This post is targeted at those who are considering ordering a Safari Condo Alto. If that doesn’t describe you, this post may not be as interesting as reading about a SpaceX rocket launch or Elon Musk’s “Secret Master Plan”.
Perhaps you read the previous post about my Alto F1743. I thought it would be helpful to describe the factory options I ordered and my reasoning. The company website does not provide an easily accessible list of options nor does it offer a description of them other than an often mysterious name, and I spent a great deal of time puzzling over the list and consulting with other owners online. The options list is mixed in with the standard features list in this PDF document which when we placed our order in 2017 was not up to date nor did it show items that I knew for certain could be special ordered.
The most useful option in my opinion is the amazing “Remote Controlled Trailer Mover” (CDN$2,895. I don’t see it listed in the current specifications document I linked to above). It is made by Kronings (Note: as of 2020 it is no longer offered as an option, it appears Kronings has stopped making it. They now offer a very different product that appears to achieve the same result, the Caravan Trolley)
It consists of a small electric motor mounted at the rear of each wheel. The motors are not connected to the axel, instead they control an aluminum drive roller just behind each wheel. The motor can move the drive roller forward to press it firmly against the wheel tread so that it can rotate the wheel on command, and also to the rear so the roller is well away from the wheel while you are towing.
What this Safari Condo video on YouTube to see how easy it is to use to move the trailer around.
When the roller is engaged you use the supplied remote control to move the trailer at about 1mph. It makes moving the trailer into a campsite and positioning it a simple task. It can move the trailer forwards or backwards, right or left, even rotate it 360 degrees. If you don’t get this option you have to learn to back up a trailer with precision. That is not an easily learned skill. With the Caravan Mover there is no need to learn it at all. Count me in!
The “Variable Speed Roof Vent 12V Automatic” option is actually this product, the Fantastic Fan. It offers features the standard Alto fan is missing: a thermostat so you can set it to come on if the inside temperature exceeds a set range, and a moisture sensor so that if the fan vent is rained and it starts to rain it will automatically close, and a remote control. Worth the extra CDN$125!
Air conditioner and heater: a “Heat Pump” does both
The “Heat Pump Air Conditioner” option, a Dometic Cool Cat 10,500BTU unit, requires 120V power (which for most people means you have to be plugged into shore power) and the fan is a bit on the loud side but we decided to get it anyway. It can work well, but like all heat pumps it has its limitations: if the outside air temperature is up into the 90’s it probably won’t cool the air as much as you might like, and at temperatures below freezing it certainly won’t warm the air up into the 70’s. But it will help, a lot! We’ve decided it was worth the CDN$1,395 we paid.
Note that the Alto comes standard with the Truma Combi eco space heater and water heater that can run on electric, electric and propane, or only propane. It works very well. Don’t expect instant hot water; it heats up the fastest using propane, on electric on the maximum setting, “Boost”, it takes a half hour or so to heat up the water tank and that is beyond the capacity of the stock battery. Most Alto owners probably run their heater on propane; I usually run it on electricity.
The optional microwave occupies some of the storage space above the kitchen counter, and it’s relatively small, but for the additional CDN$195 we are glad we have it. It also requires 120V power so it requires the optional inverter to run off the stock 12V battery. Because we had aftermarket lithium ion batteries and a 3000W inverter installed as part of our solar system we can use the microwave at any time.
Since the goal was to be 100% electric — no propane! — I got the Dometic 12V fridge that cannot be run on propane. It is CDN$225 less expensive than the fridge that can run on propane or electric. The advantages of the electric-only fridge are that it has slightly more interior capacity (4.1 cu ft vs. 3.7) and you don’t have to be concerned about getting the trailer level to operate it like you do when using propane to power the fridge. With our aftermarket solar/battery system I just leave the fridge on all the time, even when on the road, and don’t worry about it.
We dislike bright lights. When our friends are at our house in the evening they sometimes comment that we “live in a cave”. Safari Condo offers an optional master dimmer control for the interior lights. At CDN$129 it seemed a bit pricey, but it allows you to tone down the lighting intensity. It’s worth it to us.
Awnings: yes there is more than one
Safari Condo sells this awning made by Pahaque for CDN$495, or buy it direct from Pahaque for US$389 plus shipping. It provides a lot of shade and many Alto owners like it. We’ve used it a few times in very hot weather and my spouse is no longer questioning why we bought it. Here it is set up in my front yard.
