We have a 2014 Forest River/Rockwood HW-277.
Previously, we had a Viking with a 10' tub and 12" wheels/tires. Simple and basic.
FIRST AND FOREMOST: I love my camper. The list of "issues" notwithstanding, the problems are relatively minor, and many could be addressed in advance without voiding the warranty.
- The travel door is a bonus. Rather than a split entry door when the camper is setup, you get a "solid" door in a frame and solid door. The travel door takes only a moment to store under the rear bed.
- The pipe frames to hold the beds are an advantage over the style where you must lift the bed to insert the pipe into the bottom of the bed track or the trailer bumper. I'm 6/6" and there are times on sloping terrain where the beds can be pretty high in the air, and you couldn't lift the bed with your back. It would take two people to setup the bed in that case.
- If you choose a model with the outdoor kitchen, you'll love it.
- Having the slide for the dinette is also a huge bonus. We have the U-shaped dinette in our 277, and it's very roomy.
- The hard-wall bathroom is terrific. It's more private than a curtain, and it goes up in a flash.
- The stereo is setup a bit strangely, but it sounds pretty good considering. Weird is that "balance" shifts sound from inside to outside, and "fade" moves the sound from front to rear on the interior speakers. That seems backwards to me, and it may be a quirk of installation.
- A stove with an oven and a microwave oven are pretty slick for a pop-up.
- HW means High-Wall. At my height, I was delighted to realize that they use the same canvass on the regular height trailer and the high-wall, so my ceiling is over 7 feet up! Love it.
- The fridge is a cut above the typical pop-up fridge, because the counter height is higher.
Setup time is on par with my Viking once you consider the extra features you must also setup. The bathroom takes a couple minutes; the slide dinette takes a few minutes; the outdoor kitchen and grill each take a couple minutes. And even though I'm tall, I often need to use a ladder to position the rain covers over the lift posts. Pretty soon, setup takes about 10 to 15 minutes more than a less fancy pop-up. But most of that trade-off is features vs setup time. And it's the features that make boondocking for days on end very comfortable.
A) Build quality could be better. Keep a toolbox and some spare screws, nuts and bolts handy, because things sometimes come apart. We do a lot of dry camping 15 to 20 miles into gravel roads. I actually lower the tire pressures on the trailer when on gravel to soften the ride, then I inflate the tires to full pressure when we get to pavement. I have a top quality Viair 12 volt compressor (connects straight to the truck battery with clamps) for this purpose. First thing I do after setup is to sweep the floor looking for parts and put things back together.
B) If the one you look at comes with the heated innerspring mattresses, consider getting the dealer to swap for foam. A 4" innerspring mattress is a horrible idea - heat or no heat. We first tried a 2" foam topper, but this year I put a 5" memory foam mattress in "our" bed.
C) Speaking of rattles. Check the plastic bolts that hold the hinged glass stove cover together each trip. And use a towel or light rug to separate the glass from the stove top.
D) Continuing comment "A" - Look for loose screws/bolts as soon as you setup. This includes acorn nuts on the bathroom, screws holding the stove together (burners and all), screws holding the outside grill together, and so on. In particular, the metal angle support for the bottom of the door was just screwed into particle board (at least on mine). I soon replaced the screws (which had stripped out) with stainless bolts and locking nuts straight thru the wall. The bolt heads are under the awning bag so leaks aren't a concern.
E) The valves on the kitchen sink are not intuitive. We are constantly closing one and opening the other wide open when trying to turn off the water. A minor thing, but annoying...especially when dry camping and water is in short supply.
F) The support rail for the grill and outdoor accessory counter is also just held in with short screws into particle board (or plywood...seems like particle board to me). Get more screws - stainless - and reinforce this right away. The grill is pretty heavy for such a system, and since you tug on it and put things on the counter/table, you're constantly torqueing on this rail.
