Following a trip to the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, Nigel Donnelly considers four posh caravan options we’ll never import from America

The American market for travel trailers is massive. So is the country. And so are the tow cars. All of which means that the ideas of what US and European caravanners consider to be plush are in fact, poles apart.

Wandering around the Louisville show in late 2014, I had a look at four things which American travellers are used to that we are likely to never see in Europe, no matter how much you might want to.

1. Instant, bottomless hot water

The Truma AquaGo is an all-new product which is currently only on offer to the US market. It is different from the water systems we are used to in European caravans because the AquaGo is an ‘on demand’ system, much like you get a modern hot water system in your home. Rather than heating a tank of water and trying to keep it warm, the AquaGo heats up water instantaneously and continuously. If you want a shower and want to stand under it for half an hour, if you have enough water and enough gas on board, you can do it. A half-hour shower in a European caravan is not something you can really do, unless you like them pretty cold and have a fully-serviced pitch.

Such on-demand hot water technology has existed before in the UK leisure market at least, where the old ‘Ascot’ style heaters did a similar job. The difference with the AquaGo is that it can provide a constant water temperature, at high pressure and over a prolonged period of time. This all sounds pretty good and could potentially make even the most sceptical caravan showerer rethink their ablutions. 

Why not in the UK?

There are a few barriers to this jumping the Atlantic. First is the gas consumption. Truma happily admits that the AquaGo is pretty greedy when it comes to gas, so much so that it would struggle to meet European regulations without modification. Another issue for UK caravanners is their love affair with mains electric. The clever but gas greedy AquaGo only works on LPG and that could prove an expensive way to get a long, hot shower.  

2. Huge and numerous televisions

Anyone who has spent time in America will be aware just how mind-numbing the TV is, but that doesn’t mean that trailer campers want to do without. Quite the opposite, in fact. TVs facing out into awnings and so on are pretty popular, but they aren’t small. Flatscreen TVs of up to 60in were on display in Louisville but, quite often, they were just the main televisions. There were a significant amount of trailer units on display with two, three or more televisions. Handy if the kids all want to watch something different, or fire up the Xbox. 

Why not in the UK?

The reasons are many and numerous. Televisions are heavy, so weight is one reason. American towing rules are different so they can haul huge trailers behind pickup trucks – a few extra kilos (or rather pounds) don’t really matter Stateside.

Another reason is power. TVs use a lot of power. Bigger ones, and more of them for that matter, use more power. Considerably more than you will get from even the best standard electric hook-up. Perhaps the best one, though, is that if all you want to do is watch telly, it’s a better idea to stay at home. 

3. Drop down patios

Now this is an idea. Rather than putting down a manky old groundsheet, how about folding down a deck from the side of the caravan to sit on? Even better than that, when it is home time, rather than folding up a soggy, muddy mess, you simply fold the deck up to the side of the van, secure the locking pins and off you go. Dead simple. Combine it with a roll-out awning and some zip-on sides and you have an all-weather outdoor space that you can set-up quickly and simply.

In many of the vehicles, the patio doubles up as a ramp, to allow loading of fun stuff into the trailer to make for easy transportation. If you are thinking buckets and spades however, you aren’t thinking big enough. Think quad bikes and kayaks and you’re on the right page. The culture of the ‘toy hauler’ is massive in the USA, and the trailers needed to haul such toys around need to be pretty big too.  

Why not in the UK? 

In essence, this is not a bad idea, but again, the problem is most likely to be uncovered when you visit a weighbridge. The patios we saw were made of a composite deck material and housed in a galvanised steel frame. Convenience comes at a cost – and that cost is kilos. You’d also need to make the majority of touring sites about 50% bigger too. Sorry, but this is unlikely to be seen on European touring caravans any time soon. 

4. Air conditioning as standard

It’s hard to buy new cars in the UK without air conditioning or climate control as standard, yet it is still a genuine rarity on a new touring caravan. In the USA, the majority of camping trailers have air conditioning and in real terms are not a lot more expensive than a lot of UK caravans. The idea of turning our caravans into a walk-in fridge when the temperature rises is pretty appealing.

Why not in the UK? 

Aside from the obvious and predictable push back in terms of weight and price, there is simply not such a necessity in the UK for reducing humidity. Apart from a couple of weeks either side of when you go on holiday, it is rare to get uncomfortable heat or humidity in the UK. We do have a lot of rain, however, which is why British caravans tend to prioritise keeping water out over climate control for hot weather. 

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