SylvanSport Vast Test Drive: Is This the Towable of the Future?
SylvanSport’s Vast heads for the hills in a bold new way
About 1,500 feet from my campsite in the Pisgah National Forest sat a small stone chapel overlooking shallow riffles on the Davidson River. Before it was there, a timber-frame church had been on the site, built in 1860 by an itinerant Methodist minister. In 1940, when that old structure was crumbling, the congregation gathered rocks from the river and hauled them ashore to build the landmark sanctuary that stands today: ingenious, sturdy, cozy. Everything you want from a little cabin in the woods.
I came to the Davidson River Campground, in Western North Carolina, to spend a few days camping in the SylvanSport Vast, a new midsize travel trailer that proved every bit as ingenious, sturdy, and cozy as the old chapel down the way. The wild, sprawling Pisgah, just outside SylvanSport’s hometown of Brevard, made the perfect testing ground for what its creators bill as “the future of adventure camping.” Sunny days gave way to brief showers, followed by chilly nights, with temperatures dipping below freezing. Through it all, the Vast proved its four-season bona fides, a cozy little cabin in the woods.
With its mod, boxy shape and an exterior in SylvanSport’s trademark bright green, the Vast commands attention at a campground. At Pisgah, more than a few curious campers wandered over for a closer look. Most were enamored of the towable’s huge, dual-pane, tilt-open windows, and its expansive gear garage, accessible via a large rear hatch. That space gave me plenty of room to haul a bike, camp chairs, packs, and more. Kayaks? They get their own dedicated racks attached to the trailer’s non-window side.
SylvanSport, while not one of the more prominent players in the RV industry, has turned heads since releasing its first towable back in 2008, a lightweight pop-up dubbed the Go—essentially, a tent cleverly married to a utility trailer. It’s gained a fervent following for its innovative design, exceptional versatility, and, yep, ability to haul an impressive amount of toys and gear.
By contrast, the new Vast is a more traditional take on the classic travel trailer. It retains much of the versatility that has earned the Go its fans, while integrating a slew of features new not just to the brand but to the entire industry. And unlike its little pop-up sibling, the Vast comes with an onboard bathroom, a kitchenette, and insulated walls for year-round adventures.
Compact and light, with a dry weight of 4,420 pounds, it’s easily towed behind a midsize pickup or SUV. The trailer’s squared-off frame isn’t the most aerodynamic design on the road, but a rounded nose cap and front storage box help mitigate that to a degree. Fifteen-inch radials and an electric braking system provide a smooth ride and excellent control at highway speeds or over uneven terrain. And although the Vast isn’t an off-road trailer, per se, its nearly 11 inches of ground clearance grants a surprising amount of leeway when choosing a campsite.
Stepping inside, the first thing that struck me was how comfortable and open the Vast feels. This is due in part to an exceptionally high ceiling—6 feet, 8.5 inches. Thank SylvanSport’s 6-foot-6 CEO Tom Dempsey, who pushed for a cabin he could comfortably stand in. The large side window and even larger rear window give the cabin a spacious feel. The natural light flooding in when the windows are open is genuinely lovely, and the Vast never feels so roomy as when a breeze is flowing through. Built-in screens help keep insects at bay, while privacy shades block out the sun and nosy neighbors.
The Vast’s L-shaped lounge is one of the most versatile I’ve found in an RV. The entire couch connects to a wall-mounted track that allows it to shift forward or backward, creating more space in the cabin or gear garage as needed, and at night, it converts into a queen bed. The primary sleeping space, meanwhile, sits above: a queen mattress resting on an elevator suspended over the lounge. When it’s not in use, the bed lifts to the ceiling, out of the way throughout the day. A flick of a switch lowers it for easy access. I especially appreciated the mattress’s north-south orientation—perfect for taller campers like me (and tall CEOs). I had plenty of space to stretch out, resulting in two of the best nights of sleep I’ve ever had while camping.
Opposite the lounge and sleep space is a door that leads to the Vast’s fairly small bathroom, which includes an electric-flush cassette toilet and a fold-away sink. Directly adjacent is the kitchenette, complete with a sink, two-burner gas stove, and microwave. A dual-zone powered cooler from Truma serves as a mini fridge/freezer, with the added benefit of being easy to remove for use outside the camper.
At first glance, there seems little more to say about the kitchenette, but it’s actually the locus of one of the Vast’s signature features. In a clever feat of design and engineering, the whole thing sits on a mechanism that easily slides out of a door on the side of the trailer, converting it into an outdoor cooking area. The process is simple but effective, requiring minimal effort to move the entire kitchenette in and out of the RV. When combined with the 14-foot powered Thule awning, it’s a moveable feast that extends the Vast’s living space into the outdoors.
When the kitchenette is slid away, the space opens to reveal a surprisingly roomy residential-sized shower. A sliding divider separates it from the lavatory and can also be pulled around front for more privacy, creating a larger bathroom space. Hot water is available on demand thanks to a propane-powered Truma Combi water heater, which doubles as the Vast’s furnace, pumping warm air into the cabin to maintain a consistent interior temperature.
When the sun was shining, I hopped on my mountain bike for a spin on the 4-mile North Slope Loop. Before climbing, the trail follows the quiet Davidson River, a much-loved trout stream that tumbles down from the mountains over a few nice falls, past the old stone church and my campsite, before joining the French Broad River outside Brevard. When a drizzle started, I opened up the back of the Vast and popped my bike inside.
Is this the future of adventure camping? The Vast is certainly more than the sum of its parts. SylvanSport’s thoughtful design, attention to detail, and noticeable build quality have made it a travel trailer unlike anything else on the market. Of course, that level of engineering and construction doesn’t come cheap, and with an MSRP of $69,995, the Vast isn’t looking to compete in the budget RV space. And while it may not appeal to casual campers, being built with fairly intrepid adventurers in mind, anybody can appreciate the comforts it offers after a long day on the trail.
➀ The rear-access hatch measures a generous 75 by 68 inches.
➁ Roof-mounted 800-watt solar panels supply electricity when the Vast isn’t connected to 30-amp shore power, charging a pair of lithium house batteries.
➂ A low-profile rooftop Dometic A/C has 11,000 BTUs of cooling capacity, while a pair of Maxxair flush-mount fans keeps things ventilated.
➃ Holding tanks include 30-gallon freshwater and 32-gallon gray-water reservoirs.
➄ Swing-down stabilizer jacks manually deploy to level the trailer.
➅ The galley sink, counter, and shelving are stainless steel, and a flip-up counter adds a surface when in outdoor mode.
➆ A front-mounted cargo box with 15 cubic feet of storage slides out to reveal twin 20-pound propane canisters that fuel the water heater and stove.