Murphy Beds, Review of the Coachman Freedom Express and 10 Items to Pack from RV Education 101

On this week's show, we look at Murphy beds and how this late 1800s idea is alive and gaining momentum in today's modern RVs. Also, we thought this was the perfect time to re-air an old story we did awhile back and for a timely reason, as you'll see later on. Then we join Jeff Johnston as he shows us around a Coachman Freedom Express travel trailer.

And later, we'll catch up with Mark and Dawn Polk from RV Education 101 and see what they have in store for us this week.

Murphy Beds

Ah, getting a comfortable night's sleep is always a consideration when it comes to buying an RV. But then tying up valuable living space with a bed is also something you should consider. The solution has been around since the late 1800s, Murphy beds.

In the past few years, Murphy beds have been gaining a lot of popularity in the smaller RVs for the same reason it was originally created. Well, almost. You see, back in the late 1800s, it was frowned upon for a woman to enter a man's bedroom. And the story goes that in order to entertain a certain young woman, William Murphy's invention converted his bedroom into a parlor, enabling him to entertain. And now, I'm sure you can figure out the rest of the story.

With living space being at a prime in RVs, and especially small RVs, it's easy to see why more and more people are opting for a Murphy bed setup. Like early Murphy bed designers and builders that used to disguise their beds as doors, cabinets, and even pianos, RV interior designers are doing a great job of integrating a fold-down bed so that unless you're looking for it, you wouldn't even know it was there.

As you can see here, the amount of space you gain with choosing a Murphy bed option is like having two different floorplans in the same RV within a matter of minutes.

You may also want to consider a Murphy bed setup when upgrading or remodeling your RV interior. For more information and photos on Murphy beds, visit our website at

Portable Waste Tanks

This next product story is one we brought you before. And we're showing it again because we decided that to kick off 2020, we would give away six of these Thetford SmartTote 2LX portable waste tanks again. And we wanted you to learn all about this great prize, so let's roll the story.

Jeff Johnston: Hi, I'm Jeff with "Rollin' On TV." We're here at the campground with Andy from Thetford. And Andy, last night we had a really great time with the chili cook-off and the draft beer tasting festival. But obviously, that's going to put a real stress on the system here in the trailer.

So, it's a good thing we're here to talk about your new SmartTote 2. Portable holding tanks have been part of the RV industry for decades, but you guys have come up with some pretty sophisticated new features from what I understand.

Andy Bialorucki: You're correct. Portable waste tanks have been around for a while. And for those that don't know, they're used when you're at a campsite and there may not be a dump station nearby. So, as you fill up your holding tanks, rather than breaking camp to take your RV to the dump station, you can fill into the portable waste tank, and then take your portable waste tank to the dump station. And Thetford, as the sanitation expert, we've really taken a close look at what is needed by the RVers. We want to make it the most convenient process for the RVers. We recognize that this may not be the most fun thing to do, but we've designed it in such a way that it can be easy, and can be very clean and sanitary.

Jeff: Well, sophistication is something that the average RVer may not think about in
terms of a portable waste tank, but your new product sounds pretty interesting, so let's go take a look at it.

Andy: Yeah, so here we have our 27 gallon LX unit. LX stands for luxurious, if you will. And what it has is it's got a handle built in and some front wheels, which makes it a lot easier for towing. This is a 27 gallon, so it can be heavy, over 200 pounds. And a lot of people want to be able to use the handle and the wheels to tow it.

Jeff: Yeah, and I notice there's a little cutout here that looks an awful lot like
the diameter of a hitch ball. Andy: That's right. So, if you're not
hand-towing the unit, you can mount it to a ball hitch and tow it with a vehicle to the dump station. It's not built for the Indy 500. You want to keep it within a 5 mile an hour speed.

Jeff: Yeah, well, it's nice to have it tall like that so I can stand up without having to bend over to work on it.

Andy: That's a good point, Jeff. One of the things that we did with this handle is we made it a telescoping handle. For a tall guy like you, it telescopes, and you can extend it. Here it is extended, and you can see it's very comfortable.

Andy: Good, and for a guy that's a little bit shorter like me, if you don't want to telescope it, you can simply have it telescoped down and I could tow it as well.

So, once we've got the unit filled, so to speak, and we're heading over for the station. Nice turning radius, easy, maneuverable, and you can show off to your campground buddies how well you can back up.

Andy: So, one of the things that's great about our SmartTote 2 is that it's got a storage compartment. And inside this storage compartment is everything that you need to fill and empty your onboard holding tank.

Andy: That's right. The thing that's nice about this is that the hose always stays connected.  You don't have to store a hose separately. Many of the other tanks on the market don't have a hose built onboard like this. So, everything that you need is all right here.

