Bowlus® | Philosophy & Design
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Your Guide to Selecting the Best RV Battery

The RV battery is a critical component of any camper’s power system. RVers need a deep cycle battery to provide a dependable, steady power current over a long period of time, under a variety of conditions. Deep cycle RV batteries are designed to take the regular and deep discharges of power that come from using RV appliances.

But not all RV batteries are created equal. There are four primary battery types found in RVs – flooded lead-acid, gel, absorbed glass mat (AGM), and lithium iron phosphate. Read on to understand which RV battery is the best for your unit, and why we’re so amped up (get it?) about the Bowlus battery system.

Flooded Lead-acid Batteries
Flooded lead-acid batteries are one of the most common types of batteries you’ll find in motorhomes, travel trailers, and 5th wheels. They’re the cheapest of the deep cycle batteries, and are readily available. However, they have lead plates or grids in the battery container, which makes them heavy and bulky. Those lead plates are immersed, or “flooded”, with a liquid electrolyte made of sulfuric acid and water. They typically have a lifespan of two to five years, depending on how well you take care of them.

While they’re commonplace, flooded lead-acid batteries are not an ideal solution for RVers. First, they need regular maintenance, which includes topping them off with distilled water. They also don’t charge quickly, and the total usable capacity is only 30-50%. They must be located in a well-vented area outside of your RV because they can generate dangerous gasses while they’re charging. And you need to keep them charged. Flooded lead-acid batteries will self-discharge over time and if the charge drops below 50%, you could damage the battery. That means you’ll need to keep a trickle charge on them during your camping off-season. On the flip side, you need to make sure you don’t overcharge a lead-acid battery, because that can irreparably damage the battery as well. Because they’re flooded, there’s also a chance they could freeze in cold temperatures; freezing could lead to a cracked battery case and a damaging spill.

Gel Lead-acid Batteries
Also known as sealed lead-acid batteries, gel lead-acid batteries have the same lead plates as their flooded counterparts, but in this case, they’re immersed in a gel. They’re less prone to spills, but they’re not spill proof – the gel is just a little harder to spill than the electrolyte in a flooded battery. They require little to no maintenance, but do need to be vented and overcharging will destroy the battery.

Gel batteries are simply not recommended by most experts for use in a recreational vehicle. The primary downside to this type of battery is that it has less energy density and charges more slowly than an absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery, which we’ll talk about next.

Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries
This type of lead-acid battery is popular for RV use, even though it’s typically the most expensive of the lead-acid bunch. The liquid electrolyte in the AGM is absorbed into fiberglass mats, so it can’t be spilled. An AGM deep cycle battery charges about five times faster than a flooded battery, it can’t freeze and it’s maintenance free. Like its lead-acid counterparts, overcharging can ruin the battery. It has a low self-discharge of just 1-3% per month, as compared to the 5% seen in flooded models.

Lithium Iron Phosphate
At Bowlus, we’re big fans of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries – that’s why we put them in our luxury travel trailers. A totally different technology from lead-acid batteries, lithium iron phosphate batteries are the safest and longest-lasting batteries available for RV use. Lithium iron batteries, while more expensive than a lead-acid model, can power your RV for 8-10 years of frequent camping trips. Because they’re made of non-toxic materials, they don’t need to be vented; we nestle the Bowlus’ LiFePO4 battery safely inside the shell.

LiFePO4 batteries have a wider range capacity than traditional lead-acid batteries in terms of both usable capacity and cycle life. They provide six times the useful power of other systems, with a whopping 80-100% usable capacity (compare that to the typical 30% you get with a flooded lead-acid battery). They’re fast charging, maintenance free, and because they’re not filled with lead plates, they’re about a third of the weight of a lead-acid battery.

We mentioned earlier that anything below a 50% charge and you’re going to damage a flooded lead-acid battery. Well, with a LiFePO4 battery, you can discharge it to about 20% of the battery capacity without damage. You also don’t need a trickle charge on your battery during winter storage – they can hold their charge for months!

Every Bowlus Endless Highways Edition has a 4KWh lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery (the Terra Firma doubles this to 8KWh), and it isn’t your typical off-the-shelf variety. Manufactured to European specifications, the battery we use is industrial strength. It charges quickly, so you can fully recharge your batteries in just a few hours. We pair it with our integrated power management system that’s designed to power your Bowlus far more effectively than a plug and play system you’d find in the aftermarket.

Our battery system means you can spend up to a week off-grid without a generator. During that time you can run the microwave and the refrigerator. You can even run the highly efficient air conditioner for up to two overnights, something you’d be hard pressed to do with a lead-acid battery. The 3,000 watt pure sine wave inverter in the Terra Firma and Endless Highways Performance Edition (2,000 watts in the Endless Highways Edition) uses the battery to power all the outlets in the trailer, not just a select few. Plug things in just like you would at home. You can charge your devices even when you’re boondocking in the middle of a national forest.

Bowlus’ Best In Class Power Management System
Back in 2016, we were the first travel trailer manufacturer to develop an integrated power management system utilizing the LiFePO4 technology. We use best in class battery chargers and our inverters are the same as those commonly found in solar systems. The system intelligently manages itself so you can occupy yourself with the adventure of the day, not the status of your battery.

The Bowlus power management system continuously analyzes the demand for power and the power available from both the battery and shore power. Sensors in every battery cell communicate voltage and temperature to the system. The system has integrated cell balancing and cell monitoring for optimum protection, and the battery management system will automatically disconnect to protect the battery in case of under voltage, over voltage, or over temperature.

