Travel Lite changes its entire Super Lite line to flat-metal .040-inch aluminum siding, launches the Black Out package, updates their exterior graphics, and brings features over from their popular Falcon trailer line.
We truck campers are a proud bunch. We don’t like our rigs being associated with anything that doesn’t demount from a pickup truck. Walk up to a truck camper owner and say, “Your truck camper is the son of a travel trailer” and you might get punched in the nose. Did you say, “Travel trailer?” Them’s fightin’ words!
We can certainly relate to this vigorous dedication. When we go to an RV show we might glance at other products, but we don’t take them too seriously. For years my motto has been, “If it doesn’t demount, it doesn’t count”. And folks think Class A motorhome owners can be snooty.
Taking a step back, I’ve often wondered if our passion for truck campers has blinded us to advancements in trailers and motorhomes that could move truck campers forward. Are we so proud of truck campers that we’re missing potentially important material, design, and feature advances being made in other areas of the RV marketplace?
Hard as it is to admit it, I believe the answer is, “Yes!” How do I know this? From observing the truck camper manufacturers who also build travel trailers and fifth wheels. These multi-line RV manufacturers are constantly bringing elements from their towable products over to truck campers, and vice versa.
With a wider view of the marketplace, these companies can sometimes spot trends in material, design, and features before the camper-only manufacturers. Being a truck camper manufacturer also gives them a huge leg-up on companies that only build towable products. Put another way, being multi-line can be a major source of competitive strength.
All of this came to mind when we talked to Jay Handy, Regional Sales Manager for Travel Lite. During our conversation about Travel Lite’s 2018 truck camper updates, he explained again and again how their successful Falcon travel trailer line had brought fresh ideas to their truck campers.
At first blush these sounded like fightin’ words. But, before we punched Jay in the nose, we had a second thought. There would be no Falcon without Travel Lite’s long history in truck campers. And if building the Falcon helped them push their truck camper line forward, maybe we are okay with this. Just don’t make it a habit Travel Lite. Truck campers rule.
To get more information about the 2018 Travel Lite updates, we talk to Jay Handy, Regional Sales Manager at Travel Lite RV.
TCM: Before we talk about your 2018 announcements, introduce yourself to our readership and your history in the RV business.
Jay: I’ve been in the RV industry over twenty years on the manufacturer and the retail side. I have loved every minute of this fun business. I have been at Travel Lite for five years and really like the family atmosphere here. I am Travel Lite’s Regional Sales Manager for the East Coast of the United States and Canada.
TCM: Last year Travel Lite launched the Falcon travel trailer and it became a hit. Did the success of the Falcon take your focus away from truck campers?
Jay: Not at all. Truck campers have always been the bulk of our business. We have done many great truck camper upgrades for 2018 including new flat metal exteriors and more modern features. I also want to point out that we sold more truck campers last year than at any point in Travel Lite’s history. In 2017 we’re on pace to triple that number.
Above: The Travel Lite Air truck camper
TCM: Travel Lite launched the Air truck camper last fall. The pricing and distribution concept of the Air was unique in the marketplace. How has the Air done since its launch?
Jay: The Air is doing well. Dealers and customers like it because it’s no frills, so they don’t need to worry about options. It is the lightest weight hard side camper on the market.
Above: The interior aluminum-framed cabinet doors in the Air
TCM: Have you made any changes to the Air for 2018?
Jay: We are probably going to go with the smooth metal exterior for the Air. That decision will be made shortly.
Beyond that, the aluminum-framed cabinet doors from the Air have now been incorporated in our regular truck camper line.
The aluminum-framed cabinets have beefy hinges and save a lot of weight compared to the old wood slab doors.
TCM: Two years ago you launched the Travel Lite Rayzr line of cabover-less truck campers. What’s going on with the Travel Lite Rayzr line now?
Jay: We get a lot of retail requests for the Rayzr. Everything is the same on the Rayzr line including the features and floor plans.
TCM: Will you be incorporating the new flat metal exteriors or aluminum-framed cabinet doors into the Rayzr line?
Jay: The Rayzr exteriors will be the new flat metal. The decision has not yet been made to incorporate the aluminum-framed cabinet doors.
TCM: It’s been some time since we have heard about Travel Lite’s Illusion truck camper series. What’s going on with the Illiusion line?
Jay: We’re still building the Illusions, but our half-ton truck camper and trailer lines have taken over. The market is trending towards half-ton products. That makes sense because the half-ton truck is the number one selling truck in the world.
