Full disclosure: When we decided to start looking at campers, and by “looking” I mean we no longer did it from the comfort of our couch or bed, we were already quite certain what we wanted. And lest we be mistaken for an indecisive brood, it took us all of 2 hours to pull the trigger after visiting the first dealership we came to.
Before my review on our previous camper, I’ll start this out by giving some feedback on trailer campers in general.
You have a mobile mini home that is following you wherever you go. Like a welcome puppy. In it you typically have a cooktop, microwave, bathroom, heat, A/C, TV (although we never use it) and even a shower. And I begrudgingly admit these are nice creature comforts for a person to have in the woods.
You must love your family very much. It is cozy in there. Obviously, some are cozier than others but the general principal is the same. For those of you with kids, rainy days can be tense days. You must prep for those days with ample entertainment but even that won’t last a good storm. We have been known just to send the kids outside anyway and deal with consequences of runny noses and muddy floors later.
And everyone likes their own brand, at least most of us do. But even sometimes our own aroma causes us to question our past meal decisions. So, mix 5 creatures worth of their own brands in one small camper and you have yourself a problem.
And lastly there is the financial impact as well. There are costs for tags, insurance, storage (if you can’t store where you live), campsite fees, maintenance. Then you must outfit the camper as well with linens, utensils and the basic accoutrements needed to camp. All of this adds up so make sure you are prepared to make the financial commitment beyond just purchasing the thing.
*We have since upgraded to a larger 27” camper. I wrote this review when we still owned our first camper.
2015 RPod 176t
The “T” stands for tent. This is the only RPOD model that has the fold out tent. Two reasons why we went with this model but first “Why did we go with an RPOD?”
1. Reason 1: The look of it. We got more compliments on this then we do on anything else we own COMBINED. And that includes the kids, dogs and my smoked ribs. It’s like a vortex in our driveway or campground. People just invite themselves in, take pictures, caress it.
2. Reason 2: Lightweight. When we originally started looking I had a V6 Honda Pilot as my tow vehicle and the tow capacity rating on it was 3500 lbs. The R-Pods were a bit lighter due to the teardrop shape and size so that was a key driver as well. The model we purchased came in at 2600 lbs dry (276 lbs hitch weight) so that gave us plenty of wiggle room for the weight of our gear and fresh water, grey water etc. And I think the RPod line is the lowest tow weight in its class. But we have since purchased a Toyota Sequoia that is rated to tow a battleship across sand so the weight is no longer an issue.
3. Reason 3: Size. This model comes in just under 20” in length. I’m not saying that going bigger would not have been an option, and in hindsight would have probably made sense considering my family size, but considering the size of some campgrounds and camp sites it seems the 20” trailers have more options when trying to reserve. Meaning you can always rent a bigger spot than your camper needs but rarely can you rent a smaller spot than needed.
We went with this model (176T) for 2 reasons:
1. Leading up to our purchase I was forever barking that sleeping in a camper wasn’t camping. And furthermore, sleeping in the type of campers that we first started looking at was like renting a studio apartment for the weekend. So, when we saw this model it helped desensitize me from the “glamping” stigma that the others were putting off. Simply because of the tent.
2. Sleeping room- We have 3 children. At the time of purchase our daughter was 7 and our twin boys were 4. This layout allowed for us to fit all 3 children, us 2 adults and 2 dogs reasonably comfortably. The boys share the bunks, my daughter sleeps in the fold out tent area and my wife and I share the double bed that goes over the table.
Outside: As mentioned before, the camper looks great and turns heads. I think they only did this paint scheme for the 2015 models. The new 2016 models are blue. The frog decals and the big logo are a bit cheesy but you can pull those off with a razor blade. For most of the models its one piece of fiberglass wrapped across the top. Meaning there aren’t any seams that could one day give into the elements and eventually start leaking. For the 176T this isn’t the case because there is a separate piece of fiberglass that folds up to allow the tent to fold out. We have never had a problem with leakage but we have only had it for 1 ½ years so keep that in mind.
