Advice for a newbie? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-17-2007, 09:28 PM   #1
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Hello Folks!

I'm sure you hear messages like this all the time, but I hope you'll still help...

I'm in the very early stages about possibly, maybe, perhaps, thinking about getting some kind of camper-trailer-sorta-thingy. Although I've narrowed down some ideas, I'm still pretty overwhelmed with the process.

I live in Henderson, Nevada, which is NOT Las Vegas (though, ok, it IS right next door). I love to hike and explore, and spend every weekend driving 100+ miles into the middle of nowhere, hiking, exploring, then driving all the way home again. If I decide to go out on Sunday, it's another long drive out and back. I do have a tent, but I donít use it very much. Generally, I take the long drive home instead, because (1) I get cold VERY easily (yes, itís cold in the desert in the winter), (2) tents are NOISY in wind, (3) tents offer no protection from crazy people, and (4) I'm too old to be sleeping on the ground, even with an air mattress. Oh, and (5) while I don't need a shower when camping, the ability to wash my hair in the morning, with warm water, would be a HUGE plus.

So, given all that, I've started thinking about a camper. I don't want a pop-up tent camper. I looked at the pop-up hard-sides (Aliner and Chalet), and wondered if the pop-up effect really gained you anything. They also seem pricey, at least when new. So, I just started looking at the fiberglass, non-popup types, but I've become lost in the details.

Here are my needs, concerns, etc. I hope you folks can help me narrow the field!

My tow vehicle is a Suzuki Sidekick Sport. It's a GREAT off-road vehicle (mine has been duded up with a 3 inch lift, a full-locking differential, and full skid-plating, so she can go anywhere.) It has loads of torque, however, it doesn't have much power in its four tiny cylinders. I often find myself in the slow lane on highways when going up hills, sometimes with the big mac trucks. The owner's manual says the following. Gross Trailer Weight (loaded trailer) can't exceed 1,500 lbs. If the weight is over 1,000 pounds, the trailer must have brakes. The Gross Combined Weight (loaded vehicle +loaded trailer) canít exceed 4,600 pounds. the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is 3,685 pounds.

So, anything I get will have to be small, and light. Thatís fine. Iím small and light too!

The trailer only really needs to sleep one, but if it could sleep 2 or 3, that would be a nice extra, when my like-minded friends and folks visit.

Iíd like a stove and sink. A fridge would be great too, but itís not as important.

I like to go on rough back roads, so I need a trailer than can be bashed around a bit.

I need something with insulation, since I get cold easily.

The trailer needs to withstand PUNISHING desert sun. Thatís one of my main worries with fiberglass Ė how does it stand up to 365 days of intense desert ultraviolet radiation?

Iím not a physically strong person, so the trailer needs to be easy to manage, such as when hitching it up.

Finally, I would really like to keep the price under $10,000. The further under $10,000, the better Ė as long as the trailer is still a good quality item. I donít mind buying used.

SoooÖ..I would love to hear any, and all, opinions!

Thank you so much!
Dawn
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Old 10-17-2007, 10:18 PM   #2
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Take a look at the smaller Scamp or Casita. They are often times equipped with the amenities you listed but may also be heavier than what your tow vehicle is capable of handling. Others here will be able to offer better help in that regard. There seems to be a decent supply of used ones available. Check the for sale section on this site and others like the Casita and Scamp specific sites. Good luck!
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Old 10-17-2007, 10:27 PM   #3
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You're going to have to stay with a 13', no bath to keep near that 1500 lb weight. My 13' Scamp loaded for camping weighs just above 1500 lb. I have many of the options except AC and the toilet. A new Scamp is in your price range.
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Old 10-18-2007, 06:13 AM   #4
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If you consider used trailers, it opens up quite a few more options. I'd be looking to stay closer to the 1000 pound mark than 1500. An original Boler/clone would fit the bill, but is probably hard to come by in your parts. You're right to consider moving up to a fibreglass trailer; you will be amazed how much better your camping life will become.
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Old 10-18-2007, 07:13 AM   #5
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My tow vehicle is a Suzuki Sidekick Sport.It has loads of torque, however, it doesn't have much power in its four tiny cylinders. I often find myself in the slow lane on highways when going up hills, sometimes with the big mac trucks.
Hi Dawn! I had a friend who lived in Hooterville (Henderson, NV for you non-locals) for about twenty-five years! He lives in the Florida Keys now... We spent a lot of time in them-thar hills and on his sailboat on Lake Mead.

