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RV Review: 2022 Keystone Cougar 23MLS Fifth Wheel

Today’s review is of the 2022 Keystone Cougar 23MLS fifth wheel. Specifically, this is called a Keystone Cougar Half-Ton 23MLS. Kids, let’s gather around the campfire and start with a frank discussion of trucks, shall we? 

Half-ton

Domestic pickup trucks are an interesting breed. Some trucks are in the half-ton category and hold much more than a half-ton of cargo. Some barely hold a half-ton of cargo. And lots and lots of buyers go on social media bandying about the towing capacity of vehicles when, almost, that’s an irrelevant term. 

In theory, towing isn’t a big deal. For example, you could go find a million pounds of railroad cars, couple them together and tow them with your Camry. Seriously. So, by that statement you might surmise that your Camry can tow a million pounds. And, sort of, it can. 

But then comes time to stop. That’s where your Camry will get a big shove. If someone’s stopped in front of you and you can’t stop in time, that’s where the big crunch happens. 

What you can tow depends on what you can carry

Further, in towing, a lot of what you are able to tow depends on what you can carry. For example, this fifth wheel has a dry pin weight of 1,430 pounds. That means that your truck has to carry at least that much. Plus you, the spouse, the dog, the kibble, the beer and all of that. 

Pretty soon, before you even loaded that thong you want to scare the other people at the pool with, your truck is overloaded. This is nothing new, but knowing what your truck can carry is almost more important than what it can pull. 

I did find it interesting how Ford has F-150 trucks listed on this page that can carry from 1,785 pounds to more than 3,000 pounds. 

Keystone isn’t the only company that implies that these large trailers can be half-ton towed. The allure of more than a million half-ton trucks sold every year is definitely there. All I’m saying is, know before you go RV shopping—no matter what RV you’re after. 

Keystone Cougar 23MLS

Looking at this fifth wheel, there is a lot to like and, truthfully, this model can be an easier tow than a comparable travel trailer. More than one person who has towed both travel trailers and fifth wheels have told me how much more they prefer a fifth wheel. 

Further, a travel trailer of similar interior space would likely result in a much longer vehicle when combined with whatever is doing the towing. All of the travel trailer would be behind the truck, whereas several feet of a fifth wheel’s length is directly over the truck—ultimately shortening the overall length.

I really like the kitchen across the back of this trailer simply because you get so much counterspace along with cabinet space. This would be a good choice for someone who likes to cook, as there is plenty of space for prepping the grub and even a 22” oven. 

Be still my heart. 

Sit down

There are a number of seating options available here, as well, including heat and massage theater seats. Or there’s a couch that can sleep some mooching friends on the road side. Then there’s either a booth dinette or freestanding dinette on the camp side. 

One of the nifty things I saw in the theater seats, should they be your choice, was a cup holder insert. It allows you to change the size and depth of the holders on the armrests. That’s a little detail, but one that will be nice over time. Plus, you can remove them to wash, which is always a challenge with cup holders. 

Another nice touch above the seats are dimmable lights. Plus, there’s a simple button next to the theater seats to dim the lights or you can use your smartphone. Neat. 



Can you hear me now

The more of these reviews I write and the more I get to know the companies behind the RVs, the more I see a difference in what is reaching dealerships and campgrounds. 

A simple thing like the window in the door of an RV is a good example. Many RVs are built with windows in the doors. Those windows often have labels indicating that they’re “Thin Shade Ready.” Essentially, that means that the RV is shipped without a shade in the window. 

This is annoying. Just charge me a few bucks more for the RV and ship it with the doggone Thin Shade. Or don’t install a window, which is also a trend—albeit one I’m not fond of. 

Well, Keystone listens and the newer Cougars come with the Thin Shade. In fact, to me, this is not a surprise. 

Keystone 

I think Keystone is probably the leader in the mainstream RV world in terms of innovative or useful features. That is directly attributable to their Innovation Labs. 

The biggest area where the company has absolutely taken a leadership role is in solar. Every Keystone RV comes with a minimum of 200 watts of solar on the roof. There are models available with up to 1200 watts that power large high-performance batteries that will run the AC systems. From the factory. Under warranty. 

Another thing I like is what the company calls its Blade Pure™ air handling system. Combining the ducting and vents with a more efficient air handling and even residential-style filtration, Keystone has proven that the system runs about 20% more efficiently. It is also unique in that it actually has air filters like you would at home. Brilliant. 

There are other things as well, but check out their Innovation Labs. It’s something that really should be copied by more RV companies and does set Keystone apart in a good way. 



Boondocking and travel access

This is where this specific fifth wheel really falls short because the steps are over on the road side. That means that, when the slide is in, the steps are off limits, Buck-o! So while the size of this fifth wheel makes it imminently travel friendly, if you need to potty on the way to your adventure, you can forget it. Bummer. 

