After buying my home, my Safari Condo Alto is the single most expensive thing I’ve ever purchased- and if you’re in the market to buy one as well, it will likely take a healthy chunk of your savings account too.
So if you’re wondering whether it’s worth all that hard-earned money, you’re in luck- my husband, Justin, and I have officially slept, lived, and adventured 100 nights in our Safari Condo Alto trailer and I wanted to write an honest review about whether I’m happy with my purchase and if I’d recommend that others take the leap into owning an Alto trailer as well.
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About the Safari Condo Alto Travel Trailer
Before I dive into the review, it’s important to understand that the Alto by Safari Condo isn't a single model, but rather a series of different trailers that are all designed with aerodynamics in mind and constructed on a ultra-lite aluminum frame. The Alto family includes the following models:
R1713: This was Safari Condo’s first trailer model with a retractable roof, which comfortably sleeps three.
R1723: This is the Alto model we have- a popular iteration of the R1713, which includes an interior shower and slightly larger commode (and to accommodate these additions, a slightly smaller bed and more narrow aisle between the front and back of the trailer).
F1743: This model is similar to the R1723, but with a fixed roof that stands 95” from the ground. Without the retractable roof, the R1743 has a larger and fully enclosed bathroom and wardrobe cabinets that take advantage of the permanent vertical space.
F2114: This is a longer version of the 1743, which offers a larger bed (queen in the front and king in the back), bathroom, and fridge and additional floor space.
A2124: This is Safari Condo’s newest model, which, with a frame that comes to a point at the very front, is the most aerodynamic of the Alto family.
F2414: This model is the most spacious of the Altos, with both a king and a queen bed, a separate toilet and shower area, and even more storage, with the same aerodynamic design as the rest of the Altos.
To provide a little bit more background on our particular Alto trailer, we actually originally placed an order directly with Get-Away RV, a dealership located in Abbotsford, British Columbia, for a new R1723 in late 2020 but, given the long waiting time (at the time we placed our order, it was 15 months), opted to snap up a used Safari Condo Alto for sale that we found on Facebook (note: finding a used Safari Condo Alto for sale is rare and when they do pop up from time to time, they usually sell, sight unseen, within hours or even minutes).
This used Alto camper has SO many more added upgrades than the order we originally placed, mostly because we tried to design the cheapest Alto possible with only the upgrades we deemed absolutely essential.
I won’t go into the details of all the different features our Alto has in this review (if you want a comprehensive list of the upgrades in our trailer, you can read about a tour of our Safari Condo Alto R1723 or watch our video below), but suffice to say, it’s much better suited for our particular style of camping- primarily boondocking on National Forest, Department of Natural Resources, and Bureau of Land Management land- than the trailer we originally designed for ourselves.
Review of Safari Condo Alto Travel Trailer
So, with that context in mind, let’s talk trailers!
First, I want to be clear about my overall experience with our Alto. To be totally honest, I wasn’t 100% sure how I felt about purchasing an Alto before we actually owned ours.
I absolutely loved the idea of the Alto R1723’s lightweight and compact nature and thought it looked super cool, but without having owned an RV before, I wasn’t totally sure how much use we’d get out of it, which made the expensive price tag feel like a REALLY huge gamble.
But after six months of owning our Alto, I really can’t imagine our lives without it- we’ve had SO many adventures that we otherwise never would have and while, other, less expensive trailers may similarly provide shelter as you travel from Point A to Point B, the Alto trailer provides an unequivocally more comfortable, reliable, and let’s be real, stylish experience than any other trailer I’ve stepped foot in.
TLDR: Despite the high price point, I have absolutely no regrets; 10/10, would buy again.
That being said, everything in life is going to have its ups and downs, so I want to highlight some things that I truly love about our Alto R1723, as well as some of the pain points. Let’s start with the highs.
Six Things that I Love about the Safari Condo Alto R1723
Compact design: When we were on the hunt for our trailer, one of the main things we were looking for was something small that we could store in our garage. We live in Seattle, where real estate is at a premium, in a townhouse, with a one car garage and a driveway we share with two neighbors.
While we wanted something that was easy to store, we also wanted something that we could comfortably stand up in and that had all of the amenities of a normal home, like a shower, toilet, sink, and refrigerator. The R1723’s clever design, with a retractable roof that expands from 83.5” high when collapsed to 101” (which is PLENTY tall for 6’0” Justin to have a full on dance party in), magically checks all of those boxes.
