Keystone Cougar 276RLSWE Fifth Wheel Trailer Review

Introduction

Hi, my name is Ray. In May 2011 my wife Anne and I purchased a brand new Keystone Cougar 276RLSWE Fifth Wheel Trailer to spend one year traveling around North America in. This was a lifetime dream of ours and we decided a truck and fifth wheel was the best way to go for us. Having looked at many types of RV’s a fifth wheel met our needs best.  We needed something with a lot of room.  We would have many things to store and were taking our 2 beagles Angie and Oscar with us. Having had a Class “B” camper van we knew it would be far too small for the journey.  Class “A” type was a little out of our price range.  Class “C” was in our range but still a little too small. So a fifth wheel it was.

Keystone Cougar 276RLSWE Fifth Wheel Trailer Review

Keystone Cougar 276RLSWE Fifth Wheel Trailer Review

2011_Keystone_Cougar_276RLS

Floorplan – 2011 Keystone Cougar 276RLSWE

We were lucky enough to score a sweet deal on an older 1 ton diesel truck (1994 Ford F350 7.3L IDI DRW) so this left us with enough money to go for a brand new trailer instead of used.  Shopping around for a month or more we saw a ton of RVs. Our criteria for the ideal fifth wheel was a few things. It had to be in the 30 foot length range so we could fit into many of the National, Provincial, and State Parks which generally don’t accommodate very long rigs. Also it had to have extraordinary storage space as it would be used for an entire year long trip. Finally Anne wanted the bed to be always available, no fold away jobs, and plenty of windows for looking at the views .

It all came together the day we checked out Greg’s RV in Duncan B.C. There was a good vibe about the place. They let us freely look at all the product on the lot without being ushered about by high pressure salespeople and their specialty was travel trailers. Once we had decided on the one we liked they offered us the best price without a bunch of dickering. We purchased a Model 276RLSWE Keystone Cougar Fifth Wheel.

My video clip of outside walk around

Expedition RV Trailer Cover Fits 5th Wheel 29' - 33' RVs
Price: $265.99
1 new from $265.990 used

Greg’s RV gave us a thorough walk through inspection, primer course on operating the various systems and we took delivery. Two things needed to be taken care of in the first week. One was a cracked dining room table that Greg’s RV promptly ordered and replaced before our trip. The other thing was a faulty “dead” Toshiba 32” TV. Greg’s RV told us go out and buy your choose of a new one. They even took care of getting the authorization from Keystone.  It was kind of humorous because my trade is an electronic technician and I repair TVs as a profession. Figures I would get the bum one! We have been more than happy with the treatment we received at Greg’s RV and would definitely shop there again. Thanks Greg’s RV!

Well it’s over 18 months later and we are still traveling in it!!  We did our one year North American tour and are now down exploring America’s South West. Check out the travel blog archives section of  Love Your RV to see and read about our many adventures. We have traveled roughly 35,000 miles in our Keystone Cougar 276RLSWE and stayed in 120 plus campsites. We have been in all sorts of weather. Near hurricane force winds in Newfoundland, huge thunderstorms in South Dakota, the steady rains of Vancouver Island, sandstorms in Arizona, the hot beating sun of the Mojave desert, the humid Florida and US Gulf Coasts, and more. We have traveled on many types of road surfaces. There was the US Interstates, some with nice pavement, others with pot holes and gaping cracks from the pounding of the big tractor trailers. Then the winding back country roads, some with menacing frost heaves and narrow to none existent shoulders. Finally the off roads, dirt, gravel, sea shelled, red clay, sandstone,rocky, goat path, we have seen then all! Check out our travel map to view our journeys.

This trailer has seen some use alright, so I figure it is a good time to offer a full review of the Keystone Cougar 276RLSWE and our experiences, good or bad, with it.

Below you will find I have broken the review into 10 categories detailing the pros and cons we found. I have also included many photos and video clips to help demonstrate the points.

 

Appliances

I’ve been more than pleased with the reliable operation of the major appliances. The fridge, stove, microwave, and water heater have done exactly what they are supposed to with no problems.

I especially like the Atwood R-V2134BBP gas stove/oven. I’m the chef in the family and it  is a joy to cook with. Love cooking with gas!  The burners are lit by turning a knob which sparks the gas to light and have been very reliable.

