Reading Time: 30 minutes
In October of 2017 I bought a new 2018 model year Arctic Fox 29-5T. It’s now June of 2020, almost three years since then. Why would I write a User Report on an RV model that’s 2 or 3 years old? Simple: this is a User Report based on actually using the RV. Anybody can write a report or review based on manufacturer’s literature and you can find that kind of information all over the web, but if you want to know what it’s like to actually own and use a particular RV you have find out from somebody else who has.
Although some things about the 29-5T have changed from the 2018 to the 2020 and others are set to change in 2021, many remain the same. This is to say that learning about the 2018 will inform you about what to look for in later year models of the 29-5T. Indeed, in this article you will learn about things to look for regardless of the make or model.
Purchasing a new RV subjects one to large and rapid depreciation but this was the model I decided upon and used ones were few and far between. Buying new was the only option. The Arctic Fox 29-5T was at the time a 34′ 5th wheel trailer (33′ 11″ if you want more precision) in the Silver Fox line-up from Northwood Manufacturing in La Grande, Oregon. They are 8″ longer now and part of what they call the Grande Ronde line. Gone is the Silver Fox. I have no idea why they changed the name of the line.
Since making my purchase I have traveled cross country and back in the Fox, and more, on three separate trips each ranging from two to seven months duration, for a total time lived in the unit of abut 15 months. Before that I lived for 18 months in a Class C motorhome.
During my time as a hands-on, mechanically inclined RV owner I have undertaken quite a few customization projects, some with help. These include: the installation of four solar panels on the 5th wheel roof, three inverters, a Hughes autoformer (voltage booster), two electrical management systems, a supplemental heating duct, a catalytic heater, and many other things. I’ve also made umpteen repairs. All this is to say I have a considerable amount of first-hand experience when it comes to the RV lifestyle and RVs themselves.
Having spoken to my qualifications in regard to reporting on my RV–you can decide for yourself whether or not you think me qualified–I want to tell you what I think about my 29-5T. Here, I should say that it is not my intent to either advocate for or against the 29-5T. Sometimes it seems that people who have purchased something wish to advocate for whatever it is in order to justify their own purchase. This is not my goal. Nor, when I point to some of the things I perceive as shortcomings of the RV should it be taken, necessarily, as an indictment of the model or Northwood Manufacturing as a stand-out, because, IMHO, the build quality of RVs across the broader spectrum of manufacturers is for the most part second-rate. I guess that really is an indictment, but what I am saying is that my less-than-positive opinion about RVs is directed toward the RV industry in general and I’m not singling out Northwood Manufacturing for any unique bit of malfeasance.
When it comes to my RV, it’s something of a love-hate relationship. On the positive side of things are the reasons I opted for this make and model. On the negative side are any shortcomings and disappointments I have encountered. I will discuss some of each below.
It is my presumption that many people who would wish to read this report are people considering the purchase of a 29-5T. With that in mind I would like to point to some of the reasons I opted for this model.
- Lots of windows
- Floor Plan
- Separate toilet & shower areas
- Carrying capacity*
- Custom chassis
- Big enough for 2
- Overall size*
- Build quality
- Interior access when the slides are retracted
*Specs, including length, carrying capacity, etc., may change over time for the same RV model. For example, years ago the 29-5T was close to 30′ in length. My 2018 model is just under 34′ and the 2020 model is 34′ 7″. Also, for the 2020 model Northwood has reduced the advertised Net Carrying Capacity of the 29-5T some 1454 lbs, from the 2018 model! The added length of the 2020 accounts for the reduced carrying capacity because with the greater weight of the unladen RV there is less surplus carrying capacity before hitting the capacity limit of the axles. Here it may be good to supply a link the 29-5T page on the manufacturers site. They have a 3D virtual tour of the RV there which is really quite cool.
When I say that the 29-5T has lots of windows I mean that the windows allow light from outside to fill the RV, allow views of the surroundings, and provide for ventilation, all of which are big plusses in my book. Allowing light to come in means a brighter, cheerier space and also reduces the demand for electricity in order to light the interior which is a consideration when camping off the electrical grid. There were additional considerations for me about windows too, one of which was the kind of window. Some of the newer RVs are using what are called frameless windows. They look nice from outside and can be left open in a light rain but of those I’ve seen only a small panel at the bottom can be opened which may severely limit airflow compared to a sliding window of the same dimensions. I’ve been told that running a ceiling fan can pull more outside air into the RV through a frameless window than without a fan but then you’re dealing with the noise of the fan and using electricity which can be scarce at times. Plus, in order to run a ceiling fan during a rainstorm you’d have to install a cover over the fan lid on the roof (if there is room for one) which adds weight, expense, and height to an RV, the latter being a consideration when it comes to clearing overpasses, a very real consideration for RVers. One downside to sliding windows is that they cannot be left open in the rain unless they are under an awning which could mean the main awning or a window awning. I’m uncertain about the difference in insulation value between the frameless windows and framed windows and it probably varies from window to window. I’m sure there is info to be Googled if you care too look into the pros and cons of each window type. Having lived in another RV before buying my Arctic Fox I was aware of the value of being able to open windows for air as opposed to running a noisy air conditioner which can also be inconvenient if it means setting up a generator.
