One of the comments that I get often is that today’s RVs are just too outrageously expensive. Even small ones cost tens of thousands of dollars, which equals a whole lot of hotel stays. But what happens when you reach into the bottom of the barrel? What do you get when you buy a new camper that costs less than a Nissan Versa? This is the Coleman Rubicon 1200RK, and it’s pretty cozy for the price of about $15,000.
Last month, I descended into Tampa, Florida to attend the 2023 Florida RV SuperShow. Going there made me feel like I was a kid in a candy store. There were more RVs than the eye could see and unlike last year’s RV Open House in Indiana, manufacturers here weren’t afraid to roll out their cheapest offerings. This time around I found campers that you could buy without knowing what private equity is, and that made me excited. Taking a road trip in an RV should be something that everyone can afford, and I wish manufacturers focused a little more on inexpensive offerings rather than coaches that cost more than a nice house.
One of them was this 2023 Coleman Rubicon 1200RK. It has an MSRP of $19,062 but dealerships sell it for about $15,000. For those of you penny-pinchers, that makes this camper slightly cheaper than the cheapest mass-produced car in America right now, the $15,730 2023 Nissan Versa.
Where Coleman Trailers Come From
This trailer falls under the Dutchmen subsidiary of RV giant Thor Industries. Dutchmen first opened up shop in 1988, building travel trailers and later fifth wheels. The company positioned itself as an entry-level brand and it became a part of Thor in 1991. Coleman, the company that you perhaps know best for lanterns, stoves, and coolers, makes campers under the Dutchmen umbrella. The company’s history goes back to the early 1900s when William Coffin Coleman sold gas lamps before making a lamp of his own design. Coleman expanded from lanterns into camp stoves in the 1940s, a plastic cooler in the 1950s, and all kinds of camping gear in the 1960s, including backpacks, sleeping bags, and tents.
In 1967, Coleman built its first camper, a pop-up tent trailer. By 1979, Coleman was the top seller of tent campers in America. Fleetwood RV purchased the rights to Coleman’s campers in 1989, eventually removing Coleman branding from the trailers. The name was revived in 2008, just to die again in 2011 when Coleman ended the production of pop-up campers. Today, Coleman camping products are sold by the Newell Group and Coleman-branded camping trailers are made by Thor’s Dutchmen.
The Coleman Rubicon 1200RK is a mini travel trailer that released at the tail end of 2022. It’s about the size of a teardrop camper, but with the shape of a traditional travel trailer. It’s a part of Coleman’s Rubicon line, which targets couples and small families who want some off-grid capability for an affordable price. Some of these come with off-road tires and a torsion axle for light off-roading and a roof that you can mount gear or a bicycle or a canoe to.
The Coleman Rubicon 1200RK is the smallest of the lineup, and it brings some neat ideas to the table for its low price. The first thing you’ll notice is that this lad is tiny! It’s 13 feet, 5 inches long, and 7 feet tall. That makes it easy to slip into a standard garage with room to spare.
Moving around the camper, there’s not a whole lot going on. The air-conditioner is mounted into the wall rather than the ceiling, which saves on height. The trailer’s fenders are also strong steel. They do double-duty as steps so you can reach the roof, where there are provisions for you to add a rack so you can carry gear outside of the camper.
Underneath, here’s what you’re dealing with.
The trailer looks like it’ll be a fine companion to tow behind you on fire roads or on some trails, but be careful because there’s no protection underneath. Hang this trailer on something and you’re probably going to be in for a bad time.
Moving to the back, here is the camper’s kitchen. The entire interior is dedicated to sleeping, so cooking has to be done outside. You get a standard galley kitchen on the side of the camper that has a mount for an outdoor griddle. The surprising part about this kitchen is that the sink feeds from a 21-gallon water tank and empties into a 34-gallon tank. There are no bathroom facilities of any kind in this camper, but given those capacities, you could turn that sink into an outdoor shower. The Rubicon 1200RK also has a storage compartment, so you could bring a cassette toilet along for the ride, too.
Finally, we have the interior, which is so small that this picture taken from the outside grabs most of the whole thing:
This interior is far too short to stand in, but the 74-inch Gaucho sofa sits low enough that you can sit in it without your head touching the ceiling. This sofa converts into a bed large enough for two, and I think someone up to about 6 foot, 6 inches can comfortably stretch their legs out on the bed if they use every inch of available space.
