Travato: Long Term Test Drive

A 15,000 mile review

Damon Bungard  |  11.17.2015

With a few months behind us in the Travato, and over 15K miles on the odometer and 23 states visited, it’s time for our overall review of it as our mobile office and base camp for our outdoor adventures.  It’s been a great tool in our travels, taking the stress out of 14+ hour driving days and offering great flexibility in our travel schedule. So here it is, our 15K Mile Review of the Winnebago Travato.

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First, we’ll start with first impression. Being our first RV, even though it’s incredibly compact by RV standards, it still struck us a big vehicle. The reality is that adapting from our everyday vehicles (Jeeps and VW Eurovan) took very little effort. You sit high, have great views of your surrounding, and don’t feel overise on the roads – even tight, windy backcountry ones. It’s very easy to manuever in tight quar ters, and I’ve been able to parallel park it on busy downtown main streets like Bozeman, MT and Jackson, WY.

Inside, the layout has proven extremely functional for the small space, and we haven’t felt cramped at all. In fact after one trip of 20 days in the RV, sleeping in it every night, we arrived home without any sort of ‘I can’t wait to get out of here and sleep in my own bed’ kind of feelings.

Next, we’ll look at various aspects of the Travato in more detail, from engine to trailer hitch.

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1) Under the Hood. The Travato is based off the RAM Promaster, powered by a V-6, 280HP gasoline engine. It’s proven very effective, powerful enough for passing and performing at altitude, fairly quiet,  and has been easy to get serviced at any RAM dealer. Gas mileage has varied between 14 mpg – doing 70+mph on Western highways, loaded with kayaks on the roof, to 17 mpg with fewer items on the roof and doing 55mph. We’ve had a couple oil changes and a tire rotation done, and have had no engine problems.

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2) Exterior Features. All of the plugs and ports are located on the drivers side. That’s water fill for the tank and city line when parked, electrical hook up, sewage hose, LP filling, fuel door, etc. The sewage outlet is also on the very rear of the drivers side. Basically it’s the working side.

One the passenger side are all the luxuries and fun stuff, like the Fiamma awning system, which is very nice and easy to operate. There is a control on the passenger seat, as well as the side of the stove. It’s quick and easy to deploy and a great way to block the sun, or the rain.

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There’s an electric step that comes out from under the sliding door. Controls for it are also on the side of the stove. Just press a button, and presto, an extra step to aid in getting in and out.

One of our favorite features is the sliding screen door. With the main side door open, it slides over and keep bugs out, lets fresh air in, and also keeps Tripper in.

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On the passenger rear side are all the party features, like outdoor speakers, lights, power outlets, etc.

One the rear there’s a trailer hitch with a 4-pin harness. We’ll use that from time to time to carry a hitch hauler and large Orion Cooler, or pull a small kayak trailer. There’s also a quick disconnect LP port there, so you can use the RV propane to cook on a properly equipped camping stove outside, like the Ranger Stove from Camp Chef.

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Also on the rear you’ll see the optional bike storage and ladder/rack system. I’ve modified the bike carrier by removing the bike attachments, and use it to carry a freestyle whitewater kayak instead.

The ladder gives access to the roof, where there’s a Fiamma rack system. The AC unit and antennas up there make loading items a little awkward, but we’ve moved the bars around a bit to find solutions for our needs. We mount a fishing kayak on one side, and the other we’ve added a Yakima Loadwarrior basket system with a spare tire (the Travato only comes with a repair kit), and sometimes we’ll put another fishing kayak on that basket rack. SinceI work in the outdoor industry my needs are a little more demanding than most, and some small, light kayak trailers like those from Yakima or Sylvan Sport certainly make large kayak transport easier.

3) Cockpit. The front seating area of the Travato is basically standard RAM Promaster. We’ve found the seats to be very comfortable on long drives, and the layout very functional. There are a lot of cupholders and bins for storage. The dials and gauges are all easy to read. Sirrors are large with a good field of view, and fold in with the push of a button. You can kind of see out of the rear view mirror if nothing inside is stacked too tall. The satellite radio is awesome on long journeys (but can’t broadcast to the cabin speakers, more on that later). There’s a backup camera which is very helpful for manuevering in tight spaces, parking, or backing into campsites.

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There’s built in satellite navigation using TomTom software, which we’re still getting used to over the Garmin software we favor., but it’s helpful. We’ve paired our phones for hands free calling and talking. There isn’t anywhere great for holding your iPhone, which we still often use for navigation, but I solved that with the RAM Universal Finger Grip on the windshield that was featured in a prior article.

The drivers seat rotates fully backwards for use at the main table, but the passenger seat can only go partially around due to the water tank. There’s not a huge gap between the seats for moving from the cockpit to the cabin, but enough for moving back and forth easily.

There’s a storage bin over the cockpit, large enough for small items. I keep binoculars up there within reach, owners manuals, the window coverings, sleeping bags, and sometimes the second bed pads.

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4) Dining Area. The dining area consists of a small table, a bench seat, and a seat over the water tank. Above it there’s a TV, radio system, and the control panel for LP, water levels, water heater, etc are all located here.  The whole table and bench system also convert to second bed.

