What is a Hi-Lo Camper?
When it comes to Hi-Lo campers, what’s old is new again. You’ve seen them on the roads and in the woods for decades, and a modern version is raising their profile with yet another generation.
In its traveling mode, a Hi-Lo camper looks like a pop-up camper at first glance, but a closer look reveals some key differences.
One of them is a unique hydraulic lift system that raises and lowers the top part of the camper.
In addition, a Hi-Lo camper has walls made from fiberglass rather than canvas or other lightweight material.
Brief History of the Hi-Lo Camper Trailer
In a way, Hi-Lo owes its existence to a pack of hungry raccoons.
Don Snyder was camping with his family back in 1955 when they heard a commotion in the night. At first, they were scared that a bear had crashed their camp. But they were relieved to find out the intruders were much smaller and less menacing. Mr. Snyder decided he would build a camper that would offer better protection than the canvas tent they were in.
He built his first camper in his backyard in Ohio the next season. His design was inspired by a shoebox in the sense that the top is slightly larger and slides down over the bottom.
The company produced dozens of variations for more than half a century before its long and successful run ended in 2010.
An RV manufacturer from Pennsylvania has revived the brand and concept, however. William Kerola started up Hi-Lo Trailers Worldwide after consulting closely with Snyder’s son, Jim.
A new model, the Hi-Lo Wanderer ’18, picks up where the original company left off and has a new loyal following.
How Much Do Hi-Lo Campers Cost?
According to the company’s website, the latest version has a starting retail price of $20,999, with an awning priced at an additional $750 and a spare tire an extra $275.
The order form on the site includes a $3,000 factory rebate, however.
Pro Tip: The roof access on a Hi-Lo camper makes it super easy to install an RV Cell Booster.
How Much Do Hi-Lo Campers Weigh?
Weight is another big difference between pop-ups and Hi-Lo’s, which are pretty heavy by comparison.
There are two slightly different floorplans available, one with a queen-sized bed and another with a queen bed plus a dinette that folds out into a second bed.
One has a dry weight of 2,348 lbs. and a tongue weight of 303 lbs. while the slightly heavier one has a dry weight of 2,362 lbs. and a tongue weight of 323 lbs.
Keep in mind: Many of our top-rated crossover SUVs can tow this camper.
Benefits of a Hi-Lo Camper
Besides providing a bit more protection from bears (or at least raccoons), the Hi-Lo camper offers a few more advantages over a pop-up style RV trailer.
When it’s cranked down, it has a low, aerodynamic profile that makes towing a breeze. Because it weighs much less than many other travel trailers, you can move it from place to place with a smaller tow vehicle.
They’re pretty secure, too. When it’s not being moved up or down with the hydraulic mechanism, the top locks tightly into place.
The insulated hard sides provide a heavier layer of protection against the cold, too.
Disadvantages to a Hi-Lo Camper
There are always trade-offs, though. In the case of the Hi-Lo, the novel design prevents you from having permanent floor-to-ceiling storage like cabinets or shelves.
They also don’t have full bathrooms, so there’s no shower or built-in toilet.
The mechanical parts definitely improved over the years, but many of the older models seem prone to leaks and they also tend to shrink in height. This is because the telescoping parts wear out over time and cause the roof to sag a bit. Taller campers may not quite have enough headroom.
Sometimes the lift mechanisms just stop working. (The newer models, however, have a backup system.)
Here are our 5 reasons to avoid trailers in general.
Hi-Lo Campers Are Awesome Alternatives to Pop Up Tent Campers
Having said all that, there’s no doubt that Don Snyder hit on an idea that’s stood the test of time.
The Hi-Lo camper was a definite improvement over many RV products that were on the market at the time, and many of the pop-up campers just seem kind of flimsy by comparison.
Unique Campers With a Cult Following
Hi-Lo campers are a real conversation starter, too. Lots of people are fascinated by them, so they’ll attract a lot of attention wherever you go.
They definitely have their ups and downs, but the bottom line is that these telescoping trailers remain a cool way to camp after all these years.
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You should also feature Trailmanor trailers. Similar to the Hi-lo, but roomier with more sleeping capacity and a full bathriom.
One advantage to Hi-Low is parking/storage when not in use. Because they have a lower profile, some people are able to store them in a standard garage. We talked to one couple this summer who are sticking with Hi-Lo because their neighborhood association doesn’t allow campers, but they can tuck their Hi-Lo behind a fence and no one notices.
In the 60’s, we had a TowLow. This was before HiLo. Resembles one of the pics above