Our "Expedition" Trailer

Our camping gear was taxing the 8 leaf Deaver springs in the rear of the truck. I had been thinking a trailer might be a good way to decrease the load on the bed. I had been eyeing adventure trailers for a while, but my wife pointed out that they really did not improve our camping "comfort", and if we were going to tow a trailer, shouldn't our comfort be improved?  Our current truck camp setup already had a kitchen sink with hot water for dishes and also a shower. If we were going to spend the money and deal with the hassle of a trailer we might as well upgrade for the luxury items we really were after: an indoor shower and toilet. While the Fleetwood Evolution series are no where near as off-road capable as the adventure trailers, my wife pointed out that on the more extreme trips we can still use our current truck camp setup.  The Fleetwood could serve the trips were we would only mildly off-road (dirt 2 tracks really), and when we wanted a more permanent base camp.

I have to admit that in addition to the toilet and shower, the thought of having heat, air conditioning, as well as a dry, wind free, place to cook and eat sucked me in too. We settled on the Fleetwood E2 for the floor plan and length. We also looked at Jayco and Starcraft off-road camping trailers, but the Fleetwoods seemed to be built better, had a larger water tank, had a better layout, and looked better (I have to admit that the option of getting the trailer in gray and black to match the silver and black truck probably biased my opinion). I was a bit surprised at how much the trailer dropped the rear of the truck, but I had already decided to upgrade to Deaver 10 leaves to better carry the regular camping gear in the truck.


(Click pictures for full size)

   
   
   Notice pop out on side over tire.
   
 

Blue hose is for washing off.

Gray hose is shower drain. I would prefer to not have the storage deck and have the trailer shorter.

 Gray water drains.

External stove and BBQ plugged in to trailer's gas.

Dual propane gas and battery (should have gotten dual batteries).

Interior

Front bed.

Looking at the front with toilet/shower covered. Edge of sink on lower left and edge of table bench on lower right.

Toilet and shower open
(Shower curtain removed for picture).

Refrigerator, heater, and storage on left.

Look at the back.

Sink & inside stove.

Table set up for use.

Table collapsed into a 3rd bed.

Table collapsed into a 3rd bed from distance.

Storage under the table seats.

Storage under the table seats.

Radio, fire extinguisher, and flashlight by door.

Air conditioner!

And heater!

The type of mild off-roading the trailer is comfortable doing
(We will figure out the limits slowly)

   

UPDATE

Took the trailer on a 30 mile 4X4 loop. Did good, other than a sidewall puncture, but that was more driver error! It was at night so no picts were taken, but at right is a picture on the way out. The trailer had gone through a lot worse, but on this hill I thought for sure I would drag, but it did not.

Some artsy shots in the early morning light

   

First real camp trip after the shakedown trip

   

Camping in the Arrow Canyon Range, 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas, NV

   

Comments, Concerns, Problems, and Fixes:

After out first long trip, Phoenix, AZ to just north of Las Vegas NV, we are quite happy with the trailer. It pulls great, and we hardly know it is even there except for the gas mileage and on steep grades. I usually get 15 to 18 mpg and we got 10 to 13 mpg. I was not really expecting better, just hoping. Hwy 93 has some long grades and I was able to maintain speed limit +5 on almost all of them and only on a couple did I briefly drop to 5 mph below the speed limit. I did have to keep the rpms high, up around 4000 to 4500. I am sure that was because most of the "surplus" power that would have been available for towing had already been eaten up by the oversized truck tires and all of the weight added to the truck. It will be interesting to try towing the trailer with my dad's stock `04 V6 Tacoma to compare. I also did not like the "slippy" shifts the stock transmission made and will be looking into an IPT valve body upgrade.

Camping worked great with 4 adults sleeping in the trailer. We even had a fifth adult who was camping in his own truck join us for meals at the table inside. The weekend before, on our shakedown run, I had forgotten sleeping bags (duh!), so we tried to use the heater all night and discovered the single battery was not enough to power the heater fan all night. I wish I had gone with a larger 2 battery set up (the dealer did not even mention that was an option), but since I was going to need a generator to power the a/c anyway I went ahead and bought a Honda EU3000is generator before this trip. The generator was really quiet and worked great too.

One of the issues we did discover on our shakedown run was that while the 2 lights on either end of the interior were very bright (perhaps too bright), one's shadow blocked the light when working over the sink, creating a dark area. A portable light was included with the trailer, but it was a hassle to set up and take down with each meal. I decided to install a single light right over the sink by tying into the portable light's power source. I also decided to install an LED light at each of the two existing lights and at the new light I put up over the sink. Initially I was looking for white LEDs, but found these red ones cheap ($7). They were meant for trailer side marker lights. I liked the idea of red lights because they won't destroy our night vision, and since they are LED, their draw is very low on the battery compared to the stock interior lights. The LED was a bit too intense right at the center of the lens where the two bulbs were located. I took a piece of taillight lens repair tape and placed it over the center of the lens to take care of that.

Another issue with lighting was the stereo. (Not something I would have installed, but hey, it came with the trailer and it was nice to listen to the D-backs game during dinner!) Just a normal car radio, but in a car a radio has two hot leads. Normally, one line ties directly to the battery to save the radio's memory (always hot), and the other ties to the ignition to power it up when the ignition comes on. Since there is no ignition in a trailer, the factory wired both leads together and tied them directly to the battery. The problem was that even with the radio turned off, the face plate remained illuminated. While it made a good night light, it was too bright to sleep in the bed nearby. I added a toggle switch to act like a false ignition switch in the cabinet right beside the radio. Now I can have the face plate light on or off as desired.

Hole drilled for switch on left.

Face plate on in lower left, off in lower right.

Minor, but a nice touch,
like mag light holders, etc.

   

Quality issues... While all in all the trailer seems well built (better than their competitors), there were a number of screws missing. The front of the sink/stove cabinet kept dislodging and sliding across the floor every time we folded down the sink or bumped against it. Also, one shelf almost collapsed when I placed some plates on it, thanks to some missing screws.

The bulk of the missing screws were in here. Some there, some not.

Another odd item was the trailer brake line was routed directly through the axel bump stop:

A simple zip tie fixed that.

The biggest issue was dust, dust, and more dust.  On the shakedown run we drove about 25 miles of dirt road. Now, I expect some dust to leak in, but for that short stretch I had one 2 inch by 8 inch Tupperware container collect enough dust that I was able to take a tablespoon and easily scoop 3 full spoonfuls! (Excellent for that earthy cup of coffee!) All of the food and cooking gear had to be washed. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures before cleaning it up.

The fix? Lots of silicone and a little bit of fill foam. I did take the picture below left after our Las Vegas trip of an area I missed sealing. This is only a fraction as bad as after our first trip -- there was probably 10 or 20 times more!

As the picture on the right above shows, there was some attempt by the factory to seal holes, but only half hearted. Below is the sealing I did, and even had to go over the trailer again after the Vegas trip to seal some areas I missed. I am pretty confident I have sealed the bulk of the holes now and will not have to wash everything each time we set up camp.

Before After
Before (note brown gap in middle of picture) After
 Before After. I had to add more silicone along seams in red circles.
Foam I taped over the back of the tail lights.

This will make it a pain for maintenance down the road when things need replacing, but I will deal with that when the time comes.

Questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at aair@aviationarchaeology.com

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