The table itself is easily large enough for the two of us to sit for a nice meal, or game of cards. I tend to sit in the drivers seat once it’s been spun around, and Ash and Tripper use the bench. When we have guests, there’s another section of table that can be spun out from underneath the main countertop, giving somebody seated on the water tank cushion extra table space.

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The bench is comfortable, but requires a very upright seating posture. One of the things we really liked about the Travato was that you can sit at the table and work on the computer while still being safely buckled in. This is critical for Ashley who telecommutes to her job, and needs to be able to work on long road travel days without having to use her vacation time. Unfortunately the power outlets at the table only work while plugged in at a campsite, or the generator is running (which you can do while driving), so we carry a Goal Zero battery system so she can run her laptop.

The table and bench can also be turned into another bed, big enough for two. We’ve only used it as a guest bed for one, but it worked and he said it was comfortable. It’s a puzzle of pads to get it set up, and two pads are somewhat awkward to store as they are solely used for that extra bed. We usually leave them at home, but you can fit them in the back, or in the overhead storage bin.

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5) Kitchen Area. The kitchen area is also very functional and full of amenities for a compact RV. There’s overhead storage, where we keep store everything from cups to food, three drawers under the stove for utensils, plates, towels, ect, and a large cabinet door where we keep a garbage bin and larger items like cutting boards. The stove is a two-burner propane, and both it and the sink have covers that flip down over them to make a functional counter top when not in use. There’s a light, some power outlets, and we’ve added a spice rack and  velcro on/off paper towel holder.

On the opposite side of the stove is the refrigerator and more storage. The refrigerator is surprisingly large, and we store a lot of food in it. It can run off LP, battery (about 6-8 hours in our experience), or electric when plugged in. (The new optional solar charging system will extend how long this refrigerator can run off the batteries.  The compressor driven refrigerator in the 259K is more efficient and will run longer off just the batteries. ed.)  There’s a microwave over the refrigerator, that we mostly use for storing the paper towels while driving, bulky bags like potato chips.

Next to the microwave is a small storage cabinet, that I’ve dedicated to storing electronics and camera gear. Next to the fridge is storage closet. We hang jackets in there, a laundry bag, and other random items that we want easily handy.

On the roof in the kitchen area is the main vent and fan. You’ll want to open that and turn it on, and ideally a few windows or the sliding door before you start cooking anything that may set off the smoke detector.

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6) Bathroom/Shower. Everything you need is there in the combo bath/shower, just in a small space. There’s a sink, mirror, and a couple storage bins under the sink. The toilet is on the back wall, and is controlled via a foot lever. Over it are a couple more storage bins, and there’s another small vent in the roof. There’s a curtain that blocks off the toilet when you want to shower, and the shower nozzle is located above the sink.

The shower itself gets the job done, but with only 21 gallons of fresh water (and only 16 gallons capacity of grey water), you can’t stand there and soak it in. It’s more of a get it hot, wet yourself, turn it off, soap up, and rinse back off type of operation. There’s a drain in the floor, and a switch by the nozzle to turn it on. We’ve added some stick on hooks for our PackTowls.

The hot water system is electric, and heats water surprisingly fast. You just need to remember to turn the switch on in the dining area.  (Winnebago recently switched the hot water heater and furnace to a Truma Combi system that fills both functions.  It runs off both LP and 110v electricity. ed.)

The whole bathroom can be closed off for a little privacy or to keep water in when showering via a sliding aluminum door.

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7) Main Sleeping Area. The back area is storage and the main sleeping area. Under the bed are three pull out drawers, only one of which can be reached when the bed is down. On the floor are two cabinets with sliding doors. We keep rarely needed to access things in there, like tools or small propane tanks or spare parts since we largely block them off with the Plano storage trunks or other gear. As mentioned in earlier articles , we generally have four Plano Sportsmans trunks stored there, some leveling ramps, backpacks, fly rods, nets or other gear. There’s a mesh bag stored under the bed, that you can put fishing nets or paddles or wet gear than needs to air out and dry in.

Over the bed are more storage bins where we keep our clothes, organized in Eagle Creek Pack-It cubes.

If you choose your clothes wisely, you can pack quite a lot in there.

When folded down, the bed is roughly a full with a corner cut off. Ashley is shorter than me, so I take the long side and she takes the short side. Tripper goes to whichever side he wants or has the best window views.

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We’ve found the mattress very comfortable, and use combination of the Therm-a-rest Tech Blanket or Auriga Down Blankets, Compressible Pillows, and some old camo sheets for bedding.

There’s a pull down shade for a side window, and magnetic covers to cover the rear windows for privacy. There’s also a couple of lights on the rear doors that help with reading in bed. There’s one small storage net for keeping things like phones handy, but we’re looking at ways to add more. We’ve also developed a cargo net system from a truck bed net that we connect from the bathroom door handle over to a small storage rack that creates a retaining net to keep bedding from sliding off, or Tripper from burrowing off the bed.

