What are Small RVs and Ultralight RVs?

When you picture an RV, what comes to mind? Do you envision a huge, tour-bus sized Class A? Or an extra-long fifth wheel that can hold off-road toys? It’s easy to see why big RVs get a lot of attention, but there are other options. Small and Ultralite RVs are two categories of travel trailers that can be perfect for a wide variety of campers. (Class B RVs, which you might know as camper vans, may be smaller or lighter than other RVs–but small RVs and ultra lite RVs refer specifically to travel trailers.)


Small RVs

Small RVs are travel trailers that are shorter than other options, offering a smaller footprint at a campsite or in storage. Like fifth wheels and toy haulers, small RVs are travel trailers that you tow behind a vehicle. Models called small travel trailers include everything from micro-trailers to more typical travel trailers that fit within a certain length. Anything less than 24 feet long is considered a small RV. At Heartland RVs, we have options that begin at 22 feet in length, including the Mallard, Pioneer and North Trail. Our newest line, Mallard Pathfinder, has units that start at just 21 feet long. 

One way we maximize space in a small RV is by designing them with slide-outs that expand the interior square footage when you’re parked. Other details, like fold-away Murphy beds or convertible seating options, mean small RVs can sleep more guests than you may realize. It’s not uncommon for even our smallest RVs to sleep up to 8 people.


Ultra Lite RVs

Similar to small RVs, ultralight RVs are designed intentionally to be lighter and more aerodynamic than other RV options. They use durable, lighter-weight materials in the construction to keep the dry weight down. For example, in Heartland ultralite RVs, we use Azdel composite for the sidewalls. It’s lighter than wood and provides better insulation against weather, extreme temperatures and noise than other options. And our plywood tongue-in-groove floors don’t just look nice. With the highest strength-to-weight ratio compared to particle board or solid wood, plywood lightens the load, too. 

As for aerodynamics, ultralight RVs have enclosed underbellies to reduce drag and optimize airflow during towing. That means a greater number of vehicles can tow an ultralight RV than more traditional options.

Anything lighter than about 5,000 lbs. can be considered an ultra lite RV. But be sure to double check the construction materials and the aerodynamic design to ensure you’re making the best choice for your lifestyle and your tow vehicle.

Looking into the door of an ultralite RV, the Mallard Pathfinder.

Benefits to Small and Ultralite RVs

Transporting & Parking

Smaller RVs and ultra lite travel trailers have tons of benefits for campers. First, they may be less intimidating for beginner campers to tow and park. A shorter length trailer is a lot easier to maneuver into a back-in camping site than a bigger RV for people just starting out. And ultra light RVs can be towed by a variety of vehicles, from trucks to some smaller SUVs. That means you may not need to buy a new tow vehicle alongside your new RV purchase, which is often the case with larger, heavier RVs.

Affordable Options

Second, small and ultralight RVs tend to skew more affordable, which makes them perfect for younger campers or people buying their first RV. Large, luxury fifth wheels and toy haulers can be expensive–the sky's the limit. But a smaller, lighter, less expensive travel trailer RV is a more accessible option for the majority of campers. 

Tons of Amenities

Third, despite their size, small and ultra lite RVs can still hold tons of amenities to make camping more enjoyable. From full bathrooms to bunkhouses, single axles to double axles, and one or more slideouts, these models don’t skimp on features. You don’t have to sacrifice comforts like climate control, workable kitchens or generously sized bathrooms with a small or ultralite travel trailer.

Storage Flexibility

Fourth, smaller and lighter RVs can be easier to store, which is particularly important for seasonal campers who live in regions with cold winters. More people may be able to store a shorter RV on their own property (but check any applicable local ordinances first). And storage units typically charge by the storage space needed, meaning a shorter RV could equal a smaller winter storage bill. 


Heartland Models to Shop

If you’re looking for a small or ultra light RV to fit your budget, Heartland has plenty of options to choose from.

The floorplan of the Pioneer BH170, one of Heartland's small RVs.The Heartland Pioneer BH170 measures only 22 feet, 6 inches with a dry weight under 3,700 lbs. But it sleeps up to eight people and includes a queen-sized mattress in the main sleeping area. A private full bathroom and a kitchen with a 6 cu. ft. fridge give you everything you need for any camping trip.


Interior of a Heartland Mallard small RV, showing a small dinette and kitchen.

The Heartland Mallard M180BH can also sleep up to eight people, including four guests in the generous double queen bunk beds. And despite being less than 23 feet in length, it still holds a fully functional bathroom with a shower that fits someone up to 6’3” in height comfortably. 


Inside an Ultralight RV, the North Trail 21RBSS model, showing the compact door and kitchen areas.

The Heartland North Trail Ultra-Lite 21RBSS - comes in at 22 ½ feet and less than 4,600 lbs. dry weight. Although it’s a small, ultralight RV, it boasts a king-sized main bed, an outdoor kitchen, stainless steel appliances and a butcher block kitchen counter.  


Exterior of a Mallard Pathfinder, a small and ultralight RV parked in the grass.

Our smallest units, the new Mallard Pathfinder, begin at just 21 feet long and 3,500 lbs. dry weight. This affordable option has four different floor plans,  that can sleep up to six people, despite its size. And because it's so light, a wide variety of vehicles can tow it—not just trucks. Plus, with a 110W solar panel and 1200W inverter, the Pathfinder is a nimble choice for going off-grid and doing some boondocking.


Find Your Match

Ready to start researching your perfect RV match? Whether you’re looking for a small RV, an ultralight RV or something else, check out our RV Finder and see everything we have to offer.