Home » This Clever New Composite Camper Has A Sliding Kitchen And A Wild Variable Interior, But It’ll Cost You

This Clever New Composite Camper Has A Sliding Kitchen And A Wild Variable Interior, But It’ll Cost You

Flex Camper Ts3
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Much of the innovation in the RV world right now is centered around new interior layouts, putting off-road tires on vans, and putting an EV drivetrain in a trailer. SylvanSport is among a handful trying to turn the traditional travel trailer on its head. In production right now is the SylvanSport Vast, a camper with a wild variable interior concept, a kitchen on rails, and composite construction. It looks like a useful unit, but the price might be a tough pill for some.

For the most part, travel trailers tend to have very similar designs. Take a steel frame, plant a wood-framed and fiberglass-skinned box on it, toss some equipment inside, then call it a day. Ok, there’s a lot more to building a camper than that, but whether you buy a Heartland travel trailer or something from Forest River, you’ll often get about the same thing. When I attended the Indiana RV Open House this year, representatives from multiple brands told me their innovations weren’t in technology or build materials, but in new colors for cabinets, or layout changes such as a bathroom in the middle.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Thankfully, this isn’t the state of the entire industry and as you’ve perhaps read several times here, some brands like to try out things the big guys don’t. One of those brands is SylvanSport. Most of SylvanSport’s camping equipment consists of ground tents, mattresses, sleeping bags, gear trailers, and a couple of tent trailers. The Vast is a travel trailer that’s an entirely new product for SylvanSport, and there are some neat ideas at work here.

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From Campers To Tents

SylvanSport says it was founded by Tom Dempsey in 2004 in North Carolina. According to the RV Industry Association, Dempsey is a lifelong fan of industrial design and the outdoors. It makes sense, then, that he got into working with camping gear right out of college. The RVIA says he started his career at Coleman, where he learned a lot about outdoor gear as well as campers. While there, Dempsey worked on Coleman’s pop-up camper design.

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Later, Dempsey would leave the embrace of Coleman and RVs to get into the kayak business. In the 1990s, Dempsey was the Vice President of Perception Kayaks. Then in 2000, he created his own kayak company called Liquid Logic, a brand that’s still around today, though, not under Dempsey’s control. Merging his two career paths into one, Dempsey created SylvanSport to serve outdoorsy adventure types and campers alike. Dempsey says he made SylvanSport for one reason, and it’s “to make outdoor adventure accessible.” Dempsey has also said: “We want to turn the Prius into a pickup truck.”

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Coleman via Etsy

When Dempsey started SylvanSport, he had an idea to take that old Coleman pop-up camper and make it into something far better for adventurers. The Brevard NewsBeat interviewed Dempsey, and he explained what he thought was wrong with that old and now long-discontinued pop-up camper:

“I thought, this is a product I would never use and my friends would never use,” he said. “I thought it was ludicrous to haul your living room recreated with cheap materials out into the forest.”

Indeed, dragging a large pop-up camper into the forest isn’t ideal. At the same time, Dempsey didn’t really see a better option out there. His solution was to take the basic pop-up tent camper design and optimize it for adventurers. SylvanSport’s trailer would be small, lightweight, built out of strong materials, and could carry your gear wherever you decided to drag the trailer. At the same time, Dempsey didn’t want his trailer to just be a kayak and mountain bike-hauling camper. It also needed to be versatile enough to be a regular cargo trailer when you aren’t going on an adventure.

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All of these desires led to the design and the release of the SylvanSport Go in 2007 (that’s it in the photo above). The tiny, 700-pound trailer got rave reviews, but SylvanSport reportedly found few people willing to pony up the $8,000 for example. It didn’t help that the economy went right into the gutter and a versatile tent trailer was too much of a luxury for many. Despite this, SylvanSport survived losing its early investors and the Great Recession. Eventually, the idea of a tiny utilitarian camping trailer caught on and SylvanSport has been growing ever since.

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The SylvanSport Vast

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This history makes the emergence of the Vast sort of weird. SylvanSport was founded on the idea of making the outdoors accessible with a camper that basically any vehicle could haul into the wilderness. With the Vast, SylvanSport is now building a large, expensive camper that isn’t as nimble as the little Go.

The Vast was in development for around five years and over 50,000 miles of testing. The trailer, which marks SylvanSport’s first hard-sided camper and first traditional travel trailer, was first displayed at the RVX industry show in 2019. Like other SylvanSport products, the Vast tries to be multiple vehicles in one. It’s a camper, but it’s also a toy hauler. It has the typical RV amenities, but they’re designed to be flexible so the trailer could fill multiple needs. The trailer has finally gone into production in recent months, which means you can buy one right now.

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At the heart of the Vast is its body and frame. The shell of the body consists of composite skin laminated onto an insulated wall structure. This sits on an aluminum frame. A plastic box sits just behind the tongue. The composite caps are doubled up in an effort to ensure greater durability.

