Sure, pickups and SUVs have practical uses, but they're also a great way to get you out of civilization and into the back country to take a deep breath. Maybe you need to get to the desert with a pair of motorcycles, maybe it's up to the mountains with your camping gear, or maybe you're heading out on a lake with your fishing boat. Whether you tow an 18,000-pound fifth-wheel mounted to your one-ton dualie or a lightweight teardrop attached to the bumper of a V-6 crossover, your vehicle can help you reach your destination. Whatever you like to do or wherever you love to go, there are plenty of products to make your life easier (and safer). Here are just a few of the better problem-solvers we found at this year's annual RV trade show in Louisville, Kentucky.
Smarter Fifth-Wheel Hitch
Pullrite is the only manufacturer that makes a fifth-wheel hitch that can automatically "dislocate" itself in a tight cornering situation. Probably best suited for shortbed fifth-wheel tow vehicles, this SuperGlide hitch detaches and glides when it senses a corner is too tight, for a better, safer turning radius. Once back on line, the hitch autolocks back in place like nothing happened. Prices start at $1000.
Keep It Level
Making sure your trailer, tow rig, or motorhome is level can make all the difference, and conveniently bagged Level-Trek building blocks are an easy way to store and travel with your own leveling blocks. The plastic blocks connect like Legos and provide sturdy and secure support for even
heavier rigs. $50.
The Tuscany Star Hauler bed conversion system is a complete F-550 makeover, turning a rough-riding chassis cab into a plush fifth-wheel luxury hauler. Tuscany offers all kinds of custom and packaged option systems to improve the ride and performance of a truck, SUV, or van. The Star Hauler packages starts at $30,000 and escalates, depending on how many options and how much "heavy-duty" you want.
Better Battery Power
No one needs to tell truck enthusiasts how important a good battery can be, especially if you're towing the toys for a fun weekend. Nothing kills a good time like a weak or dead battery. Odyssey Batteries specializes in heavy-duty absorbed-glass-mat lead-acid units capable of delivering both strong cranking amps and repeated deep discharges (most do one or the other). They're a little heavier and a little more expensive than most, starting at $150.
Keep It Cold
Dometic offers several fridge/freezer options for your favorite cold foods. Designed for 12/24-volt DC or110-volt AC power, these models are made to be rugged, sturdy, and weather-resistant. Prices vary based on size and options, but start at $600.
Next Big Thing
Every year, there's something at the RVIA show that stops people in their tracks. This year it was this side-mounted slideout, drop-down patio, and awning on a new Open Range fifth-wheel trailer. We especially liked the sliding glass door and faux flowerpots. As you might expect, this option is a bit pricey at $12,000.
It's not easy attracting attention in the world of travel trailers, but EarthBound RV's sleek exterior styling and European-looking interiors succeed. The trailers are specifically engineered with wider axles for a lower center of gravity and are made with lightweight materials to protect smaller tow vehicles. These trailers do have a premium price, but offer some quality and amenity levels not seen at this price before. Prices vary between $30,000-$60,000
Retro Is Coming Back
This compact trailer is designed to be an easy tow for any V-6, yet still provide many of the features you'd expect from a larger, heavier travel trailer. Based on Riverside's popular 130 model, the fiberglass Retro offers a kitchenette with freezer, dining area, a foldable bed, and a bathroom, and it's shorter than a full-size pickup. This unit starts around $10,000.
Offered as the most rugged of the Coleman camping trailers, the Evolution comes in four lengths, offers a 6-inch tubular steel frame, taller off-road tires, and an optional cargo deck that can be used for gear storage or as a place to strap down a few two- or four-wheel toys. Prices start at $5000 and increase quickly.
Lightness of Being
If you're looking for a unique small trailer, any of the CampLite or LivinLite models will likely solve all your storage needs.Both types of trailers are 98-percent recyclable because they rely heavily on reinforced aluminum tubing for their structure. And as a testament to their strength, LivinLite even loaned a Quicksilver model to Jeep, which accumulated the equivalent of 300,000 miles of off-road driving without a problem. Prices vary between $10,000 and $20,000.
Generac iX2000 Series
Personal-size generators can provide anywhere between 1000 and 5000 watts of continuous power and make your life much more comfortable. But there is a price. Smaller generators will have smaller fuel tanks and likely provide less power, while bigger models will be heavier, bulkier, and pricier. Generac's handy iX series are designed to be a good value, starting around $500.
