Whether low to the ground and on the go or upright and grounded, Tow-N-Stow™ is ready, willing, and able. This is one of those products you probably thought about, but weren’t quite sure how it would all fit together. The Tow-N-Stow™ is a hauling and storage system wrapped-up into one compact unit that serves double-duty as a trailer or storage unit.
Originally presented to me by a loyal reader of this blog, I wasn’t too sure about whether you could actually put durability, quality, design, and function into a single unit that could haul 1,000 lbs. of ‘whatever’, then convert to an attractive storage unit on your property.
At first, although the lines of the Tow-N-Stow™ are sleek and very sculpted for its size, it didn’t strike me as robust enough as a trailer – I did have to admit to myself that the fender skirts were a nice touch, and do hide the wheels when converted to the storage unit. The storage side of it was just the opposite impression; it looked much more attractive than the average resin storage unit in the home improvement center parking lot.
Curious, I checked out the videos and pictures on their Web site. Low-slung to the ground, even the picture with the ATV didn’t fully convince me – the people looked too neat and tidy for the kind of DIY jobs I find myself getting into on the weekends.
What finally put me in touch with the folks at Tow-N-Stow™ was the routine trips around my neighborhood; I would bear witness to the cornucopia of small utility trailers put to use on the weekends, then left idle most of the time. The idea of taking the trailer, setting it upright, and being able to use it as an attractive, locking storage unit – outside the house, or in the garage – made too much sense.
Sold on doing a product review, I decided to call on some local ‘experts’ to help me kick the tires and slam it around a bit. Although the weather was not cooperative, in the end the demonstration got underway without a hitch (pardon the pun). Four of us gathered together in my garage for Ian Ming, Sales Manager for Tow-N-Stow™, to take it through its paces.
A brief introduction to the experts:
Scot Finch, Client Executive, TriSure Corporation, whom I would describe as an avid DIYer with a keen eye for innovative tools and homeowner equipment.
Kent Zotter, President of Blue Moon Builders, a builder/remodeler who provides contractor services for home additions, new construction, kitchen remodels, and historic restoration work.
Greg Hopper, VP, Marketing and Product Development, Williams Innovations, LLC, home of the TeleSwivel™ - the fastest, easiest, and safest way to connect a trailer.
…and, me. As an aside, we all live in the same neighborhood, so little or no warm-up was required for frank and open discussion.
I gave the experts a form I put together to tally their thoughts and rate (on a scale of 1-5) the Tow-N-Stow™ in the following categories: Strength, Stability, Versatility (or function), Appearance and Workmanship, and Recommended modifications or optional accessories. Within each category, I put a number of criteria you may use to rate a (purchase) comparison attribute of a trailer, or storage unit. That formality died in minutes; these guys were all over the unit, firing questions and suggestions at Ian, who not only kept up with us, but kept swinging away with answers and nods like a batter in a batting cage. What can I say; Ian made the experience of converting the unit from trailer to storage unit, and back again, more like child’s play, than work – when upright, it’s a slight of hand trick and “Look, Ma! No wheels!”
All of us seemed to agree beforehand that we were prepared for a lesser quality storage unit, and a moderately capable trailer. I had given the experts links to the Tow-N-Stow™ Web site in advance and encouraged them to come with some preconceived impressions.
What we discovered was a very sturdy unit, well-made, with high attention to detail. Comments were made that the unit was “very stout, well designed, good aesthetics”, as well as “better looking than the Web [site]”. Overall construction received high marks for welds, framing, resin materials, and safety (i.e., pins, stops, levers, etc.). Lighting was good, with LEDs for the taillights, side mounted lighting, and even a light for the license plate (a recessed area in the tailgate). Throughout the unit, recesses, indents, and design incorporate the need for flat surfaces when standing erect as a storage unit.
There are a number of tie-down spots, but like any trailer, there could be more. A comment was noted that “interior tie-downs” within the body would be a good addition, as well as maybe a provision for the tailgate area when hauling construction materials, e.g., numerous sheets of 4’ x 8’ plywood. Here’s where I would like to see some accessories, e.g., in the form of a ‘truck bed cargo net’, either from Tow-N-Stow™ or an authorized third-party.
