Editors’ Favorites

When deciding on your favorite anything, countless factors contribute to making the final choice. For most of us, just because something is your favorite doesn’t mean you think it’s the best; often, the circumstances surrounding a particular occasion, object or experience mean just as much as the selected “favorite.”

That said, we gathered together some of the favorite RV-related items of our editors. It wasn’t easy, but here it is … and keep in mind we don’t necessarily endorse the following products over any others, other than to say they hold a special place in our hearts.

 

Trailer

Tough choice, but I’ll have to go with the Dutchmen Denali 260 FBX-DSL. I base this tough decision not so much the trailer itself – which was actually an extremely spacious and comfy 29-footer with a large living-room slide and full-width rear bathroom – but on the experience: It was the first time my entire family (wife and two sons) went RVing. Our 5-year-old had been many times, and had taken to it like a fish to water, but this trip was the maiden voyage for our 3-month-old, who did surprisingly well. The ability to spend a great time with my family is the reason I enjoy RVing, and this was the first time we were all together. www.dutchmen-rv.com. – Kristopher
Bunker, Editor

 

I’ve always enjoyed Hi-Lo travel trailers, and was disappointed to learn the company has closed its doors. But these trailers are still among my top picks because they fit so well with my travel and camping lifestyle. Their telescoping design gives them a low travel profile, allowing for graceful agility when towing – a plus for the freeway and dirt roads. And once in camp, the hydraulic lift system is really effortless. My favorite of the Hi-Los is the 2009 TowLite 15T, due to its smaller size, lighter weight and roomy floorplan. This 15-footer is only 2,700 pounds wet, with a livable height of about 6 feet 4 inches – and it contains all the amenities of most “full-sized” trailers. Also, its rear-entry door adds charm to the layout. – Marleen
Canniff, Senior Managing Editor

We enjoy lightweight, smaller trailers, and the Lance model 1685 is a terrific example of the genre. At a bit shorter than 21 feet long and around 3,450 pounds empty it’s easy to tow and maneuver, and can be parked in many smaller-size campsites. It has incredible storage capacity for its size, a Sealy mattress queen bed, and its 78-inch slideout houses a huge U-shaped dinette that can seat as many as six adults in cozy comfort or sleep two full-size adults as well. A functional-sized bath and well-appointed kitchen round out its useful features that make it so much fun as a camping vehicle. www.lancecamper.com. – Jeff
Johnston, Contributing Editor

I enjoy dirt bikes and ATVs, and toy haulers are perfect to haul these and then have a comfortable place to sleep and hang out. It’s really nice to return from a day of riding to a warm, dry place with a hot shower and a cozy bed! And being able to keep expensive toys inside for security is an extra benefit. Plus, toy haulers today are so much more luxurious than their predecessors, often containing all the features found in a comparable standard trailer. With larger trailers, I prefer fifth-wheels to conventional-hitch travel trailers for their greater stability, particularly in crosswinds. I also like two-axle trailers because they have a tighter turning radius. – Ken Freund, Contributing Editor
Tow Vehicle

I love Jeeps. They’re compact, deliver off-road agility, and carry a fun factor like no other vehicle. They’re also a good match with my taste for smaller trailers. The Unlimited Sahara 4 x 4 has a 3,500-pound tow rating, while its 3.8-liter V-6 engine along with a six-speed manual transmission give it enough power to handle all of my hobbies – from RVing to off-roading. Its suspension system and gas-charged shocks make the ride smooth on the open road. Although its gas mileage is only mediocre at 16 mpg solo/9.8 mpg towing, it more than makes up for this with a retractable top, powerful engine, great cargo space – and loads of fun. www.jeep.com. – M.C.

Picking a favorite tow rig is like saying “how long is a piece of string?” Given the variety available, one that always shines for me is a Ford F-150 Crew Cab shortbed. It can handle any kind of towable RV or a slide-in camper – within its limits – and its less-harsh suspension means it’s comfortable. Its 4.6-liter engine isn’t the most economical, but we haul a batch of adults in comfort and safety, while 4WD gets us through the less-improved roads we frequent while towing as much as 8,200 pounds. www.fordvehicles.com. – J.J.

I chose the Dodge Ram because the engines are so robust and seem to get the best fuel economy among diesel pickups. These trucks can tow a lot, but with the fifth-wheel hitch removed they can carry a slide-in camper, which I enjoy for back-country trips. The 4WD helps to get into those remote campsites, explore dirt roads and get through in inclement weather. It may not be politically correct, but I prefer the pre-2007 models because they have less smog gear which adds weight, cost and complication. www.ramtrucks.com. – K.F.

 

Sure, it won’t tow a large trailer (its tow rating is a scant 4,500 pounds) or a fifth-wheel (for obvious reasons), but what the Honda Pilot lacks in towing muscle it makes up for in solo performance and fuel economy: We averaged nearly 25 mpg solo, and about 12 mpg towing a 3,800-pound trailer. What I love about the Pilot is the space – three-row, eight-passenger seating, while still retaining enough real estate for a cooler behind the third row. And, the top-notch stereo, GPS and Bluetooth capabilities doesn’t hurt. www.automobiles.honda.com. – K.B.

Trailer Accessory (Performance)

I like solar panels because they allow me to camp off the grid in peaceful silence. As long as you don’t plan to run an air conditioner (or a big-screen TV) for long periods, you can pretty much power everything with the sun. Changing incandescent and fluorescent lights to LEDs will reduce power consumption, and an inverter can power up most appliances from your batteries. If you plan to use a lot of power, consider adding more batteries; six-volt golf cart batteries in series work well and provide the most bang for the buck. – K.F.

