A couple of days ago when talking about the Coachmen Freedom Express Ultra Lite 274RKS I had mentioned that, if you see an RV floor plan you like and it’s at all successful, rest assured that someone else is going to build that same floor plan in short order. Since RVs are, in large part, a collection of off-the-shelf components wrapped in a box built by an individual brand, it’s pretty easy to see how quickly one company can come out with something.
So much of what goes into an RV comes from one of a handful of suppliers that it’s amazing there’s much differentiation. But there is. Because, using cabinets and layout specifics, it’s quite possible to take someone’s idea of a floor plan and adjust it just enough that it can appeal to customers who didn’t like the first iteration at all.
Front living comparisons
Today we’re looking at just that kind of circumstance in the 2022 Forest River Wildwood Hemisphere Elite 36FL front living fifth wheel. I personally like the front living fifth wheels as it gives you sort of a tower from which to lord over the other campers. Er, I mean there’s a great gathering space up front with lots of windows, so these can be good choices if you enjoy entertaining indoors. But this rig is also really, really good if you enjoy entertaining outdoors, as well.
Essentially the full name of this rig is the Forest River Wildwood Heritage Glen Elite 36FL. Whew. And, just to confuse everybody there is an identical model dubbed the Forest River Salem Heritage Glen Elite as well.
The way various RV makers can tailor this same floor plan to different tastes and ideas is incredible. For example, the Jayco North Point 382FLRB has a huge bathroom at the back of the trailer and the theater seats are at the very front – sort of blocking the windshield. If the bathroom is a priority, this would be a great rig to consider.
The Vanleigh Vilano 377FL also has a large bathroom at the back, but not nearly as large as the Jayco’s. However I really, really like that Vanleigh put the washing machine prep in the kitchen so all of the “household stuff” could get done essentially in the same space.
Travel access in the Keystone Montana 377FL
If travel access is a priority to you, the Keystone Montana 377FL is the only rig in this group that we’ve looked at that has a door on the road side. That makes using the bathroom mid-journey possible. The Montana also comes with at least 200 watts of solar and is available with much larger systems through Keystone’s SolarFlex™ package.
Forest River’s Sabre 37FLL offers a lot of space for sleeping in the back as well as many of the nifty aspects of the Sabre/Cherokee/Grey Wolf family. It is also the most affordable in this series that we’re looking at.
This rig has the best setup for outside entertainment
What are the cornerstone features of today’s Heritage Glen 36RL? I’m actually going to start outside, where we find a flat-top griddle on a long sliding mount that is made of steel and includes a proper sink. There’s also a larger bar-sized fridge out here and even an ice maker. Plus there’s a TV. Of all of these rigs, this one has the best setup for entertaining folks outside.
The outside kitchen does cut into the storage a bit, but it’s not like this is starved for storage. There is a compartment up front, as you’d expect from a fifth wheel, although it’s smaller than some. Then there’s a compartment at the very back and one accessible from the road side which incorporates a sliding drawer.
Interestingly, this rear compartment is also where your water hookups are. If you’ve ever run out of hoses hooking up a fifth wheel because the connections are at the front, this might be a hallelujah moment for you.
What’s inside the Hemisphere Elite
I have become concerned of late with all the black cabinetry I’m seeing in RVs, but I was so pleased to lay eyes on the appointments in this trailer. Yes, yes, I recognize and support that we all have different tastes, and style and color are very subjective. But I still argue that really dark cabinets makes the interior of an RV somewhat depressing in a Mad Max the future’s a bummer outlook.
Interestingly, you’ll find no dining table, per se, in this rig. Instead, there’s a breakfast bar right at the entrance to the trailer. In that same area you’ll also find a half bath in this downstairs area. Speaking of stairs, the ones that lead up to the rear bedroom are considered “floating” stairs. The benefit of this is that you could put dog bowls or shoes underneath here. But hopefully they aren’t too stinky as this is also the intake for the central heating system.
I like that the central heating system only has one floor duct in this whole rig. The rest are mounted up on cabinetry.
Lots of cabinet storage
These mid-kitchen models tend to have a lot of cabinet storage, including a pantry. But there’s also a lot of countertop space, this model included.
Up front above the king pin is the living room. The floor plan offers the typical dueling sofas on either side of the space, each in their own slide. While some of these models offer one giant bed when both sofas are opened up at night, this one has a bit of space between the beds even though it’s an eight-foot-wide trailer. There are models here that are 101” wide.
TV on a televator
Up front there’s a TV on a televator and a windshield visible when that TV is down. Remember my writing about how slick it would be if more rigs incorporated movie screens instead of televators? That would work well here and then you could have storage behind the fireplace to keep the bits you’d need when this went from living space to bedroom.
On the opposite end of this trailer in the main bedroom you’ll find what’s called an Olympian king bed. Essentially, that mattress is a full 80” long but just 72” wide. That’s a full 4” narrower than a typical king, but is still wider than a residential queen.
There are a few inherent things in this model that I really like, including the use of Goodyear Endurance tires. The underbelly is also called an “accessibelly”. It essentially has segmented panels that form the enclosed underbelly. The thinking is that, if there’s a maintenance issue, you don’t have to take off the entire underbelly.
I had a warranty claim on more than one occasion where just removing and replacing the fifth wheel underbelly was a half-day of two technicians’ time. That’s before we could get to the issue itself.
It’s funny, to me, how the bigger the RV you get the more capable it is from a boondocking standpoint – but only in certain areas. For example, this rig is a typical fifth wheel in that it has good-sized holding tanks. But then there’s only a residential refrigerator. So you either need a lot of solar and batteries or a generator if you’re not hooked to shore power.
I’d be curious if any of you would buy a large fifth wheel with smaller holding tanks and just acknowledge that you’re only staying in developed campgrounds, but the payoff would be significantly more storage. You can weigh-in on our forums on this topic.
I’m not a big fan of residential fridges in trailers just because many of them aren’t well-suited to the bouncing around. This trailer pretty much only has a simple leaf spring suspension, so bouncing is definitely in the future for this fridge. There does not appear to be a choice in what you get here. There is an inverter so you can run it while in tow but, again, you’ll either need a generator or a lot of battery and solar power to compensate for the losses of the fridge and the inverter while boondocking.
Incidentally, if your local RV dealer carries the Salem brand, instead of Wildwood, the exact same model is available there as the Salem Hemisphere 36L.
If I had to choose from among this series of fifth wheels I would honestly have to go back and start over with a deep dive into each one. I do really like the outdoor kitchen in this rig and the interior overall. But I’d want to upgrade the suspension on the way home, to be honest. So while I would be really thrilled with the interior if I were looking at this at an RV show, I’d likely have to talk my wife down from the ledge by explaining why a better suspension would actually make a big difference down the road.
Thanks to Josh Winters
My thanks to Josh Winters from Bish’s RV for use of the photos and this video.
I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.
Tony comes to RVTravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. 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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