Packing a Powerhouse
Designed to be as portable as a piece of travel luggage, the Powerhouse 2700PRi generator has an integrated handle and rollers, a two-year warranty, a 7-hour run time, and a variable speed fuel economy switch. Personal-use Powerhouse models also offer a remote-start option. Expect pricing for this model to start around $1200.
Active Sway Control
A basic weight-distributing hitch does a good job of relocating some of the tongue weight and limiting some trailer sway, but there are still limitations. Center Line towing systems hopes to improve on this idea by providing a type of active sway control with an internal-compression cylinder that provides counter pressure to any detected sway. It's designed to work with any gross trailer weight up to 14,000 pounds. Expect to pay around $750.
New Monaco Design
This is the first motorhome designed by Monaco since Navistar bought the company a few years ago, and, as you might expect, there are a few International design cues in the new styling. If you look closely, you can see the Lone Star big-rig influence. This Vesta model, smaller by Monaco standards, and its Holiday Rambler Trip sibling run an International MaxxForce 7 V-8 turbodiesel that meets all 2010 EPA emissions standards without the need for DEF or SCR exhaust traps. Priced in the $200K range.
Anyone who tows knows the damage rocks can do to a trailer's front end. The experts at Cloud Rider now offer the Stone Stopper, a full-length flap that sits off the rear bumper to block all thrown debris. It attaches in minutes, and will cost in the $200-$400 range.
Space-Age Eddie Bauer
After partnering with Ford Motor Company for more than 25 years, Eddie Bauer is branching out: Its next partner will be Airstream. Designed specifically for those who like to hunt and fish, this 25-foot Airstream has all the cubbies and features any outdoors person would love. Coming from two premium-priced name brands, this vehicle is not cheap, starting around $75,000.
Light Wherever You Go
Originally designed with a construction site in mind, this 60-foot extension cord can serve many needs. With heavy-duty outlets every
10 feet, the cord can power a string of lights in whatever configuration you require. Each plug comes with a protective cap, as well as a set of plug-in work lights. Priced around $100.
Plug-In Battery Charging
It can be a challenge to keep the battery charged in a vehicle that does a fair amount of sitting between uses. Samlex Solar has a pair of compact plug-in photovoltaic cells, specially designed to use the sun to trickle-charge your vehicle's battery. Offered in two sizes, the solar charging unit plugs into the cigarette lighter and automatically shuts off when the battery is fully charged. Prices for the 5W and 10W units will range between $140 and $180.
Specifically designed to be easy to install and remove, the new G2 brake controller from Hayes can be used with multiple trailers on various types of tow vehicles. For safety, the system provides several types of audible and visual warnings for connections and overload situations. The G2 has a lifetime warranty and can handle quad-axle trailering duties. Prices start at $150.
This easy-to-use magnetic mirror attaches to the front end of your
trailer to allow you to see straight down to the ball hitch when trying to align your tow vehicle with a trailer. The simple hitch ball finder uses a wide-angle mirror that lets you put the ball hitch underneath the trailer's socket. Cost is around $20.
www.adjust-a-brush.com or www.campingworld.com
Chock It Up to Experience
An often-overlooked detail in safe towing is what you do after you've finished towing your trailer. Unless it's on perfectly level ground, it is always a good idea to chock your trailer tires to secure the rig, especially before you unhitch it from the tow vehicle. BAL makes ground and wheel-to-wheel chocks that effectively lock down your trailer, preventing it from rolling. Figure $75 for the pair.
Tow Bars and More
Many RVers tow a dinghy vehicle along so they can get around at their destination, but these dinghies usually amount to heavy unbraked trailers. The Ready Brake tow-bar system uses a surge brake that connects via cable to the car's brake pedal. It's a clever way to use the dinghy's existing brakes with a few quick adjustments. The full towbar unit will list around $1000.
Keeping Toys Safe
If you own a pickup truck and occasionally have to carry valuables in the bed, the ToyLok cable lock system will put your mind at ease. This retractable stainless-steel braided cable offers a bolt-through design and will likely discourage any and all scavengers looking for a quick grab. Cable systems will cost around $150.
For the 4x4 Explorer
Taking the idea of lightweight trailering to the furthest extreme, Adventure Trailers are specifically designed for the exploring 4x4 trail camper looking to get as far away from civilization as possible. These extreme-outback trailers are relatively inexpensive, starting at $6000, and offer plenty of value for your next expedition with the right options. We recommend the hitch coupler and foldout bed.
Monitoring All Tires
The Tire Minder can monitor up to 22 separate tires and display each on a portable instant-read screen. Perfect for toy haulers or large RVs and their dinghies. Complete kits about $300.