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donniebob 12-18-2019 03:10 PM

Slide out
I have owned and restored a Bigfoot 5th wheel for over ten years and we love it. I have friends who own regular travel trailers or motorhomes. In all cases, they have a vinyl roof and they all have maintenance issues with the roof. Not so with fiberglass.

Now, we are retired and are thinking of extended trips. Our 20 ft. Bigfoot is a bit cramped. There are over 30 manufacturers listed on this Fiberglas RV website. Does anyone sell a fiberglass RV with a slide out?

One other option would be a major modification of our Bigfoot. It has a very substantial frame. Is there any point to engineering a slide out for this 5th wheel? It would probably be cheaper than buying a new unit, if it even exists.

Jon in AZ 12-18-2019 03:36 PM

Nope. The lack of a structural frame in the walls precludes conventional slide outs in all-molded trailers. Very, very few all-molded trailers larger than a B25.

donniebob 12-18-2019 03:53 PM

One approach to the frame problem
Here's how I think it could be done.

  • Temporarily shore up the wall with studs.
  • They would fabricate 2 U-shaped aluminum frame, approximately 5' long and 6' high.
  • They would bolt the 2 frames together on either side of the wall edges of the 5' x 6' cutout and remove the studs.
  • The rails for the slide out would be attached to the underside of the chassis.
  • The rails would end with a 6" high "L" which would be attached to the wall panel that was cut out originally.
  • To save weight, I would probably opt for a hand crank to move the unit in and out.
  • Of course, some sort of sealing system would have to be fabricated. Most slide outs have a solid box that slides in and out. I would look for tent-like material that would provide the seal.

Am I crazy?

Jon in AZ 12-18-2019 05:45 PM

From my perspective, yes. Not that it couldn't be done, and perhaps even done well. But my own perspective, having owned a few conventional RV's before discovering molded fiberglass, is (1) the more leak points, the more maintenance, and (2) the more complexity, the more repairs. Slideouts add both. I'd rather make do with less space.

But since I cannot imagine living out of an RV- any RV- for more than 3-4 weeks at a time, my perspective is obviously different than yours, and that's okay!

I'll certainly watch your build with interest if you decide to give this a try. I'm curious what others think of the details of your plan. 5x6 is a fairly small slideout. What part of the layout would you bump out?

CarlD 12-19-2019 08:35 AM

Jon, You missed, 'More weight'.

Jon in AZ 12-19-2019 09:48 AM

If you need more space, there will be more weight, regardless of whether you get it by adding length or a slide out.

How about a nice used B25RQ rather than hacking up a B20? But thatíll be even heavier.

My wife and I would like to take some longer trips once the nest is empty. Rather than lug around a great big trailer, I think it likely we will break up our travel with occasional hotels and family visits for a respite from the confines of the trailer (and unlimited hot water!). That will allow us to stay with a smaller, simpler trailer.

mary and bob 12-19-2019 10:05 AM

Jon; for about 7 years we did the snowbird thing, leaving our home in upstate NY to go south to Georgia and Florida for 3 1/2 months. First 3 years with our 13' Uhaul camper, then 4 years in our Casita 17. When we were in one place for a longer period of time, at least one week and sometimes a couple months, we set up our Eureka Northern Breeze 12 X 12 screen room. It has flaps to close it in like a tent, so that became our main living area, chairs, table, lights, and even a TV and heater. By using the screen room we were able to gain space but also keep the convenience of towing a small trailer without needing a large tow vehicle.

RogerDat 12-19-2019 10:10 AM

There are things one can do to extend your inside to the outside that can help. Those Clam and similar outdoor screened in shelters are a good example.

If you can sit out in comfort, eat and cook out in comfort you may well find your camper is enough room as is. Being more a place to sleep, a place to be in inclement weather, and a way to have a quick limited set up overnight camp when traveling.

People do months in Scamp 13's my wife thinks they are nuts, the two dogs are jealous. Matter of what you can work out that works for you.

Myself if I had a camper I liked, was comfortable using, that had years of my work invested in it I would try to make it work and only replace it after experiencing failures that could help guide me in replacing it.

The expense of customizing yours is probably going to be lost money, unlikely to be recovered on sale and with a potential for bugs and issues along the way. You can solve those and end up where you want to be but it seems like that is usually a process that takes a bit of trial and error.

There are some potential candidates in the not molded world that might meet your needs. Rpod is one I can think of. FG sheets over a frame, it may be metal frame rather than wood frame but not 100% sure on that detail. Personally not a huge fan of making a truck out of a car, always seems like it would make more sense to just get rid of the car and buy a truck.

Civilguy 12-19-2019 12:13 PM

1 Attachment(s)
It's been done...

The linked page has more links, including a Flickr page. Enjoy.

Nor Cal Mike 12-22-2019 09:27 AM

I sometimes wish I had more space in our 16ft Casita. My thought on the topic was to buy some kind of van for use as a tow vehicle. The van would become the extra space in which would house a full time bedroom while the dining / bedroom in the trailer would become a full time dinette. That would be easier than fabricating some kind of slide out in a fiberglass trailer.