In order to enjoy a camping trip you first have to get there in one piece, and the Hensley Arrow hitch is a device that can help ensure you do just that. It’s darn pricey, in excess of $3,000 new and fully optioned, but this hitch truly makes a travel trailer tow with the stability of a fifth-wheel. It can be more hassle to hitch up until you learn the drill, then it’s well worth the effort when its pivot mechanism gives the trailer an astounding degree of stability that has to be experienced to be believed. www.hensleymfg.com. – J.J.

Every time I’m in the rain – or the searing heat, for that matter – cranking the manual A-frame jack, I remind myself that the task at hand is a necessary evil, and that an electric jack is simply another piece of gadgetry that would likely fail, anyway. But who am I kidding? An electric A-frame jack makes it a hassle-free affair to unhitch the trailer, saving your arms and back for important tasks like chopping firewood or carrying around your favorite cold beverage. It also helps with hitching up and front-to-back leveling, and most models feature a manual override switch just in case it does blow a fuse. – K.B.

Because I mostly enjoy parking the trailer off the grid, my favorite trailer accessory would have to be the solar backup generator system from Solutions From Science. Using a quick-charge 90-watt solar panel, it produces up to 1,800 watts of 120 AC electricity – with no gas required. It weighs about 65 pounds, and the system takes literally only a couple of minutes to set up. Aside from it temporarily powering our AC and DC appliances anywhere we go, the best thing about this particular system is it’s completely noiseless. www.mysolarbackup.com. – M.C.

Accessory (Livability)

 

If there’s one item we never fail to stow when we head for an RV outing, it’s our Coleman Camping Coffeemaker. This little guy has made our mornings – and evenings when that occasional coffee craving hits – a lot more fun. It’s configured exactly like a standard drip coffee maker, right down to its glass carafe and filter drawer, but its heating element is powered by the flame on an LP-gas stovetop or portable camp stove. It handles up to 10 cups of pulse- pounding, smell-enhancing burnt-bean goodness in short order, and at about $45 msrp, you can’t beat the price. www.coleman.com. – J.J.

I like to dry camp and a quiet, reliable and efficient inverter-type generator is great to have in very hot weather for air conditioning. I normally only use a generator when camping in the desert during the summer when it’s well over 100° F, during non-quiet hours and making sure it doesn’t interfere with anyone else. Actually, twin generators that can be run separately or paired together with a special harness to run heavy loads make a lot of sense. If you only want to run a microwave, hair dryer or coffee maker, etc., you can run just one, then connect them for the air conditioning. – K.F.

We love camping in the desert and the national forests, but too many times we’ve been out and about only to learn that there’s a fire ban in the area. It didn’t take us long to really appreciate having Campfire in a Can from R&R Leisure Products, mostly because it’s fire-ban approved. We now take it on every RV camping trip just in case (as we can’t imagine camping without a campfire!), and we even use it on the deck at home when we’re not traveling. Its ceramic fiber one-piece log sits in a canister slightly larger than a foot in diameter, and burns until you turn it off. It easily hooks up to the RV’s LP-gas system for a very authentic-looking traditional campfire without the smoke. www.campfireinacan.com. – M.C.

Hmm, refrigerator, slideout, toilet … All good choices, but I’m an electronics geek at heart, so I’ll go with the iPod. You have literally thousands of songs available at the push of a button, and not only can an iPod be plugged in to the trailer’s stereo for background music, but aftermarket speaker systems make it possible for family excursions to have their own personalized soundtracks (provided you’re not disturbing others, that is). Nothing makes a long summer hike go smoother than having little ones dance through the underbrush to the beat of their favorite songs. – K.B.

Campground

One of the places I take trailers locally for testing, Cachuma Lake Recreation Area in Santa Barbara, California, offers more than 400 sites (100 with full hookups) on a first-come, first-served basis. Our favorite row of sites offers a quick hike down to water’s edge, where the fishing is world-class (allegedly, anyway; it’s difficult to patiently fish from shore when you have a curious infant and a 6-year-old intent on skipping stones). An informative nature center, camp store and nearby playground make this an enjoyable, family-friendly campground. No swimming is allowed in the lake, but a pay-pool is available. www.countyofsb.org/parks. – K.B.
A trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from our then-home in Indiana was always a joy. Based on our departure time, Woodstar Beach Campground near Manistique was our frequent first nights’ destination. It was normally an after-dark arrival, but the location’s east-facing beach on Lake Michigan meant we got to enjoy our first UP sunrise from the sandy beach behind the campsite. Fishing, lake swimming, local sightseeing and other activities made up for the gravel roads and back-in access that some may dislike. For us, this campground always means “UP, we’re here!” www.manistique.com. – J.J.
Wildrose Campground in Death Valley National Park in the springtime is a special place, mostly because of its diversity. Located on the western slope of the Panamint Mountain Range at an elevation of about 4,100 feet, in minutes, you can be in the snow on Telescope Peak, basking in the sun on the desert floor or hiking through a canyon looking at millions of desert wildflowers. It’s a hike away from the famous charcoal kilns, designed by Swiss engineers and built by Chinese laborers in 1879, and we always find great four-wheeling opportunities close by. Although Wildrose has no hookups, the campground has about 23 sites, drinking water and fire pits. It’s open all year, and it’s free. www.nps.gov/deva. – M.C.

I actually have two favorite camping areas, Kennedy Meadows and Pismo Beach, both in California. Kennedy Meadows is an awesome remote location more than a mile up in the high Sierras that offers hiking, mountain-bike and motorcycle trails, and you can escape the heat of the lower elevations in summer. And it’s less than a day’s drive from many parts of California. Pismo is an excellent place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Southern California that’s just a couple hours up the coast for me. You can try your hand at the dunes with ATVs, dirt bikes or buggies, swim or surf, or just listen to waves crash and take in the cool sea breeze. – K.F.

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