Friday, September 17, 2021
Friday, September 17, 2021

RV Review: Forest River Sabre 36BHQ Mid-room Fifth Wheel

Watching RV manufacturers scramble to adjust what they’re building to what people are asking for shows that, in many ways, the RV industry really is listening to consumer demands. Right now there is an ever-greater focus on boondocking as a solution to RV campgrounds being fully booked. 

There is also increased incorporation of work surfaces as smarter employers let their staff work from wherever. 

One RV brand that has been sort of off my radar has been Forest River’s Sabre, a line of fifth wheels that seems to follow Forest River’s Cherokee line. Those offer a lot of value with features that make their products very usable at a price point that makes sense. 

I recently was made aware of this brand by Jason and Abby Epperson’s RVMiles presence. I’m a listener to their podcast and they recently became Sabre brand ambassadors. As such, I took at look at a few of the company’s fifth wheels. I liked what I saw, especially at the price point. 

Sabre 36BHQ

The first model I checked out to share with you was the Sabre 36BHQ. This floor plan offers a room in the middle with a large bunk room above it. 

As always, there is the stated use for something like this – and then what goes through my mind. But this could actually be a great rig for those people who have grandchildren that come camping with them. Over that room in the middle of this floor plan is a large padded and almost completely caged in room. It would be an awesome sleeping “fort” for the right grandchildren. 

Below that is a room that could be a TV watching room, a remote classroom or just the room I get to sleep in when I say something stupid. Again. In that room is a tri-fold sofa that works well as a seating surface or a bed, and then there are various cabinets. There’s also the hook-up for a TV as well. But I could see using that space for a really large monitor that I’ve AirPlay-connected to my laptop. 

What better place to watch RV video tours and write RV reviews from? But this would also be a great craft room that you could close off. 

If you don’t have the kiddos with you on this trip, or you’re like me and just don’t have kiddos in your life, that big mattress upstairs could go away. That space then becomes lots and lots of storage. 

Value features in the Sabre 36BHQ

Looking at the Sabre brand, there were a number of things that really stood out to me. Those started with a ten-gallon quick-recover water heater. (Most mid-priced and below RVs have six-gallon units.)

This rig also features a 30” microwave, which is larger than most. Refrigeration comes from a 12-volt 17-cubic-foot Everchill refrigerator. I really, really like this unit. It features digital temperature controls (no more fooling with colder/hotter while your milk spoils). It also features a double/French-top door along with a drawer-style freezer with a second internal drawer. 

As compensation for using a 12-volt refrigerator (as opposed to propane/electric), Sabre puts a 50-watt solar panel on the roof. Honestly, I wish they would just either not bother or put a 190-watt panel up there and charge a little more for the rig. I don’t think 50 watts does much and it certainly won’t compensate for the draw of that fridge unless you’re in perfect conditions. 

Bottom line: Just add more panels or don’t go boondocking. 

More stuff about the Sabre 36BHQ

There are some other things I also like about this rig, including the zebra shades. These are banded black-and-opaque shades that let you choose how much light to block, or just open them completely and let the sun shine in. 

I also really like that Sabre has no floor vents. Over and over, fifth wheel manufacturers tell me they have to have floor vents because the basement is heated to keep the tanks from freezing. Well, this fifth wheel features a heated and enclosed underbelly and no floor vents. Bazinga. 

On the subject of staying warm, the walls on this rig are 2 inches thick. I will note, however, that the baggage doors are not. They also incorporate traditional locks with the dreaded 751 key. 

This also features a Lippert Edge awning. The advantage of this is that the awning’s lights are at the outer edge of the awning instead of along the body of the trailer. That means you can use the extend/retract feature of the awning to raise and lower the lights when it’s extended. A nice feature. I also like that Lippert awnings have the unique characteristic of having an access port. That means if there’s a power or wiring failure, you can still retract the awning manually with an electric drill and Allen bit driver. 

There are open tables on either side of the couch at the back, which are great for storing things. Having that couch plus the one in the mid-room means you could sleep eight people in here if you wanted. Heck, add a drunken uncle passed out in the theater seats and you’re up to nine. 

