I've provided links within the text to the companies mentioned if you want more information.

 

THE TRUCK

My truck is a 2004 Toyota Tundra Access Cab SR5 with a tow package (including the extra transmission cooler).  It is a V8 4X4 and of course is not just used for towing my trailer but also for many of my back road adventures (we have LOTS of back roads to explore in Montana).   It now has over 100,000 miles on it!   The size of my trailer was directly affected by the size of my truck.  I think too many people buy trailers that are too large or heavy for their rigs (do your research and do NOT listen to what the local salesman throws out as "expert advice").   Been there done that - learned my lesson.

I added the topper/cap on the back (made by ARE).   Requirements when I ordered were a sliding window in the front (I have one in the back of the truck cab too so can reach all the way through and also allows ventilation and I can then hear what is going on in the back) and screened windows on the sides for ventilation.  I also wanted ability to open up both sides entirely to get to stuff in the back without crawling in the rear of the truck.   Those have indeed been a life saver!!!  You can kinda see it in this picture.

The other best truck item I got relates to both truck and trailer was an Equalizer Hitch.   I had one of these with both of my other trailers and would not tow without it.   The new trailer being all aluminum and having bigger hitch rails (okay maybe that isn't the technical term) had to have this brand (which was fine by me) and special brackets ordered.   Of course I heard from other trailer salesmen along the way (not the folks I got mine from) that if you have aluminum rails you cannot use an equalizing, weigh distributing hitch.  NOT TRUE!  Wanting to support my local Trailer Shop and get the right one ordered and get it all installed correctly I just had them order it and then install it.   I think it was <$200 to get it installed and set up (including the price of the ball but not the hitch itself).   It is noisy and does make hitching and unhitching a bit trickier BUT I live where the winds howl (trailer sway) and the hitch weight on the trailer is high (needing equalizing) as I won't be hauling a 1000 pound vehicle in the back of toy hauler to balance it out (but we do pack everything towards the back).    You also can't be jack-knifing the trailer around and you get some creaking noises when taking corners but that is just normal (however gets weird looks from people when you are pulling in and out of campgrounds).   I love it and the safety factor is HUGE!

Equal-i-zer 90001000 Equalizer Hitch

Gas mileage you ask?  Well without the trailer I get probably around 17mpg - towing I get around 10-12 depending on how heavy my foot is that day.   One small drawback is that I don't have a huge gas tank on the truck so I usually plan my pit stops about every 200 or so miles.

THE TRAILER

My search for a bumper pull trailer was a bit over a year.  Once I decided to get rid of the huge old motorhome (a 20 year old 34' monster) it wasn't long before I "longed" to replace it.  I needed something to allow me travel again with ALL of the dogs.   Since I already had the truck I knew I wanted a travel trailer and to accommodate taking the dogs, it needed to be a bumper pull.   I did internet research, went to RV dealers, got on trailer forums and was swimming in all the details.    My 2 final choices (I thought) in style were a hybrid trailer (hard sided with tent pop out beds) and also a larger fiberglass "egg" (the Escape made in Canada was really close to being my choice).   I had narrowed it down to a Forest River Roo of some sort, in the hybrid category and the 19' Escape in the fiberglass category.    Talking with friends and reading forums I decided that I really just didn't want to have to mess with tent ends on a trailer every time I stopped in addition to already having to setup and take care of my pack of dogs.  Let's face it I am also not getting younger or stronger either!   Besides, I would not be able to use one of those trailers out in bear country safely!   The Roo was out!  On to the Escape which I was blessed to be able to see in person when some forum members who owned the very size I was looking at came through town.  They also were towing it with the same year and model of truck!  They walked me through and were so gracious and helpful.  I loved it - except I just couldn't get my head around where I would be able to put all the dogs inside and still stand to be in there myself.  I had a 16' Scamp as my first trailer and one rainy 4 day trip with 6 dogs led to selling it to buy a larger trailer.

Back to the drawing board as I just couldn't commit the money for a trailer I wasn't sue would work for me.  I entirely intended this trailer purchase to be my last for some time and I would spend the money to get what I wanted and needed.   But it had to be light enough for the Tundra to pull (rated at 7,000 pounds but I wanted to stay under 5,000 fully loaded).

