Last Updated on 12/16/2023 by Glynn Willard




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The best travel trailer brands only encompass a few of the RV industry brands.

If you’re currently shopping for a travel trailer, ask yourself, “Do I care more about build quality or standard features?”

I sincerely hope you answered with “build quality!”

Okay, so what qualifies me to write this article?

My family lived the full-time RVer lifestyle for two years exclusively boondocking in an Outdoors RV.

We pushed our trailer to its limits, did our own maintenance and repairs and spent a lot of time with people who owned other quality high-quality travel trailers.

And when you live in the RV world and listen to the owners of Forest River, Grand Design RV, Jayco Travel Trailers and several different brands complain about repair issues, it tends to have an impact.

We’d always look at each other and state, “Wow, our Outdoors RV really is built like a tank!”

With that said, I hope I can help you make a wise decision on your travel trailer purchase and save you the frustration of sub-par quality.

Please note that no matter how well-built any camper trailer is, there will be necessary maintenance and things do break.
 

 

It’s Not Just About The Floor Plan

 

The floor plan for our ORV.


 
Would you want your house to be well put together and securely fastened if you were to have it transported down highways and dirt roads?

You bet you would! Our trailer was “our home” and we bounced it all over North America.

Consider making build quality your number one priority before even considering the price set by RV manufacturers.

There are a lot of different travel trailers on the market from which to choose. But there’s only a small handful on my list.

This list is based on my experience, not online reviews. It should be used as a launch pad for your initial exploration into the best brands of travel trailers.

The bottom line, all the best travel trailers will offer the ideal travel trailer with a floor plan and standard features to meet your needs (even for large families).
 

What Boxes Should A Well Built Travel Trailer Check?

 
Not all recreational vehicles are created equal. I realize I’m stating the obvious, but let’s drill down to some essentials when shopping for a used or new travel trailer.

  • All Aluminum Frame And Chassis
  •  
    Many of the newer travel trailer’s walls and roofs are constructed from a bonded aluminum frame.

    This is a good thing. But it gets even better if the chassis is also constructed from aluminum.

    I believe ATC and Oliver Trailers are the only manufacturers that offer an aluminum chassis.

    The result is a strong, lightweight chassis that does not rust. If you’ve ever repainted a steel chassis, you’ll appreciate aluminum a lot more!
     

  • Well Insulated All The Way Around
  •  

    Insulated wall of ORV

    A cut out of ORV’s insulated walls.


     
    Let’s face it, most travel trailer manufacturers do not place a lot of effort into insulating their RV’s.

    Fortunately, those on this list are better insulated than most
     

  • Heavy Duty Axles, Suspension & Wheels
  •  
    Overland trailers are the only ones with independent suspension. The systems have a good reputation, but they may not be suitable for larger travel trailers.

    Heavy-duty axles that are rated for more than the GVWR of the trailer paired with a high-end suspension system go a long way toward ride quality, safety and durability.

    The trailers on the list below all have decent quality axles, suspension and wheels.
     

  • High GVWR And Cargo Capacity
  •  
    Even if your travel trailer is not for full-time, but rather a random road trip, it’s still important you have a high cargo-carrying capacity.

    Once you fill your propane and freshwater tank, add your belongings and groceries, it’s easy to exceed the GVWR in a low-end travel trailer.

    Aside from the overland trailers listed, the travel trailers on this list have a high cargo-carrying capacity.
     

  • High Ground Clearance
  •  
    Ground Clearance
     
    This is important if you plan on boondocking a lot. All of our favorite boondocking locations required four-wheel drive and high ground clearance.

    Our ORV had no problem traversing the challenging terrain on BLM land and USFS land.
     

  • Extra Large Freshwater Tank
  •  

    Dump station at Lee’s Ferry, AZ


     
    Again, if boondocking is on your agenda, you’ll need all the freshwater you can get. The party stops when you’re out of water!

    Based on experience, we prefer 100 gallons or more for our family of four.

    Not all the trailers on the list below have that much capacity, so if a lot of water is your priority, just focus on ORV and ATC.
     

  • Extra Large Waste Water Tanks
  •  
    If you plan on boondocking for longer trips, you’ll need larger waste holding tanks.

    A family of four can fill large waste water tanks fast if you’re not conservative.

    A minimum of 40 gallons per tank is a good starting point.
     

  • A Decent Amount Of Solar Panels And Batteries
  •  
    You can get by without solar panels, but you’ll need deep-cycle batteries and a way to charge them to operate some systems and lighting.

    At a minimum, look for 300-500 watts of solar, 200 amp hours of batteries and a small inverter to use AC outlets when necessary.

    There’s no limit to the complexity you can add to an RV’s off-grid electrical system. Your aftermarket finances and priorities will dictate your direction.
     

