TINY TRAILERS: Easy-Towing R-pod

R-pod-180-campfire-LEAD
Photos by Bruce W. Smith

Forest River’s 20-foot RP-180 travel trailer provides maximum comfort in a minimal package

RVers seeking a comfortable travel trailer that would fit into snug Forest Service or similar-type campsites often required a full-size tow vehicle because the available trailers typically exceeded the towing capacity of smaller pickups and SUVs. Today, that’s not the case. RV manufacturers offer numerous well-appointed lightweight trailers, and automotive manufacturers have beefed up the towing muscle of their midsize offerings. Combine a newer midsize pickup or SUV with an ultralight trailer, and you have a comfy combo for those who like to keep their RVing footprint small.


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A fine example is the 2018 Forest River R-pod RP-180, which we towed with a 2017 GMC Canyon Denali 4×4 to a BLM campground on the banks of Oregon’s Umpqua River. The truck and trailer mate as if they were meant for each other, and the combination would make an excellent weekend-getaway package for young couples and empty nesters alike.

With its 308-horsepower V-6 and tow rating of 7,000 pounds when properly equipped, the 2017 GMC Canyon Denali is a fine match for the RP-180.
With its 308-horsepower V-6 and tow rating of 7,000 pounds when properly equipped, the 2017 GMC Canyon Denali is a fine match for the R-pod RP-180.

Small Footprint, Big Features

The RP-180 is one of the newest offerings from Forest River, and one of six R-pod models with a slideout galley that makes the interior quite comfortable inside the cozy 20-foot platform. The test Hood River Edition, which we picked up at George M. Sutton RV in Eugene, Oregon, includes a $384 option package on the West Coast production models that swaps out the 205/75R14 street tires for more aggressive and taller 235/75R15 off-road tires on aluminum rims for greater ground clearance and durability on unpaved backcountry roads. The package also includes a MaxxAir vent cover and a double entry step.

The eye-catching exterior is two-tone gel-coated fiberglass, akin to what the boating industry uses. Under that, Forest River employs welded-aluminum side walls and floor covered by a one-piece R9-insulated fiberglass roof, R7-insulated laminated walls and R9-insulated flooring for an interior that is both warm and quiet. When it’s chilly, a touch on the digital thermostat brings to life the 20,000-Btu furnace, located under the queen bed in the rear, and it takes just a couple minutes to get toasty. If it’s hot and humid, the optional 13,500-Btu air conditioner ($978) cools things down just as quickly.

We loved the 6½-foot ceiling and the huge amount of storage between all the drawers, cubbies, cabinets and open space under the queen-size bed. Add to that a couple of exterior cargo compartments, the front one being an L-shaped area spanning the width of the trailer. The spacious rear bathroom has a wall of storage nooks and drawers, as well as a corner shower and vanity that are separate from the toilet.

The overall feel inside the RP-180 is upscale, with well-known-brand appliances and tasteful appointments.
The overall feel inside the RP-180 is upscale, with well-known-brand appliances and tasteful appointments.

Little but Loaded

R-pods come standard with a nice combination of appliances and features, including a two-burner stove and 3.7-cubic-foot refrigerator, vinyl flooring and LED lighting. In addition to the Hood River upgrades, three option packages elevated the test trailer from standard trim to the comfortable level of camping we enjoyed: Interior Luxury ($1,160), Exterior Luxury ($1,740) and Camper Friendly ($530). The add-ons made our several-day stay at Tyee Campground that much more pleasant.

The interior package includes a remote-controlled AM/FM/CD Jensen Bluetooth sound system, pleated night shades, a four-speed Maxxair roof fan, 4.2-cubic-foot refrigerator and 6-gallon DSI water heater. The Camper Friendly option adds a Go Power solar-charging port, an outside shower, friction-hinged entry door, EZ Glide dinette table, recessed cooktop with a glass cover, and a seamless countertop with an under-mount stainless sink and recessed sink cover.

