If you enjoy cooking and entertaining, head toward Fox Mountain
Those of us who consider cooking and entertaining an important part of the RV lifestyle can become frustrated by the kitchen offerings in many fifth-wheels. Entry-level models often don’t have the equipment or counter space we need, while higher-end models tend to cater to wealthier owners who spend more time dining out than eating in. But the Fox Mountain lineup by Northwood Manufacturing offers one unique floorplan that makes the kitchen a priority, and sweetens the pot by making it affordable.
Called the 325RKS, this fifth-wheel is only 34 feet 11 inches long, and with a gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of 13,000 pounds, it’s towable by most single-rear-wheel 2500-series trucks. What makes this floorplan interesting is that the typical fifth-wheel living area arrangement has been swapped, placing the kitchen all the way at the back and the living area in the middle. At first it’s hard to imagine how this would be advantageous, but by spreading the kitchen over the streetside corner and rear wall, there’s more usable space in a smaller footprint. And with an L-shaped sofa sleeper, two reclining rockers and a convertible fixed dinette, Northwood’s claim that this floorplan can accommodate up to six seemed reasonable, if a bit intimate.
To find out, we invited friends along to help us test the 325RKS to its maximum capacity at a family campground near Goleta, California. We towed the trailer with our long-term 2014 Ford F-350 dually, which was more hardware than we needed for this trailer, but it made for effortless towing. As noted above, a 2500-series truck should have no difficulty towing the 325RKS either.
Setting up was pretty easy, even though this trailer does not come with automatic leveling or offer it as an option. The front landing jacks are operated by a switch at the front, while the rear scissor jacks are activated by a switch behind a door on the curb side. This arrangement worked just fine for our level site, but if you camp in more rugged locales, you’ll probably want to bring along leveling blocks.
The 325RKS is as good looking as it is functional. Tan fiberglass is complemented by brown and black graphics and a black diamond-plate-look rock guard up front. There’s also an LED hitch light on the front cap, and an additional LED strip light underneath, which we found perfectly positioned to light the power cord connection on the driver’s side of the truck bed. Aluminum wheels look nicely finished and are fitted with Goodyear tires, an unexpected but welcome feature. The Fox Mountain does not have the frameless windows that are becoming popular on newer fifth-wheels and other RVs, which is OK with us, as the ones we’ve seen don’t seem as robust as traditional framed windows.
The forward pass-through storage compartment has a relatively low ceiling, but it served our needs and should be adequate for most users. This area also has some plumbing passing through from the front bath, but it is located on the front corner of the compartment, so this shouldn’t be an issue if you keep large, heavy items from making contact. These can go in the front compartment, which has a metal floor and is better suited for heavy items like generators, tools, etc. A vented compartment above the curbside baggage door has room for two batteries, and on the street side of the trailer is a door that allows access to the city water connection and black-tank flush (the latter of which is clearly labeled to prevent unfortunate mistakes).
There are the usual hot-cold handles for an outside shower, but instead of an attached hose with a sprayer, there’s a quick disconnect for a coiled hose. The hose stores behind a separate door within the compartment, and it’s long enough to be used for spraying off dirty feet, washing off a bike or simply rinsing the sewer hose when finished with dumping duties. We appreciated the addition of an LED strip light above the utility area, which makes it easier
to set up or break camp at night.
The dump handles for the black tank and forward gray tank are both exposed, as is the rear gray-tank handle. We’d prefer if these could be located behind locked doors, but at least the handles are up high against the underbelly and aren’t readily visible from the outside. The same can’t be said of the gray-water line that runs from the rear kitchen to the front, as it hangs down below the body on a slant to promote waterflow. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it is a necessity of this trailer’s design.
As a relatively small fifth-wheel, the 325RKS comes with a single 13,500-Btu ducted air conditioner, with a 15,000-Btu unit as an option. Initially, we were concerned that one air-conditioning unit would not be enough in the 85-degree temps, but we simply put the day/night shades in night mode and kept the door closed, after which the interior maintained a cool and comfortable 74 degrees all day in our partially shaded site. This may be attributable to Northwood’s highly touted All-Conditions/Four Seasons Insulation.
As the afternoon turned to evening, we started getting ready for dinner. Though most of the cooking was done outside on the grill, all of the preparation was done inside, where there was more than enough room for two chefs to work. The kitchen is equipped with an attached island kitchen that forms a U once the streetside slideout is deployed. There’s an abundance of solid-surface counter space for both preparation and serving, and there are dual sink covers if you need additional room. The sink is a residential-size stainless-steel model with two sides and features a residential-style stainless-steel faucet with pullout sprayer, which makes cleanup easy. Appliances include an Atwood three-burner stove with oven, vent hood and a smallish High Pointe microwave oven, all of which are finished in stainless steel for a more upscale appearance.
