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Old 11-18-2019, 05:44 PM   #1
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First trailer ever, agonizing choice!

Hello folks!

As above, we're in the midst of a mind wracking decision process between the two primo tent trailer style campers out there, Somerset E3 and Opus, or fixed wall Casita Heritage Deluxe (bunks + bathroom) or Escape 17b (bunks option). We are a family of four, two sons, 14 and 11. Our sons are long and lean making length of bunks (the 14 year old is already 6') a real issue.

Maybe some of you went through a similar process and might want to share how you ended up at Escape? I am fairly well educated in all of the above brands, so I don't need advice like, "well, you know, the Somerset is a tent trailer, not a camper", etc... :-)

Quick facts! We live in Port Angeles Washington (Escape is a LOT closer than Texas). Our tow vehicle will be our 2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Tour. All of the above (Somerset less so) will be cutting it pretty fine on capacity (3500) and tongue weight (350) but just today I learned of the existence of the seemingly magic "weight distrubuting" hitches which I plan to utilize. As every other continent on which the CX-9 is sold the towing capacity is rated at 4500-5000 pounds, I'm not too worried. I can be dissuaded by those with experience though!

My only experience towing anything is my utility trailer carrying my John Deere X300. I've never slept a single night in anything other than a mountaineering or car camping tent. That makes knowing what I want / need / would enjoy all the more difficult.

I guess I could list what I see as benefits to the above:

1) Opus: We LOVE the open airy feeling of the Opus. As I don't like the idea of splattering bacon grease all over the inside of my living area (very conscious of this given my history of backpacking in bear territory!) the pull out kitchen of the Off Road is very appealing. The lower weight of the On Road (though this model is being discontinued at the end of the year) however is also appealing. It has something like a toilet (I call these make believe potties) which is right next to mandatory because of wife's desires. Of the four, this is the most "make believe" of all toilet options. Would almost certainly get the inflatable annex as well for enormous living space. Best off road tow package for sure. It also has a huge storage rack system on the top.

2) Excepting ambience, the Somerset E3 does pretty much everything the Opus does, even more so if compared to the On Road version. While it doesn't necessarily feel like it, it does have more room, AND, a slide out dinette with I think the biggest table of all four options. No outside kitchen, but comes with outside grill. :-/ Inside shower which we might /probably never use, BUT, its make believe potty at least has a large hatch which gives some privacy for late night pees from the other bed. Could also leave the shower curtain up all the time for more privacy. Off road suspension, huge aluminum wheels, good tires, built like a tank, but the lightest of these four. Lots of room so if anyone pisses anyone else off, even if it's raining outside, we can get away from each other. It has, oh my goodness, the most ridiculous ubiquitous mind bogglingly mandatory not updated since the 70s decor. Depending on On vs. Off road it could either cost a little less or a LOT more.

3) Casita: The "heritage" floor plan allow for the very nice Casita bathroom while still sleeping four people in 17'er. We love the new slate grey interior package. I'm sure you're all familiar with the Casita. Sticking points for us are the tongue weight of the deluxe models (365, +15 over max, hence the WD Hitch) and the 80 pound, EIGHTY POUND, weight limit on the top bunk. Now, talking with Johnathan at Casita, whose personally hates that they still build them like this, he says the limiting factor there is that they only make that cushion's backing from 1/2" ply. He says manny Casita owners swap that out for a sheet of metal or 1" play and they're just fine well past 100lbs. That would be requirement to even consider the Casita.

4) Escape 17b!!! Liked that there's no strange carpeting on the walls / ceiling, but think it really must actually cut down on noise a bit. Love that the dinette is still usable as such even with the (200lb max, stock) bunk mod. (The Casita Heritage bunks just turn into a sofa. LOVE that's in BC, not Texas...It's a little chunkier which makes me just a touch nervous. Have to keep reminding myself that my car is only an anemic 3500 in North America and that the WD Hitch will help a lot.

For both traditional fixed wall campers I'm a little worried about total perceived space, viewing pleasure of surrounding areas (both the Somerset and Opus are like living in a panaroma) and, well... let's say, no real possibility of zippered up privacy sleeping compartment grown up togetherness time to be had. That said, the Eggs would give us a more palatable guest house options and certainly be warmer in cold weather. They'd also last forever and more than likely hold their value for at least that long.

My main day dream is stepping out of whatever we choose into the dawn of Zion National Park (which would be all the more awesome with the views in the Somerset or Opus) and smelling the desert scented morning air, or walking back trough the snow at twilight seeing my little home away from home with a couple strands of Christmas lights twinkling away while catching glimpses of my wife and sons playing cards through the window (which would be all the more awesome with the warmth of the Casita or Escape!).

Anyway, rambling. If you have thoughts, or insight, I'd love to hear it. If not, thanks for reading! Should mention we're headed up to Victoria for a quick few night getaway at which point we hope to stop by Escape.

If I remember, I'll post back here what we decide.


