Which trailer do I use?

I’ve always been a lover of campers, camper trailers, RV’s and the like.  I’ve owned several in different sizes but when I saw the Jayco 10RK at Zabukovic RV in Pueblo West, I fell in love!  I had the perfect tow rig, my 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.  I pulled the trigger on the brand new 10RK, generator, and the various odds and ends I would need.  I left that day on a 2 day trip with Nichole to try it out.  It would be the beginning of many many more trips in what came to be known as “The Pod”.

Why did I select the Jayco 10RK?  Partially because it was at a local RV dealer where I could actually look at it before buying.  Jayco uses aluminum structures so it was built well and if I had any issues I could work through the dealer.  I also liked the fact it didn’t have a water heater or a furnace.  It does hold about 20 gallons of fresh water though.  It also has a sink which can convert into a hose for rinsing off people, dogs or gear.  I liked that this version had the baja package so it was lifted and had aluminum wheels.  While I had seen many other teardrop style trailers some of the prices were just way too high for me!  I had also seriously considered the Sunray 109, E Pro 12RK and several others.  I wasn’t willing to pay 20+ thousand dollars for a rig.  The Jayco was affordable in the realm of tear drops which helped make my decision.  I also love the headroom and the mattress was as nice as anything I’d slept on even in my house!

My Tow Rig

My primary tow rig is the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk I already own.  It’s equipped with the v6 and the tow package which gives the ability to tow around 4500 lbs.  The Jayco, even fully loaded, only weighs around 2000.  I do have a lift and tires on my Jeep so I wouldn’t max out the tow capacity but the Jayco gives plenty weight wiggle room.  Be sure to get a hitch that’s long enough to allow you to still open your hatch!  The Trailhawk has proven to be a worthy tow rig.  I’ve put many thousands of miles on the Jeep with the trailer and never have had an issue.  Don’t forget to get the trailer brake installed too, mine didn’t come with one from the factory.

Pros of overlanding with a Trailer

There are many forms of overlanding and hauling a trailer is just one of them.  If you’re analytical like me you’ll be wondering things like, “What’s the best overlanding trailer?” or “Can I overland with a trailer?”.  Like all things gear related the trailer has it’s pros and cons.  I’ll dig deeper into that now by talking generally about the pros and cons of hauling a trailer in general.  I’ll then go into the specifics of the pros and cons of the Jayco 10RK. 

Pro #1 – Super Easy Setup

For me this is a big one!  I wanted something that I could drive as long as I wanted to then get out of my Jeep, get into the camper and go to bed.  A tent requires setup and the trailer really doesn’t.  In less than 5 minutes I can literally be asleep!  Because I have the correct hitch height between my jeep and the trailer, the trailer sits perfectly level when attached to the Jeep.  Assuming I’m on mostly flat ground the trailer is good to go right when I turn off the Jeep.  No more staking anything out, tearing anything down, moving sleep gear from one place to another, etc.  Straight from the driver seat to the bed!

Pro #2 – Safe, Warm, Dry

No matter what’s going on outside you’ll ALWAYS have a safe, warm and dry place to sleep.  This may be especially important if you’re traveling with children or a spouse who’s not as hardcore as you are!  I’ve been in the trailer when it’s raining, snowing, single digit temps, etc.  The wind doesn’t blow it over, the ground doesn’t interfere with the sleeping, it’s like taking a traveling hotel room!  Don’t underestimate the value of this.  When you’ve driven all day it can be demoralizing knowing you still have to set up a tent or you have to stop driving sooner knowing you have some additional time to get camp ready.

Pro # 3 – Leave camp setup and go explore!

If you are basecamping in an area and doing some exploring you can just leave your pod all setup and take your tow rig to go explore!  I’ve done this on several occasions.  I left the pod at Hayden Creek Campground and then drove the Jeep over Hayden Pass. I initially tried hauling the trailer over Hayden pass but I’m glad I didn’t.  It was rough!  You can check out the Youtube video here.  However, it worked well to leave the trailer at the campground then go explore.  It was all ready when we got back several hours later.  It won’t blow away while you’re gone that’s for sure!

Pro #4 – Have all your gear ready all the time and still have a daily driver

Many people don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated adventure vehicle.  That means you’ll need to load and unload your gear for every adventure.  If you’re anything like me you bring A LOT of stuff!  Probably more than necessary!  If you have an adventure trailer you can leave all your gear ready to go all the time.  That way all you have to do is hitch it to your vehicle and hit the road.  Convenience for me is important.  I don’t generally have unlimited amounts of time to explore so being able to hit the road quickly and unload quickly upon my return is awesome. 

Cons of overlanding with a trailer

Now that we hit the pros of a trailer let’s talk about the drawbacks.  When considering how you’ll be adventuring or overlanding you’ll need to compare and contrast the different methods to determine what works best for you. 

