An Introduction and 10-Part Series
Table of Contents
I grew up in the magnificent High Sierra of California. The John Muir Wilderness was my backyard, which is why nature has always been a deep and fundamental part of who I am as a person. Having studied Architecture at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, I developed a passion for a beautiful, modern, and honest design that helps us experience these life-giving outdoor spaces around us.
Small space and mobile living have distinct advantages over "brick and mortar" architecture. Being able to choose the environment, climate, or community that was best suited to my needs, I was able to create a life that was deeply congruent with who I was as a person. I also realized that if I designed a home that was suited to extended, even full-time living – that same space would cater perfectly to any shorter amount of time.
Luxury first comes with having all your needs met; this is the very start. Not only do we have unique needs from one person to the next, but our needs also change from day to day and experience to experience. The type of suitcase I pack will look very different if traveling for three nights compared to a month - not to mention the location, climate, or variety of activities. Is the weather warm, like a tropical beach, or a winter ski vacation? Not only do these destinations change what I pack in a suitcase, but the type of accommodations also varies greatly.
This realization was so fundamental that I had no idea why this wasn't more prevalent in our culture. My awareness was that pure luxury lies in the freedom of choice, no matter the circumstance.
Travel trailers are made to experience life, to explore, and enjoy the wonderful world. I set out on a goal to design the best living space possible. The collective awareness from a decade of living and working in and around tiny homes on wheels is the knowledge I want to share.
The concept of luxury makes that experience the best it can be - suited to not just the experience itself, but you as a human who has needs, emotions, and passions. Luxury is about the freedom to choose. A product that embodies pure luxury helps you to be your best self, whatever that is.
My goal is to help you see the truth - the way things are when buying a trailer. A lack of understanding is one of the worst things you can have when purchasing a travel trailer, expecting something that simply isn't true or may not ever happen. You just can't hide the truth - it doesn't need justification or explanation. The truth just is. Once you have that awareness and have the knowledge to see the difference between the truth and lies, you are empowered to make the best choice that suits you.
You are presented with what seems like a myriad of makes, models, options, and price points. What the heck are you even looking for in the first place? You already decided to buy a trailer but have no idea where to start. I'd like to present just a few of the questions that you'll likely need to answer before making that decision on the best trailers for you. I aim to provide the necessary information to you to see the truth and make the best, informed choice possible.
Here are seven steps to help you learn how to choose the best luxury travel trailer.
Are you planning to live in a trailer full time, part-time, or just for short trips? These are very different needs and have unique requirements. The first step is to understand how you plan on using the living space. Selecting a high end trailer that suits your exact needs is extremely important. The term "RV," or recreational vehicle, is what defines most trailers. These are units designed to accommodate trips that last a short time, a weekend, or at most a couple of weeks. RV's are simply not designed for full-time use. When this happens, it always results in one thing - compromise. The amount of compromise depends on what you are willing to tolerate. And just how close does that trailer come to meeting your needs?
Consider what types of weather you will encounter. How will a mobile living space respond to freezing or sweltering temperatures? Plus, if you're deciding to live full-time, I can't imagine being able to escape freezing temperatures year-round. I've seen countless makes and models rated as "4-season" that are utterly incapable of sub-zero temperatures. Pipes freeze and heaters fail. Without the right equipment, you could be spending more time in the service center than out using your unit. How would you know? After all, the manufacturer said it was four-season rated. Just because the kind-hearted salesperson said it, doesn't make it true.
One of the most excellent benefits of trailer living is the ability to travel to the most beautiful locations in our world. In my experience traveling nearly 100,000 miles across our beautiful country, I have found that the most beautiful places in our society are in the middle of nowhere. These are places you can still find silence, see the stars, and witness nature. In contrast, I can honestly say that I've stayed in literally hundreds of RV parks, with RV's lined up like sausages all neatly in a row - all hooked up to water, sewer, electricity, and internet. This type of living is undoubtedly not off-grid nor a genuine experience. Off-grid is rooted in discovery and wanderlust, the adventures in our dreams. Any trailer can survive in an RV park. If that's what you're looking for, then off-grid is not essential to your beautiful style of living.
There are so many considerations to living off-grid and doing so in a luxurious way. The term "off-grid" has become such a buzzword. Manufacturers now put a couple of solar panels and another battery and promise off-grid destinations galore. Knowing what it means to travel off-grid becomes extremely important. The end question is quite simple: "How far are you able to travel? And how long can you stay there?" Is the answer a week, month, or even longer? The factors that help make this determination are highly complex and involve many variables. Humans are needy creatures – especially when considering the "luxuries" that define our modern-day lifestyle. Having all needs meet is luxury, but that's just the very beginning – such as warm shelter, a comfortable bed to sleep, water to drink, and food to eat. But a luxury experience is defined by so much more: a spa-like shower, fine dining, entertainment, the spirit of adventure, a home that inspires you, and a connection with the great outdoors. Traveling off-grid is a question of more than just how long but more about what quality of life do you have for that time? After all, living out of a van could be considered off-grid living, but is it really a luxury experience?
