Tour of the New 2017 Traveler and Bighorn

My mind has been racing over several different blog entries and which one to finish up first. I have been warning a post was coming regarding the all new 2017 Heartland Bighorn Traveler addition.

I will throw this non-RV topic out. Seems minor but worth passing along. I switched shaving razors because I was done with using expensive brands that quickly dull. The Dorco Pace razor has been wonderful and easily worth the money.  Got a ladies model for Karen and she says it is the best she has every used. Apparently it is hard to find a non-disposable ladies razor with six blades.

So I guess the post on Bighorn trailers should be next. Hope you find it informative and feel free to skip it if you’re not into shopping for a fifth wheel.

I toured the 2017 Heartland Bighorn Traveler fifth wheel during a recent visit at a dealership in Springfield Missouri. I also looked over the many Keystone Montana fivers they had in stock. Thankfully I can pass along I did not see the same minor flaws I had noticed in the Montana trailers parked at a dealership in Columbia Missouri. Apparently the Springfield dealership does a better job at repairing minor flaws before they park it on their lot.

I am very interested in Heartland RV products because of the name they have developed for themselves when it comes to customer service after the sale. I joined the Heartland Owners Forum to research even further. There are three Heartland fifth wheels I would be interested in. They also build several toy haulers and travel trailers but those do not fit Karen and my anticipated style of travel.

  • Heartland Big Country. Here is a link to my post on that.
  • Heartland Big Horn. This is a legendary trailer!
  • Heartland Landmark. This is their heavier unit at around 19,000 gross.

 

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Warning – Opinion Ahead

It is more convenient for me to just bullet point some of the features of each trailer. Henceforth I will refer to the lesser priced model as the Traveler. If you are shopping in the price point and weight of the Bighorn, do yourself a favor and take a look at them. I am of the opinion you get a lot of nice options with the Bighorn for the money. Using my new system of evaluating trailers the only way the Keystone Montana could tie the Bighorn in points was with their more expensive legacy package/options. It is important to note the evaluation system I use has areas where a trailer might score less because of a particular floor plan when in another floor plan there might be higher scores.

 

2017 Traveler 37SS (rear living room) and Bighorn 358RL (rear living room)

If you think this is a long blog post you really would have resented the length had I included all my notes on the two trailers.

