Today’s review is of the Keystone Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD travel trailer. This is a floor plan we’ve seen before from another part of the Keystone family in the Keystone Cougar 22MLS, a trailer that was very, very high on my shopping list. The variations between these two trailers from two branches on the same tree show just how much difference little things can make here and there.
And some big things, too.
Keystone’s Outback brand has some details unique to it that, I believe, make the brand very much worth considering. We sold the Outback brand where I used to work at the RV dealership. I would say these came in with the fewest number of issues of any RV brand. Also, Keystone’s service to us as a dealership was outstanding.
If a manufacturer makes the warranty service process better, it makes it easier for a dealership to serve the customers better. So this truly does matter to the customer.
Outback uses a BAL® Norco huck-bolted “Z” channel frame, which that supplier claims is a superior product. I don’t have any reason to doubt them, nor do I have proof to the contrary. But it’s something to know. There have been more than a few videos on YouTube lately of other brands of trailers where the frame just flat failed. But, again, this could be everything from rust to user error to just happenstance.
On-demand water heater in the Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD
One of the key things I like about the Ultra-Lite 221UMD design is that Outback has gone to an on-demand water heater (also known as a tankless water heater). This means that you’re not carrying around a bunch of water in the heater, but you can have virtually unlimited hot water—which is nice.
Another thing that caught my eye was the Nautilus shower door, which is sort of like a plastic window shade with a wiper seal on it. I like anything that’s not a large glass surface on an RV, quite frankly, and this counts.
One of the other interesting differences between the Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD and the Cougar is the size of the bed. This trailer features a true queen-sized bed compared to the king-sized bed in the Cougar. I’m guessing there will be strong feelings about which is preferred among buyers.
Your pets may want a voice in this decision-making, too. Outback features a pet kennel under the bed. That is basically a mesh door that allows them to go into the storage space under the bed. If your pets aren’t crate trained or don’t like this kind of space, you don’t have to use it. But if they do, this could be a nifty feature. Of course, if you don’t have a pet this is just more storage. With a grated door. It’s like your stuff is in a little jail.
More highlights of the Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD interior
Other highlights of the interior of the Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD include the space below the dinette cushions which swing up for access. Outback always does a good job leaving this space open. It’s a good place for extra bedding or other things you’re not needing frequently.
On the subject of storage, there are some other neat aspects to this including a pantry next to the 12-volt compressor fridge. There is a drawer with a waste basket underneath it. It’s always a decision to make where to put the trash. Here that decision is made for you—and it’s an easy decision.
There’s also a pull-out pantry next to the stove, which has the smaller 16” oven—boo. There’s a drawer underneath the oven, as well. Do know that the Cougar sports the larger 22” oven.
I’ve written this before, but there are a lot of features in the Keystone product line that really stand out. Those start with the fact that all current production models feature at least 200 watts of solar on the roof. This trailer, too, has a number of outlets ready to work with an inverter, if you go that route. That means you can use 120-volt items when you’re off the grid, depending on the battery situation.
The standard system on the Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD trailer is simply that 200-watt panel. But you can upgrade to a system with 400 watts of roof-top solar and a 2000-watt inverter. Further, Keystone has partnered with Battle Born Batteries’ Dragonfly brand and is making lithium batteries available directly through dealerships.
Essentially, this means that you can buy a complete system from a dealership and leave and go boondocking that night. You don’t need to fiddle with all the various components and hope you get it right. And, when you don’t, having your spouse doing the “I told you so” dance.
A keystone feature of the Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD
One of the keystone features (hehe) here is the company’s “Blade Pure™” air conditioning system. Essentially, this puts a residential-style air filter in the air conditioning system, thereby filtering the air. It’s surprising that this is such a big deal, as this should just be how things are. But Keystone is the only brand I know of that’s doing this.
Further, Keystone has their own air conditioning venting and air distribution system that the company claims offers up to 20 percent better air delivery and performance.
There are a number of other features Keystone is doing with their “Innovation Labs” which, I feel, really do add a lot of value and make a positive difference in the company’s RV products.
Boondocking and travel access
You can do a lot with solar on Keystone RVs right from the factory. So if boondocking is your thing, these are products worth looking into for that reason alone.
The Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD trailer has 54 gallons of fresh water storage aboard, along with 30 gallons each of gray and black tank storage. Not bad.
As for travel access, you actually can get to almost the entire trailer with the slide room in—with the exception of the kitchen sink. There is the bathroom sink if you must wash your hands, so you’re not totally left high and dry.
Observations on the Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD
Interestingly, the water heater is at the front of the trailer, but the bathroom and kitchen are at the back. I wonder if it would make more sense to swap the water heater and power distribution panel so the water doesn’t have to travel as far? This does make sense in my brain—but so do a lot of other things that don’t play out in the real world.
I’m not a big fan of the brand of tires on this trailer. Also, I like suspensions other than simple leaf springs. But perhaps I’m being picky as there are millions of leaf spring trailers out there, including my own 1970 Aristocrat, and they get down the road just fine.
But with the kitchen in the Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD all the way at the back, I would be happier with an upgraded suspension, quite frankly.
Lastly, the location of the valves for the tank dump are under the slide room. This isn’t that big of a deal when the slide’s in, such as at a dump station. But if you’re in a campground for a while and need to dump your tanks, you had better be the champion in the limbo contest or one of those circus contortionists to get there.
I had very seriously considered the Keystone Cougar 22MLS for our next trailer, and I still really like that floor plan. So that means I like Outback Ultra-Lite 221UMD, too. There are enough variations in the two that someone who likes one but isn’t convinced should absolutely seek out the other. There will be a clear winner.
Interestingly, to me, I watched a video of this trailer from Myles McCall from Myles RV’s YouTube channel. He was quite fond of the color of the cabinetry, whereas, this would detract me. So that’s why I try not to comment on subjective things like this and just share aspects of RVs that will make a material difference in your long-term experience of them.
Which would you prefer?
I would be curious which of these two you would prefer, if this floor plan floats your boat, and why. You can always comment in our forums here on RVTravel or just down below. Thank you for your time and happy camping!
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 lifelong 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 an 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. 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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