Big Enough for Two
In terms of being big enough for two, since I planned on doing some long trips traveling with my girlfriend for months on end we decided to go RV shopping together and we looked at more than a few 5th wheels thinking about how much room there was for living, storage, cooking, eating, sleeping, etc. When we were comparing the smaller Arctic Fox 27-5L to the 29-5T we didn’t think there was enough closet space in the bedroom of the smaller unit. There are couples content with the storage capacity of their 27-5L units and we might have been OK with it in that regard had we been planning shorter outings as opposed to the long duration trips we had in mind.
As to the bedroom, included is a built-in a dresser with 6 drawers. All drawers in the RV, by the way, are on roller glides. I don’t think it would be fair to call the bedroom closet a walk-in, crouch-in maybe, it runs from one wall to the other with a fair amount of space. I’m not sure about this, but the closet on the 2020 may be smaller. It’s hard to tell by the photos on the Northwood web site but it looks like they have walled-off part of the closet on the left side. The 2020 has more shelves built into the back wall of the closet, four instead of two in the ’18, plus, it looks like they put some lighting in the closet which would be a very welcome addition. You can “fly” into the closet using the 3D tour on the Northwood site. Optionally, a washer dryer can be installed in a corner of the closet which in our RV was prewired and pre-plumbed. We opted against the machine in favor of the space, lighter weight and less use of water and electricity especially considering we planned to camp off-grid as much as possible where water and electricity sometimes need to be conserved. There is also a limited amount of storage space under the bed.
As to the bed itself, we opted for a queen rather than a king because we knew the former was big enough for the two of us and when it came to the 29-5T the queen configuration comes with built-in nightstands with cabinets on each side and allows you to walk around 3 sides of the bed whereas with the king you loose the nightstands-cabinets, and the ability to walk around the bed easily. The queen just seemed like a better option from every vantage point including visually–the room seemed cramped with the king. As to the mattress itself, I didn’t mind the OEM mattress and it was light, a plus for RVing, but my girlfriend didn’t like it so we put in another. A small credit for opting out on the mattress may be available from the factory if you order rather than purchase off a dealer’s floor, something you may have to do in order to get your hands on a 29-5T.
The bedroom includes a tiny window on either side at the head of the bed that we refer to as portholes. There’s another, emergency escape window on the passenger side wall near the foot of the bed. It allows for a bit of a view out and some light to come in. Unfortunately, it isn’t meant to be opened except for an emergency. It’s hinged at the top and it has no screen. It could be propped open somehow I suppose but, again, there is no screen. I have been thinking about methods by which a screen could be added and the window propped open, or perhaps replacing it with a different style of window that allows for ventilation and emergency escape both.
It’s worth mentioning that with the bedroom slide retracted you will not have access to the dresser and in order to get to the closet you’ll have to roll or crawl over the bed. Not ideal, but better than other RVs where you wouldn’t even be able to get to the bedroom. The bedroom slide is small and operates quickly, so assuming there’s room enough outside it’s quick and easy enough to roll it out if need be. This, in my opinion, is a minor issue, at least for us.
The bedroom also has a sizable skylight with a sliding shade that cuts out some of the light when deployed. A Fan-Tastic vent fan with remote control is included in the bedroom. It has multiple speeds and is reversible in order to blow air out or draw it in. We use it frequently.
There is an option for a second air-conditioner on the 29-5T which would go over the bedroom but if you go for that you lose the vent fan. We opted against the second A/C. Besides the loss of the vent fan there would be the addition of weight, and a loss of overhead clearance. We were concerned about having an A/C operating right on top of our heads from the standpoint of noise. We didn’t think we would use it all that frequently either, so we said no to that.
