If you follow me on Instagram this will be old news by now, but….we bought a new toy hauler!
I know. We were kind of surprised, too. We’ve talked about a toy hauler for awhile now; I wrote a blog post way back in February about how much we liked them and how open and spacious they are and how we thought of them as a great alternative to a bunkhouse for a bigger family. And a three week summer trip wrestling bikes in and out of our old trailer after that only made the idea of a toy hauler more attractive. But we went back and forth many times and kept deciding that we should stick with our old trailer for the time being.
Until one day we went back and forth and decided to go ahead and trade in the Passport for a toy hauler.
In this post I’ll talk about our reasoning behind buying a new trailer in general and buying this one in particular and then go through our initial impressions of things we like and don’t like about it, now that we’ve spent a few nights in it. I’ll talk about the actual buying process and what went smoothly and not so smoothly in another post.
Our Passport was a 2010; we bought it used about a year and a half ago, and it’s been mostly a very good experience. But there were some things we didn’t love about it, and it kind of felt like we were at the point where we either needed to commit to sticking with it until a couple of kids moved out and we were ready to downsize or to go ahead and trade it in around….now. For one thing, we had a lot of customization we wanted to do with it if we were going to be in it for our giant summer trip, and we didn’t want to start ripping things out and modifying if we were going to need to trade it in in the next couple of years. We also worried that we were at the point where things would start wearing out and breaking, and we’d have to think every time about whether it was worth putting more money into this trailer.
The tipping point was when we had to replace all the six month old tires because of some pretty serious uneven wear issues. A timely post at The Touring Camper (they have the same Passport bunkhouse we had) about the same issue on their trailer clued me in that this a common problem with the spread axle design the Passport has. They actually had bent axles and had to get them replaced. Our tire place told us our problem was with the alignment being way off….but, at any rate, I got nervous that we were going to be spending a lot of money on new tires regularly, and it sent me into my latest round of online toy hauler shopping.
I had come across the Jayco Octane SL 272 a long time ago, early on in my toy hauler infatuation days. And I kept coming back to look at it, because it has a unique floorplan that’s really perfect for us. A very common toy hauler floorplan is a master bedroom up front and then two large beds in the garage area that fold out of the way or lift up to the ceiling when not in use. The 272 takes that same basic layout but adds in two dedicated single bunks next to the kitchen. With the typical toy hauler floorplan, we’d need to do some modifications to make sleeping space for all the kids; with the 272, everyone could have a bed. And then Jeremy and Stephanie from RV Family Travel Atlas went and bought my dream toy hauler! So I became even more fixated.
When Dave and I went through the latest round of should we or shouldn’t we talks, we finally decided that yes we should…but only if we could get the Octane SL272. We just weren’t interested in buying a brand new trailer only to have to make a bunch of big changes right away. AND it occurred to me that we could hang a big curtain room divider to separate the garage/kid bed area from the rest of the living area at night, giving us a de facto bunkhouse (there was only a curtain separating the bunkhouse from the living area in our old trailer, too), which wouldn’t be possible if we needed to use the living area to add extra kid sleeping space.
When we did the numbers, we realized that instead of putting a chunk of cash toward paying down the old loan like we’d planned, we could use the same chunk of cash as a down payment on a new one and end up with a 6 year newer trailer that would work better for us for a not much higher payment. I won’t pretend it was the most financially practical decision, but it did seem like a reasonable indulgence to put a little of Dave’s master’s degree finishing pay raise toward. We don’t splurge in many areas, but travel is definitely one where we do.
Okay! So that’s how we decided on a new trailer and OUR new trailer in particular. And then I’ll save the saga of how there wasn’t a single Octane SL 272 in the whole state of Georgia and how we went all the way to Tampa to buy ours for another day.
But after we went to Tampa to buy our trailer, we spent four nights in it before bringing it home, so we have some initial thoughts on what things we like better than the Passport, what things we kind of miss about the old trailer, and what things have potential but need some help fully achieve awesomeness.
