Sunday, September 19, 2021
Sunday, September 19, 2021

RV Review: 2021 Keystone Cougar “Half-Ton” 32BHS Fifth Wheel

Unicorns. I keep hearing about them. They’re kind of a big deal nowadays and, when I find one among the RVs I see, I get excited to tell you all about it. But it’s always a surprise when it’s from someone we regularly look at. In this case, I’m talking about the Keystone Cougar “Half-Ton” 32BHS fifth wheel.

First, let’s sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion, shall we? I know a lot of people get excited by the “Half-Ton” designation but, as I’ve written many times, the only way to match a tow vehicle to a towed vehicle is to do the math. I think the name is disingenuous because, unless you’ve got an almost completely unloaded and very, very specifically equipped half-ton truck, you’re just not going to tow this safely.

Keystone RV

While the “half-ton” branding is unfortunate, the more I learn about how various RV companies do things, the more I like some of what I see over at Keystone. I recently got to see, firsthand, some of the things that Keystone is doing to differentiate themselves.

Included in that is the blade air conditioning ducting system. It has ducts that incorporate plastic joiners to help the ducting maintain its shape rather than collapse over time. There was a model I was able to sit in with the AC running and it was very, very quiet.

I also saw the HyperDeck™ flooring I’ve been talking about firsthand in the assembly line. This is a man-made waterproof flooring that’s also lightweight. It seemed quite substantial with my big self standing on it.

As regular readers will know, I celebrate when companies do something other than basic leaf spring suspensions. This trailer features a Road Armor shock-damping suspension system. Keystone is also reportedly offering a tire package for 2022 that will include Goodyear Endurance tires along with an automotive-style tire pressure monitoring system. Yes, please.

Truth be told…

Whenever I write about a Keystone product, immediately there are responses of people having had warranty issues. Keystone sells a lot of trailers. Therefore, as with any human-made product, there is going to be the potential for issues.

But I will say that when I was working in sales and warranties, Keystone was one of the better companies to deal with regarding warranties. They were very prompt and very responsive.

This brings me to something I advise anyone shopping for a new RV: Choose your dealership first. A good dealership will really make a lot of difference in your ownership experience over a lousy one. The owner at the place I worked always advocated that we work to make sure the customer was whole in every way. I don’t think all dealerships do this.

The place I worked also preferred team members who actually enjoyed and used RVs so we understood the experience. So, perhaps, some of the buying process might include speaking with whomever handles the warranties at the dealership as well as just the salesperson.

Grand Tour of the Cougar 32BHS Fifth Wheel

We’re going to start at the back door on this fifth wheel as I suspect it’s going to be a popular entrance to this unit. That entrance is on the main floor, as you might expect, and will get you into the master bathroom. Yep, definitely different.

In there is a toilet, sink and a tub and shower. It’s a convenient feature as it’s right adjacent to the outdoor kitchen. That kitchen features a Capital griddle, fully plumbed sink and larger bar-size 120-volt refrigerator.

For those who don’t like the newer “solid steps,” you’re in luck. Keystone has the more traditional folding steps on the rear door but the solid steps on the main entrance.

If you do come in through the rear entrance of the Cougar 32BHS, you’ll then go through another door to get into the main living area. One odd bit – that door features a window and a provision to put a shade, but no shade. Talk about a full moon over Miami.

To your left is a bunk room that features a slide out. It has a couch at the bottom and a fold-down bunk above that. Across from that are two bunks. There are a number of drawers all over this back area. They’re under the camp-side upper bunk, under the camp-side lower bunk and even a cabinet at the back.

Once again, I can see this as a kids’ room, but also an office or craft room.

Main living area

There are some really keynote features in the main living area of the Cougar 32BHS. On the road side is a very large slide room that features a dining area and seating area. The dining area features a choice of a booth dinette or free-standing table and chairs. You also have a choice for the seating with either a tri-fold couch or theater seating.

On the other side of the space is the kitchen with either a gas-electric or 12-volt compressor-based fridge.

The three-burner stove actually features a 22” oven – one of the few bunk models I’ve seen that do. I want to go hug someone at Keystone for this feature alone. Of course, there’s a microwave above that and a double-bowl stainless steel sink in an “L”-shaped counter that also has a lot of storage and cabinet space.

At the front wall of this model is a space-heating fireplace and the TV. But this is a bit of a neck-bender position even though it’s on an articulating arm. There’s also a small pantry here.

Upstairs in the Cougar 32BHS Fifth Wheel

Fifth wheel folks might be surprised to find that the upstairs bath is not the master, but only features a toilet and sink. Very unusual indeed.