Floor Plan: Bathroom
The bathroom contains the toilet, sink, medicine chest, small storage cabinet on the wall over the toilet and storage beneath the sink. It’s a small room and cramped. Diane curls her hair in the bedroom because the lack of counter space and elbow room in the bathroom makes it too difficult. Bathrooms in RVs that combine the toilet and shower may have more elbow room and counter space. Using the sink to wash your face without bumping your head into the faucet can be a challenge. The toilet is porcelain with plastic seat and cover. While there is no window, the bathroom has an overhead vent fan. The overhead light has a low and high setting and a circular vanity mirror with a magnifying side on an extendable arm is attached to the wall next to the sink. Too bad its very dim light operates on AC power only.
The shower is across the hall from the toilet. Unlike the toilet there is no door to close off the shower itself. There are sliding doors, one at the threshold to the bedroom and another at the threshold to the living room than can be closed in order to provide complete privacy to the bathroom/shower area. We prefer to close the sliding doors when one of us is in the shower so as to contain any steam and moisture in the bathroom/shower area of the RV and we will usually open the ceiling vent in the bathroom to allow steam to escape and we’ll run the fan to help if weather conditions allow.
The shower in the 29-5T is larger than some RV showers, much larger than the shower I had in my Class C. Ours includes a built-in seat on the left. For 2020 they’ve moved the seat to the right side of the shower, the faucet and shower head to the left. From what I can see on the Northwood web page it looks like it may now be a little difficult to get to the faucet when you’re standing outside of the shower as you might when you first turn it on in order to adjust the water temperature. These are the kinds of things I find as irritants inflicted on the buying public by RV manufacturers. They just don’t seem to think, or care, sometimes about the buying public. There’s a skylight above the shower which is nice to have. We like the shower and prefer to use it over the showers at most campgrounds. We replaced the stock showerhead with an Oxygenics, a model popular with RVers that minimizes water use while providing adequate pressure. I installed knobs in place of the faucet handles which we would bump into, inadvertently changing the water temperature.
We preferred the shower be separate from the toilet so that each could be used at the same time more discretely. That said, to get from the bedroom to the living area or to get to the toilet one must walk past the shower. The shower in our RV has a textured glass door so it’s more private than doors with plain glass and based on the Northwood web site it looks like they’ve gone to plain glass for 2020.
One nice touch about the bathroom in the “5T” is the inclusion of a water pump switch. If the pump wasn’t turned on with the other switch on the control panel by the RV entry door you can aways activate the pump while in the bathroom. It’s a good idea, BTW, to always turn off an RV water pump when you are away or outside the RV because they keep the system under pressure and if a leak springs inside somewhere the pump will keep running until the fresh water tank has emptied possibly filling your RV with water and possibly ruining it. I’m not sure what would happen then, if, for example, the pump might keep running, overheat and cause a fire. It’s best to shut the pump off when you’re sleeping or not around.
Floor Plan: Living Area
With the main slide open the living area feels much more open that did the living area of the Class C I used to own. A big part of that is the depth of the slide. If I recall correctly the slide on my Class C extended about 18″ and while the added space when the slide was open was welcome it doesn’t compare with the 42″ added by the living room slide in the 29-5T. The slide has windows on all sides. Along with the large picture window in the back we have very good views on two of the three sides of the living area. A small window on the passenger side by the sink provides a view out on the third side as well as allowing for a cross-breeze. Also on the passenger side, is the entry door located near the rear of the living area that has a frosted glass window which lets in some light, and behind that is another window in the back where the recliners are shown on the web site. We didn’t like the OEM recliners when we tried them at a dealer before we ordered our rig and we arranged for a credit from the factory for the chairs and installed our own after we took delivery. If you’re thinking about doing the same you’ll need to be careful with measurements in order t make sure they will allow enough room for the slide room to operate. We have to turn one of ours sideways when ready to travel for this reason and there’s enough clearance but no room to spare. Both the chairs I added and the factory chairs are free-standing so there is no installation per se. I assembled the recliners we purchased inside the RV just to make sure there wouldn’t be a problem getting them inside if they were assembled beforehand.
I ordered my 29-5T from the factory because finding one on a showroom floor configured the way I wanted wasn’t to be, nor was finding a used one as they were in very short supply at the time. When ordering I also arranged for a credit for the couch I didn’t want. As I did in my first RV I preferred the idea of having a desk in lieu of the couch that is most often seems to be supplied in RVs. It’s hard for me to recall if I’ve ever seen an RV supplied with a desk. While some RV couches fold out to a bed–convenient when you are expecting guests–a desk would have much more utility for me. I found an inexpensive Ikea desk second hand for very little money that worked with the decor of the RV interior well enough and fit the space available handily. It’s visible in the photo immediately above. I don’t think I needed to disassemble the desk to get it into the RV. It seems to stay put just fine without being anchored to the floor. It’s on carpeting which I expect helps in that regard.
