Light Makes Right
Travel Lite’s Idea 2.0 i18 has been upgraded for 2017 with dual axles, a full-size refrigerator and new cabinetry
While large and extravagant travel trailers and fifth-wheels are top-notch for high-end living, many RVers enjoy comfort and convenience in a more petite package. Plus there’s more flexibility on where you can roam and spend the night. Travel Lite specializes in small travel trailers ranging from 14 to 21 feet that weigh no more than 3,500 pounds (dry), which means they can be towed by most small trucks and SUVs. To put one of its 2017 trailers to the test, we outfitted a Chevy TrailBlazer with a Reese hitch and Prodigy brake controller to pull a 3,215-pound (base weight), 20-foot 5-inch Idea 2.0 model i18.
Our first impression was that the Idea i18 is unpretentious with its practical size, high-gloss gel-coat white exterior (with a mix of sunny-yellow and muted-color graphics to jazz it up), and an aerodynamic, grooved front cap that conceals the LP-gas cylinder. The clean exterior look extends to the dark-glass frameless windows and chrome bezel LED lights.
Stepping inside, we were greeted with a surprisingly roomy and practical layout. A rounded wall leads to the bathroom, a 6-cubic-foot two-way refrigerator graces the galley, tasteful wood-plank-style linoleum covers a plywood floor, a queen-size bed is outfitted with a stylish comforter, and cabinets in Concord Cherry tie everything together.
We made big plans with the small i18, which included a visit to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. In the winter Big Bear is a popular ski resort, and in the summer it’s lovely with mild temperatures, hiking and biking trails, and tons of pine trees. The TrailBlazer rolled down the highway towing the trailer and climbed steep hills, including a 6 percent grade to an elevation of 8,400 feet.
Equipped with 13-inch wheels, the Idea didn’t sway and would have been largely unnoticeable except that I had to downshift to second gear at times to keep the engine rpm up when climbing grades. We easily backed into a spacious site in a national forest campground to immerse ourselves in ponderosa, sugar and Jeffrey pines.
This second-generation i18 dual-axle version (an upgrade from the previous single-axle model) makes backing up easier. With the dual axles came more ground clearance, and to accommodate the extra height, the i18’s single step was traded in for a two-step foldaway. Wrestling with the stubborn step was annoying, but the sturdy grab handle to the left of the door puts many others to shame.
Getting to the electrical cord, water hose, jack handle and blocks of wood was easy through an exterior curbside compartment door. Larger items must be loaded from the inside because the access door was small and this space is part of a voluminous under-bed storage area. From the inside, the storage is easy to get to (assuming the bed isn’t piled up with items), and it’s held up with gas struts, though reaching for certain items that move during travel can be a challenge.
Another upgrade for 2017 is a larger, 6-cubic-foot Dometic refrigerator/freezer (programmed for temperature control so it’s not adjustable). The downside is that countertop space was sacrificed, since previous models had a half-size, under-counter refrigerator. Possibly to add back a few inches of countertop, the two-burner Atwood range (no igniter) was rotated so the burners are stacked front to back.
The large oval-shaped back burner accommodated a 3-quart frying pan, no problem.
The Granicote countertop is made by Travel Lite in-house and ties in beautifully with the textured backsplash. Total counter space between the range and single-basin sink is 7½ inches, with a couple of inches at each end. This doesn’t leave much workspace for food preparation, so if dinner plans include more than opening a can of soup, you’ll need backup. Fortunately, help is there with the freestanding table just 15 inches and a half turn away, which adds 34¼ x 17¾ inches of prep space, though it wobbles when chopping with gusto. The table was also in a perfect location to load up our plates to take dinner outside, since we preferred dining under the pines.
The table is very easy to set up and take down, and complements the jackknife sofa option (less than $200) that replaces the two-seat dinette. The 60×40-inch leatherette sofa was comfortable, easy on the backside and offered good support. The sofa lies flat and looks like it can sleep a couple of small kids, but not anyone much bigger.
For the ultimate in laziness, we discovered that, when sitting on the left end of the sofa (with or without the table set up), we didn’t have to get up to reach into the refrigerator to grab a cold drink or snack from the fridge door. We’d prefer to have the galley flipped, though: While seated side by side at the table, we found ourselves staring at the kitchen appliances rather than out the window, which was at our backs. In the standard model with the dinette, this wouldn’t be an issue.
And here’s where our biggest beef with the i18 comes in: The base of the table leg is not flush with the floor — in fact, it sticks up a couple of inches — so when the table was not set up, we tripped over it a number of times before tossing a thick rug over it to keep from stubbing our toes.