The bedroom features a wardrobe slide on the camp side and a queen-sized bed. On either side are closets, of course, along with power for charging laptops and CPAP machines and such.

A bit more

I give credit to my friend Josh Winters from Haylett RV as being a great source of information for me, as well as others. According to his information, the entire Keystone division is going with a company-wide solar package that will include 200 watts of solar on the roof along with an inverter and prep for up to 400 watts of solar.

If you haven’t heard, with the growing sales of RVs there is also concern that campgrounds are just filled to the brim and boondocking is one way to relieve that crowding. As such, every RV company I know of is looking more and more to boondocking and outfitting their RVs with either preparation for it or out and out systems that support boondocking.

In summary

The Cougar 32BHS is a unique trailer in that the main bath is downstairs. I could see this as being a great choice for a traveling family or someone who wanted to set up a “home” office. There are a lot of qualitative features that make this a good choice.

Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife.

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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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Unicorn floor plan
Keystone features
Real oven
Half ton branding

SUMMARY

The Keystone Cougar 32BHS fifth wheel offers some unique aspects of the floor plan along with some advantages inherent in the Keystone brand making this a bit of a unicorn.

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Roger Spalding
1 month ago

Tony, the towing capacity of the 2021 F-150 Powerboost 3.5 twin turbo V-6 is 12,700 lbs. The towing capacity of the Ford F-150 Ecoboost 3.5 twin turbo is 14,000 lbs. I’m not sure where Steve got his tow capacities for the F-150 Powerboost and Eco boost. I, myself, am always partial to the F-250 Godzilla or diesel V8s for towing any size 5th wheel. However, the towing numbers quoted, especially for the F-150 Ecoboost, seems a bit low, about 1.5 tons low.

Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Roger Spalding

Towing capacity is not the important number for fifth wheels, payload is because the pin sits on the fifth wheel hitch in the center of the bed. The numbers I quoted were from the towing guide for fifth wheels towed by Supercrew F-150s on the Ford Website. The 14,000# capacity is for a travel trailer, NOT a fifth wheel. Look it up!

Roger Spalding
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve, at your suggestion, I went back and looked at the numbers. You’re 100% correct! Thanks for setting me straight. For the record, I wasn’t trying to argue with you. Clearly, you know what you’re talking about. I don’t care to take chances when towing either. That’s why I tow my 5th wheel with a F-250 Powerstroke, I know have enough torque to pull just about anything. Hope you and yours have a great rest of the Summer.

Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Roger Spalding

And why I tow my fifth wheel with a Ram 2500 Cummins diesel. But I live in Colorado so have to tow over 10-11,000′ mountain passes every time I go camping. For that a turbo-diesel is the only way to go!

Steve
1 month ago

Tony, the pin weight for fifth wheels is 15-20% of the GVWR. 15% of 11,500# is 1725# and 20% is 2300#. Add the weight of all the family members, pets, etc., of even a Ford F-150 Supercrew-cab truck that would need a bunk-house fifth wheel like this Keystone and you have an accident waiting to happen. No 2021 Ecoboost-equipped Ford F-150, regardless of HD-payload or Max-Tow packages, is rated for more than an 8,300# fifth wheel. Although the rare, fully-packaged, 5-liter, 2WD F-150 might just handle the fifth wheel, there would be no extra payload for the family. So I think Keystone is not only being disingenuous in their advertising, they are bordering on criminally negligence. Don’t marketing staffs ever listen to their engineering staffs, or do RV manufacturers even employ engineers? In case you can’t guess, I am an engineer.

Bob p
1 month ago

As Josh says this is not 1/2T towable unless you have the special stripped down truck no one buys except construction companies with base equipment and no options. As such I believe you are creating a disservice by writing this article, anyone who try’s to tow more than 85% of their vehicle’s tow rating will be an unhappy camper. This I have learned over the 43 years I’ve been towing, pulling a trailer down the road is just a small part of towing, controlling and stopping are the big things and half ton trucks are basically built on what use to be station wagon frames, too much frame flex, and substandard brakes for anything bigger than a utility trailer or boat trailer. I understand your side of the story but the newbies that read your stories and RV salesperson that don’t care about anything except the sale will take advantage of people that don’t know any better. Have a good day.

Glenn
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Absolutely correct!

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony Barthel

Had I been in your shoes I would not have even written about this unit as I think RV newbies will be mislead by your article. You inadvertently helped promote this trailer by writing your review. Yes I did read the article, twice to make sure I was reading it correctly. I stand by my opinion as I know there are many newbies who have never driven anything larger than a sub compact car who will be taken by unscrupulous salespersons who want to make the sale regardless of the safety of the customer.

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