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Old 06-04-2014, 03:42 PM   #1
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Mike Lewis's Avatar
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Location: Santa Rosa County, Florida
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Two Months in an Escape 21 -- trip report (long)


This is a "data dump" of everything I learned while living
in my Escape 21 trailer from when I picked it up on April
7 in Sumas to when I arrived home in the Florida panhandle on May
31. It is addressed to other "newbies" with no prior experience
in camping and traveling with a travel trailer. As I think of more
stuff, I may add to this later. I just noticed that the formatting is screwed up; I don't know how to fix it, so I'm posting as is.

Warning: I just blathered on forever here, writing it all
down while it's still fresh in my mind. Next week I might
forget where I was for the past two months. So here goes:


I tow the Escape 21 with a 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab
4WD V6 and a Curt weight-distributing hitch. The total
length of the assembled tow vehicle and trailer is 39 feet, one
inch, according to the Washington State Ferries, who measured it
before I boarded a ferry to Port Townsend. I don't know the total
weight of the TV + trailer, or each individual weight.

The trailer tows very well; I experienced little sway even
in strong crosswinds, and I found braking and acceleration
to be adequate for keeping up in traffic. I used the Milenco mirrors
recommended elsewhere on this site and they gave adequate
visibility. At this point I don't feel a compelling need for a rear view camera; if you are having a trailer built it wouldn't hurt to add one during the build, but I wouldn't bother to retrofit a camera to an existing

Hitching - A backup camera makes all the difference if
you're traveling alone. Escape showed me how to hitch up
the trailer with the WD hitch, and I had no problems doing so during
my trip. I was careful, though.

Gas mileage - On the last four days of my trip I made a
dash from Badlands National Park to my home in Florida, for
no apparent reason other than I had run out of things I wanted to
see, and I figured being gone two months was enough for an initial
trip. I didn't unhitch the trailer for these four days. It was
just like any other road trip except I was pulling my bed behind
me and had to find a place to park it at night. During this time
I got 14.35 miles per gallon pulling the trailer on mostly Interstates
and other highways, but with a few gravel roads thrown in as I
looked for a camping spot in Oklahoma. Earlier in the trip I noticed
getting about 13 mpg towing. The Tacoma normally gets 20 mpg when not towing, and it's pretty consistent, varying from 19 to 21 mpg. But when towing I got a larger variation, from 13 to 17 mpg, for no apparent reason. It seemed to vary from tankful to tankful.


I'm more of a tourist than a camper, at least so far-- I
didn't build any campfires or participate in campground
activities. I found that the bed in the trailer is quite comfortable
and I would have no problem sleeping in it indefinitely. I
intentionally avoided campground showers and bathrooms, just to
test the capacity of the holding tanks. I found that the gray water
tank was my limiting factor; I could go about a week before having
to empty it. The fresh water tank would also run dry, but it was
no big deal to use a container to refill it while the trailer was
parked. I found that rest stops in several states are equipped
with dump stations, but in some cases (like South Dakota) they may
open late for the season. Most park campgrounds also have dump

Storage - I had plenty of storage for two weeks' of clothing,
kitchen stuff, tools, etc., with space left over. I brought
along a box of books to read (I read one). I had lots of camera
gear with me, and I even had an iMac in a big wooden box that I
ended up not using; I stored it under the bed. The trailer is
equipped with the outside storage bin on the front. I highly
recommend it as you can put wet / nasty stuff in it without messing
up your trailer.

Electricity - my Escape 21 is equipped with the two 6V
batteries, LED lights, and the 1500W inverter. It came
equipped from the factory with one 95 watt solar panel, and I had
another 100 watt panel added in late April by a third party. Since
my trailer purchase, Escape has started installing a larger 160W
solar panel, which might be enough for most people. Most of my
trip was without "shore power", and I did one stretch of 27 days
using only solar / battery power. This included about 10 minutes
daily use of a small microwave oven. My battery charge stayed above 70% of capacity at all times. I intend to post a separate, more
detailed account of my solar power experience.

The fridge - There has been a lot of discussion on this
website about the Dometic 6.7 cu. ft. 3-way refrigerator
that Escape installs in the 21. I'll tell you what I know so far:
The freezer compartment seems reliable; it kept food (and more
importantly -- photographic film) at around 0 F or below for the
entire time I used it, as far as I could tell. I say that because
I currently have only a couple of cheap metal thermometers sitting
in the freezer and refrigerator, and I have to open the door to see
them. I have ordered a remote thermometer to use for further
monitoring. The refrigerator section got up into the mid-40s F
at times. This happened when I was traveling with the fridge
switched to 12-volt operation, so I don't think adjusting the propane
settings as has been discussed on the forum would help. Note: Do
*not* use the fridge on the 12-volt setting when camped; I found
it can draw up to 14 amps! But it seemed okay to leave it on
12-volts when traveling for a few hours; it drew down the batteries,
but the solar panels partially compensated for this. So I'm not
sure about the fridge yet; I will conduct more experiments as the
hot Florida sun approaches solstice this month.

