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Best 5Ws for Boondocking


charlyhors

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After about 20 months fulltiming with an 11 yr old 5W, we're ready to invest in a new unit that won't have me working full time repairing it. Unlike many people, we will actually move Down in size from a 33' to a 30 or below. We've looked some in the 28' range that looks fine on space for us.

 

We have several criteria for our new home- enough water tanks to hang out for a week - 70 gal fresh water or more. Also a quality build that won't have me spend my entire life repairing it, and well designed exterior that prevents leaks (we've been touring Florida - don't ask)

 

We're considering the Open Range Light, Arctic Fox, and are looking for some more choices that might work well. What do you boondockers say?

 

 

 

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Personally, for what you're looking for, I wouldn't look too much further. Of course it depends on the individual units, but for durability, insulation and capacity.. I would go Northwood. For amenities.. the O.R. would win in my book. In general.. their frames are a little "light", IMHO, and the insulation is a step down from an Arctic fox, but their certainly no slouch.

 

I might throw in Forest River for nice amenities and a contender on the O.R. level, but you have to be pretty careful when shopping. A lot of their rigs have "very light" frames and very low CCC (like 1100#'s on a 29'r), and undersized holding tanks (36gal FW). Although.. they have a couple of choices that are fairly robust (5600#'s CCC and 100gal FW).

 

Another plus in my book with Northwood is the ability to pretty much customize your rig rather than being locked in to a set floor-plan. Granted.. the amenities are a bit more.. hmm.. "rustic"(?), but durability wise and insulation factors considered.. I believe that would be your top contender.

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Thanks for your response. Arctic Fox had been our first choice. But Open Range Lights have a solid PVC roof, as well as the newer dark sealed windows. Those seem like pretty strong selling points, especially after our last 8 months RVing in Florida. But I've also wondered about the narrow openings that those windows have, esp when booning. Any thoughts?

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Have had two Open Range 337RLS. First one was demolished in wreck 3 years about 50 miles east of Puebla, Mexico (70 car pile up in heavy fog). Elaine liked the layout so much that we got the exact same model, two years later in design and a lot nicer. We looked at a lot of other rigs the second time around and decided the 337RLS was what we liked best. We went with the double-paned windows which makes a real difference. The ORs have exremely good road clearance and we have taken it into places that 5th wheels do not usually go, nothing stupid but high clearance was important. We always drive in with the 4x4 diesel pickup to make sure that:

1. we can get in,

2. We can turn around and

3. we can get out.

 

Did just get a 2002 Roadtrek 190 as an adjunct. To many places in Mexico that a 5th wheel cannot operate. Plan to go to Labrador and Newfoundland this summer and the ferryboats get rather expensive with a 5th wheel; and then to Queen Charlotte (Haidagwa) next year and that boat ride is really expensive. The Open Range is our home and we have a number of spots that are pretty isolated and serene that we can spend several weeks to a month just enjoying the scenery. 5th wheel is fairly solar autonomous and we hope to make the Roadtrek semi-autonomous (415 W of panels as opposed to 1420 W and perhaps 400 amp-hours (12 V nominal = 4800 W/-hrs) of LFP) as opposed to 760 amp-hours.

Reed and Elaine

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Open Range Lights have a solid PVC roof, as well as the newer dark sealed windows. But I've also wondered about the narrow openings that those windows have, esp when booning. Any thoughts?

 

I've never had a PVC roof myself. I've 'heard' good and bad, but take it with a grain of salt. The pro side seems to be longevity (X2) and easier/cleaner maintenance (roof and rig overall). On the con side, (again.. not first hand knowledge) I've heard some folks have complained that the 'felt' underlayer tends to wick water if a leak does occur. That leads (supposedly) to wider, faster spreading water infiltration which makes it extremely difficult to track the source and possibly lead to more wide spread damage. It's not as easy to work with when making roof penetrations. That I know.

 

It 'is' a nice selling point, but for me, it's not a deal maker. Other considerations like insulation, frame and sidewall construction would be more important considering I'm familiar with TPO and EPDM and I don't mind the semi-annual maintenance. Suspensions can be easily upgraded, roofs can be repaired, but if the core construction can't stand up to the back roads then the rest is moot. To me, anyway.

 

I really like the idea of OR's sealer windows, but then again, I've never really had any issues with a properly installed window. I'm comfortable working with butyl and resetting a window casing isn't that labor intensive if you're handy. I AM a big window guy. I know that kind of defeats a rigs overall R factor, but I just 'need' to be able to see out and air movement is a biggie in my book.

 

Humidity control might be a little more problematic with an OR, but for just about any "issue" there is generally a fix.

 

Bottom line though is a floor plan and amenities you (by that I mean "she") can be happy with. There will be trade offs no matter which way you go, but nothing that can't be managed. There is always those "must haves" either way (holding tank capacities, CCC, solar real estate, etc.).

 

I kind of get the impression that you folks might be heading the way I did.. "go light". If that's so then that would probably a 'con' for an arctic fox. They can get pretty heavy, but then again, most of them are hard to beat when it comes to CC.

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We got the OR 337RLS because Elaine liked the floor plan - and we replaced for the same reason. The newer ones have a movable island that has to be stowed on the right slide when traveling. Elaine did not think she would like this but loves it now.

We looked at some other rigs but the islands were and you could not open the fridge or get to the back when the slides were in. She also thought she would dislike the lounge chairs at the back and now she can often sleep better than in bed.. As noted above by Yarome, the frame is light, indeed, the entire vehicle is light at about 8500# dry. The carrying capacity is nearly 4000#. Fresh water is 81 gallons. Had the usual problems with the wire pulls for the drains so we replaced them with direct pulls.

