This Funky Little Euro-Style Camper Blew My Mind With How Well It Was Built

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When I went to the RV Open House last month, I promised you lots of stories about the cool RVs that I found there. I’m still not through all of the wacky, smart, and cool rigs that I found out there. So, here’s one that genuinely blew my mind with how well it was thought out. This 2023 Jayco Jay Feather Volare is an American camper inspired by European design, and it’s really clever!

Located all by itself in the Jayco section of Thor Industries’ display was this little trailer. The sign telling you about it was covered up and it wasn’t even placed in a manner that would have you think it’s something special. I only later found out that the cool little trailer I toured is a new model for 2023, and this is the prototype for it. Maybe I missed a reveal or something because this little guy is so well thought-out that it deserves some attention.

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This is the 2023 Jayco Jay Feather Volare. Upon first inspection, you’ll notice that it has a shape unlike the typical American camper. Americans are used to camping in what are more or less boxes covered in swoops and punctuated with a slide or a few. Many campers aren’t going to catch your eye with their design and remove the brand names from them and you probably won’t be able to tell them apart. That’s the first thing that caught me about the Volare.

Revealed at the Jayco Dealer Homecoming and presented again at the RV Open House, only dealerships and yours truly have been able to see the prototype in person. Jayco says that the design of this camper was inspired by European campers, which often have a bit more going on with their exteriors than their American counterparts. You caught a glimpse of what I’m talking about when I wrote about that cute Barefoot camper, which originally made its debut in the UK.

John Fisher, director of product development for lightweight towables at Jayco, says that this design was the result of feedback from dealerships and customers. Jayco’s customers and the people selling them asked for something different from the brand, and this is what Jayco came up with.

Smart Construction

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The clever bits start right out of the gate with the exterior. This trailer has an eight-sided composite and aluminum construction. The aluminum is extensive, covering the flooring to the ceiling. That’s a good start, and to my eyes, this looks like another unit that’s not going to fall to delamination. The end caps, for example, are fiberglass, so you wouldn’t see bubbling there!

On the exterior, it’s the roof that really caught my attention. If you’ve looked at just about any common travel trailer, you’ve noticed that RV manufacturers like putting a bunch of stuff on the roof. You’ll see air-conditioners, vents, and maybe even communications equipment. That’s a lot of places where water can someday leak in and cause you big headaches.

This camper? It has a one-piece fiberglass roof, and you’ll notice a distinct lack of stuff poking out of it. That doesn’t mean that you lose an air-conditioner, either. Instead, cooling is done by a Dometic Cool Cat mounted in the trailer’s body. It’s a heat pump and works like a hotel room’s air-conditioner does.

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Instead, the roof has 400 Watts of Go Power! solar panels integrated into the curved surface. In theory, this means fewer openings for water to eventually find its way through. And fiberglass is a great choice, too.

As eTrailer notes, rubberized roofs are currently the most common type of roofs. You’ll often find RV roofs made out of Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) or Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO). These types of roof skins are commonly used because they’re inexpensive to lay and repair, and can last a long time. Both types of rubberized roof have been in use for decades, too. However, rubber roofs notably require regular maintenance to keep in good shape and the skin can be punctured, causing leaks.

As RVshare notes, there are alternatives like fiberglass and aluminum, both of which are more expensive and heavier than rubber, but both offer enhanced durability and lower maintenance. This Jayco having a fiberglass roof on top of fewer places to leak? That alone makes this trailer a hit out of the park for me.

Tall, Sleek Interior

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Moving inside, the European theme continues. Up front is a dinette that turns into a bed.

Moving back, on one side there is a really compact kitchen unit. This consists of a single portable induction cooktop stored in one of the drawers. Another drawer opens and functions as a surface to put the cooktop on. And the sink is a little basin with a cover on top. You also get an open pantry, a microwave, and a small refrigerator. The pantry is a bit puzzling, as a good bump will send your food flying about the camper. But, since this is a prototype, I’m willing to believe that the production version will have doors there.

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On the other side is the wet bath. Now, the addition of a bath to a camper tends to remove a few inches of headroom. To combat this, camper manufacturers often add skylights to add that room back. Well, this doesn’t do that, so your showers might be a tad cramped. That said, I’m ok with that, as the skylight was found to be the source of the catastrophic leak in my parents’ travel trailer. One less thing to worry about.

Interior height wasn’t published, but it seems to me that a six-foot-tall person will fit nicely in the camper without complaints. If I had to wager a guess, there’s at least seven feet of height in there.

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Moving back, the rear of the 20-foot total camper features two sofas that face each other. With a push of a button, these electrically transform into a queen bed. And behind that is the camper’s second door. I’m not sure what the benefit with that second door is, but more than one way to get in and out is always good to me!