At first, cabinet and drawer space seems only adequate, until you take a closer look. There are three cabinets to the right of the microwave, four drawers to the right of the oven — two shallow and two deep — and another large drawer underneath the oven. That should probably be enough for most folks, but in the forward part of the kitchen cabinet are three more huge drawers that are made visible once the slideout is deployed. In addition, the rounded end of the island has a hidden handle that allows you to open this area for even more storage. The small shelves within would be a good place to store spices and canned goods, but you probably won’t even need it once you see the pantry. Located on the streetside corner just behind the galley, it is quite possibly the largest pantry we’ve seen on a fifth-wheel at any size. It is accessed by a full-size door and has five shelves — there is enough room here to keep a family of six stocked up for a long time.
On the back wall of the trailer is a hutch that offers more cabinets as well as additional countertop space. It’s an ideal place to put food that is ready to serve, and next to the hutch is an 8-cubic-foot refrigerator with storage above and below. There is no dedicated place for a trash can, but you could put one in the pantry area, if you wanted, or cut a notch in the shelf underneath the sink and place one there. Fortunately, there’s so much room elsewhere that using the space underneath the sink wouldn’t impact storage options in the slightest.
Forward of the galley is the small but cozy living area, which features a convertible couch that can be extended to an L-shaped configuration simply by attaching the freestanding chair. We actually preferred this option instead of a slideout L-shaped sofa, as we found it easier to set up. The chair has wheels on it, so it’s simply a matter of pushing it over to the couch and attaching it with the integrated hooks. During travel, the chair stows near the forward entertainment center, so it does not interfere with the slideouts coming in from either side. The only problem with this is that the chair can move during travel, so make sure to secure it with pillows or blankets so it can’t cause or receive damage.
The couch is well padded and easily converts into a trifold bed that is reasonably comfortable. The forward entertainment center is occupied by a 39-inch Jensen LED television and matching Jensen AM/FM/DVD/iPod player that is very easy to use and offers switches to control the individual sound zones (living area, bedroom, patio). It’s not fancy, but it looks and sounds good — and more importantly, it works. The only thing we didn’t understand is why the TV is mounted on an extending arm that swivels; this is totally unnecessary, as the TV can be viewed from anywhere in the living or kitchen area already. The addition of the arm means that the TV wiggles during travel, and we found it necessary to place a cushion between it and the slideout wall to prevent possible damage during travel.
In the curbside slideout is a fixed dinette that is comfortable and roomy enough for four average-size adults. It is laminate but has the same color and finish as the solid surfaces in the kitchen — a nice design detail. The dinette easily converts to a bed for two small adults or kids, and underneath each bench is a large storage drawer. Forward of the dinette are two reclining rockers that are comfortable but probably aren’t an ideal solution for this space. The rockers are close together and must be moved away from the wall to recline. Once you do that, the base tends to fall off the step at the edge of the slideout floor. Wall-hugging theater seating would be a welcome addition, perhaps as an option.
The forward bathroom uses a Jack-and-Jill arrangement so it can be accessed by the hall or bedroom. The area is adequately sized for the tasks at hand and includes a counter with sink and storage, a mirrored medicine cabinet with vanity lights, a linen closet and a shower with a glass door. One thing we appreciated here was that the shower can serve double duty as a bathtub for the little ones. The faucet and handles are mounted low in the deep, high-sided shower pan, but the showerhead is mounted high. It’s a smart design that works for just about everyone. And, instead of the usual cheapo ceiling vent, this trailer has a standard Fan-Tastic Vent fan that really moves the air in a hurry. The only thing we felt could be improved was the faucet, which looked like brushed nickel but was really plastic.
The bedroom is small but usable. The queen-size bed offers underbed storage, and the streetside slideout contains a small wardrobe that should be fine for a traveling family. There is another cabinet on the street side of the bed, but oddly, none on the curb side. In any case, there’s adequate counter space, a drawer and a 120-volt AC outlet on either side, plus plenty of lighting and a remote for the bedroom Fan-Tastic Vent fan mounted within easy reach. Our bedroom was prewired for television, but didn’t include one, and frankly we didn’t miss it. You may choose to get your own or opt for the 26-inch LED unit Northwood offers as an option.
Overall, there were no real complaints with this fifth-wheel, but there are some things to note. The forward drawers in the galley can be broken if they’re not completely closed, as they will interfere with the adjacent cabinet as the slide moves in or out. And you can’t access the rear refrigerator or the pantry at all until the slideouts are almost completely open. This makes it somewhat of a hassle during packing, but we suppose it is just a concession to this fifth-wheel’s unique design.
If you appreciate the freedom to entertain in a roomy but manageable fifth-wheel, the Fox Mountain 325RKS is an excellent choice.