Hit the Road!: Special Off-Road Section

RVs, Trailers, Pop-Up Tents

Outdoor Life Online Editor

A long night in a cold, drafty tent or a sleeping bag laid out in the back of a pickup is a fine learning experience. It helps an outdoorsman understand the value of an RV as a hunting or fishing base camp.

Comfort and convenience are contagious, and today's RVs deliver the goods. Admittedly, the majority of RVs are aimed at families and generic camping-style activities, but RV manufacturers are giving more thought to those who use their products under rigorous conditions. These hunting- and fishing-friendly rigs have features that can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your outdoor experience. Dealer lots are full of exciting and functional new RV models. Here's a sample of a few that are well worth noting as potential base-camp rigs.

**Aliner **
Outdoorsmen with a downsized tow rig may find the Aliner an interesting alternative to the usual fold-down tent camper. Whereas a typical tent trailer has a solid roof that lifts and is joined to the body with a tent surround, the Aliner has solid roof sections that tilt up and sidewalls that likewise fold up into place. The entire setup process takes less than a minute, which is really handy if it's snowing or raining. The hardwalls give the Aliner extra insulation qualities, as well as make it more secure when it's locked up while you're off on a hunt. The 18-foot Expedition Package also includes a large, lockable 32-cubic-foot storage trunk up front, a heavy-duty 2,500-pound-rated axle, a 6-inch lift and larger 14-inch tires. Three large adults can sleep in this rig, or four smaller-sized.

Contact: The Aliner Company (Department OL, 1 Main St., Mammoth, PA 15664; 724-423-7440; www.aliner.com).

**Four Wheel **
If maneuverability and light weight are important to you, a Four Wheel Campers pop-up may be the best choice. This unit folds low for travel, measuring less than a foot above cab height, which gives it a low center of gravity and allows it to take on the roughest of access roads when used on a four-wheel-drive truck. At camp its roof raises via a spring-loaded mechanism to provide six feet, three inches of interior headroom.

The Grandby is the company's largest model and is designed for full-size, long-bed pickups, yet the unit weighs less than 1,000 pounds fully outfitted, which leaves plenty of capacity on your pickup for towing a boat trailer. Optional arctic-pack insulation gives the upper-wall fabric section extra resistance to the cold.

This rig is an excellent choice among less complex RVs.

Contact: Four Wheel Campers (Department OL, 1460 Churchill Downs Ave., Woodland, CA 95776; 800-242-1442; www.fourwheelcampers.com).

**Four Winds **
This is a "toy hauler"-style Class C motor home that's outfitted with an aft-end garage big enough to house a motorcycle. The 28-foot, six-inch Fun Mover with floor plan 27C includes either an electric lift gate with a garage door or a ramp for easy garage loading. A full bath, galley and dining facilities are likewise standard. Full livability features make up the rest of the vehicle for comfortable camping. The coach is based on a Ford chassis with a 6.8-liter V-10 gasoline engine that provides plenty of power for hauling along a boat or horse trailer.

Contact: Four Winds International Corp. (Department OL, 701 CR 15, Box 1486, Elkhart, IN 46515-1486; 574-266-1111; www.fourwinds-rv.com).

[pagebreak] **Keystone **
Keystone's 27-foot, 6-inch Tail-Gator Model 251RR trailer is a good example of the new "toy hauler" RVs that are highly popular with hunters and fishermen, and for good reason. These versatile rigs have a garage-style space in back that can store a pair of dirt bikes, an ATV or a small boat. And larger toy hauler trailers can handle a full-size Jeep. The garage space converts to a dining and sleeping area when the cargo isn't aboard for maximum utilization of the interior space.

Full self-containment livability features are built into each Tail-Gator trailer along with the garage space. Keep the rig's overall weight in mind. This one will call for a three-quarter- or one-ton tow vehicle when fully loaded.

Contact: Keystone RV Company (Department OL, 17400 Hackberry Dr., Goshen, IN 46526; 574-535-2100; www.keystonerv.com).

**Lance **
If the less-than-plush accommodations of the Four Wheel Camper aren't to your liking, the hard-sided Lance Model 820 standard cabover camper may be closer to the mark. Its complete hardwall package provides superb insulation and tight security when locked up. Arguably the Cadillac of truck campers, the Lance camper has a reputation built on years of good design and quality construction techniques. Lance designed the Model 820 camper to fit the heavy-duty, short-bed trucks that are so popular with outdoorsmen today. It's fully outfitted with all the comforts of home and doesn't hang way off the back of the bed, so hitching up a boat, ATV or horse trailer is still easy. At 2,345 pounds dry weight, it's too heavy for half-ton trucks, but a three-quarter-ton pickup should do in most cases and a one-ton truck is a sure bet.

Contact: Lance Camper Manufacturing Corporation (Department OL, 43120 Ventura St., Lancaster, CA 93535; 661-949-3322; www.lancecamper.com).

**Nash **
When the RV company owner is a die-hard outdoorsman, its products are bound to take on details that make life better for other outdoor enthusiasts. Features that set the Nash models apart from the pack include suspension set up for higher ground clearance, shock absorbers, extra-large water and holding tanks, freeze-resistant plumbing, front-wall tread-metal stone guards, mud flaps, a dual-battery rack and an extra-heavy-duty chassis with anti-corrosion finish.

Use of higher-rated insulation throughout, a large furnace and insulated, heated exterior storage compartments also contribute to the Nash trailer's all-season appeal.

Contact: Northwood Manufacturing (Department OL, 59948 Downs Road, La Grande, OR 97850; 541-962-6274; www.nashtraveltrailers.com).

[pagebreak] **Starcraft **
Starcraft's TravelStar Star Shuttle is another entry in the so-called "hybrid" trailer arena. It's based on a lightweight hard-shell package, yet it has the popular fold-down end bed platforms that provide huge sleeping spaces in the relatively compact trailer. At just 3,101 pounds, the 22-foot, 6-inch Model 17SD trailer can be towed by many small trucks and SUVs.

The unique front-end storage platform/deck is ideal for carrying dressed animals or some extra coolers for game meat. The sturdy aluminum tread- metal surface is rated to carry loads as heavy as 650 pounds, and it's large enough to hold an ATV, a stack of firewood or just about any other base-camp needs.

Contact: Starcraft RV, Inc. (Dept. OL, 536 Michigan St., Topeka, IN 46571; 800- 945-4787; www.star craftrv.com).