The lack of a kitchen island in the 29-5T for us was a big plus. It might be handy for cooking but at all other times a kitchen island is, IMHO, a liability. They take up a lot of space and make an RV interior feel more cramped than it already is. Without one we have enough space to put down a yoga mat or set up our compact bicycle trainer. With all my RVing experience I’ve learned that there can be long periods of time where getting exercise can be a challenge and having the ability do so in the RV is a real plus for us.
We opted for the smaller, 10 gallon versus 16 gallon optional water heater. (The 10 gallon heater may no longer be standard or even an option.) Ten gallons enough for us to do the dishes plus for each of us to shower as well. We’ve never run out of hot water. The larger water heater option would add more weight to the RV and use more propane to heat. As it is with the 10 gallon water heater much of the water we heat goes unused so the larger water heater would waste more propane. The water heater, by the way, operates either on propane or when available, electricity, or if you ant to heat water more quickly it can use both.
A larger, four door fridge is an option with the 29-5T. Here too we opted for the smaller model because we thought it would be big enough and with the larger unit you lose the narrow pantry on to the left of the fridge. There may be times where we wish our fridge was larger but for us it’s not an irritant and we’re happy having the pantry. We discovered, however, that he pantry does get quite warm from the heat made by the fridge next to it, especially the upper shelves, so I lined the interior of the pantry on the side shared with the fridge with some Reflectix which is popular with RVers. It helps quite a bit.
There is a skylight in the living area, also with a shade, but without a step stool or standing on a kitchen chair it’s too high to reach. When the shade is open and the window shades lifted it’s bright and cheerful in the RV on a sunny day, that is if we aren’t out and about getting into trouble somewhere.
Besides the Fan-Tastic fan in the bedroom there is another in the living area, also with a remote control which is a good thing–like the shade for the living area skylight it would require a step stool in order to reach the vent fan.
Our unit has a dining table with free standing chairs. The table is a real knee banger and there have been online discussions about ways to modify it in order to fix that but I’m not sure a good fix has been found. I haven’t been able to figure one out. The table has a little storage under the tabletop and has a slide out extension we use often. It’s not on the price list but there may be a booth dinette option still available. We made a second trip to the nearest Arctic Fox dealership to look at unit with a boot dinette. It might have been nice because of the under-seat storage a booth dinette offers but we found it quite uncomfortable. The booth dinette we looked as was in a different model but we were told the same booth dinette would be installed in the 29-5T if we wanted one. The free-standing chairs that come with the dining table are comfortable enough and there is storage under the seat cushions which are hinged. We don’t use that storage because we lay the chairs on the floor when we travel so they can’t fall over. We’ve had them fall over.
While I’m on the subject of unlisted options, you can put a receiver hitch on that list. For much less money than a trailer shop would have charged Northwood installed one which we use for our bicycle carrier on the back of the RV. (I have just learned that these will be standard in 2021.) It lowers the ground clearance some, which isn’t all that great to begin with. After the skids on our receiver hitch wore out from dragging on the pavement I ground off what was left of them and installed an Ultra Fab Receiver Mount Protector. If you put a receiver hitch like ours on the back of a 29-5T I would regard such a protector as a necessity. Now that I think about it I wrote a whole article about taking bikes along and the options we used to make that possible including the hitch protector.
Our 29-5T is just an inch short of 34′ from the front of the pin box, it’s forward most location, to the back of the rear bumper. They were shorter in the past and are 8″ longer now (2020 and maybe 2019): 34’7″. The length of an RV was an important consideration for us because I new that the longer an RV the harder it is to find places to camp. Older campgrounds tend to have smaller campsites and narrower roads. This is especially true of national Parks. We didn’t find any shorter RVs we liked in which we thought we would be comfortable spending extended periods of time. Adding the length of our truck and bikes on back of the RV our rig is 53′ long. 34′ by itself doesn’t sound that big but when you add in the truck it becomes much more difficult to find campsites than a set-up half that size, for example.
Height is also a consideration because you have to drive under overpasses and trees. Weight is an issue when bridges or roads have weight limitations. There have been days where finding a campground that could fit us was an all day task, and sometimes it took longer.
On a side note, I have used a Garmin RV GPS since 2014. A regular auto GPS won’t do for many RVs because you need to consider length, width and height which regular GPS units do not. The RV GPS allows you to enter those parameters for your RV in the settings and it will calculate routes considering those factors. I wrote a User Report on my Garmin RV GPS here.