 

We do boondock and have gone over some very rough roads on the way down to Yucatan (surprisingly, the roads in Yucatan are excellent and probably the best in Mexico and comparible to good roads in USA) and put in braces for the cabinets, just in case.

Reed and Elaine

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This probably would not suit your needs, but now owning a toyhauler (travel trailer style, but spent alot of time researching 5th wheelers too), I really like them for boondocking and more off the grid uses. They are usually designed to carry more weight than the traditional rigs, and usually have more amenities for the desert rat crowd, which mostly boondock. For example, I now have a 160 gallon fresh tank, 40 gallon on board fuel tank (for the genny and filling toys), and a fold down patio ramp door(which actually works nicely when you're out in the boonies and not in a campground surrounded by other rigs). As for reliability, I have a Forest River and other than some minor things here and there I've had to fix, it has been relatively maintenance free. I'm now only a weekend warrior, but have probably put around 10k miles with it in the past year, alot of them on unkind roads.

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I knew when I decided to go full-time that I was going to boondock a lot, so I spent a lot of time on the Internet researching different fifth wheels. And to make a long story short I chose the Arctic Fox 27 – 5L.

 

It's got the big tanks that you want, its sealed up well, and you can use it when the slides are in and that was very important to me. One thing you don't often hear about is how strong and sturdy the Arctic Fox is. There's a lot of "pretty trailers"out there that will make you want to move right in. But crawl around under them for a while and you might see a very small frame, axles that are barely rated high enough to carry the trailer, 15 inch wheels, and a rear bumper that won't even support a bicycle rack.

 

A clue to how the trailer is built is it's carry capacity and my Arctic Fox 27 – 5L has a 3800 pound carry capacity. But more importantly if you're going to boondock you're going to be on some dirt roads that's going to bounce and twist the trailer and if the trailer is not designed to deal with that then things will start breaking.

 

Yes I know I'm biased in favor of the Arctic Fox, but believe me if it was falling apart around me I would report everything going wrong on my blog, after all I'm not trying to sell it so why would I make it sound better than it is.

 

theboondork

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Just discussing this topic with my wife. As noted, we are quite happy with our Open Range 5th wheel and have used it on some fairly rought roads in US and Mexico. However, if we had planned to do a lot of quasi-jeep trails, we would have gone with an Arctic Fox or a Bigfoot. We are full timers and just like having everything there, and there is a lot of storage in the ORs. The 81 gallon fresh-water is nice. The water system allows you to draw in 2.5 gallons minute to fresh water tank using the internal water pump. There are a lot of BLM, FS, and NP campgrounds that do not have threading on the water points (precaution against siphoning bad water from unclean hoses). So we just put water into 6 gallon containers and draw the water into the freshwater tank.

 

We have met many Gringos in Yucatan area but did meet one 6 vehicle caravan in Yucatan and again at San Miguel del Allende. One of the couples did have an Open Range Light for their four months in Mexico. A slide motor failed. They contacted Open Range HQ and a replacement motor was shipped expedited to Cancun, Quintana Roo, Yucatan and arrived there in two or three days. It was under warranty.

 

The only complaint we have had about the OR was along the ideas of Boondark, the rear bumper was made of light weight steel. So we had it replaced with much heavier gauge steel 4"x4" and this has carried our extra spare tire for 6000 miles (plus assorted other stuff tied on). We believe in an extra spare tire for both pickup and 5th wheel when driving in Mexico and Belize.

 

Reed and Elaine

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To the OP: I'm curious where you've been boondocking in Florida for the last 20 months?

We didn't boondock in Fl hardly at all. But they do have WMA's - Wildlife Management Areas - really mostly for hunters, but boondockers can use them at certain times - check with the individual WMA

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We boondock a lot. We've had 2 Northwood Arctic Foxes and 1 Nash. All 3 held up very well. The 2003 Nash took us to Alaska & back with no problems. The other units were a 27 5L and the current 29 5T. Very happy with Northwood.

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I like your optimism.

 

 

I like your optimism.[/quote

 

Me too...lol

 

I final took the time to read though this tread and found these two posts to be the ones that brought the biggest smiles to my face :)

 

FWIW, I'd have to think the AF would be the way to go and was thinking about doing so myself but then I came to my senses, the rest is history in my build thread linked below .......

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We recently down sized to a Fox Mountain by Northwood. We have been told it is exactly the same build as the Arctic Fox in structure and the interior wood color is the same as the Arctic Fox. It's the 235RLS, 28 feet long with a very open feel but good storage. The fresh water capacity is 56 gallons and that's a little less than you wanted but you can get it with tinted thermal pane windows, 10 cubic foot fridge and sound bar as options. We are very pleased with the unit so far.

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  • 5 months later...

Once upon a time I was hearing rumors about the President of Northwood being gravely ill and how that situation might adversely affect the company. We had an AF 29F many years ago and would consider the AF 35-5Z in the future. Can anyone shed any light on the current "health" of the company?

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

You might also consider the products made by http://www.outdoorsrvmfg.com/

There is some cross-pollination of personnel and company orientation between them and Northwoods (Arctic Fox).

For example, both companies are based in the same area. All Outdoor RV products advertise 4 seasons ready, thermopane windows, large water tanks, upgraded frames, etc

Their 5th wheel brand is called Glacier Peak.

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