interior wall.


Design, componentry, fit and finish inside the ATC are inspired. Nine gloss-black cabinets and four drawers provide ample storage for food and supplies, and the appliances are designed to match, including a two-burner gas stove, an 8-cubic-foot Dometic refrigerator, a microwave-convection oven and a large stainless-steel sink. Nicely positioned, the main control panel is within reach of the sink and refrigerator, letting the cook (aka, the boss) control and monitor supplies. These include freshwater, holding tanks, battery power and fuel supplies.

ATC 8528-FB Toy Hauler bathroom
The bathroom is nicely configured, equipped and finished, and includes such features as a neo-angle shower-curtain rod, dedicated HVAC controls, an exhaust fan and ample storage.

Tracks and racing can be a hot, sweaty business, and we were mighty thankful for the ATC’s 15,000-Btu air-conditioning system (complementing its 25,000-Btu furnace, which we did not need or use). Due to the large size of the garage and living area, and because lowering the tailgate to unload the Ducati let in a considerable volume of hot air, cooling this main area took much longer than for the bedroom and bathroom, on the order of 20 minutes or so.


We were happy to find virtually all interior functions to be intuitive and easy to master. This extends from the control panel to the appliances and the numerous USB and 120-volt AC power outlets, as well as the convertible seating and bunks. On the curb side of the trailer, amidships, a four-seat dinette with a table nests against the wall and is held tight by webbing and clips. It’s easy to fold down and put into use, and the dinette seating converts to a bunk within seconds. At the rear of the unit, adjacent to the main vehicle storage area on the street side, another bunk stores similarly against the wall and can likewise be lowered or raised in seconds.

Another control-panel function works the queen-bed loft above the storage area, which is raised and lowered via a toggle. When not in use, the bed nests against the ceiling. Altogether, in standard trim, the 8528 sleeps eight, with four adults and four kids probably the ideal.

In the master bedroom, the queen bed is comfortable enough, and we found the shelving and drawers at both sides of the bed highly useful, since they include USB ports and 120-volt AC outlets. Win! Storage is likewise good here, with five overhead cabinets, under-bed storage, and another four cabinets beside the foot of the bed. Floor space is minimal, however; you pay for all the storage by having to shuffle around the bed. It’s a trade-off that we think is justified and is how most RVs are designed and built.

The ATC has six dual-pane windows: two in the master bedroom, and two on both the curb and street sides of the living area. The windows over the kitchen sink are abbreviated in size, and the curbside door has an additional small inset window. All are openable and screened, and feature black roller shades. Naturally, black is hardly ideal for reflecting sunlight and resisting heat buildup, but they do look great. For us, even in the desert’s heat and intense sunlight, they did a good job blocking sun-load inside the trailer — so good, in fact, that we wouldn’t bother replacing them with another color.

ATC 8528-FB Toy hauler main control panel
Located adjacent to the kitchen and near the side door, the main control panel is laid out logically, and operating it is intuitive, a welcome change from confusing old-school RV switch gear.

We didn’t find the exterior lighting particularly well executed. The only lighting on the curbside exterior (the logical recreational area next to the door) is associated with the awning, and the switch for the outside rear lighting (behind the unit) is located all the way at the rear of the interior, on the wall.


At the track, the pewter ATC 8528-FB toy hauler, silver Ford F-250 and glittery silver Ducati Imola race bike looked great together. Hundreds of miles of travel, four dry-camping days and nights, and numerous track sessions gave us strong exposure to all three vehicles, and with a few minor complaints, we enjoyed each one equally well. Best of all, each vehicle did its job beautifully.

The Kentucky-built Ford F-250 Power Stroke towed more than three tons of trailer and cargo energetically while coddling its occupants with such features as heated and cooled power seats. The Indiana-built ATC 8528-FB stored the precious motorcycle safely and securely, and offered a quiet, cool and comfortable sanctuary from the desert’s heat and wind. And the Ducati racer provided a loud, fast ride of a lifetime, just as it was built to do in the Italian race shop 47 years ago.

