A 16-Month Performance and Adventure Report
Sixteen months ago we drove our brand new Riverside 177 White Water Retro camper off of the dealer’s lot. Shortly before I posted the first “Camper Report,” we had experienced several minor issues, but after discussing our concerns with Riverside, we were able to resolve all of the issues.
In those 16 months, the camper has been out on 16 different trips: some on short trips within an hour or two of home, but there have also been week-plus trips traveling more than 1200 miles. We have visited many state and national parks—some with paved sites and full hook-ups to one or two places with no services that were little more than a place to park.
Among those trips, three have involved round trips of more than 1200 miles. One trip to West Virginia was a one-day, one-way mountainous drive of more than 600 miles. Another was a 1200-mile loop trip with three destinations. Here is what we have learned or experienced.
First, we knew that a small camper would involve compromises. Its compact size means less space to take everything, but also means easier towing and maneuvering.
Towing: We are towing the Riverside 177 with a 2004 Ford F-150 with the small V-8 engine. The truck-camper combination cruises very comfortably at 60-65 mph. We do notice some very minor sway or “push” when passed by tractor trailers or on very windy days. Still, it is easily controlled.
Much of our travel involves steep mountain, often narrow and winding, roads. The RV 177 tracks along smoothly, creating a high level of confidence that we can take the trailer into any camping area.
Set Up: The combination of the pick-up and the trailer length makes it very easy, and responsive when backing into a camping spot. With just a little practice and experience, we are both adept at parking the trailer where we want it on the first try.
It takes less than 30 minutes to back in to a full-hook-up camping space and chock, level, and stabilize the trailer; hook up all services; extend the awning; and consider ourselves “ready to camp.”
Camp Living: The Riverside 177 is “big” for a small camper. It has the feel of an efficiency apartment. Weather permitting, we do most of our camp “living” outside—that is why we go camping. If, however, the weather turns stormy, with just a little space planning, we can cook meals, read, work at the computer (one for each of us) or just relax in relatively roomy comfort. If I could change one thing, I think it would be to add one foot to the overall length and have just a little more room to move around the central queen bed. I might even be inclined to choose the twin bed configuration for just a little more room.
The combination toilet-shower offers convenience and flexibility. While we typically use campground bathhouses, the shower gives us a practical choice if it is too cold, or we are too lazy to walk to the bathhouse. It also allows us to use sites with no amenities and still be quite comfortable. The hot water heater supplies enough hot water for a thorough shower. It takes no more than 30 minutes to fully heat the water. The on-board fresh, gray, and black water storage provides about three days of realistic comfort for two of us before the waste-water tanks have to be dumped.
Getting in bed is the one area that I would work on. The mattress is custom shaped to allow walking space between the foot of the mattress and the sink. Still it is a squeeze to get through that space. Also, we added a substantial foam pad on the mattress for needed comfort. But now, once in bed, it is comfortable and I sleep well—and that is what counts.
Amenities: The factory installed air conditioner, which does require external power, is quite effective in cooling the interior. We have camped when the outside air temperature was in the high 90s with full sun. We have had no problems with the A/C installation.
While the dinette could be bit snug for two full size people the table slides easily and allows access for two full-sized adults (which we are).
Preparing a meal requires some space-use planning. The addition of the fold up shelf next to the two-burner stove is a real plus, providing welcome added workspace. There is space for a coffee maker and toaster next to the sink. Of course, there is always the microwave oven to heat prepared meals, snacks, and beverages.
The unit is prewired for cable television. We have found, however, only one state park campground that provided cable television. We have not stayed in any private or commercial campgrounds.
Storage and Closets: Our unit has hanging closets in the back on either side of the bed, with cabinets over the bed. There is also kitchen storage over the sink and next to the refrigerator, plus the small cupboard that sits on the left wheel well box. There is additional storage for blankets, larger utensils and whatever under the bed and under the curbside dinette bench. We tend to pack way too much, but we also seem to get it all in the trailer.
Reliability: The few issues we had in the first several months were not reliability issues. When properly hooked up or set up, everything has worked as expected. The awning can be a little stubborn, but we have learned how to manage that. I check everything before we go out on a trip, and I have not even had to add air to the tires yet.
Summary: We have enjoyed the Riverside RV 177. It has opened up the full spectrum of personal travel camping for us. It is large enough to live in, sufficiently well equipped to live in (camp) comfortably, and compact enough to tow easily and park just about anywhere.
On our last trip, we remarked that the camper was no longer part of the adventure: it simply lets us go somewhere, and within a few minutes we were ready to enjoy the adventures our destination has to offer.
For us, the compromises are far outweighed by the convenience, comfort, and ease of use.
Please note: While Riverside has been very helpful in resolving our initial concerns about our trailer, we receive no compensation from them for these articles.
All Photographs and text Copyright, 2015 Jeff Richmond