This week is the two year anniversary of the purchase of our Grand Design Imagine XLS 22RBE travel trailer. As you can see from the picture above, we were all smiles. It was a happy day, one we had looked forward to. We were filled with excitement as we anticipated long journeys to places we’ve yearned to see. Now the question is, are we still smiling?
We looked long and hard for our camper. We never missed the Florida RV Super Show. The annual event is said to be the largest in the country with hundreds of RVs and dozens of dealers. Certainly we could find one there. It was overwhelming though. We usually left feeling confused and wondering if we should get something bigger and more luxurious than we first thought.
We live in an area where there are a lot of RV dealerships. We spent many weekends browsing their inventory looking for that perfect RV. For the longest time, we just couldn’t get excited about anything we saw. There was always something we didn’t like. We trusted that we would know instinctively when we found our perfect RV. Over time, we developed a checklist.
• First of all, it must be under 30’ long. We would jokingly say we wanted a camper that was little on the outside but big on the inside. We wanted a “couple’s camper”. It would be nice to have additional sleeping space, but we did’t think it was worth towing a bigger trailer all the time just for the occasional visit from our children or grand kids.
• We wanted a big bathroom with a spacious shower.
• We wanted plenty of kitchen counter space.
• We wanted a comfortable place to sit, preferably across from the television.
• We wanted a separate bedroom space with a door…No curtain, No murphy bed.
• We wanted access to everything on the inside without having to open the slides.
• We wanted a build quality capable of holding up to extensive use. We did not intend to be full-timers, but we were going to be more than your typical weekend warrior.
It was on a Sunday afternoon when we walked into our third dealership of the day. We’ve been to Lazy Days RV many times before. This time was different. The salesman took time to ask the right questions and he learned what we wanted. He didn’t try to upsell or convince us we needed something else. “I have something you might like, he said,” then showed us the Imagine XLS 22RBE. We were impressed. We had not seen that floor plan before. We really looked it over. It checked off most of the boxes. We had heard Grand Design had a good reputation for quality and customer service. So a week later we were towing our new camper off the lot.
Over the past two years, we slept in our camper 376 nights. We traveled through 26 states. I don’t know exactly how many miles we’ve towed the trailer, but I estimate it’s over 10,000. We have used our camper, running it through its paces. It is with that experience we give this review.
• The rear bathroom design spans the entire width of the camper. It gives a spacious comfort that is typically only found in much bigger RV’s. There is plenty of knee room in front of the toilet. The 36” x 26” shower is roomy enough to reach down to wash your feet or shave your legs. The skylight above the shower increases the headroom allowing for someone taller than me at 6 feet to stand comfortably. The retractable shower door, which I had concerns about at first, has held up remarkably well. The double door medicine cabinet above the sink is huge and there is also additional storage underneath the sink. Overall, the bathroom gets high marks.
• The bedroom at the front of the trailer has a walk-around queen bed. We love the fact we don’t have to climb over each other to get up. There is ample storage for our clothes. We use baskets from Ikea for stowing our clothes in the overhead cabinet above the bed and there’s a wardrobe cabinet on each side of the bed for hanging clothes. We like that there is a sliding door that can close off the bedroom. I often get up pretty early in the morning whereas Grammi likes to sleep in a little. This door helps maintain happiness in the mornings.
• Grammi loves all the kitchen countertop space. There is room to set out the Berkey, coffee maker, toaster, and the Instant Pot, and still have room for meal prep. There is overhead kitchen cabinets and nine drawers under the counter that provides enough space for Grammi to pack everything except the kitchen sink (that was already included). Finding another travel trailer with this much counter space and kitchen storage would be difficult for this size camper.
• Being able to access the entire trailer without putting out the slide is a big plus for us. Maybe not a big deal for some, but we love being able to take a break from driving and pull over to use the bathroom, make lunch, or recline back in the chair to rest the eyes a while without having to bump out the slide. We also like that we can use our own bathroom when we stop for fuel. Additionally, some narrow campsites will not accommodate campers with slides. That is not a problem for us. Sometimes, we never bother putting the slide out if we are only staying for a night or two.
• We are very happy with the size of our camper. It was a good choice. It comes very close to the “big on the inside but little on the outside” criteria we were looking for. Grammi and I are very comfortable in our 176 sq. ft. camper. So far, we have not had a problem getting into any state or national park because of our size. Weighing less than 6000 pounds and just a little more than 25 feet long, it is incredibly easy to tow with our Ford 250 diesel truck. Having an overall height of 10‘ 8” we seldom worry about low clearance issues.
