If you’ve been reading Little Travel Notebook for any period of time, you know that Chris and I are avid campers. We love our camper and as many weekends as we can we are on the road exploring new campgrounds and destinations. So far, we’ve owned two different campers – a hybrid or “pop out” camper by Keystone and a larger Terry travel trailer. Both Keystone and Terry campers, along with scores of other campers and RV’s, are built in northeast Indiana. During our recent visit to Indiana, Chris and I took time to stop by and visit the Keystone RV factory to find out more about how campers like ours are made.
The tour we attended was on Keystone’s Laredo line of 5th wheel trailers – a popular line of mid-price trailers manufactured in Goshen, Indiana. This is one of several tours offered on the Keystone factory campus. We met with our tour host and the other tour participants in a customer reception center adjacent to the Keystone maintenance and repair facility. At the time of the tour, our host introduced himself and we followed him from the customer reception building over to the Laredo assembly building for the tour.
Campers and RV’s at Keystone are made on an assembly line – the process starts with a trailer frame that is loaded onto a rolling dolly which progresses down several stations where the structure and internal components of the trailer are added. The tour walks along the assembly line where you can see various stages of the build. At each station, the tour host explains what is happening with the construction at that stage and how the trailer is being assembled. You can see everything as it is built from the core infrastructure such as plumbing, electrical and waste tanks to the framing, interior finish and application of outer skin and roof. Our tour host took time to explain the different materials used, why those materials were selected (wood vs. tubular aluminum, for example) and various features of the trailer. We were able to walk all around the units inspecting the assembly and asking questions about the trailer.
The tour at Keystone was very informative and well worth going to if you’re in northeast Indiana. Unlike other factory tours I’ve been on, this was not a schedule driven manufacturer infomertial. The tour was relaxed and designed to provide information and a two-way dialogue with the host. At several points along the tour our host stopped and asked for our feedback about different elements of features built into the Laredo line of 5th wheels. “What do you think about the outdoor kitchen?” our host asked. This lead to an interesting discussion about features and design elements in the camper. This interaction made the tour much more than just a show and tell – it was a lively information exchange.
Things you should know before going. Local campgrounds and tourist information centers are good locations to find information about available tours. In general factory tours are open to adults and sometimes older teens (16+). Tours are led through the assembly area where nails, screws, wire, and other hazards exist. You must wear closed toe shoes and appropriate attire for walking through a factory. There is a defined schedule and starting point for each tour. Considering each RV manufacturing campus can have dozens of buildings, you should check the manufacturers website for details about where the tour starts. Do not be afraid to stop and ask for directions. Some tours have a limited number of slots and require reservations. Even if the tour you are interested in does not require a reservation, it’s good to call ahead and confirm the tour is still on schedule.
Overall stopping at Keystone for a tour of the RV manufacturing process was an interesting experience and worth the stop. We shot a lot of video on our tour and over the next several weeks we’ll be assembling a video podcast to share the experience. Be sure to bookmark the Little Travel Notebook site and check back often for more updates on our adventures!
Posted by: Robert