Best mid-size fifth wheel campers for 2017 based on quality, layout, furnishing, finish and "feel", extended season capability as well as weight, length and fuel economy.......
For newcomers let’s start this presentation by giving answers to two fundamental questions: What is the Fifth Wheel camper? followed by - Why should I buy one?
The answer to the first question seems to be obvious because most of us can easily “visually” identify 5th wheel camper. But now everybody knows what exactly means or what is this” 5th wheel”, so let’s make it clear – it is not the spare one!
Fifth Wheel campers are designed to be towed by pickup trucks with the special hitch attached to the truck’s bed. And such towing truck symbolically plays the role of the 5th wheel. Compared to camper’s wheels, this “symbolic” extra wheel is a “Motorized” one that is able to pull the camper (to keep it short).
The answer to the second question is much more complex but certainly more important. Your “shopping basket” includes Travel Trailers, Motor-homes, Fifth Wheels and Truck Campers (not mentioning all unlimited sub-categories).
Before coming with the answer, let me make some assumptions and statements. This presentation tries to address needs of a “typical” (I hate this word but cannot find better), middle-class, enthusiastic RV-er. In practice it means – we are excluding from further discussion luxurious campers, full-time living campers as well as “entry-level” ones (class of Small Campers).
This makes decision slightly easier. And the short answer is:
In majority of cases you chose your RV based on the towing car you already own.
In other words - if you have a family car, the preferred RV is the Travel Trailer. If you own the pick-up truck then you may consider Fifth Wheel or Truck Camper. Although the pickup can also tow the travel trailer, in general it is easier and safer to tow the 5th wheel or carry a truck camper!.
In both cases you pull (or carry) your camper using your own vehicle, you can leave the camper on a campground and explore area using your towing (hopefully fuel-efficient) car. So it is a win-win situation and probably the most cost-effective one.
It also excludes motor-homes from the picture (at least A-class ones) as they are expensive and bring back the need for towing (this time your own car).
Once you agree to look for medium-size fight wheels (compatible with load and towing capabilities of full-size pickup tracks), the next most important thing is to select the "right" floor-plan. Although the it is clearly very personal choice, there are some general guidelines to consider.
In the case of fifth wheels at least one section of the floor-plan is already "fixed" for you - the front Master Bedroom and bath. It is due to the specific shape of the fifth-wheel camper. The internal height of the front nose space is smallest, and although normally you can still stand there freely, basically camper's front is optimal for sleeping area and bath. And this configuration you will see in all fifth-wheels.
As the outcome, it will be the kitchen-living room area where you will have to put your attention and choose the best layout for you.
The following pictures give you some ideas:
Floor-plan with the rear living area has advantage of all-around windows. It feels like an "open area". From this point of view the rear kitchen or bunks make the living space more "closed"....
(here model Cougar XL 29RES)
Separate toilet may be an important solution especially in campers sleeping more people (like this Cougar 28DBI Bunkhouse)
Also - built-in exterior kitchen seems to be priceless (especially with the extra fridge next to it)
This 29'4" long Reflection 26RL fifth wheel has Central Island in the middle of the area shared by Kitchen-Dining Corner and Living Space. Although the island is "very residential"-looking and has many merits, in medium-size campers it just takes too much of space making you feel that the area is more crowded and tight..
Best 2017 Medium-Size Fifth Wheels
The fact that pickup trucks are very popular vehicles, almost every RV company has 5th wheels in its portfolio. In an attempt to offer more space and comfort the RV market trend follows the false assumption that “Bigger is better). Fifth Wheel campers are not an exception with the growing number of slide-outs, expectation of residential-like finish and as the result increased length, weight and cost.
To bring us back to the reasonable range of “Dream-5th Wheels” we took look at popular Heavy Duty, Full-size and Mid-size pickup tracks and their towing limits, consciously eliminating Ultra-HD trucks from 350/3500 series). These numbers should give the idea about your limits when looking for Fifth Wheel camper.
The table below shows approximate towing capabilities of most popular pickup trucks.
GMC Sierra 2500HD
Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
Chevrolet Silverado 1500
GMC Sierra 1500
Towing capability [lbs]
15,000 – 32,500
1. The exact limit depends on engine, gear, production year etc. You must check it’s value for you particular vehicle with manufacturer.
2. Check your truck's payload capacity to exceed the weight of the fifth wheel's hitch.
Now, armed with this knowledge let’s see the best (bangs for bucks) mid-size fifth-wheels for 2017. We will focus here on these within the towing range of mid and full size pickup trucks.
Keyston's Cougar XLite 29RES Fifth Wheel camper
Keystone’s Cougar X-Lite 29RES is a mid-range fifth wheel camper designed for family of up to four (so basically typical family with two children).
We selected it for this 2017 presentation due to functional layout, generous residential-like features, stylishness, affordable price, weight within towing range of popular full-size pickup trucks as well as known quality of Cougar’s craftsmanship. It does not mean that the X-Lite 29RES is an ideal camper, (actually there are also things we do not like about it) but frankly, there is no such camper, especially in this price range.
The 29RES camper has rear-living area, central kitchen and front master bedroom/bath floorplan. It is very nice solution, because the most important part of the “home-away-from-home” - the living room, where you will spend most of your time – may have windows all around the three walls. It allows sunlight to generously fill the interior and provides almost direct, personal contact with the surrounding nature......
