- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

The general slowdown in the RV industry is no secret, and as usual, tends to mirror the economy overall. Fortunately for the RV shopper, research and design and innovation by the RV manufacturers has continued full steam ahead. And now is an exciting time to be looking for a new recreational vehicle.

Some of the most interesting RV innovations are coming in the area of slideout room technology and applications. Slideout rooms, which add a tremendous amount of living space inside an RV by making the inside areas wider, are long past being a novelty in the business. They're now used in all kinds of RVs, ranging from pop-up tent trailers to truck campers to $750,000 bus-type motor homes.

In fact, in some product lines, it's difficult to buy a vehicle without a slideout room. Dealers encourage shoppers to buy rigs equipped with them, not due to their higher cost and profit to the dealer price is not much of an issue for a slideout room but mainly because of resale value. An RV with a slideout is more valuable as a used vehicle at trade-in and resale time.

Now that slideouts are commonplace, manufacturers are coming up with more creative ways to make them better and better, and to take advantage of what a slideout has to offer.

Many slideouts now feature flush-floor technology. This eliminates or minimizes the bump where the slideout room floor meets the rest of the RV floor.

Slideout mechanisms have become simpler and more reliable. Early on, manufacturers worked with a variety of complicated geared, hydraulic and cable-operated systems, not all of which were good for long-term reliable operation and some were also very difficult to service. Today's slideouts use simple, reliable setups that make the mechanism and room operation a no-hassle part of RV ownership.

As a nod to practicality, each manufacturer also provides some kind of slideout-room manual operation feature. In the event of a system failure, the user can still retract the room and drive to the nearest service center.

Extra storage space or better access to the existing space is a plus for some new vehicles. For example, both Winnebago and Fleetwood offer motor homes with slideout rooms that move their close-by basement-style storage compartments on the same mechanism. This places the compartment access doors flush with the outside slideout wall, instead of forcing the user to crawl under the slideout overhang to reach the compartment. It sounds like a small detail, but it's important.

Early slideouts typically moved out roughly 36 inches or so from stored to in-use position. This range of movement created some interior access problems when the room was stored for travel. Manufacturers have since learned to vary the slideout room depth. Some rigs, say with a combined kitchen and dinette or entertainment center slideout, may only move out about 15 to 18 inches. This may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference inside, both for in-use space and for easier access when stored.

Many RVs now have slideout-mounted kitchen units. The manufacturers have figured out various means of articulating the liquid propane gas, fresh water and drain water lines needed for kitchen appliances, so those moving parts are now as reliable as the rest of the RV.

The development of motor-home chassis with higher gross vehicle weight rating figures means the manufacturers are able to pack more goodies into their coaches. This in turn has led to more innovative aft-bedroom slideout applications.

The first bedroom slideouts had the head of the bed attached to the compact slideout and simply moved the bed out from the room somewhat, which allowed more room at the foot of the bed for a wall-mounted vanity table and storage unit, for example. This idea has been expanded on with movable closets, storage and entertainment units. Use of a larger bedroom slideout with a large wardrobe adjacent to the bed means the closet can be deeper and larger, plus in its deployed position, there's more walkway space in front of the closet for more elbow room when dressing.

Even with the higher-rated chassis available today, it's still important for buyers to closely examine the RV gross vehicle weight rating and cargo carrying capacity figures. Some manufacturers, unfortunately, are still irresponsibly building motor homes with inadequate cargo capacity. Carefully inspect the ratings before you buy to avoid any future overloading problems.

Slideout room development adds a lot of fun and function to RVs on the market today. Shoppers will find an interesting array of features available while looking for that new dream RV.


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