First Outing with the Coachmen Clipper 17fq

Our first camping trip of 2019 was with our Coachmen Clipper 14R…

….and in early June we took our new-to-us Coachmen Clipper 17fq to the same local campground:

Since it’s the same brand of trailer, we didn’t have any trouble figuring out how to get things set up. (It actually took longer to get the TV programmed than to get the electric, water, and cable connected.)

Even the awning went up without a problem. 😉

Since this was a one-night outing, we packed lightly and didn’t even bring our propane stove. We weren’t sure what we’d do for dinner, but then we learned that the campground was hosting a dinner for all camping guests in their community building that evening! Really?! SO impressed!

After this delicious and unexpected treat, we played a few games of pool while listening to live music.

It’s been such a hot, humid, and stormy spring, but we were blessed with beautiful weather. It was cool enough that evening to enjoy the warmth of a campfire.

Having the opportunity to get out in the trailer pretty well convinced us that it’s a good size for us, and the layout (with side dinette) gives us enough room to actually get out of each other’s way when we’re both in it. It definitely has everything that we’d need for an extended road trip, but I had one major concern: could my Kia Sorento really handle towing it?

The dry weight of the trailer is just over 2700 pounds–still well under the 5000-pound towing capacity of my SUV–so we decided to put it to the test the next morning by towing up Afton Mountain. To add to the challenge, we were going to take Rt. 250 West….

On I-64, the approximately 1200-foot climb happens over a distance of about 5 miles. By contrast, the distance from the foot of the mountain (starting at the Rockfish Gap Country Store) to the top on Rt. 250 is just a little over 3 miles but it’s much, much steeper.

Despite having the car in “sport mode” (which is recommended for towing) AND using the manual shift option to lock it into gear, I ultimately had to downshift to 3rd to creep up the mountain at 35 mph. Not good. Seriously, not good; the car felt significantly under-powered for this. (On the positive side, the Kia’s temperature gauge didn’t change at all; there were no signs of it overheating.)

Just when I could have possibly gained some speed and shifted to 4th gear, a large RV pulled out from Rt. 6, heading up the mountain. Since it was also going 35 mph, I just fell in behind it and chugged along the rest of the way to the top. All in all, though, the Kia’s performance was very disappointing. 🙁

As soon as I get the anti-sway bar hardware mounted on the tongue of the trailer to feel safer about towing the trailer on the interstate, I want to try this climb again on I-64. If I can maintain a speed of at least 45 mph, then maybe having the Kia as a tow vehicle for a trailer this size will be do-able. Dunno.

While Wayne pointed out that there are a lot of places we could go (Westmoreland State Park, Smith Mountain Lake, etc.) that don’t involve steep grades like what we encountered towing up Afton Mountain on Rt. 250, when you dream of touring the country with a travel trailer, the thought of being limited by geography or elevation isn’t really a part of that dream, you know?

While I’m not quite ready to start car/truck shopping, tentative vacation plans that involved towing our trailer out of state in a couple of weeks were cancelled. Bummer.

For its size, the Kia offers good gas mileage and comfort for long road trips as well as for daily commutes. And unless/until we have the ability to do frequent extended road trips with the trailer, I’m not sure that it would make a lot of sense to upgrade to a larger, more powerful (and less economical) SUV–or a truck.

Anyhow, I guess we’ll do a few more outings with the Kia and Clipper this summer and see how it goes….

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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