Trading our R-Pod 180 for a Grand Design XLS 22MLE
Trading our 2020 RPod 180 for a 2021 Grand Design Imagine XLS 22MLE
Wow! What a mouthful of alphabet soup! If you’ve followed our YouTube channel, you’ll know that in the middle of the pandemic laden year that was 2020, we purchased our first ever travel trailer, a 2020 Forest River RPod 180. This little guy was a great first RV, and we learned TONS from it in the short time we owned it. By learning tons, I mean we learned both what we liked and disliked about camping, about travel trailers, and about the RPod 180 in particular.
In early 2021, we decided to hop around to a few RV dealers just to dream and plan about the possibility of future trades. This was a big mistake! We quickly learned that there are some camper brands out there that appeared to be made of much higher quality than our little RPod, which led us yearning to make an impromptu upgrade. You may have noticed in our first few camper videos that we experienced a handful of frustrating issues with the RPod, and while little problems are very common when towing your house down the highway, we felt like maybe we were experiencing more than our fair share of hiccups.
Enter the 2021 Grand Design Imagine XLS 22MLE! After nearly trading for a smaller sister model to this camper (the 17MKE), we fell fast in love when we stepped through the door of the 22MLE. It just felt…..right!
This post should pair nicely with our 2 part YouTube series explaining what we liked and disliked about the 2020 RPod 180 and what we loved so much about the 2021 Imagine XLS 22MLE. Here are links to those videos:
Why We Traded Our 2020 RPod 180
Video in Detail
Our RPod experience was by no means “all bad”. In fact, there were many things loved about it and will actually miss by going to a bigger trailer. When making our decision to trade, we listed out all the pros and cons of each trailer. Here are the things we really liked about the 2020 Forest River RPod 180.
- It’s small! This was a great first trailer for us in that it was easy to learn to back up and fit in tight places. We were total novices when it came to towing, so starting small was a plus. This trailer was easy to see around, maneuverable, and light!
- It’s light! One of the main reasons that we went with this model was because it was light enough to be towed by our 2015 Ford Edge (or so we thought). With a max weight of around 3900 lbs when fully loaded, many vehicles can tow this trailer.
- Tons of features in a small package. The 2020 Forest River RPod 180 really did come with a ton of great features. This guy had indoor and outdoor kitchens, gas ranges, microwave with convection and broil functions, sinks, refrigerator, built in vacuum system, dinette area, decent storage, water heater, air conditioner, gas heater, television, and more!
- Dry bath – Many campers this size have wet baths, so you have to plan ahead before letting it rain on your toilet area. The RPod 180 has a dry bath with a divided shower area. No worries about soggy potty time.
- Slide Out – The kitchen area makes up the slide out in this unit making for nice floor space. For a small camper, it feels roomy enough.
- Cozy – Being small, this unit could feel quite crammed, but we both agree that it is cozy and doesn’t feel too cramped. Our one wish with regard to layout is that it included a better sitting area for bad weather days. We considered swapping the dinette for a jackknife sofa for a better lounging area.
While there were plenty of “pros”, the 2020 Forest River RPod 180 did leave a few things to be desired, both in the way of features AND craftsmanship. Here’s a list of some of the reasons that led us to making a trade.
- The bed – This is a bit of poor planning on our part, but the bed in the RPod 180 is a short queen, meaning that it’s the standard width of a queen size bed but 6 inches shorter. And, it runs length wise from wall to wall, so at 6’3″, I touch the walls with my head and feet while in bed. It was doable, but it wasn’t the most comfortable sleep.
- Noisy – The air conditioner unit in this model is plenty capable of cooling it, but man is it noisy. We are fully aware that travel trailer air conditioners are noisy by nature, but we couldn’t talk while this thing was running. Compared to the unit in our new trailer, it’s night and day difference.
- Towing – While the 2020 RPod 180 is light and small, it actually was a little tricky for us to tow. Given that it was so light, it tended to bounce and sway more than we’d hoped, no matter how we loaded it.
- Dogs – We have 2 60 lbs pitbull mixes, and we hope to incorporate them into our camping hobby. While others manage to take multiple bigger dogs along in their RPods, it just wasn’t going to work for us.
- Storage – Our international travels have taught us to pack light, so we managed just fine with the limited storage in a small trailer like an RPod, but there were definitely some items that had to stay behind on our journeys. For the size of the trailer, the storage is good, we just learned that we may need a smidge more.
- Quality and Craftsmanship – While I put this at the bottom of the list, it may be the biggest reason that we traded. In the 6 months that we owned the trailer, we experienced our fair share of issues, like trim pieces falling down, leaking windows, broken air conditioner and power tongue jack, issues with the trailer battery getting charge from our truck, etc. While we know that some of these issues are common, a few of them ended up being a result of poor craftsmanship at the factory during installation. In addition to these issues, we noticed drawers and cabinet doors installed crooked, broken trim pieces being used, poorly cut wood being used, etc. The overall pride in quality of work just seemed to be lacking, leaving us questioning the safety of the unit when thinking about quality of electrical, plumbing, general construction work.