The small size has been helpful in so many different ways- the 17-foot body is easily stored in our driveway and allows us to get into tight campsites or parking spots we wouldn’t be able to with a bigger rig. I sometimes wonder how less frequently we’d use our trailer if we had to keep it at a storage facility- it sounds like a pretty big pain to have to load up your car at home for a trip in your RV, drive to a storage facility, hook up your trailer, transfer all of the stuff from your car to your trailer before you take off, and then do all of those steps in reverse every time you get back from a trip.
In comparison, if Justin and I get home late from an excursion now, we can just leave our laundry or even our food in the fridge of our Alto and just mosey on down to our driveway when we feel like cleaning it out later. So long story short: it’s a big ol’ plus to be able to keep your trailer at your home.
And the collapsible roof makes everything much less stressful- from getting better gas mileage while towing due to the trailer being more aerodynamic to not having to worry about getting stuck in bridges, tunnels, or parking garages with low ceiling clearance. All in all, given our needs, I am so thankful that the Alto is a lot of trailer in a tiny package.
2. Lightweight frame: The Altos are some of the most lightweight trailers on the market for their particular length- for example, all of their 17-foot trailers are under 2000 pounds (before you factor in add-ons and all of the other luggage, water, and whatnot you load into your trailer). I don’t think I really appreciated just how lightweight the Alto was until talking with other RVers and realizing that even some pretty simple pop-up trailers weighed over 2,000 pounds!
Having a lightweight trailer has a number of benefits- most importantly for me, we could get a mid-size SUV as a tow vehicle (we have a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, with a 3,500 lb. towing capacity) as opposed to some enormous truck that may not make vey much sense as our daily driver around the narrow and crowded streets of Seattle. It also helps get better fuel economy and makes towing, especially if you purchase weight distribution bars, an absolute breeze.
3. Quality of the floorplan and build: The Alto R1723’s floorplan is well thought out- no space is wasted and somehow, Safari Condo has created a totally comfortable living space in just 119 square feet, with pretty much all of the amenities and creature comforts of a standard home.
Everything feels incredibly intentional and custom- for example, as the world’s lightest sleeper, I was worried about how much light those panoramic windows would let in, but with the Alto’s custom tailored black-out curtains, perfectly designed to slide along its walls, it gets pitchblack in the trailer (true story- as I’m typing this, I slept until 9 AM in the Alto this morning, which probably hasn’t otherwise happened since I was 17 years old).
And that thoughtfulness is seen throughout the trailer- most of the materials used are high quality and constructed in a way that you can tell Safari Condo takes pride in each and every trailer they build.
Safari Condo recently started doing this really sweet thing where they ask for details about the people that place orders for trailers- what they like and how they’re planning to use their RV. This information is then printed out and attached to the frame of each trailer being built by their staff, so that the future owner will be on the staff’s mind as it’s literally being pieced together. How cool is that- definitely not something you’re going to get with a mass-produced RV!
And beyond the sappy stuff (which, confession, I’m a total sucker for), the Alto is just really solidly built. We’ve been to dozens and dozens of campsites at this point and seen a LOT of RVs. There’s only been one trailer that has made our eyes wander just a little bit from our Alto that seems to be well-suited for our camping style, a Tab 400 with the boondock package, but after talking with its owners a bit, they confessed they had to take their trailer into the shop for repairs twice in the three months since they’d purchased the trailer.
While we’ve had little things break on the Alto, which I’ll talk about more below, we’ve had no major issues with it (I’m knocking on wood right now, karma gods!!), despite putting it on some pretty bumpy roads and remote campsites.
Perhaps because of the great design and build-quality, Altos retain a decent amount of their resale value- as I’m writing this, used Altos are often selling online for more than when they’re fresh off the lot (which is incredibly atypical for a trailer).
This provided me some comfort when we were making the leap to purchase the trailer- if we absolutely hated it or just didn’t use it, I knew we’d have absolutely no problem finding it a new home (without our wallet taking too much of a hit).
4. Flexibility to support different camping styles: From the various Alto Facebook groups I’m in, I was a little bit concerned before we picked up the Alto that it may not be the right fit for Justin and me- while the majority of Alto owners strictly stay in RV parks with electrical hookups, Justin and I wanted to be more off-grid, camping in remote, natural (and free!) campsites.
But after spending 100 nights in everything from the complete wilderness to casino parking lots and even a dense urban city, I can confidently say that the Alto meets all of our boondocking needs. It holds its own on potholey and washboarded roads, easily fits in tight sites in National Forest dispersed camping areas, and with the right boondocking set-up (think solar panels, an inverter, and double propane tanks), is a super comfortable trailer to dry-camp with for a week-plus at a time if we use water conservatively (some foreshadowing for the section below).
