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Old 05-09-2021, 06:02 PM   #1
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First time travel trailer buyer - what do I not know?

First, I just found this community and Iím drinking from the firehose. So much information, itís overwhelming.

Iíve got a family of five and my kids are small (under 10). Last year we rented a trailer a couple times and had a great time, and my wife and I are looking to buy one this year and go on a few trips over the next few years. My truck (2014 Silverado 1/2 ton with the 6.2L engine) is rated to tow 9500lbs but Iíd rather stay under 8000lbs.

Weíre looking around the 30í range, would like something that sleeps 6-8 minimum and weíre more concerned with quality than price.

Iím lost on some things - metal frame vs wood frame? Aluminum panels vs fiberglass?

What should I watch out for here?

Iím looking at Coleman lanterns, shadow cruiser, and grand design transcend and imagine brand trailers, so far.

Would like to buy in the next month or so, planning to camp mostly in California and other western states, likely no winter camping. Out here used trailers are incredibly expensive and the value isnít much better than a new trailer. Iíd rather buy a new one with a warranty and such than pay a premium for something that somebody else may have abused or not maintained well.

Any tips are sincerely appreciated.
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Old 05-09-2021, 06:27 PM   #2
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You have a very powerful half ton truck. It can pull more than it can control. Use this chart as a guide as to what length trailer would be a comfortable tow.

My initial thought is 8,000 lbs. is a lot of weight for your truck to control.

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Old 05-09-2021, 06:42 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by tuffr2 View Post
You have a very powerful half ton truck. It can pull more than it can control. Use this chart as a guide as to what length trailer would be a comfortable tow.

My initial thought is 8,000 lbs. is a lot of weight for your truck to control.

Attachment 327806
Thanks for this, most of the trailers I was looking at were closer to 6000lbs or so, with 600-700lb tongue weights.

The wheelbase of my truck is ~153in I believe (crew cab standard bed) so based on that, what size trailer do you recommend? I do have the trailer brake and tow package equipped, and last year both trailers we rented were around the 30í size and under 6500lbs. They towed very smoothly with the weight distribution hitch.
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Old 05-09-2021, 06:58 PM   #4
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With a family of five and associated belongings, you will have a pretty good load in that truck. 30', IMHO would be the longest I would consider. I think you will have a much less stressful towing experience.

To see a good estimate of what you can do weight-wise, take a look at the driver's side door pillar in your truck and find the 'cargo carrying capacity' (the payload value) listed on the yellow/white/black sticker. This is how much your truck can safely carry. It includes the weight of all occupants (people and pets) all gear in the truck and anything else added on to the vehicle after it left the factory, (toolbox, tonneau cover, etc.). Most importantly, the tongue weight of the travel trailer will also come off this amount. Payload is typically what will be your limiting factor when towing with a 1/2 ton truck.

The sticker payload is calculated (figuring in a full tank of fuel) when your truck rolled off the line. It is the vehicle's GVWR - its curb weight. Looking at the sticker is a good starting point for figuring what you can safely tow, but keep in mind that available payload is a fluid figure. It's always GVWR - curb weight, which of course varies depending on who and what is in your truck at any given time.

When looking at trailers, always base your calculations on the trailer's GVWR - not its dry weight. Figure 13% of the GVWR will be tongue weight. You also need to deduct 100 lbs from your payload for a weight distribution hitch (WDH)

The calculation below will assist you in determining how heavy a trailer you can tow with your vehicle:

Payload - (weight of: occupants, gear in the truck, 100 lbs for WDH) / 0.13 = Max trailer weight.

Here is an example of the above:

Sticker Payload: 1800 lbs minus....
You, the wife and 2 kids: 500 lbs minus....
WDH: 100 lbs minus....
Additional Gear, firewood, tools etc: 200 lbs = 1000 lbs, which is what is left in this example for tongue weight.

1000 / .13 = 7,692 lb max trailer weight.

Insert your numbers above and do the math. This will give you a good idea of what you can handle.
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Old 05-09-2021, 07:51 PM   #5
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I think you could tow a 6,000lb travel trailer easily, a 7,000lb travel trailer ok and an 8,000lb travel trailer might be too much.
You have the previous generation of the GM 1500 truck. As you know the 2019 redesigned GM 1500 truck is a lot bigger then the 2014. Just remember that.