The Exterior Luxury Package tops everything off with a dual-battery rack, external speakers, 5-gallon LP-gas cylinder with an ABS cover, front and rear manual stabilizer jacks, folding entry-door-assist handle, independent-torsion axle, detachable 30-amp power cord, black-tank flush, TV antenna and magnetic door catches for the outside compartments. These well-thought-out options are worth the extra coins, and we appreciated the convenience and utility.

During the test, a couple of items caught our attention. One was that the 20,000-Btu direct-vent furnace is located directly under the bed and the discharge faces inward toward what appears to be a convenient storage area. We had to remind ourselves several times to keep that area clear.

The other item was the slideout. While it functions fine, after it rains and the slide is retracted, it drags in a couple cups of water, depositing it evenly down both walls and onto the vinyl floor at the base of the galley. This is common with this style of slide room. Such water intrusion can be reduced by having a slideout awning installed — something to think about at the time of purchase.

 

Two for the Road

Getting to and from the campground was just as pleasant as our accommodations. The Canyon Denali 4WD Crew is the flagship of GMC’s midsize pickups. It’s loaded with all the creature comforts and towing ability we’ve come to expect when the Denali moniker is placed on a GMC, from heated and cooled seats to the IntelliLink touch-screen system to connect everything.

With a 308-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic as the driving force, the Canyon Denali never lacked for pulling power needed to easily climb mountain grades, merge into fast traffic or pass slower-moving vehicles, all while getting 13.4 mpg towing the 3,400-pound R-pod.

As for towing ability, the Canyon Denali 4WD shortbed is rated for 7,000 pounds with the 3.42:1 axle ratio and towing package, which is how the test truck was equipped. The ideal hitch weight is between 10 and 12 percent, and the trailer’s hitch weight was 330 pounds. That put it a hair on the light side, which is probably what contributed to a slight wag rolling down the highway. A sway control is in order for this combination, and it’s best to place heavier cargo in the front portion of the trailer.

The short take on the Hood River Edition R-pod RP-180 is that it accommodates two adults with enough of the niceties to make getaways very enjoyable, and the Canyon Denali makes getting there just as relaxing. My wife and I would have loved to keep this combo around for the rest of the summer and fall. It fits our lifestyle, allowing us to camp in style at smaller, more remote or less frequented campgrounds and off-the-grid locations.

Slideout Jacks

The optional Exterior Luxury Package includes front and rear stabilizer jacks, an independent-torsion axle and a black-tank flush, all of which are highly recommended.

Step Inside

Double entry steps are part of the Hood River Edition upgrade, the friction-hinged entry door comes with the Camper Friendly Package, and magnetic doors for the cargo compartments are included with the Exterior Luxury Package.

Sink & Stove

The slideout galley in the test trailer came with a one-piece countertop, an under-mount stainless sink and a recessed two-burner cooktop; the convection microwave is a $413 option.

Cooking

The cooktop is big enough to handle a pot of stew, and there’s enough open counter space so the chef doesn’t feel claustrophobic.

Fridge

The Interior Luxury Package includes the larger three-way 4.2-cubic-foot refrigerator, which is handy when spending more than a couple days camping off the grid.

Dinette

The EZ Glide dinette is just large enough for two to share a meal. It folds down to become a kid-size bed or a settee with a nice view of the outdoors.

Queen Bed

We slept well on the queen-size bed at the rear of the RP-180, but the 6-foot-and-over crowd may find it on the short side.

Bathroom Storage

A pleasant surprise in the RP-180 is the big bathroom at the front of the trailer and the abundant storage space it affords.

Bathroom Features

Shaker-style cabinet doors and a 6-gallon DSI water heater add to the amenities inside the bathroom. Vinyl flooring makes upkeep easy.

Forest River | 866-837-6044 | www.forestriverinc.com/travel-trailers/r-pod


 

10 COMMENTS

  1. I purchased my second rpod in June this year-a 2018 model 180 like the one tested in this article. I traded in my 2010 rpod (never one problem with it-just prefer the 180 model better).

    We have used it 7x since purchasing mid June and have been so disappointed! We had trouble using electrical (basically never worked) had faulty battery replaced, faulty inverter replaced, the one and only time the power worked-the molding on the slide out popped off, the back wall of the outside storage area was not fastened and just leaned into wall!!!