Cheers,

navajas
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Old 11-18-2019, 05:54 PM   #2
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I do not think you will be happy towing a fixed wall trailer like the Somerset and Opus because of their shape, not their weight. Imagine attaching 2 pieces of 4x8 paneling to the front of your boat trailer and then pulling it. the drag alone will surprise regardless of the weight. Similarly for the fiberglass units bit not as bad.
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:08 PM   #3
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A weight distribution hitch does not increase tow capacity or tongue weight capacity. Note the disclaimer at the top of the label. If your tow vehicle says 350 lb. tongue max, that's what you have.
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:42 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
A weight distribution hitch does not increase tow capacity or tongue weight capacity. Note the disclaimer at the top of the label. If your tow vehicle says 350 lb. tongue max, that's what you have.
And the average tongue weight of a 17' Casita is over 400 pounds.

I towed an Escape 17B with at 3500/350 rated vehicle (V6 RAV4) and other than ground clearance & tiny gas tank, it did OK.
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:43 PM   #5
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I think it comes down to how much setup do you want to do when you pull into and out of the camp? and how much "weather" will you be getting...



We used to tow a customized offroad trailer, roof top tent with annex, has a nice pull down kitchen countertop and camp stove outside.. etc, it sets up relatively quick but still takes a little bit of work to stow everything.. and no option for cooking/eating inside if it's raining or windy.. nice little trailer that goes everywhere tho. When it's time to get a new trailer we skipped the "folding" kind completely because we want to be able to have the option to stop anywhere and not having to unfold and fold backup... plus the hard sided walls keep the noise/heat/cold in/out better.. no more flap flap flap at 100mph wind and folding up wet roof tent in the rain.. etc.


So far we've been pretty happy with the decision.. we couldn't take the 19 into some canyons in Death Valley and setup a base camp like we used to do with the offroad trailer but it's more comfortable to live in.. it also extends our camping season by a bit. we still cook and eat outside mostly but now have the option to cook inside if we have to, or be able to do quick overnight stop when needed...
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:45 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
I do not think you will be happy towing a fixed wall trailer like the Somerset and Opus because of their shape, not their weight. Imagine attaching 2 pieces of 4x8 paneling to the front of your boat trailer and then pulling it. the drag alone will surprise regardless of the weight. Similarly for the fiberglass units bit not as bad.
Thanks for the response. I’m not sure I follow you though. You say I won’t be happy towing a fixed wall trailer like the Somerset and Opus... but neither are fixed wall trailers. They’re both pop-ups. I also don’t own a boat, nor a trailer to tow it. I have very little experience towing at all, which I’m sure is apparent!

I take your point about the increased drag of the fiberglass trailers though!
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:48 PM   #7
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A weight distribution hitch does not increase tow capacity or tongue weight capacity. Note the disclaimer at the top of the label. If your tow vehicle says 350 lb. tongue max, that's what you have.
I get that the weight doesn't vanish, and I’m only going on scant information from cursory internet searches and talking with Johnathan at Casita. That said, the whole point of these style hitches is to transfer the sort of “effective” weight from the rear of your tow vehicle elsewhere right?

Thanks for your reply!
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Old 11-18-2019, 06:52 PM   #8
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And the average tongue weight of a 17' Casita is over 400 pounds.

I towed an Escape 17B with at 3500/350 rated vehicle (V6 RAV4) and other than ground clearance & tiny gas tank, it did OK.
Yikes! It’s listed at 365. From where does all the extra come? Before the Anderson Hitch concept I had been planning to try and work around it by moving one of the propane tanks to the back of camper, maybe under the dinette? It’s that nice big bathroom that makes these things front heavy, eh?

Thanks!
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:00 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by navajas View Post
I get that the weight doesn't vanish, and I’m only going on scant information from cursory internet searches and talking with Johnathan at Casita. That said, the whole point of these style hitches is to transfer the sort of “effective” weight from the rear of your tow vehicle elsewhere right?
It doesn't move the mass. It does change how the load is distributed between the axles, decreasing the load on the tow vehicle's rear axle and increasing the load on the tow vehicle's front axle and the trailer's axle(s).
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:09 PM   #10
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I think it comes down to how much setup do you want to do when you pull into and out of the camp? and how much "weather" will you be getting...
For sure these considerations are near the front of my mind and it’s a very hard thought process to navigate. The Somerset and the Opus, as far as that goes, are relatively low hassle products, certainly compared to the 60+ minutes or so it takes for me to set up / tear down the family car camp (not to mention the hours gathering gear before hand etc..). That said, I totally hear you about *any* set up being a LOT more than *no* set up.

All that said, laying under a tent listening to the rain is one of my absolutely favorite lifetime joys. Having never used a camper trailer though, I imagine the sensation of listening to it snug on a comfortable bed is pretty great too!

I have a good hard look at a lot of the recent “overlander” Australian beefy tear drop + roof top type tents. There’s one, Overbuilt, near-ish me in Oregon. There’s something very appealing to me about those, but they are very expensive (I’m not buying any of the out of Indiana Forest River hack jobs) and look tiring. Ha, there’s a hilarious video of a Black Series direct competitor for Opus that has a short 20+ minute video on the 97 steps it takes to set up its single fold tent. My word...