Your wheelbase, if 154" can tow a 31' travel trailer according to the chart. I have seen travel trailers with two big bunks in the back with the bathroom in the other half of the trailer next to the bunks. That plus a dinette bed could sleep 6 kids. But I have been camping where the kids want to stay in a tent next to the camper. Also I have seen a 9 year old prefer the dinette and not the bunk.

Now, you know you are due for a new 2021 GM 2500 6.6lL gas truck so you can tow a cool 34' trailer with a slide and sometimes two slides in the 'Bunk Room'. Yes a bunk room in the back of the trailer with it's own door.
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Old 05-09-2021, 07:58 PM   #6
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Here is a good YouTube video of long travel trailers with the bunk room (house) as it is sometimes called.

https://youtu.be/__HDkhv0aeA
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Old 05-09-2021, 10:28 PM   #7
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Thanks guys. Any tips on what brands to look at? Or if not brands, what sorts of things (aluminum frame? Wood frame?) too look out for?
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Old 05-09-2021, 11:36 PM   #8
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Looking at a grand design 2800BH. Really liking this layout.

https://www.happydazerv.com/product/...0bh-1489330-29

Any recommendations of similar layouts? Specifically I like the couch being next to the dinette
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Old 05-10-2021, 08:32 AM   #9
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First time travel trailer buyer - what do I not know?

We had a similar layout in a Jayco for years(bunks and bathroom are flipped). We would still have it, but started doing more remote desert/mountain camping with side by side and dirt bikes. We got sick of taking 2 vehicles, and upgraded to a toyhauler.
We had 8 kids with us several times in that trailer, and slept them all inside with nobody on the floor.

Wood frame RVs have been around for a long time. Nothing wrong with them. Aluminum framed ďcanĒ be lighter in the same floor plan, but what usually happens is feature creep. Much of the time they end up weighing about the same with a bunch more gadgets.

As for aluminum side or hard/fiberglass sideÖ
Hard side is easier to clean, and does look better. Assuming a good quality unit it can look good for a long time with regular washing and waxing. Water intrusion can mean delaminates which can get really expensive really fast. Bumping anything can be disastrous. The aluminum sides have been around forever, and panels are easy to replace. I had to replace 2 on the previously mentioned trailer. I drug it along a tree when I was in a hurry to get out before a storm at the end of our first camping season. Doing that on a fiberglass side would mean a long expensive repair at a dealer.
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Old 05-10-2021, 08:39 AM   #10
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Thanks guys. Any tips on what brands to look at? Or if not brands, what sorts of things (aluminum frame? Wood frame?) too look out for?
The quality of the build matters more. The cheapest travel trailers are not necessarily the lowest cost to own. Avoid choosing the cheapest available for any given floor plan.

Warranty from a poor quality manufacture is probably not going to help much. It is not like buying cars and light truck. The manufacturers find reasons to deny claims. They probably all include arbitration. They hire the arbitrators. Most people end up fixing poor build quality themselves.

Warranty claims often take many weeks to fix. Some have reported loosing 2 or 3 months waiting for multiple warranty fixes in the first year. Choose better manufacturers and dealers for better results. Odds are better.

Buying a TT that is two years old is probably better than relying on a warranty. After two years most build issues have been corrected.

From personal experience I recommend avoiding Dutchman, Kodiak, Keystone, and Voltage. You can get a good one, but it would be a risky gamble.

We made our first camping trip in our new Dutchman Kodiak Cub 3 months after signing on the dotted line. (Had to wait for major issues the manufacturer refused to pay for fixing.) Things broke off the walls and the dinette table collapsed on the way home.

Things continued to fall off both inside and out for over two years of towing.

I wish you good luck and happy trails ahead!
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Old 05-10-2021, 08:52 AM   #11
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Your biggest concern with a 1/2 truck is the pin weight and t he cargo capacity of the truck. For every pound of cargo, passengers, etc that you ad to the truck, you reduce the tow rating by the same amount. The trucks tow rating is generally based on a base model truck, and 1/2 tank of fuel and only a 150# driver.

