Toy Haulers (SURVs) represent the concept of “home-with-garage-away-from home”, offering living quarters and dedicated cargo space for “toys”; see top models for 2017
Toy Haulers are relatively new addition to the offer of well over 100-years old RV industry.
They are example of natural evolution from the concept of tandem of towing vehicle and “cargo trailer” or “travel trailer” to the combination of both in “all-in-one” package. In practice it means that under one roof and on the same set of wheels you will find the cargo room (garage) together with all vital residential sections correspondingly: bedroom, bath, kitchen and living area. In this sense Toy Haulers represent an upgraded version of “home-away-from-home” where “home” comes together with an “attached-to-it” garage.
It seems that first models of toy haulers emerged on the market in early 70’s. The Sky Hawk Industries (Marcellus, MI) came-out with the model ShyHawk and the Alfa Leisure (Chino, CA) correspondingly with Toyhouse (the latter was the first toy-hauler made in larger quantities). While some early models of toy haulers probably survived the impact of time, both companies did not have that luck. The truth is that at those times the market was still not ripe for this class of camper. Toy haulers were considered as a “curiosity” rather than the new means of RV-ing enabling wider spectrum of outdoor activities.
ToyHouse by Alfa Leisure: This combination (of) travel trailer and cargo trailer has has a bath and galley built into the front, it is the answer to enclosed storage for your toys...
Courtesy of: American Motorcyclist (January 1987)
And 30 years later - looks like two different worlds, although it's still all about "toys"....
Grand Design - Momentum Toy Hauler
Interestingly, it took almost 30 years before the concept of Toy Haulers took off. Today, higher-end models of toy haulers are generously equipped with household amenities and offer spacious garages capable of hauling ATV’s, go-karts, motorcycles, snowmobiles and even small cars (on top of loads of all kind of camping “gear”). No wonder, these days toy haulers make the fastest growing segment of RV industry.
Technically the popular name Toy Hauler is rather a nick-name given to the class of Sport Utility Recreational Vehicles (SURV).
The fact is that the RV-world tremendously changed over the last decennia. Obviously there are zillions of owners of ATVs, mountain bikes, snowmobiles, lovers of water-sports (kayaks, canoes, water scooters etc…) that would like to extend their escapades into wilderness (tandem of car + cargo trailer scenario) well beyond “One-day event” . But it’s not all – there is also a new generation of wealthier RV-ers having other ideas about how to use the extra cargo space (garage). In fact, all these cargo rooms (and often coming with them extra patios) are designed for dual use – as a garage when on the road, and as a significant extension of living/sleeping/entertainment space when on the campground.
Design Challenges (here shown in an arbitrary order because some of them have strong individual aspect):
It seems obvious (although it can be easily underestimated) – Toy Haulers are designed mostly for Nature Lovers. After all, you will not enjoy your ATV or mountain bike rides in the labyrinth of streets. As the result - selected Toy Hauler model must be designed for off-road driving conditions to bring you close to the nature. And it’s more than just off-road axles and tires package. It’s also higher ground clearance (OK, it may come with larger off-road wheels), stone-guard protection (including some sort of enclosed underbelly), and overall sturdiness. In other words good quality materials and craftsmanship for chassis, body, cabinetry, pipes, wiring etc….
Looks like "futuristic" design, but it's real - in front of you Grand Design Momentum Toy Hauler
.... and its' floor-plan (Model 304M)
Long periods of Self-sufficiency
Vacations “closer to nature” may imply longer periods of stay in “out of civilization” conditions. As a result, the selected toy hauler should have large water, LPG and fuel tanks. Keep in mind that the fuel tank must feed not only your toys but also the generator. While auxiliary batteries play an important role and can be re-charged (at least to some extent) by solar panels, the truth is that large rigs stuffed with plethora of appliances are power hungry. And if by chance you will need to run in “out-of-grid” conditions A/C unit(s), then the generator is the only option. While the solar panels can provide energy for lights (assuming modern LEDs) and some appliances, for A/Cs you will need the “solar farm”. Note that the 3-way refrigerator will be beneficial in out-of-grid environment.
Large garage space and cargo capacity
It is assumed that the toy hauler provides all necessary home amenities. But the cargo room (garage) also must meet some criteria of usefulness. The obvious one is the size: length and width (the height will usually exceed the needs). Make sure that your favorite toys will easily fit inside and that they can be secured for travel (tie-downs etc ….)! As the matter of fact, to address cargo challenges (for example hauling a racing car), most larger toy haulers have wider bodies (width of 102” versus standard 96”).
But the tricky thing is the cargo capacity. The whole space may become useless if the weight of your toys exceeds trailer’s cargo capacity. Please note that the cargo capacity must accommodate the weight of full water tanks, fuel tank, LPG and everything “outside” of standard features (camping gear, food and kitchen stuff, cloths, linen …. And here the list may be really long. The pounds are adding-up quickly eating at the same time your margin for “toys”.
The good way to look at it (kind of “figure of merit”) is the ratio of Cargo Capacity to GVWR of a given toy hauler. It allows you to compare various models of toy haulers.
Note: Keep in mind that your truck must be able to tow the fully loaded toy hauler, but that is another story.
Prolonged (all All)-seasons
The higher-end toy haulers are quite expensive so they better serve you over extended (if not over 4) seasons (BTW – snowmobiles offer as good adventure experience as ATVs…). This implies camper’s good thermal insulation (high R-values for body, dual-pane windows….), protection of water tanks and valves from freezing and enough of LP capacity for furnace and water heater.
Something more "down-to-earth" - in this case Fury Toy Hauler model 2910 and its layout (below)
It may not be that important for those who buy the toy hauler specifically for carrying their “outdoor gear”. But in case you also want the extra space, be sure the cargo room is designed as the multipurpose one. And that means – walls and floor are protected against “abuse”. You will expect walls and floor protected by Diamond-Plate (or more “user-friendly” oil and fuel resistant rubber). Also, like in the real garage you may need the power washer, air compressor and even small workbench with sets of tools….
On the other hand you would like to see power-sofas/bed(s) that can be easily set-up when needed and then folded against the sidewalls or elevated up to the ceiling when the time comes. To fully enjoy the room you will need large, panoramic windows (with privacy shades for the night) and eventually an option of patio extension.
The “connection” with the central section of the toy hauler (living & kitchen) will be also crucial. For practical reasons you would like to see large sliding glass doors allowing for seamless integration of both sections of the camper.
The loft (attic) with an easy access, extras like washer/drier prep, screens may also be of importance.
Note: The rear door is used as a loading/unloading ramp, but once toys are out the room changes its function. Most likely during the day you would like to keep it open (fresh air, contact with nature…), but for security reasons you will have to close it for the night. That is why door’s opening/closing process must be effortless (some sort of “power-assistance” or clever mechanical design).
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where you will finish description of most important characteristics of Toy Haulers and proceed with the Review of Best Models on the market.