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30 March 2011

Dodge Ram and Rockwood 8265WS Review Part 2


2011 Rockwood 8265WS 5th Wheel Review


Back in September of 2010 we wrote a quick review of our truck and 5th wheel trailer. We have since then had several request of a follow up review. If you are following our blogs, you know we did a review of the truck not too long ago, and now it's time for the 5th wheel trailer review.


Rockwood 8265WS Signature Ultralite

2011 Rockwood 8265WS by Forest River


Forest River is a large manufacturer of several different types of RV's and many other products. Some of the brands under the Forets River roof are: Blue Ridge, Cardinal, Cedar Creek, Cherokee, Salem, Sandpiper, Sierra, Wildcat, V-Cross, Wildwood, Berkshire, Charleston, Georgetown, Ridgeview, Forester, Solera, Sunseeker and Lexington.




The founder of Forest River is Peter Liegl. In 1996 he had a vision to create an RV company dedicated to help people experience the joy of the outdoors to the fullest by building better recreational vehicles.
First stop at the Hope Slide

Our Rockwood 8265WS


In September and October of 2010 after we picked up the trailer we went on a 5,000km trip of Western Canada: British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. This was a great trip to see how everything worked.

Prior to leaving on the trip, we followed the advice of some of the "seasoned" RV'ers on the Forest River Forum . Many of the people on the forum suggested to stay close to the dealership the first night to make sure that everyhting was working OK. Also make sure the dealership is open the next day, should you have any problems, you can just go back and get it all fixed. This is very good advice, you don't want to be 800km away from the dealership to find out that something is not in working order.

We camped 20 km from the dealership, and everything was working just fine as far as we could tell. I have to say that both my wife Liz and I were a bit tense pulling the new rig and setting it all up. 

When we picked up the trailer,a representative of the dealership did go through everything on the trailer (about 3 hours) with us prior to leaving the lot, but after about 30 minutes or so, we both had information overload. But it all worked out well.


Camping  in Golden, BC.



Rockwood 8265WS Floor Plan


If you and your partner are like my wife and I, you will have several discussions in regards to what RV and what size of RV you are going to buy. We sure had lots of them.

The Rockwood 8265WS floor plan was one that we both could agree on for the type of travelling that we planned...... Like our upcoming trip across Canada and back (Victoria, BC. to St. John's. NL.). We also hope to do many more trips through northern Canada, the USA, and maybe down to Baja California.

The size of the trailer is important if you are going  to be in many different campgrounds. When you get over 30 ft in length you start to limit the amount of places your trailer will fit into. Our trailer is 28ft 10 inches.


Rear of trailer with slides out. In Golden, BC.

Anders' opinion on the Rockwood 8265WS


The trailer is great, it is light, has all the power options, like: 3 slides, power front jacks, power rear stabalizer jacks, power awning.... All these features sure makes camping a lot easier and very comfortable.

The trailer is light, 6700 lbs empty, about 8,000 lbs loaded up. Keep in mind if you have a BC drivers license and are towing a trailer registered in British Columbia with a total weight over 10,141lbs or 4,600Kg, you are required to have a "Heavy Trailer Endorsement" on you license or your insurance may not cover you. Check with your Province, Territory or State for local regulations. See our website from more information.

The quality of the trailer is better then I expected, it feels very solid with the welded aluminium frame. Lots of storage to keep everything. The fully enclosed bathroom is also nice option and the sky-light over the shower makes the bathroom bright.


The electric fireplace is fantastic. I would not go without. It heats the whole trailer just nicely, however you have to be hooked up to at least 15amp shore power to run it. We first thought that a fireplace was "overkill" but not so, it is a must. Apparently some parks in the USA does not allow you to have a portable heater because of fire hazard.

Since I live for BBQ'ing, the included BBQ and its easy hook up is great. I can have my BBQ going in 47 seconds or less.

We had two small issues we had to get fixed after our first trip. One was a window in the bedroom that did not close properly or easily after being opened, the other was a drawer that would open during transit. Those were fixed promptly at the dealership.

There is a few things I don't like. In the bedroom it is a bit tight getting around the bed on the left (that's my side). The other issue is that there has to be a better way the sewer hose hook up is installed,so you don't have to remove the hose and store it every time. This is not unique to this trailer, all brands have yet to figure out an easier way.... In my opinion, there should be an outside compartment where the hose is permanently attached. Open the door, take it out, empty the tanks and stick it back in. In my opinion one should not have to remove the hose and store it some other place, like the bumper etc.