A couple of days into Octane ownership, Dave made me a little sad by expressing some disappointment in our new trailer. “I guess I just expected to completely love everything about it,” he said. But I talked him through this dark time, and now all is well again. Here’s the thing: there is no RV that’s perfect, especially if you have a limited budget or a pack of kids or a long wish list or are in some other way a real human being. Also, this was a lateral move in terms of price and overall quality, more or less. We could have bought a new Passport for just about the same price as our Jayco. We were always impressed with the quality and design of the Passport, and both it and the Octanes are considered entry level trailers; this wasn’t about getting an unequivocally better RV, it was about getting a newer one that was the best one we could find for our family and our needs. I also pointed out that the first time we loaded bikes into this thing, he was going to remember exactly why we wanted it.
Let’s do some pros and cons.
Incidentally, you can see the layout of the 272 and even take a 3D tour here, so that you’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about as I go through everything. I would take pictures for you, except the trailer’s already off at the service place getting some warranty work done.
*master bedroom: a good bit bigger than in our Passport, with a genuine walk around bed, and….an actual door! Not just a curtain. It’s also down a hallway, past the bathroom, so it feels more separate because of that, too.
*bathroom is bigger: our old bathroom actually had more counter space, but this one still has plenty of storage and quite a bit more floor space, so that it feels less claustrophobic.
*open, flexible living space: at night the garage area will be given over to kid sleeping space, but during the day one of the beds goes up to the ceiling and the other one turns into two big couches with a table between them, which will make for a much more spacious and practical dining/game playing area than our old U shaped dinette (we haven’t gotten to test this out yet because our table somehow got lost at the dealership and they’re sending us a new one).
*screen door overlooking natural beauty: sometimes. We haven’t gotten to test this out yet, either, because the places we’ve stayed so far have been short on natural beauty and/or space…but when the weather’s nice and there’s room, we can leave the garage ramp open and pull down the screen and enjoy the view and the breeze.
*big windows: even without the garage door open, there are big windows all over the trailer, plus high ceilings. It’s a nice change from the cave-like quality of our Passport.
*garage: We are so looking forward to being able to wheel our bikes up that ramp and then back out instead of wrestling them through the narrow door of the Passport and then cramming them into every available space. Right now that’s the only big thing we’re planning on putting in there, but it opens up a world of possibility. We’ve talked about kayaks before, but there really wasn’t any realistic possibility there other than inflatable kayaks before. I don’t see us ever getting an ATV or a golf cart, but if we do want to haul something unwieldy around with us, we can! This post is short on photos, so here’s one of Abe’s new toy that Santa brought that we could bring on trips with us now if we want to:
*bigger beds for kids: the bed situation is going to go into the things that need improvement category, too, but I just mentioned this list to Milo and he was adamant that, “I have a giant bed” go on the pros list. Right now the plan is that Abe and Gus get the bunks, Milo gets the bed that comes down from the ceiling, and Ari gets the fold down sofas. The bunks are actually several inches shorter than our old bunks (68 vs 72 inches), but Gus should have a few years before he outgrows them (and Abe should have a good decade or so….maybe his whole life; he appears to be the only one who got my height genes). Ari and Milo are both well on their way to six feet, so it’s nice for them to have more room to spread out on the big back beds. And Milo and Gus love having a “loft” to hang out in when we bring the bed down in the evenings. During the day, that bed can go up with all the bedding still on it.
*easier to get into driveway: our driveway is neither short nor narrow, and we live on a wide street in a quiet subdivision. So really, it should be easy to get a trailer into it. But it goes slightly uphill and has a weird dip at the bottom where it meets the street, which made it very frustrating and difficult to try to get the old trailer into it. We had to get the angle just right and put plywood across the curb or the stabilizer jacks would scrape every time. The Octane has a little bit more ground clearance and, probably more importantly, the overhang past the rear axle is shorter, even though the trailer overall is a foot longer (apparently this is a toy hauler thing). I was holding my breath and expecting the worst when we backed it in the other day….but it was FINE! EASY! It turns out we’re pretty good at backing in when we don’t have a weird dip to deal with. Nailed it on the first try! I think the stabilizer jacks had a good 6-8 inches to spare! I cannot tell you how much this is going to improve my stress level when we get home from trips. I used to start dreading the backing in process hours before we got home.
