Living and Traveling in a Pop-Up Aliner Trailer
Ups and downs of an Aliner (pun intended)
(As you may know, I don’t recommend pop-up trailers or campers for full-timers because I believe their disadvantages outweigh their advantages. However, the Aliner pop-up trailer solves all the problems but has all the advantages. They’re highly recommended. My friend Chip graciously agreed to write this review of his Aliner)
After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast I decided to look for a bug-out camper that my family (2 adults, cat, dog and bird) could evacuate with and live in indefinitely. Since I only had a 4 cylinder car at the time I needed something small and lightweight that it could safely handle. On top of that, we didn’t like the idea of a pop-up tent camper – especially in foul weather (as in peripheral winds and rain associated with a hurricane.) This meant that it had to have hard (preferably well insulated) sides. It also had to be lightweight, with a small frontal area so it could be tow-able by my 4 cylinder car. We wanted a self-contained unit with a shower, potty, kitchen, and a big comfy bed. OK, we wanted a lot in a small package and I thought it unlikely I would find something that met all the above criteria that we could afford, as we only had a $10k budget.
That’s when providence stepped in AH-AH-AH (angel sounds) and I found a camper meeting all my stringent criteria and more – a barely used (protective plastic still on the stove and shower curtain – indicating they had never been used) 2006 Aliner LXE at a nearby dealer well within my budget.Aliners feel very safe and secure in foul weather and are more comfortable in extreme temperatures than a cloth sided pop-up. We found this out when Hurricane Gustav hit the coast and we evacuated the family to N. Alabama to escape the brunt of the storm. Though the wind still blew so hard it shook the trailer, we stayed safe and dry. The campground we stayed at was naturally overfilled due to the storm, so they only had one small campsite with 15 amp a/c power available (basically a tent site.) No problem! We fit in just fine and a small extension cord (Aliner normally uses a 30 amp pedestal) was enough to power our 5,000 Btu window air conditioner, fridge, and everything else in the camper, including our little TV/DVD player. Though the power did go off for a few hours during the storm, we had our camper battery and propane tank to fall back on.
We simply threw a rope over the top and secured it fore and aft (to prevent the roof halves from separating in high winds) and we were good to go. Though Aliner warns of erecting them in high winds, once up, they are sturdy. A simple rope cinched tightly with a motorcycle tie-down will keep the roof halves together in all but the worst conditions. There are several commercially available “wind kits” available that offer even more strength and protection, but our cheap rope has served us well so far, and we’ve been through some pretty high winds – especially on the top of Mt. Magazine, the highest peak in Arkansas that really rocked the camper with 50-60 mph gusts, yet we were safe and comfy inside.
There is very little room to move around inside our fully loaded LXE model, but you never feel claustrophobic because the ceiling is so high. I’m 5′ 11″ and I can’t even reach the peak inside even on tiptoes – and I have the low wall model. The high wall model has even more room inside, as do larger models with a dormer.
The foam seals and bungie cords holding the roof halves together need to be replaced every few years as they will weather and age over time. This is a simple and inexpensive procedure you can do yourself from foam weatherstripping and bungies from a big box hardware store. All campers develop small leaks over time that will need to be calked. The Aliner probably less than most. The older models have been known to leak at the corners, so if buying a used one check for this. After 2005 Aliner switched their flooring from plain luan (glued pressed wood) to Performax (a superior flooring substrate that is very water resistant) so models made in 2006 and later years don’t have the soft floor problems older models were plagued with.
Overall it has proven to be very durable and reliable. I have towed it for about 40,000 miles all over the country with few problems. Of course bearings have to be packed once or twice a year, brakes adjusted, the battery kept charged and watered – normal maintenance with any trailer.
Overall we’ve been very happy with our choice of camper. Though for 2 people it gets a little crowded inside (my DW says cozy.) Compared to a van, it’s a mansion on wheels. If one were to pull it with a van, or truck with camper, utilizing both spaces, it would be a an ideal “marriage saving” solution to a full-timing couple’s privacy and mental health needs.
Now that the patent has run out there are other companies other than Columbia Northwest (the original Aliner folks) and Chalet (a high quality licensed A-frame clone) are producing their versions. So there are now plenty varieties and sizes on the market to choose from at different price points, so you are sure to find a model that suits your needs.
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