The Suburban SW6DE water heater required the anode rod changed once and several flushes but this is normal maintenance. Also the element needed cleaning one time for hard water deposit build up. I like that it is a dual unit with gas and electric operation and the gas is auto ignition. The temperature of the water is perfect. Plenty hot enough but not scalding. It has easy access to its winterizing bypass valve through a wood panel near the stairs.

The Dometic DM2652LBX fridge performs well on electric and LP GAS. Every few months an easy defrost of the freezer is required.  A small negative is the fridges vent cooling fan can be heard cycling when the trailer is quiet.

The Sunbeam SR-11093B microwave oven does its job. Has a decent defrost cycle and cooks things like frozen vegetables and rice well. It draws about 10 amps so we need to beware running it if the AC is on and the Water Heater element is drawing current at the same time, because the main 30 amp breaker could blow.

The only thing I would want from them all is a little more volume. The oven is a tad small, as is the freezer and it would be nice to have a 10 gallon vs. the 6 gallon water heater. But everything is a compromise when you’re building a certain size and weight trailer I suppose.

My video clip of inside water heater and fridge insides

Suburban 232768 Water Heater Aluminum Anode Rod
Price: $13.63
22 new from $12.250 used

Pros

· Fridge cools and freezes food fine in gas and electric modes

· Stove is very good, love cooking with gas

· Microwave, no problems, does its job

· Water Heater, works perfect on electric and gas

Cons

· Wish all four had a little more volume

· Fridge vent cooling fan could be quieter

Cooling System

The Coleman Mach air conditioner has performed well without failure. It’s fairly quiet running in ducted mode, not so much when  running full blast. Up to about 85-90 degrees it provides a comfortable cool environment.

Once the temperature gets above 90 degrees the AC has trouble keeping up with cooling demands. Usually it’s only able to provide a 15-20 degree cooling difference from outside at that point. So if it’s over 100 degrees outside it will then be over 85 inside the rig. The amount of shade on the trailer and parking with the sun on the non-windowed side with the awning deployed can vary this somewhat.

My video clip showing Air Conditioner vents

DynastyMattress Deluxe 10-Inch Memory Foam Short Mattress for RV, Camper-QUEEN Size:(H)10”x(W)60”x(L)75”
Price: --
0 new0 used

Pros

· No failures

· Works well up to 85 degrees or so

· Ducted is a nice option

· Fairly quiet in ducted mode

Cons

· Above 85 degrees has trouble keeping the trailer cool

· A little noisy in non-ducted mode

Décor, furniture, flooring and cabinets

We are very pleased with the styling of the trailer interior. Keystone did a good job with the patterns and coloring. The materials used for the counter tops, cabinets, walls, and linoleum flooring are excellent and holding up well. So far the blinds have worked great without any string failures. Everything looks nice and is easy to maintain.

Things we found to be of sub-par quality are the carpet, furniture and mattress. The furniture (two swivel rockers and sofa) and mattress looked good and were comfortable for around the first month of use. Then the foam used inside thinned out and collapsed causing you to feel the underlying springs. Very uncomfortable! We went out and bought some foam and inserted it into the furniture and it helped a bit but not much. With the mattress we use a foam topper, but are still disappointed.

The carpeting is a nice color and looks OK but does tend to flatten down when walked on. Also there were loose staples that kept appearing for months and impaling our feet. Speaking of staples, the amount used on the window valances is ridiculous! The underside finishing is terrible. The Keystone installers are staple happy!

The finish on wood cabinets has been a pleasant surprise. It looks as good as the day we bought the trailer.  The hardware used for the drawers is still performing well even after the beating they take on the road. One problem that cropped up early on was loose screws. After every tow I was finding the cabinet door screws coming loose. Finally I just replaced them with a little longer and thicker screw type and all is well.

Pros

· Nice styling

· Easy to maintain and clean

· Counter tops hold up well to use

· Wall paper held up well

· Happy with wood finish

· Linoleum looks great, hold up well

· Blinds work well, no problems

· Window valances wear well

· Drawer hardware in good, no failures

Cons

· Foam in sofa and chairs sub-par

· Furniture is very low quality

· Many cabinet screws came loose during travel

· Mattress very low quality, can feel springs

· Carpet low quality, tends to flatten out, loose staples

· Excessive staples used for window valances

Electrical Systems

The electrical systems in the trailer have for the most part performed very well. It comes equipped with plenty of light fixtures in all areas and a decent quantity of AC outlets.