Technology

It’s funny how many RV companies have asked why I don’t mention that their RVs are backup camera ready. The reason I don’t is that this is as common as fleas on dogs. But this trailer comes with a backup camera already installed. It works through the Lippert OneControl system on your smartphone. 

I really like this because it means that the backup camera image that you see is on a screen that’s likely already in place on your instrument panel as opposed to requiring yet another screen. (I have the Steelie Squeeze phone mount on my truck’s dashboard.)

Furthermore, you can use the camera while you’re camping as a security camera of sorts, seeing what the camera sees on your phone. 

This also lets you control awnings, slide rooms and a number of other functions in the trailer with the phone or with some buttons and a touchscreen. 

Another bit of technology is something that’s really simple. The valve stem covers feature a pressure-operated display that shows if a tire is below recommended inflation pressure. If it’s a bit low, the cap will show yellow; if it’s very low, it’ll show red. 

Now, I am absolutely no fan of Castle Rock tires at all. But at least this is a simple and inexpensive way to show the inflation pressure, which is a critical component in tire safety. 

Another brilliant feature in the Sabre 36BHQ

The last thing I think is brilliant about the Sabre 36BHQ is a QR code in the pantry. It links to the owner’s manual and owner forums on Facebook. 

Let’s assume you’re in a campground and have a question about the water heater, or water system, or how to see what’s on the camera at the back. You simply open the pantry, show the QR code to the camera on your smartphone and you get access to the company’s manuals and social media pages, among other things. I think this is exactly the way it should be done, frankly. 

Honestly, I don’t want paper manuals. Having access to everything on my smartphone or tablet is the way to go. This little QR code is a brilliant way to give me that access without my having to remember where it is. 

In summary

Word on the street is that Forest River is selling the heck out of Sabre fifth wheels, and I can see why. There are a tremendous number of features included here that really make sense. 

While I think the Castle Rock tires and wimpy solar panel are not the greatest, these would not be deal breakers at all for me. 

The flexibility of this particular floor plan along with the usable features that will make a difference over time lead me to add the Sabre brand to my list of companies to watch more closely. 

I do wish there were the option of a queen-sized bed as the upstairs bedroom isn’t that large. But you have a good place to hang out downstairs in the office/bedroom/”dog house” – so, again, not a deal breaker in my view. 

Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long 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 a podcast about the RV life with his wife. 

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.

Got an RV we need to look at? Contact us today and let us know in the form below – thank you!

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Commenter
11 days ago

dump valves under the slider is the deal breaker for us

Commenter
11 days ago
Reply to  Commenter

…our backs and knees are the issue

good review though, I appreciated your pro and con comments, they are helpful, especially since you have more experience to provide them, so they are useful for many of us

Lao
16 days ago

This is a nice RV! Has everything I want except COLOR! Reading comments on various sites indicates people and me want lighter interiors. I am sick of black and brown. Please tell me this is other color options.

Steve
16 days ago

My wife would gladly give up 7 cubic feet of that big 12v refrigerator for more counter space next to the stove. But she would love the second bedroom (if the sofa-bed were removed) for her crafting/quilting room!

I agree completely on that useless solar panel and the much too small fresh water tank. How do they expect you to fill two waste tanks that hold 3 times the volume of the fresh tank? Oh, I know . . . they expect the fifth wheel will never be used outside a FHU campground. So much for their being aware of the trend toward more boondocking–they are merely paying lip-service to it. Maybe this huge, 42′ rig could be used for one night of dry camping, but certainly no longer than that.

Kathy Lindley
16 days ago

I really hope that someday the rv manufacturers stop putting reading lights on the ceiling over the master bed. They should be on the wall behind the pillows so they do not shine in your eyes and a gooseneck adjustable light is the best. I am not talking about overhead lights for the whole room, just the reading lights.

Tommy Molnar
17 days ago

I really like that the LEDs on the awning are at the outside so they don’t shine all over the campground when lit. Other mfg’s should take note. But, it almost looks like they got the fresh and grey tanks reversed. 49 gallons for eight people?

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