There’s not much to write about the interior. It has a window, a couple of cabinets, an air-conditioner, and a simulated fireplace to keep it warm. Its basic accommodations are meant to keep you just comfortable enough where the trailer is parked. Quality seemed fine in this camper, though part of that is because there’s so little to break on the camper. This might be something that you could fix with WD-40 and duct tape. All of this adds up to a dry weight of just 1,682 pounds. That makes it light enough to be towed by most vehicles with a tow rating. The trailer’s GVWR (that’s full tanks plus any gear you bring) is 3,000 pounds.
Now, Coleman does have some stiff competition coming from the fiberglass world. You could get a Scamp 13 Standard for about the same price, and that camper will net you standing room and a kitchen inside. Scamp also offers a wet bath for an additional charge. On the other hand, this gives you an air-conditioner and heat standard, which those are options in the Scamp. You also don’t have the ability to haul a canoe on top of a Scamp.
That’s not bad for the princely sum of just $15,000. The Coleman Rubicon 1200RK seems to offer almost everything you need and nothing you don’t, which for many might be the perfect kind of camper. This is another one that I’d love to try out and see how comfortable it would be on a rally weekend!
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The Scamp does have one major advantage in terms of long-term cost. In a decade it’d still be worth a substantial percentage of the purchase price instead of having a 50:50 or better chance of being scrap.
Okay best idea. Buy a 26 foot E450SD Box truck for $5,000 and customize it for $10,000. More room better set up.
This camper is a mass rv manufacturer version of a smaller company’s camper, the Sunday 109 that has been available for many years. We have a slightly bigger Sun Ray 129 that has all these options, room to stand in, a toilet with black tank, 200 watt solar, 6 inch lift, electric tongue jack, outdoor shower, and a small bunk. We paid about about the MSRP if this Coleman and bet we have better build quality.
Is that an AMD Opteron necklace???
Looks interesting, but I am concerned about bears using my kitchen and taking a dump in the sink….
You seem to be using RV and camper intechangably; imho RV has an engine you can drive. Campers are something you tow. Idk.
I have a mid 1990s Coleman Fleetwood pop-up, towed by a PHEV mini-van. The top up is essential for having more space for a family. But if I was a retired couple, staying is state park campgrounds this would do the trick for me. hard sided probably gives a little more weather flexibility. I prefer to cook outside anyways
The pop-up isn’t bad to set up, but if takes solid 10-15 minutes to go up or down, plus making the beds etc. I prefer to stay places at least 2-3 days. something solids would make moving ever night a little easier
Welp! This is probably all I could afford if I were in the market for a camper. What else is out there that’s comparable?
Why would anybody buy this (or any other small camper like t@b etc.) over a pop-up? Pop-ups are generally smaller/as small to store (also fit in a garage), and easier to tow (can see over them in rear-view mirror and considerably better aerodynamics). They are also considerably larger once popped up, and many still offer amenities like bathrooms, sinks, stoves, etc.
Because with popups you still have a pretty considerable set up and tear down. When I camp with my buddy with a pop up I can get my quick setup 10 person tent and get the air mattresses filled up and my kitchen set up on truck tailgate or picnic table under an awning as fast or faster as he can set up.
The nice thing about a trailer is that once you unhook and stabilize your pretty much done. Plug in and throw a carpet down and awning out and your good. You can pack all your food and clothes in it before you leave.
Pop ups are much easier to tow and store and are generally great but let’s not pretend they don’t have downsides.
You’re right. I, too, have a large, quick setup tent but I think the positives of a pop-up far outweigh the negatives. Mostly moot anyway since most campers nowadays are 24+ ft long with multiple slide outs
The cost/benefit analysis of comparisons to motels/hotels misses the joy of sleeping in a bed WTF knows slept in it before, the likelihood of bed bugs, the massive overuse of Febreeze to hide scent/smells and ‘other’ things, and those delightful microwave breakfasts. I would snag this in a minute, but I have a treehouse onto of my RX 300
I am not a roughing it kind of guy, or a throw money at it guy either. (Not that there is anything wrong with that lifestyle) But if you swing that way, i bet you could do better and cheaper buying an old horsetrailer and insulate, and furnish to your taste. They are sturdy, already wired. And some are heated and plumbed.
You should review a TrailManor. We have one and love it. They are a very unique and camper design that is built by a Hutterite colony in South Dakota. Also very easy to tow with a crossover or SUV (my Lexus GX470 can tow it 70+ mph without a problem).
I didn’t dive so deep to price it but man, that thing is clever .
Today’s RVs are just too outrageously expensive.
This still feels like a lot of money for a boxy teardrop. I’d sooner spend a bit more for something with standing headroom and a bathroom. I’m willing to haul a bit more weight since I have a truck and that can haul the kayaks and bikes.
