Editor’s Note: This is a review written by Jeff Johnston. His Motor Matter column runs in the Washington Times and other newspapers. He also is a contributor to RVBusiness.
It isn’t often that an RV industry development can be called “revolutionary” without bringing to mind “As Seen on TV” hyperbole. In the case of the new SatelLite trailer from Komfort Corp., that description could be right on the money.
The SatelLite is built using a new plastic-like composite material called Eco Composite (EC), which replaces much of the wood and other materials used in traditional RV construction. Advantages to the use of EC are a lighter RV, translating into fuel savings, greater strength for longer-term durability and a significant reduction of vehicle damage from leaks or other water intrusion. Those features add up to a better long-term investment.
EC has been around for a while and has been used in other products. In a much thicker configuration it’s a type of commercial armor used in assorted bulletproofing security applications. Even in RV use any surface that incorporates EC is highly resistant to punctures and impact damage – and that can save the costly repair of an RV built using standard materials.
Water leaks and the resulting wood rot are the primary causes of RV damage. When wood components, like roof decking or wall backers, are removed and replaced by EC (a completely waterproof material), it reduces the chance that leaks around windows or rooftop components can lead to expensive repairs later on. Chalk up another one for investment value.
We toured a SatelLite at George M. Sutton RV in Eugene, Ore., and salesman Terry Thiesfeld explained the features of the nearly 30-foot SatelLite model 299RB, one of five SatelLite models.
Other than some cabinet framing, there is very little wood used to build the SatelLite. Its roof, walls and floor all feature aluminum frames with polystyrene insulation and vacuum-laminated assembly techniques – but that’s where the similarity to other RVs ends.
The 299RB weighs about 5,100 pounds dry, which is pretty remarkable for a rig that’s just under 30 feet long. The usual EPDM rubber, fiberglass or aluminum roof skin is replaced by EC with no wood underlayment, and the interior ceiling is likewise EC.
RV users should experience minimal maintenance chores with the EC roof, which the manufacturer claims it’s 100-percent UV stable. This should result in no sidewall-staining chalking or black streaking, as can happen with other materials.
Not only is the EC roof UV-resistant, it’s also a single sheet of material so there are no seams to leak. All of the EC in this rig comes from a large roll of material so any component using the EC is seamless, which adds considerable strength – that’s a good idea for a product that sees rugged uses common to RV activities.
An exterior skin of extra-smooth gelcoat fiberglass with a Kevlar-like backing material is laminated to a layer of EC that in turn is adhered to the wall framing. A different composite material with a decorative finish covers the interior wall surfaces.
Due to the concentrated stress of occupants walking inside, a layer of thin lauan plywood is used as a backer for the EC on the floor. This is topped with decorative vinyl flooring. EC is also used on the lower floor frame surface as an underbelly. Not only is the EC waterproof, as are the other materials used for RV underbelly skins, it’s also a structural component, a strong material choice for this application.
Many pieces of interior woodwork, including the cabinet doors and drawer fronts and the trim around the slideout room, are plastic moldings instead of wood. The moldings are much lighter than wood and very durable in addition to looking classy.
This type of construction doesn’t come cheap – the 299RB we toured was stickered at $37,052. That price includes almost no options, as the trailer comes with a long list of standard equipment, including the 27-inch LCD TV, custom aluminum wheels, stabilizer jacks, dark-tinted safety glass, a glass-top range, blackwater tank flush system and other features.
Its floorplan is popular with travel trailer buyers and features a forward island queen bed, aft-end bath, streetside slideout with the kitchen and sofa/bed and a large curbside U-shaped dinette.
Its 5,100-pounds mean the SatelLite can be safely towed by a wide range of half-ton-rated pickups or medium-sized SUVs, meaning many families are already set with a tow vehicle.
As designers become more familiar with the materials, the use of composites is growing among RV manufacturers. The SatelLite is a good early example of what the next generation of RVs may bring.