See more details at: --> Cougar XL 29RES Fifth Wheel
Grand Design RVs - Reflection 27RL Fifth Wheel camper
Grand Design RVs (travel trailers and fifth-wheels) are recognized for Residential Luxury and Value (read it “Proven Quality”). Why the latter is the result of GDRV’s policy of extra 100% Pre-Delivery Inspection, the residential-like luxury usually is coming with size and correspondingly weight. GD’s Reflection 27RL 5th wheel trailer proves that thanks to good engineering effort it is possible to “pack” these attributes into smaller and reduced-weight camper that can match the towing capabilities of popular trucks.
This opens the whole new word for the camper, as suddenly it becomes an attractive choice for the large group of potential customers already owning full-size pickup trucks….
Indeed, the Reflection 27RL with its length of slightly less than 32 feet and dry weight of about 8k pounds (modest as for the class of luxurious RVs) falls into the category of mid-size campers. That is why the 27RL found its well-deserved place on our list of top fifth wheels for 2017.
Two large slide-outs in the Living / Kitchen / Dining area and the smaller-one (wardrobe) in the master bedroom make the whole camper roomy and functional. But what really brings (and keeps) its “residential-like’ warmness and “feel” is the high-end “finish” (furniture, appliances, Corian-like counter-tops and “thousands” of small but important details that make difference)......
See details at: --> 2017 Reflection 27RL Fifth Wheel
Heartland Sundance X-Lite 267RL Fifth Wheel camper
Sundance X-Lite 267RL fifth wheel is the mid-size camper. Thanks to reduced size (length just 28’3”) and weight (dry weight 7,262 lbs) it is towable by many low-end full size trucks like popular Toyota Tundra or Nissan Titan.
It is designed to comfortably sleep 4 persons (although the convertible dinette offers an extra sleeping place for additional 2). In our opinion however the XLT 267RL will serve the best either young couples with up to 2 small children or senior couples. And this is because in striking difference to many (even bigger) campers, this one offers the Master Suite. The bedroom shares the space with the walk-in bath including an elegant shower and vanity. The toilet has dedicated private room.
The Master Suite uses almost half out of the total camper’s space of 227 sq. ft and is clearly separated from the rear living area and kitchen by the solid sliding doors.
The bottom line is - you can fully enjoy this floor-plan only when you travel as a couple or a couple with up to two small children….. Otherwise, the Master Suite is not that "private" anymore because you will have to share the bath with others.
On top of being towable by popular pickup trucks, the XLT 267RL is also quite affordable (price in low 30k’s)….
See all details at : Sundance XLT 267RL Fifth Wheel
Jayco's Eagle HT 27.5RLTS fifth wheel camper
Jayco’s 2017 Eagle HT 27.5RLTS fifth wheel is a medium-size camper designed for up to four people. With the overall length of 30’11” and dry weight of slightly below 8,000lbs it belongs to the class of lightweight RVs designed for towing by so-called “half-ton” pickup trucks. While lite in terms of weight, it is remarkably “heavy” on standard features. But what’s even more interesting – most of these features match the quality and elegance seen only in high-end residential-like campers.
The floor-plan including three slide-outs makes the Eagke HT27.5RLTS roomy. The wardrobe slide-out in the Master Bedroom is oversized and on top of typical closet and linen sections it also includes the dresser with large window in front of it. Needless to say how appreciated it will be (especially by our “better-halves”)…
The mandatory Jayco’s Climate Shield offers all-weather protection down to “zero-degrees” extending the travel season over the whole year…..
See more details at: --> 2017 Eagle HT 27.5RLTS 5th wheel
Northwood's Fox Mountain 235RLS fifth wheel camper
Northwood Fox Mountain 235RLS fifth wheel is the ultra-lite mid-size camper designed for family of 4 persons (although clearly it is ideal just for young or senior couples). With its weight of just 7,235 lbs it belongs to the class of “half-ton” campers provided that you do not “abuse” its enormous cargo capacity of about 4,200 lbs.
With just one slide-out, the FM 235RLS offers an attractive floor-plan with two main sections: Master Suite (including bedroom, shower and vanity and private toilet) as well as Living area enlarged by the slide-out (including galley, dinette and lounge w/entertainment center).
Thanks to enclosed underbelly, heated tanks and enhanced thermal….
See details at: --> FM 235RLS Fifth Wheel
Wildcat Maxx 242RLX "Half-Ton" 5th wheel camper
The Wildcat Maxx 242RLX 5th wheel it is a “medium-class” camper quite far from high-end luxurious models. But surprisingly it has many strong points that can make it an interesting choice for many owners of pickup-trucks starting their RV-ing journeys of for those already on retirement and looking for affordable traveling.
With its length of 28’3” and dry weight of just 7,678 lbs it can be towed by any full-size pickup truck. While regarding length and weight certainly we could find comparable models, what makes the Wildcat Maxx 242RLX different is its very unique (and interesting) floor-plan. In its basic configuration, the camper is designed to provide comfortable living and sleeping for 2 persons. The bedroom combined with vanity and shower forms a “Mini-Suite” that feels more spacious than it really is. On the other hand, optional free-standing table with chairs (in place of standard dinette) gives more “residential-like” accents into the living area......
See more details at: --> Wildcat Maxx 242RLX fifth wheel
Note: More fifth-wheel campers will follow shortly. It is work in progress :-)