By Tony Barthel
Lately, I’ve been getting quite a few requests asking for smaller, lighter fifth wheel reviews. There are two that really stuck out to me: today’s Keystone Cougar 24RDS and the Grand Design Reflection 150 Series 295RL, which you’ll read about tomorrow.
Small, light, half-ton?
The inference in both of these models is that they’re half-ton towable. Grand Design even uses the term “150 Series” in the branding, which may appeal to the almost one million folks who buy Ford F-150 pickup trucks annually. Actually, if you look at Ford’s Towing Guide document these are well within the capability of the most well-equipped F-150s with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 or 5.0L V8. These have a cargo-carrying capacity of more than 3,000 pounds and towing capacity of at least 13,000 pounds.
As with any towing situation, you’re going to want to pay attention to how much you’re towing as well as either pin weight or tongue weight, depending on what you’re towing. My feeling about towing is never to go above 70% of capability. I always recommend taking your complete RV to a scale to have it weighed so you’re safe. You’ll read these same two paragraphs tomorrow.
I would argue that the Keystone Cougar 24RDS and the Grand Design Reflection 295RL are very comparable in their specifications and really even with similar layouts. So why would you want to go with the Keystone Cougar or the Grand Design Reflection?
Keystone’s Cougar brand has a great warranty: three years for the structure, one year for the overall RV.
One of the things Keystone has been doing is using a plastic reinforced joiner in their air conditioning ducting so the ducting doesn’t collapse over time. They’re also using a man-made “HyperDeck” flooring product which, on paper, seems like a great product. We’ll see over time, right?
Keystone has dumped carpeting in the slide rooms and instead uses a woven marine-grade flooring product. This is easier to clean but provides the same sealing properties as carpet.
I do like that there are three outlets in this model specifically wired to run off an inverter if you choose that option, or if you put one in down the road. This trailer is also fully prepped for solar. This can be either factory installed or put in by you.
Keystone also has specifically tested the Cougar fifth wheels, including this one, from 0° F-110° F in what they call their Climate Guard protection. In addition, the AC vent construction also includes in-floor heating ducting that extends to the basement, 12-volt heating pads, attic vents to let hot air escape from the attic structure, and insulation improvements.
Just to be aware – the standard AC on this is a single 15,000BTU air conditioner, which may be sufficient in many places. There is a vent in the bedroom into which you can install a second AC unit if you choose. Of course, this can be installed at the factory, as well. You could also just wait and see how well a single AC unit does in this with the insulation in the unit.
The grand tour of the Keystone Cougar 24RDS
I don’t usually start on the outside but there are a few things well worth noting here. The first is how incredibly huge the awning is on this rig. Keystone has the awning almost the full length of the trailer. The trailer is under 28 feet 6 inches in total length.
Considering that some folks like to tandem tow with a fifth wheel, this might be a good choice for those. There is a trailer hitch on the back that’s capable of handling 3,000 pounds. It even features a four-pin connector.
You step inside the trailer at the back of this floor plan. The first thing you’ll notice is a big U-shaped dinette with lots of windows. That dinette makes into a fairly large bed, but also can provide nice seating.
To the right is a large electric fireplace with a TV on top on a swivel mount. It’s odd, to me, that the counter is at an angle here. I think you’d get more counter space if it were just straight across. However, the fireplace and TV wouldn’t be as easily viewed from that big dinette.
Further down the counter is a three-burner stove with a 22-inch oven. One of the cool things about this Furrion model stove is that the igniter will also light the oven, thereby saving you from doing the oven contortion. Then, ‘round the bend is a two-well sink. The counters are a pressed membrane-style counter. This means there are no edges where water can get in. Also, with the kitchen being on the camp side, Cougar still put in a nice window. That way you can keep an eye on your buddies outside while you’re inside getting the food ready.
The steps to the upper deck are on the road side and would be blocked by the slide room when it’s in. That means no going upstairs for a potty break during a quick roadside stop. Otherwise, the whole lower deck is accessible with the slide in, including the refrigerator and kitchen.
On the subject of the refrigerator, you have a choice of either a 12-volt DC compressor-based fridge with about 10 cubic feet of storage, or a traditional gas-electric RV refrigerator with about 8 cubic feet of storage. Next to the fridge is a small pantry and, for 2021, Keystone has gone to all hidden hinges.
There’s a tri-fold couch sharing the slide with the fridge. However, you could upgrade to theater seating if you so desired. There’s a switch you can reach from the seats for the lights in the slide which features dimming functionality. Or you can control all the lights and other functions with your phone using the InCommand system.
The second floor of the Keystone Cougar 24RDS
Going up to the second floor, the stairwell is on the road side of this trailer. When you get to the bathroom, there’s a good amount of space inside. There is a small closet/storage area too. The molded shower enclosure has a seat and it’s a pretty good size considering the overall size of this rig.
In the bedroom, there is a wardrobe slide on the road side but I doubt that you’re getting into here without extending that slide room as it would block the door.
Next to each side of the bed is a closet and nightstand with a cabinet below. The plugs next to the bed are wired such that, if you did choose to install an inverter, you could run something like a CPAP machine from the batteries.
One thing I really do not like about this bedroom is that there’s a step about 1/3 of the way down the bed. This would seem like a huge trip hazard. Even if you don’t like carpeting, you will find it in abundance in the bedroom. I’m not sure why they didn’t go with vinyl flooring in here – but they didn’t.
Keystone’s Cougar brand has done a good job with this fifth wheel that is small but doesn’t feel it. Things like larger windows and a smart layout along with that huge U-shaped dinette in the back are all big pluses.
I am also a fan of their build methodology and components, including the HyperDeck flooring and the support structure in the AC vents. This fifth wheel shows a lot of common sense in the design. The exception to this is that you can’t get upstairs at all with the slide room in, which would be solved by putting the stairwell on the camp side of this coach.
You could reasonably tow this with a properly equipped half-ton truck, and it’s well within the capability of some of these trucks. But you’ll absolutely want to be sure before you sign. Considering the length of this unit and its weight, this is a solid alternative to a travel trailer, even if you want to stay smaller.
At under 29 feet in total length, with about three of those feet being over the cargo bed of the truck, the Keystone Cougar 24RDS could be a logical choice even if you want to stay smaller without giving up the advantages of a fifth wheel such as cargo space and tank capacity. That would be especially true if you outfitted this with the solar and inverter upgrades. It would make a good rig for boondocking.
These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.
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