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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