Ultimate Guide To Fiberglass Travel Trailers

PublishedOctober 23, 2020

Ricks Scamp small trailer camp setup

Fiberglass campers are a very sought-after and niche RV type. They offer many advantages over traditional travel trailers. People who buy these fiberglass RVs swear by them. They are truly some of the most loyal of all RV owners.

What is so special about a fiberglass trailer?

Why is a fiberglass RV such a highly sought after product?

Are they really worth the extra money?

We will answer these questions and more as we take a deep dive into the world of small fiberglass campers.

What Is A Fiberglass Camper?

A fiberglass camper is made out of, well, fiberglass. The walls, roof, and floor are all formed from a composite material which makes for a very high quality 'shell'. (Glass fibers saturated with either an epoxy or polyester resin)

This differs from conventional RV construction. Most consist of either a wood or aluminum frame with insulation sandwiched between walls.

They are made of either sheet metal or thin composite skins. There are separate walls, roofs, and floors, which means many seams (aka, potential leak points).

The manufacturing process for a molded fiberglass travel trailer is vastly different than traditional RVs.

The RV body is made of only two parts - an upper and a lower half. They are connected by a single seam. This means:

  • The outer 'shell' has many less potential points for water to enter
  • It is a much more solid structure
Oliver travel trailer fiberglass mold

Fiberglass Trailer Mold (photo courtesy Oliver Travel Trailers)

This fiberglass body (upper and lower halves) are made in molds. In the molds, the fiberglass itself is laid out and then the resin is applied.

Once the body is cured (dried and set), then it is removed from the mold and joined to its other half. This is the same basic method used to make boat hulls.

Are Fiberglass Travel Trailers Better?

To put it simply, yes! Small fiberglass travel trailers are better constructed than most other trailers.

In fact, I'd be hard pressed to come up with a manufacturer that builds a more solid unit than any of the fiberglass camper manufacturers we list below.

Don't get me wrong, there are some very good RV brands that use traditional construction processes and have overall fine quality.

But there is nothing like starting with a solid, two-piece shell and building an RV from that to make a solid product that holds up well over time and use.

Resale value is typically very good with a fiberglass trailer. For example, a used Casita or Scamp will be selling for surprising close to what a new one costs.

Part of this is due to the low build volume and long wait times for a new one, so if someone wants a molded fiberglass trailer RIGHT NOW, they are willing to pay a premium.

Lance and Casita trailers at Kelly's taping

Traditional Trailer (Left) and Casita Fiberglass Trailer (Right)

A small fiberglass camper is easy to tow. Many models can be towed by any vehicle with a modest towing capacity.

Have a car with at least 3,500 pounds towing capacity? No problem! It isn't necessary to have big, cumbersome tow vehicles with these RVs.

There are some downsides to this type of RV. For instance, they are expensive when compared to a similarly sized 'regular' RV.

Also, they don't have slide-outs, which increase the interior living space. If you have a large family, this style of trailer may not work for you.

(More drawbacks in the pros/cons section below.)

For many people, the fiberglass trailer is the only way to go. But is it best for you?

That's up to you to decide.

Pros And Cons Of Molded Fiberglass Travel Trailers

The best fiberglass travel trailers have features that make them super appealing. They also have some drawbacks that don't make then the right option for certain people (including those that have larger families).

Pros:

  • Tough exterior shell that is less prone to leaks due to limited seams.
  • If Properly taken care of, they will last a long time and look good for years to come.
  • Shorter floor plans are relatively lightweight and can be towed by a wide variety of vehicles.
  • Great resale value.
  • Look different than a traditional RV. The look doesn't seem to go out of style.
  • Maximum length you can get is just over 25 feet. Shorter RVs fit in more campsites and are just easier to tow/deal with.
  • Can be shorter in height, so may fit into a garage.
Casita small travel trailer interior looking forward

Interior Of Casita Trailer

Cons:

  • You won't see new floor plans coming out all the time as the exterior of the travel trailer is pretty set in stone. Expensive molds are used to create the shell, so once a mold is constructed, it is a time consuming, costly process to make updates. Once the outside design is set for a particular model, it is locked in for a good long time.
  • No slide-outs to increase the interior size, which leads to more cramped interior when compared to many of the traditional RVs on the market (which can come with multiple slides).
  • Lack of interior space means they are best suited for two people, or solo travelers. Though there can be two separate sleeping areas that can handle four people.
  • Long lead times if you want a new unit as these are produced by low-volume builders.
  • Interiors can be quite sterile. Even the expensive Oliver has a lot of fiberglass on the interior, which leads to a yacht-like appearance (which works for some, and turns off others). At least they aren't the boring, "hey the 80's called and wants its ugly interior back" styling of most traditional RVs.
  • Lack of insulation in Casita and Scamp campers makes them uncomfortable in the cold (but the small space heats rapidly!) and not suited for true 4-season camping.

Fiberglass RV Manufacturers

There are a ton of RV manufacturers out there, but only a handful of them make molded fiberglass campers. Why is this?