Con #1 – Length

This is an issue for sure!  I was recently on a trip to Roxborough State Park in Colorado.  The gal at the gate was hesitant to let me in because they only have parking for passenger vehicles or small RV’s.  The length of my Jeep and Jayco is about 28 feet.  While that’s fairly short in the world of campers and RV’s it’s still substantially longer than just the vehicle!  Tight trails can be a problem too.  If you are going to haul a trailer on your overlanding adventures I recommend having a smaller tow rig if possible.  When I tow The Pod with my 97 crew cab long bed f350 it’s like the length of a school bus and you have to be VERY careful where you go!

Con #2 – Maintenance

When you have more mechanical items you have more opportunities for breakage.  The trailer means you have 2 more tires in contact with the ground which increases the chances of flats or blow outs.  You have more brakes to maintain, bearings, hinges, windows, etc.  You’re trailer will also have things like a microwave, plumbing and electrical that can all fail.  So far I’ve had very good luck with my Jayco 10 RK but I do know at some point it’s going to require maintenance.  One good thing about having extra tires is you may be able to use them as spares on your vehicle!  If you can match up your trailer bolt pattern and tire size with your tow rig you could use any tire as a spare on the tow rig or the trailer.  You could also just bring one spare tire and it would work for any of the tires. 

Con #3 – Traveling with others

If you’re the only one with a trailer in your group it can make travel more difficult.  You’ll be longer, heavier, and less manueverable.   You will have to find campsites that fit your longer rig and you may have to modify routes to be sure the route is trailer friendly.  I’ve had this situation a few different times.  You do have the option of leaving the trailer, doing whatever exploring you need to do, then coming back for it.  This works ok when you are exploring an out and back trail or a loop that takes you back to your starting point.  It’s not ideal if you’re going on a pass that will drop you 50 or more miles from your trailer spot though and now you have to return to retrieve the trailer.  If you all have trailers it would be better because all routes for all drivers would be similar.

Con #4 – Tow Vehicle Wear and Tear

Because you’ll be hauling a decent amount of weight behind you, your tow rig is going to get more wear and tear.  Your transmission will work harder, your brakes work harder, your engine generates more heat, etc.  Just be mindful that your service intervals will likely reduce and be sure you stay up on the important stuff like bearings, coolant, oil, filters, and fluid changes.  This may not be a huge concern if you’re not covering huge distances or difficult terrain on your overlanding adventures but definitely keep it in mind!

Pros and cons of the Jayco 10RK

Now that I’ve addressed the general pros and cons I’m going to speak specifically to the Jayco 10 RK.  Each trailer that you’re looking at or you already own will have the things it’s good at and not so good at and you need to align them with your needs. 

Pro #1 – Interior Height

I’m a big fan of the Jayco 10RK due to the interior height.  Many tear drops are low and changing inside is almost impossible.  The Jayco is 44 inches tall and I have plenty of room to kneel and change or sit up to read a book or journal.  It does sit quite a bit taller than my Trailhawk though.  If having a trailer that’s taller than your tow rig is a concern this one may not be the one for you.  Also, if you have a short garage it may not fit in.  I do know it will fit in my 8 foot bay because I store it indoors.  When I converted the Jayco for 1 person use the height was really useful.  Read more about that in the modifications section further down the page.

Pro #2 – double doors

The Jayco has 2 entry exit doors.  This is surprisingly convenient!  If you or your camper mate need to use the bathroom it’s easy to just open your door to get out.  Also, being able to access gear from either side when the trailer is converted to 1 person use is awesome.  You can also open both doors for a great cross breeze on warm days when you’re lounging inside.  I didn’t think having two doors was a big deal but now when I look at others I take it into consideration.

Pro #3 – Back kitchen with Awning

Kitchens are arranged differently in many trailers.  I’m a big fan of the Jayco setup that has it off the back and the back door turns into a super functional awning.  It’s quite large and when cooking or using the sink in inclement weather it keeps me nice and dry!  It’s a great place for shade too and since your fridge is back there you can just grab a cold one ( I prefer sparkling water!) and sit in the shade admiring the scenery around you.  I have heard of an issue with hinge failure so be sure you’re prepared for something like that. 

Pro #4 – Wired for shore power

While I love off grid overlanding adventures I must say it’s nice to be plugged into shore power sometimes too!  On a recent trip to Chatfield State Park I was spoiled by shore power.  I reheated the dinner from the night before in the morning using the microwave.  I used a 1500 watt heater to stay warm instead of the propane buddy heater I usually use.  I also bring a generator with me often and I can just plug it straight into the trailer then power everything off of that.  Super convenient!  I likely would not buy a trailer that wasn’t wired for shore power or I’d have to retrofit it to work.

Cons of Jayco 10RK

Along with the good comes some bad!  Here are some things specific to the 10RK where I think the trailer falls short. 