  • A DC Based Refrigerator
  •  
    The ability to operate a refrigerator via a low wattage draw directly from the battery is amazing.

    This is a newer feature slowly replacing propane refrigerators. If the travel trailer you’re considering has a DC refrigerator, consider it a bonus.
     

  • Onboard Generator
  •  
    This is not necessary, but a real advantage over carrying two small inverter generators to run in parallel.

    We did just fine with two Yamaha generators when we boondocked.
     
    RV Portable Generator
     
    Onboard generators are an option for both ATC and ORV.
     

  • Outdoor Shower
  •  
    All of the travel trailers listed have an outdoor shower.

    I didn’t think we’d use ours that much. When we boondocked, outdoor showers were great for preserving the gray tank.

    Sometimes, I even washed dishes outside. Speaking of outside, an outdoor kitchen is not necessary.

    We spoke to so many people who never used theirs. And we very rarely noticed outdoor kitchens being used.

    For some of you, I realize it might be a priority though.
     

  • Ample Storage Space
  •  
    It doesn’t take long to fill all of the storage space in a travel trailer.

    If you’re full-time, not only do you need all of your belongings to live, but you also need tools and spare parts.

    ATC, ORV and Arctic Fox have a lot of storage.
     

  • If You’re A Family, Bunk Beds For The Kids
  •  

     
    I sincerely believe that each family member needs their own space even if you’re not full-time.

    Think back to when you were a kid. How cool would it have been to have your own bunk space in the family travel trailer?!

    Also, having to break down the dinette or couch to get a child in bed can become tedious after just a short while.
     

  • A Manufacturer With Great Customer Service
  •  
    No matter how well-built the travel trailer is, you’ll eventually need something from the manufacturer (warranty work, information, schematics or just help).

    We only have experience with ORV, but we were blown away by how responsive they were to any need or question.

    Having owned a service-based business for twenty years, I’m a hard judge of customer service for any company!

 

Unnecessary Features For A Travel Trailer

 
These things just weigh you down and generally don’t get used (not everyone will agree):
 

  • Outdoor kitchen
  •  

  • A large television.

 

Best Quality Travel Trailers

 
Several of the RV Manufacturers listed below also produce fifth wheels and toy haulers giving you additional options if you have the right tow vehicle.

For many of them, I only wish we could see more aluminum siding that’s not prone to bubbling or warping.

What I believe to be the best built travel trailers:
 

  • ATC
  •  

    Photo Credit: ATC


     
    If we start over, it will be in an ATC. It checks our most important boxes and is really well constructed.

    What’s Great?

     

    • All aluminum frame and chassis.
    •  

    • High cargo carrying capacity.
    •  

    • No wood is used in construction. In other words, it will not rot or harbor mold.
    •  

    • Massive freshwater tank.
    •  

    • Lightweight for its size.
    •  

    • Bunk beds in the garage area.
    •  

    • A completely separate master bedroom.

     

    What can be improved?

     

    • It could be better insulated.

     
    Go to ATC’s website.
     

  • Outdoors RV
  •  

    Outdoors RV

    Photo Credit: Outdoors RV website


     
    We feel like we hit the RV lottery by starting our RV journey in an ORV. You can read our full review of our Outdoors RV Black Rock edition in our article: Best Travel Trailer for Full Time (For Us Since We Boondock)
     

    What’s Great?

     

    • Heavy insulation. It’s a true four-season trailer.
    •  

    • High cargo carrying capacity.
    •  

    • A lot of well-thought-out storage.
    •  

    • Large freshwater and holding tanks.
    •  

    • High ground clearance for rough terrain.
    •  

    • Boondocking ready out of the box.
    •  

    • A heavy-duty accessory hitch on the back for toys.

     

    What can be improved?

     

    • Lighter aesthetics in the interior.
    •  

    • An aluminum chassis would be nice. ORV typically has a heavy tongue weight.

     
    Go to ORV’s website.
     

  • Airstream Travel Trailers
  •  

    Photo Credit: Airstream


     
    After Rose interviewed Nate Stover, founder of Innovative Spaces for The RV Entrepreneur Podcast (she’s a cohost), it became clear some of the older Airstreams were built very well.

    This quality still carries over to current Airstream models.

    Their aesthetics are not for everyone, but I think the nostalgia and look are very cool.

    Listen to the podcast while you read.
     

     

    What’s Great?

     

    • The interior build quality is above par.
    •  

    • High-quality hand-built interior and exterior components.
    •  

    • Since Airstream is built from the outside in, every component has to fit through the door. This makes future changes easy.
    •  

    • Great customer service.
    •  

    • A lightweight trailer. Some small models can be towed by a half-ton truck.

     

    What can be improved?