    I was told by the dealership that there is no quality control at manufacturer and even if I exchanged for a different one that I would deal with problems! So very disappointed!! Wish I had my 2010 back!

    • Denise, I’m feel so bad for you. It was very disappointing to read your review. I have a hybird 2011 Rockwood Roo19 and have been impressed and happy with it. I was looking for an upgrade and was specifically looking for full hard-sided trailer with a slideout and at Forest River. Now I have second thoughts and will broaden my selections. Thank you for your review.

  2. We have a 2018 R-pod 182G floorplan. It has been perfect for our family of four. The outdoor kitchen is awesome — it’s the focal point of all camping activities. We have had zero problems with this camper.

  3. I purchased my 2018 180 on 7/17/2017. Towed it 800 miles, and brought it in for a faulty awning. When we asked them to check the brakes because they were getting hot on one side, we were told that the spindle was worn and that the axle was put on crooked at the factory. They had to order a new axle, which was under warranty. It’s been in the shop for over a month now. You would think they could extend the warranty for all the time I have not been able to use it. Still waiting on answers. Not sure if the awning is going to be covered by warranty or not, even though it cracked the first time opening it. I am beyond frustrated.

  4. Hopefully the manufacturer reads this and makes all things good. I would question the dealer if he has found these things before, why he has not reported them.

  5. Denise: If you come back here and update your post, has anything been done on the manufacturer’s side in rectifying the problems? If not, were said problems addressed by you, or did you need experienced help?

  6. My experience with a 2017 180 is 100% positive. Two long solo trips, over 10,000 miles, 70-plus nights, many Forest Service campgrounds and zero problems. I bought it after careful research and made several modifications including a sheet-metal airflow diverter for the furnace to make all that space useable — the only major design flaw — two 6v batteries, 100w solar, more storage and others.The layout is very well thought out, plus there’s a real bathroom. Not a Hood River edition, and it was built in a different factory than the one tested, but it came with almost all the options in the article and less than the base MSRP. For that size and price, I could not have done better.

  7. Good article Bruce!

    I recently bought a 2018 Rpod 179 and we like it. I am towing it with a 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0l turbo rated for 3500 lbs towing and it has no problem towing it the mountainous roads of the Pacific NW. However was surprised was that the gas mileage dropped to 11 to 12 mpg as it gets closer to 24 mpg without the trailer, but I found out later that seems typical of what owners are reporting so your getting 13.4 mpg is remarkable, the best I’ve heard reported!

    Key things I like on the trailer is the push out, large holding tanks and off road clearance and tires. I noticed it seem very unstable in winding conditions on the road but adding a sway bar really helped and is a must with this trailer!

    I am a little disappointed in the quality control on the interior assembly of the Rpod and I have had to do a lot of minor fixes and repairs. Also some of the materials are really poor quality, like the wallboard that has a thin decorative paper layer that offers no stain protection (I might spray or roll on a clear finish to protect it). Items that are fastened to the thin wall board using screws are not secure and fall out because they did not use plastic anchors but you can fix it by adding your own. Like you I don’t like the heater placement under the bed and I’m looking to add some type of vent deflector to push the air into the cabin rather than under the bed to I can safely use it for storage. I really dislike there choice of cook tops. It has no off detent and is very easy to turn off when adjusting down the burners and it a pain to manually re-light (I might retrofit it with a electronic igniter you can get at Amazon for under $20). The mattress is ok but can be made much better with a memory foam topper that Amazon has for around $50. I also don’t like the bright white LED lights as they are glaringly bright and I am still trying to figure out how to warm them up like spray tint the covers?

    The good news is that almost all the issues can be fixed or improved without too much cost and work assuming you are a handy person but it’s disappointment that Forrest River doesn’t have better quality control and hasn’t implemented some obvious minor improvements to make it better. I have sent all my suggests to them and I assume a lot of owners have done the same thing, but from what I can from reading owners forums not much has changed with the Rpods in the 10 years they have made it.

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