Disclaimer: My apologies for the photo quality. I did not get any great photos or video. I took some video, but it really stunk, to be honest. The sunlight was just too bright and I forgot my neutral density filters. I pulled some photos from the video for illustrative purposes. I highly recommend watching one of the many walk-throughs available online for more accurate photos.
If you missed it, I recently created a spec comparison document for the Max and 400.
When Little Guy introduced their new Max travel trailer, I will admit, I was aghast. I thought it was a direct rip-off of the T@b 400 and that is basically what my Facebook comment said. Chris Baum responded like a guy who has read, “Hug Your Haters,” and offered to give me a personal tour and since I have had nothing but positive interactions with Little Guy and Chris, I gladly accepted his offer. This weekend, I had the chance to take a look at a Max and Dylan DeHoff, f Director of Operations at Liberty Outdoors, was gracious enough to meet me at General RV in Canton to give me the tour and patiently answer my questions.
What I liked:
- 2-year warranty and 2-year tire roadside assistance
- Rear receiver
- Built in TV antenna
- Ample storage
- Nice lighting in pass-through storage and under the trailer
- Entry step and step lighting
- Electric tongue jack
- High-quality fridge vents on exterior
- Pre-wired for a Furion backup camera, just add the camera, and you are good to go.
- Solar monitor was mounted in a central location.
- Deep stainless-steel kitchen sink
- Hydraulic lift and storage for dinette area TV
- Side windows and front window felt closer to the panoramic feel you get with an Airstream Bambi.
- Elegant bike rack solution
What could have been better
- Bathroom – almost everything in the bathroom
- Décor/aesthetics – the RV industry still has a long way to go
- Boondocking capabilities – battery size and type, tank size, black water flush, 120v entertainment system, no inverter
- Dinette area – felt too cramped, table too heavy and awkward
- Upholstery – it’s worth the price to go with high-quality Ultraleather
- I noticed some minor quality issues: bathroom door, wood separating in a storage area
- There is no battery monitor. This is a definite must.
- Entertainment system is dependent on 120v power.
- Kitchen faucet is plastic
Let’s start with the visual appeal of the Max. I still think there is a very strong visual resemblance to the 400, but I would probably no longer call it a “rip-off.” There are some notable differences in appearance as well as similarities. Unlike the T@b 400, the Little Guy Mac places the axle closer to the center where the 400 is slightly offset towards the rear. Also, the 4000 angles upward in the rear of the trailer where the Max is straight all the way to the rear of the trailer. The Max features more window space than the 400. Instead of port hole windows in the front of the trailer, the Max features standard windows on the sides in the front of the trailer. The Max also features a standard window on the rear driver side in the sleeping area. One of the other big eye-catchers is the Thule awning. There is no keder rail, just the Thule awning, which is not exceptionally large. The awning was more than sufficient for me, but if you like to sit outside under an awning, frequently, this might be an issue for you. In their defense, Thule is a top-quality choice, and there simply is not enough room on the side for a larger awning. Lastly, there is a noticeably significant visual difference in the graphics on each trailer. In all transparency, I am not a huge fan of the graphics of either, but I feel as though the Max has the edge, here. I would like to see both manufacturers spend a little more money and hire someone who can create some fresh graphics. Plagued by a myriad of bad graphics in the RV industry, there is not a huge improvement with either trailer. I give the Max a slight edge over the 400 with graphics, but I would remove all graphics from both trailers and do something custom if I were to purchase. There are other differences between the two trailers’ exteriors, but I think these are main visual differences.
Stepping into the trailer, the first thing you will notice is solid wood cabinet doors that very much resemble the styling in the T@b 320 units. The 400 went with a more modern design, and I have to admit, my preference is the Euro design. I have always felt like the solid wood natural finish on the T@b 320 and now the Max, resemble an early 90’s Airstream. In other words, it looks dated. I understand some prefer that look and that is why both companies offer it. I also understand that some associate it with higher quality. Larger RV owners have given engineered wood products a bad name by using cheap, poorly made materials, but I think the look of the new T@b 400 is moving in the right direction and maintains quality.
Continuing with athletics, the Max utilizes a very standard RV industry neutral wallpaper, high-grade Vinyl flooring that features a gray wood look, and a white ceiling. The upholstery in the unit I saw was a high-grade marine Vinyl with a retro style design.
One thing that started to become apparent is that the Max is better suited for people who camp with hookups versus those who dry camp or boondock. The entertainment system features a higher-grade TV and Stereo system than the 400, but it runs on 120v, not 12v. Also, the Max does not come with a battery from the factory, the dealer supplies one, which means unless you upgrade with the dealer, it will be a standard 12v 75-100ah lead acid battery. The Max does feature a 100-watt solar panel on top of the trailer, but no inverter, so you will not be using the entertainment system or the microwave that they include unless you are connected to shore power or make upgrades. The other big advantage that the 400 has is the black tank flush line so that cleaning your black tank is easier. A lot of us use an elbow with a back flush option, but a direct line would work so much better. After a week of boondocking, it’s important to ensure that your black tank is as clean as possible.