Our Cougar came equipped with remote operation of the slide room, security flood light, front power landing jacks and power awning. The wireless remote works well and has never given us any grief. I must admit though it was kind of a novelty for me and rarely use it. I prefer the manual controls.

The WFCO WF-8955 converter does a good job of charging the battery bank. No problems with any breakers or fuses in the unit. The fan can sometimes be a bit annoying in a quiet trailer and once in a while will surge if the load is just right.

The original TV failed in the first week but our dealer Greg’s RV in Duncan, B.C. told us to go buy a new one and give them the bill. We purchased a nice 32” Samsung HDTV and it works great on the roof top antenna and campground cable systems.

The Jensen AWM970 DVD/Stereo Receiver Works great and we really enjoy the weather-proof outside speakers.

The only electrical failure besides the TV was the inline fuse for the front power jacks would intermittently blow. Finally I installed an automotive resettable fuse and solved the problem.

Other annoyances are the cheap, noisy bathroom fan and no AC outlets in the slide room.

My video clip showing front loading  jacks problem

Pros

· No failures in 12V or AC systems, except power jack fuse

· Plenty of lighting

· Converter operates well

· TV and Antenna work great

· Stereo System works well and sounds great

· Has 8 speakers including 2 outside weather proof speakers

· Wireless remote for landing jacks, awning, light and slide

Cons

· No AC outlet in slide room area

· Bathroom fan is cheap quality and noisy

· Front power jacks intermittently blow fuse

· Converter fan noise sometimes irritating

Heating System

The Suburban furnace itself has performed well with no break downs or major issues. I’m pleased that we have been able to RV in below freezing conditions many times with no freeze ups in the plumbing systems. The unit heats very well in the main living area and provides a small duct to the underbelly area for water and waste tank heating. However there are a number of problems with the heating system.

One manufacture defect was a squashed section of duct work caused by an over driven screw which I was able to correct myself.  Another issue is insufficient heat to the bedroom area. The bedroom heating vent supplies very weak air flow. We generally use a supplemental electric heater when on full hook-ups and extra blankets when dry camping.  A third problem is the loudness of the furnace fan in the living area. The furnace is housed under the fridge and when the fan is running it is so loud we need to turn up the TV volume to hear the program. Finally the thermostat that came with the unit was an analog slider type and very finicky to adjust for correct temperature. I opted to replace it with a Hunter Model 42999B digital one and have been pleased with its performance.

My video showing furnace and heating problems

Pros

· No failures, consistently runs as expected

· Provides enough heat for most of the living area

· Heats the trailer underbelly

· Never had frozen pipes, tested down to 22 degrees

Cons

· Stock thermostat hard to set for temperature

· Insufficient heating in bedroom

· Furnace fan is loud in living area

· Furnace ducting was squashed in one spot

Plumbing Systems

I’ve been really pleased with the trailers plumbing. No major leaks have developed which was my main concern. The fixtures though plastic seem robust enough and have handled our constant use for 18 months with no leaking or failures. Also I have found the sinks and shower stall easy to maintain and clean and show no signs of wear and tear. The Dometic 310 porcelain toilet is easy to clean and flushes well. A few times a year I apply a little Vaseline to the rubber seal to keep it lubricated. A nice feature is the built in black tank flushing system called the No-Fuss-Flush. By hooking up a hose to the external inlet I can spray off the black tank insides.

I’ve had 2 minor leaks in plumbing. First one was a leaky shower drain. It was a simple fix though. I disassembled and found insufficient putty used in the seal so I just re-puttied and it was good to go. Second was a leak from the black tank vacuum breaker valve in the No-Fuss-Flush waste tank flush system. It is located under the bathroom sink and just required a little tightening on the plastic nut retaining nut.

