Home » The Autopian Is Going To A Huge Show Of The Latest And Greatest RVs In Indiana

The Autopian Is Going To A Huge Show Of The Latest And Greatest RVs In Indiana

Rvshowtop

Fall is here and winter is right around the corner. For many RVers, that signals that the end of the season is near. But for the industry making and selling RVs, things are only heating up. America’s largest and most popular manufacturers are putting on a humongous trade show called the Open House for customers and dealers. And beginning today, I’ll be right there in the action, checking out the latest, greatest, and weirdest in the new RV world right now.

RVs have seen a massive boom during the pandemic. Many vacation destinations shuttered while other popular methods of relaxation like cruise ships prove to be petri dishes. In spite of the challenges, Americans still want to get out and have fun, so an incredible amount of people turned to hitting the road and camping. And a ton of those people decided to do it with a travel trailer or motorhome. In 2021, the American RV industry set a new record, shipping 600,240 units. The previous record was 504,599 units, which was set in 2017. And this year, the industry believes that it could set another record.

Clearly, a lot of people love hotel rooms on wheels. Our own data shows that you dear readers love them, too. That’s great, because we’re right there with you. I love a good, innovative RV.

Autumn
nüCamp

And we especially like to highlight trailers and motorhomes with an attractive price, good quality, or that are just plain absurd. We’re not afraid to show you the dark side of some RVs, either.

And thanks to the folks of Go RVing, the consumer-facing voice of the RV manufacturers, I will have access to the nation’s largest RV dealership trade show and only OEM-driven trade show. The Open House is not the largest overall RV show–that distinction goes to the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle And Camping Association’s Hershey Show–but it is considered one of the most important as it’s the one that dealerships attend to fill out their inventories with the latest rigs. The show went on a two-year hiatus for the pandemic, but it’s back on this week, 55 years after it first started. And since it is dealer-focused, the manufacturers will be there for demonstrations and to answer questions.

America’s two largest RV conglomerates, Forest River and Thor Industries will be there. The list of manufacturers is huge and includes everyone from Black Series off-road campers, nüCamp European campers, Little Guy lightweight campers, Lance truck campers, and so many more. And remember, Forest River and Thor own countless brands. Coachmen is a Forest River brand while Airstream is under Thor. Put another way, Thor is expecting to bring 500 units to the show from its number of brands.

I’m also excited by the map. This show isn’t just held in a single place, but all over Elkhart, Indiana, where most of these rigs get made each and every year.

Map

I plan to find the latest in RV tech at the show, from Airstream’s developments like trailers that can park themselves to electrified coaches for the modern era. RV suppliers and the aftermarket will be having their own show in the RV Hall Of Fame, another destination that I cannot wait to visit. There will also be some lightweight and inexpensive campers there, and you bet I’ll be looking them over.

While I do all of this, are there any RVs that you want to see or technology that you’re hoping to make an appearance? I’m going to try to get everything that I can for a stream of articles of excited-me poring over RV details, history, and tech.

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44 Responses

  1. So many RVs, so little time. I am more a motorhome person. Trailers are great, just don’t fit my need. I don’t like loading and unloading the tow rig every day.

    What I am interested in is those not using propane and rather induction cook tops along with non-propane water heaters and furnaces. I am thinking one less tank to fill.

    If he is there, look up Josh the RV Nerd. He has a great sense of humor and much knowledge of RVs that could fit with this site.

  2. I’ve been interested in the stuff Taxa makes. I like their approach of trying not to bring the entire house and it luxuries with you, but still have heat and beds and a place to cook a meal indoors should the weather be poor. I feel like the small adventure/off-road
    trailer segment has a lot of neat innovation.

