Considering the Niagara HW - First PUP

Discussion in 'Camper Pre-Purchase Questions' started by dbbyleo, Jun 27, 2013.

  1. dbbyleo

    dbbyleo Member

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    Hi...
    I think I've narrowed it down to the Fleetwood Niagara. I'm going to be looking for a used trailer and I think my price point is going to be between the 2006 - 2007 models. My purchase time frame will be by Spring 2014.

    My family? Husband/Wife with 7 and 4 year old. We are big campers and have enjoyed tent camping before and after having kids. But after our first campout this year... it sure felt a lot of work... the packing of totes at home, then packing the truck, to setting up camp... and of course the tearing down of camp. Everything in between was of course great. My wife look at each other one day at camp and we both had this wierd look in our eyes... and it was the reflection of the pop-up parked next to our camp site!

    So in the week followed I've been pre-occupied learning about pups... all the different model, floor plans, options etc.

    And as of today, I'm falling for the Niagara.

    Some of our requirements thus far include:
    1. Must have a potty
    2. Indoor shower
    3. I like that Niagara has a Black tank, but Fresh and Grey is a must. I would be ok with cassete toilets
    4. Must have a slide-out... I like the extra room.

    Some things I really like about this model is the counter space, seating, and larger refrigerator. Since its a high wall, there's no setup when it comes to the counter areas - I like that too.

    Like I said, we're big tent campers. We actually don't want to be too insulated from the outside and have never desired hardwalled RV's. We've always thought of the pups as a "glorified tent".

    Our primary reason for the pup is to gain some convenience and ease in the camping preps, setting up camp and tearing down camp. Just like our tent, we would use the pup primarily for sleeping.
    Camping for us is NOT seating around campsite let alone inside the tent... so it also won't be the case the pup - we like to explore either on foot, on bikes, or in the 4x4. It would just be nice to have proper seating and table areas when we have our meals (likely breakfast and dinners only as lunch is typically out somewhere in the field). The potty is nice - especially for the wife and kids (we have a porta-potty now we keep in our tent for my wife frequent pee'ing at night). We want the subtle conveniences like a proper sink for washing; storage pots, utensils, dishes, etc... so that they aren't buried in the bottom of totes box, but stored in easy to reach cabinets/drawers. And that many of our camping "stuff" can be stored permanently in the pup and not have to loaded and unloaded from my truck bed in totes.

    I know I will still need to pack a cooler, but those frequently used items can be nicely stored and easily accessible in the fridge of a pup.

    Right now we already have a catalytic propane heater we use in our tent to cut the chill in the morning or before we go to bed, but the built in heater in the pup would be easier (and safer) to use.

    Instead of seating under our ez-up during a rainy afternoon, we'll just be inside the pup - just insulated enough, but not feel coupe up. We can still experience the elements of the outdoor if/when we have to be "indoor".

    The shower is a bonus, but I really want one now because I think there's great potential for the pup to extend our typical weekend "roughing it" camping trip. In addition to our usual campouts, I envision being to use it on "real" vacations, like going to Disneyland or other cities. Placed in an RV park with hooks ups, We could use the pup instead of staying in a hotel.

    And lastly, with tent camping, I've usually made a rule of thumb that we have to to do at least 3 nights... to make the preps, setup and tear downs worth the effort. With a pup, one-nighter impromptu to the woods is more a possibility and it can also serve us in extended road trip overnighters in the same respect.

    Having said all that...

    My TV is a 2006 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Rodd with Tow Package. This my first time towing something at this scale, so I've never really had to pay attention to these numbers regarding my truck...

    Curb Weight (lb): 4080
    GVWR (lb): 5450
    Payload: 1315
    Tongue Load (lb, Standard/Max): 640
    Standard Tow Capacity (lb): 3500
    Maximum Tow Capacity (lb): 6500
    GCWR (lb): 11,100

    I know I have an Oil Cooler, and because the TRD comes with the tow package, I believe it also came with a tranny cooler, but will double check.