For the most part the outside construction seems solid. We haven’t had anything break yet and with three kids crawling all over it there has been plenty of opportunities for that to happen.
• Breakaway switch and safety chains- In laymen’s terms, you forgot to hook up the trailer correctly so this is what stops the trailer from unhitching and passing you on the highway.
• Propane Tank with cover- Can be used for furnace, stove top, fridge and hot water heater. Can also be used to unhook and fuel your camp stove (typically would need an adapter for this).
• Fresh Water Tank- 36 Gal (This equals about 300lbs in weight so consider this when packing. Many sites have fresh water hookups so towing it dry is usually an option)
• Grey Water Tank- 30 Gal (Grey water is water from the sink or shower)
• Black Water Tank– 30 Gal (Toilet/sewage)
• Battery- The battery it comes with is a marine battery. The reason for this is that a typical car battery is designed to provide quick high current bursts to start the engine whereas the marine battery is designed to provide a steady current and can fully charge down to about 25% and then get charged back up again on a repeated basis. We have had issues with these batteries already. The one we received with the camper worked for a couple of trips and then it would no longer hold a charge. I replaced it with a similar battery (different mfg) and after a few trips it started overheating. So bad that I thought the sewage was backed up at the camp site. Once I discovered it was the battery I removed it and put it about 50 feet down the path from us. Further research determined this battery had a bad cell as well. I am currently investigating the pros and cons of adding smaller golf cart batteries in place of these bigger marine batteries.
• Black Tank Flush- Great feature. For those that haven’t owned a camper or RV before, getting the black tank (sewage) completely clean and empty is always a challenge. This flush allows you to flush out the black tank from one side as it drains into the dump tank at the campground on the other side. I usually also stick the hose down the toilet to accomplish the same thing from a different direction.
• Plenty of outdoor lights– But my wife always adds string lights around the site for ambiance. We much prefer hers.
• Outdoor speakers- These speakers work well for music or if you decide to watch a movie or ballgame outside.
• Pre-wiring for a solar system- We haven’t gone down this road yet. All sites to date have had power so necessity has not pushed the purchase. It is quite intriguing but the obvious downfall lies around the location where you are camping (heavily wooded), the weather, and that it will only charge during the day.
• Outside shower– We love outdoor showers. Especially for the kids. Hosing them down after they have been playing in mud or a creek is a great option to have. And doing it with hot water and soap is even better. In fact, we have never used the shower inside the camper. Besides showering with your toilet, the shower inside is also quite cramped and a bit messy. There are a couple of things you will want to purchase if you thing that you will want to use the outdoor shower. A standalone shower screen and something to hold the soap and shampoo. Just standing there holding a nozzle over your head and trying to wash yourself is a bit difficult. Not to mention the concept exposing yourself to the world while trying to do it.
• R-Dome awning and screen– My first 3-4 experiences with this wasn’t very pleasant. I understood the concept but the execution was tough to manage at first. You must unroll the whole thing, figure out which side is which, what’s front and back, and then slide the rope edge of the tent through the tracks from one side of the camper to the other. Typically, you need two people to do this because it tends to come out of the tracks about halfway through if nobody is guiding it.
Once this is complete there is a series of steps to add the arch pole, the telescoping support poles and decide whether you want screens up or down, or flaps up or down. It became very frustrating to look over at other campers and watch the owners push a button to roll out their awning.
Lately though, we have done much better with it and I think we have gotten the process down good. In fact, our last trip my wife and I had to hurry due to an impending storm and we got it done in about 10 minutes with a limited amount of curse words being used. So, the dome is growing on me but I continue to conduct research for a better alternative.
• TV Antenna- I think the HD Antenna is rated for 50 miles. We rarely use it.
• 120-volt receptacle– Nice to have. During the warmer months, we have a fan that we set out under the dome to help circulate air. My wife also sets out lights around the campsite that we use an extension cord from the camper to light up.