The system includes some exclusive technologies too:

  • Power Assist can boost the power in your RV so that you can run the AC and your hair dryer at the same time, even if you’re only hooked up to 15 amp shore power.
  • Charging Assist can dynamically adjust battery charging to protect the battery, just like your electric vehicle does.
  • Integrated Solar and Integrated Vehicle Charging ensures the LiFePO4 battery will be correctly charged from the optional solar panel and the tow vehicle, respectively. It does this by automatically connecting and disconnecting from the charging circuits as necessary.The battery management system protects your battery when you’re camping in cold weather. Lithium iron phosphate batteries shouldn’t be charged when they’re cold. The system allows power to flow from the battery, but won’t allow it to start charging until it’s warmed up inside the RV. With the battery located in the shell of the Bowlus, this happens in no time thanks to our powerful heating system that can run on either propane or 12-volt. Once it’s over 32 degrees in the unit, the battery will begin to charge at its full rate.

    To make sure all of this cutting edge technology is user friendly, there’s an easy to use control panel in the RV. You can also connect to the system via Bluetooth and monitor things from your phone. The system even alerts you if the batteries get low.

    Can you see why we love lithium iron phosphate batteries? With the total flexibility and reliability they provide, why would you want to use anything else?

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Feature Highlight: Monocoque Design

Monocoque is a French term that means a single shell. It refers to any structure that bears all loads, both compressive and tensile, along its skin. While it is exceptionally hard to design, difficult to manufacture, and expensive, there is one giant advantage that monocoque brings to design; weight. A vehicle that utilizes a true monocoque design will be astoundingly light.

If you look under a vehicle or RV and see a frame with tacked on rails and ribs, you are definitely not looking at even a “semi” monocoque design, as much as they may wish to be one. You are looking at some variation of the body-on-frame design.

Aircraft design was the first to use monocoque design, so it is no surprise that the first travel trailer Hawley Bowlus designed, affectionately named the “egg” by his wife Ruth, was monocoque as well. Today you find true monocoque design in the Bowlus, the modern McLaren, and plenty of their supercar contemporaries.

So why is the monocoque design so crucial to a Bowlus? Along with producing the strongest shell in the industry, the Bowlus comes with the best weight to length ratio in the world for a travel trailer. For comparison, a 25 foot Flying Cloud comes in at a gross vehicle weight rating of 7,300 pounds. A 26 foot Bowlus has a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,000 pounds, which includes 700 pounds of carrying capacity. That weight savings translates into a broader range of tow vehicles and, critically, the ability for a small adult (under 5 feet) even to pull it over and hitch it if they wish.

So there’s never a need to utter pardon my french when you’re hitching a Bowlus unless, of course, you’re celebrating your monocoque design

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Business Highlight: Delivered Directly To You

Over a year and a half into the pandemic, no one thinks twice about what’s getting delivered to their door.

But in the early years, our owners were a little surprised and still remain tickled pink how we managed to deliver their Bowlus to their home or office almost always within a specific delivery window – assuming the weather and traffic gods are operating under our given set of assumptions for the route and season. But it is no small feat. Especially given long wait times and delays for special items have become standard.

So how do we do it?

We’d love to introduce the Bowlus Orders Team. This delightfully logistic group is the same who shepherd you after signing your purchase agreement to final delivery. They have incredible product knowledge and are skilled in all logistical aspects of delivering your Bowlus to you. Rest assured, they are promptly in touch if they suspect a delay like the time 8 inches fell on the I-80 in Wyoming last July.

While the entire country (and now the RV industry) is crippled in supply chain delays, our incredible team of fabricators and technicians working in concert with the orders team have not missed one delivery date – not one. It’s really a sweet orchestra that bubbles along to the staccato of a rivet gun here at Bowlus.

So without giving out any more secrets of the Bowlus delivery experience. Let’s leave it to a recent owner who sent us a quick note after receiving their Bowlus:

“As someone who spent their career in logistics, I just have to say I have no idea how you do it! The Orders Team was so very prompt in replying to all my questions. Their knowledge is fantastic, and their logistics are done with such a deft hand. I really believe they may be some of the unsung heroes at Bowlus. And yes, it was beautiful!”

Thank you for letting them shine.

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A Guide to RV Air Conditioners and Furnaces

Perhaps the biggest advantage of camping in a RV is the simple fact that you have the ability to control the rig’s interior temperature. With the push of a button on your thermostat, you can kick on the heat to take the chill off in the morning, or crank up the AC to beat the afternoon heat (sometimes doing both in the same day). There are a couple of ways that RV manufacturers handle their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, so we put together this handy guide to make sure you know what to look for when you’re shopping for a new camper.

RV Air Conditioners: The Basics
Nothing’s better than coming back from a long hike and cooling off in your air conditioned travel trailer. RV air conditioners come in a variety of styles, and the size of your RV AC unit will depend on a number of factors, including your own personal cooling preferences, the square footage of your travel trailer, the layout of the interior space, and the amount of insulation in the walls (the better the insulation, the easier it will be for the AC to keep the space cool). Bowlus takes a different approach, and we’ll cover that later in the article.

Most RVs on the market today come with either a high profile or low profile overhead air conditioning unit that’s mounted to the roof of your camper. Common brands include Dometic Brisk Air, Coleman Mach 15, Furrion Chill, or Advent ACM150. The high profile unit is taller and more powerful than most low profile units. Low profile RV air conditioner units, on the other hand, are lighter weight and give you more clearance under bridges and canopies at gas stations. Larger RVs like motorhomes, 5th wheels, and long travel trailers may come with two AC units – one in the living area and one in the bedroom area. The RV air conditioner’s thermostat will likely have two zones, one for each AC unit. In order to run both the front and rear units at the same time, you’ll need 50 amp service at your campsite.

Depending on the size of your RV, your travel trailer’s air conditioner will be ducted, non-ducted, or, like the Bowlus, vented. Most travel trailers, motorhomes and 5th wheels have ducted air, with outlets spread throughout the larger unit to ensure even cooling and airflow. Smaller travel trailers, teardrops, and class B’s (camper vans) will likely be non-ducted, or ductless. Ductless RV air conditioner units can be as powerful as their ducted counterparts. Since the area inside the RV is so small, the roof mounted air conditioner keeps the space cool by blowing chilled air directly out of the unit’s vents.

