NuWa Industries has been manufacturing fifth-wheels for more than 30 years and has built
quite a reputation for durable, long-lasting products that are livable and easy to tow. In
fact, the Chanute, Kansas-based company claims to be one of the pioneers in the inception
of the fifth-wheel back in 1969, so NuWa’s faithful customer base should come as no
surprise. Armed with this knowledge, I was eager to see how the 2010 HitchHiker Discover
America 339LK RSB would perform in camp and on the road.
Although the HitchHiker Discover
America isn’t quite in the high-end luxury segment, its quality, amenities and attention to
detail are on par with some of the heavier hitters in the industry. NuWa’s factory and
dealer outlets use a “no haggle” pricing policy that results in lower costs for customers,
allowing buyers a good amount of bang for their buck. The extensive list of standard
amenities is obviously aimed at full-timers, and the equally extensive options list offers
a wide array of features to customize the trailers.
The HitchHiker we tested was actually
destined for a new owner who planned to take the unit on a four-month Alaskan adventure,
and the options he selected seem to reflect the impending rugged journey. Things like mud
flaps ($162), a storage slide-out tray ($319), four 6-volt batteries ($650) and a
2,000-watt sine wave inverter ($1,740) all belie the off-the-grid capabilities of the
HitchHiker Discover America.
And so does the construction; NuWa employs a vacuum-pressure
lamination system to provide extra sturdy side walls, utilizing aluminum studs in
side-wall, front and back structures, while an aluminum barrier wrap on all non-laminated
surfaces works to reflect heat and deter cold-air entry. Wood roof trusses are also used
and create a dead-air insulation area (much like an attic on a residential home) to further
protect occupants from extreme elements outside.
The MOR/ryde IS rubber suspension ($2,200)
did a nice job smoothing out the ride here on some of the choppier bits of U.S. Highway
101, and I imagine it will perform well enough during the Alaskan adventure.
storage is about what you’d expect in a mid-size trailer. Highlights include an AC
generator compartment up front, a small cabinet for lawn chairs and a battery cut-off
switch, the latter of which is extremely beneficial on any RV. The trailer’s “baggage
doors” feature motorhome-type handles and pneumatic props to keep them in place while
loading gear, which will help save your forehead from unsightly (and painful) bumps and
The destination for our test was Ocean Mesa at El Capitan campground
(866-410-5783, www.oceanmesa.com) in
Santa Barbara, California.
While setting up in camp, the benefits of spending a few extra
bucks on the NuWa are immediately evident in the form of the optional Big Foot hydraulic
auto leveling system ($2,726), a feature generally reserved for motorhomes or fifth-wheels
in the high-end category.
The HitchHiker is designed for residential-type comfort, and upon
stepping into the trailer the hominess is apparent. It’s easy to imagine encountering the
laminate wood-grain flooring in the kitchen ($534), solid-surface L-shape counter top and a
cherry finish cabinet option ($418) while touring a model home. The oven and recessed
three-burner stove meant cleanup after meals was a snap, whether it was a glob of pasta
sauce or a wayward bell pepper sliver. The 10-cu-ft fridge ($928; 8 cu ft is standard) is
definitely another option I’d select, especially if full-timing was the plan. A convection
microwave ($278) is available should a standard zapper not suit your needs.
L-shape counter top is a popular configuration, and the NuWa utilizes it so there’s room
for more than one in the prep area; the fridge is also easily accessible, even though it’s
across from the stove/sink area. A ceiling fan not only aids in keeping things cool, but it
also helps disperse food odors (read: bacon) in short order.
In one of the streetside
slideouts, the dinette was a bit cramped for our liking, though it certainly did the trick.
The chairs feature flip-up lids that can hold small doo-dads and magazines. Two Euro chairs
with foot stools ($200) share the slide with the dinette, and offer a nice place to put
your feet up and view the 32-inch flat screen TV located curbside in the entertainment
center. The entertainment center – located in the lone curbside slide – also doubles as the
most functional computer desk I’ve seen in a trailer in quite a while. There’s more than
enough room for your legs and even the bulkiest computer tower (hey, not everyone has a
laptop) beneath the desk. A huge cabinet holds office supplies, plus DVDs, remotes and
other multimedia components. A cool twist-on light switch illuminates the area for reading.
The rear of the Discover America features a narrow sofa bed that was fine for napping – but
I don’t think I could comfortably sleep there an entire night. It should be noted that when
in the sofa position, the unit is quite comfortable and offers another clear line of sight
to the TV.
Overhead compartments abound in the living area, but as in many midsize fivers
you may have to bring along a step stool to access the far reaches of each cabinet.
up front and up the stairs to the bedroom area reveals perhaps the star attraction of the
339LK RSB – the closet space (Yes, you read that correctly). The 339 features a closet
glide room in addition to a standard forward-wall wardrobe, meaning both mom and dad have
their own sizable closet. The large mirrored wardrobe in a streetside slide – positioned
between the bedroom and the living-room slides – is flanked by four drawers and a cabinet,
which would normally be enough closet space by itself. However, NuWa ups the ante by
including the requisite lighted closet in the front wall of the trailer plus a six-drawer
dresser curbside across from the bed. The bed is comfortable enough, and the lack of
nightstands is made up for by two clever recessed shelves along the back wall. Storage
beneath the bed is cavernous.
The bedroom is separated from the trailer by an accordion
door, which is dictated by the layout. But I’d trade a solid door for an accordion door if
it meant an extra wardrobe any day.
The bathroom is spacious and nice looking, with a
rounded wall and radius shower. A towel bar is located on the wall directly behind the
toilet, which is a bit awkward but is again dictated by the floorplan. Three compartments
(one mirrored) above the sink can share medicine-cabinet duties, and additional storage
comes via four drawers and a below sink area.
The Discover America 339LK RSB offers an
intuitive floorplan that closely mimics a residential experience. The engineers have
clearly focused on practicality and creature comforts, and very efficiently used the
relatively small space to offer plenty of storage for experienced full-time RVers. Combined
with an attractive price point, rugged construction and a long list of options, it’s safe
to say NuWa has put its decades of experience in the fifth-wheel arena to good use.
NuWa Industries Inc., (800) 835-0676, www.nuwa.com.