Most trailers produced are only designed to only travel on paved surfaces. If this number were 90% or more, I wouldn't be surprised. Having read through many manufacturer warranty manuals, I was surprised to discover limitations that strictly prohibit use on any non-paved or off-road surface. If you take the trailer off-road, your warranty is void. Bummer. That's a detail worth considering!
If part of your dream is to explore those remote locations, chances are you will encounter a dirt road en route to your destination. Owning a trailer prohibited from off-road use is highly limiting. When it comes to luxury trailers, being able to travel off-road isn't just a nice thing to have – going off-road is a necessity.
The most beautiful places I've traveled to in the past several years have required off-road travel. Without a capable travel trailer, I simply couldn't have had those delightful experiences. I've encountered all types of road conditions and obstacles to overcome. Knowing how a trailer will perform off-road can make or break a trip. The extreme movement and undulations encountered off-road cause quite a lot of stress to a trailer. Off-road use requires a rigid chassis and frame, purpose-built to withstand these forces. The interior floor plan and design will determine if your gear is safely stowed or broken and on the floor when you arrive. I've experienced doors opening, drawers falling out, even entire banks of cabinets coming off the walls. A high end trailer must have the proper running gear – axles, wheels, and tires – that not only withstand the uneven terrain but embrace these conditions. The trailer brakes must be strong and capable of steep descents. Ground clearance and departure angle must be high enough to traverse over rocks and debris in the road without damage to the underbelly. All these considerations and more are part of the design of the trailer itself. Luxury travel trailers must be off-road capable.
When deciding to embark on trailer living, the first thing you should ask is how many people are traveling together at a time. Do you have a family of five or just the two of you? Do you have pets, and if so, what are their needs? After all, they can't tell you what they want, so you need to understand their needs. The more people and animals traveling together can have a considerable effect on how livable a small space can be. Buying a trailer that is too big or too small is just the beginning. Is the space adaptable to suit a variety of needs and conditions? Is the design efficient and durable? What impact does the size of your trailer family have on the time you can stay off-grid? And after you understand all this, you need to ask - "how will the design of the trailer meet my needs?" Most people don't buy a trailer fully knowing what they want or need. A lack of awareness is why so many people (myself included) make a big mistake and end up buying the wrong trailer.
You will need to determine the type of things you will be doing when traveling. A high end trailer must meet every need with as little compromise as possible. Do you plan on working while on the road? If so, what does work mean to you? It's a great time we live in as we welcome this new decade. It's liberating to have the freedom that comes with remote working, but what are you sacrificing in the process? Do you need internet or phone coverage? What about a separate space to work? How are you balancing the two different aspects of your life, and how does work affect your personal life and vice-versa? My wife and I run a business together and have realized the extreme complexities of boundaries, space needs, and flexibility that living in a travel trailer requires. Luxury travel trailers can welcome these needs by design. It will make living and working on the road a delightful experience. Alternatively, a poorly designed trailer may do the exact opposite - creating tension, conflict, and a poor life-work balance.
A travel trailer is a wonderfully adaptable housing solution. You can travel to remote locations, wholly self-contained and disconnected from the grid for weeks, if not months at a time. When you arrive, you can disconnect the tow vehicle and have complete freedom to explore the heart and soul of your destination. Compared to a motorhome or motor-coach, I find trucks far-superior in terms of reliability and quality of experience.
The tow vehicle is a vital component of luxury travel trailers. After all, without a proper truck, the trailer has no power to move. How much gear do you plan to take with you? What about sporting equipment? Do you have bikes, surfboards, kayaks, skis, or other toys? Clothing, food, and water are all necessary fixtures of daily life. All of these items have an associated weight, and this can add up. What does this mean? How does that influence your decision for the proper tow vehicle to purchase?
I shared these considerations to get you thinking. It is an excellent opportunity to call luxury travel trailers home, no matter the time spent in it. The sense of adventure is unmatched. Being driven by a life empowered by freedom of choice and being true to your best self is what I believe brings happiness, naturally. There is so much to consider and evaluate when deciding to buy a trailer that can be overwhelming and confusing. Even if you choose to jump in headfirst and "learn by doing," you will be able to do so with open eyes. Take what you will.
To share this knowledge and help you on this journey, I've decided to break this article into an additional 10-part series. By following along, you will better understand what is and what is not a luxury travel trailer. It is my goal to share my knowledge and know-how to make a well-informed decision. I will cover ten categories in depth that define what makes the entire experience that surrounds the lifestyle of luxury travel trailers.
My top-10 criteria of a true luxury travel trailer:
1. BUILT-TO-LAST QUALITY
2. FOUR SEASON USE
3. OFF-GRID CAPABILITIES
4. OFF-ROAD CAPABILITIES
5. CONNECTION WITH THE OUTDOORS
6. STORAGE & TOYS
7. FULL RESIDENTIAL STYLE KITCHEN
8. HIGH-END TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA
9. LUXURIOUS SLEEPING ACCOMMODATIONS
10. SPA BATHROOM RETREAT
11. SERVICE & OWNERSHIP EXPERIENCE
This lifestyle choice is about being connected to something bigger than yourself. Once you find your destination, you can experience life and nature in new and exciting ways. This experience can happen all while being wrapped in the most exceptional living space. This is what luxury travel trailers are all about. I welcome you to read-on and share-in the great outdoor adventure ahead.