The Search for a Tiny Travel Trailer
When I first began planning this trip, I had to figure out where I was going to live for 92 days on the road. After much thought, a hard look at my finances, and a lot of daydreaming, I finally nailed down these requirements:
Small enough to tow it with my existing crossover SUV. This meant a single axle trailer made of aluminum or fiberglass.
A toilet so I didn’t have to leave the trailer for nighttime bathroom trips. A shower was optional: a toilet was for security, a shower for convenience.
Space to work in, as the trailer would be my office as well as kitchen, dining room, and bedroom.
Hard-sided: I did not want a pop-up or slide out or anything else that required fiddling or would get waterlogged.
Temperature control: I live in Texas and would need air conditioning, but heat was also mandatory for northern states in the fall.
A refrigerator of ample size to live out of. I could not be dependent upon Americana fast food on the road.
Overall, I was looking for something comfortable enough to live in for 3 months.
After an excruciating amount of research, I arrived at the following three models of trailer as potential purchases:
A 2015 Shasta “Reissue” 1961 Airflyte (aluminum): The Shasta website makes absolutely no mention the Airflyte even exists. Bourbon RV center still has the original PDF brochure posted for more info.
A Whitewater Retro made by Riverside RV (aluminum trailer)
Following is my opinion on each of the trailers:
Casita travel trailers
I went to the Casita factory in Rice, Texas one Tuesday morning to check out the trailers. They were very nice, livable, and have the best resale value of any trailer I looked at. A new 17’ with the options I required was going to cost $20,000 plus tax and the hitch requirements I had yet to install, which was far beyond my price range.
For weeks, I kept an eye on www.fiberglass-rv-4sale.com/ in an attempt to buy a used trailer, but both times a lightly used Casita became available in a 400 mile radius, I was beaten to it. One guy I called in Dallas told me he already had four people lined up to look at his trailer only a few hours after posting the ad. Discouraged, I decided to drive to New Braunfels, TX near San Antonio to view a used Casita being sold at a consignment RV dealer. It was more expensive than the ones on fiberglass-rv-4-sale, but still within my budget.
Shasta 2015 Reissue 1961 Airflyte
The consignment dealer also had a “vintage” Shasta for sale, and I was curious about it. I had looked at the Shasta site a few times, but didn't think their trailers were for me. Shasta caters to people with powerful trucks who place first priority on space, number of TVs, and power of air conditioning.
The Airflyte was different, however, and I immediately fell in love. It has high ceilings, a large fridge, ample windows and a skylight. It is charming and fun and fits my 1960 through 2016 theme just about perfectly. The Shasta had a cheerfulness and feeling of open airiness that I found endearing. My husband was with me and had the same instant attraction to the Airflyte, but we decided to look at the Whitewater Retros down the road to complete our research before making an offer.
Riverside RV (the makers of the Retro) do a very nice job with photos on their website, so I was predisposed to liking these; however, I don’t know if I was tired, overheated, or just blinded by my love of the Shasta, but I did not like these trailers. After the open roominess of the Shasta, the Retros felt close and low and dank, as if they had been sealed up for minimal light and maximum air conditioning.
The dealer told me they were selling like crazy, so my opinion seems to be in the minority.
In the end, I chose the Shasta. Was it the most sensible choice? Maybe not, but for me, it was more livable than either the Casita or the Whitewater Retro. If I took emotion out of the equation, the Casita would have been the best investment based on its amazing resale value and fiberglass construction. But I wanted something I was going to love living in, and the Shasta fit the bill.
As an addendum, I haven’t discussed Scamp trailers because I have yet to be in one. They are manufactured in Minnesota so used ones tend to be located in the north, while Casitas are made right here in Texas and are more prevalent in the south. I talked to Scamp in late April, but their manufacturing was experiencing an eight month backlog and I would not be able to take possession of a trailer until early December, far too late for my trip. I plan to stop at the factory while passing through Minnesota in order to visit the showroom. With both Casita and Scamp, I really like the factory direct sales model and fiberglass construction.