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Old 02-22-2013, 09:34 PM   #1
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TT/Tow Cap basic question

I am new to the world of RV'ing and more specifically, travel trailers. I was hoping to get advice on selecting a travel trailer that suits our needs. My wife and I are looking to get a travel trailer for our family of four. We plan on pulling it with a Toyota Highlander with tow kit (5000# max cap). The travel trailer specifications all give an unloaded trailer weight and a gross combination weight rating. I understand we do not want to buy a TT with a 4999# unloaded weight to tow with a truck rated to pull 5000#, but what is a good general rule of thumb for how low we should try and keep the unloaded trailer weight while selecting a TT? Should we shoot for 4k max, or 3k max, etc... We plan on using the TT for long weekends and maybe an occasional road trip (1-2 weeks long, 1 time a year).
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:30 PM   #2
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you dont want to be at max capacity. The dry weight of a trailer is considerable less than the wet weight. I would think you would want to keep it around three thousand if using the dry weight . You might consider a lite weight small trailer or perhaps a pop up hard top camper.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:38 AM   #3
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The travel trailer specifications all give an unloaded trailer weight and a gross combination weight rating. I understand we do not want to buy a TT with a 4999# unloaded weight to tow with a truck rated to pull 5000#, but what is a good general rule of thumb for how low we should try and keep the unloaded trailer weight while selecting a TT?
The safest way is to use the trailer's GVWR as the probable weight of the wet and loaded trailer when on the road. Most families will have the trailer loaded to near the GVWR by the third camping trip.

But with a Highlander as the tow vehicle, you don't want to try to tow a TT with a GVWR more than 5,000 pounds anyway. I was in the same boat with a Honda Odyssey all fixed up to tow 5,000 pounds. I tied onto my enclosed cargo trailer loaded to about 5,000 pounds and towed it 300 miles across I-20 from El Paso to Midland. We made it, but the Honda was not a happy camper. Even going the other way with an unloaded trailer, you could tell that the wind resistance was more than the Honda was comfortable towing. That trip convinced me that I needed more tow vehicle than the Odyssey.
So we traded the minivan for an F-150 CrewCab that has a "tow rating" of 8,400 pounds. Now the cargo trailer with GVWR of 7,000 pounds and our TT with GVWR of 5,600 pounds are no problem at all.

If you want to keep the Toy as the tow vehicle, then you need to shop for a camper with a GVWR of about 5,000 pounds or less, but still have rattling-around room for the kids. The normal TTs with bunk beds for the kids and even the hybreds with two big beds, all weigh more than your weight budget. So look at fold-down or pop-up RV "tent" trailers. They have less wind resistance when on the road, and your Toy needs all the help it can get in reducing wind resistance (aerodynamic drag). They now make them with all the amenities of a TT, including AC, shower, water heater, furnace or space heater, microwave, and still have GVWR less than 5,000. Like this one:
Rockwood Tent Pop Up Camper by Forest River

My first camper was a small tent camper without AC or bathroom or stove or anything. We carried Coleman lanterns, Coleman camp stoves, plastic dishpans, porta-pottie and jugs of water in the storage cabinets. We drug that camper all over the USA when my two kids were growing up, from the tome the baby was 2 years old until she was gone off to college. We got along fine and enjoyed the family togetherness.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:50 AM   #4
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My daughter has a Highlander and no way I would want to tow anything near 5000#. That is a MAXIMUM tow rating for a loaded trailer. I do not know if Toyota calculates the tow rating using the base Highlander weight or a loaded Highlander. Also, the dry weight is a stripped trailer, no options. You can easily be 1000# over the dry weight when on the road.

With a Highlander, I'd keep the LOADED trailer weight under 4000#.

Ken
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:22 AM   #5
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Look into the sportsman classics by kz they are lightweight several to choose from. They are not that expensive but there not that luxurious but they work great. I tow a 16 bh behind a 2005 jeep grand.
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Old 02-23-2013, 11:29 AM   #6
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I used to tow a dry 4,400 lb trailer that was around the 4,800 to 5,000 lb. trailer wet with a Honda Ridgeline. The Ridgeline was rated to tow 5,000 lbs. It let me know it was at it's max. There was a lot of white knuckle driving as semi-trucks 1st suck you 2 feet toward them then pushed you 3 feet away as they pass.

I towed 1 year before I bought a 2011 F-150. The F-150 5.0 litre towed the trailer much easier w/o semi's being much of an issue. The F-150 was rated to tow 8,500 lbs. The F-150 did know the trailer was back there. I might have gone to a 6,000lb. trailer as it's max.

A lead sales manager has told me you should add 200 lbs of stuff per person.

I would try to stay around 2,500 - 3,500 dry and 4,000lb wet. The more buffer you have from actual to max the better you will be.

Really cool trailers are tear drop T@B trailers or a green, yellow or red Winnebago Mini. Also Koala Eco-Camp, the KZ Sportsman or Starcraft AR-one.

If you want to spend more $$$ then the small AirStream Sport or Bambi. I like the AirStream trailers to look at but it takes a lot of work keeping them from leaking. As the trailer is towed all the natural flexing over time will loosen up the rivets.

I also advise getting a hard sided trailer and not one with canvas pop-outs.
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Old 02-23-2013, 12:26 PM   #7
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I also advise getting a hard sided trailer and not one with canvas pop-outs.
Why?

I have over 15 years experience with a tent trailer and over 14 years experience with hard-side 5ers and TTs. I don't know of any reason to ignore the tent trailers for folks on a budget. Of course a bear can get into a tent side easier than a hard side, but we never had any problem with bears when camping in our pop-up in the mountains.

We learned to warn the kids to not touch the inside of the canvas roof over the fold-out beds if it was raining outside, or even with heavy dew in he early mornings. If you touch the wet canvas, it will probably began dripping at that spot. :(
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Old 02-23-2013, 12:35 PM   #8
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I was thinking about bears and putting canvas pop-outs away when wet. I now camp in an area that never had bears but now does. I think bears would smell food that was cooked inside too easy.

Also nothing makes it rain like going camping.
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Old 02-24-2013, 06:31 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the great insight on TT selection, all if it will go into our decision. We live in Florida and will be doing most of our camping locally. We were told that pop ups and hybrids have trouble staying cool in the heat of the florida summer. With little children this would be a problem for us come nap time. With this information, I think we are looking at a 16-17 foot TT, it looks like you can get these at a dry weight of 3-3.5k. We have seen some that have bunks and a convertible dinette to queen bed. We were hoping to have a sleeping space for a fifth but this is probably asking too much at this TT size.
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Old 02-24-2013, 07:19 AM   #10
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Look into the sportsman classics by kz they are lightweight several to choose from.
The 19BHcould be made to "make do" for us tow old folks.



It has a real bed for the adults plus bunks for kids. A shower separate from the pottie.
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Old 02-24-2013, 04:17 PM   #11
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Continued from above post.

But Darling Wife would veto it because of the bed that has to be crawled on to make it up. She insists on a bed you can walk around 3 sides of it. Also that one has very limited closet space, and no lavatory in the bathroom.

Much better is the Classis Sportsman 250S. GVWR 4800. Walk-around bed. Lavatory in the bathroom. One small slide to give a hair more rattle-around room. Much bigger bunks than the 19BH. Not a very big closet, but enough we could probably make do.
KZ Recreational Vehicles: Sportsmen® Classic 250S
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