2008 Fleetwood Americana Cheyenne Review

Budget-friendly trailer makes a solid first RV

By Howard J Elmer, Sep. 19, 2008, Photography by Howard J Elmer
In 1967 the Coleman Company started building what would become a popular line of folding camping trailers in Somerset, Pa. By 1979 they were the best selling tent campers in North America. So why is this relevant to my story? Because the Fleetwood trailer I tested is the direct descendent of the Coleman. Still built in the same Pennsylvania factory, these products continued to be known as Coleman trailers right up to 2003, even though Fleetwood had purchased the company back in 1989. So, today’s Fleetwood trailer has a 40-year pedigree – a fact that should be important to potential buyers, many of whom will be purchasing their first RV ever.

The model I looked at was the Cheyenne. It’s part of the Americana series of folding trailers that offers six models ranging in size from 21’ 4” (open length) to 25’. The first feature to note in the Cheyenne is the huge screened windows that allow the lightest breeze to flow through the unit. If they are open that is - because each one is also covered on the inside with a clear plastic that easily zips into place, for when the temperature falls or rain hits. Whether the plastic will stay clear over time I can’t say, but with it buttoned up I can say that the weather stays out and the heat in. Of course, that was summer, if body heat alone is not enough for those early spring or late fall camping weekends there is also a heater centrally located under the dinette seat. (I noted that the dinette seating has a full metal frame.)

Running the heater, stove and fridge is a 20 lb LP tank – enough for several days of dry camping. But, if you have access to power then the unit can draw up to 20 amps of shore power. To accommodate both scenarios there are both 12V fixtures and 110V outlets on board as well as a power converter with charger for topping up the house battery.

A key feature inside the unit is an interesting storage and space saving setup involving the sink and stove. These fixtures store flat on the floor till its setup time, then they swing up and onto the top of the Fridge cabinet using a metal arm and a chain-drive device. Fleetwood calls this a “swing-level galley”. Also inside is a folding table that can easily be moved outside. It’s made of a composite material and is water resistant.  The stove top can also be moved and mounted outside or if you’d rather Bar-B-Q an optional grill is available that also runs off the house propane tank.

To test the durability of the beds I brought along my 16-year-old son, Stephen. His dimensions are 6’1” and 250 lb, so I figured he’d be stress enough for the extended beds. He found can he could easily stretch out and he said the mattresses were firm and comfortable.  Fleetwood adds that the mattresses are quilted and that each expandable bed can support over 1,000 lb - or four Stephens.

It’s when you are in that bed staring at the ceiling that you are most likely to contemplate the fabric keeping the elements off your head. To sleep easy here’s what you’ll want to know. The tent material on the Fleetwood line is a woven acrylic material called Sunbrella 302. This fabric breathes, is hypoallergenic and water resistant. Now waterproofing is important but more so is the breathability of the material. It’s particularly important because letting moisture and odors escape through the material minimizes inside condensation. This feature also has another benefit – the need for a roof vent is eliminated keeping the roof panel structurally intact and weatherproof. This tenting is also government tested for flammability and has to conform to set codes.

Standard features within the Americana series (including the Cheyenne) include: aluminum skinned, insulated fiberglass roof with “RackTracks”, styled end caps and an awning rail. The hard domed fiberglass top also has twin metal supports.

Front and rear panels on the unit are dent resistant, while the front storage truck is water and dent resistant molded plastic. The tires are on alloy wheels and have chromed lug nuts – they look good. All the models come with a tubular steel frame, one-piece Structurwood floor and the same for bed platforms. The lift system is stainless steel; each trailer comes with a one-piece aluminum framed screen door, sectionalized Sunbrella 302 tent material, electric brakes, four crank-down stab jacks and a spare tire mount.

At the heart of every folding camper is the lift system. It’s what makes a folding camper what it is – and without it – it just doesn’t work at all. So, its quality and operation are of the utmost importance.

First, the lift-system crank is conveniently located at waist height and Fleetwood uses stainless steel lift posts that are bolted directly to the trailer’s frame, not screwed to the floor. The crank mechanism features a Posi-Lock feature which allows the operator to stop and release the crank handle without fear of kick-back or falling.  Also the system can’t be over cranked – so there is no need for a warning mechanism. This system also doesn’t rely on plastic threads, drive shafts or flexible push rods. It works well.

An afterthought about tent trailers – but equally important as fuel prices rise – is the additional savings offered by a folding trailer’s low weight and its drag-reducing shape. This should also be factored into its value.  As I mentioned above, folding trailers are often an RVer’s first dip into the market pool – but they don’t have to be. With over 40 years of product evolution to their credit these units cover all the basic needs of the RVer. In particular, sleeping space. As such they are a base of operations, refuge from the weather, camp kitchen and a place to lay several heads. At a certain point in most RVing families’ lives this type of unit is the solution.

2008 Fleetwood Americana Cheyenne Specs
GVWR 3,000 lb
Dry Weight 2,010 lb
Open Length x Width 21'4" x 8'9"
Closed Length x Width 17'2"x 7'5"
Height Closed 53"
Height Open 99"
Interior Height 80"
Storage Truck Capacity 22 cu. ft.
Water Storage 26 gal
Black Water 37 gal
LP Gas 18 gal
MSRP Starting at $10,191