  • I downloaded the  bighorn-msrp-sheet for both the Traveler and Bighorn. On average with all included various options the average suggested retail price of the Traveler is 18% less expensive than the Bighorn.
  • Here is a link to the only video walkthrough of the Traveler I could find as of 10/23/16.
  • The Traveler scored 140 points out of a possible 275 in my rating system. This could change once Heartland provides better advertising about their construction. In comparison, for our needs, the Bighorn 358RL scored 193 points and the Keystone Montana legacy addition scored 194.
  • So, this Traveler floor plan scored about 27% less points than the Bighorn when priced 18% less. It might be possible this is caused by a lack of information on my part or the floor plan layouts influenced the decision.
  • When Heartland first introduced the Traveler many on the forums were worried the Traveler would cheapen the Bighorn name. I personally doubt this as they are just entering a new price point as so many others have done. For example did the legendary Cedar Creek name cheapen with the introduction of the Silverback addition? Or was the Grand Design Solitude reputation hurt by their Reflection model? By the way the 2016 Reflection is an awesome trailer, having a large drop frame basement storage area when the 2016 Cedar Creek Silverback does not. The Traveler has a large basement which is important to note as storage is everything for comfortable full time use – again in my opinion.
  • So far, there is no advertised full body paint option on a Traveler when you can get it on a Bighorn.
  • The Bighorn comes standard with upgraded G rated tires when there is not even an option for this on the Traveler. Perhaps because the Traveler has a lower dry weight than the Bighorn? In the opinion of others E rated tires are to be avoided.
  • Generally neither trailer is using better brand appliances compared to something like the Jayco Pinnacles Kitchenaid or LG products in higher priced rigs. We just bought new appliances for our sticks and bricks. Shopping around for different brands was enlightening.
  • The living room furniture is the same in both trailers. I could not find a label with the brand and wondered if they build their own? Each comes with heated and electric theater seating as a standard. Seating is more comfortable to me than the Montana. My favorite in this price point is the La-z-boy seating like the Cedar Creek has. The rock hard bed of the Traveler needs to be thrown in the trash.
  • Sound components are made by Jensen which I assume still has a good reputation? I was not able to turn on any equipment to verify that. Outside speakers are controlled from inside the trailer, unlike the more expense Augusta Ambition but very similar to everything else I have looked at. There is some cool accent lighting built into the woodwork of the Traveler. I was not overly impressed with the mood lighting (judging from videos) in the Bighorn which claims their trailer is 30% brighter than others. Traveler advertising does not state how their electrical runs are handled. The underbelly wiring is in conduit on the Bighorn which is notable.
  • In general the trim woodwork of the Bighorn is more pleasing to me than the Montana, Cedar Creek, the Heartland Big Country and others. The Traveler trim is right up there in looks and quality although not as detailed as the Bighorn. One area to note is drawer construction in both trailers are somewhat typical in this price point. The drawers are not dovetailed but glued and stapled. The Travelers dining table is less substantial.
  • One area appealing to Karen and I for both trailers is the separate forward-facing washer/dryer closet rather than having it located inside the master closet. Not sure who was the first to come out with this floor plan option. It would not be surprising if it was Heartland which is a company of firsts.
  • Insulation – you get what you pay for in the Traveler with lesser insulation. The Bighorn is tested for zero degree and higher heat. So far, no mention if the Traveler is even four seasons rated which requires a system to heat the tanks.
  • The Traveler does have six point hydraulic leveling as does the Bighorn. But here is a very important detail. The Traveler, with a gross weight of 13,500 uses 6,750 pound axle ratings. There is no advertising about frame design. The Bighorn uses a 12 inch I beam and standard 7,000 pound axles like many others do. Neither has advertised upgrades to larger axles, brakes and such. Admittedly, I am still not convinced one has to go with extra heavy duty everything given some trailers do not weigh as much as others.
  • The Bighorn uses cables on the smaller slides with hydraulic rack and pinion on the larger slides. I was worried when I could not see the slide construction on the Traveler as they are closed inside the slide and not advertised.
  • The Traveler has a plastic sink in the bathroom. Both have good tank capacity for full time use other than the Travelers 47 gallon fresh water tank. Usually a limiting factor is the size of the grey tank. The Traveler has an 80 gallon grey tank and the Bighorn had a 90 so no problem there.
  • Here is another big one for the Traveler and a reason it is off our list. The bedroom air conditioner is exposed under the bedroom ceiling and is not “whisper quiet.”
  • Some of the neat features on the Bighorn include the tank drain pull handles are inside the docking station, options for 40-pound propane tanks and 12-gallon water heater. One thing I had not seen on other trailers is inside the washer/dryer closet of the Traveler was a label where one would cut out a dryer vent.
  • Here is another issue I had with the Traveler. The suggested cargo capacity is 2200 pounds which is derived by subtracting the empty weight from the gross weight rating. Suppose that is where having lower weight ratings on the Travelers axles could be an issue. The cargo weight of the floor plan in the Bighorn was at 3,135 pounds. I have been successfully convinced 3,000 is the minimum for full time use.
  • The Bighorn has a flat ceiling front to back when the Traveler ceiling dives down in the back over the living room. Both have modern interior colors. The Bighorn slide height is six foot eight with the Traveler uses six foot three.
  • Other key features the Traveler lacks when compared to the Bighorn are; less substantial outside baggage doors, windows are not frameless, no full rear cap option, the ladder is optional and the basement floor is carpeted rather than using the awesome rubberized floor of the Bighorn.
  • My other notes do include the suspension systems used by both trailers and are reflected in my scoring. The Bighorn has one uncommon feature which is quad shock absorbers.

 

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Photos of the 2017 Bighorn Traveler Addition

I will summarize this all by suggesting you compare the Traveler against other trailers in the same price point rather than the original Bighorn. The Traveler is advertised as a full profile trailer and the Big Horn is advertised as a luxury unit. For Karen and I there were areas lacking in the Traveler which knocked it off the list. I find it hard to argue that Heartland has nothing other than great customer service and their owner’s forum is second to none. I have not owned either a Heartland or Keystone brand so like others, I go by what I hear and see. And I compare the two brands because they are among the largest builders of fifth wheels. If what people are writing about is true, I would expect the Heartland factory to assist the owner with repairs rather than simply referring you off on your own to a dealership. According to the Heartland website the Bighorn introduced the industry to innovations such as the universal docking center, 88 degree turning radius front cap designs, laminated world including laminated roofs – floors – sidewalls, drop frame basement and hydraulic landing gear. Heartland is the third largest retailer of fifth wheels. Service after purchase and innovative design has to be reasons one must consider their products at the price point of the Bighorn.

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