The Coachmen Clipper 17BH like the one we rented a few years ago has 4 beds a dry bath and a street price of $20k. It’s far from premium but it gets the job done, and is towable with a Ranger or Tacoma.
It sucks that the small pull behinds are gettting crazy expensive as they advertise them as overland campers and raise the price. Coleman has been reselling a lot of weird foreign made stuff like this for what seems like low prices, but I would have to seriously look at the build quality before buying one.
“William Coffin Coleman”
Were his parents sadists or did “coffin” have a different meaning back then? What a thing to do to a kid. 😛
I’m not sure this qualifies as cheap when 3 years ago you could get a full-size camper with complete bathroom and kitchen facilities for less, but then as I understand it camper prices have changed drastically since then so it’s probably in line with the market. Also, if $15k is MSRP no one is paying that anyway so it’s probably not bad. It’s more of a blown up teardrop than a full camper, but that’s okay for people who want that.
I’m laughing that it has more waste tank capacity than a lot of much larger campers. Props to them for that. I’m not sure how you fill up a 34 gallon tank with no shower or toilet though. I guess you can leave the water running while you brush your teeth. 😉
Also chuckling about the fake fireplace in such a tiny trailer. I use a space heater for cold weather camping too so I’m sure it’s useful, but the fireplace bits seem like a questionable use of limited space.
Overall this seems like a much more relevant RV for the vast majority of Autopians than a bunch of six-figure towables from high end manufacturers.
Coffin was an old New England family name so he was probably named after an ancestor. Coffin still beats all of those weird Puritan names.
15k?! FFS! 😉
It’s actually a reasonable price. If you wanted to build this yourself, you’d spend that much on a box trailer and all the bits to make it comparably livable.
Agreed! I was facetiously mocking my previous post regarding the price of the Bowlus.
While it is rolling divorce waiting to happen, it is a good alt to a tent or popup. Just hope where you are going doesn’t have bad weather or you will not have a wonderful time.
I mean you would have a better time than someone in a tent or out in the open, which I think are the relevant comparisons for this class of trailer.
My wife and I love our camper this size, divorce is not imminent lol. Though ours is tall enough to stand in for this reason.
“There are no bathroom facilities of any kind in this camper, but given those capacities, you could turn that sink into an outdoor shower.”
I don’t see any problem here.
Add a garbage disposal to the sink, and you have a full bath!
This guy gets it!
A whirlpool bath, at that!
shower in kitchen sink…just think of piping hot, fresh shower spaghetti.
you could rest the shampoo bottle right in the colander!
For the price and the weight, that’s a pretty impressive package, and, I’d argue, is a rare entrant in a seriously underserved segment of the market. There’s a fair few regular passenger cars out there that could handle pulling this.
Its too portly for my Ioniq Hybrid, but not by a drastic amount, surprisingly. Means I’ll have to stick with motorcycle campers, but for someone with a larger car, or a smaller SUV, this should work (always check your owners manual and remain within manufacturer specs)
Love the Starfleet combadge in the photo.
TNG-era, no less.
Salute the TNG era, the dancing-est Star Trek era of all!
Yes it is cheaper than a Nissan Versa, likely because it’s a box on wheels that doesn’t have to meet any safety standards, doesn’t have to propel itself, and it doesn’t have to be aerodynamic.
It seems like the profit margins on trailers are ridiculous nowadays.
TIL you can still get a new car in America with a naturally aspirated engine, 5-speed stick, and genuinely decent styling for under $16k.
Can anyone explain why enthusiasts can’t stand the Versa?
Nissan Versa, when a CVT Transmission and backup camera are the selling points.
The 2nd gen Versa was what really dragged the nameplate down. By that point, there were a lot more small cars hitting the scene – Hyundai/Kia had upped their design while still maintaining affordability, Chevy and Ford were rolling out significantly improved small cars. (ignoring what we know now about some of those products)
I think too some are dismissive of the original one, but it was actually pretty well reviewed by the auto rags and that was at the same time the Fit rolled out. The 2nd gen seemed cheaper by comparison, but in hindsight was mostly a product of its time – this was when Honda did the emergency refresh of the Civic in 2013, Toyota had notably cheapened the Camry and were still putting a 4-speed auto in Corollas.
The current Versa, as with the Sentra, is a big jump forward over the previous one, but I think it’s mostly forgotten about, continuing as Nissan is stuck as something of a punchline. Plus I think the Mirage took over for most of the vitriol by now.
Honestly, a camper is pretty much a shed on top of a utility trailer.
The big takeaway for me here is that you can get a brand new car for only $15k in 2023.