Made for the Canadian RV Experience.
Text and photos by Norm Rosen
One of the most exciting developments in the Canadian RV community in recent years is the development of a “Made for Canada” travel trailer line, available exclusively through the RV Care Dealer Network, with 35 of the 70 RV Care dealers now stocking the trailers, and more members of the network joining the Northern Spirit team as trailers become available. For the full list of RV Care Northern Spirit dealers please visit https://www.rvcare.ca/northern-spirit/locations.html.
The Northern Spirit travel trailer line is available in seven -, ranging from 25’6” to 36’11”, with additional models joining the roster throughout the coming years. Our road test features the Northern Spirit 2963 BH, a 33’ 11” (bumper to hitch) travel trailer with an excellent rear bunk floorplan and a long list of practical features that reflect the combination of Coachmen manufacturing experience and the hands-on experience of the RV Care dealers.
While the Northern Spirit brand is new to the RV industry, the product is custom manufactured in Middlebury, Indiana, for the RV Care Dealer Network by Coachmen RV – a family business that earned a reputation as one of the longest established and most respected builders in the industry. Coachmen RV has been serving the RV community since 1964, with more than three-quarters of a million units delivered over the years – all created with the company’s credo “Dedicated to the enrichment of your life”.
In 2008, Coachmen RV became part of the Forest River Inc. group of RV manufacturers, a Berkshire Hathaway company. Today, the Coachmen RV manufacturing facilities span more than 220 acres, with more than 23 acres of dedicated manufacturing plants for Coachmen motorhomes, fifth wheels, and travel trailers, and an additional camping trailer manufacturing complex in Centerville, Michigan, occupying more than 90 acres.
We visited Ruston RV Centre in Burlington, Ontario, to road test one of the first Northern Spirit units, and to discuss the RV Care Network of Canadian dealers. For an in-depth video on the trailer, and insights into the many advantages of membership in the RV Care Customer community, please visit our YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/rvlifestylemagaine
Northern Spirit – Camping Simplified
The Northern Spirit “Ultra Lite” series of travel trailers embody a wide array of features and components that have been selected and engineered to simplify your camping experience. From the addition of an Easy Up” Quick Connect Stabilizer Jack Bit adapter so you can raise or lower your stabilizing jacks with a power drill, to the placement of a laundry hamper in the bathroom, special fishing rod storage in the pass-through front cargo compartment, and a Store-More Cargo Center that uses a rear cargo door so you can flip up the lower bunk and slide gear like a canoe or bicycles right into the trailer – the ideas are the result of decades of camping experience… the unit even has motion sensors that turn on your floor lights so you won’t stumble when you get up in the middle of the night for a snack.
Why don’t all the manufacturers have features like these? Perhaps because their designers haven’t grown up as avid RV enthusiasts.
The RV Care Dealer Network
The RV Care Network was established in 1999 to bring a group of independent and individually owned dealerships together to provide the peace of mind of having nationwide service facilities available for Canadian RV customers. One of the many benefits of doing business with an RV Care dealer comes free with the purchase of your RV – your membership in the RV Care customer community gives you priority status wherever you travel throughout Canada – any of the RV Care dealers will greet you with the same courtesy and consideration that you would expect from your home dealership. RV Care standard rates apply to your repairs, and any of the RV Care dealers will do everything they can to get you back on the road quickly and safely. If your repairs are covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, they will help you navigate the warranty process.
RV Care dealers use their combined purchasing power to assure that you benefit from the best products at the most attractive prices – from the RVs to the supplies and accessories that are an essential part of the RV experience. The RV Traveler’s Choice line is a “house brand” private labelled for RV Care by leading RV industry suppliers. Every Northern Spirit Trailer is powered by RV Traveler’s Choice batteries, exclusive to RV Care dealers.
Your peace of mind extends beyond the Canadian RV roads to adventure. RV Care is affiliated with the Priority RV Network® dealerships throughout the United States – so regardless of where you venture in North America, if you need service, just visit the RV Care website at www.rvcare.ca or use the RV Care App to find the closest RV Care affiliated dealer.
Many RV Care dealers offer optional roadside assistance coverage in both Canada and the US. The RV Care Roadside Assistance Program, powered by Coach-Net, can be purchased from any participating RV Care dealer.
Northern Spirit trailers are built with state-of-the-art RV engineering, from the Alumicage wall framing to the Azdel composite panels that are resistant to weather and insect damage. Each Northern Spirit trailer is QAI certified to meet or exceed the CSA Z-240 RV standards for gas, electrical, plumbing, and vehicular systems.
Our test vehicle was impressive in terms of overall design, quality of components, and fit and finish. We were particularly impressed with the enclosed and heated underbelly, the triple entry steps with grab handle, the power awning installation, and the many components that the average customer might not notice – like drip rails with downspouts that will minimize the dreaded “black streaks”, and the use of magnetic cargo door catches. Up top, the 5” truss roof structure has full “walk on” 3/8” decking topped off with a rubber roof membrane. The roof construction has an interior vault configuration which accommodates your ducted air conditioning system.
On the Road
The Northern Spirit 2963 BH towed like a dream behind our Ford F-150, providing a very smooth ride thanks to the wide-stance Maximum Stability Spread Axle design and the B+W class III equalizing hitch. The trailer features Castle Rock ST radial tires, which we had not encountered before, but they certainly seem to be suitable for this application, and the specs are ideal for a trailer of this size. The Northern Spirit trailers ride on EZ Lube axles, which are the standard for the industry.
