We just got back from our first trip with our new Mantis, and we have learned quite a few lessons already. There were some warranty issues that we discovered, and TAXA has already jumped on acknowledging those and let us and our dealer know what the planned fixes are (some were able to be fixed by our dealer, like a factory wiring error). A testament to how serious TAXA is about supporting their trailers.
But enough of that, let’s get into the tips and tricks we learned from our first trip.
[Update: Garrett Phinney, Founder and CEO of TAXA Outdoors, talked with me over the phone about our experience with the Mantis. He was trying to better understand some of the problems we faced on our first weekend out, and some of conversation added insight to some of the issues we had encountered. I have already included some updates and fixes below, and will continue to update as we try to find solutions.]
1. Awning setup
So, I managed to set up the ARB awning on my own, but it would have been far, far easier if I’d asked for help. The awning is significant, and it’s a bit challenging to get everything set up without someone to help with holding things in place. So I recommend getting help rather than trying to rough it out on your own (though a solo setup is possible). Taking it down is equally challenging, especially if things are wet or covered in debris, as our was. Taking it down with help went much smoother.
One note, I decided to re-tie the knots on the tension device so that the tension is now permanently attached to the top of each side of the awning. This will allow for quicker setup and make adjusting easier (since you can work from the top rather than the part dug into the ground).
Also, be sure to slant at least one corner of your awning if you think there will be precipitation. Otherwise, the water accumulates in the center. It was quite a splash when we pushed the center up in the middle of the night. If water does accumulate, don’t forget to close nearby windows before dumping, we ended up with a deluge in through a vented window (luckily not into the bed).
2. Tent fabric
Be extra careful when closing the pop-up. The tension cords are not super well placed, so large amounts of fabric can be stuck outside if you don’t pull it all in. We had this happen from the dealer to our campground, and I could see a chunk of the tarp flapping around as I drove.
[Edit: TAXA is going to be doing some further testing on the water we had coming through the tarp fabric. There were three different places and types of leaks on the Canvas:
- One of the corners blew open and had a ton of rain getting inside. This may have merely been due factory error on the tent side sizing and the outside not lying flat. TAXA is working with the manufacturer to send replacement sides. Once we get those, we’ll determine if that fixes the issue or if we need to look at adding velcro all along the outside as well.
- We also had a fair bit of water (Frisbee golf disc sized puddle) from one of the elastic loops that absorbed water from the outside and dripped it inside. (I think some well place seam sealant or tape might solve that one, although Garrett is looking into that particular leak to determine what the best fix might be.)
- Lastly, we had water that seeped down the inner tent fabric and came dripping out through the Velcro on the lower Mantis roof, creating a small dab of water (quarter-sized) on the counter. That one is perhaps the larger mystery, but Garret is looking into it and plans to do some further water testing on their prototype.]
3. Differences In Lighting
Sadly, the Mantis does not come with the indoor red light that we love on the Cricket, so if you want that, you’ll need to do a custom job or bring a lantern that can throw different light instead.
On the plus side, the Mantis does come with two reading lights. These are super convenient as you can turn them on and off from the bed and bunks respectively. They are easy to miss though, so seek them out on the Driver’s side of the Mantis.
Here’s where the Mantis really shines. The livability of the unit is so much better in wet and cold wintery conditions. It rained much of the weekend, and we were able to hang out inside the Mantis despite the ugly weather outside. And the awning, since there is no gap between it, keeps the rain off our porch, giving us an outdoor space to get dry when coming in out of the rain. We can’t wait for the summer when we can open all the windows and really feel outside even when in the Mantis, but in the meantime, the Mantis offers an excellent winter haven while still getting us outside.
5. Towing with a 1/2 ton (or larger) pickup is easier
Like many of you, we’ve been towing our Cricket with a compact SUV (our Subaru Outback). That has worked just fine, and we have plenty of capacity in our Subaru to spare, but for the Mantis’s first trip, we rented a 3/4 ton pickup truck (a Ford F-250). Holy smokes, the difference that made. Granted, the F-250 is was too big, but the F-150 or similar 1/2 ton pickup would make towing the Mantis a breeze. I could barely feel the Mantis behind me, and at one point, when pulling out of the muddy campsite, I was able to kick into 4L and smoothly slide out of our site. The experience has caused us to question whether we want a pickup rather than a mid-size SUV.
6. Smoke detector still on a hair trigger
Unfortunately, despite being further from the kitchen, the smoke detector still goes off every time we cook. Unlike the Cricket detector, however, instead of removing the detector from the ceiling, we can open the cover and just remove the battery. This helps with remembering to re-install it after we are cooking. (The LP detector also detects CO, so we are not without a CO detector even when we remove the battery from the smoke / CO detector.)
7. The Bunk will hold
You likely will notice when you sit in the center of the bunk (in bench form), that it bows quite a bit. This made us a little nervous, but we’ve been assured that this is natural and there is no issue there. It’s a steel framed bunk and will hold our weight. Probably much like branches on trees. No give makes them too brittle. I don’t know if that analogy holds with steel, but I’ll imagine it does.
8. Careful of the shower
[Edit: In our experience, the fabric on the shower curtain does not go quite low enough. There was water spraying out particularly on the entry side of the shower. We think that will be an easy fix, and Garrett himself offered to extend the curtain around the sides. But in the meantime, we have to be careful about using the shower so as not to spray water everywhere. It was quite a mess after the first shower.]
One other thing to note about the shower, be conscious of your hot water setting. My wife and I both took a shower, forgetting that our hot water was set to Eco (usuauly plenty warm for us in the Cricket). I’m not sure if it was a combination of trying to find the right temp settings, us going back to back, or not having the water heater on high or boost, but I ran out of hot water halfway through my shower. That made for a very cold end to my shower.
9. TAXA and our dealer both rock!
Lastly, I just want to say that both TAXA Outdoors and Randy Edwards from Paul Evert’s RV Country have been great! TAXA clearly cares about their products and their customers. They have been on top of helping to work out the kinks we’ve discovered. They are open to understanding our use and spending the time to figure out how to solve the issues. Everyone I have talked to at TAXA, including the founder and CEO, Garrett Phinney, have been awesome.
And it’s great knowing I have a dealer that is both working with TAXA and with us to get these things taken care of. Randy has reassured us, encouraged us, and advised us from the beginning. Making big purchases can always be nerve-racking, so it’s good to have a dealer and a manufacturer that cares and whom you trust.
So, the moral of the story, if you’re buying from TAXA, you already have a great manufacturer, so it’s worth making sure you have a great dealer too.
Hopefully those lessons will help you on your first journey with your Mantis. Now go out and enjoy!