Starcraft Travel Star Galaxy 299BHU & Dodge Ram Sport Crew Cab
Starcraft recently revamped its venerable Travel Star travel trailers by introducing a few new floorplans and really sprucing things up for 2012 with a brand-new Galaxy Package of options. The result is stunning and the new 299BHU Travel Star is a perfect example. From front to back, it’s loaded with conveniences and amenities that make it family-friendly and very easy to use.
We especially like the 299BHU floorplan because of its two-door layout. A huge 30-by-72-inch main entry door offers access to the living and dining areas of the trailer, while the 20-inch door at the rear provides exterior entry to the lavatory. This makes getting in and out of the bathroom easy for kids (or adults for that matter) when they’re playing outside, as they don’t have to tromp through the main room every time they need to use the facilities. The bathroom is also conveniently located adjacent to the rear bunk beds, making frequent nighttime trips to the toilet easy for the little ones, too.
The 80-by-41-inch bunk beds offer 3-inch foam mattresses and windows with curtains at the ends of each of the two bunks. They’re truly cozy spaces for the kids, or even for spare adults. The bathroom next door delivers a real china toilet with a pedal-flush system, and a full bath/shower stall with plenty of room for a 6-foot, 2-inch frame to stand inside – although the top of my head was inside the skylight. You’re still going to get the floor wet when you shower, and a towel on the floor will be needed, but it’s not bad for a trailer this size. A generous three-tiered linen closet is positioned in the corner between the toilet and the shower stall. The opposite corner is filled with a cabinet and countertop including a medium-size, but suitable, sink. A large mirrored medicine cabinet hangs above it on the wall. Of the five heater-vent registers in the trailer’s floor, one is in the bathroom (the other four are in the main living/galley area). The other heat vent in the bathroom keeps the space toasty on chilly mornings.
The living room contains a full-wall slide that makes this trailer feel voluminous inside once it’s set up for camping. With the slide out, the aisle is approximately 40 inches wide, and the slide houses the business end of the galley and the overstuffed, and very comfortable, convertible leather sofa with a 44-inch-wide seating surface. The kitchen may be one of the highlights of the Galaxy option package ($4707), as it contains the beautiful granite-look solid surface counter top with the under-mounted oversized (22.5-by-14 inch) double sink, and its cover/integrated drying rack and high-rise faucet. Also integrated into the galley is a Wedgewood Vision oven and three-burner high-output stovetop. In between the stove and sink is a large central workspace area on the counter, while above the stove sits a HighPointe microwave. The galley is loaded with drawers and storage space above and below. Drawers stacked in the center of the lower cabinet include a top drawer split in two with the top half holding a divided silverware drawer, while the bottom half is reserved for larger items such as spatulas and trivets. A cutting board nestles nicely into the top half of the second of three drawers.
Opposite the galley and sofa is a unique chaise-lounge design U-shape dinette that easily seats four adults and makes an open and comfortable seating area for meals, games or conversation around a 27-by-38-inch tabletop. Two more could be seated for meals if you used picnic chairs in the extra wide aisle. Or the dinette can be quickly converted into an 82-by-45-inch sleeping platform. We also found that the dinette offered the best view of the entertainment center with its 32-inch RCA LCD TV and Jensen stereo system nestled into the wall. The cabinets divided the main room and the master bedroom. Next to the dinette stands the fridge/freezer. This two-door unit can easily hold enough to feed a family for a week. It is flanked and opposed by huge closets. To its rear are two large triple-tiered linen closets.
Opposite the fridge and to the rear of the galley stands a huge, 21 inch-wide hanging wardrobe. Below the wardrobe is a storage cabinet housing a kitchen trash can, plus a little tray behind the trash can for extra bags, gloves and other items that might be useful when dealing with the trash.
The 299BH offers a queen bed up front, which features a fat, comfy 7-inch spring mattress. But since I am 6 feet, 2 inches tall, my head and feet hit the headboard and the divider wall that houses the entertainment center when I stretch out straight on the mattress. Occupants of the master suite can’t take advantage of the entertainment center, as the TV doesn’t swivel to the opposite side. There is a cable TV hookup and power outlet in the rear streetside ceiling but you would have to mount a hanger or build a custom cabinet for the TV.
The master bedroom features generous overhead cabinets and two large hanging wardrobes with nightstands on the sides of the bed. Storage space under the lift-up queen bed includes much of the exterior pass-through room, plus an additional space that includes a laundry basket hamper with its own convenient side access door to the bedroom interior. Convenient 12-volt lamps are located overhead for pre-slumber reading.
One of the things we noticed right away were the large windows on the 299BHU that helped bring light in and make the trailer feel spacious. Another nice touch is the key hanger/corkboard note box just inside the main doorway that houses some of the master light switches and the tank and battery monitor controls inside.
On the outside, the sleek new Travel Star Galaxy package sports a gray-colored aerodynamic fiberglass front cap with integrated LED hitch lights; and a Power Package that includes an electric awning, front and rear Lippert stabilizer jacks, and an electric A-frame jack with a Fastway Flip automatic jack foot. A remote-control unit for the awning, porch light, security light, stabilizer jacks and the slideout is also part of the 23-item Galaxy option package. The front-end pass-through storage compartment features locking baggage doors with 20-by-15-inch openings and is the only exterior storage access.
