Friday

More features, fewer choices

More features, fewer choices:

How one team tackled a clean-sheet design challenge

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It often seems like the RV industry has a "me-too" complex: If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, a successful new model or floorplan will soon be "flattered" by any number of competitors.

So what happens when a product development team has the opportunity to truly start from scratch? In the case of the team behind Winnebago's new Class A Intent, it can be both freeing and a bit intimidating.

"It was quite a journey," commented Niles Whitehouse, Winnebago Product Manager for Class A gas coaches. "

"We did a lot of research with customers to determine what features are most important to them, and to better understand how they actually use their motorhomes. Our goal was to deliver the best customer experience possible." (See Niles give a walkthrough tour of the Intent here.)

Somewhat surprisingly, one outcome was that Winnebago took a fresh look not only at what they were building, but at how they built it.

"The Intent uses new processes, a new 100% dedicated production line, and what we call a modular approach, where the four floorplans share most of the features in common. In fact, there are very few options available on the Intent," noted Whitehouse.

"All of this lets us build more value in, take some costs out, and pass the savings on to our customers."

The second outcome, of course, is the Intent itself. The Class A gas model is characterized by its sleek appearance, well-thought-out design, and an unexpected wealth of features.

Available only in white ("more visible and reflects more sunlight," noted Product Manager Whitehouse), the Intent gives you a choice of accent stripe color.

The coach is built on Ford's F-53 chassis, and uses Winnebago's proven SuperStructure technology to surround the cab with a sturdy steel framework. That allows the Intent to have slimmer A-pillars, resulting in outstanding visibility through the expansive front windshield.

The cab is also notable for its patented dash with snap-in accessories. An aluminum channel runs along the dash, allowing driver and passenger to place accessories like cupholders and a work station right where they want them. The rear-view monitor even swivels, meaning no more neck craning to see what's going on behind you.

Other shared elements include a walkaround queen bed, exterior entertainment system (under the awning), powered bed over the cab and a sofa and dinette.

And every Intent galley includes the same residential-style refrigerator, microwave, three-burner range/oven, pantry, and double sink set in the spacious countertop.

Another example of the "clean sheet" approach is the LP tank system. Rather than a fixed conventional tank that requires a trip to a propane supplier to fill, the Intent uses up to four easily exchangeable 20-pound propane cylinders, just like the ones used to power barbecue grills.

Additional thoughtful touches include storage compartments below the entry steps, a stand-up desk, and a rear gas fill so it doesn't matter which side of the pump you pull in on.

Every Intent comes with an Onan generator and 1kilowat inverter, and is pre-wired for solar panels. The four floorplans range from 26'10" to 31'10," and feature either dual slideouts or a full-wall driver's-side slide.

It may be a coach with few available options, but the Intent includes a long list of standard features that experienced RVers will recognize and appreciate. You can learn more about the Intent here.


#OptOutside


We think it’s safe to assume you’ve heard of REI, but what we’re curious to know is whether or not you’ve heard of their #OptOutside campaign - and how exactly you plan to respond to it.

November 24, 2017 marks the 3rd year REI will be closed on the notorious Black Friday ‘holiday’ in order to live out the lifestyle they sell. They are encouraging their employees and their customers alike - actually any and all outdoor enthusiasts - to skip the shopping lines and enjoy the great outdoors. This year they are taking it one step further by encouraging you to share your outdoor adventures with the world through their campaign hashtag, #OptOutside.

Trust us, we find the sales following Thanksgiving as tempting as the next person, but not nearly as memorable as the moments we treasure with Mother Nature.

So, what do you say? Will you #OptOutside this year? We plan to.

For tips on some great destinations, check out our Nifty 50 Park List or other dream destinations on Pinterest!
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Unsung Southern Destinations

Head south for some warmer weather this winter!

The winter months bring with them some wonderful things - beautiful snow, hot cocoa by the fire, great holiday celebrations with family and friends - but at after a while, the cold weather can start to wear on us. But thankfully, it’s nothing a little road trip can’t fix! Head to any of these great southern destinations guaranteed to help you thaw out so you can make it through the rest of the winter months. 