    Question 1: Do these numbers of my TV indicate I should be able to tow a 2006/07 Fleetwood Niagara?

    Question 2: Is it realistic to think I can really use this pup for vacation where I would normally need to stay in a hotel? I mean, as long as I'm in an RV park with hook ups, I should be have all I need, right?

    Question 3: Since I'll be focusing in the used market, are there any thing you can point out to me to check, look over, inspect, etc... things that might not be as obvious?

    Question 4: Any reason you would suggestion I not pursue the Niagara? Any other models out there that you would suggest better?

    Thanks for reading and in advance for your feedbacks.
     
  2. Harvardroger

    Harvardroger If it feels good, do it! If it hurts, Stop!

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    I can comment on questions 2 & 4,

    2 - you are in good shape. The shower is good for a quick rinse off. Having access to CG showers is better for a full cleaning. A lot of space in the Niagra for storage and you will be surprised how much you can put in the fridge.

    4 - we love ours. Search Niagara on this site and you will see a lot of positive comments. Also search Shelf Mod. Many add wire shelves. We did this and it adds a lot of space for things like dry food items to bath towels.

    As far as towing, keep in mind that a Niagara with all your gear is going to be about 4000 pounds. I have towed ours with a Dodge Ram 1500 and now a Suburban. If the TV is up to it the Niagara travels very nicely. I added a sway bar for extra piece of mind.

    Good luck with your purchase.
     
  3. BigBaron

    BigBaron Dreaming of Tommy's chili cheeseburgers...

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    Tacoma and a Niagara? V-8?
    Air springs, WDH, and you're good to go, but dang! That's a big trailer.
    You'll probably need an external tranny cooler. The one that goes through the radiator isn't enough.
    Search for other Niagara owners. They'll have some good advice.
    Spring of '14? That's peak season. Buy it in winter. You'll get better prices!
     
  4. atolman

    atolman Member

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    The Niagara will have everything you need and more! We use our 2006 at least once a month. It's set up in our driveway right now for guests coming up this weekend. It's a flipping rolling condo with all the amenities.

    That Tacoma will probably struggle to tow the beast though. I tow ours with a big V-8 tundra and it feels like there's almost nothing back there. The Tacoma with only a v6 will be hurting if you plan on driving any hills.

    Sent from my SCH-I500 using Tapatalk 2
     
  5. atolman

    atolman Member

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    Feel free to ask me anything about these models though! I have done tons of little fixes including plumbing, electrical, lift, etch. Heck I even tore apart the whole back panel drilling out rivets and all just to get a better look at the lift mechanism.








    Sent from my SCH-I500 using Tapatalk 2
     
  6. BigBaron

    BigBaron Dreaming of Tommy's chili cheeseburgers...

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    That's what I thought. It has a V-6.
    Too much trailer for the TV in my opinion.
    Now if you're looking for an excuse to get a bigger TV and your other half is against it, then this would be a really sneaky way... ;)
     
  7. tribe5

    tribe5 New Member

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    We also have the Niagara and it is a heavy beast; but, what a great popup!
    Our TV is a 2007 Suburban with 5.3L and it pulls fine.

    We have three boys and two small dogs and have plenty of room. I can't think of a single negative about this trailer.
     
  8. Loraura

    Loraura New Member

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    Question 1: Do these numbers of my TV indicate I should be able to tow a 2006/07 Fleetwood Niagara?

    Looking at the math (and thank you for posting all of the weight ratings, that helps) I think you can safely tow it. You'll know it's back there... and it will tax your V6 engine, but I think as long as you don't bring a ton of gear you'd be under the tow limit and combined limit.

    Here is my quick math:

    The truck weighs 4080 empty.
    Truck, camper, people and gear can't exceed 11,100. So that leaves 7020 lbs.
    Subtract 450 for people in the truck (2 adults 2 kids) leaves 6570 lbs.
    Subtract 300 for gear leaves 6270.
    Subtract the gross weight of a 2007 Niagra (3970) and that leaves 2300 lbs.