We Bought a 2021 Grand Design Imagine XLS 22MLE
Why Buy a 2021 Grand Design Imagine XLS 22MLE?
When we stepped foot in Grand Design’s travel trailers, we could sense that these units were next level with regard to construction quality. The felt sturdier, were cleaner out of the factory, and the quality of components used in construction just seemed better. Here are a few of the specific things that landed us on this unit.
- Tons of storage – There’s storage everywhere in this unit. Under the bed, over the bed, beside the bed, all over the kitchen and bathroom area, and a HUGE front passthrough storage area. Everything will fit in this trailer!
- Aluminum wrapped wood frame construction – As mentioned, walking in this trailer, it feels sturdy. It weighs nearly twice as much as the RPod, and you can feel that “heft”.
- Walkable roof with built in ladder – The RPod did not have a walkable roof, making regular roof maintenance tricky. The Imagine XLS 22MLE has both a walkable roof and slide out, as well as an attached ladder, making roof access and maintenance much much easier.
- A place to sit on rainy days – The Imagine XLS 22MLE has both a 4 person dinette AND two Thomas Payne heated and vibrating recliners. Granted, our goal is be outside as much as we can on our camping trips, this makes for some nice lounging options for when you get caught in the occasional deluge.
- Larger refrigerator with actual freezer – With the extra size of the 22MLE, some of these comparisons are apples to oranges, but….the 22MLE has a nearly full size fridge and freezer. We can now have ice cream while camping! Seriously though, the extra fridge and freezer space makes for much easier meal planning when packing up for a camping trip.
- Gas oven and 3 burner range – The 2020 Imagine XLS 22MLE has a standalone Furrion gas range/oven that expands our cooking possibilities quite a bit. Again, we like to cook outside, but this will make baking a bit easier and give us a good spacious cooking area for those rainy days when outdoor cooking is too soggy.
- Quieter air conditioner – I don’t know what to say about this one other than it may be my favorite improvement. We ran the air conditioner during our demo of the new trailer, and I was grinning from ear to ear. It’s so much quieter!
- Room for the dogs – There plenty of floor space in this unit for our pups, and the dinette will make a perfect sleeping area for them when converted. We hope they love it!
- Full queen sized bed – The 22MLE has a full queen bed, meaning I won’t have to sleep at a diagonal or in the fetal position to avoid the walls. Plus, it faces out into the living area, so even if my feet hang off, there’s plenty of room.
- Ducted heating and air – This probably has a fair amount to do with why the a/c is so much quieter, but it also disperses the climate controlled air much better for more even heating and cooling.
- 4 seasons package – We live in Southern Indiana, and our camping season is fairly short. The 4 seasons package on the 2021 Imagine XLS 22MLE means that the underbelly of this unit is enclosed and heated to help keep pipes and tanks from freezing. It has R-7 insulated walls and R-40 insulated ceiling and R-30 insulated floor (I think).
- Bigger water and waste tanks – Many of our nearby campgrounds offer electric service, but may lack water or sewer hookups. The RPod came with 30 gallon fresh/grey/black tanks, whereas the 2020 Imagine XLS 22MLE comes with 43 gallon fresh, 45 gallon grey, and 37 gallon black tanks. This extra capacity will allow us to camp without full hookups a bit more stress free.
- It just felt better – As mentioned, this camper just felt like it was better built. It felt sturdier, it was cleaner, the finishes were better, etc. Our hope is that while the initial shakedown period always brings a few issues to the surface, the issues with the Grand Design Imagine XLS 22MLE will be minimal.
We know that this trade may not make the most sense for everyone, and we know that the RPod series may be the perfect fit for some, the Imagine XLS series could be the perfect fit for others, and 20 different brands may be perfect for the rest. Given our situation, what we’ve learned in our limited camping experience, and what we want for our camping future, trading our 2020 Forest River RPod 180 for a 2021 Grand Design Imagine XLS 22MLE made perfect sense, even if it stung the wallet a little bit!
Hopefully, this post is useful if you’re deciding on one of these units or even between the two. The RPod to Imagine jump seems to be more common than we expected. Be sure to look back in the coming months for a full review of the Imagine XLS 22MLE.
Darren & Steph
Hi! We're Darren and Stephanie! We're an ordinary married couple from the landlocked state of Indiana, with a passion for traveling the world....hence, Landlocked Lovebirds! In our 6 years of marriage, we've managed to visit over 30 countries together! Our site is dedicated to teaching you what we know about traveling around the world, eating and cooking incredible bites, photography, videography and video editing, and much more. If there's a topic that you want us to blog or vlog about, head over to the Contact Us page, and let us know!