Con #1 – Basic Amenities

For me this was actually a positive attribute because I wanted simple but for others they could be deal breakers.  The Jayco 10RK does not come with a furnace or a water heater.  Some units are outfitted with a 110v heating/cooling unit but you lose a lot of valuable inside storage and you must be hooked to a 110v source for it to work.  I opted not to fit the trailer with the combined unit because I like the inside storage shelf and I didn’t plan on being plugged into shore power enough to really benefit from having it.  I also didn’t want a water heater because it’s just one more thing to maintain and I don’t stay out long enough to really need it.  If I needed an outdoor warm shower or something like that I would be more concerned.  The storage tank was important for me and I can spray myself off or my gear even though the water won’t be heated. 

Con #2 – Fridge

The fridge in this unit is a power hog!  If you live in a hot/warm climate it will kill the battery in a few hours.  This style of fridge is a power design in general but for some reason this specific model seems to really eat the power.  I would love a way to put a top entry fridge/freezer instead of the front door style.  The issue with the front door style is every time the door is opened it lets all the cold air out.  Also, if you pack this fridge with too much stuff it just will not cool it off!  It ends up freezing along the back side but the cold won’t permeate around.  I’ve made this mistake many times.  I’d recommend filling no more tan 60% of the volume of the fridge in order to allow it to cool properly.  This means you have very limited space for actual food.  Also, with this particular model the freezer door cannot be removed easily.  You have to remove the fridge door. It’s not a great design.  I use it more for storage and I use my Dometic fridge in my Jeep for food storage.  This also allows me to bring my frigerated items with me if I leave the trailer behind!

Con #3 – No rooftop storage…until 2020 model

My trailer is a 2019 model (I believe) and it didn’t come with roof rails.  The later models have this as an option and they also have weight bearing fenders.  Mine does not.  This is sometimes and issue because being able to put a bike rack or kayaks up top would be awesome!  I called Jayco and they said the older units were not designed to be retrofitted however Zabukovic motors disagreed.  If you do want a bike rack you can do a tongue mount version like the one here.   Just be sure you have enough distance between the hatch of your tow vehicle and the trailer to fit the bikes without interfering in tight turns.

Con #4 – Design flaws

I alluded to this in the con about the fridge but there are other design flaws.  The wiring underneath was exposed and I had to tie it up.  Inside I do not like the USB ports near the headboard because the greenlight is so bright it lights up the whole camper at night.  The upper storage area next to the fridge is quite deep so if you’re short like me you’ll lose stuff in the back.  The fenders on the earlier models are not weight  bearing and are super flimsy.  You can barely look at them without them bending!  The undermount spare tire moves a lot and it pinched the propane hose that goes to the back of the trailer.  I had to remove the under mount spare tire and repair the propane hose to use the grill. 

Modifications to my Jayco 10RK – Insert photo of one person setup

Modification 1 – Modify for 1 person use.  I’ve mentioned several times in this blog that I modified the trailer for 1 person use.  Since Nichole and I can rarely adventure without the kids we don’t use The Pod as a couple much anymore.  I decided that instead of having a large mattress inside it would suit me better to have a one person sleeping area and the other area can be left open for gear.  My current setup includes a cot with a 4 inch foam mattress on top.  The cot gives ample space underneath and the storage containers I use fit perfectly.  This allows me to keep everything out of the way which is huge when you have limited space!  In the area next to the cot it gives me space to put my REI folding camp chair so now I have a seating area!  You can check out my video hereYou can buy a similar chair here.  Also, since I’ve removed about 6 inches of the mattress on half the trailer I can almost stand up to change!

Mod #2 – Heating

While the trailer doesn’t have a furnace there are 2 optional heating methods I’ve used.  I mentioned both throughout the post but wanted to dive a bit deeper here.  If you have shore power you can plug in a standard electric heater.  I like the adjustable versions like this one.  If you’re not plugged into shore power you likely don’t have enough juice to power an electric heater so you’ll need another option.  I prefer the Mr Heater line of heaters.  This one should work well! .  I generally run the heat for some amount of time to get the trailer up to a comfortable level then I turn it to low or I turn it just to pilot.  If it get’s chilly I can just reach over and turn it back up without having to restart the pilot.  These are safe (mostly, at least according to the manufacturer) but I still use a CO detector and a fire alarm when I use it.  I also vent the side window and ceiling vent when using the heater. 

In Conclusion

I love the time I spend in The Pod!  It’s reinforced my love for travel trailers and I’ve slept in it probably 60 nights in the past couple of years I’ve owned it.  I would encourage anyone interested in having an adventure trailer to look into the Jayco 10 RK.  While not a specific overlander trailer it is more affordable than many of the options on the market today.  It’s backed by a good warranty from a large company who should be around long enough to honor any warranty issues!  Thank you for taking the time to read my post today.  I hope you found the information helpful. 

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