By Tony Barthel
I’ve done quite a few RV reviews of larger fifth wheels recently. Today I want to look at the new, smaller 2021 Keystone Montana High Country 280CK.
This is the newest and smallest member of Keystone’s Montana High Country family and comes in at an overall length of just 32’ 2”. Despite its small size, it still sports the various hallmarks of the Montana brand, including being warrantied for full-time living. Montana also is proud of their cold-weather certification, with the company testing their units down to 0°F for sustained periods of time.
But, more than that, this unit’s got it going on in the heater department. Of course, there’s the propane heater but, beyond that, the AC system includes a 16,500 BTU heat pump plus there’s an electric 5,000 BTU fireplace heater. This means you can use electricity to heat this trailer as long as it doesn’t get too awfully cold.
You can also opt for dual-paned windows. While the obvious benefits of all this insulation are against winter, more insulation also keeps out summer heat as well.
The fifth wheels I’ve looked at recently don’t have dinettes and this one is no exception. As you walk into the main entrance door, which sports a motion-sensor light so you don’t stumble at night, the first thing you’ll see is a U-shaped kitchen. This is a nice design with a three-burner stove with a 22” oven. There’s a large microwave and a decent sink as well. But the third wall is either a breakfast bar or prep space, depending on who’s doing what.
Or it could be where the margaritas are served, of course. But that is the only built-in eating surface and you’re sitting on two bar stools to grab a bite. I like this, but my wife is of a different opinion.
Opposite the kitchen in a large camp-side slide is the refrigerator, which you can get in either dual-fuel (propane/electric) or residential 110vac compressor-based. Next to that is an L-shaped sofa with a big lounge extension that I could see using as a day bed. There’s plenty of space under that sofa for storage but there’s also space to stretch.
Across from the sofa is a large TV and, below that, is the aforementioned fireplace. Behind the TV there is a decent amount of storage and there’s additional storage below the TV.
Heading upstairs, the upper deck features the bathroom. This whole level sports 6’ 2” of headroom.
The bathroom is typically spacious, as you would expect in a fifth wheel, but doesn’t offer that monster shower as in larger 5ers. The bed is available in either queen or king size and that bed along with the closets are on a road-side slide room which incorporates some of the closets in the bathroom. In fact, the closet bathroom is where you’d put a washer-dryer unit if you choose to get one. But this fifth wheel will not accommodate a stacking washer-dryer so you’re stuck with a combo unit. Save your money.
Keystone’s Montana division has filed for a patent on the front windshield on this and it does open the bedroom up and give you a chance to peer down at the campground like the overlord of camping… or something like that.
We all wake up with different ideas bouncing around in our heads.
Trailer towing trailers
With the shorter length of this, you might be more comfortable towing something like a boat behind the trailer. This fifth wheel is outfitted to do just that with a receiver at the back that incorporates safety chain loops and a four-pin connector. Keystone says that this receiver is good for 3,000 lbs. Of course, towing a second trailer isn’t legal everywhere so you’ll obviously want to check into the local regulations before you decide that your boat is coming with you on vacay.
Heck, my uncle has a box trailer that he tows his Harley in behind his fifth wheel…
Up on the rooftop, there’s a provision for rooftop solar. The entire fifth wheel is prepped for an inverter system, so several of the outlets inside are marked to be inverter-ready.
Hooking to your tow vehicle is done through a Road Armor™ shock absorbing hitch pin, and there are Dexter Gladiator 6,000-pound axles with the whole thing sitting on Sailun tires. Now, Goodyear has done an outstanding job with their trailer tires but these Sailun tires have a longer warranty. I’m not familiar with the brand so I can’t speak to the quality of them. I have recommended Goodyear tires for years for trailers. Some say these Sailuns are just as good.
Another interesting thing about how this fifth wheel is built… Almost all RV walls are built in one large chunk with the windows and slide rooms cut from that large chunk. The blanks that come from cutting the slide room walls out become the slide room exterior walls themselves. In many, many cases these openings are hand-cut, which leaves some room for error. These Montana walls are cut on a giant CNC digital routing machine, which means much less room for error. Will it make a difference? I don’t know.
What may make a difference is that Keystone uses a universal wire color-coding system so the wires on your Montana are colored the same way as all the others. This might sound perfectly logical but it’s actually not an industry-standard – oftentimes when the assembler runs out of red wires with yellow stripes they just pull from the next spool over so if there is a wiring issue, your RV tech is spending hours diagnosing it with no schematics and no basis for comparison.
After spending time looking at super-high-end fifth wheels, this doesn’t seem as fancy as those but, again, it’s a fraction of the price. I think Montana is doing a good job with their fifth wheels and this could be the right-sized trailer for many. Considering the warranty along with many of the other factors at play here, this could be a great choice for either vacation time or full-time living.
I had a difficult time finding things not to like about this unit. Okay, I don’t like floor vents for heaters, but it’s not a big deal in a couples’ camper. This layout, the kitchen with a larger oven, and just the overall thinking that went into this model is going to have Montana with another big hit on their hands.
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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