Open Range 385 RLS fifth wheel
Open Range 385 RLS fifth wheel. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Howard Elmer

Photo Gallery:
2009 Open Range 385 RLS

The Open Range RV Co. is a new manufacturer of fifth wheels, so if you haven’t heard of them it would be understandable. However, the principal of the company is anything but new to the business. President Randy Graber worked for New Mar, KZ and Keystone before starting Open Range in 2007. And while well grounded in the business of building RVs, what he says he really likes to do is innovate.

Well, a hot July day found me in Graber’s newest design, looking for these innovations. The test trailer I picked up was his newest design, the 385 RLS: a fifth-wheel floorplan with four slides including one extra deep one containing a large flat-screen TV, entertainment center and optional electric fireplace.

It’s interesting to note that Open Range model numbers refer to the square footage of its units – not the length. The reasoning is that all Open Range RVs are 100-inch wide bodies and the slides tend to be 46-inches in depth, deeper than most, – so simply looking at the length figures is misleading – so this model offers 385 square feet of floor space.

Open Range 385 RLS fifth wheel
Open Range 385 RLS fifth wheel. Click image to enlarge

In addition to a stretched floor-space, Open Range also cuts overall weight by using a five-sided welded aluminum superstructure. This puts aluminum in the walls and floors, while in the roof galvanized steel truss rafters are punched to reduce weight. Sandwiching the two-inch wall studs is a five-layer insulated package finished with laminated high gloss exterior walls. Even the plywood used for the subfloor is of the “Plylite” brand variety.

These efforts net the Open Range a dry weight of 10,560 lb, even with four slideouts. Also noteworthy is that Open Range has opted to go with an all-electric steel cable pulley system to operate its slides. With this system, the two things I noticed right away were that the slides moved without any tipping and that the cable system does away with heavy steel support beams under each slide. The motors are located behind a decorative (semi-round) fascia on top of each slide. How will these cables and pulleys fair long-term? Who knows – but at least the mechanisms are easily accessed and there is no hydraulic oil to contend with.

As a comparison, I pulled up three random fifth wheels on other manufacturers internet sites and compared dry weights in the same length range (plus or minus a foot). These units are what I found first – they are by no means the only ones out there. But on the other hand I did not find any lighter than the test unit in my random search either. The Coachmen Wyoming 38-foot weighs 500 lb more; Fleetwood’s Quantum 38-foot – 1,000 lb heavier; and the Forest River, Cedar Creek 39-foot comes in at 2,200 lb more.

When Graber says he thinks of himself as an innovator, I take that to mean that he likes detail. By which I mean, visually, there are a multitude of small touches, fixtures and finishes that stand out throughout the unit.

Open Range 385 RLS fifth wheel
Open Range 385 RLS fifth wheel. Click image to enlarge

For example, when entering the test unit, the kitchen layout and design strikes the visitor first with its size (the large L-shaped counter with covered sink is five feet long) and unique features like the overhead hanging pots and pan rack are unusual. As well, the built-in wine rack and other metal scroll work is lit up by the flush mounted pot-lights from the woodwork above, which mimics the counter size below.

The wood-fronted, two-door fridge, three-burner stove, oven and overhead microwave are set in one of the other slides that opens the kitchen up and also creates access to the full-height pantry/cupboards on the right. It’s this slide that really adds space to the kitchen.

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