In August of 2015 we purchased our first camper. After many trips to many dealers we settled on the Keystone Passport Ultra-Lite 238ML, a 25ft travel trailer. Now almost two years later we have about a dozen trips under our belt and have become acquainted with our adorable little home on wheels, lovingly named "Patrick".
See a tour of our camper: click here
Several of you reached out to me either in the comments of our camper tour or directly through email and asked: now that some time has passed, what do we think of this camper? I've compiled a list of some pros and cons that we have noticed. Hopefully this will be helpful to those of you who are currently considering this trailer or who are shopping for one that is a similar size and layout.
Read travel journals of some of our camping trips: click here
Things We Hate
1. The Air Conditioner is Too Loud
Like most shorter campers, there is a single roof air unit that is situated in the kitchen area, directly over the dinette and sink. We have joked that, when running, the unit sounds like a jet engine. It's so loud that trying to speak to each other at a regular volume is impossible. Forget about watching TV, because the ceiling speakers flank the A/C unit, so even with the volume at full blast you cannot hear it. It's so annoying that we try to survive without running it at all as often as possible, and opt for opening the windows and running the roof fans instead; it really seems like the owners of this camper need to hire services like the HVAC repair in Farmer City, IL or a professional that has undergone hvac training to control this noise as I'm sure we're not the only one getting frustrated about this. This camper is screaming the new for new ac services. Summers in the south are so hot, however, that we have never made it through a trip without needing to run the unit to keep the inside a bearable temperature. Without it, think about how hot it gets in a parked car, even with the windows open. We have had the unit serviced, thinking maybe something is out of alignment, but nope... roof units are just noisy monsters. What's worse is that if the unit is on, the fan (which is what is so noisy) blows constantly. Though there is a thermostat, the fan keeps blowing whether or not the air is being cooled. It drives us nuts and this is the biggest complaint we have about this camper. Larger RV's will often have ducted air units and when/if we ever upgrade to a larger camper, a ducted system will be at the top of our list of must haves.
2. Murphy Bed is Uncomfortable
On our very first camping trip we realized that sleeping on the folding mattress of the Murphy bed was no more comfortable than sleeping on a slab of concrete. Between that and a fussy baby that wouldn't sleep, we didn't get any rest and went home at the end of the weekend red-eyed and exhausted. Not long after that first weekend we went to a mattress store and purchased a 3-inch memory foam topper. We spent about $200 on it, but it was worth every penny, because the addition of the topper has made the bed very comfortable and we've enjoyed many restful nights of sleep (as long as the kids sleep, that is!) As a bonus, the topper, when folded, fits into the storage area with the rest of our bedding. Note: the photo above does not show our mattress topper, but we had enough room to roll the topper and place it above the brown stock mattress shown in the photo. See our camper tour for more photos of how the Murphy bed operates.
3. Location of Electrical Outlets
This may be seen as a bit of a nitpick, but I wanted this guide to be thorough so it's worth a mention. There is only one electrical outlet on the left side of the couch/Murphy bed, but I wish that there was also an outlet on the right side (my side of the bed... heh heh). While this isn't a huge inconvenience, it would be nice to have a place to charge my phone and Kindle while lying in bed. Also, the outlets in the center part of the camper are all located high up on the undersides of the overhead cabinets. I'm sure there's an engineering reason for putting them there, but it does get a little annoying because of the wires hanging down from the tops of the cabinets. Also, it makes having extension cords a necessity, as our toaster and coffee maker don't have cords long enough to reach all the way up to the outlet. The bathroom is great, however, with a convenient outlet located just above the counter top, where it would be in any residential bathroom.
4. Water Heater Causes Bottom Bunk To Be Hot
We have noticed that when the water heater is turned on, the bottom bunk - which is very close to the heating unit - gets uncomfortably warm. The bunks are warm to begin with since they are tucked into a back corner that doesn't get much airflow unless the windows are open, but it turns into a full-on sauna when the water heater is being used. We've worked around this issue by being sure to turn the water heater off and let the bunks air out well in advance of putting our young children (a toddler and a baby) to sleep in the bunk area.
Things We Love
1. Storage, Storage, Storage!
Simply put, this camper has a crazy amount of storage for its size and as long as we stay organized we don't have problems with running out of space. There are 3 hanging closets - one on each side of the bed and one near the bunks - and a pantry next to the refrigerator. All of the closets are nice and deep so you can store lesser used items in the back while keeping the ones you need to access frequently toward the front. There are 3 sets of overhead cabinets - one over the sink, one over the dinette, and one over the couch/Murphy bed. There's a set of lower cabinets beneath the sink, 2 drawers, and some additional storage beneath the oven. The dinette cushions can be removed to reveal two more large, deep storage areas. Another large storage area is located underneath the couch. There's a little cubby next to the media center that's perfect for books and movies, as well as a hidden cubby behind the TV. The bathroom has a small medicine cabinet and a storage cabinet underneath the sink. On the outside, there's a pass-through storage at the front of the camper and a single-sided storage compartment located at the back. The outside storage compartments aren't large enough for big items like strollers or bikes, but they've been great for holding our dog pens/lattice, chairs, folding tables, and other outdoor tools.
