RV Awards Season: 2021 Entry-Level Travel Trailer of the Year

Travel trailers are a popular form of recreational vehicle. A myriad of towing vehicles can be used to transport them from one scenic spot to another. However, they vary in luxury appointments and pricing. That is why the travel trailer of the year awards are broken down into smaller categories by RV News. Below is a listing of the units that came in at the top of the category for entry-level travel trailers.

How is entry-level determined for this RV category?

A 2020 gray Nissan Armada towing a travel trailer RV.
2020 Nissan Armada towing a travel trailer RV | Nissan

The organizers of the award at RV News classified entry-level travel trailers as units that are under $32,000. So, this category is ostensibly as affordable as an average car. It is the perfect starting point for a small family or single person experimenting for the first time with a travel trailer. 

2021 Forest River Salem 31KQBTS

Entry-level RV trailers usually contain the basics such as a sleeping area, a galley, and a bathroom. The Forest River Salem 31KQBTS goes a bit further. An outdoor kitchen and three slide-outs are thrown to help the trailer punch above its weight. This trailer even has a bunkhouse that converts into a queen. Bunkhouses are popular for people with children, or that expect guests. But, the addition of the queen conversion is a bonus. A fireplace is a nice touch too, as is the powered tongue jack. Overall, the judges also liked the versatility of this unit for the price point. 

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2021 Grand Design Transcend Xplor 240ML

Volumes of storage space attracted the judges of the competition to this unit. The Grand Design Transcend Explor 240ML has 12 drawers and 16 hard-wood cabinets spread around the living and kitchen areas. Six windows shower natural light into the same area, leading to an open and airy feeling. The single slide-out also contributed to the open space, as did reclining theater seating, and in the bedroom, a residential queen bed. Interestingly, a 165-watt solar panel is available on this unit, something that is a rarity in the entry-level category. Ducted airconditioning yields better airflow through the Explor’s cabin, and finally, a porcelain toilet, not plastic, comes with the unit.  

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Critical in any entry-level RV

From personal experience, I can tell you that many entry-level travel trailers will be very similar. Most will have a queen or a residential queen, or bunks, a galley, and a bathroom. What differentiates them a lot is the quality of the materials used and the bathroom. Many will have a wet bath setup. That is where the shower and toilet are in the same space. A few will have a separation of the shower and toilet.

If a buyer has never attempted RV life prior and is looking for an entry-level travel trailer to start things off, they should make the bathroom space one of their priorities while shopping. Make sure it is a comfortable useable space. Nothing is as bad as being a large person in a small bathroom or a tall person in a low roof bathroom. Those two situations can quickly sour the camping experience, no matter how great the rest of the trailer is. 

For 2021, the Forest River Salem 31KQBTS and the Grand Design Transcend Xplor 240ML both received praises from the judges. Buy your own voice is the most important. Check the RV trailers out in person for comfort, especially in the bathroom, before purchasing. Otherwise, online buying can produce buyer’s remorse very quickly.