Building a camper gives you a lot of respect for the craftsmen who assemble campers and RVs. Not only do they do good work but they work fast. Most campers and RVs are assembled in just 30 to 45 man hours. Compared to what I can get done in an hour, those guys are magicians.
But that speed also has a downside. There’s less time for craftsmanship and there are a lot of little mistakes made in haste. RV builders are also jamming a lot of components into modern campers. Some of those are necessitated by law, but most are driven by consumer preference. Two of the downsides of all those components are weight and complexity. I hate heavy campers and I hate complexity. Especially tightly packed collections of cheap components. Complexity leads to more frequent repairs and more weight costs more money. Whatever drives the selection, these are the things I hate about modern campers.
If there’s one thing I hate on modern campers and RV, it’s fabric roofs. Whether it’s EPDM, TPM, or PVC it’s going to leak. Before it starts leaking, you’re going to put in a lot of time cleaning and resealing around the edges of that fabric. The reason manufacturers use fabric roofs are because they’re cheap and light. Any roof on a camper will leak eventually. The seals around vents and A/C units need regular maintenance, all of which involves a lot of scraping and cleaning. If there’s one single thing that’s going to fail on an RV, it’s going to be the roof. And that’s why a one-piece aluminum roof with no vent or A/C units was tops on my list for our new camper.
If RV furniture was cheap because it was lightweight, I’d be more understanding. But judging by the furniture we had and what I’ve seen, it’s just cheap. Our couch was short, poorly made, and heavy. It did not hold up well; none of our furniture did. The fabric on chairs frayed, fixtures leaked, and the only furniture that came out in good shape were the chairs we put in storage. We got a leather fold-down couch for the new camper for $249.
I remember when pressboard first came out. The way people described it back the day you’d think it was the second coming of woodworking. Take wood chips, mix it with glue and voila, something almost as good as plywood. Except it’s not as good as plywood and, if it gets wet, it swells up and then dry rots. Pressboard is one of those substitutes made strictly on cost.
My wife and I were walking around a beautiful park one night when I noticed a small waterfall draining out of the basement of a 5th wheel. It was really coming out. Another day I was moving some bins in our 5th wheel basement and found a puddle of water from a leaking manifold. Those were sadly typical examples of what happens over time with RV plumbing. If you have decent water pressure, the lines and fittings start to leak. If you use a pressure limiter, then you’re stuck with anemic water pressure. We eventually had to replace the basement floor in our RV, which was made of pressboard.
Slide outs are heavy and complicated, which means you’re going to have trouble with them. That trouble usually strikes when you’re ready to pack up your RV and head out. Almost anything else on a camper can be fixed in a few minutes to a couple hours, even a flat tire. But, if you lose a slide to something like a broken hydraulic line, you may be stuck for days. After slides and getting by without slides, without is better. Although, that opinion could change if the actual opening mechanism wasn’t dependent on hydraulics.