Small FG trailer Recommendations - Fiberglass RV
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Old 04-14-2021, 05:55 PM   #1
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Name: Mark
Trailer: In the Market
California
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Small FG trailer Recommendations

Hi! We are looking for a small (under 16ft total) trailer that's made of two fiberglass tubs connected without rivets. Towable by a SUV (max 3,500 lb.) Sleep up to family of 4. Both new or used ok. Any recommendations?

We've considered:
1. The Armadillo
2. L'air
3. Airstream Nest
4. The Dub Box

Any other options we haven't considered? Suggestions appreciated.

Would particularly appreciate comments on value, durability, resale, design (functionality & use of space)

Thank you,
Jenny
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Old 04-14-2021, 07:12 PM   #2
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Name: Charlie Y
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Airstream nest is discontinued, so no new available.


So basically a hardshell tent? No bath? No tanks?


At 3500 max, you're looking at a trailer under 3000 lbs dry (without your stuff.)
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Old 04-14-2021, 10:28 PM   #3
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Name: Justus
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Originally Posted by Jenny and Mark View Post
Hi! We are looking for a small (under 16ft total) trailer that's made of two fiberglass tubs connected without rivets. Towable by a SUV (max 3,500 lb.) Sleep up to family of 4. Both new or used ok. Any recommendations?

We've considered:
1. The Armadillo
2. L'air
3. Airstream Nest
4. The Dub Box

Any other options we haven't considered? Suggestions appreciated.

Would particularly appreciate comments on value, durability, resale, design (functionality & use of space)

Thank you,
Jenny
I think you will find the spreadsheet linked in this post insightful. These are loaded weights to give you a better ballpark of what you can realistically tow. I would wager that most members here are not traveling as a family of 4, so your weights may be somewhat higher based on how heavy you pack for your kids. Most owners recommend allowing a towing safety margin beyond what your vehicle manufacturer has already determined. 20% is a common recommendation.

I would spend some time browsing the forums for the comments you're looking for. On Youtube you will find countless walkthroughs and reviews of various molded fiberglass trailers--the next best thing to seeing them in person.
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Old 04-14-2021, 10:35 PM   #4
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Name: Dave W
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Does it really need to be said? Trillium 4500! 15' long, nothing you don't need. It was originally produced with a 2000# axle, though that was probably more about allowing it to be towed with a class 1 hitch than any practical consideration. Hard to find though.
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Old 04-15-2021, 05:27 AM   #5
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Not sure why the aversion to rivets. Mine (‘08 Scamp 13) have not given a lick of trouble. Other things have, but not the rivets. With recent price increases, the value factor of Scamp has diminished somewhat, but all the molded trailers have gotten very expensive.

Even if not used to mount cabinets, most RVs use rivets to mount external fittings.

I agree that a vintage Trillium 4500 is the perfect family choice. Nice all-around jalousie windows for ventilation and a roomy feel, and the same layout as a 13’er but with a larger main bed and galley. Hard to find one that’s not a project, though.

You might add Happier Camper and recently discontinued Parkliner to your short list. The Nest will probably be too heavy. Escape also used to make 13’ and 15’ models. Used ones come up occasionally. None used rivets.

Tow ratings are based on two people and no cargo, and decrease as you load the vehicle. We have a Pilot with a 3500# rating. According to a chart in the owner’s manual, I’ve estimated with four people and some gear, the largest trailer we can realistically tow is around 2500# gross weight. We hit our tongue weight limit first.

Best wishes in your search!
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Old 04-15-2021, 07:06 PM   #6
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Name: Mark
Trailer: In the Market
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Hi Justus, that's a useful spreadsheet of weights. Thanks! And really appreciate your 20% rule of thumb. We pack light, as a family, so hoping we can get away with a small trailer. I figured the smaller, lighter, easier to maneuver, the more likely we are to use the trailer (even if it's just for a place to hang out between soccer games.)
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Old 04-15-2021, 07:08 PM   #7
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Thanks, David, I'll look into a Trillium 4500!
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Old 04-15-2021, 07:28 PM   #8
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Name: Mark
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Hi Jon, thank you for your thoughtful response!

Rivets -- I think they increase the potential of leaking... do you not agree?

Happier Camper -- really cool concept, and we followed it for awhile and almost bought an used one; but ultimately, we need a better kitchen than their cube. We also need a fridge rather than a cooler because we like real meals while camping. Also, my opinion is that it's not great value for the cost.

Thanks for the suggestions: I will look more into Trillium, Parkliner, and Escape.

With appreciation.
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Old 04-15-2021, 07:43 PM   #9
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Thanks, Bill, for your input. We are leaning towards Armadillo. Anyone with knowledge of Armadillo's build quality and longevity?

L'air is new, and right now doing a promotion to get it's business going. Might be a good deal, but there's no history to know if it's built well.

Nest is no longer being built, but if we can find one used, I wonder if it's a good choice.

Thank you.
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Old 04-15-2021, 08:21 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Jenny and Mark View Post
Thanks for the suggestions: I will look more into Trillium, Parkliner, and Escape.