Over the sleeping area is the AC unit and electric heater. You’ll need to be plugged in or running the generator to operate it, and it’s kind of loud to sleep under, but does control the environment nicely. There’s also a propane heater on the floor under the bed, up by the refrigerator, but we haven’t ever even turned it on since we’re so warm under our down blankets with a dachshund heater system.

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8) Overall Impression. That’s kind of a rundown of the features, so here’s a summary of what we do and don’t like so much about the Travato. First, it’s been a great home away from home, and by and large just what we were looking for in a compact RV. It’s got everything that we need, and not a lot that we don’t. If you think about what you’re bringing, how to pack it and use it, it’s a great adventure tool. We can park it anywhere we can get it (more on that in a bit), and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting ourselves new places with it.

It’s comfortable to drive, and easily tackles big 15+ hour days on the highway. The table is great seating for two, and Ash can make pretty much anything she wants in the kitchen. We sleep in it as well as we do at home, and Tripper loves it since he gets to sleep in the bed with us in there, which he doesn’t get to do at home.

Some of the things we don’t care for as much are the limited ground clearance (the generator hangs pretty low for some of the places we like to go), and we’d like more flexibility in the rack system. We’re solving some of the latter by pulling a kayak trailer more often (review of them coming soon), but there’s not much we can do about the ground clearance. You just need to be conscious of where you’re going and what you’re driving over.  We also wish the power outlets in the cabin were active while driving without the generator running.

Those are all easy things to adapt around, and overall it’s been a great mobile kayaking, fly-fishing, and adventure base camp. We’ve easily gone for a week off-grid, and could certainly get two or more weeks off-grid under the right conditions if we chose to. I can’t think of a better way to tour the National Parks (just be conscious of the fact they don’t allow dogs in most places).

With 15K miles behind us and a lot of stories to tell, we’re certain the next 15 will hold a lot of good ones.

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11 Comments

  1. Brad Thayer Posted on 11.23.2015

    Can you explain in detail how you load and unload your kayaks from the roof. Thank you

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 11.25.2015

      Brad,

      We asked Damon about his technique and here was his reply:

      “Winnebago recommends using a ladder to mount the Kayaks from the side of the coach vs. climbing up on the roof, but we choose to load the fishing kayaks by pulling them up from the rear. I climb the ladder to the roof, and Ashley’s stands the kayak up on one end so I can grab the bow. I kind of pull the kayak bow onto the roof, while she then lifts the stern. Eventually the kayak weight all ends up on the roof, and I pivot it and balance it on the AC unit cover. Then I lift and carry it to the kayak cradle. Yes, the driver side cradles were flipped for ease of loading while on the roof. I watch where I step, and keep my feet only on reinforced or low areas of the roof.”

  2. Scott Posted on 02.02.2016

    Why not just use a small cheap cigarette lighter plug in inverter, rather than a Goal Zero Battery system?

  3. Barbara Brown Posted on 05.04.2016

    Hi, What type of tray are you using on the hitch in the back for extra cargo space? I have a 2016 59G and am looking into getting a tray like this. Do you have to do anything extra to this hitch to carry the additional weight?

  4. Lannie Posted on 05.31.2016

    I want to put an inflatable pontoon on the back where you have your kayak. Where did you get the crossbar you are setting your kayak on?

  5. fred lue Posted on 08.09.2016

    I want to know since RVs are exempt from the “lemon laws”, what are the risks if I do decide to purchase a Travato? W hat are the potential pitfalls? Does Winnabego backup their product? Will this RV go the distance? Are seniors with physical limitations facing a financial nightmare to repair hidden repairs? I like to hear from any owners to help me out. Thank you

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 08.10.2016

      Fred,

      The chassis is warranted by Fiat Chrysler and the coach by Winnebago. From both a chassis and house standpoint the operational reliabilty of the Travato has been good. A good place to learn more is with the lively Travato owners group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travatoowners/ It’s a membership only group, but if you have a Facebook account and public profile the moderators will be happy to have you join. I just spent a week traveling with a group of Travato owners and they uniformly love their rigs. I also met a couple at the Grand National Rally who are really enjoying their Travato. She’s 88 and he’s 90!

  6. franchot Posted on 08.21.2016

    I have a late 14 Ram chassis and a 2015 travato house , cannot say enough about this RV . I live in NYC and bought it for it size and parking, we have traveled from MASS to NC and everything in between and had no problems !! going up to the Adirondack end of summer, for the cool nights and have used the heater two winters no problem. Bought mine from a great dealer in LI NY CONTINENTAL RV.

  7. suzie hayward Posted on 10.30.2016

    We have to move to Mexico from Canada .We have 9 cats and a doxie . Would ther be space for cat boxes ? Is it possible to sleep on the table area and put the boxes on the big bed?

  8. Mischa Posted on 03.24.2017

    Would you recomend this model for a family of four, with small children and a mid-sized dog?

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 03.25.2017

      There’s no easy answer. With three different B-van chassis and several floor plans, you should visit a local dealer to get a better feel. If you’re planning on longer trips with extended stays, then check out the Class C offerings on the same Euro chassis platforms.