Similarly, Alto owners who stay mostly in RV parks with hookups seem absolutely delighted with it- with hook-ups, you get the benefit of being able to use the air conditioner on hot summer days and don’t have to worry about some of the issues that come along with the Alto’s smaller size, like tiny holding tanks. I love that the Alto isn’t just for one particular type of camper- it’s for anyone who wants to get out and see the world a bit more!
5. The windows: One of the biggest initial draws to the Alto for me was the big, dreamy windows that are exposed when the roof is expanded. And they’re still one of my favorite features to this day- there’s nothing better than camping in a gorgeous place and making dinner or watching a movie inside the trailer, all while simultaneously feeling like you’re being completely immersed with the outside.
I’ve never seen another trailer that has so much light or that feels quite as much like a treehouse as the Alto- and that’s one aspect about our trailer that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
6. The Altoistes Community: The Alto has some SERIOUS fans- you can find a lot of them in the Altoiste community on Facebook, a group of current and wannabe Alto owners.
While I don’t know how much worth I’d assign to a Facebook group before owning our trailer, the Altoiste community has been SO awesome since the minute we decided we were interested in purchasing one- a seemingly endless resource about all things Alto, from maintenance issues to modifications and trip reports, everything you need to know about making the most of your Alto.
And more importantly than the incredibly knowledgeable folks in the group is that everyone in the community is so kind- unlike a lot of toxic corners of the Internet, the Altoistes is full of positivity, helpful feedback, and encouraging words. We jokingly attribute it to the fact that a significant chunk of Alto owners are sweet Canadians (given that Safari Condo is a family-run company in Canada)- but the truth is that it's managed by some extraordinary thoughtful moderators that work hard to foster an environment of appreciation and inclusivity.
Six Things I don't love about the Safari Condo Alto R1723
Of course, nothing, even my beloved Alto, is perfect. In fact, many of the things that I love about the trailer are inextricably linked to the things I dislike the most.
Limited storage: The compact size of the Alto R1723 is awesome, but it, of course, comes with some trade offs. For example, storage space in the trailer is pretty hard to come by. With all of the upgrades we have, our storage is limited to: (1) the spice rack above the stove, (2) the cabinet space below the sink, (3) the shelving in the commode, and (4) the space under the front and back benches (FYI if storage is a big concern with you, you do give up some extra cubbies if you get the microwave, big front window, and air conditioner, so you could consider doing without one or more of those additions).
This means we have to be pretty judicious about what we pack, and use our storage space in creative ways. Like, instead of our spice rack exclusively holding, you know, spices, one shelf is totally dedicated to our smaller tech devices, like our battery charging bank, mobile router, backup cell phone, and a gazillion different charging cables, simply because there’s no other place to store things like that.
And while Justin and I pride ourselves on being pretty light packers (we’re one-bag international travelers), it’s still really inconvenient, despite our limited luggage, to reach the largest storage area of the trailer under the couch/bed.
I constantly feel like I’m moving cushions, pillows, or blankets around to access my backpack, which is, frankly, quite annoying. If we weren’t such light packers or if we were traveling with more than just two of us, I think the storage issue may transition from being a tad frustrating to a more seriously limiting issue.
2. Small holding tanks: The Alto’s petite size strikes again! The 2020 model year R1723 has a 16 gallon fresh water tank, a 12 gallon gray water tank (i.e., where your water from your sink and shower goes), and a 12 gallon black water tank (i.e., where all the waste from the toilet goes).
This capacity is pretty miniscule, even with respect to other small trailers, and is the single factor that limits us the most while we’re camping. We’ve figured out some ways to prolong our stays while boondocking despite the tank sizes, like picking up a 6 gallon jerry can to refill our fresh water tank and using gray water mitigation techniques, like using compostable paper plates instead of washing dishes.
That being said, there’s only so much you can do to limit your usage of the black water tank. We’re considering picking up a portable waste storage tank to help with this issue, but I’d prefer if Safari Condo just offered an upgrade to larger tanks. It’s worth flagging that this won’t be an issue for you if you exclusively stay at RV parks with full hook-ups (#boondockerproblems).
3. Heat management: While we’re on the topic of boondocking issues, let’s talk about a pretty serious one- heat management. The Alto’s walls are constructed of two sheets of aluminum, with a honeycomb fiber core, which, can confirm, is not the world’s best insulator. Combine that with those big, dreamy windows and on a hot summer’s day, you have a veritable greenhouse on your hands.
I’m being slightly hyperbolic, but just slightly- even with our most serious heat mitigation practices in effect (i.e., awnings up, black-out curtains drawn, windows open, Maxxfan on as high as it goes), the inside is, at best, 10-15 degrees hotter than the outside temperature on bright sunny days with low wind. In fact, when we’ve forgotten to turn the Maxxfan on when we leave the trailer, it can get more than 40 degrees hotter in the Alto than the outside when we return. And, if you’re camping in 90 degree weather, that’s certainly not the most comfortable place to stay.