On topic... I also had a Suzuki Sidekick 4DR for a while that I absolutely loved. My small Kubota garden tractor has about as much horsepower as the Sidekick. I quoted your heavily edited post, because you've really answered your own question. Since your Sidekick struggles under its OWN weight, towing a trailer with one at the max load range of the Suzuki isn't the best idea.

From the weight numbers you've posted, you might technically be able to get by with a 13' fiberglass trailer, but even the lightest at an average of 1200 lbs will max out and tax your Suzuki. As much as we like fiberglass trailers here, and we try to figure out what will work for folks, my recommendation to you would be to look for a motorcycle tent trailer, or get something a little larger with which to tow. Motorcycle tent trailers typically weigh less than 500 lbs and would be more in line with the numbers you quoted for your Suzuki.

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Old 10-18-2007, 10:03 AM   #6
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Chalet would be the weight winner for sure. They have an off-road option you can order too. I think it's a lifted axle and bigger tires. The top of the line is 15k but I’m sure one of the 3 other models would get you close to your 10k budget. I have read numerous posts of folks keeping warm in them in the snow. There is one user at rvnet that lives in Colorado and off roads with his chalet. His photo album is
HERE

RVnet user name is R N R name is Steve Garthwaite. Here is one quote from him "We love the 60 second set up. And because we boondock in the way-back country of Colorado the Trail Boss package was more than worth it for us. Pulls like a dream too."

The fiberglass will win in the sun department. I personally would not store a chalet trailer in the sun 24/7. I would have to ask and research on the message boards if anyone has had delaminating problems in the heat if it was my purchase. But you see plenty of fiberglass scamps and chalet's that spend their whole life stored in the sun and look fine.

EDIT: The fiberglass may win in the wind department too. I lived in the desert and know about all weekend long wind and sand. I dont know how well the chalet wall seams would keep out dusty wind. I personally would not want a bunch of dust inside my 10 grand purchase. Some owners report light coming through a few wall seams here and there. But maybe the newer ones are built tighter.
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Old 10-18-2007, 10:59 AM   #7
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Hello Folks,

Thanks for the quick replies!

I've done a bit more research, and I *think* a Scamp might be right for me.

The two big concerns are weight, and ultraviolet light. I'm going to check on some Suzuki boards and see what other Suzuki folks think about the weight issue. Obviously, it's going to put a strain on her, but I don't mind going real slow on hills once in awhile. Besides, I'd be putting fewer miles on her overall, since I'd be camping out, rather than traveling back home every night. So, hmmm.....it's a matter of weighing a hard pull up a hill against 100+ extra (but easier) miles without the weight....Hmmm.....


Do any of you have any more comments about hot desert suns?

Thanks much!
Dawn
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Old 10-18-2007, 11:08 AM   #8
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Dawn, Also remember it's as much about the trailer pushing the tow vehicle down the hill as it is about the tow vehicle dragging the weight up. Yes, yes, you will have brakes on the trailer... They will always need to be in perfect working order and in perfect adjustment if your tow vehicle has no margin of error.

You might also look for the Li'l Joe or an old Lite House. (Check the Albums for pics.) They are even lighter than the small Scamp...