A major annoyance is the failure of the tank level indicators to work properly. The fresh tank one is fine but all three waste tanks are very unreliable. The indicator lamps usually show between two-thirds and full when really they are empty. I have basically given up on them. I may upgrade to a different system in the future, for now I go by experience and the sound the toilet makes during flushing. Another minor annoyance is the sound the water pump makes. It is rather loud and vibrating, but provides good pressure, volume of water and never leaked.

Although the sewer outlets have never leaked or clogged there have been two problems. First several of the plastic handles broke and second the black tank valve gets very sticky and hard to open at times. I’ve put olive oil down the drain to lube the rubber with some success.

My videos of plumbing and holding tank problems

My video showing the water pump

RV Macerator Pump Septic Tank Dump Pump Portable RV Waste Pump (Storage Case Included)
Price: $351.49
1 new from $351.490 used

Pros

· no major leaks

· sinks and shower stall easy to clean

· water pump gives good pressure and no leaks

· outside hook-ups perform well and no leaks

· sewer drain valves no leaks

Cons

· minor leak shower stall drain

· water pump fairly loud

· tank level indicators aren’t accurate

· black tank sewer drain valve gets sticky, hard to open/close

· minor leak at black tank rinse valve

LP Gas System

Other than one problem the LP Gas system has been good. I like the fact there are 2-30 pound cylinders and the system has auto switch over abilities when one cylinder is empty. This is very nice when it hits empty at 4:00 AM and it’s freezing outside. There is a built-in LP Gas detector which gives us piece of mind for gas leaks. The BBQ quick connect port is a bonus too and gets lots of use grilling up yummy meals.

The problem I had with the system happened after about eight months. One of the pig tail connections between the cylinder and regulator went flaky on me and would shut off the LP Gas flow. Inside these pig tail hoses is a safety valve and apparently the one in mine failed. I had a LP Gas technician diagnose the issue and he recommended a better quality Marshall Product. I had him replace both pig tails and the auto switch over regulator with Marshall Gas stuff and the system has performed great since.

Video showing LP Gas Auto Switch Regulator

Pros

· Large capacity , 2-30 pound cylinders

· Auto switch over ability

· Many safety features

· External BBQ quick connect port

· Built in LP gas detector

Cons

· Low quality pig tail connectors

· Didn’t like the original auto switchover regulator

Outside Surfaces and Hardware

The outside of the trailer has stayed in very good condition and I’m happy with the looks after 2 years. I do routine maintenance like washing the roof, resealing any caulking that needs it and waxing the rig a couple of times a year. The Filon coating looks good with no signs of de-lamination or cracking and still shines. Same goes for the decals. The roof is in great shape and the seals around the vents and seams are good. Also the fiberglass front cap is in great shape and has good seals. The roof vents are all holding their seal and functioning properly as well.

All the window hardware and seals are working with no signs of leaks. I really like the dual pane windows especially because of the size of our windows. It really helps reduce noise from outside and with heating/cooling.

I really like the pull out bike rack. It’s easy to load on the bikes and strap them down. One thing to watch though is that the rack extends the trailer and may drag on the pavement if a road dip is too severe. While at the rear I’ll add that the rear stabilizer jacks have worked well too.

Several cons I have to complain about are, one the storage door seals are very cheap. I had one leak already. They are made of thin foam. Rubber would be better. Two, the ladder leading to the roof has had several plastic end pieces crack. This could lead to a very dangerous condition if not noticed. Lucky I’ve seen them in time and replaced them but I now constantly check their condition. Three, the windows could be a little darker or reflective to the sun. They pass through a substantial amount of heat. Four, when the AC runs in a humid environment it produces water and is dumped out on the roof to be carried away. The way the back roof is designed water would pool in the corners and eventually just run down the side corner. I solved this by laying a piece of plastic rope down and covering it in Dicor Lap Sealant. This way water gets channeled right to the gutters. This modification helps with rain water as well.

My video clip showing up on the roof

My video clip showing the basement storage

My video clip showing the power awning in action

Pros

· Filon finish has held up really well

· Rubber roof in great shape

· All seams seals good

· Front fiberglass is in great shape

· Decals are in great shape

· Slide seals holding up well

· Windows, frames, and screens are great, no leaks

· Like the dual pane windows, reduces noise

· Like the rear bike rack, works well

· Roof vents work well, no leaks

· Rear Stabilizer jacks work well

· No issues with entry door or locks

· Entry stairs work well

Cons

· Storage bay door seals are low quality, had one leak

· Rear Ladder has had multiple plastic end pieces crack

· Windows pass through too much heat radiation

Undercarriage, brakes, wheels, etc.