Most manufacturers want to crank out the most trailers that they can, for the least amount of money. This results in a lot of junk RVs. You can't do this with fiberglass construction, which is a very time consuming, labor intensive process.

As a result, only a small fraction of RV manufacturers make all fiberglass travel trailers. Most of which are lower volume builders, not cranking out the rigs by the dozens.

Kelly and friends in front of Casita

Camp Addict Kelly And Friends By Casita Trailer

Price reflects the increased costs related to using this alternative building method. Models are definitely more expensive than their traditionally constructed counterparts.

Here is a list of the more popular fiberglass RV manufacturers (not exhaustive by any means). Manufacturers are listed from shortest available trailers to longest trailers.

What Is The Best Fiberglass Travel Trailer?

The beauty of fiberglass travel trailers is that quality is typically built-in due to the construction process. Which means, overall, these RVs are more rugged and have less issues than traditionally constructed trailers.

In fact, most of the above listed manufacturers make our list of the best RV brands. Unlike all other segments of RVs, it's pretty hard to buy a poorly built small fiberglass travel trailer. You almost can't go wrong!

Ricks Scamp small trailer at camp

Scamp Trailer

All of these travel trailers are good choices, depending on your camping needs. Just know that while the exterior construction process is similar on all these RVs, there are very discernible differences between a Casita or Scamp and higher market RVs such as Oliver Travel Trailers.

Choosing The Right Fiberglass Trailer

Figuring out which of these fiberglass trailers is best for you takes some consideration on your part. You will need to decide which features are important to you.

You should know how you camp (where you go, how long you stay out, campground vs boondocking, etc), in order to choose which camper is right for you.

The choice really comes down to which of these models works best for your style of camping.

Do you need all the bells and whistles - a permanent queen bed, a bathroom, a fancy interior, air conditioning, a pretty design over pure functionality?

What kind of vehicle are you going to be towing with? A truck that can tow any of these fiberglass trailers? Or do you have a car or SUV that has limited towing capability?

In other words, does size really matter for you? Do you need a lightweight travel trailer, or is weight really not a concern?

Are you a family of four or more, or just a couple? Are you a solo traveler who doesn't need much in a camper and can put up with the lack of space inside?

Lindsey and Adam in front Casita small trailer

Casita Travel Trailer

The Scamp and Casita are basic, no-frills travel trailers that are small in size and weight and don't have a large number of options. They are available with a bathroom, a seating area (sometimes in the form of a small side dinette), a sleeping space (generally not a permanent bed, with bunk beds being an option in some floor plans), but suffer from limited storage space.

When you move up to an Escape or Bigfoot RV, you are getting into the territory that requires a truck to tow. SUVs and cars will not have the ability to tow most of these campers due to the higher weight and greater overall length.

There will be more interior features and options, while the material used will be nicer than a Scamp or Casita.

Niceties such as full bathrooms and twin beds will be available, and the overall quality and design of the interior will be a step up from the smaller trailers.

Storage space will be more abundant due to the larger size. But again, these benefits come at a cost of more weight and less ability to fit into the smallest of camping spots.

Oliver Legacy Elite fiberglass travel trailer

Oliver Legacy Elite II

The top end (and most expensive) of these fiberglass travel trailers is the Oliver Legacy Elite. There are two lengths of the Oliver, both of which utilize an inner and outer fiberglass shell for true 4-season camping.

Interior finishings are a step above everyone else in this market, and options are abundant.

The downside to an Oliver Legacy Elite (other than the price) is that due to their weight, trucks and SUVs with decent towing capacities are required to haul them around. (And personally, neither me nor Kelly like them due to tiny and a small number of windows. Feels like a cave.)

As you can see, there is a fiberglass RV for almost every camping style and level of needed luxury. Just keep in mind that the price of entry into this style of RV is going to be greater than their more traditional (and most likely lesser quality) counterparts.

How Long Do Fiberglass Trailers Last?

This is one of those 'it depends' type of questions. It all comes down what type of life they lead - any RV that is abused, no matter it's initial quality, won't lead a long, happy life.

As a general rule, a fiberglass RV is going to last longer than a travel trailer made with a traditional frame, insulation, and siding. The fiberglass version has a vastly superior exterior and is better put together than most of the recreational vehicles on the market.

Happier Camper small RV exterior

Properly taken care of, a fiberglass camper will last years, if not decades. The resale value will be superior to a 'regular' RV.

A well maintained rig will give its owners years of happy camping and will not disappoint when it comes time to sell (IF that time ever comes!).

Conclusion

The best fiberglass travel trailers (and they all are pretty darn good) are very well built and tend to last a really long time. They are a great option for someone looking for something different than the traditional camper.

In fact, I'm considering one for my next rig. They are very appealing to me in that they don't have slides, they have virtually indestructible exteriors, are lighter weight and overall smaller than my current rig. Quite simply, they intrigue me.

If you are looking for a quality built RV that is different than most rigs that are on the road, this is definitely an option you should consider.

Marshall Headshot

Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing since April 2014, Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle.

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