Carrying capacity is a huge consideration that may be overlooked by too many people when purchasing an RV but it is really important to look at the numbers carefully and be very thoughtful about this. Loading an RV beyond its limits is not only dangerous from the point of view of safety but there may be legal considerations as well. You might be found at fault in an accident due to overloading and learn that your insurance won’t cover you as a consequence. I’ve heard stories of some RVs that had so little carrying capacity it was hard to believe they were ever manufactured.
There are a number of weight considerations when purchasing an RV. Among them:
- Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
- Unloaded Vehicle Weight
- Net Carrying Capacity
- Cargo Carrying Capacity
- Gross Axle Weight
- Hitch Weight
- Gross Axle Weight Rating
- Gross Combination Weight Rating
- Gross Trailer Weight
- Gross Combination Weight Rating
It’s important to have a good understanding the various numbers as well as the weight of things you will carry and that includes water and propane. The former is about 8.34 pounds per gallon. Our 29-5T holds 82 gallons of water between the fresh water tank and the water heater. That’s over 680 pounds just for water! The net carrying capacity of the 2020 model is much less than our 2018 because the 2020 is longer and weighs more which leaves less capacity before the limits of the axles is reached. I thought that at 4600+ pounds we’d have way more carrying capacity than we would need but it turned out not to be so, especially considering we try to stay below 15,000 lbs. even though our GVWR is 15,700. It’s not hard to overload an RV. The hard part is not overloading one. The net carrying capacity of the 2020 model (and maybe 2019) at 3170 lbs. is down 1454 lbs. from the 4600+ lbs. of our 2018. Holy Moley! Subtract 680 lbs. for a full tank of water, another 80 for propane and you’re down to 2410 lbs. remaining. A solar system like ours–panels, inverter and batteries–would further reduce the available carrying capacity about 500 pounds. That would leave something like 1900 lbs. of carrying capacity in a 2020. If you opt for the built-in generator (we keep a couple Honda 2000 watt generators in the truck), second air-conditioner, washer-dryer and fireplace you’ll eat up another 550 pounds or so leaving you only 1350 pounds and that’s before any of your kitchen utensils, cookware, dishes, glasses, food stores, personal effects, tools, clothing, lawn chairs, BBQ , maybe a better, heavier mattress, etc. Other options include slide toppers and a cargo tray in the pass-through storage compartment and more. We’re talking hundreds of pounds here. Toss in a hundred pounds for a couple bicycles and bicycle carrier and before you know it you’re pushing the limit or overloaded. A word to the wise: think this weight business through, very, VERY carefully before you buy any RV!
Appliances & Fixtures
As to fixtures and appliances, we’re happy with the job the Norcold fridge does although I did have to modify the drip tray inside the fridge which didn’t catch all of the condensation falling from the cooling fins, some of which dripped to the bottom of the fridge compartment and puddled there. The cooktop/oven is OK too: pretty much standard issue in the world of RVs. Small RV ovens tend to heat unevenly and many people use a pizza stone above the burner to better distribute the heat. Judging by the 3D tour on their site it seems Northwood is supplying a different cooktop for the 2020 model. It has 3 burners side-by-side instead of the perhaps more traditional style of having them arranged in a triangular fashion. It makes me wonder if the side-by-side arrangement might be even more cramped than the triangular arrangement which already necessitates the use of smaller cookware than you might use at home. Handles on the cabinets look different in 2020 too, like they’d be better at snagging your clothing. The kitchen sink faucet has changed as well. I expect it’s flimsy, like ours, but ours works well enough. They both have a sprayer built into them which is nice as long as they work.
The HighPointe convection/microwave that came in our 2018 is a piece of junk, IMHO. The first one we had would never come to temperature when using the convection oven and the replacement we got under warranty, while better, is still sub par. The microwave component works OK. It appears Northwood has switched to another off-brand, Furrion, for 2020. Whether or not they are any better than the High Pointe in our rig I cannot say, but I’m guessing they aren’t the best either. I should probably add that if you order an RV you cannot be certain the appliances will be the same as what you see in the brochure or units on a dealer’s floor. Manufacturers may change appliance brands at any time, or for that matter, flooring or trim.
In general I am not impressed with the fixtures Northwood used in our 5T. Whether it’s lighting or plumbing it seems they may have opted for cheaper items where they were able.
We ordered the rear view camera which I don’t like at all. The image it produces is too contrasty and not clear. I had it checked by the mfr. and they said it was fine. I don’t know on what planet that would be.
Some RV manufacturers buy prefabricated chassis from companies such as Lippert. Northwood, on the other hand, custom designs and builds its own, at least for some models including the 29-5T. I’m really not qualified to make an expert judgment about the chassis but it’s my impression that Northwood got this part of building the 29-5T right. The chassis for my Class C was pretty much stock from Ford which built the vehicle upon which Coachmen assembled the rest of the unit. Based on a visual comparison of the two I’d say the Northwood chassis is much more substantial and better suited for its intended purpose.
