Sunday, April 14, 2013

2013 Aliner Expedition - Maiden Voyage

I've been thinking about some sort of camper trailer for years, but never found the right combo of features, size, portability, and most important - stowability - unitl a friend told me about the aframe style campers by Aliner and Chalet. 

Fast forward, and I purchased a 2013 Aliner Expedition from Apache Camping in Everett WA during the Seattle RV show in February. Fast forward again to April 6th, and I finally take delivery.  Not exactly what I ordered - one of the roof vents seemed to be missing (but I'm told they stopped putting in the 2nd roof vent on 2013 models), and mine had a stereo that I didn't order (oh well...), but the fit and finish seemed superior to the 2012 model that I sat in at the RV show.

I'm hoping to blog the adventures that my dog, Ryder, and I take over the coming months and years to share with people who I don't Facebook with, and to add to the extrememly limited commentary on the Aliners and aframe camping that I've found on the web. If you stumble on this and have nice things to say, please add your comments.

Maiden voyage

Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA

The forecast for the weekend was for Cold, Rain, and High Wind - sounds like fun, huh?  Refreshing the weather report just kept making it worse, and the map showed that nothing within my reach would get me into sunnier skies.  I was planning to head for the coast, and it wasn't until I was on my way visiting with my parents 60 miles south of my Seattle home in Olympia that my father recommended Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.  Port Townsend is somewhat in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, so it sounded like it might have some hope of some decent weather.

We arrived around 5pm under a mix of sun and clouds, and had plenty of dry time between downpours to enjoy the park and the beach.  Our first night in the new Aliner found us (yes, me and the dog) getting used to the sounds of the furnace fan kicking in, the fridge and hot water heater firing up, and the pounding rain on the roof.  Still, we slept well and comfortably. 

I bought the Expedition model with the couch that pulls out to make a queen sized bed, but I decided to make a permanent bed out of it, and topped the cushions with a 4 inch memory foam mattress pad.  Adding linens, a blanket, and a down comforter, and my Aliner bed is now easily as comfortable as the bed in my home.  At least Ryder thinks so.

I was surrounded in the park by RVs ranging from big to huge to monsterous.  I think I was the only trailer in the park without an antenna or dish on the roof, and some of these beasts were almost as big as my house.  The Aliner to me is a "glamping" alternative to tent camping that I'm hoping will open me up to 3 and maybe 4 season camping by getting me out of the dirt, rain and mud and giving me a comfortable place to retreat from the elements - but not completely replace my house.

First impressions? The Aliner is incredibly easy to tow.  My 2012 Jeep (with towing package) is rated at 5500lbs towing capacity, and weighing in at less than 2,000lbs and having a low center of gravity, the Aliner is hardly noticable and only sucks about 2 mpg off of my gas mileage. 

The interior feels open and bright, and big enough to impress someone who has spent his life tent camping.  Setup is rediculously simple and fast as is takedown and getting on the road.  My interior has a flush mounted sink and stove, meaning that my dog has no issues walking over the top of them.  The toilet makes for a welcome middle of the night ammenity, and storage opportunities are good - though I would like to have a drawer or two.  I put a slideout into one of the cabinets, and otherwise use several plastic storage bins to keep food, clothes, etc.
By night 2, we had the thermostat dialed in and turned off the water heater and fridge fan (that's used to increase cooling due to the cramped containment of the compressor) and had a much quieter night.  The stove was great for coffee, bacon and eggs, and the microwave (which I had initally poo-poo'd as unnecessary) came in very handy.  Still getting used to the idea of "plugging in" while camping as I had really planned to spend most of my camping time off the grid. 
Hiding out from the rain was really nice.  I was very happy with the Aliner's performance in both the rain and the wind.  The four stabilizer jacks hold the camper firmly in place in winds that must have hit 30+ mph at times, and there were no leaks of any kind in some of the short-lived downpours over the weekend.  I had read some forum posts and such that suggested that the Aliner construction was not so good, but at least from my initial experience, everything looks really good.
Note to self:  bring 12v vacuum to keep the sand out of the bed.