In this series, we talk to RVers about the search for their dream rig. Find out which options are on the table, and which rig they ultimately choose. If you’re interested in participating in this series, send us an email at email@example.com.
Just 9 months after Johann Schnell and his family bought their first RV, a small Jayco hybrid —a travel trailer with sides that fold out, pop-up style—they were ready for an upgrade.
“With the first one, we didn’t really know what we were doing,” Schnell says. The family wanted something small, to make towing easier, but the Jayco pushed their van’s towing capacity to its limit. “We realized we probably should’ve bought the camper we wanted, and then just gotten the vehicle we needed to tow it.”
They quickly traded their minivan for a used Cadillac Escalade with a higher towing capacity, but with two kids and two dogs, the hybrid felt cramped.
“On our earliest camping trips, that’s when we knew we made a mistake,” Schnell says. “It didn’t have a slide. At first, we were like, ‘We don’t need much space, we’ll only be inside to sleep!’ Well, we live and camp in Florida. So it’s hot, there are bugs, and when it’s not hot, 50 degrees feels way too cold.” The family used their camper a lot; they’re Disney World pass holders and travel to the Fort Wilderness campground a few times a year, plus trips to the beach. But they were spending a lot more time inside the RV than they’d planned, and needed more space to get comfortable.
“We went to a couple of RV shows to look around,” Schnell says. “We were lucky to be in a situation where the budget wasn’t the limiting factor.” They were willing to spend whatever it took to get the right RV for their family.
They knew they wanted something spacious, and “the fifth wheel was alluring, but it was also very intimidating,” he says, “because we were only really 9 months into RV ownership.” There were a few non-negotiables: “Our hybrid had three queen-sized beds, and our new one was also going to have three queen beds. To us, having sleeping space was really important.”
So, which RV did they choose?
The Three Options
The Shamrock is a hybrid with three true queen-sized beds; in the front, back, and left side, all in the pop-outs. It also has a large bathroom with a corner shower, a dinette slide (the dinette converts to another sleeping area), plus a full-size pull-out couch—but at 23 feet long, the footprint is compact.
The interior is well-appointed, with ducted air conditioning, a glass shower door, and windows on the single slide-out.
The Jayco Eagle is a smaller fifth wheel with a large main bedroom that features a queen-sized bed and wardrobe slide with windows for ventilation. The larger slide-out holds the dinette and couch, which are both convertible to extra sleeping areas.
The rear bunkhouse features four bunks, each measuring 30 inches by 74 inches, with extra storage in the bunkhouse stairs. Other features include ducted A/C and an outdoor kitchen. The total exterior dimensions are just over 35 feet long and 96 inches wide.
Also a hybrid, this Jayco Jay Feather model features three pop-out beds and a dinette slide. Its pop-outs use Jayco’s water-repellant and scratch-resistant Jayco DuraTek vinyl, which comes with a 5-year warranty.
It has non-ducted A/C, but the main living area and bathroom are spacious. The overall measurements come to just under 25 feet long and 96 inches wide, making it simple to tow.
The Winner: Flagstaff by Forest River Shamrock Series M-233S
Schnell and his family were able to buy their new RV for $22,000, well below the MSRP, and they’ve been extremely happy with the purchase. Schnell says that on their first trip out to the campground with their upgraded rig, they knew they’d made the right decision.
“In the whole central area—kitchen, living room, dinette—there’s enough room for people to move around,” he says. “We even play Just Dance [a video game] and it’s fine.” With its small footprint, they feel comfortable towing the Flagstaff Shamrock Series and are able to easily fit into small campground sites.
While Schnell says they’re likely to eventually upgrade to a fifth wheel, for now, they aren’t ready to purchase something quite so big. What made them choose the Flagstaff Shamrock Series over the Jayco Jay Feather, though, came down to the details.
While the two hybrid RV options have almost identical floorplans, Schnell says, “the Flagstaff has a lot of luxury features—even just little things like the shower having a glass door instead of a curtain—that the other didn’t.”
There are some drawbacks, of course. Schnell says he does wish for an onboard generator. Another pain point is that “the sewer hookups and black tank flush are on opposite sides of the camper,” he said. “I have to run an extra hose all the way to the other side.”
But by and large, it was exactly the right choice. “We know there are tradeoffs, but for our current style and wants, this is an awesome setup,” he says.
Disclaimer: Togo RV is part of a joint venture, partially owned by Thor Industries, Inc., of which Jayco is a subsidiary.