A new travel trailer that takes off-road, off-grid camping to a higher level.
By Bruce W. Smith
A fledgling RV manufacturer with deep DNA ties in the industry has set out to make its own mark in the premium overlanding travel trailer niche with the introduction of the 2022 Ember RV Overland 171FB. Ember is an independent RV company started last year under the reign of founder/president/CEO Ashley Bontrager Lehman. Her grandparents established RV manufacturing giant Jayco Inc.
Lehman – along with a strong team that includes other key players with decades of RV manufacturing, design, and marketing experience – set a goal: to build RVs that are new, innovative, and meant for fun. The company’s Overland Series of travel trailers appears to do just that, targeting the growing popularity of off-road adventure travel among those who love camping off-grid.
I had the opportunity to take a close look at one of the very first Ember Overland 171FB models to hit dealers while visiting Bish’s RV in North Salt Lake, Utah. In my opinion, discerning buyers who check out the fast-growing overlanding market will see the value of these new campers in terms of innovations and build quality.
A Frame Of Innovation
The 171FB is the middle floor plan of five Ember Overland models, with lengths of either 20 feet 6 inches or 22 feet 6 inches, all with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) around 5,500 pounds. The 20-foot-6-inch 171FB camper is built on a strong chassis that utilizes a boxed outer frame, just like those found under today’s heavy-duty pickup trucks. The boxed frame increases torsional rigidity; it doesn’t flex as much as the C-channel frame of a traditional towable RV when going over uneven terrain. Less frame flex equals longer trailer life.
Another unique feature in Ember’s overlanding travel trailer design is the incorporation of a Curt Group independent trailing-arm suspension with coil springs and dual KYB gas-charged shocks. The suspension has its own subframe that’s attached to the Ember’s boxed chassis.
What’s so great about this suspension? A trailing-arm suspension provides better ride control and travel over uneven terrain than either a torsion or axle-less suspension, so the shocks can be finely tuned to the camper load and unsprung weight of the 30-inch LT235/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler A/T tires. (Airplanes have been using this type of suspension for decades, which helps to soften landings and increase passenger comfort.)
The Overland 171FB looks different up front, too. It uses an adjustable-height receiver hitch and an electric flat jack in lieu of the traditional pole-type tongue jack. The adjustable receiver makes it easier to fine-tune the height and angle of the trailer as it sits on the towing vehicle’s hitch ball. It’s also removable if the customer wants to add their own specialty hitch, as many who go off-road like to use an articulating hitch.
The flat jack folds upward for storage, leaving the top of the trailer’s A-frame for a big steel cargo box that holds the twin 20-pound propane tanks, batteries, and other gear. These innovative products and trailer design changes likely will mean a lot to those who camp off-pavement, off-grid.
Be A Stargazer
Inside are a few more fun features, some of them formerly seen only in upscale residential homes, others in teardrops and expedition-style off-road trailers. The Stargazer Skylight over the front residential-size (60-inch-by-80-inch) queen bed is one that catches your eye right away. It’s a huge double-pane window made from European acrylic with multiple locking latches and a pair of nice adjustable supports so it can be opened to any degree one wishes. It also features a built-in night shade — and a retractable bug screen.
All of the larger windows in the 171FB are frameless and dual-pane, with the same style shades and bug screens, so the insulating effect of the Azdel composite walls, ceiling, and floor remains maximized, and air circulation is easily managed for comfortable conditions indoors and out.
Water heating and interior heat are handled by a compact, state-of-the art Truma Combi Eco Plus system, while a 13,500-Btu low-profile roof air conditioner takes care of those hot, humid summer days and nights.
Then there’s the 8-cubic-foot 12-volt stainless-steel refrigerator and built-in pantry on the left by the entry door near the rear of the unit.
On the opposite corner of this Ember floor plan is an adult-sized bathroom with a 32-inch-radius curved shower. The shower is also equipped with a Showermiser system to minimize water usage, an important concern when dry camping for more than a couple days at a shot.
Comfortable, Quality Interior
Ember RV designers made sure this floor plan offers plenty of room to rest and relax, incorporating the residential-sized queen bed up front and a jackknife sofa opposite the galley. (The sofa also hides the removable dining tabletop and leg in a space underneath it.) Storage is available under both lounging locations, which augments the space provided by the hardwood-framed and -fronted drawers, nooks, and overhead cabinets that seem to ring the 171FB’s interior.
Lighting is LED, and all can be controlled via the EmberLink smart RV system powered by Lippert’s Bluetooth OneControl if so desired, as can trailer tire pressures, the slideout, and holding tank levels, along with other features and systems in the Ember Overland.
The galley area is small but efficient. The seamless countertop surrounds a premium two-burner Greystone stove and a deep, bowl-shaped stainless-steel sink with a tall faucet that makes kitchen cleanup a little easier. A convenient option is the microwave that replaces the storage cabinet above the sink.
Of course, when overlanding during nice weather, RVers love to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. To that end, the Ember Overland 171FB has a built-in outdoor kitchen with a small 12-volt fridge for drinks and an optional propane griddle perfect for cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Off-Grid Solar Ready
RVers bound for off-grid camping don’t need to worry about keeping their batteries charged, either. The 171FB comes standard with a 30-amp solar controller, a 190-watt solar panel on the roof, and a 1,000-watt inverter to control the flow of sun-sourced energy. Batteries can be purchased as an option from Ember or from the dealer.
If more solar power is needed, Ember RV offers the optional Max Solar Package, which includes a 3,000-watt inverter, two additional 190-watt roof-mounted solar panels, and an upgraded Bluetooth MPPT controller. It comes with a pair of Battle Born 100-amp-hour, deep-cycle lithium-ion phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries. Two additional batteries can be added as an option.
Ember RV has positioned itself as a premium brand that builds innovative, high-quality, high-tech, trendsetting campers for the overlanding style of family RVing. That comes with a premium price. The base manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $51,128. However, with solar upgrades and other dealer-installed options, the price can top $55,000. (The suggested retail price on the Overland 171FB I checked out was $55,193.)
Price is dictated by a lot of factors, including supply and demand. Right now, the demand for RVs is high, and the supply is limited. There’s also a growing demand among discerning RVers for a higher-quality travel trailer, one that can be passed down from generation to generation for exploring roads less traveled. The new Ember Overlands appear to nicely fit that niche.
SPECIFICATIONS | EMBER RV OVERLAND 171FB
Ember Recreational Vehicles, P.O. Box 970, Bristol, IN 46507; www.emberrv.com; (844) 732-4204
2022 Overland 171FB
CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
20 feet 6 inches
EXTERIOR HEIGHT (WITH A/C)
10 feet 4 inches
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 35 gallons; black water — 35 gallons
2 to 4
LT235/75R16; load range E
1 year, limited; 2 years structural, limited
BASE MANUFACTURER’S SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE (MSRP)
MSRP AS REVIEWED