Thanks for your input!
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:16 PM   #11
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It doesn't move the mass. It does change how the load is distributed between the axles, decreasing the load on the tow vehicle's rear axle and increasing the load on the tow vehicle's front axle and the trailer's axle(s).
I’m not being purposefully obtuse, just want to be sure we’re not bumping into semantic differences. Isn’t lessening the load on the rear axle and the trailer hitch attached to it achieving the result of lessening the worry one would have about the weight on their tongue? For instance, Johnathan, and I realize here the guy’s job is to sell me a Casita, said the Anderson WD Hitch would “alleviate” up to “80 some pounds” worth of weight on the hitch by transferring some of the load to the front axle. I was hoping that, plus moving one of the two propane canisters and careful packing, would allow me to tow a Casita Deluxe. I’m not arguing it ACCOMPLISHES that mind you, just trying to understand the difference from what I was told by him, what I’ve read elsewhere, and what I think you’re trying to say!

Are we talking about the same thing here?

Thanks for your patience!
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:30 PM   #12
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Rent first.
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:33 PM   #13
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Would be nice, but I don’t think anyone rents as esoteric and niche a trailer as the Somerset or Opus do they?

I’ll poke around though.

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Old 11-18-2019, 08:15 PM   #14
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For instance, Johnathan, and I realize here the guy’s job is to sell me a Casita, said the Anderson WD Hitch would “alleviate” up to “80 some pounds” worth of weight on the hitch by transferring some of the load to the front axle.
Kind of s snow job. All the weight is on the receiver, from there most of it goes to the rear axle and a little to the front axle. A WDH transfers some from the back axle to the front axle but does nothing for the weight on the receiver, it's all still felt there.

A WDH also has weight, add that to the tongue weight of the trailer.
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Old 11-18-2019, 08:17 PM   #15
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Forgive me when I say you're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Newbies in 2013, we made the classic mistake of shopping a trailer to fit our tow vehicle. That was a 2011 Murano which has a powerful V6, yet we found out pretty quick the other more important factors that determine a suitable tow.

We sold that first trailer- a 2010 17B that loaded was only 2850, partly because it was Gen1 with 3" frame and had no A/C or dual pane windows. That saved 200 lbs. We sold it to buy a 21 and the buyers had a CX-9. They traded within a year to an F-150.
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Old 11-18-2019, 08:28 PM   #16
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I too thought about the Somerset but realized $18-20k for a pop up camper is ridiculous.

I’d go for the Escape trailer. More longevity. More bang for your buck. No carpet on the walls.
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Old 11-18-2019, 08:32 PM   #17
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Isn’t lessening the load on the rear axle and the trailer hitch attached to it achieving the result of lessening the worry one would have about the weight on their tongue?
Yes
however, load on the rear axle is not the only factor which limits a tow vehicle's hitch weight capacity, so it is not safe to assume that using a WDH will increase the tongue weight which can be handled. If WD does increase what the vehicle can handle on the hitch, the vehicle's owners manual should list a higher hitch weight limit for WD use than for weight-carrying (no WDH) use... and some do.

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For instance, Johnathan, and I realize here the guy’s job is to sell me a Casita, said the Anderson WD Hitch would “alleviate” up to “80 some pounds” worth of weight on the hitch by transferring some of the load to the front axle.
I hope that's not what he really said, but in general I just assume that anything stated by a sales person other than price and availability is nonsense. The load goes to the tow vehicle's front axle and the trailer's axle(s). And load on the hitch isn't simply reduced: the load on the ball is increased (in the Andersen, it is pushing forward on the ball), and the hitch and trailer frame are twisted to accomplish that load shift between axles. When anyone uses words like "alleviate" or "nullify", it typically means that they don't really understand what is happening, so they talk about the problem just going away.
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Old 11-18-2019, 08:34 PM   #18
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I too thought about the Somerset but realized $18-20k for a pop up camper is ridiculous.

I’d go for the Escape trailer. More longevity. More bang for your buck. No carpet on the walls.
Well, if you think I’m ridiculous for considering a Somerset, please don’t look up an Opus!
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Old 11-18-2019, 08:36 PM   #19
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All the weight is on the receiver, from there most of it goes to the rear axle and a little to the front axle.
Before applying a WD system, the load on the hitch adds to the rear axle load, plus transfers load from the front axle to the rear axle... so it takes a little (or more than a little - typically one-third or more of the hitch load) off of the front axle.
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Old 11-18-2019, 08:42 PM   #20
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Ha!! I can just imagine what those things cost.

Reminds me of the Taxa Cricket\Mantis. How could those types of trailers not catch your eye!?

Due to cost and the significant issues with leaks I moved on. Haven’t purchased anything yet but I definitely see an Escape in my future...that is, if I don’t find a pristine used Bigfoot first ��
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