Over all I have been very pleased with the trailers frame. Everything is still straight, solid and shows little signs of corrosion considering the mileage we have put on it. It tows very smooth and straight, without any pull or stray off track. Rough roads are handled nicely and we have been on a few!

Same goes for the suspension, the springs, shackles, clamps, Trail-Air equalizer are all in decent shape. One thing I did find early on was the springs U-Clamps were under torqued from the factory. All other bolts and nuts were to spec.

I have cleaned and checked the brakes and repacked the axle bearings. Both are in good shape with normal type wear showing.

The Power King Tow Master tires that came with the trailer performed well and I eventually replaced them due to wear after around 25,000 miles with the same brand. I did move up to an E load rated tire that has 2 more ply’s for a little more strength.

The only negative I have concerns the aluminum mag wheels. They have developed some pitting even though I polish them often. I spent most of the summer and fall near the west coast ocean so that may be to blame.

My video clip showing the undercarriage area

Pros

· Brakes work well, normal wear

· Tires wore even , no failures

· Suspension works great

· Axles in good shape, no issues

· Axle seals and bearings have performed great

· Main frame is solid and very little corrosion

Cons

· Aluminum mag wheels show some pitting

Miscellaneous

I really like the way the trailer tows. It’s very stable in high winds, almost no sway, and is easy to back in. The King Pin box is strong and sturdy. The suspension is smooth and we get no vibrations.

The unit has a huge amount of storage for its size. This was a main concern when purchasing as we would be using it for a lengthy time. The basement pass thru storage area can hold a ton and the interior has cabinets galore most using the higher spaces  a fifth wheel provides. The unit has several large drawers and an extra large one under the sofa we use for all our shoes. Also the bed lifts and provides more storage underneath.

The large back window and dining area slide window are a great and one reason we picked this model of Keystone Cougar. It’s really nice to kick back and relax with a great scenic view out the large picture window.  My wife Anne loves to be able to work at her computer while taking in the beautiful surroundings out the large slide window.

Love the power awning and use it all the time. It’s great to see the winds rising or an approaching storm and with just a touch of the button your awning is in and secure. It has functioned without a hiccup.

Two other little things we like is, one the laundry shoot to the basement and two the hinged bed storage area. They allow convenient access to more storage areas. You can put a lot of stuff in under the bed and the hydraulic hinges make it very easy to lift it.

Dividing the living area from the bedroom/bathroom area is a small pocket door. We really like it and it has worked great. I prefer it to the accordion style.

One thing I wish the trailer has is a built-in generator, it would come in handy while dry camping to just flick a switch and have AC power available.

My video clip showing the laundry shoot door

Pros

· Trailer tows well

· Hitch King Box in solid shape, no problems

· Great storage area, like the pass thru basement area

· Like the propane BBQ quick connect port

· Love the power awning, has held up well

· Like the laundry shoot

· Like the hinged bed storage area

· All alarms have functioned well

· Large picture windows in back and slide

· Pocket door to bedroom is a nice addition.

Cons

· No built-in generator

Conclusion

Well there you have it a thorough review of our experience with the Keystone Cougar 276RLSWE Fifth Wheel Trailer.  As you can tell not everything is perfect and we found many flaws but overall we are very happy with it. Considering  the trailers relatively low price (around 30,000 dollars) and the smaller size compared to many fifth wheels I give it very high marks for storage space, style and durability. The layout and floor plan is really nicely done. While in Tampa, Florida we attended what is billed as the largest RV show in the US with hundreds of RV’s on display. Anne and I walked through many of them and have to say nothing we saw made us want to trade in our Cougar. We hope to continue to travel and explore many new and interesting places in it.

Watch The Full Review Video Below

*Update* March 2015

We are still living full time in the Cougar and very happy with it. Trailer is holding up surprisingly well considering we travel a ton each year. Here is an updated list of the repairs made and upgrades I’ve done:

*Update 2017*

I’ve come out with a new article:

Keystone Cougar Trailer Review – 6 Years of Fulltime RVing

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