There’s even been times when we’ve been hooked up to shore power where the air conditioner has struggled to keep up with the heat. Granted, these were pretty edge case scenarios where it was 108 degrees out (true story: our house doesn’t have air conditioning due to the Pacific Northwest’s usually temperate weather, so we beat the heat on a particularly hot weekend by sitting in our air conditioned Alto in the driveway- ha!), but it’s still something to consider if you live or intend to camp in a particularly hot environment without shore power.
4. Low ground clearance: While the Alto has generally been good to us in the boondocking context, it hasn’t always been perfect- there’s been a number of times that the low ground clearance has been an issue. The Alto comes with 13” tires, but we actually have the upgraded 15” ones- and our bumper has still dragged on the ground a couple of times when we’ve been getting in and out of particularly bumpy campsites.
This limitation is one of the reasons we were interested in the Tab 400 (check out all that dreamy clearance on the bumper!). While the Alto 1723 wouldn’t accommodate a recessed bumper like the Tab’s (given that, when retracted, the lowest points of the Alto’s roof rests along its bumper line), a girl can dream about getting her trailer into a steep campsite without worrying about seriously damaging it.
5. Uncomfortable seating: No ifs, ands, or buts about it (pun obviously intended)- the seating options in the Alto are not very comfortable. If you mostly intend to use your Alto as a place to eat, sleep, and not much more, than this may not be as big of an issue for you, but if you, like us, work from your trailer (for tips on working remotely from your trailer, check out this post) or plan on living in it full time, get ready to have some very non-ergonomic seating options.
I’ve tried every seating combination possible in the Alto- in the front dinette area or against the back, side, or front walls of the couch, both with and without the provided back support wedges- and often just wind up laying on my belly on the couch to stop my back from hurting (and I’m reasonably young and without any pre-existing back issues).
For what it’s worth, I can’t imagine this issue is particularly unique to the Alto- within any small trailer, you’re essentially trying to create a comfortable seating option in a small metal box (on top of also providing a comfortable bed, toilet, kitchen setup, etc.), which seems to be no small feat. Still… ouch (and, by all means, if you have any hacks that work for making your trailer more comfortable, PLEASE let me know in the comments below!).
6. Imperfect construction: One of the things that sold us on the Alto was the incredible and palpable enthusiasm from the Altoiste group- many members swore by the quality of Safari Condo’s builds and delighted in the fact that their Altos hadn’t needed any repairs in the decade since they’ve owned their rig.
And while I 100% think that Altos are well built, ours has not been without small things breaking here and there. For example, we’re getting ready to go on a big road trip in a couple of days and yet have a laundry list of things that need to be fixed before we leave, including a squeaky Maxxfan motor and gear slippage on the trailer tongue jack.
Some of the issues we’ve had aren’t just normal wear and tear, but due to Safari Condo not always using materials that are the most thought-out. For example, the rigid material used in the back cushions which span the gap to make up the bed is rather thin and recently cracked in several places after us getting in and out of the bed (without even doing anything fun, like jumping on the bed or having a wild bed dance party).
The knobs that slide the storage cabinet open under the couch are made of a thin plastic, not well suited for the pressure of being pulled and pushed multiple times a day and cracked from use a couple months into us owning the trailer (they were easily replaced by the purchase of some inexpensive metal drawer pulls, but still worth mentioning).
There are several more of these examples- minor items that, by themselves, aren’t that big of a deal, but, in concert, add up to be a lot of extra work to repair and maintain.
On a positive note, Safari Condo seems to constantly be iterating on its designs and fixing these kinds of problems in future models as they’re identified. For example, the latch on our commode door is not wide enough to keep the door closed when the commode’s walls flex while the trailer is in motion, causing the commode door to randomly swing open while we’re driving. Because this was a frequent complaint by Altoistes, Safari Condo switched to a meatier latching mechanism in subsequent models, which solved the problem.
So hopefully, these materials oversights will be corrected with time in future iterations- and I’ll just have to love my slightly imperfect Alto just the way it is.
So there you have it- despite some of its shortcomings, I absolutely adore my Alto and, unless you’re exclusively into some extreme forms of camping (i.e., on steep mountainous roads in 110 degree heat), I think you will too!
If you own an Alto or another trailer, I’d love to hear from you- what do you like and dislike about your rig? Are you thinking about buying a trailer for the first time and concerned about something I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments below and I hope to see you down the road.
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