2. Smart Floor Plan
The deciding factor that convinced us to purchase the 2016 Passport 238ML was its practical and functional floor plan. The layout has been perfect for us. Because it is a short camper with no slide-outs, space is a premium. The double bunks are perfect for our two kids and they are tucked away in the back corner where they are not in the way. The bathroom is surprisingly roomy with a tub/shower combo and its own sink and electrical outlet. The Murphy bed is awesome, because we don't need to have a fully assembled bed taking up space during the day, and when it's folded away the sofa is very comfortable! Sure it would be convenient to not have to make up a bed every night and put it away the next morning, but for now the system works great.
3. It Can Fit Almost Anywhere
One big advantage of traveling in a small camper is that you can park that puppy pretty much anywhere you want. We love campgrounds that are heavily wooded and shaded. There's nothing more cozy than tucking your camper into a shaded haven next to a babbling mountain creek for the weekend. Such places tend to have smaller sites or ones that are bordered with trees or other obstacles. Having traveled in large RV's with my parents as a child, I know firsthand that it's extremely difficult or impossible to park a large camper in some of those areas. The campgrounds in National Parks have length restrictions and since visiting those parks is something we'd love to do, keeping the trailer short ensures that we'll be able to make that happen. When we're not traveling, we store it at an RV Storage Near Me.
4. It Has All The Creature Comforts of Home
We feel that a travel trailer of this size does a good job of allowing us to have more comfortable camping trips with our two young kids and two dogs while still providing us with the experience of being in the great outdoors. While the Passport Ultra-Lite is small, there's nothing it doesn't have - gas stove and oven, microwave, roomy refrigerator and separate freezer, toilet, shower and tub, multiple sinks, comfortable places to sleep for everyone, and a TV/DVD player/radio for entertainment. We bought an rv outdoor tv mount so we can watch TV with the kids. Sure, that last one may be seen as unnecessary by some camping lovers, but we have used our camper as both a hotel room on wheels and as a "hard-sided tent" for more conventional camping sojourns. During trips like the former, having the ability to pop in a movie or have some background noise going is a nice touch.
Overall, we are in love with our camper! We've never regretted our decision to purchase this model. After returning from each trip, nary a week passes before we are researching, planning, and booking our next adventure. It's opened up new experiences for our toddler and though he is only 2.5 years old, he talks about the fun things he did for days after we get home and he gets so excited when Daddy brings the camper home from storage so we can pack it for the next trip.
This post is not sponsored or affiliated with any brands or companies mentioned.
Thanks very much for the very well though out pros and cons and just overall expression of love for this trailer. We looked at a very nice used 2017 today and will surely purchase tomorrow bright and early primarily as a result of your comments. Will pull with a late model Nissan Frontier PU with 6k tow capacity. Big problem will be selling our 2015 Retro 16 foot Red and White trailer with whitewall tires, all wood interior and more, but just way too small for anything more than weekends and we are ready to really "hit the road"
Loved reading your list of loves & hates! We have the 2013 238ml Western edition. Our roof AC is also ducted so it is much quieter than when we have it just coming out of the unit in the kitchen. I think we had a few dealer upgrades added as we also have a digital thermostat and our fan doesn't (need to) run constantly. We are happy to not have the murphy bed, but I can see how others love it. We did upgrade to a residential queen mattress that we adore. The bunks are great and were awesome when our kids were smaller, but now they complain that they are like sleeping in coffins (we have mid-late teenagers now). There are a few small things we'd change, or choose with a new camper selection, but all in all, it's been a really good travel trailer for us with very few problems. Happy Camping!!
What vehicle did you tow this trailer with, I have a mid size SUV cap is 5000 lbs.
We initially towed with a Ford Explorer with tow package (it did the job, but not easily!) then later, before we upgraded to our larger camper, we used an F-250 Diesel
Great post. We are considering a 2018/19 model. I wonder if any of your "hates" have been rectified in newer models? Specifically the lower bunk being a double now and a different setup there... Also, I've read on some forums of folks who have added a digital thermostat to these roof AC units to help turn the fan on and off... Wonder if that's possible with this unit as well?