Another area where dry camping is at a disadvantage with the Max is the tanks. All are smaller than the 400. The black tank is part of the toilet as opposed to residing underneath the trailer. Dylan mentioned that this was something Little Guy is considering changing.
The Weak Point: The Bathroom
The bathroom is probably my biggest disappointment in the Max. The bathroom is as Spartan as you can get in a small travel trailer. The only storage is a canvas organizer that is on the wall. The 400 features very nice built in cubbies on the 400 that give the bathroom a higher-end look. The Max has a shower and a toilet in the wetbath, but no sink. The fold-down sink in the 400 with the built-in toothbrush and soap holders and the full surround shower curtain in a slightly larger space make the T@b 400 the winner when it comes to bathrooms. The Max does feature a ceiling fan in the bathroom, but I have always found that one fan in a trailer of this size is more than enough. The wetbath door on the dealer unit was also wobbly, and the bottom trim looked misshaped. Please note that both of those could be the result of abuse at the dealer location. I think people often assume that the trailer they see at a dealer is in the same condition it was when it left the factory. I believe these units suffer some abuse on the lot. This unit had little stones and debris near it from construction at the dealer so that I would give Little Guy the benefit of the doubt here, but it is something I would look for if I were making a purchase. Little Guy is considering a door upgrade, too, which will help, but I think they will need to look at other bathroom improvements to match the quality of the 400 wetbath.
The kitchen on the Max is quite different. Little Guy opted to install a large, full-sized pantry in the Max, where the 400 has more counter space. Little Guy also includes a stainless steel Highpointe microwave. Unlike the 400, the Max includes an electric ignition two burner stove, which means you will not need matches or a lighter to get your burner fired up to cook. Some will consider the fridge, the microwave and the pantry are big pluses for the Max. Neither of these features are a big deal to me since I prefer to boondock the microwave would see little use and I never come close to filling my fridge. If you camp with shore power, the microwave will be a huge plus for you. When it comes to the pantry, personally, I prefer the additional counter space which gives the T@b 400 a more open appearance. I recognize that for some of you, the extra storage will be an advantage, however. Lastly, the fridge on the Max is a Dometic three-way fridge and is slightly larger than the 400, which is a Norcold 2 way fridge. The fridge on the Max has two very nice molded plastic vents on the exterior for easy access to the burner for maintenance and proper venting. One other nice little touch on the max is the synthetic cutting board that covers the sink. Wood tends to become warped when exposed to humidity and synthetic is easier to keep clean.
The sleeping area of the Max features a slightly larger bed than the 400 and is a full queen-sized bed. The Max features a custom mattress, locally made in Somerset, PA. The 400 features the Froli Sleep system, which acts as a box spring. Standard queen size bedding should work on both beds. Like the 400, the Max features a large stargazer window in the sleeping area, several storage cubbies, lighting controls, and power outlets. In addition to the stargazer window, the Max has an extra standard window by the head of the bed.
The Max utilizes several electronic components made by Furion, including the entertainment system and TVs. The soundbar in the bed area is an Insignia residential soundbar. Unlike the 400m the Max features two TVs: one in the bed area and one in the dinette area. Both TVs are removable, and a bracket is located on the exterior passenger side of the trailer so that you can take your entertainment outdoors. The Max also features two high quality outdoor marine speakers by the TV mount on the exterior of the trailer. The audio features three zones: the bed area, main cabin, and exterior speakers. Currently, the head unit for the entertainment system is located by the door. However, Little Guy had the forethought to put an IR sensor for the remote in the bed area so that your remote works while you are in bed. Dylan mentioned that they are looking at the possibility of adding a disc player in the bed area so that you can also change the DVD while in bed. As noted before, the entertainment system is 120v, not 12v, so you will need to be on shore power, use a generator, or obtain an inverter to use the entertainment system.
All in all, the storage space is probably fairly comparable between the Max and the 400, although subjectively, to me, it felt like the 400 either had more space or made better use of the space. The storage space under the bed, on the Max unit, is a pull out drawer, accessed through the front, where the 400 has access under cushions. Both the Max and 400 feature pass through storage space and dedicated sewer hose storage. Dylan mentioned that the popular Rhinoflex does not fit in the current breed of RV sewer storage hose tubes, though. The 400 offers more under the bed storage, but I think the Max bests the 400 with pass through storage space. Both the Max and the 400 feature wardrobes and the size is comparable. I believe the Max might be slightly deeper while the 400 is likely slightly wider. One of the things I liked about the 400 wardrobe was the access it provided to the plumbing, through the closet floor. I did not see similar access in the Max. It might have been there, but I do not recall seeing it.
The dinette area of the Max is quite different from the T@b 400. The 400 features a curved seating area and svelte Lagun table for easy adjustment to make the bed. The table in the Max is the standard, heavier collapsible table that the T@b 320 used before the Lagun table implementation. The table also takes up most of the space between the 2 benches. I think the 400 has the edge, here, however, Dylan did mention that they were actively exploring other options for the table, including the Lagun table mount.