Northwood advertises a “Northwood Built, Independently Certified, Off-Road Chassis” for the 29-5T. I see this as half truth, half hype. I believe that they build their own chassis, but just exactly what do “certified” and “off-road” mean in this context? To me, when something is certified it is certified to meet a certain standard. I don’t know of any standard to which RV chassis are certified as “off-road”. It may exist, but I for one have never heard of such a thing. I think it may be just hyperbole. I’m not saying the 5T chassis is bad. My impression is just the opposite, but this business about ‘certified off-road’ strikes me as more than likely marketing. Feel free to ask Northwood. Let me know what you hear.
Before I purchased our 5th wheel I wanted to know what Northwood was talking about in their literature where they mentioned “aerospace interference grid technology” in regard to their chassis, so I contacted them. Those with whom I spoke or emailed didn’t seem to have any idea and I was referred to the web site of Pacific West Associates, Inc. the company that “certifies” Northwood’s RVs, or at least was at the time. That web site was unintelligible to me. I told Northwood so and later received call from Chuck Ballard at Pacific West. He explained the interference grid evaluation process to me which is essentially a computer modeling of the chassis in order to analyze it for weak points. I think it’s commendable for Northwood to have this done and I believe it’s probably what they mean when they say their chassis is independently certified.
There’s a sticker on the side of our RV that says it’s been certified using “interface” grid technology. This, to me, is an example of the second rate attention to detail I believe to be rampant in the RV industry. It’s not “interface”, it’s “interference”. They can’t even get a sticker right. I wonder if they are still using “interface” on stickers they apply.
This is a sore spot with me, both in regard to our 29-5T and the RV industry overall. I’ve owned two RVs from different makers and both seemed haphazardly assembled. Over a period of some six years I’ve communicated with dozens of RV owners of many brands and have come away with the impression that there is a widely held opinion regarding the build quality of RVs across the industry: it’s lacking, 2nd rate.
Before going into this further, if you are thinking about buying an RV of any type or brand I would suggest looking for an online forum specific to whichever RV you are considering to see what you can learn. Before I bought our 5T I was on iRV2.com (a great free resource) looking around for brand suggestions. Somebody mentioned something to the effect that people with Arctic Fox units didn’t have many complaints. So, I went looking for an Arctic Fox user group and found nroa2003.com. When I poked around there a little bit it became readily apparent that there were plenty of complaints about the product. Plenty.
[EDIT, 8/4/21: I’ve just come across this video by AZ Expert in which a 2021 Arctic Fox bumper pull trailer had an issue with a loose rubber roof. This 31 minute video may be watching before purchasing any RV trailer and the opinions of the technician/videographer worth considering. While they are directly relevant only to the Arctic Fox in the video I would expect similar problems exist across the spectrum of RV manufacturers, makes and models.
Of particular note may be that the RV in the video was a new or nearly new 2021 unit, made about the time of the RV sales boom during the Covid-19 pandemic. I was once told by a higher-up at an RV manufacturer that during boom times RV quality tends to go down because new, less experienced hires are put on assembly lines. I would expect this to be true for 2020 and 2021. I wonder what other pressures may have been put on manufacturers around this time that may have exerted a downward pressure on the quality of workers and the build quality of RVs, a shortage of workers due to the virus being but one possible example. Were I to offer an opinion as to what model year RV to purchase I would, based on what I heard, avoid 2020 and 2021 if at all possible.]
Pointing to some of the issues I’ve come across in our 29-5T it came with water lines to the water heater that rested on the transfer switch which carries all the electricity from a campground into the RV. (Photo immediately below.) A water leak from where the hose connects to the water heater, perhaps one of the most likely places for a leak to develop, might have resulted in water dripping down the outside of the line to the switch and maybe some of that could have seeped into the switch. This could have had catastrophic consequences. The transfer switch was installed on the floor of the service compartment with the water heater and water lines rather than being elevated. Any sort of water leak in that compartment could easily result in a bath for the transfer switch. It would be safer to install the switch on the compartment wall and I moved ours there.
The transfer switch itself had sawdust and copper wire strands inside that could have caused a short circuit and fire, besides having a loose cover with one of the cover screws stripped. A wire leading from the switch rested on a sharp-ish edge of the water pump (photo below) that was cutting into the insulation and may have eventually cut through it causing a short circuit and possibly a fire.