Above: The .040-inch aluminum siding on Travel Lite Campers
TCM: What can you tell us about the new flat-metal siding and why you decided to use it for Travel Lite’s 2018 truck camper line?
Jay: It’s .040-inch aluminum siding. The paint is baked on, so it’s easy to maintain. It’s much lighter than fiberglass siding and about the same weight as traditional corrugated aluminum siding.
Our Falcon trailer was skinned with the flat-metal siding when we launched it last year. The Falcon has been such a success with its look and quality that we decided to incorporate the flat-metal into our truck campers. The flat metal has made a big difference to the look of our Super Lite truck camper series.
Above: S-locked flat metal siding
TCM: What are the advantages of the flat metal siding versus traditional hung aluminum or fiberglass?
Jay: With traditional corrugated aluminum siding there are places where dirt can collect. The flat metal siding is easier to clean because there is no place for dirt to collect. It is a straight piece of aluminum versus a corrugated metal.
The flat metal siding is also lighter in weight than the fiberglass siding. The flat metal siding panels are S-locked so there’s no way that water and moisture can get inside.
Above: The 2018 Super Lite nose profile and diamond plate
TCM: Are there any other exterior changes for 2018?
Jay: For the Super Lite series, there’s also a new nose profile and diamond plate for toughness and rigidity. The new tall nose gives you more interior room.
On our Travel Lite 800 and bigger models, we are using our molded fiberglass front caps. We manufacturer our own fiberglass front caps right here at Travel Lite.
Above: The 2018 Super Lite nose profile and diamond plate
We are also offering a new Black Out Package on our Super Lite series. The Black Out Package includes a graphite color flat metal siding and a black diamond plate on the front nose and under the wing walls. It looks fantastic.
TCM: Some folks will see an all-black truck camper and think it gets too hot.
Jay: When we launched the Falcon I was working a show in Tampa and we had a white and a black Falcon side by side. It was 92 degrees every day for a week. I did a temperature reading in both trailers at about 1:00pm, and there was a 1.5 degree difference between the two trailers. The black Falcon was hotter, but not by much.
Above: Stainless steel sinks and stoves for 2018
TCM: For 2018, Travel Lite truck campers feature stainless steel sinks. What were you using before?
Jay: We were using a plastic sink. With the success of the stainless steel sinks on the Falcon, we decided to go with the stainless steel for our truck camper line. The stainless steel sinks don’t crack in cold weather or when you drop something. They’re also easier to clean.
For 2018, all of our campers will have stainless steel sinks. They cost a little more money, but it’s well worth it.
Above: The new white one-piece granicote countertops
TCM: Travel Lite is also changing the granicote on your one-piece fiberglass countertops. Is this just a cosmetic change?
Jay: We went to a different color, white with large flakes. Like the new stainless steel sinks, our one-piece granicote fiberglass countertops are very easy to clean. We also make our fiberglass counter tops here at Travel Lite.
Above: The interior aluminum-framed cabinet doors
TCM: How do the 2018 updates affect the weight of the 2018 Travel Lite truck camper line?
Jay: The weight is essentially the same. None of the updates changed the weight much.
Above: A rendering of the new Travel Lite facility, due to open in the Fall 2018
TCM: It’s been widely reported in the RV press that Travel Lite is building a new multi-building factory campus. What’s the status of this new building complex?
Jay: We are scheduled to break ground in the next week or two. We are very excited about that.
Once completed, Travel Lite will be a much smoother operation. Our current building has been good for 19 years, but we have outgrown it. We need to get a more streamlined facility with additional capacity. The plan is to run trailers and truck campers down separate production lines for efficiency.
TCM: What will you do with your current building?
Jay: In the beginning we may keep this building and run truck campers here, and then move them over to the new campus. The new building will have 54,000 square feet of production space. There will be four separate buildings in the new complex. We hope to be in the new campus one year from now.
TCM: Are there any new Travel Lite truck campers in development at this time?
Jay: We are working on some things. Dustin is an idea man and always has something up his sleeve.
We beat every other manufacturer with our half-ton truck camper and trailer products. Our banak wood framing is one way we build lighter campers. It weighs one-third that of pine, is three times stronger, and has no knots.
We build our floors with 5/8 tongue and groove plywood, not OSB. The plywood is more expensive, lighter, and a better quality material. Features like the aluminum-framed cabinet doors – versus solid wood cabinet doors – drive our weight down even further. Finally, the overall design of our products also makes our campers lightweight.
With the new look of the exterior flat metal along with the interior aluminum cabinet doors, stainless steel sinks, and granicote fiberglass, people are going to be impressed. It’s the total package. We’re excited about it.