Jeff: All right, we've got the SmartTote 2 positioned next to the trailer where it's supposed to be, we're ready to go. What's next?

Andy: All right, so before you fill the SmartTote 2, the first thing that you want to do is open this little compartment door. And underneath this door is a built-in level gauge. All SmartTote 2 LX models come with a built-in level gauge. So, what happens is when you're filling the tank from the bottom, liquid rises, and that stem pops up, and the water will shut off. The stem will shut off flow, and it prevents a messy overfilling situation.

So, now that you have that compartment door open, you're ready to fill the tank.

All right, so step number one, of course, I saw earlier open the compartment and take the vent off. This just stretches out, okay. And once it's connected, it's just-- Andy: You simply open the valves and fill the tank. If there's any remaining liquid in here, you shut the valves, you press the stem down on the tank, and that will release any liquid that's remaining into the hose back into the tank.

Andy: Now, you're ready to take it to the dump station. Jeff: And we're supposed to hold this up just to keep everything that's at the water level in the tank? Okay, and then we just collapse this back down. That's an interesting sound it makes. Okay. Fold it up, and now we're ready for the walk.

All right, here we are. First things first, open the vent cap. And now--and you'll let me know if I do something wrong here because this is not a place where I want to make a mistake, okay? If I remember right, we open this up, stretch this guy out.

Andy: You'll take the cap off. Keep the hose elevated. Jeff: Yep, because of the liquid level in there. And we'll pop the dump tube on here and then-- Andy: Put that nozzle in. That nozzle comes equipped with all LX models.

The 18, 27, and 35 gallon LX all include this sewer nozzle, which is a nice feature. You don't have to buy anything else. Jeff: Okay, and then we want to maintain that upside down P-trap. All we do is push down on the hose. Once you have your nozzle in the sewer, you push the hose down just like that, and wait for the holding tank to empty.

You said the tank is made to automatically dump with the bottom? Everything inside the tank is meant to have a gravity feed so that all the liquid contents completely evacuate the tank. If you're on level ground, the tank will completely evacuate.

Jeff: All right, and then once it's emptied, we once again raise it back up, and rinse that off when we get back to the campground, camp site. Put this on quickly, I suppose. Collapse that guy back down, cover that up. And then for the sake of the neighbors, we'll seal that back up.

Andy: Now, another feature that's built-in is a clean-out port. And when you're done
emptying the holding tank, you can simply open this little door, insert a garden hose, wash out the tank, rinse it completely, and then simply close the doors.

The tanks come in several different sizes. Our 2 wheel versions come in a 12 gallon, 18 gallon, 27 gallon, and 35 gallon. Our LX models, which we demonstrated here today come in 3 sizes, an 18 gallon, a 27 gallon, and a 35 gallon.

Jeff: And the two wheel versions just have a handle, and you more or less carry them like a luggage in an airport with wheels. Andy: That's correct, it's a hand tow. We do offer an accessory tow strap that you can purchased separately. That is an option.

Jeff: Well, it looks like a pretty darn handy thing to have if you spend a little bit of time in any one given campground. Andy: They're very handy, and we sell a lot of them, so it's been a great product for us. And we look forward to helping people with this situation.

Coachman Freedom Express

Toy hauler trailers are extremely popular today, and the Coachman Freedom Express we tested with the Ram 3500 truck is a good example of that RV type. The Ram did its expected good job of hauling the trailer to Riley Ranch County Park. Park sense rear park assist helps when solo. But towing, you'll want to shut it off to avoid hearing the alarm when backing up with a trailer.

These new trucks have a lot of really fun features. But one thing about today's modern pickups that I'm really a little bit puzzled about, and all the manufacturers are doing it, they're making the beds higher and higher. Now, I'm about 6'6. And if I have something want to put in the bed, like firewood, it's a reach over for someone my size. Now, if you happen to be a normal size adult, little bit shorter, this can be quite a chore. Fortunately, this particular Coachmen trailer has a solution to that.

We have a really cool metal rack up here directly above the batteries that's a cargo rack and can be used to put a generator on there, just about anything.  As you can see, we have it piled up with our campfire wood for the night. It's a nice feature. More trailers ought to have this.

The forward cargo rack makes good use of the open space above the trailer batteries. The new Freedom Express Blast from Coachmen Industries. Coachmen, of course, is a name that we've known for a long time in the RV industry. A lot of our parents, maybe even grandparents, used Coachmen products. This is the model 283BL toy hauler. Everything from approximately this point back is all garage.