Sawdust and pieces of wood were everywhere behind access panels, all over the RV, never cleaned up during manufacture. A large percentage of screws provide little or no holding power because the wood into which they are screwed had been stripped due to over tightening. Adjacent cabinet doors that should have been evenly aligned were cockeyed because of haphazard assembly.
The wiper seal that sweeps water off the roof of the main slide didn’t and still doesn’t deploy properly (photo below). Northwood authorized replacement of the seal under warranty but the problem, which I didn’t discover until the warranty expired, was not the seal but that the slide room roof sags so the friction between the roof and the seal that causes it to deploy was not sufficient. Now I’m stuck with it or a very expensive repair.
We hit a pretty good bump in the road one time. When we went into the RV things were scattered about. A light fixture had fallen from the ceiling, and a support for the shelf in the bedroom closet had given out. It took a good long while but I fabricated a much sturdier support for the closet shelf and it’s been fine ever since.
There are many, many other problems I have discovered with the assembly of my RV. As I wrote above, none of this is to put you off Northwood–I believe problems like these are widespread across the RV board, an industry that is not adequately regulated, IMHO. If you buy an RV, any brand, expect to deal with lots of things like those I’ve mentioned and to spend lots of time doing so on an ongoing basis. It sometimes seems that every time I go to fix something I find something else that wasn’t done right and I have to fix that too.
Slides. Sometimes called slide-rooms or slideouts, maybe pop-outs. Whatever you call them, if you’ve been inside an RV with slides in both the extended and retracted positions you know they can make a huge difference in the roominess, functionality or lack thereof in an RV. They add weight and complexity to an RV. They reduce the insulating ability of the walls in which they are placed. So, there are plusses and minuses to slides. One additional consideration is that when extended they add width to an RV and width can be a concern in those camping situations where space is limited by bushes, trees, or any number of other obstacles. The 29-5T has two slides, the main slide being 42″ deep. Both slides in the 5T are on the driver side. I mention this because many RVs have slides on opposing sides which can drastically increase the amount of space required for camping. It’s something to keep in mind when considering a purchase or a campground.
Our 29-5T came with a CareFree power awning. It deploys easily with the push of a button. My previous RV had a manually operated awning that required much more effort as well as going outside to roll it in or out.
One option with the 29-5T is an electric fireplace under the living area TV. For people who plan to camp primarily at campgrounds where electricity is available this might be a nice option. We went without it and instead installed in that space an extremely efficient Olympian Wave 6 catalytic heater that runs silently on propane and requires no electricity, thus it can be used anywhere, anytime. We make good use of this propane-sipping heater. We also carry with us two ceramic electric heaters for use at campgrounds. One is an oscillating tower heater. The other is a tiny little 250 watt Soleil we use primarily in the bedroom. We can even run the little one off our solar panels. If you don’t get the electric fireplace you’ll get a cabinet instead.
Our RV was advertised as being “solar ready”. I determined that the wires installed by the factory for this purpose were not of sufficient gauge for the 760 watts of solar panels I put on the roof and so I replaced the factory’s wires, or rather ran new wires because I couldn’t get the original wiring out.
Our 29-5T came with rope lights on the front cap that switch on with the with porch light for the stairs at the rear of the RV. Nobody I’ve spoken with seems to understand the purpose of the rope lights other than possibly annoying the neighbors. There are other lights at the front of the RV that provide any needed illumination. It was a fairly involved modification just to remove the rope lights from the porch light circuit. Now they don’t work at all which is fine with me. I think I recall hearing that the 2020 model year has the rope lights on a circuit of their own which would be an improvement, but why Northwood puts these lights on the RV at all remains a mystery.
Included with our RV was a quick release fixture to which a gas grill can be connected outside. It’s a little tricky to get to but it’s a nice feature we use with some frequency.
The built-in stereo CD/DVD player is nice to have although the controls are bizarre, nearly unintelligible and difficult to deal with. Even with the manual in hand trying to use the darn thing is an exercise in frustration. They’ve changed stereo models since we bought our unit and I cannot say if the programming and use of the new model is any better or worse. They appear to be the same brand–Jensen. There are speakers in the bedroom, living area, and outside on the passenger side each area being independently switched. The stereo is bluetooth capable–we play music from our phones and pipe it throughout the RV, even outside. The stereo has a USB port for flash drives containing music, but we haven’t tried that feature. The Vizio TV in our unit is Wi-Fi capable and we use our cell phones as hotspots with a Roku device hooked to the TV in order to stream programs.