  3. I still haven’t made it to the RV Hall of Fame yet. I want to go at some point. As for the show, I love seeing the innovative small campers and teardrops. The fun for me is seeing all the innovative ways to make a small space usable for multiple purposes. I can’t make a super small trailer work for me, since I’m traveling with 1-3 teenagers, but I still love seeing them. We still go pretty small compared to most. We cram the 5 of us into our 23′ Airstream, but it’s an upgrade from when we used to cram 5 of us into a 16′ vintage trailer when they were smaller. For us, it’s about having someplace to sleep, make meals, and store our stuff, and hopefully we are enjoying the outdoors or going to see sites during the days. The small space forces us to get along and actually talk and spend time with each other for a few days. Before getting a camper, I had wanted to build my own teardrop camper, but I have too many hobbies and unfinished projects as it is.

  4. Interested in your take on the construction materials and quality of the different offerings – The RV industry was going the right way for a few years with several brands embracing all aluminum and composite/fiberglass construction, but now seems to have slipped back into the bad old days of wood framing that rots, multipart roofs and poor quality running gear and underpinning, just to meet the demand.

  5. How many glaring errors can be found in these?

    I’d love to see if there are any EV friendly trailers out there. On paper having a giant house battery parked outside is awesome. But that range hit to get the camper to the site, oof!

  6. I’ve spent years looking for a small toy hauler that can fit 2 dirt bikes, a bed, small kitchen area, and still weigh under 3500 lbs loaded so it can be pulled by my Wrangler. The existing offerings are all so damn big and heavy!

    Not sure if possible, but I’d love to see your picks for “best made” and “worst made” campers/RVs you see. My personal experience with campers sounds like yours (Like a House, But Worse); newer ones seem to be basically made of cardboard and hot glue. Dealers even tell you that you will likely have to bring it back several times in the first year to get repairs completed, but also warn you that parts are scarce so you’ll likely be without your huge new investment for months out of the season.

    Similarly, “best/worst new ideas,” etc might be an interesting feature. “Best/worst graphics” category…

    1. I was looking for something similar (without the dirt bikes) Didn’t find anything that fit my needs, since everything is built so poorly and is so expensive.

      I ended up retrofitting an enclosed trailer with insulation, fan, bed, flooring, kitchen, etc to meet my needs. The whole thing weighs 1800lb, and cost $3500 to build.

      You could do something similar, but leave out the rear wall to pull in dirtbikes.

      https://www.instagram.com/p/CQTzd_9h9H3/

      1. I’ve spent the last 4-6 months looking for and designing my own. I’ve been through custom build quotes with a few manufacturers. Leaning most towards customizing an enclosed trailer build-out as you suggest, but even used the base trailer is over $5k around here. If I’m going to get new, why not order from the nearby factory (Look), and then I keep adding shit (the spouse wants) and I’m at a $20k+ cargo trailer. I’d happily spend $30k+ for a well-built, light, 6×12(ish) toy hauler with heat & potable water. Looks like I’ll be designing and maybe building it myself. But maybe basic enclosed trailer in the near-term.

        TotalComposites makes insulated sandwich panels and now a flat-pack truck camper. One of my latest designs utilizes these panels for the box. Considering an independent box that can be lifted off a flatbed trailer (like a truck bed camper) so the trailer can be more useful. Time or money; I seem to only ever have one or the other.

    2. Good luck. In my experience, most <3500 lb trailers have such low cargo capacities that a couple of dirt bikes would probably just about max them out before you put any other gear in it. As you've discovered, toy haulers with more cargo capacity also have to be built heavier to accommodate it.