    The camper weight is under the tow limit, and the camper and truck and people and gear combined are under the 11,100 limit with a 2300 lb cushion. You'll need a brake controller, and might check into a WDH and sway control system. Is your truck a crew cab? A longer wheel base will help, a lot.


    Question 2: Is it realistic to think I can really use this pup for vacation where I would normally need to stay in a hotel? I mean, as long as I'm in an RV park with hook ups, I should be have all I need, right?

    Yes, it certainly is realistic. We bought our camper to attend races across the state so we could stop staying in hotels, and it works great.

    Question 3: Since I'll be focusing in the used market, are there any thing you can point out to me to check, look over, inspect, etc... things that might not be as obvious?

    Check floor and roof. Pole around on it. Nothing soft, no visible damage or visible repair jobs not done right. Look for evidence of leaks.
    Check the storage bin. People have lots of trouble with those leaking.
    Does it smell musty? Water/mildew/mold is the death of a popup.
    Crawl underneath, look for damage or any visible frame issues.
    Test every appliance. AC/heat/sink/hot water/fridge/shower/potty/roof lift

    Question 4: Any reason you would suggestion I not pursue the Niagara? Any other models out there that you would suggest better?

    A Niagra is a lot of camper. Like you said, you don't spend a ton of time IN the camper. You might not need as much camper as the Niagra provides, and you'd be hauling it around everywhere.

    The more features an RV has, the more features can have issues and need maintenance and repair. So owning a castle means you must maintain that castle.

    I personally would steer clear of any camper with a storage bin unless the bin is completely separate from the camper portion. This is a personal choice of mine because I've just read too much about the storage bins leaking and causing major floor damage to the pup. They don't all leak, and when properly maintained, it should be fine, but I know me, and I know I won't be able to stay ahead of a leak.

    Big camper means needing a big place to put it. Not sure if it will fit in your garage. Might need a storage spot for it. Covered storage is expensive. Open storage isn't great for the camper.
     
  9. dbbyleo

    dbbyleo Member

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    Man, I love this site and the people - I like the enthusiasm here! Thanks so much for all the feedback... definitely a few thing I'll need to think about.

    Sounds like the Niagara is a sure bet, but I see my TV may be questionable. Yes, the Tacoma is only a V-6 and though its towing numbers seem like it matches up with the Niagara and looks "ok" on paper, I can imagine how that doesn't always pan out well in reality. Living in Colorado... I will have my share of mountain passes.

    Thanks Loraura for that detailed break down. I hadn't figured out yet what all these numbers really meant, but your example sure explains a lot of it to me. This gives me some confidence that I can at least start this venture with my current TV, knowing a new TV may be required depending how it performance. My Tacoma is the double cab, so I'm glad that's in the right direction.

    You also make a good point - do I need this much camper?? That's a discussion me and the wife will need to thoroughly have. My current TV suggests I go with something smaller/lighter... and changing TV is not trivial. Other non-HW pups do have comparable seating/living space (from what I've seen), but the large fridge, ample counter space, large sink, etc, looks to be available only in these HW types (I don't care so much for the microwave). Our current tent camping style, with our big Coleman 10-man tent and all the other trimmings we can fit into tent camping suggests we like lots of elbow room and the subtle little things that makes camp life a bit more comfy. If I had gone with the Tundra 7 years ago instead of the Tacoma - I think this would completely be a non-issue and there would be no question about it, Niagara all the way (based on the other feedbacks). I haven't yet been in one, but so far, all the pics on the web and for-sale ads look very promising.

    I assume all the concerns and comments about my TV tow capacity is in the context of towing a dry pup. Which brings to my next questions... do RV'ers typically travel with empty water tanks (fresh, grey, black)? I would assume that if the destination is a CG with hook ups, you would travel dry. And even if the destination doesn't have hook ups, a little planning should allow you to fill up when you're close to your destination and unload shortly after you leave your campsite. Is that more or less the reality when traveling?