Propane - My favorite subject :-). I seem to use a lot of
it. I filled a tank six times during my eight weeks in the
trailer. The consensus seems to be that this is too much, but I
don't know why I'm using this much. I did use the furnace at night
for most of the trip, and unlike most people I did stay in the
trailer quite a bit during the day-- using the computer, taking a
nap, etc. The first few weeks of my trip, especially, were in a
chilly, damp climate, so I used the furnace quite a bit then.

Laundry - I brought along two weeks' of clothes, and every
two weeks I did laundry at a laundromat. Before leaving
home I bought a blue Outdoor Products duffle bag from Walmart for
about $25, and to my surprise I found that it will hold two weeks'
of clothes, plus bedsheets and bath towels. Laundry costs $10-$15,
depending upon the machines. Save your quarters.

Campgrounds - I stayed in the following locations:

Deception Pass State Park, Washington
Mora Campground, Olympic National Park, Washington
Kalaloch Campground, Olympic National Park, Washington
Champoeg State Heritage Area, Oregon
AM Solar, Springfield, Oregon
Tumalo State Park, Oregon
Owyhee State Park, Oregon
Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
Antelope Island State Park, Utah
BLM campground, Moab, Utah
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Lake Roubaix national forest campground, Black Hills, South Dakota Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Ft. Kearny State Recreation Area, Nebraska
Bear Creek Corp of Engineering campground, Kaw Lake, Oklahoma Daingerfield State Park, Texas

For the most part I tried to stay in sites without hookups,
both to save money and to try out my trailer for dry camping.
I didn't stay in any commercial campgrounds on this trip; AM Solar
let me stay overnight at their facility after they installed my
second solar panel.

Camping cost - state parks are nice but more expensive,
especially in the warmer months. Beware of parks and federal
land that use a concessionaire to manage their campsites: I paid
$20 per night to stay in the Lake Roubaix campground with no hookups, which is kind of expensive. Other than our great rally in Moab I didn't stay on any BLM land; I'll try to in the future. National
Parks usually ran from $12-$15 per night; Craters of the Moon was
only $6 per night, and I'm not yet eligible for a senior discount.
I got into Badlands late and ended up at their concession-run
campground for $18 per night with no hookups. The next loop over
had enormous motorhomes using full hookups for $30 per night (and/or running their generators). There is a free campsite in the western part of Badlands National Park but I didn't stay there on this trip. I was also informed that the National Grasslands land offers free
camping. The Corp of Engineering campsite I had in Oklahoma was
$13 for water and electric. I'll have to watch for more CoE sites
on future trips.

I didn't make any camping reservations except for the Oregon
state parks and the Moab rally. I got away with this in
May but I don't know if it would work in the busier summer months.
Many state parks charge a fee for online reservations. Some state
parks keep several campsites off the reservation list for first-come
first-served "drop-ins". That's how I was able to stay for the
entire Champoeg fiberglass trailer rally, and not miss any of the
rain. (Just kidding-- it was a nice park and I enjoyed the rally,
despite the rain.)

Locations - If I had any sense I'd still be in Moab; it was
my favorite spot, and is worth at least a couple of weeks
in May. I'd also like to spend more time in the Bend, Oregon area
(Tumalo State Park), and Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.
I may add more detail on some of these places in the "Campgrounds"


The only outright failure I've had on the trailer so far
is the deadbolt lock. The manufacturer is sending me a new
one. Another "problem" is that I seem to use too much propane (see
above) but I don't know of a solution to this. Finally, the Dometic
fridge may not be cooling sufficiently, but I need more data to be

Modifications and Planned Mods

Solar panel - I had a second, 100W solar panel added by AM
Solar in Oregon. I had planned this all along, thinking
I'd need more solar power capacity than Escape provides. Now Escape is using a more powerful solar panel, so I might not add a second one if I were doing it over now.

TV and antenna - My Escape 21 didn't come with a TV antenna,
and I didn't bring a TV with me on the trip to pick it up. But I am able to watch TV on a laptop using a small USB tuner, so
I needed an antenna and mast. I also brought along some ham radio
gear that I thought I might use (I didn't) and it would need an
antenna mast as well. So at Ham Radio Outlet in Portland I bought
an aluminum telescoping antenna mast and fastened it to the metal
post that holds the spare tire on the trailer. The mast extends
14 feet, and will collapse to about five feet; it costs around $100.