      1. I’m aware of the challenges (and what’s currently available), but would think there is a market for the small end of toy haulers. A lot of people have a dirt bike or a 4-wheeler that would do great in a smaller trailer. 6×12 cargo trailers are ~1200-1500 lbs empty (less for aluminum). Our two motos are under 500 lbs combined. That would seem to leave plenty of capacity…

        1. I suspect you’d have to compromise a lot to get a camper and toy storage into a 6×12 space. And I assume unusual RV configurations must not sell because every time I see something that breaks out of the handful of standard layouts for small trailers it gets killed within a couple of years, which is a shame because a lot of times those nonstandard layouts are the ones I like best. My trailer is one of those orphans that was only made for a couple of years and I haven’t seen anything quite like it since. :-/

    3. If you’re willing to reconfigure, you might have a look at these: https://happiercamper.com/pages/hc1-travel-trailer They have a “Studio” model now with a bathroom, but we prefer the flat out flexibility the base unit offers. It’s 1100lbs out of the box and can handle 3500 lbs loaded, and I have hauled that much crap in one. Plus you can pull all of your modules and hose it out, and it’s all fiberglass. It uses a system of modules for bed/kitchen/whatever, and it works well for us.

      1. That HC1 is appealing. Fiberglass means no flexing metal seams to leak. They look good, and it seems useful to be able to hose them out. $40k seems high to me, but I’m cheap and have no idea of the market

    4. Best made: almost certainly Oliver travel trailers.

      Worst: N-way tie among basically everything from Thor and Forest River, but probably the Thor Ace motor homes.

  7. Recent genealogical research has uncovered that my grandfather followed a number of people from his tiny Italian village to a specific neighborhood in Elkhart. He worked briefly for a shoemaker there before moving on to New Jersey. I’m now imagining an alternative reality where he discovers a nascent RV industry, ditches his musical aspirations and becomes a motor-home mogul. But this was circa 1910, so nah…

  8. I’d like to see more/what’s new with pickup bed campers beyond the trendy overland glorified toppers. There’s a lot of focus on trailers and motorhomes, truck bed campers don’t seem to get a lot of coverage.

    I’d also like to see more on lightweight half-ton towable 5th wheels.

    Essentially, the root of this is that I’d like to start camping with my family but I want to be able to take either my small fishing boat or a light trailer with 1-2 atvs/motorcycles, and I really don’t want the added expense or worse livability of a HD truck. There’s two ways to accomplish this, either a pickup bed camper with trailer behind, or double tow with a 5th wheel followed by the boat. I’ve found some options, but they’re either so small it’s only good for 1-2 people, or heavy enough that you’re buying groceries there because that 12 pack is gonna put you over GVWR. I’m probably asking for a lot but with the capability of modern half tons I’m surprised to not see more “combo” options.

    1. The half-ton towable fifth wheels are kind of a joke. Almost all of them are only half-ton towable if that half-ton is an F150 with the HDPP, or if you don’t bring any passengers, stuff, or even propane tanks.

      The only real exceptions I know of are the Escape 5.0TA and the Scamp 19.

  9. What I wanna know is, what’s the lowest possible price for something I can poop in? What’s the starting point for an RV or trailer with a toilet and shower?

    All my other questions center around value-for-money also. What’s the cheapest thing that seems reasonably well built and sturdy? What’s the cheapest thing that one could reasonably take off-road? What’s the most cost-effective alternative to just buying a used van and going full DIY with the build-out?

    Oh, and this one is more just curiosity, but I’d love to hear about any innovative safety features for RVs. My general impression is that for all their wonderful points as something you can drive around and also live in, RVs are kinda deathtraps should one be so unfortunate as to get into a serious accident in one. Is anybody working on that problem?

    Have fun at the RV show, it sounds like a blast!

  10. I thought I was familiar with campers and trailers until I took some road trips to the Midwest (especially Indiana). It’s a whole other level of enthusiasm out there!

  11. Always interested in the off road worthiness and ease of navigation (mainly in the teardrop size) that can be a companion to an off road rig. Gotta look out for those who have soft tops and can’t do the rooftop tent setup!

  12. Hello Mercedes!

    I would like to know what the RV industry is going to do to address the banning of the sale of Non-Road engines in California. I have a Class A RV and it has a ICE engine that powers the generator, what are the RV industries plans to provide/generate electricity without the use of an ICE engine in the future?

    Thanks!