With appreciation.

Use the search function here to read previous threads on the brand, and, more important, check the Better Business Bureau rating and read complaints and resolution ( or not ).

You may save yourself a lot of grief.
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Old 04-15-2021, 09:06 PM   #11
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Name: Mark
Trailer: In the Market
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Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
Use the search function here to read previous threads on the brand, and, more important, check the Better Business Bureau rating and read complaints and resolution ( or not ).

You may save yourself a lot of grief.
Good to know, Glenn, thank you! I'm still learning how to navigate this website. Lots to explore. =) Cheers.
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Old 04-16-2021, 05:37 AM   #12
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Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13 S1
Arizona
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Originally Posted by Jenny and Mark View Post
Rivets -- I think they increase the potential of leaking... do you not agree?
The potential, yes, but the actual likelihood is small (and easily fixed at minimal cost). On the other hand, the higher cost of buying a non-riveted trailer is certain and unavoidable. 13' models from Happier Camper and Armadillo cost almost double a comparable Scamp. I'm willing to fix a rivet or two to save $12-15K. But I haven't had to yet.

In fairness, you'll get better build quality in other areas of the trailer, too. But one thing you won't get at any price is a maintenance-free trailer. Most leaks come from windows, doors, and vents. Keep up with routine maintenance, and any molded trailer, riveted or not, has the potential to give many decades of service.

Armadillo is nice, especially the Backpack model with front and rear windows.
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Old 04-16-2021, 06:03 AM   #13
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Trailer: 2013 Escape 19; 1977 Trillium 1300
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Not a Scamp owner, but with Scamp you can buy a bare bones trailer at a lower price point if you so desire. Or you can add options so it is not bare bones. And they have the best deposit policy in the business. Small $$, 100% refundable. There are many sad stories out there of people either being held hostage to their non-refundable sizable deposits (delivery dates being continually pushed back, months or even into following years), or in the worst case, losing the entire deposit. This with very sizable deposits.

Look at any of the used Scamp listings, and you will see Scamps hold their value quite well.

One advantage of riveted interiors is if you need to remove a cabinet to do repairs or modifications, it's easy. Try removing an interior cabinet on my Trillium.....

Now I love my vintage Trillium. I love the large jalousie windows, I like the door design better, and I like the squarish shape.

One final advantage of Scamp is availability. All molded FG trailers are hard to find used. But Scamps and Casitas tend to be the most common in the US (still hard to find, just not as hard). It took me a year to find my Trillium, it needed work, and it was 625 miles away (one way). It was either keep looking, or accept I was taking on a project. I chose the latter.

I would consider all of the molded FG trailers to have excellent longevity. Just look at the number of 45 year old molded FG trailers you still see out there. Quality is somewhat subjective. Realize the appliances tend to come from the same suppliers for all trailers. Do not expect the appliances to last as long as the trailer.

Me, there are lots of factors to choosing a trailer. Being within my budget is #1. Floor plan is #2. Being able to fit on my lot is #3. These are all requirements. Everything else is optional. #3 has eliminated many trailers from my list!

I find the L'air intriguing. There is a lot to like about it. But I am not going to be a first year customer of anything. I would not buy a home from a builder that was his first house, I would not buy a brand new car first year model, and I am not going to buy a trailer from a company that just now has delivered their very first product (has anyone actually gotten one). Good savings to those willing to take the additional risk.

In business, I am a believer in "start small, win big, start big, lose big!" The L'air start up is in the start big category. But perhaps they have the financial resources to pull it off! Myself, year 1 I would make only one model, in one floor plan. Year 2 I would add a bath. Year 3 I would add the 4500 model, and so on. And I would have fewer to no options initially. As an old production manager, every option and model choice makes production that much harder. Molded FG interiors means a lot more molds to build (not cheap).

One big negative for me on the Armadillo is the lack of windows. No window on the front, small porthole style window on the rear. My choice these two windows would be the largest in the trailer. Now the backpack model has a large window on the rear. That helps. In these small trailers, I find generous windows really help make them feel more spacious.
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Old 04-16-2021, 06:59 AM   #14
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Name: Mike
Trailer: Boler13/trillium4500/buro13
Ontario
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jenny and Mark View Post
Hi! We are looking for a small (under 16ft total) trailer that's made of two fiberglass tubs connected without rivets. Towable by a SUV (max 3,500 lb.) Sleep up to family of 4. Both new or used ok. Any recommendations?

We've considered:
1. The Armadillo
2. L'air
3. Airstream Nest
4. The Dub Box

Any other options we haven't considered? Suggestions appreciated.

