By Tony Barthel
What’s the difference between a travel trailer and a fifth wheel? Obviously, a fifth wheel has the raised front section that rides over a pickup box but, aside from that, fifth wheels tend to be larger and offer more cargo-carrying space than travel trailers. And, oftentimes, they’re also better equipped.
But what if you don’t want a fifth wheel and still want a large, livable floor plan? Perhaps you might be interested in a trailer that you could live in full time and climbing the steps in a fifth wheel is a deal-breaker? Now what?
Those are actually questions we answered quite a bit when I was selling RVs. One of the groups who was particularly interested in this type of rig was people who had gone through wildfires and were now rebuilding. Quite a number of these folks had lost everything and needed a roof over their heads while they put their worlds back together.
But there are also people for whom this type of trailer is simply a matter of choice, or a preference. These are people who might want a larger trailer for the space and living function, but don’t want a fifth wheel for a number of reasons. Essentially, they want a flat fifth wheel.
So what did we offer to customers? One of the choices was the Keystone Outback line of trailers – a larger, substantial series of trailers from Outback. While a lot of trailers are built to be more affordably priced, I was impressed that the Outback series was really built to last.
Keystone Outback 328RL
When I first saw the Keystone Outback 328RL it wasn’t its large size that impressed me, but it was the two refrigerators in the trailer. Seriously. I’m not talking just a second puny bar-sized fridge on the outside – I’m talking two full RV refrigerators. Nowadays, Keystone has moved to the 12-volt compressor-based refrigerators. But these were two gas-absorption RV fridges in the kitchen. But I get ahead of myself.
Signature things about the premier Outback line included the fact that the TPO roof material was rolled over the joint between the wall and the roof much like in some motorhomes. It means that there’s less of an exposed joint. Keystone also warrants the roof material for a full 18 years.
Our rep made a big deal of the fact that the body of the trailer was attached to the frame with huck bolts. Also that those frames were specific to each model of the Outback line. The front of the trailer is a painted cap that also overlaps the walls. The bottom of the cap is painted with the same type of paint used for lining truck beds. The finish on these trailers is an above-average type with a high-gloss gel finish.
The Keystone Outback 328RL has full auto level
For those who want a full auto level in a travel trailer, it’s available here and built by B-A-L, the same company that makes the unique frames for these trailers. The optional B-A-L 7.3 auto level uses six jacks under the trailer. These are in conjunction with the power tongue jack. And it remembers the height the trailer was when you disconnected it from the truck. Hit a button and the leveling jacks raise up – and the nose of the trailer raises to meet the hitch ball.
While we’re discussing exterior features, note that there’s a front compartment with a metal sliding drawer that goes the full length of the area much like in a motorhome. There are also two awnings on this model: one on the camp-side slide and the other on the front of the trailer.
The floor plan of this trailer is very much like a fifth wheel, which you’ll notice as you step inside. Your entry point is a hallway – where you’ll notice night lights throughout. Take a left and you’re in the main living area, which features opposing slide rooms.
The camp side is a dinette. I was pleased with the cushions used in these dinettes. These are yet another example of a slightly more upscale attitude when building trailers. The dinette table can be pushed down and the backrests slide in to make a bed. This is not unusual, but the thicker cushions are. Also, the seat cushions flip up to reveal under-seat storage.
Next up are theater seats from Thomas Payne, a furniture brand you’re more likely to see in fifth wheels than in travel trailers.
The back wall is a tri-fold sofa and, again, the cushions are thicker than average on this. So it’s a decently comfortable bed when it’d doing sleeping duty.
On the camp-side slide, there’s a huge 50” TV lording over an equally wide electric fireplace. I would assume this trailer will spend much of its life taking full advantage of that 50-amp power service. So having electric heat to supplement the furnace is a good thing.
The galley in the Keystone Outback 328RL
Next down the line is a Furrion three-burner RV stove with 22-inch oven. There’s a drawer directly underneath that which matches the finish and is intended for pots and pans. Next to that are those two refrigerators. Outback has moved to 12-volt GE refrigerators instead of the gas-electric models.
Around the corner from that on the front wall is a cabinet that really does look like what you’d expect in a fifth wheel. That cabinet features the microwave, a paper towel holder, some cabinet and drawer space and a countertop with a plug.
Overall, this is quite a nice space to be in. I was particularly fond of Outback’s “farmhouse”-style decor, although there are two choices to pick from. The company is also particularly proud of the doors and door jambs they use. The doors are solid core and covered in two types of wood finish. The door jambs are also wood and fully framed out. This might seem like a small detail but it really does change the way an RV feels as you open and close doors. It does result in a higher quality feel overall.
The bathroom and bedroom are roomy
The bathroom is in the middle of the coach and is a bit larger than you might expect in a travel trailer. There’s a corner radius shower and a porcelain toilet. They’ve also included a linen closet inside.
In the bedroom of the Keystone Outback 329RL you’ll find the third slide room where the king-sized bed resides. That bed rides sideways in this trailer so it can go out with the slide room. Along the front/nose of the trailer is a closet and drawers. There’s even plumbing and space for a washer/dryer. Furthermore, there are additional drawers in a camp-side cabinet in the bedroom.
Lastly, one of the more clever things about Outback trailers is the pet kennel under the bed. If you have a small or medium-sized pet, this could be a great place for them to sleep if they are crate trained. Even if you don’t have a pet you can use the space for storage or shoes. Furthermore, of course, there is additional space under the bed for other things.
I was really happy with the Outback line of trailers when I was selling them. They tended to have few issues and were built like tanks. However, that also meant that they were heavy. So you’ll need a serious truck to haul them around. But life is always about trade-offs, isn’t it?
Essentially, this is a flat fifth-wheel trailer and has almost all the benefits of a typical fifth-wheel floor plan without the steps up to the bathroom and bedroom. This gives another option for those who prefer a “bumper pull” trailer to a fifth wheel for this reason. Or maybe they want to use the bed of the pickup for something other than the hitch.
I’ve also mentioned Keystone’s HyperDeck flooring before as being a waterproof laminated flooring product. I like this. I also like their “race track” air conditioning ducting system. You’ll notice on my chart I actually had a tough time finding things I didn’t like about this trailer. That’s partially based on the customer experiences of those who bought these.
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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