Friday, August 22, 2008

Without a doubt, the “A Frame” style fold-down trailers are among the most unusual looking units in the campground when compared to the usual crop of recreational vehicles.

Only two manufacturers build this type of RV. One such A Frame is built by Chalet RV of Albany, Ore. (www.chaletrv .com, 541-791-4610).

With the new XL 1938 “Dormer,” Chalet has added a ream of functional interior space that allows creature comforts only dreamed of in this kind of trailer. They did it by adding the fold-up dormer-type roof extension.

These A-frame models offer features common to both tent trailers and hardwall models. The XL body is configured much like that of a tent trailer, but this unit has solid roof panels, hinged at the front and back walls, which pivot up from the center to form the A-shape roof. The triangular sidewalls, hinged to the lower fixed body wall, then swing up and manually latch into place.

The XL also adds the swing-up Dormer roof segment and its associated fold-up endwall and sidewalls.

A pair of folded inner hardwalls, which hinge and clamp easily into place, isolate the bath from the living quarters. Setting up the entire trailer is about a three minute, or less, process.

To ease the setup chore, the main roof raises electrically via a convenient switch near the entry door. The other wall panels are lightweight and lift easily into place.

A fold-down tent trailer has reams of sleeping space on its slide-out end beds, but it also has the fabric sidewalls and their associated characteristics.

The XL living area is contained within the solid lower body dimension, but it also has full insulation all around and the extra security and weatherproofing inherent with solid walls.

The size is a trade-off many A-frame trailer owners are happy to live with.

While the sloping roof sections do cut into the interior space somewhat, the Dormer expands that space in a big way. In the 1938 Dormer model floorplan the end bath has a full 6 feet 8 inches of headroom and the bath area is a full 36 inches deep so there’s lots of room for bathroom-associated activities.

The shower is 23 inches wide by 36 inches deep and that’s more space than is available in many larger RVs.

At the aft end the trailer has a huge U-shaped dinette that makes down into a 6-foot 8-inch by 6-foot 2-inch bed.

My wife and I were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the bed was for sleeping, given that it’s made of seat cushions rearranged into a bed as needed.

The streetside galley contains the usual appointments and allows for standard campsite meal preparations, but counter space is tight.

We moved the portable dinette table close by for extra working space.

Fluid capacities include 25 gallons freshwater, 15 gallons grey water, 5 gallons black water (cassette style toilet), and dual 4.5-gallon propane tanks.

This trailer offers two distinct advantages for today’s RVer. At 2,780 pounds wet (unloaded), it can be towed by many smaller, downsized vehicles.

Due to its low-profile shape in road-ready form - about 6 feet, 3 inches tall overall including skylight bubble - the trailer has less wind resistance and is less prone to uncivil road manners when the weather turns blustery.

Both characteristics translate into a trailer that requires less fuel to tow, and it can possibly be towed by the vehicle you have in your driveway so no major vehicle purchase is needed.

We towed the XL with a Toyota FJ Cruiser, which has a 5,000-pound tow rating. Although the FJ has a fairly modest 105-inch wheelbase, it proved a highly stable and capable tow rig in conjunction with the XL.

True to form, the XL reacted very little to wind or passing truck traffic.

There’s little of the push-pull sensation when a semi in a big hurry blows past on the freeway, and that kind of towing comfort makes a trip a lot more fun.

The rubber-torsion independent-suspension axle cushions the trailer ride and helps it float gracefully over bumps and divots in the pavement.

The XL 1938 carries a $25,575 price tag when equipped with a few popular options, including aluminum mag wheels ($245), wood-grain vinyl flooring upgrade ($210), the 12,000 Btu air conditioner with heat pump ($1,125), microwave oven ($155) and a few others.

The general design and folding roof hardware account for the somewhat higher price compared to a standard hardwall RV - and it’s also a well-built unit so that counts for a lot.

The RVer looking for something a bit different in a lightweight, fuel-stingy trailer might find the new XL 1938 model a fine alternative with more than enough living space in a compact package.

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