Events showcase newest RV innovations

Dealers talk shop outside of Heartland’s Shadow Cruiser RV display.

ELKHART — The RV dealer open houses wrapped up Thursday, but the technology doesn’t disappear from there. Engineers have been and remain hard at work designing and seeking out new ideas to keep customers coming back and their products up to date.

At Forest River’s Salem Hemispheres, outside kitchens have been added to front living room fifth wheels, a complex setup, Hooley said. One unit that incorporated the design was a contender for Best-of-Show.

“The biggest thing for a lot of the brands here is modern interiors,” said Josh Hooley, regional sales representative for Forest River. “The overall looks of our products have really improved.”

Keystone division Passport Travel Trailers’ newest innovation is the rear entry. The back door allows travelers staying in the guest bedroom to enter directly into their room, rather than through the front door.

Several years in the making, engineers at Passport have attached that rear entry to the secondary bedroom and created a double bunk bed set up in the room.

“This would be something you’d see in a fifth wheel, but we’re not a fifth-wheel division,” said Steve Adkins, district sales manager for Passport.

With 300-pound sleep capabilities on the top, the bunk beds are supported by the walls and framework of the 38-foot travel trailer.

“This is the big talk that everyone came through to look at for our stuff,” Adkins said, adding that their design, too, was considered for Best-of-Show at the Thor show.

Despite its ability to sleep 12 people, with a tri-fold sleeper in the living area and a queen bed in the master bedroom, Keystone’s Passport 3400QD GT Travel Trailer has an manufacturer’s suggested retail price of around $31,000, and remains in the lower cost division in Thor’s lineup.

Higher-end models are also undergoing changes, exhibited at both the Thor Industries Dealer Open House and the Forest River Product Expo.

“Solar systems are becoming bigger in residential areas, and we’ve had solar systems in our industry, but they were very expensive and cumbersome,” Adkins said.

While electrical hookups are available at most campgrounds for RV owners, Adkins said most campers want to be more off-grid than that.

“We go to the mountains, or down by the lake, we go where there’s not a campground, and if you don’t have a campground you have to come up with your own power source. You’ll reduce the amount of lights you use. You can’t use your TV, your microwave or your A/C. If you’re running just off your battery and your gas, you can’t run those things,” he said. “Batteries only last so long, so if we have the ability to recharge, that’s a huge seller, but we need it at a price point that makes sense.”

Thanks to suppliers like Zamp Solar and Furrion, new technologies have become more portable and less expensive. One group showcasing the new systems at Thor’s show were Keystone’s Cougar fifth wheels and Montana fifth wheels.

“These systems are brand new. It’s the first year they’ve been showcased,” Adkins said.

Forest River, too, has been incorporating solar energy. Some units in the Coachmen RV arena were capable of running 100 percent off solar energy.

“Solar continues to be one of the big drivers in technology with RVs,” Hooley said.

Smart technologies are also coming into play with local manufacturers.

“You can turn lights on and off and control awnings,” Hooley said.

Cedar Creek RVs of Forest River offers an option for smart controls via phone applications. Thor’s Airstream brand also offers a similar technology, as do many other manufacturers in the area.

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