Your air conditioner will need some basic maintenance to keep things running smoothly. Just like your air conditioner at home, you’ll need to change or clean the filters periodically. Clogged filters can make your air conditioner less efficient, so if your unit doesn’t seem to be cooling the space as quickly as it had been, it may be time to do a little maintenance.

Bowlus Takes a Different Approach to RV AC
At Bowlus, we’re always looking for new and better ways to do things. When we designed the air conditioning system for our Terra Firma and Endless Highways Edition, we threw out the industry norm and went our own way. The first thing you’ll notice is that we don’t have a rooftop air conditioner. We’ve placed our RV AC unit low within the Bowlus shell to keep the trailer’s center of gravity low and balanced. This makes the Bowlus more aerodynamic, easier to handle, and you’ll have more clearance than RVs with the traditional rooftop mounted units. It also means there isn’t a big hole in your roof for the AC unit’s ceiling assembly. Big holes mean potentially big leaks if the air conditioner’s seals and gaskets start to break down.

We use a vented air conditioning system, which is similar to a ducted system in that it has adjustable vents located in the living room, bedroom, and bathroom. But, our system ​​is designed to blow and circulate cool air in a much more efficient manner than a traditional ducted AC unit. This means it feels cooler in your Bowlus faster than it would in another RV. It also means you can run our AC unit off the powerful lithium iron battery system in your Bowlus for up to two overnights. This makes it one of the best RV air conditioners on the market.

The Bowlus air conditioning unit has three filters: a washable pre-filter, a paper filter within the AC unit, and a HEPA filter. A HEPA, or high efficiency particulate air filter, is a pleated air filter capable of removing 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other particulates. Originally created by the scientists working on the Manhattan project, HEPA filters are often found on vacuum cleaners and high end air conditioners, like the one in the Bowlus.

RV Furnaces: The Basics
There are two ways to keep your camper warm. Your unit may be equipped with a heat pump, which runs off electricity and is a part of the rooftop AC unit. You’ll need to check your instruction manual, as not all RV ACs have a heat pump included. Heat pumps warm your rig quickly and efficiently, but they can’t handle extreme cold. If it’s below 45 degrees outside, you’ll want to use the propane powered furnace. Propane furnaces send warm air out through vents often located near the floor. Like the air conditioner, their power is also measured in BTUs.

The furnace unit in each Bowlus goes beyond your typical RV furnace. Our silent hydronic heating system is powered by propane or 120V if you’re connected to shore power. With a computer controller and eight silent radiators for evenly distributed heat, our furnace is very efficient.

The Bowlus heating system also serves multiple purposes. The same unit that keeps your space toasty and warm also serves as the hot water heater. Our design ensures that you have instant hot water whenever you need it, which means it’s environmentally friendly because you’re not wasting energy maintaining a tank full of hot water. Because we want your camping experience to be as luxurious as possible, we also power our in-floor heating with the same unit. No more cold floors for your bare feet! And, if you’re camping with your dog, you won’t have to share the couch because they’ll be content to sprawl out on the heated floors.

So pack up the trailer and hit the road no matter the time of the year. With a properly designed HVAC system, you can comfortably enjoy your RV in all 4 seasons.

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A Guide to Winterizing Your RV

As the leaves change color each fall and begin to drop, most people pack away their RVs and end their camping seasons. While some hearty souls do enjoy winter camping, once the temperatures start to get below freezing, your RV needs to be winterized. Just like in your home, frozen pipes in your camper can cause catastrophic and costly damage.

Before you get started with the winterization process, you’ll need to gather a few hand tools to have by your side (wrenches, screwdrivers). These will come in handy when you’re trying to remove your RV’s drain plugs.

Make sure you read your owner’s manual for specifics on winterizing your rig, but this handy guide will give you all the basics for winterizing your RV. Let’s get started!

How to Winterize your RV: Drain and Flush the Tanks
First, for units with inline water filters, drain and bypass them. This is also a great time to check to see if they need to be replaced. Next, drain and flush the water from the gray water tank. Then, turn off the water pump drain and flush the fresh water tank.

Once you’ve emptied your water tanks, disconnect your RV from the city water source. Open the drain valves so that any remaining water drains out of the system. If your trailer has a jockey wheel like the Bowlus, you can use it to tilt your trailer towards the stem and then the stern to make sure you’ve removed as much water as possible. Start with the front of your RV raised higher than the back.

Now, you’ll drain the hot water heater. You don’t want to be working on a tank of hot water, so make sure the unit has been off long enough for the contents to cool down. In a Bowlus, the furnace and water heater are the same unit. Open the two valves to allow the water out. While that system is draining, press and hold the toilet flush button to allow air into the water line that goes to the composting toilet (this is an electric valve and you’ll need power from your RV to operate it). Then, open all the faucets. Don’t forget the showerhead – remove the head from the shower hose and the hose from the controller to make sure all components are fully drained.

The next step is to turn the water pump back on to drain the line between the water tank and the pump. Once you can only hear air pumping, turn the water pump back off and remove the pump’s outlet hose (you may want a cloth on hand to mop up any excess water). Now, remove the water pump inlet connection and turn the pump back on until all the water has been pumped out.

Lower the front of your RV as far as possible, and then tilt the rig slightly from starboard to port (or curbside to roadside for those not nautically inclined) to drain any remaining water. You may need to repeat this process a couple of times until you’re sure gravity has done its job. This should remove most, but not all of the water in the RV’s systems.

