Now that we’ve had a few weekends to take out our Mantis camper from TAXA Outdoors, we’re finally ready for the grand tour of our new home away from home. We purchased the first generation Mantis. In fact, ours is #12, so among the first to hit the streets, so-to-speak.
We love how open it is. There are so many windows already. Add to that the pop top with over 90% covered in mesh windows that can be opened or closed, and you very much have a feeling of being outside while still in the Mantis.
Let’s begin with our master bedroom. This bed is actually a bit smaller than the Cricket: 54″ x 80″ (with about 2″ of extra space between the edge of the bed and the cabinetry on each side). The end of the Cricket matches this at around 56″, but the middle of the Cricket was wider at 60″. The mattresses, however, are still far too firm and thin for us, so a mattress or topper is still needed. Rather than get something new, we instead just kept cutting down the two trifold mattresses we had used in our Cricket. They are quite comfortable, however, it does making reaching the storage more challenging. Someday we may explore an option that allows for easier access under the bed.
The bed does turn into a couch, which would be quite convenient, if not for the challenge of folding and moving the mattresses whenever we wanted to use it. Like underbid access, we’d love a solution that was both comfortable and allowed for us to easily setup the couch.
Unlike the Cricket, however, the master bed has easy access to two different countertop areas, allowing us to prop our tablet for watching movies and TV shows, and have space to put drinks, food, and other items for easy access. Additionally, there is a small convenient compartment with USB ports that can hold ereaders or phones, though it is partially obstructed by the mattress we use.
Perhaps my favorite part of the master bed is the windows: three “picture windows” like in the Cricket surround the bed in light and views of the outdoors. It bathes the bed area in beautiful, natural light.
The next sleeping area is on the opposite side of the Mantis: two bunks. These bunks are speced to support the full weight of two adults, though they are very tight. Sleeping in the bunks, you are almost nose to wood with the bunk or ceiling above you. The top bunk has a bit more space but is still tight. I was able to turn over onto my side, but I barely fit. Side to side, the bottom bunk is better, but neither is spacious. More likely they will be kid bunks for us. Like the main bed, these have poor padding, however, when both bunks are up, there is very little height to work with, so likely camping mattresses will have to replace the existing pads for a more comfortable night’s rest. It would be nice if we could flip the upper bunk up and out of the way, to maximize the spaciousness of the bottom bunk, in the event we had a single adult guest staying with us, however, that is not possible: the top bunk only folds down.
When it is folded down (which it stays mostly that way for us right now), it works great as a couch. We love sitting there to eat, put on or remove shoes, and just hang out. Underneath the bottom bunk is a spacious storage area. We have a couple boxes as well as our camp chairs under there now. The bottom bunk does fold up into the top bunk and out of the way, allowing for storage of even larger items when needed. Earlier videos of the prototypes showed Thule bike mounts there, however, they did not come in the production model. That is, perhaps, an option for those wanting to use that space that way in the future.
Also like the master bed, the bunks have decent access to counter tops: the fold-down counter over the shower/toilet, and a bit farther away, the countertop over the fridge.
Add to that the two milk crates and accompanying cushion tops, and you have nice ottomans for a lazy day inside.
The kitchen in the Mantis is expansive. There are far more counter tops, on both sides of the trailer. Unfortunately, the Mantis comes with the same tight configuration of stove tops and shallow sink combo. With the extra space, it would have been nice to have a deeper, slightly wider sink and two stove tops that had room to fit a medium-sized pot and pan next to each other. That will likely be a future enhancement we make.
The rest of the countertops and storage, however, are luxurious. Where the Cricket was full to the brim, we have plenty of extra space in the storage currently in the Mantis. The trick will be not finding reasons to fill that space.
We love how much room there is to work with. Two people could easily be working on a meal together. And, with yet another big picture window behind one of the counters, it makes for a great pass through servicing window (can you imagine Mantis made food truck?).
The Mantis fridge is nice. We love having more sections to work with, and the freezer section is a nice change of pace. Even better, you can remove the freezer for more fridge space. It’s bigger and packs vertically instead of horizontally. That does make for less efficient use of space, but much easier access.
This is an amenity that Amy and I were a bit more hesitant about. I really have very little desire to deal with a black water tank. Luckily, the toilet on the Mantis is cassette-style, making at least for a little less of a hassle. The smaller cassette keeps the mess limited, and you can get into it more easily to prevent it turning into a gross mess. We still plan to limit the toilet to #1 (and even that only when needed), at least for now.
The shower, however, is a much-appreciated feature. Especially on long road trips, and especially for Amy, it’s nice to have an indoor shower in our heated Mantis that we can freshen up in. I generally take pretty minimal showers anyway on a regular basis (hair, armpits, bathing suit areas). So a quick shower to freshen up every few days is much appreciated. It’s a curtain-based shower (so you hang the curtain around the wet bathtub). It’s a bit weird to have tarp material sticking to you as you shower, but as a minimal shower system goes, it does the job just fine, and I appreciate not having a full walled shower taking up all that space.
