RV construction and why it matters

We have looked at a lot of new RVs, but also a good number of used RVs and a tremendous number of vintage RVs. In fact, vintage RVs were a serious consideration but they almost all have one thing in common: water damage. 

In addition to water damage, I have found that RVs that are made of wood tend to get flimsy over time. The combination of moisture from condensation and leaks seems to weaken the structure of these wooden boxes. Plus an RV rolling down the road is akin to a major earthquake but that earthquake can last for hours. So we focused on RVs that use aluminum framing instead. 

My first choice was a Camplite 16tbs. Camplite is unique in that there is absolutely no wood used in the construction whatsoever. These trailers are all aluminum top to bottom with Luan plastic finish. But, in California, they’re next to impossible to find. In fact we went to Colorado to look at one and the dealer had none of their trailers in stock at all. I have yet to ever see a Camplite trailer in person except for one pop-up. 

Our second choice was the Forest River Rpod. These are neat because they’re also predominantly aluminum in the upper structure with a steel trailer base, although they do use a wooden floor. They’re also a narrow body so you can tow them with smaller vehicles, and the rounded shape seems to cut through the air more easily so towing with a smaller vehicle is less difficult. This would have been a very wise choice to tow with our Nissan. 

Specifically we liked the Rpod 180 which has a single slide-out that seems to mitigate that unit’s narrow body. But if you’re trying to stealth camp, putting out a slide is not the way to do it. Plus, we’ve seen several RVs with slides at dealers with the techs trying to get the broken slide back in. This is not a pretty sight. 

Forest River is one of those monster RV manufacturers that makes half of what you see out there including the Rpod. They also make the Forest River Mini Lite 1905 which has similar construction to the Rpod, but has an 8’ wide body. 

This wider body means that the wheels don’t extend beyond the walls of the trailer but also means that the interior is spacious without needing a slide. Another thing we liked about this trailer is the Murphy bed, which folds down at night for sleeping but folds up leaving a couch in the day. 

We’re huge fans of things that serve more than one purpose and a Murphy bed that folds up to reveal a couch is just that. 

Of course the disadvantage of a wide, square trailer is the amount of drag it puts on the tow vehicle and we have actually gone a bit above what Nissan recommends in this area. This could explain why we have yet to get over 11 miles per gallon when towing the trailer.

Written by Anthony B. Barthel