Would particularly appreciate comments on value, durability, resale, design (functionality & use of space)

Thank you,
Jenny
Jenny I see you are in California ,many of the trailers mentioned here would be great trailers but may involve shipping or long drives to check out . Happier Camper are built in the state of California and with no rivets, double hull construction, light weight ,customizable interior and the only fg trailer with a rear hatch especially for those beach campsite views .it may be worth the drive to check out, ,it will be more expensive than some and comparable to others but like most things you will get what you pay for. As for durability most fg rvs will be far superior to stick built trailers but some will have failures on some of their construction such as wood floors ,cabinets ,delaminating wall coverings and leaky windows and rivets but should be fine with regular maintenance.Happier Campers and a few others in the higher price range will have none or very seldom have any of those issues but like others the appliances and components will be dependent on the qualities of their suppliers . Good luck with your search and no matter which you choose it will be a good choice.
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Old 04-16-2021, 08:00 AM   #15
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I towed a first generation (classic) Escape 17B for 85,000 miles with a RAV4 rated 3500/350 pounds. Actual weight loaded was 3050/345 pounds. A comfortable combination, although the low ground clearance & small fuel tank were problems.

The 17B could be purchased with a dual bunk bed option (it cannot be easily added if not included in the build since they glass in the supports during construction). The current version of the 17B is heavier; it would be easy to overload a 3500/350 pound limited tow vehicle. The change to the current version took place around 2016. The new version has a standard RV door while the classic has a curved airplane type door.
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Old 04-21-2021, 02:47 PM   #16
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Name: Chuck
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Snoozy II has no rivets. 3 people, 4 would be tight!
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Old 04-21-2021, 10:11 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Jenny and Mark View Post
Thanks, Bill, for your input. We are leaning towards Armadillo. Anyone with knowledge of Armadillo's build quality and longevity?

L'air is new, and right now doing a promotion to get it's business going. Might be a good deal, but there's no history to know if it's built well.

Nest is no longer being built, but if we can find one used, I wonder if it's a good choice.

Thank you.
Went up to Armstrong and met the owners/builders of Armadillo in Oct of 2019 just a few months before the border closed. They are very nice trailers, well built, the owners are very creative and can craft any sort of special order stuff within limits. Both their models are sweet, the Backpack seems much bigger even though it is less than a foot longer.
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Old 04-22-2021, 07:30 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Ervin in Portland View Post
...the Backpack seems much bigger even though it is less than a foot longer.
Guessing it’s the windows. Amazing how much difference large, all-around windows make in a small trailer! Even better if they open for ventilation.

If you camp much without power, you can cool using your battery with windows open and a power roof vent to keep the air moving In many conditions (hot, humid Southeast summers excepted), you can manage without A/C. That’s a big plus for me.
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Old 04-22-2021, 09:19 AM   #19
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Name: bill
Trailer: 2013 Escape 19; 1977 Trillium 1300
The Mountains of North Carolina
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Originally Posted by Jenny and Mark View Post
Thanks, Bill, for your input. We are leaning towards Armadillo. Anyone with knowledge of Armadillo's build quality and longevity?

L'air is new, and right now doing a promotion to get it's business going. Might be a good deal, but there's no history to know if it's built well.

Nest is no longer being built, but if we can find one used, I wonder if it's a good choice.

Thank you.
On quality, don't sweat it. Look at the survivor molded FG trailers, 40 to 50 years old. All brands, from the best to not so much. Do you need a trailer that will last 50 years? Most of us don’t. I figure my Escape and Trillium (already 44 years old) will both be around long after I am gone. Wish I could outlive them but it’s not going to happen.

Anything with wood inside: Escape, Bigfoot, Amerigo and others, have the chance to be higher maintenance than one with a fiberglass interior. How they are maintained and how they are stored when not in use, is important. Now my Trillium had not been used or maintained in about 30 years (bad). But on the good side it was stored in a garage for decades. So it was out of the weather: rain, snow and sun. My Escape has spent its life in a dedicated garage so it is doing very well!

The problem with stick built trailers is they can be gone in 15 years, so I could outlive that. And they require more maintenance along the way.

I went to a vintage trailer rally. Most of the others had traditional stick built trailers, similar in age to my Trillium. They had photo albums full of pictures detailing their restoration process. Incredible! Me on the other hand had no photo albums at all and could describe in 60 seconds my restoration process. It was pretty underwhelming as far as an accomplishment!!

My questions on L’air are not about quality. It’s about the security on my deposit (think Lil Snoozy). I have no doubts L’air will make a good trailer. It’s a bit of a gamble. Now if I was shopping, I might take that gamble.

My neighbor bought a vintage stick built trailer to restore. He put up a carport and starting digging in. He found a lot more rot than he expected. So far, he has torn it down to the frame. I think he will junk it. He is pretty envious of my Trillium project....
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Old 04-22-2021, 01:04 PM   #20
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Trailer: 1999 Casita 16' "Snufkin"
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Loving our 16' Bunk Beds Casita, rivets and all

Not sure why you're specifying UP to 16' but if you included 16', you'd have significantly more options. Check out the Casitas that sometimes come with bunk beds - perfect for 4 (if two are kids). They do have rivets, though. Scamps are also 16' and have even more bunk bed models. Between these 2 brands you'd cover 80% of the used FG trailer market.
We tow with Toyota Sienna rated at 3,500 lb and it's perfectly fine.
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