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Vehicles for towing campers

A few days ago I was eating dinner with some friends who like to camp but who do not yet have a camper. The question came up again about what type of truck and how big of a truck should they get if the wanted to pull a fifth wheel. Both of the friends have 1/2 ton pickup trucks and they know better than to try to pull a 5th wheel with their trucks. However, I met a guy in the Tree Tops RV Park in Arlington, Texas who had not gotten the message yet. We had just parked and were still setting up when this guy comes in beside us with his 5th wheel. I was about through with my setup and after he finished we introduced ourselves and started to talk. It was then that he mentioned the fact that he only had a 1/2 ton truck. I was really taken back and that is the point at which I paid attention to the truck! His 5th wheel was smaller than mine but entirely too big for his truck. I told him that I was surprised that he even made it to Arlington, but he said that he had pulled the trailer several times with that truck. They were from Oklahoma and were headed for Corpus Christi, Texas. The next moring when they left, I wished him well but just shook my head in disbelief.

There was another instance of seeing a guy with an incorrect truck and camper combination. We were on our way to Estes Park, CO and had stopped in Raton, NM at the Raton, KOA. When we pulled into our site, there was a Teton Homes 5th wheel parked next to us but the owners were not there. My wife and I were trying to guess what tow vehicle they had since I looked at the placard on the side to the tralier which had a GVWR of 20,000 lbs. When the owners drove up, they were in F350 dual rear wheel Ford truck. Well, that was a mismatch! I’m not the kind to critisize people to their face, so after meeting the nice folks talk turn to the Teton and the truck. We have thought of buying a Teton, so we naturally wanted their opinion. The guy admitted right away that he didn’t have the correct truck for the trailer. I told him that I was surpised that he could pull it with the truck. They had actually just bought the trailer someplace out west and were on their way home. They planned to buy a larger tow vehicle when they got there.

The humorus part of the mismatch of the Teton Homes is the incedent that they had in the mountains. They were climbing a hill and decided to pull into a small park to eat lunch. When they tried to start again, he couldn’t get the camper to move and in fact said that they were starting to roll backwards a little. That would be a scarey thing! I wish I could remember how they said that they were able to get forward motion again, but they did, although very slowly up the hill. That is when they picked the shortest route out of the mountains and headed home.

Picking the correct tow vehicle for the camper that you plan to tow is a very important safety issue. The above paragraph will attest to that. Choosing the correct tow vehicle is not a simple matter. There are a lot of variables that go into that choice. If you have a car or truck that you plan to use and can’t trade up to a larger one, then you will be limited to a camper in the tow range of that vehicle. If you want a large camper and you don’t have the correct vehicle, then you will have to trade up. Never assume that the camper you buy will be the biggest that you will ever buy. If you like camping, at some point you will have to trade up to a larger tow vehicle. I made a bad choice on my last truck by not gettig a dual wheel truck. I assumed that my 3/4 ton super duty Duramax would be all that I would need. Well, we want a bigger trailer, but the one we want can’t be pulled by the truck that I have.

Picture of camper and truck

There are many things to consider in order to be safe. There is an excellent article on my website that covers the things you need to consider when choosing a tow vehicle. Go there and read the article. It is written by Warren Petkosvek who has been camping for over 20 years.

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