I know there are small pumps you can buy and attach, but before I go there I want to talk to someone that has one.... I'm sure this summer we will run into some person that has it all figured out. I am looking in to building in the sewer-hook up with only an outside door..... I will let you know if I can figure it out.

The ideal for me personally would probably be a trailer that is about 3-4 ft. longer, with extra space around the bed (King size would be nice) and a couple of recliners in the living area would be great. However it is not a perfect world.

If we plan to stay more in one spot, a bigger trailer is warranted. Overall though, I'm very pleased. 

Fireplace going and  laptop ready to go


Liz' Opinion on the Rockwood 8265WS


This trailer is a compromise between the wishes of my husband and my wishes. If it would go by me, I would prefer a 24 ft. trailer, Anders would pull around a 38 foot monster. 

What I like most on this Rockwood Trailer is: it feels very spacious with the three slide outs, the kitchen is by the entrance, accessible on lino flooring, and the washroom is a separate room and not half of it in the master bedroom.

There are other pluses:
  • The slide out wardrobe with ample space for clothes
  • The couch/air bed is very comfortable, not only to sleep on, but also as a couch to sit, read, or simply to laze on
  • The shower stall is large enough to have a comfortable shower and wash hair
  • It is bright with plenty of windows to get a cross draft going, all windows which open have screens
  • Good storage everywhere
  • Easy to access the electric slide out buttons
  • Good lighting inside and outside
  • The kitchen, including the fridge is accessible even with the slides in
  • 2 big Propane bottles for cooking and heating
  • Good outside storage
  • Nice awning, covering the entrance and BBQ areas
Here are a few things I would like to see:
  • More counter space around the sink and stove
  • The extra table over the drawers is a bit awkward
  • Space for shoes by entrance
  • Space for coats by the entrance
Driving the trailer you certainly know that you are pulling something behind and extra caution is a must. But in curves and mountain passes it handle really well and follows our truck like it should.

The best is, I do not need a special endorsement on my BC Driver's Licence, because even fully packed the trailer weights under 9,000 pounds.

I think it is a good trailer and suits our needs. I am looking forward to travel all the way to Newfoundland and back in this rolling summer home.


Camping  in Waterton Lake National Park

Rockwood 8265WS - A Good Trailer For Us


As you can see my wife and I have some different thoughts on RV's. One thing we do agree on,  we both love to travel and explore this wonderful country of ours.... Canada.

Happy Trails,

Liz and Anders

29 March 2011

HTC Dezier Z and Wi-Fi Hotspot

Your own Wi-Fi Hotspot with HTC Desire Z


If you are like us, you probably surf the net frequently. When we are out camping, not all campgrounds have Wi-Fi.  And if they do, often  the reception is less then good. This creates a problem if you want to stay in touch. Well, we might have solved that problem for ourselves.


What is a Wi-Fi Hotspot?

A Wi-Fi Hotspot is a place where you can hook up your computer, wireless printer, camera, cell phone and more. Like when you go to your local coffee shop, and they have free Internet, that means they have a Wi-Fi Hotspot. Check out Wikipedia for more details.


HTC Desire Z

As you probably know, I love all the technical gadgets that are available out there. I bought myself a new cell phone last November and it is the HTC Desire Z. This is by far the best phone I  ever purchased, and I have owned many of them. Check out the video overview.


As usual, I did months of research before buying.  What set this phone apart from the competition out there, it has the capability of setting up your own Wi-Fi Hotspot. When activated, I can hook up 8 wireless devices to my phone with download speeds up to 14 Mbps.


We just had the kids up here on Cortes for spring break, and we had 5 laptops running off my phone acting as a Hotspot.


Wi-Fi Hotspot set-up

Do not be intimidated by all the technical terms, setting up the Wi-Fi Hotspot is easy and will  only take you a few minutes to do so. With just a few clicks on the touch screen, you will be ready to name your Wi-Fi Hotspot (for example we call ours "WDC Hotspot"). You then create a password that any user allowed to access the hotspot will have to enter initially in order to access the Wi-Fi connection. In subsequent times it will hook up automatically.


Saving Money With Your Wi-Fi Hotspot

Most of the time I have had a data plan for my phone and likewise did my wife Liz. With the HTC Desire Z we can get away with only one data plan. If Liz wishes to access the internet with her phone, we just turn on my Wi-Fi. The second phone must have Wi-Fi capability.


