Some Assembly Required
The Open Range 3X349RLS by Highland Ridge RV takes longer to set up than most fifth-wheels, but the extra effort is worth the time
When we were kids, the best gifts underneath the Christmas tree always required some sort of assembly, be they bicycles, wagons or dollhouses. The anticipation of the finished product, patiently assembled by Mom or Dad, bordered on excruciating. And though we were always delighted when the moment of completion arrived and we could finally enjoy our special gift, there seemed to be just a tinge of disappointment when we realized that moment was now over, not to be relived again until next year, if we were lucky. Happily, the Open Range 3X349RLS by Highland Ridge RV recaptures some of that Christmas morning excitement, and the good news is, you can reassemble this toy again and again.
Certainly, all fifth-wheels require some setup, which most of us look forward to as a sort of ceremony leading up to a weekend, or several weeks, of relaxation with friends and family. But this particular floorplan offers an optional exterior deck that folds down from the curbside slideout, which not only adds to the entertainment space but provides a feeling of openness few RVs can match.
The idea of an outdoor deck is not a new one, but as with all RV components, the success of a feature depends on its overall execution, how well it complements the floorplan as a whole, and in general, if it is truly useful or just a gimmick. In the case of the 3X349RLS, the concept works whether you’re enjoying it in the summer or winter months. The residential-style sliding-glass door admits welcome light from the outdoors, which prevents feelings of claustrophobia on rainy or snowy days. And in the summer, the door can be opened and the screen left shut to bring the fresh breeze inside. Of course, the deck itself would be essentially worthless if it couldn’t support the weight of a few guests, so Highland Ridge built it to hold up to 1,500 pounds — more than enough capacity for a few revelers.
As you might expect, a trailer as unique as this one requires some consideration when planning trips. The Open Range 3X349RLS starts out with a wide, 102-inch exterior, then adds two giant opposing slides. This alone makes the 3X349RLS big enough to fill most RV park sites, but add the deck, and the width roughly equals one-and-a-half fifth-wheels. For our test, we reached out to our friends at Pechanga RV Resort and Casino in Temecula, California, who set us up with a large deluxe site bordered by a grassy area featuring a picnic table. By moving the table and folding down the deck, we had just enough space to fully deploy the slides and deck but not much more. So, make sure wherever you plan to stay has adequate space. If there isn’t enough room, you can still enjoy this floorplan, but you’ll have a windowless curbside slideout, as the deck floor will cover the glass slider.
Once we leveled the fifth-wheel with the automatic jack system and deployed the slides, the extra work began. The deck floor unlatches easily from the side and lowers without much effort, thanks to spring assist. Once down, the integrated stab jacks are lowered and adjusted; it takes some practice to guess how long the jacks need to be to provide a level deck surface, not to mention crawling under the deck a few times to make sure the jacks are properly placed. This could become messy if the ground is wet or muddy, so you may consider carrying a plastic tarp with you to crawl onto if necessary. If the ground is dry and comfortable, it’s just a matter of a few adjustments that shouldn’t be a problem for those with a good back and knees.
Once this step is completed, it’s time to put up the railing. Open Range cleverly provides an extra bin underneath the forward storage compartment in which to store the railing sections and pins. It slides out like a large utility drawer and is secured during transit with a pin. Made of black plastic, the drawer is not the prettiest thing, but it’s a far better solution than having the railings tangled with your other belongings in the main storage area. The railings are marked so you know which side they go on, but even then it takes a bit of time to organize, install and secure them. We recommend you complete this step before the sun goes down.
Once set up, this fifth-wheel is quite a spectacle and drew more than its fair share of interested RVers at the park. The white, gray and blue exterior graphic scheme with frameless windows is handsome, and both power awnings feature LED lighting, which makes for a cool-looking party pad in the evenings. The unit seemed well-constructed and offered nice features, such as a heated and enclosed underbelly, a Trailair pin box and landing jacks featuring JT’s Strong Arm jack stabilizers for a solid, shake-free foundation. We also appreciated the small details, like TV prep on the exterior wall adjacent to the deck area, which allows you to mount a small TV once the deck is deployed.
Stepping inside, the living area feels massive and is a treat for the eyes with Stone decor (one of three available) featuring light wood cabinetry and faux wood-plank Beauflor vinyl flooring that seemed durable and was easy to clean. Providing visual contrast were the rear couch and streetside theater seating, which were finished in embossed black upholstery with white stitching. Both were very comfortable and perfectly placed for watching the flat-screen television, mounted in an entertainment hutch in the corner of the curbside slideout. The hutch also offers an electric fireplace, making for a cozy environment ideal for kicking back and relaxing during the evening.
The forward kitchen is somewhat unorthodox, in that it offers an optional island with casters that can be located wherever it’s convenient for you, although overhead pendant lighting suggests it should be placed in the center of the floor space. The island features a dark brown finish, complemented by a solid-surface countertop, and cabinets and drawers with brushed-nickel pulls. During travel, the island stows on the backside of the dinette and is secured with straps (there are anchors in the floor), and the dinette chairs reside upside down on the theater seats so they don’t interfere with slideout operation. It’s a little extra work, but once you get used to it, setup goes pretty quickly.
A 12-cubic-foot RV refrigerator with wood-panel fronts is located in the streetside slideout, and next to it is a stainless-steel three-burner stove with an oven and a residential-size microwave mounted overhead. We found that the corner-mounted stove was rather confining when cooking meals, but the reality is that cooking is only a small portion of meal prep. The bulk of your time is spent chopping and slicing, and the forward wall, with its large solid-surface countertop and dual-bowl stainless-steel sink provide plenty of space. There’s also an abundance of cabinet and drawer space, and a nice-size pantry on the curbside slideout, next to the entertainment hutch. Moreover, we found little to complain about, though everyone who walked through the Open Range had negative comments about the floor register located dead center in the living area floor. This is something Highland Ridge should consider locating in a less conspicuous area.
Next to the forward cabinets are a small coat closet and angled stairs that lead up to the bath and bedroom. The entry door has an obscured glass treatment that makes the area feel more open and is just more pleasing to look at than a solid door. The bath area is well executed with plenty of space where you need it most. There’s lots of elbowroom around the toilet, and the opposing vanity, with its glass-vessel sink, is an elegant touch. We particularly enjoyed the residential-size 48-inch x 30-inch shower with molded seat and appreciated the drawer space between the shower and bedroom entry. Above the drawers are a mirror and a pull-out counter for extra space, which allows two people to get ready for a night out at the same time.
The bedroom features a 72-inch x 80-inch bed, bordered by shelves that are perfectly sized for books, water glasses, etc. There is plenty of walk-around room and enough space near the headboard on either side, so making the bed in the morning is not a struggle. A mirrored wardrobe up front easily accommodated our travel essentials, and a cabinet on the curb side offered washer/dryer prep. At the foot of the bed are a chest of drawers for more folded items and space for an optional TV.
Make no mistake about it — the Open Range 3X349RLS isn’t for everyone, particularly those who just want to press a few buttons and kick back once they get to their campsite. But for those willing to do a little extra work, this fifth-wheel rewards with a lot of entertaining space and a fun factor that will make you the talk of any RV park.
Highland Ridge RV Open Range
260-768-7771 | www.openrangerv.com