By Tony Barthel
I’ve talked a bit about truck campers and the fact that many of them can tow a decent trailer. Another bonus of truck campers, of course, is that you can outfit those pickups however you like, including having four-wheel-drive. But those aren’t the only options. We’ve looked at RVs like the Thor Magnitude RB34 Class C, which is based on the Ford F550 chassis. Today, we’re focusing on the Forest River Dynamax Isata 5 Series Class C. Whew, what a name!
These Class Cs are based on the Ram 5500 chassis, which means motivation comes from a Cummins 6.7L inline six-cylinder diesel. That translates into both good cargo-carrying capacity and, more importantly, significant trailering capability as well. For example, the Isata 5 28SS has a towing capacity of 20,000 pounds, more than even some three-quarter-ton pickups. And that’s with a motorhome on the back of it.
What’s inside the Dynamax Isata 5 28SS
The smallest member of the Isata family is the one I am most intrigued with only because it’s the most maneuverable. However, there are floor plans that extend up to 36’5” with two slides and a king bed – so you do have options.
Inside the 28SS it’s more traditionally what you’d expect in a Class C motorhome. The galley is immediately to the left of the entry door. There you’ll find a stainless steel sink, three-burner stove, convection microwave and a two-way gas-absorption RV refrigerator.
Interestingly, I saw multiple types of sinks illustrated and featured in different places including conflicting models on Forest River’s own website. It may be a dual-bowl sink, it may be a single round sink. I assume photos were taken at various stages of vehicle development, which makes sense.
The slide room in the Dynamax Isata 5
Across the floor is the only slide room in this package. It comes filled with a dinette that can make into a bed and will seat four diners. My choice would be the theater seats instead. They feature heat and massage along with USB chargers. When it’s meal or work time you get two Lagun tables with the theater seats. I find that very useful.
Over the cab is a large bed with a railing to keep you from rolling out and making a midnight thud – followed by a complete string of all the words your mom told you good children don’t say.
The TV is up in the overhead as well, on a swing-out arm with a soundbar hung underneath it.
Beyond the fridge are what look like two closets, but one of those is actually a pull-out pantry that’s pretty sizable. The second one can be a pantry with shelves or hanging space or a hybrid – depending on how you choose to configure the movable shelves.
The roomy dry bath in the Dynamax Isata 5
Across the hall is the dry bath. It has a nicely finished shower stall and a roomy space for taking advantage of the porcelain toilet. This is also where you’ll find one of two high-performance vent fans in this rig. So I would imagine you could create quite a breeze.
Even with the slide room in you can literally access everything in the rig for those roadside stops. The slide room does open up the space, but doesn’t hamper access to anything whatsoever. There isn’t any carpet in the slide, either.
Interestingly, the theater seats or the dinette both have seat belts, but they’re also in the slide. I wonder how well those seat belt anchors perform in the event of a collision? I obviously have no test data on this. But it is something I would consider if I had people I liked belted into that space.
Lastly, the bedroom features a queen-sized bed. All the photos I saw showed a remote control for each side of the bed with no mention of what this does. Darnit, Forest River, why incorporate a feature and then not tell the story of that feature?
There are closets and drawers on either side of the bed, as well.
There’s a lot to like about even the base model of this rig, including the full body paint instead of stickers. If you’re sitting down you might be surprised to learn that I love the exterior decor. It is a really tasteful forest scene that’s somewhat subdued.
There’s a standard Onan 8dW diesel generator aboard with auto-gen start, along with a 2,800-watt pure sine wave inverter. Your hot water comes courtesy of a Truma AquaGo Comfort water heater. This offers the benefits of a tankless water heater design.
Cabinets are all hardwood with pocket screwed and glued construction. Drawers are of the soft close variety. Even the ceiling is padded.
Xplorer Package in the Dynamax Isata 5
Specifically, I was interested in the Xplorer Package on this rig, which adds a lot of functionality in many ways. Included in the package are four lithium batteries for a total of 400 amp-hours of reserve. Those batteries are also heated so they can charge even when the weather gets chilly.
There are also 800 watts of solar with an MPPT controller to keep those batteries topped off. That’s a pretty significant amount of sun power.
For camping where the weather is more extreme, there are dual-pane, seamless windows, a furnace-heated utility bay with thermal-foil insulation, a secondary 12-volt tank heater, and temperature sensors in the utility bay.
The walls, floor and roof are additionally insulated with this package. Finally, there’s an insulated cab curtain to keep you better insulated from the cab of this beast.
This is quite a beast of a machine and would make sense if you have something to tow or want to go off-roading (within limitations, since this isn’t an overlanding rig, per se). I like the way the storage bays are sealed and finished. There is a lot of storage capability in the rear compartments of this rig, which has doors at the rear and on either side.
The only thing I saw that was a bit odd was how deeply the sewer fitting sat in the wet bay behind the outdoor shower.
One last thing to consider. Since this uses a Ram heavy-duty cab that you could sort of equate to a pickup cab, the whole engine is more easily accessible than in a van cutaway or even in a bus-type rig. Friends who are RV techs say that engine accessibility on vans and Class A rigs is tough. So this could be easier, although all engines nowadays require that you remove a mountain of plastic before you can actually do any work on the engines.
But Ram has also done an outstanding job with the cabs of these rigs and provides what I consider a class-leading interior with a gigantic touch screen. Of course, there are all sorts of electronic babysitters to keep you pointed down the straight and narrow.
Yep. I dig this rig.
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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Forest River really has put together a fantastic unit. Every accessory or option is first cabin. Your independence is assured by lithium batteries, enough panels and an inverter of adequate strength. It makes an impressive appearance on the road. The black paint mountainscape option gives a Darth Vader look to the rig. If fault must be found, the price is in the solid Super C category. Tony, you didn’t mention if an engine block heater is available. A buddy of mine has the big Ram pickup with the Cummins straight 6 diesel. He loves the engine and the cylinder configuration, but complains about hard starting in the wintertime. It’s not as big as some of the Renegades and near 40 ft Cs, but the perfect size for a couple and 2 friends: good tank capacities and a good generator for cloudy days if you want to boondock. Plus, you can tow a CRV for a trip into town. Great piece on a really attractive rig, Tony.
First of all, thank you Roger. I agree, I really like this rig and they’ve really done a great job making the exterior tasteful to my eyes.
If FCA doesn’t offer a block heater for this Cummins engine there are likely a number of them available in the aftermarket.
Hmmm. Great departure angle (for what it is), nothing crucial in the slide or blocked by it when it fails, N/S bed. . . . Nice rig!