Also, at our cottage on Cortes, we no longer need an Internet account, we just use the phone for our Internet access.


If you plan on doing a lot of RV'ing, the HTC Desire Z might just be the solution for your Internet access, plus you have a good phone.


HTC Desire Z Features

This phone is loaded with everything you could possibly need. One of the nicest features, besides the Wi-Fi Hotspot, is the slide out keyboard. Even with my big fingers, typing is a breeze. There are loads of apps that can be downloaded from the Android Market and many other places.




If you have any questions about the phone or it's functions as a Wi-Fi Hotspot, just contact us.


Cheers,


Anders and Liz

01 March 2011

Dodge Ram and Rockwood 8265WS Review Part 1


Dodge Ram Truck and Rockwood 5th Wheel Trailer

We have had a few request to post a review of our tow vehicle and our trailer. We now own the truck for a year, and we added 20,000 km on the motor. As you may recall, we got the trailer last fall (2010) and did a great trip from Vancouver out to Saskatchewan and back to Victoria. That trip was over 5000 km, and we got a really good feel for the trailer and the truck.
2008 Dodge Ram Laramie 4x4 Quad Cab and 2011 Rockwood 8265WS 5th Wheel Trailer


Our first blog on the truck and trailer was about why we picked them and what we did. We will now tell you some of the things we like and don't like with the truck and the trailer. Here we go:


Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie 4x4 Quad Cab

Overall the truck is just fantastic, we would not change anything. The 6 cylinder 6.7 liter cummins diesel motor has an incredible amount of power and torque. Really, if you need more power, you should get a dump truck or a Terex Titan like the one below.
Anders just had to check it out. This is in Sparwood, British Columbia.


With the trailer loaded up and tanks full, we pull around 9,000 lbs which the truck pulls up and down the Rocky Mountains (on cruise control) with a smile, and with lots of power to spare. The truck has full torque at very low rpm (1,300 rpm) and produces somewhere around 650 ft lbs of torque.


The truck is further equipped with a 6 speed automatic transmission that is just great. You can gear down manually just with a toggle switch on the gear shift if you choose to.
2008 Dodge Ram Laramie 4x4 Quad Cab and 2011 Rockwood 8265WS 5th Wheel Trailer
A great place for information on the Cummins motor is the Cummins Forum, also you can check out the Diesel Truck Recource for more of your questions. At both places you can get any question about diesel motors or trucks answered.


I did a lot of research prior to buying our truck. I compared the Chevy, Ford and Dodge. At the end we picked the Dodge (and it's really personal preference) and one of the reasons was the cummins motor. I did go out and test drive all three brands. 


At first we were going to buy a new truck, but when we saw the difference in price, we settled on a two year old unit with 52,000km on the motor. By  the way, I have been told, a cummins motor is just getting broke in at 50,000km.


Further we were also fortunate to have some family giving us feed back. My brother in-law Allan and his son Jason, who farm in Saskatchewan have nothing but good things to say about the cummins motor. 
On the Ray Family Farm

On the Ray Family Farm


Allan and his family have several trucks on the farm. They have one Dodge Ram that has over 1 million km on it. I also read an article that stated that most big Semi Trucks on the road have a straight 6 cylinder motor.


Another article that I read stated that (now referring to 2008 models) the Cummins motor was rated for a re-build at 350,000 km compared to 250,000 for both Chevy and Ford motors. 


I'm not sure what they have done with the exhaust system on these trucks, but it is the best in the industry. You can smell less fumes from our exhaust then you do from a car.


The quad cab in our truck is perfect for us. It gives us extra room in the back should we have extra people with us. When we are on the road, we most of the time keep our (hiking) back packs and a cooler with lunch and snacks in the back, so the extra room is nice.


Never really thought I was going to talk about a sun roof, but it is very nice and I'm happy we got that option. 
The sunroof option gives you a different point of view.


When driving in the mountains you do get a better view of the surroundings, and when you run in to some wild life on the road it's a great place to shoot a movie.





A comment from my wife, Liz


I asked my wife Liz to write a comment on the truck to get a woman's perspective on things. She does drive the truck and trailer when we are out camping and it is great for me to sit in the passenger side as well. 
Liz at Frank Slide in Alberta. Canada


To share the driving will be especially important when we go across Canada and back this year, we will drive around 20,000 km from May till the end of October.