If you’re 6′ tall or taller you will bang your head on the shower door frame getting in and out of the shower if you aren’t careful. That’s not unique to the 29-5T. It was the same in my previous RV. The shower stall in the 2020 model is flip-flopped from our 2018 , now with the seat on the right and faucet on the left. From the photos online it looks like this may make it something of an exercise getting to the faucet in the newer model when you’re standing outside the shower as you might when you first start the water running.
I’ve had two RVs, both with slide rooms, and in each of them I have managed to catch a slide on something causing damage. In the 29-5T it’s important to watch out for cabinet doors at both the front and rear of the main slide. You need to check at both ends for open cabinets every time before you operate the slide room or, I’m afraid, you will find one of the cabinet doors is open, either as a result of traveling or forgetfulness, and you will catch the slide on it damaging the cabinetry, the slide, or both. Been there, done that.
The entry stairs on the 2020 are completely different from the 2018 model. I have not used the new stairs but I can see things I don’t like about them on the promo video and there is some controversy about them online. They look much heavier. People say they are steadier and I can see why. Apart from that, in order to deploy them they swing out to the side of the RV about 48″, about twice the distance of the stairs on the 2018, which may be a problem in cramped quarters such as a narrow campsite, one with a log or rock, or a storage yard. Based on my RVing experiences, there’s no doubt that’s going to be a problem sometimes. Because they block the entry when retracted I can foresee circumstances where you might not be able to get into the RV because there isn’t enough room to deploy the stairs! Also, when they flip up to be stowed for traveling they flip inside the RV and along with them any dirt and moisture that’s on them. No thanks. You’ll need to clean them off every time you stow them. What fun in the pouring rain! No thanks. When my RV is in the storage yard I sometimes need to be able to open the slides. There’s usually enough room between our RV and the one in the next parking space on the driver side in order to open the main slide most of the way and for the stairs on the passenger side to open without protruding into that neighbor’s space. If I had to move the RV over to the driver’s side more so that I could open the stairs on the passenger side I wouldn’t be able to open the slide very much at all. No thanks. The new stairs might be steadier and/or stronger than the old ones but comparatively, at least as far as I’m concerned they may have more disadvantages than advantages, IMHO.
Purchasing an RV
My method of finding the best price was simple. Once I figured out I wanted a 29-5T, and due to the scarcity of used ones I’d have to buy new, I figured out exactly how I wanted it configured. Then I reached out to the sales manager or owner at Arctic Fox dealerships. (I recommend against contacting salesmen. All they seem to do is BS and get in the way, and management may have to pay them a commission raising the price at which they would otherwise be willing to sell.) I spelled out, in writing, exactly what I wanted and said if they didn’t have it on the lot I would order it. I said I was comparison shopping and wanted to know their best price, in writing. (I used the same method when buying my truck and saved lots of time and headaches plus thousands of dollars on each vehicle going this route. I wrote an article about buying my truck here.)
Northwood, BTW, has periodic production runs. They don’t make all models, all the time. For example, they might manufacture a certain number of 29-5Ts over a period of days or weeks, then switch their production line to another model, then another, and so on. It’s possible to find out by contacting them as to when they are planning to produce their next batch of any given unit. It’s also possible that all the units they plan to make in a particular run have been spoken for and that you’ll have to wait for a later run. I had to wait something like 6 months to get mine made.
If, when you are shopping for RVs, you see units online marked as SOLD and a price don’t assume that the price the RV sold for is that which is shown online. If dealers can lead people to believe that RVs are selling for more than they really are then they can get people to pay more than need be. Just today I saw a used 2018 29-5T, the same year a mine marked as SOLD with a price $15,000 more than I paid for mine new. I also saw a 2015 advertised for $8,000 more, a 2016 for $15,000 more, and a 2017 for $8,000 more.
We traveled 800 miles (one way) to get our RV. While this saved us a significant amount of cash it also turned out to make warranty repairs somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible to obtain. I wrote an article about the dubious value of RV warrantees which you definitely need to read before buying a new RV.
There is no Buy or Don’t Buy recommendation here. I’m not saying the Arctic Fox 29-5T is better or worse than any other RV. My purpose in writing this article was to inform you of my observations, thoughts and opinions about the 29-5T I own and that Northwood has made changes to the model since 2018. It was also my intention to alert potential RV buyers to expect second rate assembly across the industry–in my opinion that is the current state of affairs.
This blog takes an enormous amount of time and energy to build and maintain . If you have found something useful or entertaining please use this Amazon.com link (or those I provide within my articles) when you shop at Amazon. Doing so will cost you no more and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Your support in the form of using my Amazon.com link or making a PayPal Donation will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
If you would like to be notified by email when I make new posts to the blog look for the email text entry field and the FOLLOW RUSS button on the left, or with some mobile devices at the page bottom.