     

    • An aluminum chassis to compliment the exterior would be nice.
    •  

    • Larger holding tanks should be standard. They’re too small for the size of the trailer.
    •  

    • A higher cargo carrying capacity. It’s way too low for the price of the trailer.
    •  

    • Better insulation would make this better suited for all seasons.
    •  

    • Higher ground clearance would help with more remote boondocking.

     
    Go to Airstream’s website.
     

  • Oliver Travel Trailers
  •  

    Photo Credit: Oliver Travel Trailers


     
    I love the concept of fewer seals translating into a lower potential for leaking. It also restricts heat/cold loss from the interior.
     

    What’s Great?

     

    • Very well insulated with very few opportunities for leaks.
    •  

    • Light tongue weight.
    •  

    • Aluminum chassis.
    •  

    • A high cargo carrying capacity.

     

    What can be improved?

     

    • Oliver Travel Trailers only sleeps 2-3. This is not suitable for a family with more than one child.
    •  

    • Larger freshwater and holding tanks would be nice for boondocking.

     
    Go to the Oliver Travel Trailers website.
     

  • Arctic Fox
  •  

    Photo Credit: Arctic Fox/Northwood


     
    We saw a lot of Arctic Fox models (made by Northwood) on the road and spoke to many owners.

    We heard very few complaints.
     

    What’s Great?

     

    • A well-insulated true four-season trailer.
    •  

    • The interior aesthetics are more attractive than ORV. I know that’s subjective.

     

    What can be improved?

     

    • Freshwater and waste tanks are too small for the size of the trailer.
    •  

    • An aluminum chassis would help with the heavy tongue weight.

     
    Go To The Arctic Fox website.
     

  • Lance Travel Trailer
  •  

    Photo Credit: Lance Camper


     
    Whenever we came across a Lance Camper, it was usually a truck camper. But there were a few travel trailers.

    Recently we toyed with a large truck camper and spent time touring a lot of Lance models. They were good, but not great.
     

    What’s Great?

     

    • A decent cargo carrying capacity.
    •  

    • Well thought out storage and layout.
    •  

    • Lance is semi-well insulated.
    •  

    • Aside from the larger models, most Lance campers are fairly lightweight.

     

    What can be improved?

     

    • Freshwater holding tank is too small for the number of people the trailers can sleep.
    •  

    • An aluminum frame would help reduce the weight of the larger models.

     
    Go to Lance Campers website.
     

    Travel Trailer Brands Worth Exploring

     
    The world of travel trailers also includes overland travel trailers. If I were to start over, they would be included on my “tire kicking” list.

    I cannot comment on build quality, but the following overland travel trailer manufacturers, despite being off the beaten path check a lot of boxes.

    Consider exploring the following overland trailers keeping in mind the above criteria based on your needs.

    • Opus Campers
    •  

      Opus trailer

      Photo Credit: Opus website


       

    • MDC USA Campers
    •  

      MDC USA trailer

      Photo Credit: MDC USA website


       

    • Taxa
    •  

      Photo Credit: Taxa Outdoors


       

     
    Each of the companies above is fairly priced and appears to be well-built for overlanding. If there are only two-three of you camping, they too could be a great option.
     

    A Note About Your Tow Vehicle

     

    Kofa

    Kofa National Wildlife Refuge


     
    The towing capacity of your pickup truck incorporates more than just how much the engine can pull.

    Truck manufacturers do a huge disservice in how they advertise the truck’s towing capacity.

    It’s beyond important to know the tongue weight of your travel trailer and the payload capacity of your pickup truck.

    The tongue weight must be factored into the truck’s carrying capacity.

    For example, if you have a travel trailer with a tongue weight of 900 lbs and you have a half-ton truck, you now have little to no capacity for passengers and gear.

    Read that as “buy a bigger truck.”

    If you recall, the fuel, passengers and gear contribute toward the GVWR. When in doubt, a full-ton truck will never let you down.

    Here’s a review of my F250 Diesel for towing our ORV 23BKS. Great Truck For Towing A Travel Trailer | Why We Chose A Ford F250
     

    Wrapping Up The Best Built Travel Trailers

     

    Boondocking in beautiful Colorado!


     
    The best choice from the list above is based on your personal preferences and needs.

    The travel trailer market today is growing a lot! The additional competition puts excess pressure on the larger brands to step up and improve their product.

    Otherwise, they’ll lose market share.

    When you’re “tire-kicking” any of the above brands, keep the following in mind:

    • Do you need a trailer with a low tongue weight?
    •  

    • If you’re boondocking, do you need a lot of water with you, so you can camp longer?
    •  

    • Do you need a higher ground clearance to get into some of the best boondocking locations?
    •  

    • Do you have a lot of stuff to carry and need a high cargo-carrying capacity?
    •  

    • Do you need bunk beds? Yes, your kids need their own space.

     
    What are some great quality travel trailers you’ve experienced?
     
    Meet the author.
     
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