The Mantis shines with storage. Under the bunks and the master bed is all accessible storage. Add to that many different cubbies. Instead of bulky drawers, the Mantis opts for shelves and milk crates perfectly fitted for each other. This makes it easy to pull out crates to find and get what you need, but also helps keep you organized.
And of course, in TAXA fashion, there are lash points everywhere. We took nets we already had in our Cricket for the ceilings above both the bunks and the master bed. Toiletry bags to hang near the bathroom. Plenty of space to spare.
We also added a cargo basket to the rack on the rear of the Mantis roof. Currently it has a gray water and fresh water container for emptying and filling the tanks on a daily basis during extended stays. It may also be nice to handle wet and/or dirty gear to keep it out of the relatively clean car and trailer.
As with the Cricket, the Mantis has a pop top roof to allow standing room in the main area. Unlike the Cricket, it’s not the whole roof, but rather a section of it that pops up. This makes for a somewhat different setup, but it works well. The roof has both a cargo deck up front and a Thule rack in the back. Steps in the back allow for easy access to the back rack, and to pop up onto the roof if needed.
Like the 2017 Cricket Trek, the 2018 Mantis comes with the Truma Combi furnace and hot water heater. This is an amazing little furnace and we could not imagine a camper without it now. It is highly efficient and highly effective. And it works winterized (sans water). Just like the Cricket, the Truma keeps our little camper cozy in cold conditions, even with the top popped. One note, if you are not used to showering with your Cricket, be sure to turn up the heat on the water before you do (especially if more than one person is showering). We left it on Eco and the second shower ended up quite cold.
For those of you who had the air conditioner in the Cricket (we did not), you’ll know that you had to lose a window for it, and it stuck out awkwardly from the body. That is not the case in the Mantis. The A/C is nicely tucked into the cabinetry and lies flush against the outer wall. We are excited to have it for hotter weekends, and especially if we ever visit the family in Florida with the Mantis.
Just like the Cricket, the Mantis has LED lights galore, including a porch light and outdoor step red light. It’s missing the indoor red light, much to our dismay. That may be another enhancement we make in the future. But it does add reading lights over each bed. They seem pretty bright, perhaps too bright for light evening reading, but they are convenient to turn on and off from the bed, without having to get up and go to one of the two control panels. We do really like how all the lights are indirect (pointing up towards the white ceilings and relying on bounce to illuminate the Mantis). When it comes to lighting, they did a great job.
Of course, the main use case of the Mantis, like all TAXA trailers, is to be a base camp to spend time outdoors. So, it would not be a TAXA trailer without some strong outdoor features.
The ARB awning is a huge improvement over the mis-shaped tarp on the 2017 Cricket. It finally covers the door completely from the rain, and is much easier to setup and take down. Especially after you learn the tricks.
The Mantis also has an outdoor hose, though instead of a shower head, it has a garden hose head. Great for washing off feet, pets, or even the outside of the Mantis. I have a feeling it will come in handy when keeping the solar panels we added clean (more on modifications we’ve made to the Mantis in a later post).
Like the Cricket, it also has an outdoor 12V port for fridges, lights, charging, etc.
The Devil’s in the Details
In addition to the main feature set, there are a few small details that add to the overall package.
You’ll also notice two steps in that picture. Combined with a handle above, these provide the main access point for the roof.
The Mantis has two different emergency detectors: the LP (propane) and CO (carbon monoxide) detector down near the bottom of the passenger-side countertop, and a Smoke/CO detector on the popup roof. The LP detector also provides an obnoxious alarm when the battery voltage gets too low, though you don’t want to let it get to that point, as that alarm turns off only when you remove the appropriate fuse.
The Mantis also comes with an emergency fire extinguisher, mounted right by the front door.
Outdoor Access Locks
This has gone back and forth on the various prototypes, and originally, our Mantis shipped without locks on the exterior ports, however, this was remedied after purchase (at no cost to us) and both the exterior access to the under bed storage and the door for the cassette toilet have locks on them now.
The Mantis has a 30A RV twist-lock power port and cable for hooking up to RV parks. It has a city gravity fill as well as a direct city water connection rated up to 125 PSI (I recommend a pressure inhibitor regardless, to ensure you do not damage any of the internal parts of the Mantis plumbing).
The Mantis also is pre-wired for Zamp, so get any Zamp portable solar kit and plug it in to start charging your batteries from the sun. Other brands may require an adapter to match the Zamp polarity.
The exterior also has an outdoor “shower,” though rather than a shower head, the Mantis comes with a garden sprayer, great for cleaning pets, feet, or even the Mantis.
There are vent ports for the Truma, A/C, fresh water tank, and electrical compartments.
For more photos of the Mantis, check out my photography website.