More Goodies

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Additional features include a Jaycommand smart RV system that allows you to monitor your tanks and make adjustments to lighting and the electrical system from your phone. The solar is backed up with two 200-Amp lithium batteries and an 1,800-watt inverter. You have 25 gallons of fresh water, 30 gallons of gray water, and 30 gallons of black water storage onboard, so you could perhaps take this out for a weekend getaway without having to hook up to anything.

The trailer also comes with a Bluetooth speaker that detaches from the wall and there’s even a Wi-Fi router in there. Jayco also says that it comes with perimeter cameras, so when you’re driving you can take a peek at what’s happening around the trailer. And of course, it means that you can park it without a spotter and without getting in and out repeatedly.

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Another thing that impressed me was the quality of everything inside of the trailer. This felt like an expensive Airstream inside, with surfaces that don’t make you recoil when you touch them. Usually, you can find where a manufacturer cut corners in building a camper. That’s not the case, here, as everything felt tight and nothing stuck out as rushed, or there to save money. Of course, this is just the prototype. But Jayco says that this is more or less what you’re going to get as a customer.

There are more good things, too. It weighs just 3,960 pounds and has an accessory hitch so you can take along bicycles and other things. But don’t get too carried away, as your payload is just 1,035 pounds.

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Overall, I love this travel trailer. It’s a refreshing design, and there are some neat ideas at work here. I will say that this does look a bit like an inTech Sol Eclipse, which has an even bigger front window, but I like how Jayco removed even more from the roof than inTech did.

Exact pricing information hasn’t been released yet. But you can expect it to hit dealerships sometime in 2023 with an expected price in the upper $40,000-range.

 

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31 Responses

  1. My only concern with the big retailers getting into this space is their tendency to take a really good high quality design, make it cheaper than the small maker making exactly the same thing (in this case the Intech Sol) to drive them out of business, then cost cut it to the point no one wants it and then kill it off. Either that or build it so shitty that everything innovative gets a bad name in the industry.

  2. This travel trailer seems very well built. The solid roof with nothing on it is a really good idea. Leaking roofs on RVs have been a big problem since day one. While this is styled as a European caravan or trailer they got one thing wrong. One huge thing. It’s way too heavy. This is still a typical American RV that takes a larger gas guzzling truck to tow it. I have looked at dozens of RVs in Europe and they tend to be very, very light weight. I’ve seen many being towed by smallish 4 cylinder cars over there. I’ve had many travel trailers and my tow rigs were always SUVs or pick ups with 2″ receiver hitches. Plus they had load equalizing spring bars. A standard European hitch is a round bar bent at a 90 degree angle with a hitch ball on it. That’s all they need because their trailers are so light.

    1. I assume the weight has something to do with the extensive use of aluminum and the solid roof with solar panels? I’m sure there are much lighter trailers available in the USA as well, but when you remove weight I assume you’re also giving up some of the high-spec nature of this trailer? (I’m only assuming everything because my family has never done trailer stuff.)

    2. This is true, somehow even the bigger Euro trailers often manage to remain light enough for a person to pick them up by the tongue and maneuver them around by hand. At 4000lbs, no way is the tongue weight going to be low enough to do that

      1. I learned about lightweight Euro travel trailers early in my RV life. We were on our first major trip in 1976 that lasted 4 1/2 months. We were camped along the Rogue River in Southern Oregon and an early 1970s Volvo wagon pulled into the campground towing about a 20′ trailer. All the prime spaces facing the river were already taken. He parked in the road, quickly unhooked the trailer, and by hand pulled it into a space tongue first. I totally shit a brick! Doing this had his door and large window facing the river. I grabbed a beer and one for him and went over to talk to this guy. He, his wife, and two kids were from the UK. The trailer was from Italy, made of fiberglass, and weighed 1,700 lbs empty. They had their car and trailer shipped by sea to the Port of Los Angeles and flew over when it got here. Their plan was to spend at least a year seeing North America. When they pulled in I caught the Euro plate on the front of the Volvo and also the righthand steering, but looking at it with him I saw it was an automatic trans. I had owned Volvos for a few years then and even with the manual trans my cars had they didn’t have much power. But it did fine towing that really light trailer. He ask to see my setup and I felt embarrassed to show him. My trailer was a 28′ Aristocrat that weighed over 3 tons loaded. I towed it with a 1974 Chevy Blazer. It got about 8 MPG towing the trailer. I was stoked about Euro trailers then and every trip over there since then I check out their amazing RVs.