• The features and build quality by Grand Design seem to be a step ahead of it’s competition. A commonly used term in the RV industry is “fit and finish”. It refers to how well something is put together and the attention to detail. We feel the fit and finish in our travel trailer is better than most comparable manufacturers at this price point. With maybe a couple of exceptions we’ll mention later, we feel it has held up well over the past two years.
• The first issue occurred on my first attempted to dump the tanks. About a gallon or so of waste water gushed out when I removed the cap. Needless to say I was not happy. My hands, legs and shoes were soaked. The black water tank valve had leaked. I suppose I was lucky we weren’t using our black tank for black at that time if you know what I mean. I fixed the problem by installing an inline valve. Now I can remove the cap without fear.
• We started to notice excessive wear on the rear tires. We took it back to the dealer and learned we had a bent rear axle. Grand Design replaced the axle and the tires under the warranty. One of the reasons we choose Grand Design was because of their reputation for good customer service and they stand behind their products warranty.
• Why in the world RV manufacturers do not include a descent mattress with travel trailers in beyond me. No one I know has ever been happy with the thin mattress that comes with it. Most savvy purchasers (not us) replace the mattress on the first day. I feel the landfills must be filled with never used RV mattresses. We eventually replaced ours with a 12” memory foam mattress. We love it and sleep much better now. That created another issue however. The struts could not hold up the bed under the weight of the new mattress when accessing the underneath storage. I had to replace them with stronger struts. Hmm…okay, maybe the thin mattress is to save weight, but come on, isn’t it the purpose of a camper to get a good nights sleep?
• The finish on the cabinets is rubbing off, especially above where grammi uses the Instant Pot. This is one of the fit and finish exception I was referencing. The steam from the Instant Pot has caused the finish to come off. That is not the only area where this is occurring though, but it is the worse spot.
• Another fit and finish issue was with the drawer glides. When we packed stuff in the drawers, the glides came lose and the drawers became hard to operate. We notice little ball bearing rolling along the floor. After further inspection, I saw the glides were inadequately attached in the back with little staples. I ended up replacing all the drawer glides with 50 pound rated full extensions. I beefed up the back support and attached the glides with screws. That solved the problem.
• One of the things we wanted with our camper was a comfortable place to sit and relax in front of the television. The Thomas Payne leather love seat recliner with heated seats and a massage function directly in front of a 32” TV seemed to fit the bill. Grammi loved the heated seats and used it often. The problem was it didn’t last. The heat function no longer works. Also, the support spring broke and now the seat has a depression. We should of contacted the dealer to have it fixed under warranty, but we didn’t. I’m still comfortable reclining back after a long day hiking. I don’t know, maybe someday we will replace it with something better.
• The one thing we were less than thrilled about when buying the camper was the door side slide. We didn’t like how it took up space by protruding out under the canopy. I hesitate to mention it now as it has become a non-issue. Maybe we are accustom to it. It only extends out a couple of feet and is no big deal. Because the slide is on the canopy side, we actually like that we can extend the canopy out just far enough to cover the top. We don’t need a slide cover to keep it clean.
• I don’t like the placement of the outside LED light strip above the door. It attracts insects making it difficult to go in or out without letting them inside. Therefore, we rarely use them. I would prefer the light be located at the end of the canopy. Maybe I’ll buy one of those fancy string of lights to hang from the canopy.
• There are six overhead LED lights inside the camper and they are quite bright. Bright overhead lights give me a headache so I had to install a dimmer to soften them.
• The Winegard omnidirectional TV antenna is nothing more than a roof decoration. We cannot get a signal no matter where we setup, even when in a city. I’ve checked all the connections and they appear to be tight. I searched the RV forums and learned this is a common problem. The older crank up style antenna apparently works better. I haven’t addressed the problem yet, as we don’t watch much television. When we do, we usually stream from our phone.
So getting back to the question at hand…are we still smiling? That’s a definite YES! Weighing the pros and cons, the pros win. We are very happy with our camper. We feel it is holding up well. In our opinion, our issues have all been minor, except for the axle, and that was covered under warranty. In fact, we went to the Florida RV Super Show this past January and spent a whole day looking at new RVs. Not once did we see one that we thought was a better fit for us. We have all we need. We would certainly buy our camper again.
So until next time…happy days and safe travels.