Manufacturer Specifications

2019 Aluminum Trailer Company (ATC) 8528-FB Toy Hauler

Exterior Length 33′
Exterior Width 8′ 6″
Exterior Height 11′
Interior Width 8′ 2″
Interior Height 7′ 6″
Construction Welded aluminum ladder frame, wall and ceiling structures; bonded exterior aluminum skin, one-piece aluminum roof with riveted trim, polypropylene and fiberglass composite interior panels; R-11 ceiling and R-3 wall insulation
Freshwater Cap. 100 gal.
Black-Water Cap. 45 gal.
Gray-Water Cap. 45 gal.
LP-Gas Cap. 10 gal.
Water-Heater Cap. 6 gal.
Refrigerator 8 cu. ft.
Furnace 25,000 Btu
Air Conditioner 15,000 Btu
Converter 50 amp
Battery (2) 12-volt
Tires ST235/80R16 LRE
Suspension Torsion axle
Weight (Dry) 7,300 lbs.
Hitch Weight 1,135 lbs.
GVWR 11,440 lbs.
GAWR (2) 5,200 lbs.
Cargo Carrying Cap. 4,140 lbs.
MSRP, Base $43,365
MSRP, As Tested $78,722
Basic Warranty 3 years

Night scene of ATC toy hauler and author John L. Stein with his feet resting on a silver motorcycle
The author kicks up his heels at Southern California’s Willow Springs International Raceway prior to the 24th-annual Corsa Motoclassica vintage-motorcycle racing event.

Headshot of John L. Stein holding motorcycle helmut.John L. Stein served as a charter editor of Automobile magazine and road-test editor of Cycle, the world’s largest motorcycle magazine. His expertise stems from decades of automotive, motorcycle, truck, trailer and marine product testing. Competing at Daytona and Sebring sharpened his analytical skills — as did racing a kangaroo through Australia’s outback on a motorcycle.

Press Release <![CDATA[Keystone Marks a Major Milestone: 1,000,000 RVs]]> 2019-09-16T17:40:07Z 2019-09-03T18:41:49Z

Keystone celebrates production of its millionth RV, a rare event in the RV industry.

On August 29, 2019, Keystone RV Company celebrated the shipment of its millionth production RV with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, during which a 2020 Keystone Montana 3761FL fifth-wheel was towed by a 2020 Sierra 2500 HD Denali off its corporate complex to be delivered to Walnut Ridge Family RV Center in New Castle, Indiana.

Julia King, Jeff Runels and Nick Kieffer in front of a new Keystone Montana fifth-wheel.
Goshen, Indiana, City Council Member at-Large Julia King (left) and CEO of the Goshen Chamber of Council Nick Kieffer (right) joined Keystone RV CEO and President Jeff Runels (center) at the celebration.

The manufacturer got its name in 1996 when industry veteran Cole Davis became president and major shareholder of Aristocrat Industries, Inc., and rechristened it Keystone RV Company. The original 60,000-square-foot factory in Goshen, Indiana, remains part of Keystone’s sprawling 320-acre campus, now home to more than 25 manufacturing plants and the company’s corporate office.

Sprinter, Keystone’s original brand, is still in production and has been joined by 17 other RV nameplates, making Keystone the largest manufacturer of towable RVs in North America. Other brands include Alpine, Avalanche, Bullet, Carbon, Cougar, Cougar Half-Ton, Fuzion, Hideout, Impact, Laredo, Montana, Montana High Country, Outback, Passport, Premiere, Raptor and Springdale.

Now a division of Thor Industries, Keystone has manufacturing facilities in Pendleton, Oregon, as well as Goshen, where it employs 5,000 workers.


Barb Riley <![CDATA[RV Walk-Through: Jayco Talon Fifth-Wheel Toy Hauler]]> 2019-08-30T23:43:52Z 2019-09-02T19:44:25Z

Jayco’s Talon 403T fifth-wheel toy hauler blends a generous-size garage and large tanks with plentiful sleeping space and a home-style living area

Consider, my friends, the spork. What a handy invention that was. It’s not as ideal as either a full-on spoon or fork, but the value of a single utensil that can manipulate both pudding and green beans is incontrovertible.

Similarly, the RV, grafting the tines of home-turf comfort and convenience onto the scooper of outdoor travel is, one might say, the spork of the recreation industry. To our benefit, the makers of these wondrous implements continually strive to increase both purposes’ effectiveness.

In that vein, the 2020 Talon 403T is engineered to serve as a high-performance toy hauler and luxury fifth-wheel with neither’s presence watering down the other. In fact, Jayco’s goals here are less spork (both instruments but technically neither) and more Swiss Army knife, with one unit containing several task-dedicated implements.

Jayco Talon 403T fifth-wheel toy hauler interior, kitchen area
Practical-use cabinets in the well-outfitted kitchen can house pots, pans and pantry items of various sizes. The wall with shorter-depth cabinets is useful as a central hub for keys and other miscellany.

The Talon 403T handily covers fundamental RV needs, and then some. The outside is accented by exterior marine-grade speakers, an electric awning with integrated lights and
blue-lit entrance steps. A rubberized suspension and six-point electric auto-leveling system assist travel and setup. Aluminum-framed, vacuum-bond laminated gel-coated fiberglass walls and a one-piece seamless roof frame the Talon’s steel I-beam foundation, while
solid weather-protection packages provide comfort in either hot or cold extremes.