1. Greenville, SC
This small town in the Upstate of South Carolina is gaining a reputation as an up-and-comer. Their downtown is cute as a button - with wide streets tree lined streets full of great shops and food choices. Adjacent to downtown, you’ll find Falls Park on the Reedy. This park is famous for its pedestrian suspension bridge that is supported on one side, giving walkers a clear view of the river as they pass. If you’re up for a bit of a longer hike - check out the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The trail is 20 miles long and runs along the Reedy River and through several city parks.

2. Naples, Florida
Snowbirds have the right idea - who wouldn’t want to head to Florida in the middle of the winter? While Naples is known for it’s high-end shopping and beautiful white sand beaches - they also have some amazing ways to get outdoors and enjoy the amazing Florida wildlife. Top on our list would be the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park that offers great hiking trails, bird watching, and even some fishing spots. Another must see spot is the Naples Botanical Gardens. If you head down there before January 3rd, you can check out their Night Lights in the Gardens display, which - as the name implies - puts the gardens into a spectacular display of lights.

3. Birmingham, Alabama
As the largest city in Alabama - we weren’t expecting Birmingham to have such an extensive nature preserve - but they do, and that’s why they made our list! The Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve has it all - 14 miles of trails to hike, several mining sites that were used in the 1950s, and even a quarry you can check out. Another must-see spot is Railroad park. This 19 acre park in central downtown was developed as a tribute to the city’s history. And if you visit before the end of the year, they have an ice-skating rink that sounds like too much fun.

4. Dawsonville, GA
This town, found slightly northeast of Atlanta, is home to one of the most spectacular state parks we’ve ever visited -- Amicalola Falls State Park. This particular park has too many trails to count, including some that mark the end of the Appalachian Trail. But - our personal favorite - is the one that leads up to the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River - appropriately called Amicalola Falls. If you make it up there - there is a great bridge that walks you across the falls so you can see the water coming and going. The falling water has a magical, ethereal quality that is not to be missed.

5. Chattanooga, TN
Found along the Tennessee River at the bottom of the Appalachian Trail - Chattanooga, TN is home to one of the amazing and incredible, Lookout Mountain. Not only can you see seven - that’s right, SEVEN - different states from the top of this mountain - but it has two other incredible destinations nestled inside it. Hidden in the depths of this mountain is Ruby Falls - America’s largest underground waterfall. The waterfall is often illuminated with interesting colored lights to add to the dramatic effect. As you continue to climb to the top of the mountain - you can make your way through Rock City, which basically looks like a garden paradise. The beautiful, sweeping foliage is a wonderfully stark contrast to the rock formations. Truly incredible.

While we can’t guarantee that all of these destinations will be sporting 70+ degree temperatures, they are sure to be warmer than some of the snowy northern destinations - and hopefully will be enough fun to keep you energized through the spring time!



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The Growing Market for Off-Road-Capable RVs

The Growing Market for Off-Road-Capable RVs

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When it comes to choosing a campsite, most RVers think of a public or private campground: full hookups, maybe a picnic table and a fire ring. Or in a pinch, boondocking at a Walmart.

But there's growing number of RVers who rarely set foot (or tire) in a traditional campground. They prefer the wide-open spaces and night skies of the back country — national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, national monuments and other far-off-the-beaten-path destinations.

These adventurers are driven partly by youth: According to KOA's 2017 North American Camping Report, millennials make up 38 percent of active campers, and account for half of all new campers since 2016.

“Not only are these younger campers highly social, but they’re also more physically active,” the KOA report says. “More physically active types of recreation are increasing in popularity, with mountain biking, hiking/backpacking, and canoeing/kayaking all gaining since 2014.”

And because they favor remote places often accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles, a mini-industry has grown up around converting suitable vans and trucks into campers. Depending on the design, specs, and who is doing the conversion, this “upfitting,” can run $50,000 or more—over and above the cost of the vehicle—with a wait time of up to six months, a year, or more.

Now there's another option, as one major RV manufacturer has taken notice of the growing movement. Winnebago has just announced the Revel, a new, full-function compact RV built on the Mercedes-Benz 4WD Sprinter chassis.

With its high ground clearance, beefy stance and no-nonsense interior, it's clear the Revel is not trying to appeal to the traditional RVer. For example, there's no bed in the conventional sense. Rather, a platform bed lowers into the gear storage space once the rig is parked. And while it does have a shower, the Revel's cassette-style toilet eliminates the need for a blackwater holding tank, allowing a larger freshwater tank. Solar panels further hint at the Revel's off-the-grid capabilities.