Otherwise, there are some things in this model that you won’t find in a lot of travel trailers of similar size. Those include more than 2,800 pounds of cargo carrying capacity and a good amount of storage space to legitimately carry a bunch of stuff. Further, this fifth wheel comes with a four-point auto level. Most travel trailers do not come with auto level. 

Take that for what it’s worth, though. I filed a lot of warranty claims for auto level systems and you couldn’t give me one. But they’re certainly popular. 

In summary

I know I was a bit hard on this model for the half-ton designation, but for good reason. From seeing what people share on social media, I believe that a lot of people don’t understand towing numbers. 

Looking at Ford’s numbers, in particular, there are models of the “half-ton” F-150 that could absolutely meet the specifications to haul this trailer. Yet, there are others in the same family that would be a very bad choice, indeed, if this were on your shopping list. 

Up to the buyer to know what they can tow safely

Sadly, I believe it’s up to the buyer to know what they can tow safely. I have encountered a lot of truck and RV dealers who have absolutely no idea how to safely calculate towing capabilities. 

Of course, I know others from whom I can learn things, as well. But if you know the numbers yourself, that way you know whom you can rely on. 

With the number of things that Keystone is doing right, plus the usable packaging of this unit, this could be a great choice at a fairly affordable price that offers good interior function in a towable size. 

More from Tony

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.

If you’re RV shopping here are some tips on RV shopping from a former RV salesperson—me!

Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing hereat StressLessCamping and in several other places.

You can also check out his RV podcast with his wife, Peggy. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. They are based on information from a single unit and may not reflect your actual experience. Shop your RV and dealership carefully before making a buying decision. 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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Don B
1 month ago

“This is where this specific fifth wheel really falls short because the steps are over on the road side. That means that, when the slide is in, the steps are off limits, Buck-o! So while the size of this fifth wheel makes it imminently travel friendly, if you need to potty on the way to your adventure, you can forget it. Bummer.”

Now I’m confused! The pics show show and the floor-plan show the door on the passenger side. Is this review for another rig or did you get up to early and wrote before your cup or two of coffee? However the LCI solid step is a deal breaker for us!

Rick F
1 month ago
Reply to  Don B

Don B…I also thought the “steps” comment was inaccurate, but then realized Tony was referring to the interior steps up the the bathroom and bedroom, which are inaccessible with the slide in.

Don B
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick F

Thanks for “unconfusing” me! That’s two deal-breakers for us!

Steve H
1 month ago

To follow up on Tony’s “half-ton” fifth wheel comments, this has a dry pin weight that is 18% of the UVW. 18% of a 10000# GVWR is 1800#. So, a 1/2-ton truck must have a payload capacity of at least 2300# to carry the weight of the fifth wheel hitch, the front seat passenger, the kids, and the other interior gear. And that doesn’t include anything in the bed besides the hitch!

Even the F-150 has few models that have a payload that high unless it is a special order HD payload model. Those are few and far between. Our fifth wheel had a GVWR 1400# less than this Cougar and we towed it with a Ram 2500 turbodiesel. Of course, towing it in the Rockies every time we left home had a little to do with that!

Leslie559
1 month ago

No access to the Bathroom, while traveling, is a quick no for me. Sometimes you need that quick stop and pulling out the slides to get to the Loo is rarely a good option.

Ray
1 month ago

Oh gee, looking over the spec sheet for the F-150 I began to understand the F-150 “Hybrid” is not a hybrid in the original meaning of the term at all. Its simply an F-150 with a built-in generator. No specs indicate this “Hybid” has a rechargable battery to greatly assist in take offs or short trips in its drivetrain. Bummer. The term hybrid was originally used to describe such vehicles.

Bob p
1 month ago

With the rear kitchen you better install shock absorbers on the axles, the inherit bouncing of the rear of a trailer caused by the suspension of the truck/trailer combo will have everything inside the cabinets upside down. Our first 5th wheel a 27’ Innsbruck had a rear kitchen, DW bought several couch pillows to stuff inside the cabinets before we traveled. The first time we went out on a 30 mile trip to the state park everything was turned over or flipped upside down in that short distance. On a 175 mile trip to the smokies 6 yrs ago we were following our daughter and SIL and I had DW video a short distance of their trailer bouncing, when we returned he immediately ordered a shock absorber kit and installed it. The rear bumper was actually oscillating up and down 3-4” all the time.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

I noticed in one picture that it looks like the spare tire is inside the front compartment. I wonder how convenient that would be to take out in a tire emergency. We installed a new door window in our 10 year old trailer and have never used the shade. Nice fresh water capacity. And, if you are actually boondocking, you have to really be careful when negotiating dips and bumps when towing a 5’er. How many damaged truck beds have you seen where the trailer met the edges of the bed due to dips and bumps, even getting into some shopping center lots? With all these “options” listed, does this mean that more and more folks are ordering their trailers and not buying “off the floor”?

Ed Holland
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Never buy a keystone. I’ve had two. Both are junk.
Forget about getting warranty work done unless you are willing to let it sit at the dealership for 6 plus months.

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