*couches more comfortable: our old couch was AWFUL. These are much nicer.
*neutral/non-offensive decor: when I thought about decorating our old trailer, my fantasies involved reupholstering things and tearing down wallpaper and laying new flooring and painting all the cabinets. Our Jayco is pretty much a blank slate: dark wood cabinets, vinyl wood-look plank flooring, plain dark brown faux leather upholstery. Nothing I can’t work with. I’m thinking lots of blues and greens. We will see.
*Dave wants me to mention the black tank flush and…some intake tube on the water pump that “allows for easy winterization.” Whatever.
*electric hot water heater: our old trailer only had gas; not a huge thing, but it’s nice that we don’t have to run it off the propane when we have hookups (and it always made me nervous having an open flame right under the kids’ bunks).
*bedside tables/charging station in master bedroom: there’s a little shelf under the wardrobes where we can actually put stuff! yay!
Now let’s continue the longest post in the history of the world with a list of things we’re not so crazy about:
*kitchen: this is a big trade-off. Our old kitchen had a three burner stove, oven, microwave, a fair sized counter, and TONS of storage. Like, we didn’t know what to do with it all almost. New kitchen has a two burner stove, microwave/convection oven, not nearly as much storage (most aggravatingly, there’s no big open area under the sink where we can put trash and recycling containers), and no counter space to speak of. We have some plans here, though, and I keep reminding Dave that we wanted a toy hauler specifically because we could make the flexible space work for us (without having to rip everything out and start over).
*storage in general: we were spoiled in the old trailer; the kids had a giant wardrobe, there was a pantry across from the kitchen, and just cabinets and storage everywhere we turned, inside and out. The Octane has one big outside storage area, wardrobes in the master bedroom, a few cabinets in the kitchen and living area….but not nearly enough storage overall. Yet. Again, we have plans.
*I can’t reach anything: this is only for me. There’s a central switch that turns all the lights in the main area on or off at once, but if you want to turn one at a time on or off you have to push the button on the ceiling light itself, and, thanks to those high ceilings, I can’t reach them. I need to create some sort of light pushing device, because it makes me feel a little helpless having to ask my tall family members to turn the lights on for me.
*the radio sucks: there’s a radio/cd/dvd player, and it’s terrible. We can’t make it work just inside without it also playing outside, and the quality is just really low. We’ll probably replace it eventually.
*needing to convert a bed every night: definite trade off. The bed that comes down is definitely big enough for more than one person, but the kids all want their own beds, which means we’ll be converting the sofas in the garage into a bed every night for Ari. Additional glitch: we thought the two couches were going to fold out into one big bed, but it turns out that they do that on the 2017 model, but ours is a 2016, and ours fold into two separate beds with a foot wide gap between them. We were really sad when we realized this: they’re described exactly the same way in the list of features for 2016 and 2017, and we’d watched a video tour of the 2017….it never occurred to us that the 2016 sofas wouldn’t work the same way. Either sofa is plenty big as a bed for a smaller kid, but they’re a couple of inches too short for Ari, and he’s not excited about having either his feet or his head hang off the bed every night. So we’re planning to get some storage boxes that will fit under the sofas during the day then come out at night to bridge the gap, and then we’ll throw a mattress pad over the whole thing (which can go up to the ceiling with the top bed during the day)
*gas mileage: I had some hopes that we’d magically get the same gas mileage towing this 1500 pound heavier (and taller and wider) trailer as we did with our old one, but….nope. It’s not a whole lot worse, but there’s a difference. And we tow with a V10 van, so the gas mileage is already pretty terrible even when it’s not towing anything.
And that’s all I can think of for now! I’ll do another post at some point about the RV buying process. And once we have it back here so I can take pictures, I’ll talk about our plans for modifying the inside (we already have some things ordered for it and on the way).