How To Spot a Quality Camper | RV Small Talk Podcast

There are many types of campers out there and it can be overwhelming trying to find the perfect one that fits you and your family. Of course, research is key when making any major purchase, but we can go even deeper. A quality camper will mean different things to different buyers, but these are the top items on our list.

4 Season RV

The term 4-season camper is exactly what it sounds like – it’s an RV that you can camp/live in summer, fall, winter, and spring. Whether you’re planning to stay in your RV full time or looking to travel across the US, there are several benefits to having a 4-season RV. They are fully loaded with insulation…seriously…everywhere!

If you want a camper that stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter, you’ll want a rig that has insulation around the entire body of the camper. But that’s not it – the insulation should also be over the underbelly, around the holding tanks and pipes, as well as the doors. While a 4-season trailer typically has a great furnace and a powerful AC, the insulation will be the biggest factor in keeping your camper temperature regulated in various weather conditions.

Heated & Enclosed Underbelly + Valves

As you’re going down the highway or even just setting up at your campsite, the colder air can move under your rig, removing heat from your camper. The heated and enclosed underbelly adds another layer of protection from the outdoor elements. Additionally, this will protect your pipes, wires, and hoses that are attached to the underbelly. Not only will it protect the components from extreme weather, but it will also protect your camper from debris during your drive on and off the highway.

Powerful A/C and Furnace

This is an absolute must in any camper, but especially a 4-seasoned camper. If you’re looking to explore all that mother nature has to offer, chances are you’ll find yourself in either super cold or super-hot weather. This means you’ll want an A/C and furnace that can combat those outdoor temperatures.

Dual-Pane windows

So, what is a dual-pane window? Simply put, they are windows made from two layers of glass that typically have space in between them. Now, there are two types of double-pane windows on the market – glass and acrylic.

Glass: Looking like a single-pane window, these are made as fixed picture windows or slider windows.

Acrylic: Known as “bubble windows”, they are made with two laminated plastic sheets with an air gap in between. Though the acrylic windows aren’t sliders, they are usually top-hinged, allowing you to open them fully for great ventilation. Bonus, you can keep these windows open on a rainy camping day!

Windows can make or break a camper. While they can’t be insulated like the body of your RV, dual-pane windows will help keep the heat/AC inside. This will also help the efficiency of your AC on a hot day.

As an insulated window, you’ll have some noise cancellation as an added bonus– both from the inside and outside of the camper. So, whether you’re driving down the highway or parked close to neighbors at a campground, the dual-pane windows will help reduce the surrounding noise.

If you are camping in colder temperatures, you’ll have to watch for condensation from cooking or showering. Over time, this can cause water damage to the windows, vents, and even walls. However, with dual-pane windows, you’ll have better protection from condensation because of the 2 pieces of glass with an air bubble in the middle.

Aluminum framing

One major benefit of an aluminum-framed RV is its weight. Removing the wood from the build and going with aluminum makes this a lightweight tow option. This is great for someone with a smaller tow vehicle OR if you’re traveling long distances. Aluminum frames are taking the lead when it comes to building materials for adventure rigs and family travel trailers.

Typically, you’ll see these RVs advertised as “lightweight” or “ultra-lightweight”.

Azdel Walls

There are a few key benefits when it comes to Azdel walls:

  • Lighter than wood
    • Azdel composite is about half the weight of plywood, meaning it will significantly reduce the overall dry weight of your travel trailer. This opens the world of RVing to smaller tow vehicles and helps to grow the RV community. Additionally, a lighter load means it’s easier on your vehicle and will provide better fuel efficiency. And as a bonus, the lighter your camper is, the more room you’ll have available for extra cargo.
  • No Mold, Mildew, Rotting, or Warping
    • Made of composite materials, you won’t experience mold, mildew, rotting, or warping on the walls
  • Noise Reducer
    • Not designed to absorb sound, Azdel composite does just that.
  • Climate Control + Thermal Barrier
    • The name is self-explanatory here – Azdel walls help keep the heat out in the summer and the cold out in the winter.
  • No Formaldehyde
  • Reduced Downtime

RV Cabinets

These aren’t your house cabinets, nor would you want them to be! RV manufacturers are thoughtful in their design, making sure to reduce weight where they can, and cabinets are a huge piece. While most RV cabinets look the same, they aren’t made the same. There are various materials out there that RV manufacturers use to achieve a certain look and feel on the inside of a camper.

So, What Are Some of Our Options?

  • Particle Board – made of woodchips and glue, this material is usually wrapped in some sort of vinyl.
  • MDF – made from sawdust and glue, similar to particle board
  • Plywood – You might have some of this laying around your garage. It can get quite expensive so you won’t find plywood cabinets in a lot of the base RVs.

How Can You Tell the Quality?

Open all the cabinets and drawers throughout the camper, press down on the shelves (they should feel sturdy and not bend), and inspect the hardware.

Inspect the Seals

Check the seals around the interior and exterior of the RV. What can start as a small crack in a seal can turn into thousands of dollars worth of water damage to your camper.

Look for cracking or shrinking along the edges of the window seals. Additionally, you’ll want to look out for soft spots, warping, or bubbling in the wallpaper surrounding the windows. This can be another sign of a leak.

Your grandma might have told you not to touch the walls as a kid, but that rule goes out the window when RV shopping! Feel the walls for any type of warping or bubbling, especially around the corners and base of the camper. You’ll also want to check vents, light fixtures, doors, and any other place water might be able to creep in.

Lastly, conquer your fear of heights and climb up on that roof to check your seams! That will be any place where the roof and the sidewalls meet – think skylights, vents, A/C, etc.

Included Appliances

Unlike its counterparts, a compressor refrigerator will stay cool even when camping out in 90+ degree weather. A compressor fridge will have a powerful motor, ensuring your food and drinks are kept cold regardless of the outside temperature. Because of the motor, most of your compressor RV refrigerators will also include a freezer – a bonus when camping with the whole family. You’ll find that most compressor refrigerators are 12V so they are also extremely energy efficient and can run on battery power.  

Fixtures, Hardware, and Lighting – OH MY!

While most RVs won’t go all out on their fixtures, some come standard with high-end features. However, don’t let standard fixtures deter you from buying an RV. You can easily upgrade your lighting, hardware, sinks, etc. – and do it at your own pace!

First off is your lighting. Make sure to note the power source each fixture has and research what you want before you make any adjustments. Take note that you can replace RV stock fixtures with almost any other fixture out there – it doesn’t need to be RV lighting!

Similar to lighting fixtures, you can easily replace the sinks in your RV (yes, you can replace them with a regular sink!). There are a few types of RV sinks out there – plastic, acrylic, stainless steel, and solid surface and they can range anywhere from $10 to $500. In the same category are RV faucets. They are just as easily replaceable as RV sinks.

Before making any upgrades, measure your surfaces and check your connections!

Tank Capacity Size

Planning to go off-grid or full timing? You’ll want to check the tank capacities to ensure they are large enough to match your lifestyle.

Prewired For Expanding Electronic Components

Enjoy the ease of a backup camera when trying to park at your campsite. It might not be the most important item on your list after purchasing an RV, but certainly something good to keep in mind! There are several RV manufacturers out there that will either include a backup camera or have it pre-wired to add one at a later time. Trust us, this is a life saver when parking at smaller campsites!

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