Reattach the inlet and outlet hoses on the water pump and close all the faucets (don’t forget the shower). Use a portable air compressor to apply air pressure at the city water inlet (make sure you double check your owner’s manual as some RV manufacturers only recommend 30 psi). You’ll need a blow-out adapter that attaches to your air compressor hose to the city water inlet on your camper. Then, one at a time, open first the hot and then the cold water taps on each of your faucets – kitchen, bathroom, and shower. Then, press and hold the toilet flush button. The air pressure will push the remaining water from the water heater and the water lines. Make sure you drain the gray water tank once again to remove any water that may have found its way in. Then, empty, rise, and fully drain the cassette from the toilet and reinstall it in the trailer.

Once you’ve removed all of the water, close the low point drains and you’re done!

Winter Camping in Your RV: Protecting with Antifreeze
Some people love to camp in the winter, which you can easily do in a Bowlus, which is built for four seasons camping. Not all RVs are, though, so before you hit the snowy roads, make sure your trailer is up to spec. If you do plan on doing any winter camping, we recommend putting a cup or more of RV / Marine antifreeze in the gray water tank to keep it from freezing. Make sure you buy non-toxic RV and marine antifreeze that’s approved for plumbing systems. It can be found at RV service centers and some mass market retailers and is very different from automotive antifreeze. Automotive antifreeze will damage your RV. It’s also important to note that if you’re winter camping in a Bowlus, the RV antifreeze you’ll need for your gray tank isn’t the same type of antifreeze that’s required for the radiator heating system in your unit. Make sure you check your owner’s manual before adding antifreeze to any part of your RV’s system.

Other Steps to Winterizing Your Camper
There are a few other things you should do when you’re putting your RV into storage for the winter.
● Remove all food (perishable and non-perishable), clothes, and valuables.
● Remove the batteries and store them in a warm place. Make sure they’re fully charged and in storage mode, if available.
● Make sure your propane tanks are shut off. This is a great time to get them refilled so you’re ready to go at the start of your next camping season.
● Check your air filters and replace or clean as needed.
● Check your furnace and water heater vents to make sure they’re clear (wasps and mud daubers like the smell of propane and tend to build nests in these places).
● Check exterior seals and seams for cracks and repair as necessary to block critters from taking shelter in your camper for the winter (if you’re in a Bowlus our completely wrapped shell prevents vermin from setting up camp in your luxury travel trailer).
● Leave your refrigerator and cabinet doors open. This will help prevent unpleasant odors from developing while your camper is in storage.
● Shut off all the breakers.
● Make sure your awning is clean and dry to prevent mold and mildew.
● Cover your RV if it’s going to be stored outside. This will help protect it from the elements.

You can take your RV to a service department to be winterized. Prices range from around $75-$200, depending on where you are in the country and the size of your camper. But it may take longer to get the appointment and tow your travel trailer to the service center than it would to just do it yourself, especially if you have a Bowlus. Once you’re comfortable with the process, you can winterize a Terra Firma or Endless Highways Edition in around 30 minutes.

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Travel Trailer Hitches Demystified

One of the most important aspects of towing a travel trailer (or any trailer for that matter), is making sure you have the right hitch for the job. If your hitch won’t handle the weight of your trailer, not only are you risking damage to your vehicle, more importantly you’re putting your safety and the safety of others at risk. But fear not! We’ve put together this helpful guide to demystify the lingo surrounding travel trailer hitches. Give it a read and you’ll know all the right questions to ask before you hitch up your new RV!

Trailer Hitch Basics
Trailer hitches are bolted or welded to the frame of your tow vehicle, either at the rear of your SUV or in the bed of your pickup truck. There are two common types of hitches that you’ll see in the RV world. Rear receiver hitches are typically used by the towable travel trailer crowd. If you purchased the trailer tow package with your SUV, this is likely what you have. With this type of hitch, a hitch ball mount slides into the receiver of the hitch (typically a 1-1/4-inch or 2-inch square). It’s secured to the hitch with a metal pin, which in turn is held in place with a metal clip. Your trailer’s hitch coupler then connects to the ball. If you want, you can get an adjustable hitch ball mount that allows you to raise or lower the height of the ball to ensure your trailer is level with your car.

The other main category of hitches you’ll see on camper tow vehicles are those specific for towing fifth wheels. Designed to carry the heavier loads demanded by fifth wheels and large horse trailers, the hitch receiver is mounted in the bed of a pickup truck so that the weight of the trailer is directly over the rear axle of your truck.

Hitch Classes
There are 5 classes of hitches on the market. The higher the class rating, the more the weight capacity the hitch has.
Class 1: Tows up to 2,000 pounds gross trailer weight (GTW), with a maximum 200 pounds of tongue weight. You could tow a very small camper with a class 1 hitch, a small boat, or a jet ski trailer. They’re also great for hitch-mounted bike racks and cargo carriers.
Class 2: Often found on compact SUVs, class 2’s can tow trailers up to 3,500 pounds GTW, with a maximum 300 pound tongue weight.
Class 3: You can pull up to 6,000 pounds with this type of hitch, with a maximum tongue weight of 600 pounds. These are most commonly seen on vans, pickup trucks, and mid-sized SUVs. This is the perfect class for towing a lightweight travel trailer like the Bowlus (the GVWR of the Terra Firma or Endless Highways Edition is just 4,000 pounds!).
Class 4: These hitches are used for large travel trailers being pulled by full size pickups, vans, or any vehicle that is rated to tow between 10,000-14,000 pounds (depending on the hitch). Maximum tongue weight is typically 1,000 pounds.
Class 5: Required for the largest travel trailers that weigh in between 12,000 and 18,000 pounds (depending on the hitch specifications), class 5 hitches are most commonly seen on heavy duty pickups.