With the family of 5, I'd keep the trailer GVWR down to no more than 6500#. Another thing is the tongue weight on a loaded trailer will be 10 to 15% of the trailers GVWR. Ignore the brochure numbers for dry weight and tongue or hitch weight. Go by the weight on the weight sticker on the left front of the trailer, or add the trailer cargo capacity plus the dry weight to get the GVWR.

And the most important thing to know is never believe the RV salesman. Last week he was probably selling boats or cars. Most RV sales people do not use an RV.

There are a number of decent towing calculators on the web. I do not use them as I am an engineer and do the math for myself.

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Old 05-10-2021, 10:25 AM   #12
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Thanks guys. Any tips on what brands to look at? Or if not brands, what sorts of things (aluminum frame? Wood frame?) too look out for?


Wood frame constructed walls are not laminated, and use fiberglass batten insulation.

Laminated walls are aluminum framed with rigid foam board insulation. Some manufacturers use Azdel, instead of Luan, for a substrate so the chance of delamination is reduced greatly.

There are also different types of roof construction. Some are built using a truss, and fiberglass batten insulation. These will usually have ducted AC, as there is room for ductwork.

The other type of roof is laminated, or vacuum bonded, where they also have a rigid foam board roof. On these the AC will be a direct air flow with no ductwork. The only exception to this is Rockwood, and Flagstaff models as they use integrated ductwork with the foam board.

The Grand Design your looking at has laminated walls , on both sides, and the back, with a Luan substrate. It has a truss, and batten style roof. It will have fiberglass batten insulation in the roof, floor, and front wall. It will have attic vents on top to hopefully get rid of any unwanted moisture in the roof cavity.

Personally I would not purchase any trailer that uses batten insulation anywhere. I know many would disagree with me, but personally donít like cavities in my floor, or roof that I canít see. Any water leaks will require fiberglass insulation to be removed, or it could get moldy.

Most will buy and sell every 4 to 7 years, so they will put a higher priority on layout, than materials and methods of construction. Our trailer is 4 years old, and planning on keeping it for another 15.
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Old 05-10-2021, 10:30 AM   #13
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Wood frame constructed walls are not laminated, and use fiberglass batten insulation.

Laminated walls are aluminum framed with rigid foam board insulation. Some manufacturers use Azdel, instead of Luan, for a substrate so the chance of delamination is reduced greatly.

There are also different types of roof construction. Some are built using a truss, and fiberglass batten insulation. These will usually have ducted AC, as there is room for ductwork.

The other type of roof is laminated, or vacuum bonded, where they also have a rigid foam board roof. On these the AC will be a direct air flow with no ductwork. The only exception to this is Rockwood, and Flagstaff models as they use integrated ductwork with the foam board.

The Grand Design your looking at has laminated walls , on both sides, and the back, with a Luan substrate. It has a truss, and batten style roof. It will have fiberglass batten insulation in the roof, floor, and front wall. It will have attic vents on top to hopefully get rid of any unwanted moisture in the roof cavity.

Personally I would not purchase any trailer that uses batten insulation anywhere. I know many would disagree with me, but personally donít like cavities in my floor, or roof that I canít see. Any water leaks will require fiberglass insulation to be removed, or it could get moldy.

Most will buy and sell every 4 to 7 years, so they will put a higher priority on layout, than materials and methods of construction. Our trailer is 4 years old, and planning on keeping it for another 15.


This is really useful. What *is* batten insulation? What are the other alternatives and what's the drawback?

What other brands should I look at for this sort of layout? I've looked at a few Jaycos and Shadow Cruisers as well, no idea how to tell what kind of insulation they have.

I live in California, and it's very dry here, so generally mold/moisture isn't as big a problem as heat.
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Old 05-10-2021, 11:18 AM   #14
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First time travel trailer buyer - what do I not know?

Batten insulation is pre cut sheets of fiberglass insulation, and rolls are longer version of the batts. All the same material.

Foam board is the alternative that doesnít absorb moisture, and will not mold. It provides a thermal barrier.

Moisture I am referring to is the kind you create, bathing, cooking, breathing. Itís the climate inside the trailer, that does the most damage. Especially due to the small environment, levels can escalate quickly. Venting is very important.

Not familiar with every brand, and every model within those brands. You should be able to get the info from a brochure, or website.
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