The folding trailer: Easy to set up and tow

Ultra marathon runners Shelley and Kurt Egli of Austin, Texas, camp every other weekend in their 2016 Aliner Classic Limited Edition pop-up camping trailer. Photo by Julianne G. Crane

BY JULIANNE G. CRANE
Motor Matters

The small A-frame foldout trailer will never capture a huge slice of the Recreation Vehicle market, however, those who have them, love them.

“They’re fun and super easy to tow,” say A-frame owners who cut across all backgrounds and ages. What all A-frame enthusiasts definitely have in common is a passion for the outdoors and traveling light.

Over the past decade — in large part due to consumer demand for more fuel-efficient trailers that could be towed easily with a typical family vehicle — RV manufacturers have been turning out a greater variety of smaller, lightweight rigs.

These lighter towables, in combination with a stronger economy, has resulted in eight solid years of RV industry recovery since a low point during the 2008 recession, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (rvia.org), an RV trade group.

Small towables are big business today because they are perfect for budget-conscious young families with standard sized cars and small trucks. When it comes to traveling light and easy towing in a cost effective package, the smartly designed hard-sided A-frame pop-up camping trailers is unquestionably worth a look.

Unlike the canvas-sided tent trailer, the folding A-frame sides are entirely rigid when set up resulting in a more secure and safe unit. After use, the walls then fold down and are neatly tucked away for transport and storage.

These A-frame pop-ups are great alternatives for outdoors lovers. Tent campers are the new breed of RVers who are taking to these small collapsible solid-walled rigs, which set up much faster than a tent with no more sleeping on the ground.

“We had been tent camping for more than 20 years and we finally decided to get an RV when we moved back to Texas,” said Kurt and Shelley Egli of Austin.

They selected a 2016 15-foot Aliner Classic Special Edition (Aliner.com) because of its small, yet roomy size. The tidy living space is 12-foot square. “We love that it has everything we need — sink, stove, microwave, bed, AC, heater and table.” Its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 3,000 pounds is easily towed with the Eglis’ 2017 Jeep Rubicon.

According to Aliner, only 84 of its Classic Special Edition are being produced as a commemoration to the company’s founding in 1984. The retro-influenced design features trendy 1980s colors, a streamlined porch light design, and tires with chrome moon hubs.

“We wanted an RV so that we could camp year round in Texas,” said Egli. In comparison with the porous canvas tent trailers, the completely enclosed air-conditioned space stays cooler during hot and humid summers.

Kurt and Shelley Egli are competitive ultra-marathon runners and favor camping in state and national parks where they can do long-distance training runs. When it comes to staying on public lands, the A-frame is a wise choice because of their small footprint.

“We love the outdoors and hope to use our Aliner every other weekend,” said Egli. “Our goal is to spend more nights in our RV than our house.”

Other A-frame owners are longtime RVers Linda and John Keltgen of Mariposa, Texas, who began camping in the 1980s with a tent trailer. Over the years they went through a number of different rigs until 2007 when they retired and set out to RV full-time in a 31-foot Crossroads Cruiser fifth-wheel trailer with three slides.

“It was perfect for our adventures,” recalled Linda Keltgen. After seven years traveling the country, they sold their RV and purchased a small home. However, said Linda Keltgen, “it didn’t take long until we began getting the itch to be on the road again.”

This time they wanted a smaller trailer their 2014 Nissan Pathfinder could tow with no trouble. They selected a 21-foot Rockwood Premier A122BH by Forest River RV (ForestRiverInc.com).

In addition to kitchen, dining and sleeping areas, it includes a front, exterior storage rack that carries extra camping gear and a cassette porta potty.

“It tows like a dream,” said John Keltgen. “I don’t even know it is back there. When we get to our campsite, it is very easy to set up and tear down. People often come over and ask questions.”

Another plus is that their trailer is a snap to unhitch from their Nissan. “In no time at all, we can be off sightseeing or going out to dinner,” said Linda Keltgen. “I haven’t done much cooking in this little rig because one of the activities we love doing is sampling local foods.”

Although the retirees bought their A-frame for short camping trips, they have been on longer vacations to Minnesota and Arizona.

“So much for the short trips,” said Linda Keltgen.

On the downside camping in an A-frame is an exercise in compromise. In comparison to conventional travel trailers of the same length, there is less interior space resulting in less storage and living space. Only a few models offer a hard-walled shower with flush toilet; and most models truly only sleep two people comfortably.

That said, because an A-frame’s profile is more aerodynamic, it is a lot easier and more fuel efficient to tow. Also, while towing, it is easier to see over most models when looking out the rear window.

These nifty fold-down trailers are low enough to easily slide into most standard garages or storage structures.

As for sticker prices, new A-frame camping trailers typically run from $14,000 to $30,000.