Neither the 400 or the Max offer what I consider great upholstery. The 400 stays with a neutral gray, which I prefer over the retro style Vinyl in the Max. Ultraleather, available in the 320 T@bs, is a very high-quality faux leather that is very soft, durable, and pet-friendly, and I think the best choice for most RVs.
Lighting is very similar to the two trailers, but I give the aesthetic edge for lights to the 400 because of the rather cheap looking white plastic overhead lights in the Max. Both trailers feature ample LED lighting and both feature mood lighting options. The Max did feature some very nice lighting in the the pass-through storage areas and lighting under the trailer. I am not sure if the 400 had lighting in either location. Both units featured a clear door handle that lights up and porch lighting.
As a Pennsylvanian, I was very happy to hear that mattress and the frame of the trailer are both sources locally in Western PA and that when possible Little Guy tries to obtain parts and supplies, locally.
A few other notable differences:
- The Max includes a standard 2-year warranty.
- The Max includes high-quality Kendra tires with 2 years of roadside assistance in addition to the 2-year warranty.
- The Max includes a built in TV antenna
- The Max has a built-in receiver in the rear of the trailer for bike or storage racks
- The Max has an elegant bike carrier option for the front of the trailer
- The Max uses a different type of plastic for the trim than the T@bs. It is a softer, more forgiving material, more like automotive bumper material. Visually it is not a very noticeable difference.
- The Max has a very nice entry step that felt much sturdier than the T@b 320s.
- The Max has an LP connection on the passenger side, towards the rear, for a grill or other LP appliance.
- The window on the Max door opens. This is rare, if not a first for fiberglass RVs.
- The Max has an optional electric tongue jack.
- The Max did not have any easy winterization options. The 400 has a very easy to use bypass switch for the Alde system.
Which would I choose?
If I had to choose, today, I would stick with my 320. But, if I had to choose between the Max and 400, I would have to go with the 400 for its boondocking advantages. I believe that Dylan is actively looking to extend the boondocking capabilities on several fronts and as those capabilities grow, it would make a choice much tougher. The second area that would likely cause me to pick the 400 is the difference in bathrooms. The 400 is just a far superior bathroom for the previously mentioned reasons. Lastly, I would pick the 400 because I think the natural wood finish solid wood is a dated look and I prefer the Euro design.
Where I See Opportunities
I wish both companies would hire interior designers to help them update their looks, develop more consistent design schemes, and maximize space. Although I like the 400 better, it sometimes felt like it was still somewhat disconnected. I have been a big fan of some of the partnerships other RV manufacturers have made like Airstream and Eddie Bauer, Pendleton, and Truckcamper and Woolrich. I would love to see an L.L. Bean, REI, Lands End, Orvis, or other outdoorsy/National Parks themed trailer both on the inside and outside. I think that more attention to design could go a long way to attracting more Gen X shoppers. Dylan entertained my thoughts on this and he mentioned that this is something that may happen in the future.
Jenn’s RV Manufacturer Wish List:
- Hire an interior designer and partner with a name brand to style an “edition” – preferably outdoors themed
- The tech is far behind. Work towards an affordable lithium solution for the battery, more Bluetooth integration, and “smart home” type of features. Think a “connected RV.” I am not sure what is currently available to RV manufacturers, especially in the 12v market, but the RV industry is way behind in this area.
- Hire a high-end graphic designer, like the artist who designed the Yakima space cases for the NPS Centennial promotional giveaway. The other option would be to partner with a local graphic artist and let the artist develop a handful of wraps for customers to choose from as an upgrade.
- Include a Progressive Industries Power Management System/Surge Protector as a standard feature. You guys are selling to a lot of first time RV owners, and this would reduce the problems people have with fuses.
- A built in a lock box – the Airstream Basecamp has one, and it is a very nice feature.
- Another thing I would like to see them borrow from Airstream is the pop-up 12v and USB outlets. It would be nice to have them out of the way when not needed.
- Leveling jacks instead of stabilizers.
- Install a Bluetooth leveling system, like Levelmate. One of the most time-consuming parts of setting up can be the leveling process.
- Install a Bluetooth tire pressure monitoring system like the Tireminder system. Tire blow outs and flats can derail a trip, quickly.
- Stick with solid push button catches on your drawers and cupboards. We like to know our stuff is secure when we travel and other styles just do not seem to work nearly as well.
- Install a water filter system.
- Add a water pressure regulator to the set-up.
Chris, Dylan, and the rest of the Little Guy crowd can be pleased that they have placed a competitive product in the marketplace. Chris Baum is an excellent marketer and knows how to connect with his customer base. These skills will go a long way to help the Max, which has enjoyed a very warm reception in the market and is exceeding early sales expectations. I would personally like the thank Chris for extending the offer for me to take a look at the Max and Dylan for answering all of my questions. Best of luck, gentlemen!