It’s getting close to two years now since I drove down to Tampa and picked up my Casita, and it occurs to me that in all that time I’ve been writing and Cas still has never gotten a blog post all to himself. Time to fix that I think, especially because I get e-mails asking for me more information about my diminutive travel trailer on a pretty regular basis.
If you’re been to my Rig page, then you already know that my Casita is a 17′ Spirit Deluxe. The Spirit layout has two dinettes can can convert into beds. I keep the larger four person dinette that occupies the rear of the trailer down as a bed all of the time, the back rest cushions for the dinette combine with the seat cushions to make a mattress. It takes Full sized sheets, but is not a standard Full, it’s about 2 inches shorter and about 1 inch wider, with the two corners facing the outside of the trailer rounded off. At almost 5’6″, I can stretch out fully in bed without an issue. My best friend Julie who lived in it with me for a while is almost 5’8″ and she can’t quite fully stretch out in it without laying a bit diagonally, which is fine if it’s just one person in bed.
One modification that taller people with Casitas can do is make some sort of movable wooden brace to extend the bed out into the little hallway, then use the cushions from the smaller dinette to effectively extend the mattress and sleep with their heads at the back of the trailer instead of either side. If you look at the pictures of mine you’ll notice that the wooden divider that separates the smaller dinette from the larger one has been removed, that’s because the previous owners had done this modification.
The smaller two person dinette makes a bed that a child can sleep in comfortably. That doesn’t mean an adult can’t fit, Julie and I rotated who had which bed when the two of us were staying in it. We could both manage it, but neither of us found it very comfortable. Traveling alone I keep this one as a dinette full time. The Spirit offers the most storage space, because the side dinette seats have storage room underneath which you don’t get with the other two models.
To the left of the small dinette, the kitchen. The fridge is larger than a mini-fridge, but definitely not full sized. Still, it’s more than big enough for me. One important thing to remember with RV fridges, you need to adjust the temperature in them as the temperature outdoors changes. In South Carolina in the middle of summer, I kept the dial on 4.5 to 5 most of the time. In Kansas last month, I could keep it on 1.5 to 2. If it gets too cold, even if the fridge part doesn’t freeze the freezer will accumulate ice and need defrosting more frequently. If you’re having trouble keeping things evenly cooled in the fridge, you can pick up a little battery operated fan to circulate the air.
Above the fridge is the cubby where the microwave lives. Mine’s old, it might even be the original. I keep secretly hoping it’ll die so I can replace it with a convection oven, but no such luck so far. The big storage space above that is where I keep pots and pans.
Next to that is the sink, two burner stove, and more storage. If you opt for a furnace, the furnace will go in the cabinet under the sink and oven. I don’t have one, and I’m happier with more storage RV furnaces are not very efficient and use quite a bit of propane, they’re also pretty noisy. As I found out from experience last month, if you pick up two $20 ceramic heaters from Wal-Mart, you’ll be just fine in a Casita until you get into the single digits. I am eventually going to get a propane heater installed, but it’ll probably mount on the wall or in the cabinet under one of my small dinette seats.
The vast majority of 16 and 17 foot Casitas out there are going to be Deluxe models. Deluxe means they have the marine style bathroom up front, which puts the toilet and shower together inside a small water proof room. As a full-timer, having a bathroom in my RV is a mandatory thing. Deluxes also have a slightly different mold for the top of the trailer that gives 4″ more height in the aisle, the 17′ is taller than than the 16′ the ceiling should be at 6′ 1 and ½ inches but I’ve never actually measured it. Instead of a bathroom, Standard models have a couch or bunk bed.
The Freedom model has the same layout as the Spirit, but instead of the small side dinette has two swiveling captain’s chairs at the small table. The chairs are more comfortable, but offer no storage. The Liberty is set up up differently. The large dinette and small dinette are both at the back, and can be set up to give a very large dinette, a full size bed and a small dinette, or a king size bed. The kitchen is split with the fridge and microwave on one side and the sink and stove on the other.
The other less talked about Casita is the 13′ Patriot. This one can have a bathroom in it as well, but I’m less familiar with it.
As for tanks. I’m not entirely sure if the specs are the same on the older Casitas, but the newer 17′ Deluxes have16 gallon fresh water tanks, there is an option for a 25 gallon water tank. The black tank is 15 gallons and the gray is 32 gallons. I usually have to dump at about one to one and a half weeks. Since I don’t shower in my RV (my hot water heater needs replacing), it’s the black tank that needs dumping first. If I needed to stretch my water for boondocking/dry camping, I could probably go two weeks, and for me that would be plenty long enough because most BLM spots require you to move every 14 days anyhow.