Do I Need A Weight Distribution Hitch?
While you won’t need one if you’re towing a Bowlus, if you’re pulling a larger and heavier travel trailer, you’ll likely need to invest in a weight distribution hitch. With a standard hitch, the trailer’s tongue weight is transferred to the rear axle of your SUV. If it’s too heavy, the back of your vehicle sinks and the front lifts up, compromising your ability to control your rig. As the name suggests, a weight distribution hitch uses spring bars to spread out the weight of the trailer so that it’s not all resting on the hitch ball mount, and thus your rear axle. Evenly distributing the weight can reduce the side-to-side sway RVers experience when towing larger travel trailers. It also allows you to maximize the towing capacity of your hitch. For example, a class 4 weight distribution hitch can take up to 14,000 pounds of GTW, with a 1,400 pound tongue weight. This compares to a standard class 4 model that can only handle 10,000 pounds GTW and 1,000 pounds of tongue weight.

The major downside to weight distribution hitches is their price. They can be costly, and if you’re towing a lightweight travel trailer like the Bowlus, you don’t need one, especially if you’re not exceeding your vehicle’s towing capacity.

Other Hitch Accessories
Larger, heavier travel trailers also often require the use of sway control bars. Trailer sway is most frequently caused by passing semis and wind gusts. Most commonly felt by drivers towing larger RVs and 5th wheels, it’s a side-to-side motion that at best is exhausting because you’re constantly correcting your steering. At its worst, it can be dangerous. Sway control hitch bars can be added to most trailer hitches and while costly, they can provide a smoother ride for bigger rigs. Like with weight distribution hitches though, sway bars are not necessary when towing a lightweight travel trailer like the Bowlus.

Most states require that you use some sort of safety chains or cable between the trailer’s coupler and the tow vehicle. This is a standard feature on every Bowlus. If you have safety chains, a best practice is to crisscross the chains underneath the coupler.

Hitch locks are another interesting accessory you might consider. Designed to stop some unsavory person from stealing your luxury travel trailer, a hitch lock prevents someone from lifting the receiver and unhitching the camper from your tow vehicle. That’s why every Bowlus comes with a hitch lock. Most hitch locks must be unlocked with a key.

Hitching Up For Safety
So now you have the basics of trailer hitches, how do you actually hook the thing up? With a Bowlus it’s easy! Simply back your tow vehicle into position and drop the trailer hitch coupler onto the hitch ball. If you need to make adjustments, you can use the Bowlus’ jockey wheel to move your lightweight trailer into position. It’s an easy one-man or one-woman operation. With other trailers, the process is more painful and often requires a lot of back and forth to get the ball exactly below the coupler (a little to the right…too far…back to the left a bit…too far…). Typically a two-person job (driver and guide), hitching your typical travel trailer can be a good way to test your relationship!

Once the coupler is secured on the ball, make sure the safety chains are in place, the hitch pin is in the receiver, and the clip is in the hitch pin. Connect the cable that controls the lights on your trailer and give them a test. Check the brake lights, hazard lights (which also tests the turn signals), and the trailer’s running lights that come on with your vehicle’s headlights.

If you have a larger travel trailer, you’ll need to invest in tow mirrors for your vehicle so that you can safely see to change lanes, merge into traffic, and operate your rig safely on the road. These aren’t necessary with a Bowlus (except in a few states). Our aerodynamic profile means you can safely see without the clunky addition to your SUV’s side mirrors.

And that’s it! Hitching (and unhitching) your Bowlus is an easy two minute process. Before you head out, it’s always a good idea to take a walk around your campsite to check for any belongings you forgot to pack. Make sure you’ve disconnected and stored your power cord and water hose. And now, you’re ready to hit the road!

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Feature Highlight: Dining Room

Before designing a room, it’s critical to understanding the function that the space needs to hold. Dining areas, especially in RVs, are often thought of as the spot for a quick “chow down.” However, a one-of-a-kind dining area like you find in the Bowlus is designed to promote curiosity, leading to interesting conversations.

At Bowlus, our dining room design starts with a good-sized one-of-a-kind table made of natural wood and is big enough for games night or a “foodie’s” dream dinner. Smartly designed, there is a tray underneath that holds your laptops and tablets so you can connect to your travel mates without screens. The sofa can also accommodate a companion table for additional guests, or you can choose to have it serve as a sideboard. Of course, the Bowlus’ uniqueness and how we handle the curved ceiling in a beautiful arrangement of wood adds texture and color to give the space a comforting personality. It is important that windows and stunning skylights surround the Bowlus dining area to draw your gaze to nature but private if you wish to draw the linen drapes.

And then are the details that make any dining area inviting, like beautiful lighting and incredible seating that is so comfortable that you’ll want to linger. Whether you choose the Terra Firma, the Performance Edition, or a Bespoke Customization for your Bowlus, you’ll find a creative style that is all yours. It will be the perfect place to ponder the question, where’s our next adventure?

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Quality RVs: Going Beyond the Industry Standard

With as many makes, models, styles, and price points as there are in the RV market, there’s something out there for everybody. But whether you’re shopping for a travel trailer, motorhome, toy hauler, or fifth wheel, one of your primary considerations should always be the quality of rig. Buying a RV is a significant investment, and you want it to last for a lifetime of camping seasons. Unfortunately, if you’ve done any amount of research, you’ve likely discovered that many RVs leave something to be desired in the quality department. Campers often complain about cheap cabinet doors falling off, the corner of the roof peeling up, and roof or slide out leaks that just can’t be solved. All these things add up to countless hours with your RV in the shop. So how do you know which RVs are the best and which ones you should avoid?

The internet is filled with almost as many opinions on what the top RV brands are as there are RVs. That’s why we’re not going to add our own top 10 best RVs list to the pile (though we believe our Terra Firma and Endless Highways Edition should be at the top of every list!). Instead, we’re going to take a different approach and help you understand how to get through all the noise and recognize a quality camper. There are some great, well-built RVs on the market, but they can be harder to find. By taking a little bit of time to educate yourself before you buy, you can avoid a whole lot of frustration, heartache, and trips to the repair shop.