  13. I really like the concept of the a-frame style trailers like what Aliner makes. Easy storage, easy towing, still hard-sided for animal and weather protection. I just wish they’d put real water tanks on them. 13 gallons of fresh water isn’t going to last long if you use the shower. I don’t see why they undersize the tanks so much either. All of the magic happens up top, there should be plenty of space for tanks under the floor.

    1. Weight. Had a 20-gallon water tank plus 6-gallon heater tank on my 2019 Rockwood A122BH ESP A-frame. The 20-gallon tank was under the floor, over the axle (where you’d hope). It was large. Water added ~220 lbs to the trailer when full (almost 10%). My spouse likes to shower every day and the water tanks were important to her. We’d still get 3-4 days backcountry with navy showers, dish & hand washing, drinking, and dog water.

      I too liked the idea of the A-frame and still think it is superior to the tent-side pop-ups for a couple or solo traveler. However the front wall of mine separated from the floor at 2 years old and less than 8 trips. Floor had a lot of extra penetrations from the factory when we got it, too. Cabinets weren’t fully attached. Nests of wiring piled behind panels (I removed over 15 feet of extra wire when chasing down a solar issue).

      1. I guess, but my single axle full profile trailer has a 37 gallon fresh tank. Sure, it uses up half of your cargo capacity when full, but I never travel with it full (mostly because of the weight) so that doesn’t matter to me. I suppose maybe these pay a weight penalty for the folding mechanism, but honestly even if they had to go to two axles to get enough capacity I could live with that. My truck can handle weight just fine, it’s the aerodynamics of towing a brick at 65 mph that really kills mileage.

    2. I have a 2016 Aliner Ranger 12. The tanks would have to go between the frame rails. Aliners are notoriously tongue heavy. So ahead of the axle is out. Behind the axle, well, good luck not ripping it out on a high curb. The departure angle is horrible. Not to say it couldn’t be done because people have. Just that there’s a reason they don’t come from the factory that way.

      Mine still has a bunch of factory installed jankiness. But nothing like what other campers have based on reading around. Probably since there’s not much to go wrong. Overall I’m quite happy with it in the 3 summers I’ve used it. It’s not perfect but no camper ever is.

      1. Yeah, but everything you mention is fixable by the manufacturer. Too tongue heavy? Move the axle forward a few inches to fix the weight distribution. Too low? Raise the frame a couple of inches. It’s still going to be 6 feet lower than a traditional trailer. Those are all things that affect regular trailers too and they manage to put 30 gallon tanks in (well, some of them).

  14. I’d love to hear what makers are going to do to improve quality of stuff leaving the lot. The new RV quality sucks, and they excuse everything instead of just putting processes in place to fix it.

    I unfortunately bought a ’22 Winnebago Micro Minnie, and it’s shocking the amount of crap I’ve had to do it clean and fix it. Sawdust everywhere, wires entangled with water lines, leaky baggage doors. I knew it wouldn’t be great but it’s shocking how bad it is.

    1. The scary thing is, Winnebago is generally better than the big two.

      I got a Bigfoot pre-pandemic, known for better quality and a price that reflects it. While there’s nothing on that level of terrible and it’s solid structurally with no leaks, I’m still pretty disappointed in the quality for the price. Especially the electrical wiring. Cheap connectors, sloppy crimps, and a wire nut where the third wire wasn’t far enough in to make contact at all.

  15. “are there any RVs that you want to see?”

    I’d like to see ones that don’t charge >>> bespoke prices for hardware from a Home Depot scrap pile and construction quality that even a homeless tent dweller would find appalling.

    1. Man, that’s the most accurate description of RV manufacturing I’ve heard yet.

      Obviously they really don’t care because they’re raking in money faster than they would if they owned a printing press, and there’s absolutely no regulations forcing them to do anything.

      We have regs that require certain things in the construction of cars, and regs that require certain things on the construction of houses, but if you put the two together then do whatever the hell you want!

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