Good luck with your quest!
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Old 10-18-2007, 12:50 PM   #9
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Ok here's a question, nutty though it might sound it's my own curiosity. The 9ft. Tripmaster I posted on the misc. trailers, is there room for a remodel? Is it possible to have this camper installed on a frame with wheels etc. and pull with a regular hitch (not a fifth wheel one)? The front part would be over the Suzuki and distribute part of the weight. The weight would be less than the conventional Boler, Scamp etc. wouldn't it. Ok, ok I already know that I march to my own drum, but I thought that there might be some clever engineers etc. out there that have an inventive clever mind.
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Old 10-18-2007, 01:01 PM   #10
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Seems like I saw a picture here on FiberglassRV of what you're describing Bonnie. It was a camper shell bolted to a flatbed trailer, hummmmm.

Anyway, perhaps Dawn, if we're unable to give you the answer you seek... you may have additional luck at:

Tear Drops and Tiny Travel Trailers

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Old 10-18-2007, 02:44 PM   #11
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My tow vehicle is a Suzuki Sidekick Sport.
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I also had a Suzuki Sidekick 4DR for a while that I absolutely loved.
If these are the Sidekicks which I remember, the 4-door has substantially longer wheelbase than the 2-door... which is quite relevant to towing capacity and stability.
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Old 10-18-2007, 03:24 PM   #12
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If these are the Sidekicks which I remember, the 4-door has substantially longer wheelbase than the 2-door... which is quite relevant to towing capacity and stability.

Ah, yes, I should have specified. I have a four-door Suzuki....

Dawn
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Old 10-20-2007, 01:03 AM   #13
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Quote:
Do any of you have any more comments about hot desert suns?
I have used my Fiber Stream in Palm Springs and Ocotillo, California in temps that surpassed 110*. But not for very long. Mine has NO insulation. The shell has held up with attention to cleaning [b]and waxing, but I have noticed cracks and surface gelcoat pock marks that is as much wind wear in addition to intense sun.

I think your weight limits make a Scamp marginal at best. Lite House had a unit called the Base Camp that left out all the appliances and lights/battery to bring the weight down do under 900 pounds, but they didn't sell well when new, and finding one now that they are out of business would be difficult indeed.
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Old 10-20-2007, 08:32 AM   #14
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Ok here's a question, nutty though it might sound it's my own curiosity. The 9ft. Tripmaster I posted on the misc. trailers, is there room for a remodel? Is it possible to have this camper installed on a frame with wheels etc. and pull with a regular hitch (not a fifth wheel one)? The front part would be over the Suzuki and distribute part of the weight. The weight would be less than the conventional Boler, Scamp etc. wouldn't it. Ok, ok I already know that I march to my own drum, but I thought that there might be some clever engineers etc. out there that have an inventive clever mind.
Bonnie... that is an interesting thought, BUT... my guess is that pickup camper weighs more than most 16' trailers. Pickup campers tend to be heavier than trailers, at least much heavier than we'd assume them to be. Then you'll have the weight of the trailer frame and axles to add to it. There are car trailer manufacturers who mount them on long trailers and then have the back half set up as toy haulers. Those are VERY heavy trailers.

Dawn... don't believe the 950lb advertised weight for Scamps. They all weigh in at about 1150 lbs to start and can go up to 2,000 lbs in the 13' with the custom deluxe front bath models. The old 950lb weight was without anything in the shell, and no propane on the tongue... and even then they were being conservative for the sake of advertising. To be blunt, there is nothing you can do to your Suzuki that will make it a safe vehicle for towing a travel trailer like the Scamp. I towed a late '70s Scamp 13 with a '79 Jeep CJ-7 when the Jeep was new. The Jeep had the 258 inline six with plenty of power, but the short wheelbase of the Jeep was just unacceptably short for towing. The Jeep was about twice the weight of your Suzuki.

I had a very good friend who had a Samurai in the '80s and I sold him a Combi Camp tent trailer I had for several years. He towed that with his Samurai, but told me that even towing that wasn't a comfortable situation.

The long and short of this is that you may get away with towing with your Suzuki at or over it's max capacity for a while, but it will come back to haunt you sooner or later and when it does, it'll happen in a big way. You don't want to be there when that happens.

Roger
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