Tips For Finding a Quality RV: Research, Research, and More Research
There’s been a significant amount of consolidation in the RV industry over the years. There are just a handful of companies that own most of the brands on the market. Thor, Winnebago, Forest River, and REV are some of the biggest, and among them they control some of the most well-known brands including Airstream, Jayco, Grand Design, Coachmen, Monaco, and Holiday Rambler. Unfortunately consolidation and buying power doesn’t always lead to a high quality product. Quality standards can change over time, and a brand that may have been considered reliable and high quality ten years ago, may be lacking today.

There are several great ways to learn about the quality of a RV manufacturer. First, warm up your favorite search engine and see what the internet has to say about a brand and model. Forums are a great source of information because you’ll get the unvarnished thoughts of people who already own the rigs. Look at the types of comments people are making – what’s breaking, what’s poorly designed, what’s working well, what do they love? Plus, it’s a good idea to look for major recalls.

We recommend you read the manufacturer’s website. What are they talking about? If they build a quality RV, they’ll want you to know about it. Buyer beware if the manufacturer isn’t talking about the construction and the materials they’re using.

Mingle with other RVers at the campground. Ask them who they think builds great campers. RVers love to talk about their rigs and share the things they’ve learned over the years about which manufacturers are the best.

Finally, consider smaller manufacturers like Bowlus. You won’t find our luxury travel trailers at the RV shows or on an RV dealer’s lot, because we sell our hand-crafted RVs directly to the consumer. Smaller RV brands tend to be better at customer service because they’re interested in having a long-term relationship with their owners. Look for a brand that has a reputation for listening to their customers, designing their floor plans based on customer feedback, and most importantly, one that helps customers resolve any issues with their rigs. We’re proud to say that our travel trailers are passed down from generation to generation, as family heirlooms. That’s why you won’t find any used Bowlus trailers on an RV dealer’s lot.

A Quality RV is a Well-Built RV
Don’t just focus on the floor plan or the amenities an RV has to offer. While those are critical factors to finding the unit that’s right for you, it’s the details that really matter when it comes to quality. Many manufacturers use cheap materials. Partly this is done to reduce weight, but sometimes it’s just cutting corners for the sake of the bottom line. We fabricate over 70% of every Bowlus we make in-house (appliances are made by the top providers in the US and Europe). This isn’t the cheap way to do it, but it does provide us with an industry leading quality control process that ensures every Bowlus will last a lifetime.

Quality on the Outside
Travel trailers are built one of two ways. Either they’re wood-framed units (also known as a stick and tin), or they have an aluminum frame. Wood is cheaper but heavier while aluminum is more expensive, more durable, and lighter. The exterior will either be aluminum or fiberglass. Bowlus uses the highest grade of aluminum on our travel trailers. The aluminum on our shells is the same grade you’d find on an airliner and is held in place by over 5,000 expertly placed aircraft rivets.

Quality on the Inside
On the inside of well-built RVs, you’ll find real wood doors and cabinets. Cheaper manufacturers use veneers over particle board which simply don’t last as long. Another key difference between a high quality RV and a cheaper model is in the material used for the countertops – laminates aren’t as durable as solid surfaces. Research the materials used on the couch, in the chairs, and for the dinette. You want to make sure that you’re investing in a camper with high quality and durable fabrics, not something that will easily rip and stain.

When you take a private Facetime tour of a Bowlus, you’ll quickly be able to see the care and craftsmanship we put into each unit. From the durable stainless steel countertops to the real birch wood walls and ceiling, our artisans hand-craft a luxury travel trailer that will last. You’ll even find responsibly farmed teak in the bathroom and commercial grade flooring that is both luxurious and durable. Plus, our artisans meticulously stitch the high-quality sofa and armchairs in every Bowlus. Our luxury travel trailers aren’t built on a massive assembly line. We custom build each unit with the options you choose.

Quality Systems
Don’t forget to research the appliances and the RV’s systems. Consider how easy the furnace, water heater, cooktop and oven are to light, how well the AC unit cools the space, and which systems operate off electric, propane, or both.

A Quality RV Doesn’t Mean Nothing Will Break
One thing to keep in mind is that even if you buy the highest quality RV on the market, you’re going to have to fix a few things (keep a toolkit on hand for just such an occasion). Even if you only use your trailer for a few weeks of the year, driving it down the road feels like an earthquake for your RV. But, if you start with something that’s well-made, and you keep up with regular maintenance, a high-quality RV like a Bowlus will give you years of amazing memories and camping adventures.

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The Ultimate RV Checklist

Whether you’re on your first RV camping trip or your 100th, there’s nothing worse than arriving at your campsite and realizing you’ve forgotten the power cord for the waffle maker. To avoid breakfast (and other) disasters, it’s a good idea to create a RV checklist.

To a large extent, what you bring (and how much you bring), will depend on where you’re going, how long you’re staying, what you’re doing, and how much weight your travel trailer or motorhome can handle. But whether you’re spending the weekend at a state park or a week boondocking in a national forest, there are a few things you’ll always want to have for your RV trip. To get you started on creating your own custom RV camping checklist, we’ve put together some advice on what we think are the essentials, the nice to haves, and the things you should just leave at home.

Make a RV Checklist (and Check it Twice)
To make this easy, we’ve split our recommendations into different categories to get you started. Add and delete things based on your camping style. Once you’ve made your list, print it out and keep it in your camper so you know where to find it. Since camping is typically a team sport, spread the packing tasks around to your partner or kids so that everyone can participate (and then maybe it won’t be your fault that there are no waffles on Sunday morning)!

