Hi Lo Travel Trailer, A Unique Piece Of American Camping History

hi lo travel trailers

When Kellie and I bought our first travel trailer, we had no idea what a Hi Lo travel trailer was. After all, we had never heard of one. We were not only needing a travel trailer at the time, but we also wanted one to improve our camping experience. There was a family in Temple, Texas that was selling their 1999 Hi Lo Classic and it was within our budget, so we did a little bit of research and decided it would be a good fit for our needs.

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pulling hi lo travel trailer
1999 Hi-Lo Classic

What Is A Hi Lo Travel Trailer

Basically, the Hi Lo travel trailer is a cross between a pop-up camper and a travel trailer. What I mean is the top is built slightly larger than the bottom allowing it to be lowered over the bottom half, like a box lid. Raising and lowering the top of our model was accomplished with the use of a hydraulic pump, a ram, and four main cables. The hydraulic fluid, or transmission fluid, would pump into the ram. As the ram extended from one side of the trailer to the other, the cables would in turn cause the top to raise via a pulley system. It’s a basic design actually. And when it works, it works very well.

cable configuration
image from 1999 Hi-Lo Owner’s Manual

A Brief History Of The Hi Lo

The first Hi Lo was built in the mid 50’s as a result of a bad camping experience with racoons. The Snyder family was camping in a canvas tent and late one night they heard what they thought were bears destroying their campsite. After dad went to investigate, he found it was just a family of racoons. As a result of this camping trip, the first Hi Lo travel trailer was born in Butler, Ohio. Charles Snyder wrote an interesting article about his dad coming up with the idea and building the first Hi Lo travel trailer. You can check it out here.

The Return Of The Hi Lo

The Snyder family had a very successful business manufacturing and selling Hi Lo travel trailers until 2010. Manufacturing of the Hi Lo travel trailer came to a halt as the economy just wasn’t sufficient to continue. Due to its unique design, the Kerola Group bought the logo, intellectual property, and the trademark design in 2014. This resulted in the name being changed to Hi Lo Trailers Worldwide. The newest model of the Hi Lo travel trailer is the Wanderer ’18 which maintains the iconic Hi Lo design and benefits of a telescoping camper trailer.

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Our Experience With The Hi Lo Travel Trailer

As I stated above, our first travel trailer was a 1999 26FB Hi Lo Classic. The first thing we noticed was the aerodynamic design, when lowered, eliminated any trailer sway. There was no need for an anti-sway bar because there just wasn’t any. Even oncoming 18 wheelers couldn’t make it budge.

There were no interior walls, so the bathroom was separated from the rest of the coach by a thick sliding curtain. As a result of not having a door, privacy was somewhat of an issue. Our Hi Lo was, however, equipped with a full kitchen, shower, bench dinette, and full-sized bed.

interior of hi lo travel trailer
Curtain Dividing Trailer From Bathroom

Basement storage was non-existent because there were two small storage areas outside. One stored the hydraulic pump and battery, the other stored the power cord, drinking water hoses, and two jacks. Because top on the trailer lowered over the bottom, inside storage was scarce as well. There were over-head storage bins as well as storage under the bed, but no pantry or tall storage cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen.

pump for Hi Lo travel trailer
Hydraulic Pump for Hi-Lo

Deciding To Sell

Kellie and I made a lot of memories camping in our Hi Lo travel Trailer. In fact, our first camping trip was to Barefoot RV Park and Campground in Bend, Texas. A few years after we bought it, as were getting ready to go on our next adventure, the hydraulics went out. We spent several months and a few hundred dollars replacing the pump and getting the ram rebuilt. In the meantime, we replaced all the exterior running lights with LEDs and replaced all the interior lights with LEDs as well.

We decided to sell it after we upgraded to a newer travel trailer, the Kodiak 201QB.

Hi-Lo raised
Hi-Lo Raised

Hi Lo Following

We found that there is a huge following for Hi Lo travel trailers. There are Facebook groups just for Hi Lo owners where folks can go to ask their questions on repairs, parts, and just have a general discussion about their passion for Hi Lo’s. There are also annual rallies for Hi Lo owners that take place in Ohio. In our experience we have found that most Hi Lo owners are from the Northeast part of the United States, in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Conclusion On Hi Lo Travel Trailers

I wonder if Mr. Snyder knew the legacy he would create when he decided to build a camper for a better camping experience for his family. I think it would be safe to say that the Snyder family built a legacy that will forever be a part of American camping history.

Do you have an experience with the HI Lo? What about the similar Trail Manor? Leave us a comment below and tell us about it.

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