All the comforts of home

Road test and photos by Norm Rosen

When it comes to affordable family vacations, nothing beats the value of a good travel trailer – and when it comes to travel trailers, one of the best-known names in the business is Starcraft RV.

As RV Lifestyle Magazine continues the celebration of our 40th anniversary year, we focus on the products and personalities that have been the foundation of the growth of the Canadian RV experience.

When it comes to affordable family vacations, nothing beats the value of a good travel trailer – and when it comes to travel trailers, one of the best-known names in the business is Starcraft RV.


Starcraft began building farm equipment in northern Indiana in 1903, expanded into the boating industry in 1920, and entered the RV market in 1964. The company’s reputation for quality and innovation at a reasonable price has brought smiles to the faces of campers for almost half a century.

Starcraft RV has a full roster of dealers throughout Canada and the U.S.A.40-1_starcraft_autumn_ridge_336_resa_03

For our feature article on the 2012 Starcraft Autumn Ridge, we visited Niagara Trailers in St. David’s, Ontario, owned and operated by the Petrie family. Niagara Trailers will begin its’ 40th anniversary year in January 2012, under the leadership of John Petrie. John’s late father, Doug Petrie, was the first recipient of the prestigious Canadian RV Dealer of the Year Award, for his work on behalf of the community, the RV industry, and the enhancement of the RV lifestyle in general. With the winter season almost upon us, and Canadian RV enthusiasts heading south on their annual pilgrimage to the sunbelt, our road test team selected a trailer that is at home on the road as it is on the campsite.

On The Road

The Autumn Ridge 336 RESA (Rear Entertainment Side Aisle) is the flagship of the company’s travel trailer line, measuring 35’5” and tipping the scales at just 7,955 pounds with a hitch weight of 995 pounds. Gross vehicle weight rating is 9,950 pounds. This matches the towing capabilities of a wide range of pick-ups and full size SUVs. We selected a GMC Sierra 2500 HD SLE as a suitable tow vehicle for our road test – it handles the load smoothly and safely, and provides an excellent ride with reasonable fuel efficiency for a tow vehicle of this type. Your RV dealer can assist you with the installation and adjustment of the class IV equalizing hitch and brake control unit appropriate for towing a trailer of this size.


The floor plan of the Autumn Ridge 336 RESA features an excellent living room design, with several furniture options.

The Starcraft Autumn Ridge 336 RESA is a serious trailer, built for touring the RV roads to adventure. Running gear is robust and well suited for the unit, with Goodyear radial ST225/75R15D tires, E-Z Lube axles, Torq-N-Go lug nuts and galvanized steel wheel wells. You may wonder why an RV manufacturer would upgrade an item as small as the lug nuts – but we see this as one more example of engineers going the extra mile for the comfort and safety of their customers. Experienced RV’ers know that it is always a good idea to check the lug nuts every few hours or every 200 miles – especially when the unit is new, and to tighten them to the specified operating torque – no more, no less. The Torq-NGo lug nuts have a special conical washer that lets you tighten the nut without wearing down the finish on the wheel. The Torq-N-Go nuts hold tighter than conventional lug nuts – they are specified for 90 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Décor and Design

One of the most appealing characteristics of this Starcraft trailer is the spacious interior floor plan, with two slide-outs to create a very comfortable living area. Our test vehicle featured optional standalone dinette and twin swivel chairs in the passenger side slide-out, and an optional two-seat hide-a-bed sofa in the driver’s side slide-out. This configuration would provide sleeping accommodations for four people. Standard models feature dinette seating and sofa beds to bring the sleeping capacity of the trailer up to eight people.