We also purchased what Pahaque calls a Trailer Visor that is designed specifically for the Alto. My spouse approves of it. 🙂 Easier to set up, but not as stable in a breeze as the larger awning. I have not seen it listed on Safari Condo’s options list. It is US$349 direct from Pahaque, which oddly is very close to what their much larger Alto awning sells for.
Items not shown on Safari Condo’s options list; you have to ask
I can’t explain why, but there are quite a few optional items that are not listed but that Safari Condo will do if you ask. Here’s what we got:
- Replaced the F-series door with the round porthole style window with the R-series style door with the screened openable half-height window (see the photos just above). The F-series door has a full height interior screen for maximum ventilation. Based on the fact that we occasionally walk right into the sliding glass door screens in our house, we decided that was not optimal for us. The R-series door seemed safer. 😉
- Instead of the standard 13” wheels, you can get 15″ wheels with Michelin Premier 205-65 R15 tires, which are passenger car tires that provide a smoother ride than the stock 13” Goodyear trailer tires.
- Added a 12V outlet on the front wall below the dinette table
- Added a 12V outlet on the starboard exterior wall in addition to the standard 120 volt outlet (visible in the photo just above)
- Added an external light on the port side of the trailer (to match the standard exterior light on the starboard side, visible in the photo just above). Have yet to use that added external light, but it would be handy when arriving at a campsite at night and connecting to shore power and the water supply.
- External hatch cover for the aft port side storage compartment, allows access from the outside for the storage area that is under the aft port side bench seat. Cost CDN$150. We leave the sleeping area made up all the time, so that added hatch cover is very helpful. It looks just like the aft hatch cover in the photo just above.
- Memory foam in the rear sleeping area cushions. Well worth the CDN$350 cost. The standard foam in the cushions was too firm for us.
- Keder rail on the port side so we can use the Pahaque Trailer Visor awning on that side (Keder rail is standard on the starboard side). Cost was CDN$175. Keder rail is a small metal tube, partially open, into which you slide Keder cord which is sewn into one side of the awning, thereby “attaching” the edge of the awing to the trailer roof.
Requests we had that Safari Condo would not implement
We didn’t get all the special requests we wanted. The biggest one for us was adding a small window in the port side wall to let light into the bathroom. We like natural light. The bathroom space is small and very dark until you turn the ceiling light on, which is very bright and not dimmable. But Safari Condo would not add a window in the bathroom wall, nor would they explain why they wouldn’t do it. It did not appear to be due to a concern about structural integrity or some wiring passing through that area.
We were amused to discover, a few months after we took delivery of our F1743, that some F2114 owners had requested a bathroom window and Safari Condo added it to their trailers. The F2114 bathroom location and size is the same as the F1743 and the exterior wall material is identical. So why was our bathroom window request refused just months earlier? I have no idea.
We also asked for all the external hatch covers and doors to be keyed identically (the Alto comes with 4 different keys!) but that isn’t possible, likely because the various pieces of hardware come from multiple manufacturers.
There were some minor countertop modifications we asked for but Safari Condo declined. The gap you have to slide through to sit in the port side dinette seat is just 7.25”. It’s a good thing we are both slender people and we can fit through, but we thought it would be nice if it was a few inches wider. We requested that the aft corners of the dinette be modified to a different radius, but no luck.
We also thought it would better for the sleeping area if the short section of kitchen countertop that overhangs the port side aft bench could be hinged so it could drop down. Again, no luck.
And speaking of the sleeping area…Safari Condo describes the F1743 aft sleeping space, which measures 81” (side to side) by 60” (front to back) as “King size”. Not in the real world, where a King size bed is 76” wide by 80” long. In the F1743, unless you are less than 5 ft tall, you have to sleep oriented side to side in the trailer, meaning the width of your bed is 60”. That’s Queen size.
Overall we are thrilled with our Alto!
We had never owned an RV or a camper trailer before. We waited 16 months after ordering to take delivery. We thought we would like camping with an Alto, but we are enjoying it even more than we imagined! It’s an ideal size for the two of us, it’s easy to tow, it’s very comfortable, and beautifully made. It doesn’t really feel like camping at all; it’s “glamping”.