- Laurie Mrdjan
The Four Seasons Travel Trailer Built Full-time Living Tough
We stepped away from the large RV manufacturers, whose primary goal is to pump out as many RVs per year as possible. These usually suffer from quality issues. We believe that smaller manufacturers care more about quality and building a good name for themselves and we want to support those efforts. So we researched the Outdoors RV brand and what their customers had to say about them.
The Outdoors RV brand is a smaller manufacturer with a strong following of customers who love them. They only build four-season rigs. I exited from the other Facebook RV Owners groups, which I had joined in the previous weeks, and found the Outdoors RV owners group. I read through some posts and asked my standard questions about what people loved about them, what they wish they could change and is anyone towing with the setup we have. While none of the floor plans had an office, the Backcountry Series 28dbs had a double bunkhouse. After some YouTube searches, I found many videos of people who’ve converted bunkhouses into perfectly good offices. There is usually a window or two for natural lighting and a little door to load bikes if there is enough room.
Had we found our next home? This RV had everything we are looking for: 1. It was truly a four-season rig with a heated, enclosed underbelly and dump valves. 2. It had high R-value insulation, making it a superb choice for both hot and cold weather. 3. An onboard generator and solar come standard. 4. There is a cozy bedroom with a north/south bed, which is our favorite. 5. A large kitchen with plenty of counter space and power plugs. 6. A dry bath with a separate door for dirty mountain biking days, so we don’t get the entire house dirty. 7. Then there were my favorite parts: a fireplace and a bookshelf! This rig was certainly a wonderful find.
On 1/13/2023, we set off for the Xscapers Annual Bash in Lake Havasu City, AZ, our first convergence with Escapees even though we’d been members for years. We planned to stay Saturday through the holiday Monday and then head back to the campground in Brenda, AZ. We couldn't stay the full week as we don’t have an inverter to run our Alien Dishpatcher, Starlink Dishy, or our monitors for work and we didn’t take any PTO. I went to the Facebook group for Bash and asked if there would be anyone attending during the long weekend that has an Outdoors RV. And just my luck. A guy named Lee responded that they have one and will be there. We made plans to meet up, and Dom and I were so excited. The closest Outdoors RV to view was in Mesa, AZ, and we really wanted to look at one before putting a deposit down this time.
We met Lee and his wife Kelly; they live full-time in their rig and mountain bike. It was a perfect friendship in the making. They were kind enough to let us look around their RV. They showed us their solar setup, and we talked about things they liked and upgrades they had made. We went for a bike ride at Sara Park that was completely brutal, but everyone made it out alive and only one person sustained minor injuries.
We were in love with Outdoors RV! We enjoyed the rest of our time at Bash and found out that we could indeed boondock in our Apex 215RBK. We didn’t have to work and could use our generator to charge our devices and battery. When we got back to the campground, we called the dealership in Mesa and started talking numbers. After we could not get a reasonable deal from them, and everyone in the Facebook owners group had the same thing to say about them, we started discussing a trip to WA to buy an RV from them. The starting price was $20,000 less in WA than in Mesa. That trip was going to be long, though, and it was winter. We were worried about driving and towing through enormous mountains and long detours for closed passes. There was a good deal of logistics to this plan and we still had to work full time. Plus, the 28DBS was 38ft long and 8,000lb, which is a huge trailer.
We debated staying in the Apex until we could find a used 28DBS. The Quartzite RV show was on this weekend, so we went to look around and see what we could walk there. We said that we would again look at anything that fit most of our criteria and even consider the fifth wheels. On Saturday 1/21/2023, we headed into Quartzite. We started our walk-throughs in the fifth wheels, which made up the bulk of what was available at the show. We saw some beautiful floor plans with an office and a door. These things were massive, though. We were not excited about a giant rig, especially one that saw us getting rid of our cap and truck bed storage. We continued our search for the right rig.
On our way to see a different section with some bumper pulls, I saw a few Embers and immediately my eyes lit up. This was a brand that we saw on one of the online lists. A small manufacturer makes them. All rigs they build are four-seasons tested and rated, and they have a Curt suspension. I had seen that their largest model had a double bunkhouse. Maybe we could have our office without a gigantic rig after all!
I advised the saleswoman that I wanted to look at this model first if they had it. The one at the end was the one I was looking for 221MDB. We walked in and my excitement built. Even with the slide in, it was roomy. One of our criteria, which I haven’t yet mentioned, is that we want access to the bed, bathroom, and fridge with the slide in. This allows us to use our own bathroom while traveling, make lunch and if we need to stop for a quick overnight, we don't have to level or put the slide out.
The Ember 221MDB is 26ft long, in the 6,000lb range, and comes with solar standard. Our current rig is very easy to tow and this rig would only add 1ft. This floor plan has a Murphy bed with a jackknife sofa underneath, a dry bath, another jackknife sofa in place of a dinette, and a double bunkhouse. It is even is off-road ready, would allow us to work with consistent power, and we already know how to live in a space this exact size. We also already know we like it. This rig checks all except for one box. It would still need modifications to make it work for us. But, we were happy, and we talked to a rep to see what the numbers looked like.
After going back and forth with the sales guy and manager, we were not happy with the deal. This was a 2022 model, and they were asking for a 2023 price. We left to look around for the rest of the show. While walking, we spotted an Ember “in the wild” sort of. A company called ABC Upfitters had an Ember outfitted with a huge amount of solar panels, batteries, a charge controller, and a big inverter. We took a peek inside at the beautiful setup they had and told them we were in the market to buy an Ember. Their floor plan was 191msl, which has the same layout as a 221mdb but is 4ft shorter and the bunks are single instead of double. They had made a ton of upgrades to this one. They gave their feedback to Ember in hopes of future standard option upgrades for 2023. It was amazing! We talked with them for a long while and asked a million questions. By now, it was time to go home, let the dogs out, and discuss what we had seen.
A quick online search made me realize that Ember had updated its website in the last two weeks. They now had a 2023 221msl dubbed “The Missile” and it had ALL the upgrades that we had seen in the 191 at the show. We had found it! This rig had every single thing that we have been looking for. A small footprint, boondock ready off the lot, a changeable space that could be an office, a garage for bikes, or a guest room without us having to change anything and bring down the value of the RV! It was within the price range that we were looking to spend and there were two available in AL, where it is still warm almost the whole drive there.
We contacted the first dealership in AL and expressed our interest. We slept on the deal presented for Sunday 1/22/2023.