Hey Alex, I'm not sure if the newer models have rectified some of these issues, though I imagine a roof air unit is going to be loud no matter what you do. Adding a digital thermostat to kick the fan off is an interesting idea! We just upgraded our camper to an Open Range 310BHS so we no longer have that issue (the ducted air in the new RV is quiet as a mouse and amazing!).
We just got a travel trailer ourself! We have a 4 year old (top bunk) and 8months old, (bottom bunk and still wakes through the night to feed) I’m trying to figure out the safest sleep solution so a. They don’t fall out of the bed b. I can get the baby out In the middle of the night quickly and quietly.. any advice or tips would me much appreciated! And any general tips for camping with a travel trailer and 2 kids and 2 dogs! We have 2 westies that will be on our adventures 🙂
Hi Athena! Sorry for the late response.. I recommend checking out our other camping posts and travel posts in general for some insights on how we travel with our doggos and kiddos! 🙂 Stay tuned to the blog over the next few days as we'll be posting the RV tour of our upgraded camper!
Are you able to fold up the mattress with the topper and sheets on it, or does it all have to be disassembled?
Hey Jodi, the mattress itself folds like an accordion, so it has to be naked to be folded properly. However, we keep the mattress pad (fitted) and the fitted sheet on the memory foam topper and then roll that up and place it on top of the folded mattress in the storage area of the murphy bed. Then we fold the top sheet and blanket and place that on top of the whole works with our pillows. Then the next time we make the bed it's a little faster since all we have to do is pull the elastic edges of the mattress pad and fitted sheet down over both the topper and the mattress.
We have a 2016 238ml. I insulated the rear storage and front pass through with rigid foam insulation from home depot. Then I used 1/8" plywood to protect the insulation from damage. Also made a drawer under the couch so that area could be accessed when the bed is out. We also used a steel 2' x 4' embossed ceiling tile for a backslash around the stove. Would be happy to send you pictures...
Marie C. Bacon
We have the 2017 model of this camper and would love to see pictures!
We also have the 238ML. To alleviate the problem of A/C noise we attach a 3.5mm audio cable from the headphone jack on the tv to the aux port on the stereo. Change out the manual heater thermostat with a $16 digital for much better temp control.
Thanks for the tips! Is the cable for making the TV speakers louder?
Thanks for your insights on the 238ML! We pick up our 239ML on Saturday, and we cannot WAIT!
Exciting!! Hope you guys enjoy it!
Hey! We have the 239ml & out mattress is sooo uncomfortable too. May I ask what mattress topper you purchased? I am looking for a good one! Thanks!
We purchased a 3-inch memory foam topper from a local mattress store during a Labor Day sale. I wouldn't go any thinner than 3 inch since yes, that stock mattress is terrible!! I recommend going to "test them out" in person at a mattress store and ask a sales associate if the mattress can easily be rolled up for storage if the 239 has a Murphy Bed.
Thank you so much for that article. I totally agree with all of the things you like and don't like. It's really irritating when your trying to watch a movie at night and the darn air conditioner is so loud. I've had to use some leveling blocks to set the coffee pot on to be able to plug it in to the kitchen outlet. Frustrating! Our camper is the 239ml so, it's a little different. Our bunks are wider but that's the only advantage. I love the storage you have over your bed. Ours doesn't have that. I'm not sure why they took that part out because its basically the same set up. Thanks again!
So comforting to hear others that are dealing with the same issues that we are! I mean overall it really is a fantastic camper so I can't complain too much (okay, maybe I CAN complain about that A/C... because it's so annoying!)
Erin, what truck or SUV are you pulling this camper with?
We have a Toyota 4Runner (6V).
Hey Paul, sorry for the late response. When we first got the camper we pulled it with a 2002 Ford Explorer with tow package which just barely got the job done. We soon upgraded to an F250 4x4 Diesel which is overkill for this camper, but we had also planned on upgrading soon (we just upgraded our camper to a 37ft Open Range 310BHS and I'll be posting a tour in the next few days)
We purchased a 2013 238ML in 2016. Erin, you've been spot on with your comments about the RV. It's nice but with any RV, there's both positives and negatives.
Previously we were pulling it with a Ford F150, which worked just fine. But we sold that and began towing with our 2016 Honda Pilot. It's rated for 5000 lbs and does a good job as long as we're running premium while towing. The 238 only weighs in at 3400 lbs dry weight but with a full load and kids, it approaches the max GVWR for the Pilot. We just got back from a 3200 mile trek through Arches, Canyonlands, and Glacier National Parks. The transmission cooler is a must and keeping it under 60 mph kept our mileage up around 12-13 p/gal.
your chamber sounds really attractive,,the kitchen ,comfortable beds,cupboards all r so nicely done ...lucky you 🙂