    "Rolling condo"... I like that - and that's really what I'd hope this becomes for us to extend our campout vacation to other vacation types.

    You're right... when I pull the trigger... it'll be better during the cold season for a better price point.

    Thanks again!
     
  10. ridenred333

    ridenred333 New Member

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    I think you will be ok with your tv, you just have to remember not to rush yourself pulling this with the v-6. I pulled mine with an 01 explorer with the v-6 for years. Just make sure you take overdrive off and when climbing hills rev her up and find a steady pace, usually about 40mph is what was good for me on a 8% grade. I didn't want to make the engine scream but was running it in the 4k rpm range. Like mentioned above make sure you have a good break controller and you should be fine. Its not the best set up but it will do it safely.
     
  11. Loraura

    Loraura New Member

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    The number I found online for a 2007 Niagra was max weight, not dry weight (3970). I think it was like 3100 dry. So 4K pounds should include everything, propane, battery, AC, fridge, dishes, bedding, everything. Basically, if your camper and everything in it weighs more than 3970 then you are overloading your camper axels and frame.

    Most people tow with fresh and grey tanks empty, until they get to the campground, depending on how far they are travelling. If you're boondocking and no water source is available near the camp site, then you'd fill the fresh tank at home, knowing water is 8 pounds per gallon. Some people do use the fresh tank as a way to distribute weight in the trailer. Some people prefer knowing their water came from home and just tow their fresh water with them.

    I don't have a black tank, but from what I've read you don't want to leave the black tank completely empty, you want to put some clean water in it after emptying the "black" content, and allow that water to be there. This prevents any left over "black" content from drying out and sticking to the tank and being ...well.. gross and smelly.

    When leaving the campground, you'd dump all three tanks, and backfill some fresh water into the black tank.

    The one piece of info about your truck I didn't have was the tongue weight. Tongue weight should be 10-15% of the total trailer weight, so could be as much as 390 pounds. I'm not sure if the hitch on your Tacoma can take 300-400 pound weight on it. I'm out of my league on giving advice for that situation.
     
  12. Fire Captain Jim

    Fire Captain Jim New Member

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    I have a 2008 Niagara, I liked it over the older models due to the fact, 2008 is the first year they built a outside stow away stove compartment. I love that so I can warm my coffee up in the mornings outside without waking everyone up inside. I have a 2006 Tacoma V-6 with the same TRD tow package as you! I have no problems towing! I do have a little sag on back of my tow vehicle when hitched but I cannot do any WDH do to the diamond plate boxes I had made for the front. Look at my pictures of my mods. I do have some mountain towing around my house. Maybe not as step as you have in CO. I have no problems with pulling or over heating. I have pulled twice to a 8 hour drive to Myrtle Beach and back. Pulls like a charm! PM me if you have any questions. I will be glad to answer them! FCJ
     
  13. dbbyleo

    dbbyleo Member

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    Ah... this is a encouraging intel - thanks FCJ. I'll have to revisit your mods page if/when I have mine to steal some ideas. Thanks!
     
  14. Born2recrea8

    Born2recrea8 New Member

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    We own a 2005 Niagra and tow with a 1/2 ton full size GMC Sierra.

    In answer to question 1, your truck likely will have the power to tow the vehicle, but be aware the Niagra is quite tall and wide. So much so you can't see my truck in front of it when approaching from the rear. I ended up purchasing mirror extensions which helped with seeing behind/traffic in nearby lanes, etc.

    For question 3, one thing to watch for with the Niagra are axle-related issues (bent/tweaked). The manufacturer cut it close on the axle rating and you can't load these "to the hilt" like you can with some tent trailers. Coleman/Fleetwood probably should have gone with dual axles or a heavier rated single axle.

    Overall, we like ours, hard to beat for space and features in a tent trailer. Hope that helps...Good luck...!
     