In quizzed my family (my Mom and brother).  My Mom strongly suggested that I visit with my brother about the dilemma and he suggested looking at toy haulers.  I was open to it but they all had GVWR over the 5,000 pounds I could pull.   He reminded me that those numbers were based on having full tanks and an ATV loaded in the trailer - I needed to really look at the dry weights.   He had a number of suggestions and off I went to do more research.   My Mom also pointed out that since I usually ripped most of the furniture out of my RVs anyway (to make space for dog things) that a toy hauler might be the ticket - already pretty empty!   

I had a set of requirements as well - if I was going to spend the $$ to get a quality trailer.   I wanted dual axles (which most toy haulers have), fiberglass or aluminum framing (I wasn't dealing with rotting wood or sun cracked roofs again) and if I could find one with a dry bath that would be a best (have a shower separate from the toilet).   Didn't need a dinette (ripped those out of most all of my previous rigs) and needed to be all hard-sided (no hybrid sides).   The aluminum trailers in general were quite expensive - but remember no rotting wood and very light.   The LivinLite brand had caught my eye a number of times and I was able to find a dealer not far from home where I could look at some.   The downside was that the really small models I could pull all had the pop out tent sides.  Not bear proof and worse, with a bad shoulder and not much upper body strength I couldn't lift them back up for travel (yup I tried and it wasn't happening).    More shopping and searching (the internet is indeed good for that!).  That said, if you can deal with the pop out beds I HIGHLY suggest getting them.  The amount that they open up and lighten the interior is astounding!

Up comes the VRV Toyhauler  (ATC who built my trailer now makes their own version too without the pop out sides, Tom though now has his 4th generation trailers being built by his own company).  I will admit it was super hard to commit to the money for one of these but I could get pretty much what I wanted in the trailer I wanted.    Tom was awesome and patient and we talked for months about prices and additions/changes as well as the base unit all while I did a TON more research and reference checking.    Scary buying one sight unseen?  You bet until I realized that 20 years ago I did the same with my house!  LOL

I discovered that Tom was the designer and patent holder for the pop out side beds and that he had worked for LivinLite until they were bought out by Thor Industries (which I didn't know).   At that point he ventured out on his own so that he could design and have creative control over the quality and build of these trailers.   He knows his stuff!    He teamed up with ATC Trailers who would build to his design and I proceeded to go do serious research on this company as well.   I can attest they have a STELLAR reputation and are very open and honest about their processes and builds!!! Bonus is that ATC also utilizes the internet and YouTube and since I really wasn't able to do anything with my trailer for 6 months having a video showing how to winterize (and undo winterizing since mine came already done) and hitch up the trailer was extremely beneficial!

As Tom and I visited I got information on the 7X19 (Model 719).   However as we talked about my tow vehicle he strongly recommended the 619 Model.  Not because the Tundra couldn't pull the 719 but because the extra foot width was going to cause wind resistance and he was pretty sure I'd not be happy with the experience.    I trusted his advice and went with the 619 and I am SO GLAD I did.  A bonus to that was I don't have to extend the truck mirrors either!  Next was discussion about the tent bed sides.   Just didn't want them but I needed a bed.   I saw that they had designs in the wider trailers where they installed a HappiJac bed lift system.  I asked if they could do it in the 619 and Tom worked with ATC to find out.   Word finally came back that yes! they could.  

