Dave and I keep looking, and he keeps wandering into random fifth wheels every time we look. As frustrating as that can be sometimes, especially when we’ve narrowed down the list yet again, it is also great because we learn something new each time. Last weekend he peaked his head into and Heartland Edge 397 and this weekend it was a Dutchmen Voltage 3970. So last night, I kept myself awake configuring the “perfect” fifth wheel for us. It doesn’t exist and to custom order one would be stupid expensive.
So without further ado, here’s what I’d pick and choose for the “perfect” fifth wheel, starting at the front cap and working toward the rear and using stock photos from the manufacturers.
Crossroads RV makes the most perfect use of the front cap known to mankind, and it’s not on all of their models either which is unfathomable. Their Elevation toy hauler line has two models which have the perfect front cap, the Las Vegas and Sonoma.
There is a TON of light when you walk in the bedroom, even without the lights on and on a rainy day in November. Using the front cap for a window floods the room with light, allowing for a much more enjoyable space to curl up and read, relax and hang out. I also love that “window seat” in the front cap which has a lot of visible and non-visible storage.
From the front bedroom perfection of the Elevation’s bedroom to the Dutchmen Voltage 3970 bathroom. It is roomy and does not feel claustrophobic or confined.
Well let’s be blunt, I despise that sink immensely and it would be on my wish list of things to have changed out immediately. But otherwise, this is a good solid, residential feel to a bathroom on wheels. And as Dave loves to point out and test, you aren’t going to injure yourself tripping up stairs when you’ve had one too many glasses of wine like some models.
We have looked at a lot of toy haulers and they ALL universally suffer from the same problem from our perspective, trying to do too much in the space and thus resort of galley sofas. The 3970 is the first one we’ve walked in and the L-shaped sofa worked. I will admit, I hated it when we first stepped into the coach but it quickly grew on me. Dave sat directly in front of the fireplace and reclined with ease. I was opposite him on the sofa of awesomeness, more on that sofa later in another post, and we were comfortable. If it were just the two of us and Pickles and Leo there would be no misgivings but cram two mutts at 60 and 90 pounds and the foot space is a little cramped. But overall, this living room space is well thought out and functional. The television is large, the fireplace is low to the ground and there is plenty of storage space, some of which is even accessible by the short person of the family.
The kitchen has been a huge concern and has eliminated more than one coach from further consideration. The Dutchman Voltage 3970 however has the best kitchen to date in terms of storage, functionality, and ease of use. And one of the strongest selling points of the coach has the crappiest photos from the manufacturer.
The refrigerator and pantry sit next to the sofa of awesomeness on the slide-out and the remainder of the kitchen is U-shaped with lots of storage and counter space. It would be possible for two people to work in the kitchen and not be constantly bumping into one another.
And into the garage we go, yep garage. First off, I’d shave two feet off of the eleven or twelve foot garage and put that two feet into the living room. It would open up the living room foot space and provide more space for dogs to stretch out or kids to play. So, in our “perfect’’ coach the garage is smaller but we don’t intend to use it for hauling toys but rather as a bonus room. This a a huge space with a patio to the outdoors. It is perfect for sipping morning coffee, eating dinner, or coming in and shedding muddy clothes after a hike. A great place to wipe down filthy dogs and dry out boots. But it also works great as an office space and gaming space, be it board or video games. There is the added bonus of a completely separate space if you happen to have a fight with your spouse and you need to go to your separate area for a bit.
So, what would my nine or ten foot garage look like? Well, combine the features of the Heartland Edge 397, Crossroads Elevation, and the Dutchmen Voltage 3970.
First up the Edge’s features.
and . So, dual patios. The amount of light that floods in is amazing and the amount of extra living space acquired is tremendous. The 397 also has this great television which while shown above, doesn’t show off it’s best feature and that is that it pivots to the outside for viewing. Now I realize in my shortened garage this feature and the ones below are incompatible but it is a great feature. The 397 also does one thing extremely well, there is a ton of storage built into the wall which is truly great.
The Elevation line has one of the single best features in any garage, the washer and dryer is in the garage!
No longer is that necessary appliance eating precious space in the living quarters but rather it’s now in the garage where it belongs. One simple change that frees up so much living space it boggles the mind.
The 3970 has the best dining space created in the garage that we’ve seen.
The table feels substantial, not flimsy and stows away somewhere. The bench sitting is comfortable and more importantly the table is large. You can easily eat dinner or play a board game. The 3970 does let in a considerable amount of light for there not being a second patio or sliding glass door. Also, that recliner in the photo is comfortable and you could easily spend hours in the recliner.
The rear patio/ramp on the 3970 has an essential feature which isn’t found on most other toy haulers we’ve seen.
Yep, something as simple as stairs up to the back patio with a handrail. Why don’t all toy haulers with patios come with this? No seriously, why? It makes the patio far more accessible, far more useful, and far safer than without it. Now old dogs, cranky knees, and people can get onto the patio without tromping through your home. No muddy footprints and no wee ones jumping off the patio to get down (well in theory).
Now for the little things that make all the difference. First, entry steps are the single most important thing. They are the first thing a customer experiences, so why are so many fifth wheels so awful with steep entry steps and only three of them? Best steps ever, for me, I first experienced on the lovely Jayco Pinnacle 36REQS.
These steps are easy to use, not steep and feel supportive. They are made by Lippert I’ve learned and were on the Voltage 3970 that we saw. Why aren’t they more widely used or a factory option on every coach I will never comprehend. Dave already knows that if the steps aren’t present on the coach we decide on these steps will be replacing whatever steps are standard.
Scare lights, never thought about these until we started looking at the Crossroads Elevation and they were listed as a standard feature. Now I wonder if they are on all the toy haulers we’ve looked at and they just aren’t listed. I must remember to ask next time.
This one is more of a complaint about all manufacturers in general and their websites. Why are the pictures, if they exist mind you, out of date? Seriously, if you’ve released the next model year then update your websites to show what that model year looks like not the previous model years. Nothing drives me crazier than looking at pictures online and realizing that “Opps, this is last year and the next year is available at the dealer”. And when manufacturers take pictures, take the same pictures of every coach, every time, for every model in a particular line and then upload them in the same order. Nothing is more frustrating, well after my first complaint, then trying to compare model features but the same pictures for different models are unavailable. It isn’t that hard to do, as an example Truck Masters here in Arizona takes and uploads the same pictures in the same order on every truck.
Now for the compliments and both go to Heartland. Heartland consistently, across model lines has the most information available and published for the consumer. I know that I can look up R-values on a Heartland model or water capacity. The information is consistent, except those rare times when it says TBD which baffles me. Second, is customer service and this compliment and shout out goes specifically to Marie Pennington, Social Media Specialist for Heartland. Heartland has a gem in Marie and she has made every interaction with Heartland easy and enjoyable. We can ask her anything about a Heartland model and she will track down the answers for us promptly and efficiently. While we haven’t decided on any particular model yet, if two models are close the relationship we’ve built with Heartland through Marie will tip the scales in Heartland’s favor. Personal, informative, and friendly customer service will always win in my book.