The interior is peppered with storage space, starting with (very high) cabinets in the garage. Plenty of doors and drawers are found in the main living area, and a dresser and mirrored wardrobe complement nightstands and overhead cabinets in the bedroom. There’s even space for trash cans in every room they’re needed, including a pullout one in the kitchen peninsula.

There’s also supplemental sleeping space aplenty. Tucked above the living room’s door to the garage is a ladder-accessible loft bunk with a fuzzy mattress cover, a light and an air vent. Through the door are double queen bunks formed by folding down the two convertible sofas and deploying the HappiJac drop-down power bunk.

Jayco Talon 403T fifth-wheel toy hauler interior, bedroom
Windows (not shown) grace both sides of the Talon’s bedroom, providing light and air, while shared storage is supplemented by nightstands and extra power outlets.

The 13-foot-long garage itself is well outfitted for utility and activity-based escapades. Its 2,500-pound-capacity spring-assist, radius-cornered ramp covers a 7-foot, 9-inch opening that also includes a pull-down screen. The floor inside has 2-inch block-foam insulation and D-hooks anchored to the steel frame, with rubber diamond-pattern surfacing that’s reportedly waterproof and impervious to tire damage.

Post-escapade gatherings can commence at the large cargo table between the sofas with folding armrests and cupholders, and expand onto the ramp with the optional Party Deck package’s folding rails, rear-entry steps and manual awning. If you need even more back there, the Talon 403T has prep for a washer and dryer, a TV, and a backup and rear-observation camera system.

When shooting for a Swiss Army-knife state of being, compartmentalization is the name of the game, so Jayco made the garage as self-contained as possible. To ensure any rough-and-tumble garage activities don’t bleed into the posh bits, a curbside entry door and a half bath allow tail-enders to come and “go” without tromping through the main living area. The aft half can be an open-air, project-dedicated zone while preserving the other end’s controlled climate and noise levels.

Jayco Talon 403T fifth-wheel toy hauler floorplan
A) power-lift bed B) flip-up sofa beds C) loft bed D) heat-massage reclining sofa E) queen bed
Illustration: Rob Roy

Once past that garage door, there’s a distinct ambience shift. Occupants can quietly recline on the three-seat heat-massage SuperSofa in the curbside slideout, power up the swivel-arm-mounted 40-inch LED HDTV and cozy up in front of the electric fireplace with its 5,000-Btu space heater — all are standard features.

Quick Info

Exterior Length 41′ 5″
Exterior Width 8′ 6″
Interior Height 8′ 7″
Exterior Height 13′ 5″
Freshwater Cap. (2) 136 gal.
Black-Water Cap. (2) 87 gal.
Gray-Water Cap. (2) 87 gal.
LP-Gas Cap. 14 gal.
UVW 12,180 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,815 lbs.
GVWR 16,900 lbs.
MSRP, Base $69,995

A double-bowl stainless-steel kitchen sink with a pullout sprayer faucet is set into the peninsula’s solid-surface countertop. Under-sink storage faces the refrigerator (the standard 8-cubic-foot or optional 13½-cubic-foot model), microwave, stove and three-burner cooktop with a flush folding cover. An adjacent message-center wall offers more counterspace, outlets and cabinets.

A window in the hallway is a welcome source of extra light on the way to the bathroom. This bathroom is accessed through a pocket door, a new feature for 2020. The triple-pane shower has a skylight and seat, while the outlet and oval sink are surrounded by a generous-sized countertop and mirrored medicine cabinet. The not-as-generous lower cabinet is well-offset with the linen closet next to the porcelain foot-flush toilet.

Jayco Talon 403T fifth-wheel toy hauler interior, interior, garage
With multiple entry points, sleeping and gathering space, and even its own WC, the 403T’s garage may get more play than the traditional living area.

In the bedroom, RVers will appreciate the spacious area housing the walk-around queen-size bed and the aforementioned storage. Civil unrest over power-access inequality won’t be a concern here, as both sides of the bed have their own outlets for whatever needs plugging in, plus nightstand space. One can’t underestimate this perk, as affirmed by anyone who’s engaged in a bedtime tug-of-war over who gets to use the lone outlet (and who wakes up with a dead cell phone). There are also reading lights and blue nightlights on both sides, a 32-inch TV option and windows on both walls for cross-breeze ventilation.

Easy-to-sweep wood-plank-look vinyl flooring nicely matches other interior-design elements in all rooms, minus a few bedroom-furniture spots where carpeted edges stand vigilant against stubbed toes. The kitchen is dressed in 2020’s new rustic-look Vintage Wash Grey, and the living room and bedroom are draped in a deep, rich wood finish.

