Winnebago’s Travato 59K beckons to adventure-seeking RVers with an active lifestyle
My friend, Jerry, used to sign his emails with “Adventure isn’t fun while it’s happening.” No matter how many times I read that tagline, it would make me chuckle and think back to some crazy experience. Many times, that quote is apropos, but sometimes adventure is fun while it’s happening. And one day in particular on a recent outing in a 2016 Winnebago Travato 59K was one of them.
We left our off-the-beaten-path campsite for the day in the 21-foot Flame Red motorhome, the latest Class B from Winnebago that is geared toward the active outdoor market. It was equipped with a bicycle rack, which held two mountain bikes, and rooftop kayak racks, to which we’d fastened a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), to seek out a nearby spring-fed glacial-carved lake. Here, in California’s Sierra Nevada at a 7,500-foot elevation, we unloaded the SUP and paddled around a serene lake surrounded by granite, tall grasses and trees, while anglers bobbed around in float tubes with fishing rods in hand.
In an instant, the sky went from sprinkling to pouring. Folks scrambled for their vehicles, and every one of them had left their RV back at camp because their motorhome was either too large to park in the day-use-only lot or they had unhooked their trailer and used the tow vehicle for transportation. While they huddled in their dinghy/tow vehicles with the heater blasting and drove back to various campsites, we stepped out of the mud into our cozy home. Ah, the advantage of an RV that’s highly maneuverable, able to easily take tight mountain roads and doesn’t occupy much more parking space than a full-size pickup! We dried off, changed into warm clothes, made soup and hot chocolate while the Jensen radio played, and contentedly waited out the rain.
When it cleared up a couple of hours later, we took a ride on our mountain bikes. Then we packed up our toys and headed back up the road to where we were dry-camping, relying on the 100-watt solar panel ($665 option) to help keep the Travato’s batteries charged. In camp, we took the SUP down or tilted it on the racks so as not to cover the solar panel.
The Travato is built on the Ram ProMaster chassis, and our test vehicle had the optional 3.0-liter diesel engine with a six-speed automated manual transmission (also available with the 3.6-liter V-6 gas engine). It doesn’t have a park mode, so when parking, the transmission is put into neutral. In the drive mode, the engine automatically shifts, making for not-so-smooth takeoffs (almost as though the engine is losing power) when accelerating from idle and until getting up to speed. In the manual mode, where we could match engine speed with rpm, shifting was smoother. Climbing steep hills, the engine had good pep, and we eventually got used to the shifting pattern in the drive mode.
The cockpit is simply laid out and includes USB and 12-volt DC ports, functional cup holders and a battery-boost switch. A 5-inch LCD color screen displays the radio that features SiriusXM, Bluetooth, GPS navigation and a rearview monitoring system. The windshield is in your face, so to speak, for a superior view. The only issue was that anything on the dash was reflected in the windshield, including the thick silver border on the perimeter of the vents, which was distracting. We cleared the dash of maps, travel brochures and sunglass cases for a better view and took advantage of the many excellent cubbies, including one beneath the steering wheel, to store all our paraphernalia. Plus, there are storage pockets in the doors.
We liked the powered fold-in side mirrors, especially handy in tight situations, and we’d fold those large mirrors in when parked curbside to prevent damage. The cloth-covered seats are comfortable and have all the adjustments needed for the headrests and lumbar support, but are not electric, so change doesn’t happen quickly.
Inside, the 59K has twin beds that feature a Froli Box Spring Sleep System, which is comprised of individual 5-by-5-inch interlocking springs (34 of them on the longer bed) that are designed for pressure relief and are firmness adjustable. We were impressed with the high level of comfort and, as a side benefit, the raised springs helped ventilate the space under the mattresses. The bed on the passenger side is 6 feet 8 inches long, while the bed on the driver’s side loses 6 inches to accommodate the galley; both are 30 inches wide.
Each bed has an adjustable headrest that can be raised 9 inches, great for when reading or viewing the swivel-out 22-inch HDTV mounted above the foot of the passenger-side bed. The system’s controls/monitor panel, including the switch for the 2,500-watt Cummins Onan LP-gas generator ($210 option), is grouped on the wall above the passenger side bed — conveniently located for easy access and viewing — however, a couple of times during our outing, while leaning back against the wall, we accidentally turned off the secondary light switches, also located on that wall, and found ourselves in sudden darkness. We then realized that we had also turned off the water pump and LP-gas switches.
Cargo nets against the wall by each bed are large enough to stow a book or glasses (provided they’re in a case, so they don’t get smashed), and reading lamps and USB charging ports are above each bed. If sleeping apart from your loved one is an issue, the aisle separating the twin beds is just 15 inches wide, close enough that you can hold hands. Under the longer bed is a 54½-by-11-by-19-inch storage space large enough that we used it to hold (clean) water hoses, an outdoor mat, a couple of Quik-Fold tables, a shovel and an axe. There is no outside storage other than a cubby for a sewer hose.
Up front, the captain’s chairs slide, recline and swivel smoothly around to face the living area and individual tables. On the driver’s side, the galley’s pullout cutting board doubles as a table, while a 14-by-9-inch table behind the passenger seat has a home in its own narrow cabinet. This freestanding cabinet has a hand grip for support when stepping up into the Travato. The whole setup is pretty nifty, giving two people plenty of elbow room and surface area to sit down and enjoy a meal in a seat that keeps your tush and back enveloped in comfort.
