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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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