The Starcraft 299BHU trailer was designed for a half-ton truck and the new 2012 Ram 1500 was more than up to the job. We were driving the Sport Crew Cab 4×4 with the 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI engine that produces 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque backed up by the new 6-speed automatic transmission. This powerful combination moved the vehicle effortlessly through traffic on city streets or highways with no load on its tail, and handled the 6900-pound Starcraft with nearly as much ease. Off-the-line launches without the trailer were aggressive as the first gear ratio is a deep 3:1 ratio and our test truck was equipped with the 3.92 axle gears. It wasn’t until we began climbing hills with the trailer that the Ram showed any sign of a struggle, but it had relatively little trouble muscling the trailer up moderate grades and it was only the steepest climbs that truly tasked the Ram with this load. By using the manual gear selection mode, we never allowed the transmission to be in any gear higher than third when descending extreme grades with the Starcraft 299BHU in tow. That helped keep the truck and trailer’s speed under control, and my foot off the brake pedal much of the way down the hill. The A-arm independent front suspension and the segment-exclusive coil-spring, multi-link rear suspension worked wonders helping the truck pick its way through traffic on the highway or during our urban jaunts, and it did just as good a job helping to keep the trailer tame while following the truck around the curving mountain roads we used to test the Ram/Starcraft combo.
From the cockpit of the new Ram, it’s easy to stay in control of the vehicle and remain comfortable. The dials and instruments are easy to see and read at a glance, and the driver “infotainment” center and steering-wheel buttons offer a convenient way to access and adjust systems such as the integrated electric trailer-brake controller. Our truck came with optional 10-way power (with power lumbar support) driver and six-way power adjustable passenger seats, so finding just the right spot was easy. Backseat passengers don’t get ripped off, though, as they are treated to a well-stuffed 60/40 split-folding seat with plenty of leg room even when the front seats were pushed all the way back for long-legged drivers like me. Other interior features that make a long road trip enjoyable include the premium sound system with a Sirius/AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo and a 506-watt Alpine surround system with nine speakers and a subwoofer, dual-zone temperature control, heated and ventilated front seats, an audio jack input for mobile devices and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
Visibility of the truck’s surroundings, especially the trailer, was excellent. The big windows and a high, commanding driver’s position certainly help, but the power trailer tow mirrors with their manual fold-out feature were a big part of that great visibility. Another of our favorite towing features of the Ram is the rear-view camera that comes in to play when the transmission is placed in reverse. Once you get the hang of it, watching the screen while backing the truck toward the trailer’s hitch in order to hook up by yourself becomes easy.
Storage capability in a pickup may seem obvious, but aside from the huge open bed, the 2012 Ram offers the RamBox storage bins integrated into the bed side-rails. Each RamBox can be used to stow gear for work or play and is weatherproof, lockable, illuminated and drainable. The cargo bed features a divider/2-foot long bed extender, and a cargo-rail system with four sliding adjustable cleats.
Overall, we found the 2012 Ram 1500 a great choice when it comes to a half-ton truck, and it’s a perfect match for the Starcraft 299BHU travel trailer. Both vehicles are packed with features and deliver comfortable, enjoyable experiences.
Travel Star 299BHU
EXT LENGTH: 32’ 7”
EXT WIDTH: 8’
EXT HEIGHT: 10’ 9”
INTERIOR HEIGHT: 7’
CONSTRUCTION: Aluminum framing, vacuum-bonded laminated fiberglass sidewalls and roof; unitized 1.5-inch laminated floor; one-piece seamless rubber roof; molded fiberglass front cap; bead-foam insulation.
FRESHWATER CAP: 62.6gal
BLACK/GRAY WATER CAP: 32gal/32 gal
LP GAS CAP: 14 gal
AIR CONDITIONER: 13,500 Btu
CONVERTER: 45 amp
TIRES: Radial ST205/75R14
SUSPENSION: MOR/ryde CRE 3000 axle equalizer/springs
WEIGHT: (freshwater, water heater, lp-gas full; no cargo): 6,902 lb
HITCH WEIGHT: 665 lb
AXLE WEIGHT: 6,237 lb
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 7,950 lb
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (f/r): 4,400 lb/4,400 lb
CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY: 1,048 lb
MSRP, BASE: $24,914
MSRP, AS TESTED: $30,450
BASIC WARRANTY: 1 yr.
Ram Sport Crew Cab 4×4
MPG SOLO: 13.4
ENGINE: 5.7L V-8
HP: 390 @ 5,600 rpm
TORQUE: 407 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
AXLE RATIO: 3.92:1
FUEL CAPACITY: 33 gal
SUSPENSION: Independent front/trailing arm coil solid axle rear
BRAKES: Four-wheel disc ABS
TOW RATING: 8,900 lb
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 6,700 lb
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING: 14,000 lb
LENGTH: 19’ 1”
MSRP, BASE: $39,910
MSRP, AS TESTED: $51,290
BASIC WARRANTY: 3 yr/ 36,000 mi