        1. You can get North American made trailers that are similarly light made of fiberglass such as Bolers, Scamps and other molded fiberglass trailers:

          https://rvownerhq.com/how-much-does-a-scamp-trailer-weigh/

          https://tincantourists.com/wiki/boler/

          Here’s a list of lightweight fiberglass trailer brands that are in production:
          https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/groups/category-manufacturers+%7C+current+production.html

          And here’s a list of legacy brands
          https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/groups/category-manufacturers+%7C+legacy+brands.html

        2. I picked up a 1980s motorcycle pop-up over the summer, sets up with two separate double beds inside and weighs 350lbs empty. Averaged 57mpg pulling it down the Interstate with an Ioniq Hybrid. Something bigger would always be nice, but it’s the absolute largest trailer I can get indoors for storage without building a new shed, and even then, I’ve got less than an inch clearance through the door, so I’m happy with that for now.

      2. They can get away with having a very low tongue weight because there’s strict speed limits on cars with trailers. If you tried to tow one at 70 MPH even with an F250 you’d crash or the trailer would shake itself apart.

        1. Ummm… 70 is only 113kph. I have never ever seen a caravan shake itself apart, we have much worse roads in New Zealand than they do in Europe, most of our caravans are either imported from the UK or Australia (some are still built here) most made of fibreglass or aliminium and routinely people speed while towing. People tow with almost anything that can take the weight.

  3. Love the overall design, but that 2nd door seems like a waste of space.
    I also don’t understand why manufacturers of smaller trailers don’t widen the box a bit, to cover the wheels and increase interior space. Is it a handling thing?
    The fresh/grey/black tank sizes are impressive! My Tracer 29QBD is much bigger but has essentially the same size tanks.

  4. I’m not much of a camper person. I’m cheap and so are tents, and I don’t do enough longer traveling to want one. That said, this looks great. It looks comfortable enough for travel, not too elaborate, and well-designed. I would travel in this.

  5. Thoughts in no particular order:
    -Euro styling in trailers doesn’t do anything for me, but it’s fine.
    -While I appreciate the lack of roof intrusions, as a tall person a skylight over the shower is a requirement. This would probably be a dealbreaker for me personally.
    -My trailer has a fiberglass roof, and while it is nice from a durability perspective it is _loud_ in the rain.
    -Reasonable water tank sizes. Did I fall into an alternate timeline where trailer manufacturers figured out that people want enough gray tank space to actually use the shower they paid for? Kudos to Jayco for this.
    -No awning. 🙁
    -Looks like awning-style windows though. I have those and am a big fan. It’s nice not having to worry about whether you left your windows open when it starts raining.
    -Heat pumps are good.
    -It’s expensive, but as I mentioned on one of your previous articles the insanity of pricing in some of the boutique builders makes this seem downright reasonable. At least you’re getting a full, self-contained trailer here.

  6. I’m active in a lot of camping and caravan forums down under and Jayco have a terrible reputation for poor build quality and poor customer service. This unit looks wonderful but I suggest you interview a few users who have had their caravans for a couple of years or who have had issues with Jayco’s customer service departments. Assuming this story is not a paid ad in disguise. Based on what I have seen and read, I would not touch a Jayco product.

    1. My understanding is that Jayco Australia own the licence to use the Jayco brand name and logo in this country, but otherwise have nothing to do with Jayco America. By all accounts, the American made stuff might have superior build quality.

      I have a Jayco camper trailer and while I love it and think it’s very well designed, the build quality is… hit and miss. Seriously Jayco, who the fuck told you it was acceptable to use pop rivets to fasten metal fittings to plywood?!

      1. Yea I hear you but if they use the Jayco name, they have an obligation to build to the same quality no matter the country it is built in. Australian build quality is usually pretty damn good, no matter the product. I see this type of thing (pop rivets to fasten metal fittings to plywood etc) as a simple Jayco QA issue.

  7. It’s always good to see some innovation. I think the second door serves a dual function of emergency exit and loading door for something like a folded boat or an expensive bicycle, rather like the rear door of an Airstream Basecamp
    My concern is that Jayco build quality is decidedly second tier and the Volare could prove every bit as shoddy as its Plymouth namesake.

  8. I like it. First new trailer I’ve seen so far that seems like it might be worth anything close to what they’re asking for it. I’d still wait a few years and try to find a gently-used one because depreciation on these things is truly jaw-dropping and lots of people buy campers that they barely use at all so why pay new, but relatively speaking it looks like one of the better values in camper-land.

  9. Kudos for the move away from the vinyl over plywood roof. It does seem to me that the kitchen, especially the cooktop arrangement is lacking compared to the competition. Lastly, for its size, it’s heavy: hardly lighter than my Ember. Just an observation, not a complaint. Hoping this means a robust structure. Will be interesting to see market pricing.

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