"Americans are hardwired to explore," noted Russ Garfin, the Winnebago product manager responsible for the Revel. "And there's so much of America waiting to be explored.

"But to really get out there, you've got to change your priorities somewhat. Living space and, to some degree, comfort and convenience, have to take a bit of a back seat to capabilities. If something is not essential, it's certainly going to be looked at very carefully. We even made the coach air conditioning system an option — some people don't feel they need it, and would just as soon have a little more hauling capacity."

While Winnebago hasn't divulged sales goals, it's clear they've put a lot of thought into the rugged little Revel. According to Product Manager Garfin, "It's the most off-road-capable RV we've ever built. We're excited to see where it can go."
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Spooky Destinations: Haunted Spots Across the Country

Spooky Destinations
Haunted Spots Across the Country

As cliche as it may be - October is a great month to talk about all things spooky and supernatural. With Halloween just around the corner, there’s no better time to plan a road trip to somewhere truly terrifying - and we’ve got some suggestions for you. All of the locations we’ve picked out are perfect for RVers because they offer you the chance to interact with some other-worldly apparitions and they have some other great attractions for you to check out in the area.

Our first location - Emily’s Bridge in Stowe, Vermont that is haunted by a ghost - not surprisingly named Emily - who died there and is known for harassing vehicles that park on there. Parkers have reported hearing noises - like footsteps or screams - even when no one is around. Others have had

Emily bang on or drag herself across their car - leaving scratches. Apparently she is most active between 12 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. - so if you choose to stop by, make sure it’s late at night. You might even see her as a white apparition hanging around the bridge. After your late night ghost hunt - make sure to check out some of the other great - and less terrifying - things Stowe has to offer. Including:
  • Smuggler’s Notch State Park
  • Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery
  • Moss Glen Falls

Heading south to Asheville, North Carolina, make sure to stop by the Biltmore Estate. The haunted
mansion is located on 8,000 acres that has gorgeous gardens, a winery, a small village, and an outdoor adventure center. The grounds are truly impressive - so much so that their original owner, George Washington Vanderbilt II and his wife decided to never leave. While the ghost of late George Vanderbilt has been seen around the property - many servants and visitors have reported hearing Mrs. Vanderbilt calling to her husband in the library where he will sometimes join her for a chat. Also - keep your eyes peeled for a headless orange cat that is said to roam the gardens. You could spend a whole day at the Biltmore - but Asheville is chocked full of fun things to do, including:
  • Fork Art Center
  • Pisgah National Forest
  • North Carolina Arboretum 

For those of you in the southwestern part of the country - make sure to check out the Texas Ghost Tracks in San Antonio, Texas. These train tracks were the site of a tragic accident back in the 1930s
or 40s where a train collided with a school bus full of children. Unfortunately, all the children died in the accident - but now it’s their mission to save anyone else who parks on those same tracks by pushing their vehicle to safety. A couple of tips before your visit - make sure to put your vehicle in neutral before you approach the tracks and sprinkle baby powder on your bumper so you can see the handprints of the children that pushed you to safety. After you’ve been saved by these tiny ghosts, make sure to check out:
  • San Antonio Riverwalk 
  • Natural Bridge Caverns
  • The Alamo

As we continue westward - you’ll find the old Rio Grande Train Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah that is home to the Purple Lady. This ghostly woman has been seen around the depot - but is most frequently spotted in the ladies restroom. She is said to be beautiful and always appears, dressed in all purple garb from the 1900s, looking quite forlorn. The story goes that she was killed at the train
station when she dove on to the tracks to retrieve an engagement ring after her fiance threw it there during a heated argument. Apparently - she is not the only ghost wandering these halls. There have been reports of a phantom party happening in the basement of the building and a lone walker’s footsteps can be heard traipsing across the mezzanine every afternoon at the same time. This is one of the many great destinations in Salt Lake City - so make sure to leave yourself some time to check out:
  • Antelope Island State Park 
  • Red Butte Garden and Arboretum
  • Temple Square 

No matter which of these destinations you choose to check out - you are sure to get in the Halloween mood and have a hauntingly good time.