  15. jrclocks

    jrclocks Member

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    We just started towing our 2008 Niagara with our new 2013 4-dr Tacoma this season. 3 trips so far.

    We have the towing package on the Tacoma and it tows great. No problems in the Missouri Ozarks, but its not the Rockies. You're not going to do 65mph uphill anyway. My tongue weight is less than 1/2 the limit of the Tacoma, so no WDH or air springs needed. The Niagara came with an anti-sway bar, so we use it. We have a Prodigy III brake controller. The Tacoma came with a pigtail to make installing the controller easy.

    We bought our Niagara for all the same reasons you mentioned.

    I do limit the amount of extra "stuff" in the camper, due to the weigh limits of the axle. I do carry 4 bikes on the roof.

    This is our 2nd camper, 1st was a Sun Valley. Even though we spend most of our time out of the camper, I can tell you that in the morning, evening and on rainy days, I appreciate the size of the Niagara.

    We bought ours in 2011 and we were fortunate to find an '08 that was stored in the garage and still had that "new camper" smell.

    Hope this helps,
    JR
     
  16. BigBaron

    BigBaron Dreaming of Tommy's chili cheeseburgers...

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    This is the best thread I've seen on getting a Highwall. Fire Captain Jim verified you're good to go. Go and see one of these beasts in person, then you'll understand how big they really are! ;)
     
  17. Twisty

    Twisty New Member

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    I say get one!
    You're good on the numbers if you use common sense when you pack.
    I suggest that you get a WDH.
    If you decide that this could be a long term popup for you, a full size pickup or SUV could be purchased in a couple years or maybe sooner. The kids will appreciate more room in the TV and you will feel more confident when you tow.
    If you don't buy new rigs look at a used 3/4 ton truck of some kind.
     
  18. BigBaron

    BigBaron Dreaming of Tommy's chili cheeseburgers...

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    Check out this thread in Forest River Forums...

    Tow Rigs
     
  19. CREEPPINGCHARLIE

    CREEPPINGCHARLIE CAMPING RECHARGES THE HUMAN MIND

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    Dibbyleo

    The tow ratings for your Toy are with factory equipped size tires. If you are running oversize tires without
    changing the the axle gearsets, you may have and probably lowered your tow rating. The stock size tire and gear ratio should work okay, just keeo it out of overdrive or 5th gear when climbing. [8D] [PU] [PUT]
     
  20. dbbyleo

    dbbyleo Member

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    Yes, the next phase on this process is to touch and feel this beast in person. I just wanted to make sure this is the direction I want to go. This has been a good thread thanks to all of you and I feel more confident Niagara is the unit for my family.

    Charlie... ah finally, a fellow Coloradoan! My Tacoma is fully stock, no lifts, stock wheels and tires - so tow rating should remain true. I like to go off-road and had considered getting 3" lift and bigger tires. Now I'm glad I held off.

    Twisty... I like your line of thinking. I'm just glad I don't have to change TV right off the starting line... and yes... a change of TV down the rode is possible. I do plan on keeping this rig for a long time. We'll see how the Tacoma performs - we'll see how I like doing 40mph up these mountain passes.

    I'm researching what mods I need to consider for the Tacoma in preparation for this. So far, I have on my list:
    1. Tranny Cooler... this seems like a no brainer. Costs seems minimal for the peace of mind.
    2. Rear suspension... add a leaf, leaf pack, or air suspension? A bit more cash involved in the latter two if I decide on this solution. I've seen what happens to the Tacoma when there's a 700 lb ATV on the bed - it's not pretty. I'm suspecting 400 lb tongue weight will have the same kind of sag.

    Good to know JRCLOCK has had to do anything.
    FCJ... do you use any extra suspension in the rear?

    Other tow package preps include:
    3. WDH
    4. Dual Cam Sway bar
    5. Electric Brakes (that's a gimme)

    I don't mind spending a little extra in these areas for the peace of mind on those what could be very long hours hauling on the road. Any pointers in brands or specific units for the Tacoma would be greatly appreciated.
     

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