The days of canvas tents, a gas lantern and a Coleman stove have long passed when it comes to camping. According to a report by The Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, innovations and technology have made camping in recreational vehicles a whole lot more comfortable.
From air conditioning to slideouts to outdoor kitchens and even more recently, RVs with 1 1/2 baths, the world of camping is ever-changing.
“Outdoor kitchens with refrigerators, stoves are the newest big thing,” said 28-year RV salesman Don King of Fogdall RV in Cedar Falls. “We’re also seeing RVs with two doors, one that leads directly into the bathroom. And slideouts and multiple slideouts, that has been the biggest thing in the last 10 years. More space is big, bunkrooms in the back so parents and kids each have their own individual spaces.”
Active travelers are also seeking trailers that have rear space to carry ATVs, motorcycles and other all-terrain vehicles.
While innovations have made RVs spectacular, the market for new RVs fluctuates because of the fickle economy.
“It changes so fast,” said Greg Heath of A1 Vacationland. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and every time we think we have the answers for the RV market, believe me we don’t even have the questions.”
The Courier reported that locally, the results are mixed. Heath says business has been down, but service on older units is at an all-time high. At Fogdall, King says business is up 15%, the largest increase for Fogdall since 2008.
“Many of those are repeat customers, and probably 90% of our business is of the towable variety, which is more affordable,” King said.
While high gas prices have made consumers of RVs scale back on long trips, Heath and King say that isn’t a new trend to Northeast Iowa.
“We are so blessed with many great campgrounds in Northeast Iowa,” Heath said. “Campers can go a short distance, find a great campground and have a good time.”
Two campgrounds within the immediate area, George Wyth State Park and Black Hawk Park, are consistently packed on weekends.
“I would say most people who have RVs will camp within 50 miles of where they live,” King added. “That doesn’t mean all do it, but my guess is 75% of our customers stay within 50 miles.”
Another benefit to having great campgrounds in the area is business on two fronts.
“It is a huge benefit for our type of business because RV consumers typically do business within a 100-mile radius of their home,” King said.
For Heath and A1 Vacationland, where their service department has picked up the slack when sales have been slow, he has sent a lot of servicemen out to local calls and some as far away as Clermont, MacGregor and Marquette, which is part of a new trend — leaving an RV at a permanant location.
“We do a lot of service on campers where it doesn’t look like they’ve moved from their pad in two or three years,” Heath said. “I believe those type of campers are enjoying what they can without spending a lot of money to do it.”