40-1_starcraft_autumn_ridge_336_resa_05We were very impressed with the fit and finish of the Autumn Ridge, and with the range of equipment offered in this model. Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional Premier Package, including a Ledgestone fireplace, a 32” LCD TV, CD/DVD with MP3 & iPod® input jack, electric patio awning, electric tongue jack, large folding grab handle, raised panel cabinetry and raised panel refrigerator doors. Standard equipment includes cable and satellite TV prep, crank-up digital TV antenna with signal booster, and a multi-media sound system AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 input jack. There is a roof-mounted radio antenna for enhanced reception in camping areas.

Our test vehicle was finished in the mocha interior colour scheme, one of several décor packages that include matching accent fabric, wood features, and upholstery. We liked the size of the windows and the quality of the window treatments – the pleated day/night shades are generally found only on higher-end vehicles. Overall, the interior floor plan is very nicely executed, with 81” interior headroom in the living room area.

The Autumn Ridge 336 is ideal for entertaining. The large LCD TV is visible from all seating positions, and the sound from the rear entertainment centre was very clear, with speakers well placed throughout the unit. You can also enjoy optional exterior speakers for mood music on the patio.

We set up our photo shoot before noon, and then we realized that choosing a campsite where the afternoon sun strikes the front of the passenger side of the trailer would have been the optimum location for this trailer.

The galley is compact but fully equipped, with a microwave oven with a carousel, and a 3-burner range with 9,000-BTU SuperBurner. The sink, countertop, and microwave are placed against the bulkhead, while the 6 cu. ft. flush-mount refrigerator, pantry, and large oven are in the driver’s side slideout. The food preparation area is well appointed, with a deep bowl acrylic sink and high-rise faucet with pull-out sprayer. There is a power range hood with fan and light over the stove, and a very convenient sink cover that features an integrated drying rack.

We liked the overall finish of the bourbon glazed beech cabinetry, and the little touches in the galley – including a spice rack built-in under the sink, and a storable cutting board. Drawers are spacious and strong – ball bearing drawer guides provide 50-lb. capacity with full-drawer extension. Overhead cabinets have doors that open easily yet hold securely for travelling. All of the interiors of the cabinets and storage compartments are finished appropriately for a vehicle of this type and price range.

While the family area of the Autumn Ridge is remarkably spacious, the master bedroom is quite compact, but comfortable. There are two standing closets to hold your wardrobe, and you can walk around the bed with relative ease. A 312- coil innerspring mattress with 1” padding is residential quality, and there is quite a bit of storage space under the bed. You can access this storage area through doors on either side of the bed, by lifting the mattress (there are twin gas-assist lifting mechanisms to make this almost effortless) or through an exterior hatch on the driver’s side of the trailer.

The washroom is bright and spacious, with a tub/ shower combo and ABS tub surround, a skylight overhead and a power vent. The residential style porcelain toilet with foot flush was placed to provide lots of legroom. The 6-gallon gas/electric water heater is well suited for the average family.


The Autumn Ridge 336 RESA is a relatively light trailer for the size, built to last, and built with the environment in mind. Starcraft is one of the first of the RV manufacturers to achieve the “Certified Green” gold-rated status from TRA Certification Inc. This reflects environmentally friendly use of sustainable materials, reduction of volatile organic compounds, installation of water and energy efficient appliances and fixtures, and the use of energy efficient design and construction methods. Starcraft owner’s manuals suggest energy efficient practices for the use of the trailer, and explain how to use the innovations that enhance green capability and performance. For more information on the Certified Green designation, and environmentally friendly manufacturing, please visit

The trailer is built on an I–class cambered structural steel I-beam frame, with longitudinal 2” x 3” floor joists on 16-18” centres, and 5/8 inch plywood main floor decking. The lumber core stile with screwed stile construction is ideally suited to a vehicle of this type. Sidewalls feature 2” x 2” wooden studs, and R-7 fibreglass insulation. The roof is constructed with residential-style tapered 4 ½” trusses supporting 3/8” decking. R-7 insulation and a one-piece seamless rubber roof material assures years of leak-free use. Everywhere you look, the old-country Amish craftsmanship is evident… quality beyond what you would expect in a vehicle at this price level – or any other.