Jayco did a good job of pulling some of the best parts of several worlds together in this fifth-wheel toy hauler, whether your preferred activities involve rolling up your sleeves and hanging out in the garage or pulling out your paperback and relaxing up front. If your druthers differ from those of your travel companions, the Talon 403T may be the one to sink your claws into.

Barb Riley riding a zip lineA northern Indiana native and lifelong intermittent RVer, Barb Riley uses her news-journalism degree writing for publications such as Trailer Life, Woodall’s Campground Management and RVBusiness, and scripting marketing communications for the RV industry. She enjoys reading, zip lines, roller coasters and finding new things to cook inside pudgy-pie irons over the campfire.

Chris Hemer <![CDATA[Unique 3-Liter Mini ‘Max Debuts in Light-Duty Chevys]]> 2019-08-30T23:47:47Z 2019-09-01T21:07:46Z

GM’s 3.0-liter Duramax diesel Inline six is powerfully different

Also making its debut at the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD event were the new 3.0-liter Duramax-equipped light-duty trucks. The new engine is unique in almost every aspect when compared to Ford’s Power Stroke 3.0-liter engine and Ram’s third-generation EcoDiesel 3.0-liter. First and foremost, the little ’max is an inline-six-cylinder, double-overhead-cam (DOHC) design instead of a V-6, and uses an aluminum block and heads. But what really raised eyebrows was the engine’s drive system, which is located on the rear of the engine and uses chains to drive the camshafts and high-pressure fuel pump, along with a “wet belt” (partially submerged in engine oil) to turn the variable displacement oil pump.

See Related Story:
First Look: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD is a Home Run

This likely raises concerns for diesel enthusiasts who are accustomed to gear-driven reliability, but the reasoning behind the unusual layout, according to GM engineer John Barta and Global Chief Engineer Vincenzo Verino, comes down to efficiency and quiet operation. Driving the cams and fuel-injection pump from the rear of the engine, they claim, creates more accurate timing because there is less harmonic distortion at the rear of the crankshaft than there is at the front. This is important, because accurate cam timing and fuel injection results in reduced emissions and increased fuel economy.

Chains are also much quieter than gears, and half-ton customers are generally less tolerant of noise than heavy-duty customers. The chains are designed for the life of the engine, but the oil-pump belt has a useful service life of 150,000 miles, requiring the transmission to be dropped so the belt can be accessed. This sounds complex, but Barta maintains the job will not be a difficult one for a qualified service technician.
2020 CHEVROLET SILVERADO HD with trees and mountains in background
To meet ever-tightening diesel-emissions regulations and fuel-economy standards, the engine makes use of several interesting technologies. The fuel-injection system operates at a maximum of 36,250 psi and employs Denso fuel injectors that can pulse up to 10 injections per cylinder event.

Three top dead-center pulses shape the combustion charge for reduced noise, while post injections are used for regeneration purposes. A relatively low 15:1 compression ratio works with an electronically controlled Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) that creates up to 29 psi of boost pressure and spins up to 175,000 rpm, thanks to a new roller-bearing design. A liquid-to-air intercooler is located front and center on the engine, close to the turbocharger, as it results in a shorter column of air and reduced turbo lag.

Likewise, the emissions equipment is also located close to the engine. As Barta explained, “The Diesel Oxidation Catalyst, or DOC, is close to the turbocharger under the hood so it can stay hot, avoiding the need to inject additional fuel to get it up to optimum temperature.” Downstream of the DOC is the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) injector, followed by the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) unit, which are now combined into a single component GM calls the SCRF. That’s a lot of hot stuff going on in a small area, so GM uses an abundance of reflective tape and three electric fans under the hood to keep temperatures under control.

The engine produces 277 horsepower at 3,750 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm. Combined with the new 10-speed automatic transmission, 3.0-liter Duramax trucks have a maximum tow rating of 9,300 pounds. We didn’t have an opportunity to tow with the new engine, but we were invited to take it on a driving loop through the mountains around Bend, Oregon. As expected, the engine was quiet, smooth and powerful, but also very fuel efficient. Observed fuel economy was around 21 mpg, but some journalists reported better results when competing for the highest mpg numbers. EPA figures had not been released at press time but should be available by the time you read this.

Trailer Life contributor Chris Hemer

A frequent contributor to Trailer Life, Chris Hemer is the former technical editor of Trailer Life and MotorHome, and has been an RV and automotive journalist for more than 20 years. An outdoor enthusiast who now makes his home in Portland, Oregon, he enjoys camping, motorcycle riding, mountain biking and hiking.