The Towable Revolution

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Strolling through the seemingly endless rows of RVs at last fall’s industry trade show in Louisville, Kentucky, it was obvious that towables are heading in a different direction. While motorhomes have taken center stage at past shows, this year marked what I consider a pivotal year for trailers, fifth-wheels and even pickup campers. On display were not our fathers’ trailers with a few décor and floorplan changes, but RVs sporting true innovation and excitement.

The buzzwords for 2012 are “lightweight,” “half-ton towable,” “fuel economy,” and “green.” Weight is coming down, lengths are going up, and interiors are more livable with noticeable enhancements found in almost every nook and cranny. And all this as many manufacturers embrace green technology in an effort to preserve resources and align themselves with people and groups who are environmentally conscious.

Interestingly, the effort to trim pounds from trailers and fifth-wheels is not always relative to downsizing. In fact, the opposite is true. We’re seeing bigger trailers, many in the 33-35-foot range, that are no longer plagued by evil handling manners. Lightweight materials and improved weight distribution have made it possible to produce trailers exceeding 30 feet that can actually be towed without trepidation.

The transition to longer travel trailers gives the manufacturers platforms to design interiors that emulate Class A motorhomes, which is certainly a paradigm changer. Case in point is the new line of towables from Winnebago. If you closed your eyes before entering these new Winnebagos, you’d swear you were in one of the company’s Class A motorhomes. Living areas with wraparound couch seating and beautiful kitchens are key elements that have been adopted. And Winnebago is not alone in this segment. Trailers from Evergreen, K-Z, Nash (Northwood), Heartland and a number of offerings from Keystone, Forest River and Jayco — among others — are certainly game-changers.

Buyers will also find many smaller trailers with great floorplans and characteristics, and of course, a number of unique rigs that are products of out-of-the-box thinking. Forest River’s Aviator and Airstream’s new eclectic 27-footer designed by Christopher C. Deam are just two examples. Born Free, a company that builds highline Class Cs, showed a 22-foot travel trailer prototype that is obviously aimed at upscale buyers. At $85,500, the Born Free Trail-R-Lodge, sans slideout, will take a shot at wooing discriminating trailer enthusiasts who are more enamored by highline fixtures than extraordinary space.

While extra-long, multiple-slideout fifth-wheels have evolved into super expensive rolling mansions, the opposite end of the spectrum is getting a lot of attention. Half-ton pickups with 5-ton-plus tow ratings have made it feasible to pull full-featured 28- to 32-foot fifth-wheels with multiple slideouts. Many have bunkhouse floorplans for sleeping versatility. Team up one of these truly livable fifth-wheels with trucks like Ford’s EcoBoost-powered F-150 and you’ll have a package that works well for families or couples, without sacrificing amenities and the ability to visit some of the more beautiful destinations with length limitations.

Never before have we seen so much excitement in the towable arena. Check out our observations on the 2012 trends in travel trailers.


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