Important Paperwork: First, you’ll want to make sure you have all your important paperwork in one spot, preferably a waterproof bag. Include things like your RV registration and insurance information, warranty documents, RV owner’s manual, passport (especially if you’re going north or south of the border), and your driver’s license. We also like to keep road maps handy just in case we get out of cell phone range, or our GPS sends us to the middle of a corn field.

Outdoor Equipment: Next, think about the things you’ll need to run your RV. You’ll want extension cords of varying lengths, your RV’s power cord, power adapters, a surge protector, voltmeter, spare fuses, fresh water hose, water pressure regulator, sewer hose, wheel chocks, leveling blocks, an extra hitch pin, work and disposable gloves, your solar panel or generator, and a headlamp for setting up in the dark.

Outdoor Living: Include some things that will make your campsite amazing. We recommend an outdoor rug, door mat, camp chairs, a collapsible camp table (especially if you’re boondocking), a portable grill, charcoal and lighter fluid (if needed), LED tiki lights for your awning (if you’re into that kind of thing), and flashlights. If you’re planning on a campfire, make sure to bring a hatchet, matches or a lighter, fire starters, and hot dog and marshmallow roasting sticks.

Adventure Gear: You’ll also want to bring accessories for your adventures. Backpacks, hiking boots, a cooler and ice packs, insect repellent, sunscreen, a picnic or beach blanket, rain gear, and reusable water bottles are good ideas. We also recommend you bring (and know how to use) a compass and trail maps. You don’t want to rely on your phone when hiking in the wilderness.

First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit is a must for RVers. Include an EPI pen if necessary, bandages, gauze and paper tape, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, scissors, alcohol, a thermometer, a hot / cold compress, and aloe gel.

Pet Camping Essentials: If you’re camping with a four-legged furry companion, they’ll need food, treats, a 6-foot leash, collar with tags, a lead or tie down for your campsite, a pet first aid kit, toys, waste bags, medications, and a recent picture in case they wander off. You may also want to have shampoo and grooming supplies to clean up your muddy pup. You’ll also need to pack bowls unless you’re camping in a Bowlus with pet-friendly features.

Hobby and Rainy Day Gear: Don’t forget your camera equipment, binoculars, bicycles and helmets, and things to do if it rains (playing cards, board games, DVDs, books). All Bowlus models have charging stations for your cell phone, tablet and laptop and they’re equipped with a cellular booster. The Endless Highways Edition includes a robust router and an antenna pre-wired on the roof. Just hook up to an external Wi-Fi, or up to two cellular networks, and you’re ready to game online!

Kitchen Gear: How do you get everything in your home kitchen into your RV? Well frankly, you don’t because it’s unnecessary. Instead, focus on the essentials. Drinking glasses, wine glasses (and a corkscrew), mugs, dishes, silverware, sharp knives (with guards), a spatula, tongs, whisk, cutting boards, a bottle / can opener, vegetable peeler, measuring cups and spoons, a couple mixing bowls, a collapsible colander, and potholders should be on your list for sure.

Be selective when packing pots and pans, favoring multitaskers. A lot of RVers pack a Dutch oven, a cast iron skillet, a nonstick skillet, and maybe a crock pot or multicooker. You may also want a blender, a griddle or waffle maker (and the aforementioned power cords), and a coffee pot and filters.

Pack a small selection of microwave-safe food storage containers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, resealable bags, and bag clips. We also recommend using tension rods in your refrigerator and cupboards to keep things in place. Remember, things are going to shift in your camper when you’re going 65 miles per hour.

Cleaning Up: To keep things neat and tidy, you’ll want some biodegradable dish and hand soap, dish towels, sponges, a collapsible dish rack or drying mat, a small broom and dustpan, environmentally friendly kitchen and bathroom cleansers (something that will make the stainless countertops in your Bowlus really shine) and a toilet brush.

Paper Goods: While not the most environmentally friendly option, having paper plates and bowls on hand can simplify mealtime. You’ll also want paper towels, napkins, and facial tissues. And don’t forget the toilet paper. You’ll need thin RV toilet paper unless you have a cassette toilet like the Bowlus.

Noshing: Do a little meal planning before you go and pack some staples. Many campgrounds have camp stores, though they’re not well stocked. We typically bring bottled water, soft and adult beverages, tea, coffee, cocoa, s’mores ingredients, trail mix, and other snack foods in addition to our meals. Don’t forget salt and pepper, spices, and condiments.

Linens: You’ll also need bed linens, towels, a bathmat, and a laundry bag. If you’re going to be gone for a while, you may also want laundry detergent, stain remover, and a roll of quarters or a credit card for the laundromat.

Your Essentials: Finally, think about all the things you need to make your trip enjoyable. Pack your toiletries, any prescription medications, footwear, hats, sunglasses, and weather appropriate clothing. No matter the time of year, we always pack a pair of long pants and a sweatshirt so we can hang out by the fire just a little longer.

RV Checklist of Things to Leave Behind
Now that we’ve given you this massive list, we’re going to caution you to not overpack. Make decisions based on how long you’ll be gone, and then pack a little extra just in case you get delayed (or choose to stay longer). The unique storage solutions in a Bowlus luxury travel trailer provide plenty of room for the necessities and the luxuries.

There are several ways that you can maximize your storage. First, don’t bring the bottle of ibuprofen or dish soap that you bought on your last warehouse store trip. Transfer things into smaller containers (you don’t need 500 ibuprofen for your weekend trip to the mountains). We love the Bowlus kitchen because you can show off your gourmet cooking skills. But pots and pans are heavy, so think about what you really need.

Unless you’re boondocking or going somewhere where you won’t have access to fresh water, hit the road with enough water in your fresh tank to flush the toilet and wash your hands.

