Things we saw last week at the St. Louis RV Vacation & Travel Show:
Fake Fireplaces, Giant TV’s, Mobile Man Caves, Central Vacuum Systems
Things we didn’t see any of:
Solar Panels, Energy Efficient Lighting, Composting Toilets, Camper Vans
Though we have been full time RV dwellers for years now, neither of us had ever been to an actual RV show. When we saw that “one of the largest public RV shows in the country” would be happening last week while we were still in St. Louis, we knew that we would have to check it out.
We were hoping to get exposed to variety of RV’s of different sizes and styles, and to check out a wide range of the latest products and technologies for mobile living.
We ended up being disappointed.
The RVs on display did not reflect nearly the breadth of RV’ing style and quality that we had hoped to see. Instead of variety, the St. Louis RV Show offered up aisle after aisle of fairly forgettable cookie-cutter box style trailers, oversized fifth wheels, and slide-out-laden class A’s.
Only a handful of smaller travel trailers were on display, and there were no camper vans, bus conversions, fiberglass trailers, or truck campers to be seen anywhere on the show floor.
If you were hoping to be exposed to a breadth of choices, this was not the show to come to.
We did however get a chance to ogle at some over the top RV’s optimized for hosting epic tailgate parties, and others designed to be luxury condos on wheels pushing the boundaries of ostentatious excess to new extremes.
Though nothing we saw fit out personal style of travel, it was nice to spend an afternoon checking out a few of the more impressive designs.
Here are a few things that caught our eye…
With many of the premium models costing upwards of $100,000, it is no surprise that a lot of emphasis is placed on recreating all the comforts of home while on the road. But I was disappointed in how rare an emphasis on intelligent design, practicality, longevity, or quality seemed to be.
For example – why worry about being able to open up your refrigerator door without cranking out the slideouts, if it means that you can have an elegant island in your kitchen? And why bother with energy efficient lights or space on board for more than a single battery when you’ll need to be perpetually plugged in to a 50amp circuit full time for your dual rooftop air conditioners?
We saw RV’s with dual kitchens (indoor and outdoor), dual bathrooms, three or more giant screen televisions (including outdoors), fake fireplaces, ceiling fans, elevated back porches, and cavernous cargo holds… Many of the toy haulers even found space for a dedicated beer fridge in the garage area!
One brand was using the tagline “Leave Nothing Behind” – and that was indeed a design philosophy on display at the show.
There were only a few RV’s at the show that were suited for full time living on the road, and there was nothing at all on display that was suitable for “boondocking” or operating off grid. Solar panels and power efficient technologies were completely absent.
For those wanting less emphasis on square footage, the smaller and easier to tow RV’s on display disappointingly tended not to have tanks or electrical systems worthy of more than a weekend away from power hookups.
And while there were plenty of “bargain” smaller designs on display, the lack of quality in construction and the pervasive smell of formaldehyde when you stepped aboard made it clear that with most of the cheaper models you were getting what you paid for.
One standout design was the ultralight Quicksilver CampLite. The all aluminum body and frame should last years longer than most traditional plywood & steel RV designs. And the sub 2000lb empty weight should allow for towing by even some cars!
One of the larger fifth wheels we toured actually had a built in beer tap in the “man cave” second living room that the garage in the back transformed into once you pulled your ATV’s out. Imagine – two living rooms, two bathrooms, two fridges, beer on tap, and a garage – all in a single RV!
And while having quality microbrews on draft is something that our Oliver lacks, we ultimately didn’t see much at the show to excite our technomadic souls. And in the end, there was nothing that left us fantasizing about upgrading from our Oliver.
One final disappointment was the vendor area. I was surprised with how little we could find of interest to full-time RV’ers. Instead of solar panels and satellite internet systems, there was an out-of-place preponderance of home-show style booths. Basements? Bathrooms? Aluminum siding? Kitchen remodeling? Dog training?!?
The only appealing thing we managed to find in the entire vending area was a very clever but way overpriced 50′ long wind-up collapsible water hose. After spending hours looking at all the mobile monuments to inefficiency, seeing an actual space efficient design – wow!
Also – for our advice on how to choose the style of mobile home that best suits you, be sure to check out Cherie’s guide to selecting a home on wheels.