Cait and I really enjoy factory tours, especially those pertaining to one of our great joys in life, RVs. I have never thought about writing up a tour or product other than a brief mention in one of our normal posts; that is, until we toured Oliver Travel Trailers in Hohenwald, TN. If you do not feel like reading on, I will summarize the below admiration as follows: if you are in the market for a new (or new to you) rig, Oliver should be on your list of contenders.
I cannot count the number of times that Cait and I have popped into an RV dealer or show to check out the camper lineup. I also cannot keep track of how often I have cursed 95% of what is out there for being built like $#!%.
Our first rig was a Four Wheel Camper slide-in aluminum pop-up truck camper. You can read about it in other posts on our website. We loved this rig. I also had the opportunity to tour the factory in Woodland, CA a while back and was very impressed with the quality of what they were producing. Unfortunately, the small truck camper did not serve our needs for full timing on the road and we had to move on to something bigger. However, if we had room in the stable and budget, we would have kept it. It was a fantastic boondocking machine for weekend trips, and even long term vacations when not trying to get work done at the same time.
After sitting in 100s of RVs at trade shows and dealers, the only camper I could wrap my head around purchasing and being satisfied with the quality was something from the Airstream lineup. However, I had two major problems with them. First, and foremost, the price. They are costly rigs, and I didn’t see it being worth as much as they demand on the market. Second, they are what we like to call, “pavement princesses.” They are built to primarily stay on the asphalt. That being said, I do believe Airstream puts out a well-designed (and attractive) product if you can stomach the price tag.
We found ourselves gravitating towards fiberglass egg-style campers when in the market for a 2nd rig. The two biggest names out there are Scamp and Casita. We were in a bit of hurry to secure our next rig, and had also come across Escape as an option. We found their build quality and reputation to be up another notch on the scale, and after finding a fifth wheel available on the used market, we jumped on it. We have been very satisfied with their product, and would not hesitate to recommend them to others interested in this style of camper.
Oliver was not on our radar at the time we purchased the Escape 5.0. As luck had it, we were in the area of their factory and Cait set up a tour for us to take a look. We were absolutely blown away with what they are producing in Tennessee. They were gracious enough to take us on a nearly 2-hour private tour of their factory. While we won’t be able to buy one at this time, they have definitely earned themselves future customers when/if we decide to move to another camper.
Oliver is a manufacturer with years of experience in other fiberglass products. Their owners have a love of the outdoors and travel, and were equally unimpressed with the quality of RVs on the market. They, as we have found, had the most luck with fiberglass egg style campers. With their years of working with fiberglass products, they decided to start producing their own campers and started selling to the public in 2007. They strike me as a company that is constantly trying to improve their product, both in what is seen and not seen by the average buyer. I applaud them for not sticking with the status quo of RV construction. They are, in my humble opinion, producing the best quality trailers I have seen to date.
Their build from the ground up is impressive. Everything is over-engineered, in an effective way, to make sure the rig will survive the test of time and full-time use. The steel and aluminum frame has impressive welding and reinforcements. They use truck tires, not trailer tires, matched with outstanding shock absorption. All the tanks (grey, black, and fresh) are built into the shell rather than protruding from underneath, protecting them from the elements. This allows the tanks to stay heated without having to add unreliable heating pads and will keep everything running fine in cold weather. The electrical wiring harnesses are made in house using thicker gauge wiring than typically used. Furthermore, they use an agricultural style ball hitch that provides more points of contact and stability for a safer tow, especially off road. The trailers have outstanding ground clearance.
No photo can really capture the quality and thoughtfulness of their design. Every component also has a method of getting to it in case of repair or upgrade, without having to rip the structure apart. There are small drain holes throughout, which in the event of a water leak, would allow water to drain out of the camper rather than pool and cause damage. If it were not for these drain holes, this rig could truly float (insert day dream of an amphibious RV). On the note of water damage, they also use relatively little wood in the construction of the RV, which I love. I grow a bit tired of the boat cabin-esque feel that you get out of a lot of RVs. Their design is contemporary and stylish.
Overall, the interiors feel modern, bright, and open. Not a feeling you typically get in a smaller travel trailer.
Another item which struck me about them is their willingness and desire to listen to customer feedback and implement changes to their trailer designs year by year. They have attracted a number of engineers and enthusiasts of build quality to their customer base, and have often implemented great changes with customer feedback. One tidbit that I dropped on our tour guide, which I hope they listen to, is to offer a low amp draw compressor type (National Luna, Indel B, Engel, etc.) refrigerator/freezer option over the industry standard 3-way propane fridge (which I have grown to hate).
I also like that they are installing tech related items at the factory which have proven invaluable to us during our full timing experience: wifi boosters, 4g cell boosters, and appropriately sized battery banks (AGM if desired) and solar arrays. They also have unique futures like plumbed ac drains which always direct the exhaust water in the same location, rather than running off a new side of the rig with each use. Furthermore, their grey/black tank empty port is located at the rear below the spare tire in an aluminum case. You can leave the hose attached inside this box. The black tank is pressurized to allow more efficient emptying of the black tank. Emptying waste out of a camper is not on the list of favorite things to do. This feature is a nice touch. Finally, they offer an on-demand tankless water heating system that we’ve never seen offered in any other RV before.
They currently offer two rigs: an 18.5 and a 23.5 ft bumper pull travel trailers. It seems they are looking to expand to an even larger version. If they ever get around to producing an Oliver fifth wheel, we would be their first customers. They are a little bit pricier than competing egg style campers (starting at around 45-50k), but the build quality is DEFINITELY worth the price. As they stand, they are still less expensive than an Airstream. We are excited to see what is coming out over the next few years at Oliver and look forward to being a customer in the future when we can justify getting into a new rig.
If you find yourself near Hohenwald, TN, stop in for a tour at Oliver Travel Trailers and prepare to be impressed.
UPDATE JUNE 2017: This review has gotten a lot of feedback! A recurrent comment we’ve been hearing is regarding Oliver’s price tag, along the lines of ‘if I’m going to spend that amount of money on a trailer, I might as well get an Airstream.’ While we love Airstreams and recognize that they’re a very high-quality trailer, we think the Oliver is a better (and more affordable) bang for your buck. Check out our thorough comparison of Oliver vs. Airstream and see the numbers side by side here.