We always like to see RV’s that have been designed by experienced campers. The Autumn Ridge is an excellent example of decades of RV touring reflected in the final product. From the front diamond plate panel protecting the trailer from road debris, to the rear ladder that has railings that extend onto the roof itself, it is obvious that the Starcraft engineers have “been there, done that” to create an RV that is ideally suited for family vacation enjoyment.

In The Campground

The Autumn Ridge 336 RESA certainly provides all of the convenience of home, and setting up in the campsite is a breeze. You do however, have to consider the two slide-outs when selecting a suitable campsite – be sure to pick a site where you can expand the width of the trailer without crowding trees or campsite hookups.

One of the special features that we were happy to see on the trailer was a Fastway Flip automatic jack foot that in most situations eliminates the need to place a plate or a plank under the jack – this is an excellent item that we have installed on several of our staff trailers.

Once you have positioned the trailer in the site, you can chock the wheels, extend the stabilizer jacks, and level the unit. Connect your water, sewer, and electrical hookups, and you are ready to transform the trailer from travelling mode to campsite castle. Extending the slides takes less than a minute per side, retracting them for travel is just as easy, and there is plenty of space to move around in the trailer with the slides in the travel configuration.

40-1_starcraft_autumn_ridge_336_resa_03For this particular trailer, we would suggest that you take note of the direction of the afternoon sun, so that you can pick a suitable campsite. With the passenger side slide and the 13’ Carefree electric patio awning extended, the area in front of the trailer entry door can be quite shady. Picking a campsite where the angle of the afternoon sun comes from the front passenger side of the trailer, rather than from the rear, can make a big difference in your enjoyment of the location.

The trailer provides a full range of exterior storage and conveniences, including an outside shower. There is a fitting for an outside grill, which is a very popular option. We were particularly impressed with the STARMAXX pass-through storage compartments with tool hook and courtesy lights.

Access is always a concern when you have youngsters who like to scramble into the trailer, or older people who find the stairs a bit of a challenge. The Autumn Ridge has a 32” x 72” radius-cornered fiberglass entrance door that is wider than usual, and the screen door has a new handle system that is a distinct improvement over the traditional design. A grab rail with rubber handle is mounted beside the front entrance, and folds flat against the side of the trailer for travelling.

Comfort and Convenience
40-1_starcraft_autumn_ridge_336_resa_0740-1_starcraft_autumn_ridge_336_resa_06The compact bedroom features twin wardrobes and lots of under-bed storage – with an exterior access door for your convenience.

We tested the Autumn Ridge on a beautiful fall day, cool enough to appreciate the ducted furnace. This trailer handles climate control very efficiently with directional vents for the air conditioning and heating systems delivering what the manufacturer describes as 20% more airflow than conventional systems. While we had no way of measuring this, the warm air certainly seemed to be flowing well, and the interior temperature of the trailer was soon brought to an even and comfortable 68 degrees F. The furnace was quiet and we enjoyed working in the trailer during our interior photo shoot. We did not find the cycling of the furnace fan to be noticeable. In warmer weather, we would expect that the 13,500 BTU A/C with wall thermostat would perform as well.

Winterizing your Autumn Ridge is a simple matter of draining the water system and filling the traps with suitable RV antifreeze. There is a water system winterization kit that includes a water heater bypass system that facilitates this… of course, your RV dealer can perform a complete winterization for you, and bring the unit back to full operational status in the spring. If you intend to camp throughout the year, ask your dealer about the Arctic Package that includes insulated, heated and enclosed underbelly, and foil insulation in the roof and slide-out floors.

The Bottom Line:

Whether you have a young family and a modest vacation budget, or you are looking for the ideal way to retire in style, the Starcraft Autumn Ridge 336 RESA offers all the comforts of home at a price point that delivers excellent value for your RV dollar.

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