The camper’s first party trick is revealed when you pop open the rear hatch. When the rear of the trailer is in camping mode, you can enjoy the “Versalounger.” By day, it’s a convertible sofa that works its way around a folding table. By night, the Versalounger turns into a queen bed and it’s joined by another queen bed that lowers from the ceiling. The lower bed also moves forward so that the rear of the trailer turns into an open deck with tie-downs for anything you might want to haul inside.

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Moving forward, the front of the trailer also has some funky business going on. There’s a tiny bathroom up front featuring a sink and a 4.75-gallon cassette toilet. Next to it is your kitchen. SylvanSport decided to put the kitchen on rails so that you could have either an indoor or an outdoor kitchen with ease. Having an outdoor kitchen is as easy as deploying the kitchen unit and letting it slide outside. A lot of campers have indoor and outdoor kitchens, some have static kitchens separated from the outside by a door or a window. A kitchen that slides inside and outside is something I haven’t seen before.

006 Sylvansport Vast Travel Trai

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When this kitchen is in its outdoor position, the interior is still sealed off from the outside and now, the bathroom becomes large enough to use the shower. Sadly, you cannot use the shower when the kitchen unit is in the indoor position, which is a bummer.

Another neat trick includes the huge side window, which SylvanSport says is the largest thermoformed piece in the industry. It swings open to allow the outdoors to come on. On the left side of the trailer is a gear rack designed to carry stuff you don’t want inside, such as a pair of kayaks. Finally, you get a 14-foot electric awning that can close itself in high winds.

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In terms of kitchen equipment, you’re getting a two-burner stove, a stainless steel sink, a Truma 69-liter refrigerator/freezer, a microwave, and a flip-up prep surface. Heat and hot water come from a Truma Combi Eco 10L system, and a low-profile Dometic 11,000 BTU air-conditioner keeps you cooler on those hot days.

Other equipment includes 800 watts of solar panels, an outdoor shower, and a 15-cubic-foot lockable storage compartment behind the tongue. In terms of tanks, you get a 30-gallon fresh water tank and 32-gallon grey water tank. As mentioned before, the toilet is a 4.75-gallon cassette unit.

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A Couple Of Caveats

005 Sylvansport Vast Travel Trai

The trailer measures 21.6 feet long and just under 8 feet wide. The box is 15 feet, 4 inches. Empty, the camper weighs 4,420 pounds, so it could still be towed by some crossovers. Unfortunately, the trailer’s payload is just 580 pounds. That means you can carry toys, but they probably shouldn’t be heavy things such as motorcycles, dirt bikes, or ATVs. Remember, any water or gear you carry takes away from that 580-pound figure. A full water tank would eat up 240 pounds by itself.

The price of the SylvanSport Vast is also a tough one. At $69,995, I’m not sure it meets SylvanSport’s mission of making the outdoors more accessible. The price is also notable as the original projected price was closer to $50,000.

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I like a lot of what SylvanSport has done here. A transformable camper is one that should serve its owner well into the future. I also like how the trailer isn’t a plywood box that’s just asking for water leaks, but time will tell if the trailer is as durable as it sounds. I also love that sliding kitchen, but it’s unfortunate that having the kitchen unit indoors means you cannot take a shower. That would make cold weather camping a bit awkward. Still, I like when RV manufacturers try something different rather than building the same thing for eternity, and this green trailer is definitely different.

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Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
7 months ago

If you can afford to buy a Flex Camper, than you might be able to donate to Jason’s Medical Fund. TIA!

Sick of me yet? Just imagine my wife of 25 years.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
7 months ago

Or cringe at it. That would be a totally reasonable reaction. God knows I do.

Anyway, we hit $5k! That should help some. Hopefully we can blow way past that, but even if not, Autopians Rock! Thank you, thank you, thank you so very much to every donor.

PS: I’m not exactly going to stop. Hehehe

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
7 months ago

Mercedes. I have already bugged DT in the last 12 hours.
Now it’s your turn!

Please (within reason) can someone there keep us updated on the progress of our beloved leader the Torch?
Seriously.
Many thanks for all of you fine folks there.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Holy crap, Crank: your persistence is really paying off for them! Well, it’s been a bad week financially for me, but since you’re working it this hard, I suppose I should step up again
futz. Still won’t let me add the taillight

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

If my wishes for a better stretch for you have the power I fantasize, then you are set to win my friend. 😀

Your generosity at a tough time is a sign of a worthy human. Thank you.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
7 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Donated. Thanks!

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
7 months ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

Much appreciated! 🙂

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
7 months ago

Sylvansport does have more basic thing called the Trailoft that’s basically a roof tent on a cargo trailer There’s one in my neighborhood, apparently towed by a Prius, as a counterpoint at the opposite end of the street is a homebrew version sitting on an old military trailer towed by a Landcruiser.
I want to like the Vast but the price is a deal breaker. For $70,000 I expect a flush toilet with a holding tank, air conditioning and a heater. This should be closer to $30,000 like a Taxa Cricket. Heck, I could just buy a used Lance trailer and tow with my old pickup for a fraction of the price.

