I know a lot of campers who have chosen a specific brand of fifth wheel when they make their choice, often for full-time RVing. Knowing that I look at RVs day in and day out, 365 days a year, they often ask what they should buy. I suggest Northwood products, and then they buy something else.
I don’t get it. But they talk about how nice the cabinets and paint job on their rigs are and don’t think about much else. Why they bother asking is beyond me, frankly. Still, today I thought we’d all look at another Northwood fifth wheel—in this case the Northwood Arctic Fox Grande Ronde 28-5C.
Look beneath the skin
This is a mid-sized fifth wheel but one that’s 101 inches wide—wider than many RVs that are typically 96 inches wide. For those who might be getting excited at the prospect of a fifth wheel that’s not that long, at just 32’2” in length, hold on before you start shopping for one of these to tow behind your half-ton truck.
Northwood is one of the only companies I know of that builds their own frames rather than buying them from someone outside the company (typically Lippert or BAL). The company actually certifies their towable RVs for off-road use. Further, they use an upgraded suspension system that can be greased—which is a good thing.
These trailers ride on 16” Goodyear Endurance tires and have a tire pressure monitoring system. And, something you don’t often see in a trailer of this length, they also have a six-point auto leveling system.
I have often emphasized the idea of looking beneath the skin of an RV first before deciding you like the cabinets or the name. But, whatever.
Cold weather ready
One of the other interesting things about Northwood RVs is the insulation. These come with thicker walls than average, and even the baggage doors are thicker than most. The ceiling in these is actually padded—which is great for both sound and temperature insulation.
There are dual-pane windows standard which both block noise and provide a bit more temperature isolation. Don’t fool yourself, though. These don’t provide the insulation you get in residential dual-pane windows, as the glass panes are much closer together. But anything is better than nothing.
Further, these fifth wheels come with a 16-gallon water heater, which is more than enough for even longer showers. My wife and I do just fine with a single six-gallon water heater. So 16 gallons, ooh la la.
Highlights of the Arctic Fox Grande Ronde 28-5C
There are a number of things in this model that were new to my eyes, starting with a locking grab handle. The lock prevents naughty kids from just swinging it closed and, essentially, trapping you in the RV. That’s pretty cool.
Inside there’s an interesting slide-out sort of hanging wall just by the door. There are three hanging hooks and a sort of box beneath those that slides with the rest of the thing. It’s a pretty interesting arrangement.
There’s also a really wide theater seat that offers all the usual amenities plus a seat heater—so your seat is toasty. The center seating area also has a flip-up cushion. There’s a surprising amount of space beneath it.
Another unusual bit is the large “U”-shaped dinette at the back of this rig. Typically you’d see a couch back here, but the dinette offers plenty of seating space along with a table. So this is great if you enjoy game night, or just a meal.
The table at the center of this can move around like a Ouija board pointer. Pretty cool. Further, converting this large seating space into a sleeping space is as simple as effectively pushing down on the table, which is on a collapsing pedestal.
The kitchen in the Grande Ronde is a highlight
The kitchen is also a highlight with a large three-burner stove that features a larger center burner and a real residential-sized oven. Further, there’s a convection microwave above it.
Interestingly, the only refrigeration option I see is the 18-cubic-foot, four-door, propane-electric RV fridge. I’ve become a big fan of 12-volt fridges lately. I specifically optioned one into my new trailer. But there are also merits of these fridges, and this is a larger model.
There’s a good amount of cabinet and drawer space, as you’d expect in a fifth wheel. There are many storage surprises all over, including behind the TV, which flips up like an old garage door to reveal the storage. Plus, there’s storage under the dinette and especially at the front bulkhead of the living space.
I also like the cabinet below the center island that comes with a small garbage can. There’s a hole in the island countertop for throwing one’s trash. Good thinking ahead. But the folks at Northwood tend to actually use their campers, so this isn’t as big a surprise as you might expect.
Boondocking and travel access
I was quite surprised to see that you can get to much of what you’d need in this camper, even with the slides in.
Upstairs there’s a wardrobe slide. But that doesn’t really prevent you from using either the bathroom or bedroom. It’s just not as convenient, obviously.
Downstairs you could get to the fridge, sort of, even with the slide in. Neat.
There’s also 80 gallons of fresh water storage aboard. That is certainly enough for a few days off the grid. However, with 16-gallon showers, that could reduce your away time a bit. Perhaps a bit of conservation is in order.
I will say the 40-watt solar panel is little more than a battery tender in this rig, although larger solar options are available. Further, you can get either an Onan 3.6 or 5.5 propane-fueled generator. There are two 40-pound propane bottles aboard to keep those humming.
Interestingly, the standard version of this has a 30-amp service. There’s a 50-amp service optional. These definitely come from the Pacific Northwest (Northwood is located in Oregon). That’s evidenced by the single 13,500 BTU air conditioner, which is standard.
Observations of the Grande Ronde
This is a really solid but somewhat heavy trailer. Therefore, I would strongly suggest you do the numbers and at least lug it around with a three-quarter-ton truck. However, nobody would complain (except maybe your accountant!) if you went with a one-ton, single-axle model.
While Northwood products are known for their solid build and insulation, I am no fan of furnace vents in the floor. But that’s very common in fifth wheels in general. Still, like the lousy service aboard pirate ships, I don’t have to like it despite the fact that it’s common.
Also, as many RV makers in general are quickly moving away from carpeting in slide rooms, Northwood remains a company that uses this. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but I just am not a fan of carpeting in RVs.
Northwood is not the big daddy rabbit of RV makers and, with the cost of transporting RVs, they certainly have a West Coast ownership bias. But if you are in the market for a fifth wheel and you can take a look at these, please do.
I really like the features you can’t see, and also the ones you can.
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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. 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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