Here is Liz's observations and comments:


"Our truck is great for towing our 5th wheel. I feel confident that it has the power to get us up the mountains, and more importantly has the capacity to control the weight and push when we come down mountains.  
At first I was very apprehensive to drive the truck pulling the trailer. But I feel confident, that the truck and I can handle it. I have been driving through the mountains and passes no problems. In the cities with the trailer I am still a bit cautious. In the city without the trailer is fine, although in my opinion this truck is way too big and parking is a challenge. 
I still call it the beast, but I have learned to tame it."
Liz at the Wheel, Driving Through Banff National Park, Alberta. Canada
Tow Haul and Exhaust Break


Our truck is equipped with a full tow package including Tow Haul and Exhaust Break, these are features that should not be overlooked when purchasing a truck as a tow vehicle.


Tow Haul. The Tow Haul is a feature that is activated with the press of a button (at the end of the gear shift). The Tow Haul feature keeps the transmission in the first 4 gears (out of 6). It will gear down on it's own when you let off the throttle and especially when it senses a load pushing from behind, like 9000 lbs, in the form of a 5th wheel trailer. It is a feature that I would not want to be without. We even use the Tow Haul when driving in the city. It is great, because the truck does not go in to over-drive ( gear 5 and 6).


Exhaust Break. Exhaust break is what the big truckers refer to as a Jake. On our Dodge Ram it is activated by pushing a button on the dash. What happens is that the exhaust path of the motor is closed off by a valve, and the motor has to force the compressed gases past the valve, slowing the motor down. 


Driving with the exhaust break is a bit louder, especially when you go down hill, but here again, a must feature if you are thinking of buying a truck to tow. Now they can be installed after-market as well. According to the Dodge Ram manual, if you turn the exhaust break on when you start the truck up, it will help to warm up the motor faster.
Camped for the Night in Golden, British Columbia. Canada


These two features together make towing a trailer down hill a breeze, and you do not ride the breaks. It is very rare that we use our brakes coming down most hills. 


With the 29 ft trailer behind us, we came across the Coquihalla, Highway 5, coming down to Fraser Valley and Vancouver last fall. With the Tow Haul and the Exhaust Break engaged I had to touch the manual breaks once or twice in the steepest part. During the rest of the downhill grade, I had to keep the foot on the throttle or it would slow down too much. The grade on the Coquihalla is 8.5% in some places, and it drops 3000 ft in 20 km.





Fuel Economy


The truck has better fuel economy than we expected. It is improving as we go along. At  first, at 52,000 km, we got around 18 liters per 100 km (13 mpg), by now at 72,000 km it improved to approximately 13-14 liters per 100 km (18 mpg).


When pulling the trailer we average about 18-20 liters per 100 km (11-13 mpg). We travel at a speed of 90-100 km/hr if roads are good, otherwise we drop down to 70-80 km/hr.


Other Stuff

The side mirrors on the truck flip up for tow mode. This is a great feature, easy to do and works like a charm.

Extras we purchased for the truck are, a tool box for the back that fits under the cover (referred to as "underbody tool box"), a soft roll top cover, a lock for the tail gate, a TomTom XXL GPS and a set of Uniden Two Way Radios. We use the radios for backing up when parking in tight campgrounds. If you want more info on those, just let me know.
Liz and Anders at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, BC. Canada

The only extra that would be nice to have in a truck, is a built in GPS. As you know we purchased a free standing unit (see above picture). I don't like having the GPS on the front window, so I will show you later, in a separate blog how we handled that situation. 

On second thought,  maybe it is better to have a free standing unit. Reason: you have to think about how all technical gadgets change from year to year. The GPS units have come a long way since 4 years ago. So maybe it is better to have a free standing unit that you can replace when you would like to. 

Next time we are in the market for a GPS, I will also look at possibly using an iPad,  Galaxy or BlackBerry tablet. By using a tablet with a GPS app you can look at your route and plan the next day much easier. You can get a TomTom app for both the iPhone and iPod touch. If you have a Google phone like me, I use an HTC Desire Z  smart phone and it has a GPS app. I have not used it yet so I can not give you any feed back there.


We will cover the hitch and the trailer in the next two blogs.


Cheers, Anders and Liz


PS. Just in case we forget, remind me, and I will let you know how we set up for our on wireless Wi-Fi network when we are on the road.