Casitas come with two 20# propane tanks mounted on the tongue, but mine was modified to only carry one. They also come with one 12v battery, and cannot handle another without some modifications, which I’ve known several people who’ve done. Mine also has a full-sized spare tire mounted on the back of the trailer, which was optional at the time but is standard now. Casitas are a single axle RV.
But enough about all of the hard facts which you can find out all about by visiting the Casita web page. Here are the reasons I chose a Casita over another type of RV:
With a GVWR (max weight) at 3,500 lbs, and at 6’8″ wide instead of the standard 8 feet of most travel trailers, it’s easy to tow. My recommendations: You’ll want a vehicle with a tow rating of 5,000 for a 16 or 17′ Casita. It’s easy to get over 3,500 lbs fully loaded up, and all vehicle tow ratings are calculated on having an empty vehicle. If you’re on vacation or living in one, you’re going to have other stuff loaded in the vehicle. That being said, there are still trucks and SUVs with V6 engines (and thus better gas mileage than their full-sized counterparts) that have a tow capacity of 5,000. My still mid-sized Dodge Dakota is a step up from that with a 4.7 L V8 and a tow rating of 6,500, and it can take Cas up and down steep grades and pass semis on windy days and you’d hardly know it’s there.
Decent gas mileage, which comes with the lighter weight and slimmer profile. On flat ground with no headwind while highway driving I get about 15 mpg, not bad for carrying all my worldly possessions and towing with a 13 year old truck. It can get as poor as 10 mpg with a strong headwind in hilly country, on those days you find a campground and hunker down until the wind goes away – one of the advantages of pulling your house around with you.
Windows windows windows. The Spirit and Freedom have four windows in the living area, two large and two smaller. The Liberty has three large windows. More windows makes the little trailer seem larger, and even on rainy days gives you a good view of the outdoors. I’m particularly fond of the large rear window, and I choose campsites based on what kind of view I’ll get from the rear since often there will be other RVers parked beside you to block the view.
Reduced chance of leaks. Casitas are molded fiberglass trailers, in the same category as Scamps and Escapes. These kind of trailers are made not with four walls, a roof and a floor, but with just 2 large molded pieces of fiberglass, a top and a bottom, which are welded in the middle. With no roof seams, that means roof leaks are much less likely to happen. The cabinetry that runs along the ceiling of Casitas and Scamps (and probably Escapes too, although I’ve never been in one) are riveted into place, and these rivets can leak and pop, but that’s still a lot less entry points for water than in a standard stick built travel trailer.
Durability and resale value. Leaks are the number one killer of RVs, and most RVs will lose 50% of their value by the time they are five years old, not so Casitas which are leak resistant and have no wood in the ceiling or walls to rot. At 15 years old, my Casita is still standing up to the rigors of full-time travel and taking it in stride. It’s unique styling means that even though it’s getting old it doesn’t look dated. In addition to these other reasons, because Casitas are only made to order and not mass-produced, they’re in demand second hand, which means that if, heaven forbid, you ever need to sell your Casita it’ll fetch a much better price than a similarly aged trailer of more standard construction.
Cost. I had a budget of $9,000 for my RV when I went full-timing, so I knew I was going to need something not too expensive, but also something that would hold up to being lived in. Cas fit the bill perfectly, and almost two years later I have no regrets. He cost me $8,995 when I bought him in March of 2012 at 13 years old. A brand new Casita with all of the bells and whistles still costs under $25,000 I’m pretty sure, which for a new RV that’ll last as long as this is a pretty good deal if you have that kind of money.
Community. The first travel trailer I looked at was the Keystone Outback, the 18′ long one had a queen bed in a rear slide that gave a lot more room, but the community forums I found had a lot of negative threads on it, which let me know that I’d probably be spending more money on keeping it travel worthy. When I found the Casita online communities later, there was a lot more positive comments, it was a group of people celebrating the trailer instead of a support group trying to talk each other into believing they had the right RV. The atmosphere was much brighter and upbeat, there was a lot of planning of rallies and true friendships that had sprung up on the forums and that went a long ways to ease my mind about the quality and gave me the courage to pull the trigger and buy one.
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