I had a Channel Master amplified TV antenna at home that I
like, but couldn't find one in the Portland area, so I
bought a Mohu SkyHDTV powered antenna from Frys. It uses 5V USB
power and it works pretty well, but it has to be the ugliest antenna
I've ever seen. We're talking make-a-freight-train-take-a-dirt-road
ugly. I might as well get a plastic skull to put on top of it. I hate to use it on such a pretty trailer, but it does work.

When I got home I found the Jensen 12-volt TV on sale at
Camping World's website, so I ordered it. I intend to use
it at home and on the road, and hopefully use it as a second computermonitor to accompany my laptop while I'm in the trailer.

I'm trying to acquire tech that I can use both at home and on the road; I've succeeded with the Millenicom Internet service and with my cellphone (depending upon coverage), and I think I can do this with the 12-volt TV as well. My last hurdle is computing: carrying the iMac around just doesn't work well as it needs line voltage (inverter) and external storage, and my laptop doesn't have enough capacity to use as my sole computer. I guess I'll have to wait until Apple makes a laptop with sufficient storage for my needs.

LED lights -- these work well, but I need more light over
the dinette bench that I sit at for reading, so I hope to
buy two of the "double" LED lights and put them side-by-side over
that bench. That would give me four levels of light to read by.

Radio - I really need a good radio to install in the trailer,
one with good reception. Audio quality is somewhat less
important as I can't hear worth a flip anyway. Recommendations
appreciated, and I'll search the forums for this topic.

Recommendations for those ordering an Escape trailer:

- Get the outside storage box.

- If you plan on boondocking, get the 6V batteries, LED lights, solar
panel, extra 12V outlets, and maybe the 1500W inverter.

- The Tacoma makes a perfect tow vehicle for an Escape 21.

- Use a weight-distributing hitch.

- Whatever tow vehicle you get, make sure it has a backup camera. Or get married. Really like the camera, though.

- If there is anything you need an antenna for, ask Escape to install it
in the trailer roof at the factory. Avoid hideous aftermarket TV antennas.

I think that's it for now. If I think of anything else I'll post
it later.

Mike Lewis

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Old 06-04-2014, 04:04 PM   #2
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Thanks for the great info. Sorry if I missed it elsewhere - where and how was the additional solar panel mounted?

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Old 06-04-2014, 04:18 PM   #3
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Glad you made it home safely Mike. It was delightful meeting you at the soggy Spring NOG!

I really appreciated reading your write-up too!!
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:24 PM   #4
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Thanks Mike

Originally Posted by Mike Lewis View Post
The Tacoma normally gets 20 mpg when not towing, and it's pretty consistent, varying from 19 to 21 mpg. But when towing I got a larger variation, from 13 to 17 mpg, for no apparent reason. It seemed to vary from tankful to tankful.
The weight and aerodynamics of a large trailer probably make the rig more sensitive to both wind (even crosswinds) and changes in elevation (climbs and descents), so variations in driving conditions affect the towing rig more than they would affect the truck alone.
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:24 PM   #5
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Excellent info as our setup will be identical after Felicity (yup, that's the name of our 21) is born at the end of August....
Charlie Y

Need custom storage to your design? Don't drill holes!
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:25 PM   #6
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great post, we receive or 21 in a few weeks. it's nice to hear about the experience you had with yours.
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:34 PM   #7
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Unless I have the two panels mixed up (they are the same size), the AM Solar panel is at the back of the trailer, about midway between the trailing edge of the Dometic A/C and the rear of the roof. It is attached to the roof via four metal brackets that are bonded to the roof with some kind of adhesive; they told me what kind but I forgot. It appears that the brackets hold the panel about 1.5 inches off the roof, maybe a little more. The Escape panel is between the front of the A/C and the rear of the roof fan.

Mike Lewis
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:39 PM   #8
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Wonderful input for those of us wrestling with our build lists. I have been waffling on the storage box; DW has come out for it. Looks like she's winning. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this all down.
doug, sooz & the furfoots
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:55 PM   #9
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The only thing I can suggest for the excess propane use is (1) your furnace and/or water heater may be operating while under tow, thereby causing excessive use. Possibly you are not turning these units completely off. As far as the refer, I just towed 3400 miles across country in 90 degree heat, refer on propane, set to setting 4, my freezer range was 20-8 and my refer range was 50-32. Right now, on 1120v @ 86 outside it is 38 in refer and 10 in the freeze. I do have the remotes with hi/lo readings as well as 2 battery operated fans inside the unit.
My gas for the trip averaged 12.5 mpg, with a high of 14 and a low of 11 up/down mountains. This was in the Ram truck.
"Live, like someone left the gate open..."
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:57 PM   #10
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Great report---so jealous that you got to travel for two months! Congrats to you!

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