G) The tongue jack is adequate, but it's not up to the task of allowing you to roll the camper about on the tongue wheel. The plastic wheel could be replaced, but the jack shaft itself does not seem to be up to the lateral loads imposed by such a heavy trailer. My old Viking could roll in and out of the garage on its tongue wheel.
H) A real telltale on quality control. During assembly, someone drove a screw through the floor in perfect alignment with the freshwater fill hose to the holding tank. In relatively short order, the screw punctured the hose and I'd lose about 1/3 of my fresh water as it piddled out onto the ground via the hole in the hose. I used a dremel to cut off the screw, and I spliced a repair into the fill hose. But of all the things that needed attention in the camper, poor planning and execution puncturing plumbing is hard to forgive.
I) The main door is screens with two sliding panels that make the door solid. The corner joints on the sliding panels us non-standard and pretty fragile connectors. Just lifting the lower panel, I ripped the upper cross rail off the vertical rail. And the nonstandard plastic corner bracket means that your local hardware store doesn't have an easy replacement.
J) Finally, yes, the lift winch is wonky. I don't know if this goes with the territory or if it's a factor of which winch they spec for the camper. I suggest that you remove the protective cover over the winch and use silicone or bathtub caulk to seal the relay boxes. I've ordered replacements for mine after only 3 seasons of use. (Meanwhile, I've never replaced a relay on my 2006 truck or 2004 Toyota Rav-4.) This winch is "outside" in the weather, but the relays don't seem to be up to that duty. On the other hand, they are cheap at $10 each. The good news is that your cordless drill and the socket for the stabilizer jacks will raise and lower the camper just fine. But make sure you have spare battery. Doing it with the handcrank might take an hour because the winch motor runs 600 RPM vs. your hand cranking running 1/10 of that speed at best.
So that's a long list of gripes, but, as I said, I love the camper. Buy some gorilla tape, a small storage box for nuts, bolts, washers and screws, stock it up with a few sizes, and keep a small tool box handy. If you're smart, you'll have a drill to manage your stabilizer jacks, so throw in a small pack of drill bits. And before you take it on its maiden voyage, get some locktite and do all the acorn nuts, etc. that you can get to easily.
Buy a good step-ladder/stool. This thing is very tall, and you'll need it just to setup and store the awning!
Get a cover. My bag awning is roasted from the Colorado sun. I need to replace it. I spent about $150 on a cover from Camping World that, based on one year of use, should last 5 years or so.
This is a pretty big trailer. Mine is a 15' tub. It's a single axle, and fully loaded it's almost 4000 pounds and about 450 pounds tongue weight. Add a bed full of firewood, coolers, chairs, a generator and 4 x 7-gallon cans of extra water, and it's a load. I installed Firestone air bags on my Ram 1500, and I run them at about 25 pounds and the rear truck tires with about 5 pounds of additional pressure when hooked up. That setup makes the truck ride level, and it doesn't porpoise at all. It's VERY stable. The trailer tows like a dream with that rig. I didn't have the airbags for my old Viking, and even though it was only 2100 pounds fully loaded and the tongue weight was only about 200 pounds, my truck wallowed and porpoised a bit over undulating roads.
If you need to move this trailer by hand very much, you may need a tongue dolly like the Trailer Valet. I have a Harbor-Freight manual dolly, and it's a bear to move this trailer with that dolly.
One last tip. The climb into the beds on a highwall is rather Everest like. I bought some rubbermaid plastic steps and cut the body of the steps to match the "stair" leading up to the bed. We now have two stairs with better footing to give access to the beds. My wife is short, and these are a real blessing: http://bit.ly/2pjYMVl
All I did was use a jig saw to cut the back of the plastic stair to match the profile of the built in step/ledge. It just drops in place - one at each bed. And they nest for travel and fit in the bathroom.
Speaking of bathroom, one of these is a must: http://ebay.to/2pIc5Mx
Would I buy the same trailer again? Yes!
Sorry for the "book," but I would have loved to have this info in advance.