• 13.5k BTU Air conditioner– Don’t think it comes standard. If you live in the south, you better have it. Just a warning, it’s loud. Just assume that it’s like a window unit in your house. But it keeps things cool in the hot months. Also, be aware that if you are camping off the grid (no electrical hook-ups at the campground) the battery will NOT run the A/C. This would require a generator.
Interior- The interior is well thought out considering the space they had to work with. I will deduct points for some of the construction. We have had instances where pieces of the quarter round have come off the corners of the wall and every so often a drainage hose appears out from under the slide out. But these are all manageable things.
• Slide Out Kitchen– Slides in and out easy. You always must make sure things are tucked away from the sides or you are liable to get your bed sheet caught in the process and then must slide it back in. And the area you are working in is cumbersome because there is not a lot of surface area because of the stove top. Getting handy and building a cover for the burners when not in use is a good way to increase the surface area. Also, we bought a Coleman camp stove and it has all but replaced the need for the burners.
• Wet bath, toilet, sink combo- As mentioned above, we have never used the shower and I can’t imagine a scenario where we will. But there is always the chance I guess.
The sink is pointless. There is literally a sink 3 feet from you in the kitchen. Having one in the bathroom only takes up space. Many folks go ahead and remove the sink as a modification to gain a bit more space in an already cramped bathroom.
The toilet is not bad. The water pressure for the flush works well so I’m not sure what else is needed except operating space.
• Fold down dinette table- Serves its purpose but unless it’s raining we do all our eating outside. Its other purpose is to hold up the bed which it does admirably.
• Hot Water Heater– Gas or electric DSI (You don’t have to use a match to light)
• 4.2 Cubic ft fridge– Think “mini fridge from college”. But now you are packing adult food for actual meals instead of beer and potted meat. The space is very limited. We always bring a cooler or two for things such as drinks and ice and milk etc.
• 12,000 BTU furnace– If you think about it, 12,000 BTU’s to heat a camper this size is plenty even during the coldest of trips. So much so that we hardly ever use it. Instead we use a space heater which works fine heating the whole camper.
• Propane, Smoke and CO detectors– Check, check, check
• AM/FM/CD/DVD/TV– All great features when looking at it on the showroom floor but most are not used. I can’t remember the last time I listened to a CD or radio for that matter. The kids watch the occasional movie on it but these days they would just assume curling up around a tablet and watching a movie before bed at night.
• 2 bunk beds– There are weight restrictions and when you see them you will understand why. Mostly just plywood supporting them. One nice feature is that they have small lights in each bed so the kids have access to light that doesn’t require us getting up and down.
• Double Bed– Surprisingly comfortable. I have a temperamental back and I like a stiffer bed so I wake up happier in this bed than my own bed at home. My wife would give the exact opposite review so take that with a grain of salt. Also, the bed is a double and a bit short. I am 6” and my ankles hang overboard.
• Tent- Has worked out well. Better than we imagined I think. I was skeptical about how easy it was to set up or break down and how well it holds out the elements but for the most part it has done well. You must pay attention to making sure everything is snapped up correctly or else there is a potential for rain seepage into the camper. It sleeps our 7-year-old without any problems and she usually has a dog or brother joining her as well.
In closing I would say that overall we are happy with the camper. Eventually we will need to upgrade in size as our kids get older and there are some things that I would rather have that other campers a bit larger have (I’m looking at you mini fridge). Easy to clean, easy to maintain, easy to set up and easy to tow.
Also, there is a dedicated group of R-Pod owners that is very helpful with questions reviews, suggested modifications etc and I highly recommend joining once you have made your purchase. There have been multiple times where I have turned to this group in mild emergencies to help troubleshoot a problem or to get advice.
*Update– We have since sold the RPOD for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the tent portion of the camper started to leak during heavy rains and it became more of an annoyance than we cared to deal with. Another reason was its size. We have 3 kids that are growing like weeds and we also like to have friends joining us on trips as well so we really needed to upgrade.
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