And we'll show you more details . about that when we get inside. Out here is smooth fiberglass sidewalls and alumicage construction, meaning the walls and ceiling are all framed with aluminum. And it has azdel composite underneath the exterior skin, which is part of what gives it its certified green compliance by TRA Certification.

And that's kind of a nice thing to have today. The axles are spaced out a little bit. This is to apparently increase stability and such when you're driving. We towed this thing, and boy, it just followed along behind the truck like a dream.

Now up here, the solar panel you see by GoPower, it's a 120-watt unit, this is optional. Now, the only exterior storage they have on this unit is up front, but it goes all the way through, and it's a really good size compartment. So, there's a lot of long things that you can stash in here. And there's also a convenient tray that's strong enough to support something, oh, like a generator. We used it for a pile of firewood. That is a really neat item, which helps to keep the dirty stuff out of your vehicle and out of the inside of the trailer, especially if you have critters like the giant spider that my wife found on one of the pieces of wood and decided she had loaded enough pieces of wood for the day. I finished that little job.

The front also has a power jack, which takes a lot of the work out of it. Around on the other side, we have the appliance connections and so on. Let's take a look at them.

As per usual practice, all of the trailer utility connections are grouped on the driver's side. The garage door loading ramp unlatches easily, and can be opened or closed by one reasonably able-bodied person. Coil springs on the ramp hinge provide most of the needed weight support. This model 283BL has a lot of your typical toy hauler features. Number one, the garage comes right up to this point approximately, so the back of the stove and the back of the refrigerator cabinet is living up front, and it's garage out back. And living, but we'll look at that in a minute.

Up front, we have a conventional queen size RV walk-around bed. There are short wardrobes on either side, storage overhead, and a pair of really bright overhead LED reading lights available. Plus plenty of plug-ins and of course USB connections.

It's a split bath arrangement on either side of the haul. On the driver's side, you have the toilet and shower facility. Over here on the passenger side, you have an overhead cabinet with a mirror so you can get beautified after your ride. The sink, good size sink actually. Little storage cubby for your toiletries and more storage underneath. All very conveniently located.

Over here on the curb side, you got a good size refrigerator, lots of room. There's a little bit of storage overhead. The furnace is down underneath. Over here in the kitchen area, boy, this is really nicely done for even enthusiastic cooks. You've got a really large single bowl sink. That's the kind of big sink that RVers have been asking about for a long time, with a faucet that sticks out far enough that you can get things under it to clean them. The stove is a Furrion three-burner with oven, which is kind of handy. Convenient flip fold glasstop that works well. Furrion microwave oven overhead, and an interesting variety of storage places. You've got enclosed cabinets with these almost retro looking stain glass or glass finished doors. And overhead cubby holes with these elastic securement nets.

There's a barstool height dinette table curbside with a great window view that folds away when not in use. With the sofa beds folded flat, there's maximum storage space in the garage. Fold the seats up and lower them and you have lots of seating space for guests. Flip the seatbacks over and they make into a queen size bed.

The Lippert power mechanism lowers the main bed from the ceiling, and you also have the large lower bed available. Coachmen and Lippert seriously need to supply a printed instruction manual for these operations. And when you have more people to eat than just the two that would sit at the little dinette table, you have this cool little portable table that stores at a slot in the storage compartment up front. And that becomes your additional dining space.

The Ram 3500 and Coachmen toy hauler are an effective combination. We enjoyed our time with the trailer and truck. We think you would too.

Thank you to our friends at Guaranty RV in Junction City, Oregon for use of this trailer.

10 Items to Pack when Camping by RV Education 101

Hi, I'm Mark Polk with RV Education 101. I was talking to an RV owner the other day, and he told me no matter how well he thinks he packed his RV for a trip, every time they arrive at their destination, they'd need to buy something from the campground store that they forgot to take. This has happened to us more than once, so I thought it would be fun to compile a list of ten items folks forget to pack for camping trips.

Let's see what made the list.

  • An extra sewer hose just in case you can't reach the sewer drain outlet at the campground.
  • Extra sewer hose adapters and connectors so you can connect to different types of drain outlets.
  • TV coax cables so you don't miss your favorite television shows.
  • Citronella candles to help keep mosquitos away from your outdoor camping area.
  • Laundry soap so you can do a quick load of laundry at the campground.
  • Shower shoes for the bathhouse and the swimming pool.
  • A tablecloth and clamps to secure it to the picnic table.
  • Bug spray just in case the citronella candles don't do the job.
  • A first aid kit in case of an accident or emergency.
  • Aluminum foil so you can grill outside instead of cooking inside the RV.

Well, there you have it, my list of top ten items folks forget to take with them on camping trips.

Happy camping from Mark Polk of RV Education 101

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