In the Campground
Setting up the Northern Spirit in a campsite is a breeze, thanks to the convenient placement of the water, sewer, and electrical hookups, and the easy operation of the angled stabilizer scissor jacks. If you arrive after dark, the porch light is a real benefit, and all the storage compartments have lights. The power tongue jack is a big help for hitching and unhitching. The 20-lb LP tanks are housed in a protective shroud. Each trailer is pre-wired for solar panels, cable TV and satellite systems, with the technology offered as optional equipment.
Entertaining in the campground is a delight thanks to the exterior kitchen, and the weather resistant exterior speakers let you enjoy your favourite music. If you have a pet, it will love this trailer – there is an inside pet feeding station, an exterior “dog wash”, and a special clip to attach a leash so the dog can relax on the patio without risk of wandering off into the wilderness. Cats, of course, are far too sophisticated to require these features.
For proponents of the active outdoor lifestyle, the Northern Spirit has some very cool features – we really like the special fishing rod storage area in the front pass-through compartment, which encloses your tackle out of sight, and keeps the hooks away from the reach of kids.
When it is time to break camp and head to your next destination, the process is quick, clean, and easy. The awning retracts in a matter of seconds at the touch of a switch, the slides retract smoothly and quietly, and the detachable power cord can be neatly stowed in seconds. Your gray and black water tank valves are easy to reach, and the black tank flush system works like a charm. When it is time to prepare for cold weather, the water heater bypass valve is easy to reach, so you won’t have to worry about freezing damage.
In the Galley and the Living Room
The L-shaped galley in this trailer provides a generous working area with lots of clever features. For example, the twin bowl stainless steel sink has a high-rise pull-out faucet with sprayer, and sink covers that stow in special slots under the kitchen upper cabinets. The Dometic refrigerator has a stainless-steel door insert that gives the unit a real touch of class. The Furrion oven with three-burner range has a folding tempered glass splash guard that lets you use the area as a countertop when the burners are not in use. The countertops in the galley and the bathroom are finished with seamless Thermo Foil wrapping to prevent water damage.
The galley is very well equipped, with ample cupboards and an eye-level Greystone microwave oven with integrated vent. The cabinetry in the Northern Spirit is very high quality, with lumber core cabinet stiles, nicely finished surfaces, and excellent pulls and hinges. The cabinet frames are pocket screwed and the doors have mortise and tenon cabinet doors.
Across from the galley, the very large and deep slide-out holds your U-shape dinette, with under seat storage compartments, and a tri-fold sofa sleeper. Across from the slide-out, the LED TV is positioned perfectly for viewing, with a swivel mount so you can also watch from the dinette. Below the TV, you have an entertainment unit featuring an AM/FM/ DVD component. The four standard speakers deliver good quality sound throughout the trailer.
With an 84” ceiling height, this trailer is ideal for tall people, but the crowned roof keeps the overhead cabinets on the sides of the trailer within reach of those who are average height.
In an era when nobody can do without their personal technology, the Northern Spirit engineers have provided an array of USB charging stations – in the bedroom, in each of the bunk areas, in the galley, and in the dinette area… you can escape the rat race, but not the urge to stay in touch via social media.
The RV electrical system is wired through a 55-Amp power converter, and there is a battery tray on the A-frame to hold your RV batteries.
Comfort and Convenience
Whether you travel in the spring, summer, fall or winter, you will enjoy climate-controlled comfort thanks to the wall ducted furnace and 13.5 BTU roof ducted air conditioner. You can add an optional second roof A/C unit, which is a popular upgrade for those who camp in hot weather. Convenience features throughout the trailer include ceiling mount lights with wall switches, and under cabinet “soft-touch” lights with integrated pushbutton switches.
All the RV systems can be monitored from the control panel on the upper galley cupboard just inside the main entry door. Light switches are also located just inside the door, for your convenience.
In the Bedroom
The front master bedroom is quite spacious for a trailer of this size, with a 60” x 80” queen bed and bedside night stands on either side. The trailer comes with a very nice designer comforter. There are windows on both sides of the bedroom, and twin overhead A/C ducts. A convenient shelf with reading lights spans the area above your headboard, and twin shirt closets provide a fair amount of hanging storage. There is a very interesting hanging closet on the wall at the foot of the bed, which can accommodate about a 5” deep array of clothing – ideal for a pair of dressing gowns, or a few long outfits.
In the Bunkhouse
The 2963 BH is designed around the concept of twin rear bunks, but Northern Spirit goes so far beyond the usual approach to this floorplan that you really have to take a close look at the “kid zone” in this trailer. The first impression is that the bunks are larger than usual, with more headroom than you might expect thanks to the crowned roof. There is a ladder that stows in a special niche beside the bunks, and privacy curtains for each bunk. Both upper and lower bunks have jalousie opening windows for ventilation even when it is raining outdoors, and the kids have their private power outlets and lighted USB charging stations… the area can be converted into a 95-cu. ft. cargo centre by flipping up the lower bunk – the area is then accessible through the rear cargo door.
In the Bathroom
The bathroom in the 2963 BH model features a generous size shower stall with tub surround, designer shower curtain and overhead skylight, as well as a power roof vent and a foot-flush RV toilet. The vanity has a sink and a very clever clothes hamper, and the medicine cabinet is quite spacious and features a mirrored door. The trailer has a 6-gallon gas/electric water heater with 17.3 gallon per hour recovery rate, which usually yields three average length showers per hour.
Coachmen provides one year of free Travel Easy™️ emergency roadside assistance with each new Northern Spirit travel trailer. Administered by Coach-Net®, this service provides 24/7 access to roadside services including towing, fuel delivery, jump starts, lockout service, tire changes, mobile mechanic and unlimited technical advice. For additional information, please consult your local dealer.
The Bottom Line
For features, quality of construction, value for the dollar and ingenuity of design, the Northern Spirit line certainly represents an excellent combination within the towable travel trailer segment.