Options and the Good and Not So Good

The order was in.   The other "options" I got in addition to the lift bed were the additional foam insulation underneath and the 2" additional ground clearance (for those back roads you know), low profile air conditioner and the ETrack on the floor (used for strapping down toys if needed).   Features that I really like are the power fan in the kitchen (Maxx or Fantastic Fan type), Maxx vent covers on all vents, nice day/night shades, trailer brake, 12V battery cut off switch, 50 amp service (okay that might be a tad bit of overkill but whatever), dual LP tanks, huge water tanks for a trailer this size, already plumbed for easy winterizing, porcelain toilet (not the cheap plastic and yes you can tell the difference), full size shower (super nice!), no extra sink in the bathroom (I've never seen the point of that when you are 2 steps away from a sink in the kitchen), 6 cubic foot fridge (as big as what I had in the motorhome), ALL LED lights (and this trailer looks bootiful going down the road at night!), wired for TV antenna (coax hook ups inside and 2 outside), 12V plug inside, AC plug in the cupboard under the stove for microwave if needed, and I really like that all my plumbing is easily accessible in the front of the trailer as is the battery!   Are there a few things I wish they'd done different?  Yes of course.  One is that the black and gray tank hose hookups are separate.  Ick!   So I will likely do some PVC work to put a U hookup on them someday so I don't have to empty the black, unhook the hose and and empty the gray water.   There are lovely fixtures throughout - residential grade but the shower head did not have a shut off on the hose and the hot and cold water are separate handles so that wasn't very convenient.   I wanted to change it out to an Oxygenics head anyway so problem solved.   Oh and no toilet paper holder - really?   No biggy really but I think everyone wipes their bum right?  I also am not a big fan of the 12V marine battery but I will utilize that until it dies and replace with something longer lasting.    I also have ended up removing the cover on the Fantastic Fan.  It truly limits the effectiveness of the fan but was an easy fix.   I would also have liked to have a couple more 120 outlets mid trailer. I have also found issue with faucet on the sink.   Not only does the neck of the faucet not reach far enough into the sink but the fact that it is tall makes getting things in and out from the cubby behind a problem.  Add to that the fact that I am constantly bumping the hot and cold water handles to the on position, is also mildly annoying.  I am going to see what it will take to replace that at some point with something lower and longer and possibly single handle. It is a tight space so not sure how that will work.  Now a single handle faucet set back on the corner of the sink would have been perfecto! 

The Build

My build was scheduled to start in October and boy - once they start it rips right along!   Here are some of the build pictures:

Arranging delivery was a challenge.  One recommendation was to use UShip - that was a bust and I'll never go that route again.  Even though they did right by the mess that was created, it was well worth the additional money to utilize the shipping company that ATC uses and they were AWESOME.    Jimbo and Company picked up the trailer and delivered it in November no less (driving sucks then let's face it).   

All in all a great experience and I super LOVE my new trailer!   It pulls smoothly and the experience of getting it was over all amazing!   Below I'll go through things I've had to fix up so far.

18 Months later and mid-Second Season of Use Fixes

After putting on over 5,000 miles the first season (2015) and now well into our second season of use I do have some things that have come up and that I've wished were different.   You can look at my other web page on gadgets and things I've change but I will cover here just some of the manufactured items that I have dealt with or would change (and still might).

After a year of use and a winter with snow and a spring (2016) with a ton of rain, I discovered that there was a leak in the ceiling up front.   After much analysis I determined that it was likely the Fantastic Fan area that had a seal broken.   I took off the vent cover (which I wanted gone anyway as it impedes on the functionality of the fan) and took took the inside plate off and dried out the wet insulation, ceiling and went about determining where the seal might be broken.   I emailed ATC and found out that I needed to actually remove all of the sealant around the fan using a razor edge scraper before I replaced the sealant.   

I figured if this is what they used it must be the best option (nothing else was leaking after all).   As I scraped off the old I discovered that it was super adhered to the trailer but around the base of the fan (poly plastic) it wasn't stuck at all!   Hmmm probably the issue.   So I took the scraper and sandpaper and roughed up the plastic that would be accepting the sealant (searching the internet I also found comments eluding to this problem with the newer Fantastic Fans) and sealed it up.   So far no leaks and I did leave off the cover and the fan does seem to move the air better.  Still not as good as the ones I have had in the past but for now it is fine.

My other fix-it issue was discovered last year on our last trip where I was getting water under the sink.  Yes, I think water issues are a fact of my life on all fronts (at home and on the road apparently).    We thought that the plumbing guys at the factory must not have used the right connectors initially but after taking it apart (knew WHERE the leak was) and taking the part to the hardware store I was given the same type connector to fix it.  Well THAT didn't work.  More observing and thinking.  Finally I realized that while it was that connection point that was a problem it was more likely because the whole system wasn't staying up where it needed to in order to keep the connection (remember mini earthquake situation when towing a trailer).   Some aluminum strapping and a few screws later it is much better secured and we are good again with that!  Truly, that is a design thing I think they should just incorporate.  Let's face it we bounce these things down the road a lot and anything that is "hanging" like that with connections that aren't screwed together, will eventually give way.   Not pretty but it works!

All said and done I still LOVE LOVE LOVE my trailer.  It is such a nice size and it tows absolutely amazing (credit to both trailer and truck there).