The galley makes efficient use of space with four drawers on glides, deep cabinets below the refrigerator and under the sink, a wardrobe and overhead cabinets with picture-frame doors. However, it could use a shelf to park a tissue box or frequently needed items without having to open a drawer or cabinet.
With the flip of a switch by the entry door, LED backlighting glows warmly through four overhead cabinets with Glacier Glass fronts. It’s an inviting touch that adds a high-end feel to the RV, with just enough light to inspire relaxation when the other lights are off. Another of our favorites was the toekick lighting in the galley that left the right amount of illumination to find our way to the bathroom in the wee hours before daylight.
The galley’s ceiling vent does not have a fan, though the fan over the range did a good job of drawing out cooking steam. Mounted over the range and hood is a microwave positioned at the perfect height for my 5-foot 9-inch frame. Attached to the side of the cabinet over the sink was a 19-inch LED HDTV/DVD combo (optional $592.50 and part of the Entertainment Package that includes a TV antenna, a swiveling bracket and a CD/AM/FM/MP3 stereo). The articulating mount places the TV at the foot of the bed and can be turned so the screen is viewable from the galley.
Even though interior height is 6 feet 3 inches, the i18 is best suited for people 6 feet and under (maybe 6-foot 1-inch), since ceiling-mounted lights and open cabinet doors can be hazardous to folks who are over that height, plus the doorway into the bathroom is half an inch shy of 6 feet. The ceiling-mounted air conditioner is centered over the foot of the queen bed and technically out of the way, but my 6-foot 4-inch husband, in a peaceful mood while setting his sights on the comfy 60×74-inch pillow-top mattress, hit his head on the A/C while climbing into bed. Nightstands with drawers on either side provided room for smaller items, while the teensy bit of walk-around space gave us room to store big items, such as backpacks and the table/post, on the floor.
A stylish cherrywood-look headboard is attached to the wall of the trailer and follows the contour of the i18’s front cap. This makes for an interesting setup because the top of the headboard is tipped forward, maximizing bed length while lying down. However, when sitting up in bed and leaning back against the headboard to read, we had to pile pillows at our lower backs for support. We also positioned the overhead halogen reading lights before they heated up; otherwise, we’d burn our fingers. Speaking of heat, a big advantage of this small trailer is that it warmed up and cooled down quickly, thanks to the Atwood furnace and Dometic air conditioner.
The functional bathroom has enough space to get the job done. At its largest point, the neo-angle shower pan is 15×15 inches, so space is tight width-wise. In comparison, with the skylight over the shower, there’s 6 feet 3 inches of headroom. The shower curtain allows elbow room, but curiously, it is mounted outside the shower-stall walls, plus the shower wall does not go all the way to the ceiling, so water got on the walls and on the floor. Also, the sofa prevents the bathroom door from opening all the way, so you need to enter the bathroom from the galley.
It was delightful sitting outside under the electric awning that runs pretty much the entire length of the side wall. The awning rolled out smoothly and quietly, and with the single halogen porch light casting a golden glow, it created a lovely ambience. There’s not enough light to read by, so we listened to howling coyotes and other night sounds, or to the stereo, set on low through two outdoor speakers.
For those who visit moderately cold areas, an optional Polar Package ($895) is available with heated pads on the holding tanks, dual-pane windows (single-pane are standard) and thermal-foil wrap flooring. The i18 has outside electrical outlets, and the test unit had the optional ($145) outdoor shower.
Our last night was spent at Lighthouse Trailer Resort on the north shore of Big Bear Lake and a short walk to the solar observatory. After spending the day exploring miles of shoreline, it was back to camp to enjoy the entertainment, which consisted of full-timers flitting around in their golf carts waving greetings and carting stuff to a potluck. The best one had a happy dog and a popcorn machine sharing the back seat. When the sun was almost out of sight and the gnats were drinking more wine than I was, I finally gave up and went inside to prepare dinner.
I liked that I could tow the Idea with an everyday vehicle, it was not overwhelming, and less than half an hour after rolling into our campsites, we were set up and relaxing under the awning. The i18 offers a good floorplan for two, with enough space that we weren’t constantly bumping into each other. It was easy to maneuver, and we didn’t even have to disconnect the first two nights since the TrailBlazer-and-Idea combo didn’t overhang the campsite. We felt like we were living large in this small trailer and could see spending longer periods of time on the road.
Special thanks to Bob Miller RV in Beaumont, California.
951-845-4611 | www.bobmillerrv.com
Travel Lite | 855-831-3525 | www.travellitecampers.com