As tempting as it may be to avoid the inflated prices of firewood at the campground, don’t bring your own. First, it’s heavy. More importantly, it’s illegal to bring firewood across many state lines (and many states prefer you not to move it from one part of the state to another). Moving firewood can spread tree-killing pests like the Asian long horned beetle, the European Gypsy moth, and the emerald ash borer. It may cost you a few bucks more to buy local firewood, but it’s worth it to ensure the wilderness is there for the next generation of RVers.

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Wet Baths or Dry Baths: Which One is Right For Your Camper?

One of the best things about RV camping is that you have your own bathroom with you. You have the best of both worlds – you get to see America’s wild places, but you don’t have to hike up to a public bathroom that was last cleaned who knows when, or worse, use a pit toilet when nature calls. You may think that the only way to get a luxurious RV bathroom is to invest in a massive Class A motorhome or a 5th wheel. But that’s not the case. You can have a nice bathroom in a travel trailer too.

When you’re shopping for a camper, you’ll find two different styles of facilities. Wet baths are basically a shower with a toilet and a sink in the same space. This compact design is typically found in very small travel trailers (like the Airstream Basecamp or the Scamp), teardrops, class B motorhomes (camper vans), and many pickup campers. A dry bath is what you’re used to at home. The shower is in its own separate enclosure and doesn’t share the same space as your toilet or sink. You’ll find dry baths in class A and class C motorhomes, as well as 5th wheels and many travel trailers (even some of the smaller campers).

Choosing between a wet bath and a dry bath is largely driven by personal preference (and the size of the unit you’re buying). To figure out which will work better for you, consider some of the pros and cons below. Also keep in mind that with a travel trailer like the Bowlus, you don’t have to sacrifice any quality of life to get a luxurious RV bathroom in your camper.

Pros and Cons of Wet RV Bathrooms
A lot of the small RVs on the market today come with wet baths. Some RVers love them because of their small footprint. By collocating the shower, bathroom sink, and toilet all in the same small space, the other rooms in your RV can occupy more of the limited floorspace. One big positive to wet baths is that your shower may be larger than many standard RV dry baths, simply because the entire room is your shower. You also have a place to sit (remember to close the lid first!).

Unfortunately, the space saving benefits may not outweigh the negatives that come from having everything in the same shared room. There’s a reason it’s called a wet bath – everything gets wet when you take a shower, including the toilet, the walls, the counter, and the mirror. And when we say everything gets wet, we mean everything. You’ll need to take steps to cover your toilet paper with a shroud or an umbrella (yes, they make such things) before you turn on the shower, because no one wants a wet roll of T.P.

One of the other big downsides to a wet bath is the lack of storage in the camper bathroom. Vanities and cabinets are typically made of wood. Because the constant water and dampness in that room would cause them to rot, you won’t find such amenities in a wet bath. Not that there’s space to include them if you wanted to. Wet baths are designed to be compact so that the living or sleeping spaces can be larger. All this means that your hand soap, towels, toothbrush, and all the other things that are a part of your bathroom routine need to be removed from the countertop and stowed away someplace else prior to your shower. With a wet bath, you need to be prepared to spend some time moving things in and out of the room.

You also need to invest in a good squeegee and some towels because you have to dry the room off after your shower. Leaving the room to air dry can lead to mold, mildew, and potentially hard water stains. It can also make for an unpleasant experience for the room’s next occupant (wet socks, yuck!). While this means your small RV bathroom will get cleaned more often, it’ll take some time and generate extra laundry.

Wet baths also don’t provide a lot of privacy if you’re camping with someone else. Wet baths have a glass or acrylic door like your shower at home, rather than a wood one, so others may be able to see into the bathroom. The doors are also often open at the top to allow for additional ventilation. Wet baths do come with a vent fan to help draw moisture and odors outside, but the humidity from your shower (and other unpleasant things) will seep into the rest of your trailer.

Lastly, wet baths tend to show wear faster than their dry bath counterparts. This is in part because the bathroom floor is the shower pan and you’re walking on it every time you use the sink or the toilet. This could lead to scuffs from shoes, cracks, discoloration and staining from standing water.

If you opt for a RV with a wet bath, you’re going to want to invest in a wet bath kit. Most come with everything you need to keep important things dry (like the toilet paper umbrella), and to dry out the room when you’re done.

Pros and Cons of Dry RV Bathrooms
Dry baths, as we noted earlier, are set up like the bathroom you’re used to at home. They’re larger than wet baths, and depending on the layout, you could have two people in the space getting ready for the day’s adventures at the same time. At minimum, you’ll have more room to move around in your bathroom.

With dry baths, the RV shower is in its own enclosure, and depending on the floorplan of your RV, the toilet may be in its own small room (no wet toilet paper!). This is the case with the Bowlus Endless Highways Edition and Terra Firma. The hotel style shower, complete with an Italian marine shower head and teak flooring and seating, is on one side of the trailer. The stainless steel sink and our best-in-class cassette toilet are on the other. With doors to close off the entire bathroom space or just the toilet room, you and your traveling companions will have all the privacy you need.

Because dry baths don’t share the moisture issues of their wet counterparts, you’ll also have all the storage you need, where you need it. Most dry baths come with a vanity and a place to store linens and other toiletries. Bowlus luxury campers also have a medicine cabinet, a full length mirror, and large yours and mine wardrobes with hanging bars in the en suite bathroom. To make sure that any humidity is quickly dealt with, the Bowlus bathroom also has two vent fans.

We haven’t found any cons to having a dry bath. But maybe that’s because we’ve taken great care to maximize every square foot of our campers. We’ve also integrated little luxuries like continuous hot water and a bathroom heating fan to make sure all of your time camping in a Bowlus is as enjoyable and as relaxing as it can be. We strongly believe that you can have a spectacular dry bathroom in an easy to tow camper. So why would you invest in a large motorhome or fifth wheel when you can have it all with a Bowlus?

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