Camping came up a number of times. This unit seems ideal for camping trips, Scouting events, and those occasions where you may wish to haul gear to a summer home, and then store the items, e.g., “tow my tools to the boat on the coast, and leave things secure as I ready the boat for the season!” There is a lock on the unit for the doors/trailer covers, and the tailgate – they require two independent keys. One suggestion was made that interior tie-downs would find “[hanging] hammocks might be interesting [for a snooze]”. Along the lines of accessories, some form of “rack add-on feature for camping [gear]” would be good, too.
The slots for interior shelves – three come with the unit – go in both directions; this makes for 7 positions in storage mode, or use as cargo separators vertical or horizontal, or as table top, in trailer mode. Here again, the suggestion of the “shelves should turn into lightweight ramps [for the loading and unloading of equipment]” came forth. Also, the slots are continuous so you can easily slide shelves fore and aft in the trailer, or a combination of vertical and horizontal which allows partitioning of the trailer bed. A reinforcement rod runs the full length of the door, which is also equipped with a spring-loaded barrel hinge – like the pin in a watchband - for easy removal, and reattachment of the door.
The Tow-N-Stow™ comes equipped with “Steel 8" 4 bolt 4.80-8, 745 lbs max load range C tire(s)”. Although this is probably ideal for the average automobile with a hitch, larger tires may be more desirable for an SUV, or truck. There was some concern amongst the experts that the standard unit would be too “low to ground; [and] could limit commercial/contractor application”; the demo unit we saw had 12” wheels which seemed more useful, especially over irregular terrain. However, this large wheel will protrude – apparently two tire sizes that fit and use 12" rims are 4.80 x 12 and 5.30 x 12 - when the unit is folded into the storage configuration, against a wall. The fender skirts are held in place by pressure clips for easy removal in case of a flat tire.
At one point we got a little carried away with ideas. Laughter was heard as we expanded the conversation toward tailgate parties. Things like painting the unit in your favorite team’s colors, or mounting a portable grill on the side, were a couple of the suggestions. The Tow-N-Stow™ currently comes in one color, and carries a 10-year UV rating for the resin body.
Getting back to the contractor/commercial applications, and accessories or options, the doors could be made available in a variety of styles that might accommodate things like an exterior recessed permit box (for the building contractor), or interior door styles that would be suited for painting contractors, electricians, plumbers, etc. Along these lines, an optional “truck bed liner” would be desirable so as not to damage the interior of the storage unit when hauling heavy materials (the trailer has a capacity at 1/2 ton).
Pricing could be a barrier in some markets. At an MSRP of $2,395.00 (plus tax and freight), it may not be price competitive for the person who wants a trailer for the Honey-Do List, or occasional move from dorm to home and back again. But, if you are more inclined to look for a collapsible trailer to save space, and a separate resin storage unit, you will be in the $1,600.00 range or more for comparable quality and use. Plus you will have two units to contend with, and not be able to get the dual-purpose utility of the Tow-N-Stow™. Also, if your homeowner’s association is a stickler for no visible trailers, but allows small storage sheds – or you could put this in your garage against a wall – then the Tow-N-Stow™ is ideal.
Looking back on the experience, it seems to me this is a hands-on sale; you have to see it to appreciate it. It would be difficult, as we experienced in advance, for the Web site to do it justice in that respect, especially when you are treated to a demo from a guy like Ian. That would point me in the direction of taking a more ‘in your face’ approach to marketing, similar to how STIHL addresses the fact – and proud of it – that their equipment in not available in larger home improvement centers (and retailers). But, you need space to show it and allow for a complete demonstration. It’s a Catch-22 that the folks at Tow-N-Stow™ will need to address for better exposure and sale.
Tow-N-Stow™ is manufactured by Lippert Components Inc., a manufacturer of steel chassis, slideouts, axles and a wide variety of other components for the RV and manufactured housing industries. This may account for the high quality, heavy-duty, and durable nature of the construction of the Tow-N-Stow™.