Raspy 12-22-2019 01:05 PM


Originally Posted by donniebob (Post 763142)
I have owned and restored a Bigfoot 5th wheel for over ten years and we love it. I have friends who own regular travel trailers or motorhomes. In all cases, they have a vinyl roof and they all have maintenance issues with the roof. Not so with fiberglass.

Clearly, your project would be a lot of work. A lot of engineering and manufacturing. Do you want to go camping, or do you want to build something?

I cannot see how it could be practical in a way that would add significant space and practicality. Remember too, with no slideout, you can stop anywhere and immediately enjoy the trailer. With a slideout, you'll likely have to open it at rest stops, just to take a nap, for instance. No more stealth camping for the night.
If your main concern with conventional trailers is the vinyl roof, which I agree is a ridiculous design, why not put a better roof on a conventional trailer instead of building a slideout for a fiberglass trailer?

John in Santa Cruz 12-22-2019 08:52 PM

When we first started looking for a new RV or camper to replace our former tent trailer, we saw a lot of slideouts. We intentionally looked at a lot 5-10 year old campers so we could see what they'd be like with some use.... We pretty quickly decided on NO SLIDEOUTS AT ALL. They require a lot of maintenance, are a constant source of mechanical problems and water leaks. We started looking at slide-in truck campers, midsized and larger, Dodge 3500 and F350 duallys with assorted Lance's and others... We looked at a bunch of stick trailers. Then, we looked at a bunch of fiberglass trailers, and ended up with a Casita 16. which 2-3 years later, got upgraded to an Escape 21 :D

This will likely be the last camper we ever buy.

Glenn Baglo 12-22-2019 09:20 PM

We had a family reunion a few years ago. A nephew dragged up his stickie with slides. Problem was they wouldn't open, even manually. He spent the long weekend at his trailer waiting for a service guy. His family had to improvise sleeping arrangements and climb over furniture to get to the bathroom.
A fun time had by all. :loltu

Donna D. 12-22-2019 09:34 PM

1 Attachment(s)
When the slide falls out of your trailer, you have a real problem

Jon in AZ 12-23-2019 06:51 AM

Slide out
Scary indeed, though given the number of slide outs there are, Iím guessing this is a very rare event. Like most complete failures, it was likely preceded by neglected maintenance and ignored warning signs. Water intrusion perhaps rotted the framework in the wall which supported it when extended.

Itís also a slide-out bed only, which has some different engineering challenges than a full height slide. The slide mechanism is not tied into the chassis, for one. Some require external support poles like a tent trailer.

Never owned a slide out myself- unless you count a tent trailer- and never want to. Airstream tried it, and it was soundly rejected by buyers. I feel the same about all-molded trailers. Something important and integral to the design is lost.

donniebob 12-25-2019 01:43 PM

I Stand Admonished
After reading all the advice, I think I will give up on the idea of a slide-out. I think my best solution is to buy tent walls that attach to the awning. Thanks for all your suggestions.

John in Santa Cruz 12-25-2019 01:54 PM

I've heard numerous stories of slide-outs sticking, either in or out. if they stick out, you can't leave til its repaired. also of water leaks related to slides

Bruce H 12-25-2019 07:42 PM

Slide out ~ Ice storm?

k corbin 12-26-2019 02:36 AM

no one has mentioned the real deal breaker on slide outs in a molded fiberglass trailer.

That deal breaker is that the sides slope. They slope in the direction that means water coming off the roof will run right into the upper side of the opening of a slide out when it is closed.

Sorry no can do this on a trailer with that kind of a sloped side without having a lot of water infiltration issues. Maybe with a specially made custom gasketing system but as those don't exist for the specific makes and models of molded fiberglass trailers you are out of luck unless you own a custom gasket fabrication plant. Or have many thousands of dollars to burn on trying out prototypes to see if they will work. Many thousands because of the need to hire a professional designer and to pay for the custom extrusion molds that need to be made. The rubber itself is a tiny fraction of the development cost.

Oh and the shape of the slideout has to match the contour of the side of the trailer. So that means a custom mold for the exterior wall of the slide out.

Flat sided, stick framed trailers...a lot less work and expense and there are gaskets and such on the market. Even companies that do custom work for that modification because it is somewhat more straightforward of a job. Straight being the operative keyword that makes it easier to do.

Jon in AZ 12-26-2019 07:46 AM

Slide out
The BIgfoot has slab sides, so I wouldnít say the issues are insurmountable. Sealing will be a lot like a door. Scampís new proprietary door gasket would actually be a good candidate. A drip rail above the slide, of course.

The cut fiberglass section forms the outer face of the slide. You could add a lip to the cut piece to overlap the shell or even mold a recessed lip into the shell itself so the closed slide is flush with the shell.

But you are so right about the myriad details you have to get right, each adding time and expense. The potential gain- 10 sf maybe- along with the long-term potential for leaks, is hardly worth it.

I think the OP did well to abandon this plan. [emoji106]

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