CEVette
CEVette
7 months ago

I see the price of new RVs of all types now….and shake my head….how do normal families afford them anymore? Or, how do you justify the cost vs cheaper travel without the trailer and hoteling it?
We purchased in 2016, well before the pandemic, but prices for the same RV have more than doubled since that time. Crazy. If we were to pay today’s prices, we would not have an RV.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
7 months ago

These campers seem to be 5X more expensive than similar things pre-pandemic. Are there just so many manufacturers that they try to make their money by just selling a few? That and raw materials have gotten crazy also.

Anoos
Anoos
7 months ago

I like this a lot more than I should. I love the idea of keeping kitchen grease, smoke and smells outside.

Price is a little much, but that just seems to be a feature of any new and interesting camper these days.

GenericWhiteVan
GenericWhiteVan
7 months ago

Notice that the kitchen is on slides that are on an incline, so the countertop is at the correct height when deployed outside. I wonder if there are counterbalance springs on that assembly to prevent it from slamming down or being difficult to push back into the trailer.

A lot of seals to accomplish the push out kitchen, but it is pretty innovative to have the kitchen components do double duty for the inside and outside kitchen arrangements. Also, that shower space is shared with the kitchen is a slick idea. Anything that can do double duty adds to the spatial efficiency of the design.

Agree with other commenters that the cargo capacity is lacking.

Anoos
Anoos
7 months ago

It doesn’t look that difficult to seal. Just standard door gaskets sealing on either side of the same opening depending on the kitchen position. I assume it’s either counter-balanced or motorized.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
7 months ago

I like how he shits on Coleman pop-ups. I know consumer tastes have shifted away from that form of camping, but I’m pretty sure Coleman’s clever, affordable trailers got more families outdoors than his trendy overpriced units ever will. My family is still enjoying the ‘85 Coleman pop-up that I camped in as a kid, so I’ll stick with that.

Chronometric
Chronometric
7 months ago

These trendy RVs are designed for an idealized image of camping. There are 3 things you need: shelter, food, and a bathroom and you need these most is when nature cannot provide them. Outdoor kitchens, tiny cassette toilets that need to be emptied into a real bathroom, and open-air sleeping quarters seem fine in the brochure but not all camping happens in San Diego.

Last edited 7 months ago by Chronometric
John McMillin
John McMillin
7 months ago

The photos show happy couples camped beside the water. Were there any screens available fon those huge windows? The rooftop AC won’t operate without 120V power, so imagine being shut up in there during mosquito or blackfly season!

John McMillin
John McMillin
7 months ago

Consider the aerodynamics. Please, because the designers didn’t. There’s some contouring up front, but the sides are flat slabs that will catch sidewinds like crazy. Airstreams, Scamps and Casitas are much better in crosswinds, because the wind slips around the rounded corners without creating such strong air vortices.

John McMillin
John McMillin
7 months ago

Foe this price and tow weight, you could buy two 16-foot Scamps with two kitchens, two baths and sleeping space for 6-8 adults.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
7 months ago
Reply to  John McMillin

Or one scamp and a new truck to tow it.

Wc Jeep
Wc Jeep
7 months ago

340lbs total weight capacity after filling potable water is a problem. 340lbs would include kayak or bicycles. Also food, clothes, cooking utensils. Weight adds quick when prepping for long weekend adventures.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
7 months ago

This thing is a major joke. $70k for a bare bones narrow trailer? A “toy hauler” with only 580 pounds payload? What, exactly, does this have going for it?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago

I saw one of theirs like that Sport Go at Camping World a while back. Looked really cool, so I wandered over and started to step in. Then saw the price and carefully backed away. Don’t remember exactly how much, but along the lines of I could have purchased an old conversion van and taken a couple small vacations in it for that amount kind of money

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Yeah, I was looking at small travel trailers right before the pandemic hit. There were several of those Sport Go trailers at our local RV store for $15-18k. Then the pandemic hit and those same trailers were suddenly $30k+, and the prices have yet to come down. I struggled to see how they were worth $15k, and at anything beyond that is just absurd. $70k for the Vast is just bonkers.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
7 months ago

that price is hilarious

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
7 months ago

So, looking at that last picture of the family in bed during the daytime, I notice that with the kids in the top bunk, there isn’t much opportunity for…activities.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
7 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Kids are optional. At least that’s what my wife used to say…YMMV

And 70k with the payload of a Yugo just isn’t gonna cut it for me.

Last edited 7 months ago by Col Lingus
Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
7 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Do you realize how much campers shake? They could be on the opposite end of the camper, no activities are happening.

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