A Truma Combi water and comfort heating system operates on LP-gas and 120-volt AC power, warms the motorhome quietly and quickly, and is operated by a digital-control LCD panel. When the weather heats up, the Coleman-Mach roof air conditioner and powered Maxx Fan cool down the interior and pull cooking steam out. Interior height is 6 feet 3 inches and a 6-foot-4-incher said that the soft vinyl covering the ceiling felt nice on his head.
There’s a good-sized Corian countertop to the right of the two-burner range for food prep and, with the two pullout mini tables, there was enough surface area to spread out, while keeping utensils, bowls and foodstuff within easy reach. A 4.3-cubic-foot refrigerator and 1.1-cubic-foot High Pointe convection oven/microwave are below the range and deep stainless-steel sink.
Even though the Travato’s floorplan is narrow, we didn’t feel confined while preparing meals. A small, flat, plastic cutting board that we’d propped against the blinds slipped behind the cabinet into never-never land, or so we thought. A while later when opening the bottom drawer to get plates, we discovered the cutting board was conveniently in the drawer! Everything blends in stylishly with the high-gloss Marbella Cherry cabinets, and push-button latches locked them so they stayed closed during travel, though fingerprints showed up on the glossy finish.
Lights, electric outlets and USB ports are housed on the right side of the galley’s cabinet, hidden from view, so either the driver’s-side captain’s chair has to be moved forward or you can feel your way. There’s also a switch here for a light strip that runs horizontally along the shelf above where you step up into the cockpit from inside the motorhome. The overhead shelf is soft-covered but it still hurt when we hit our noggins. We used the shelf as our food pantry since it was in the perfect location while cooking and reaching for snacks. There’s also an in-floor storage compartment below the shelf.
The side door slides smoothly, and big, easy-grip handles make it simple to open the door from the outside. We slipped a couple of times when closing the doors from the inside when the vinyl floor was wet; investing in a nonslip mat’s a good idea. A sliding side screen door is a $323 option.
The 59K’s wet bath is in the very rear, sectioned off by accordion-style doors that stay together via magnets that seal it well. The bathroom is tight, as expected in a Class B, but there’s ample storage with a wardrobe, three deep sliding drawers and a mirrored medicine cabinet. A towel bar is attached to one cargo door and there’s a powered roof vent. A European-style fold-down basin is concealed in the wall over the toilet. Pull it open to reveal the basin, swing the faucet out from the wall and you’re ready to wash your hands or brush your teeth. Fold it back up, water dumps into the drain in the wall and there’s no water to wipe up around a sink. A snap-in shower curtain is provided to keep water off of the cabinetry while using the handheld sprayer.
Open the cargo doors from the outside and you’re peering into the bathroom. To the right is storage for electrical cords and a quick-disconnect sprayer-head wash station. Due to the space required for the generator, there is no room for a spare tire, but Winnebago supplies a tire repair kit that contains a jack, a jack handle, a lug wrench, a puncture kit and an air pump.
If you’ve opted for the $980 Fiamma bike carrier, be careful when closing the cargo doors. The carrier, which holds two bikes, overhangs horizontally, and when opening the door, you see them coming at you. However, when closing the right door, the natural instinct is to reach behind you where the rack is out of sight, so each of us got beaned in the back of the head at least once. The high-end rack is a pretty trick system that kept two mountain bikes securely in place. As mentioned earlier, the test motorhome was also outfitted with the optional roof-mounted kayak racks and ladder ($2,905), also made by Fiamma. You just need to remember that this is still a van, so walking on the roof is not advised, and Winnebago places a sticker on the roof with a warning to that effect.
The 59K’s electric awning got a lot of use, and not just to shade us from the sun. During a couple of evenings with light rain, it gave us a perfect place to stay dry while enjoying our dinner and looking out over a meadow. We listened to music via the exterior speakers while the porch light shed just the right amount of light. Note that LED lighting for the awning is not available on the 59K with the roof-mounted kayak racks.
After five days RVing in the easy-to-handle Travato, we discovered that there was no way to be inconspicuous in the Flame Red 59K. It was an attention-getter that turned the heads of many … including a black bear. We spent just one night at an RV park, and as the bear ambled uninterested past a row of RVs, he paused by the Travato. Or maybe it was just our imagination.
While the tendency is to seek out-of-the-way places, owners need to exercise caution when traveling rough roads: The dump valves, generator enclosure and exhaust hang low and could be easily damaged if there’s not adequate clearance. In fact, a question we were asked frequently was if the Travato was four-wheel-drive because it looks like it should be.
Whether people were tent camping or in the smallest or most ginormous RV, they wanted to know where we were going and where we had been. After being invited in to look around, the most frequent comment was “Nice setup you’ve got!” The 59K beckons to adventure-seekers who want to bring along their toys while having all the creature comforts. And it was set up for towing for those who want to bring along more toys. Looking for adventure and want to be less flashy? Other color options include Granite and Bright Silver.
Winnebago Touring Coach
641-585-3535 | www.winnebagoind.com