Can you tow it?

 

But the dealer said it was ok!

One of the first things to learn when shopping for a new travel trailer, 5th wheel, or other towable is to take everything the dealer tells you with a massive grain of salt. Overall, I had a great experience with my dealer, but at the end of the day, he was wrong on a half dozen questions I had. While some of his incorrect answers were just a sign of me knowing the product better than the salesman, one in particular is outright dangerous. Can you imagine the anger, financial implications and potential liability you inherit if you were to buy a trailer the dealer says you can tow, only to find out that it exceeds the maximum weight your Tow Vehicle can handle? It happens every day.

Determining if you should / can tow the camper you are considering buying with your current, or intended tow vehicle is a mix of art and science unless you have access to the fully loaded camper, your truck, and some time to spend at a professional scale like truck drivers use. Using scales will be the subject of a future article.

You will want to show up at the dealer lot with a bunch of homework already completed. Figuring out how much your TV (tow vehicle) can safely haul is not as straight forward as I had hoped. Here I will show you how to determine what your tow vehicle can reasonably be expected to handle. Let’s assume for a moment that you are planning on using your current truck to tow the camper. I’ll use my own 2012 F-150 as an example case. I purchased my truck before I knew that I would be towing with it. Thankfully, I had some towing specific upgrades on my truck, otherwise known as the ‘Max Tow’ package. Inside the front, drivers side door of your truck, you’ll find a label similar to this one.

Weight Ratings

There is a lot of information on these 2 stickers that is FAR more valuable than anything you will find in your generic owners manual or towing guide as these are specific to your exact vehicle, including any options you have, etc. Keep in mind if you added 100 pounds worth stereo gear to your truck after you took it home, you need include that weight in your calculations below.

On these stickers you can learn the Gross Axle Weight Ratings for your front, and rear Axles. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the truck, which in my case is 7700 pounds. There are codes on the bottom of that first sticker that even tell you what your gear ratio is if you don’t remember. In my case, the code L6 means I am running 3.73 gears in my Ford Eco Boost.

9 times out of 10 – *the most important number* you are looking for is your PAYLOAD Capacity. Sorry for the caps, but if you only know one of the weight limits of your truck, this is the one you need to know. On the bottom sticker you see where it says ‘The combined weight of occupants and cargo should never exceed:’ – followed by a very important number, which in my case is 1806 pounds. This is my payload capacity. If for some reason you don’t see your payload capacity called out on a sticker on your vehicle, you can still get close as long as you can complete the following formula:

Gross vehicle weight rating – curb weight = payload capacity – This is best calculated after taking a trip to the scale. I’m assuming you have not done that, so if you have to, use the generic weights you’ll find on your truck dealers website, your owners manual, etc… it won’t be totally accurate,  but you will be a hundred times more accurate than any salesman on the lot will be that is trying to convince you that you can tow anything he happens to be selling.

It does not matter that my truck can tow (pull) 11,300 pounds according to the towing guide that came with my vehicle, I am still constrained by my payload which dictates how much weight I am allowed to have inside, or attached to my vehicle.

Now that you know your payload capacity, we need to start subtracting things from it, but before we do that – understand that the payload capacity includes oil, lubricants and a full tank of fuel. Everything I’ve read from Ford indicates that It does *not* include the weight of driver, passengers, cargo or any optional or aftermarket equipment, so you have to subtract all of that.

I’ve seen a tremendous amount of speculation on this in various forums, but I’m sticking with Fords advise here. So, now for the math.

1806 payload
-175 – me
-110 – wife
-70 – daughter
-125 – 2 dogs
-125 – misc items.
-100 – Equalizer hitch.
—————–
=1102 pounds of Cargo Capacity Remaining – this is packing pretty light.

So, using this example, you now know that you can put an additional 1100 pounds of weight on your truck. All that is really left to do is to determine the hitch weight of the camper you are looking at buying, not the ‘dry hitch weight, but the weight it will be when you’ve loaded up your camper for a trip. If that number ends up being less than 1100 pounds, in this example, you are under your limits and you can at least say you are ‘legal’.

The problem is that the camper manufacturers don’t tell you what the actual hitch weight of any given camper is, how do they know how you will load it? They do tell you what the ‘Dry hitch weight is’. There is a sticker on your camper with this information on it. How you load your camper will determine what your hitch weight really ends up being. Filling your water tanks can easily add 320 pounds to the trailers weight, but how much of that ends up on the hitch? There is some complex math involved there for sure… math that we will not care to tackle in this post.

Anyway, the Jayco 27BHS that I bought last summer shows a Dry Hitch Weight of 605 pounds and based on my Cargo Capacity Remaining figure from above, this leaves me a 500 pound cushion for adding additional weight. Which is good – because your dry hitch weight doesn’t include the weight of your propane tank(s), or any of that gear you have in you rig. I’m going to keep making the point that your ‘dry weights’ are just a starting point, but are meaningless when you are actually in ‘camping mode’ with all of your gear. Don’t let a dealer talk you into buying something that you can maybe… possibly… on a good day, in the right conditions tow -empty- because realistically the *only time* you will tow completely empty is the day you drive it off the lot.

The general rule of thumb is that 12 to 15% of the *entire weight* of your camper is sitting on your trucks hitch. This is assuming that you have loaded your camper properly (a dangerous assumption for some!). I hope I’m starting to make the case here for hitting up a certified scale with your truck, and camper loaded up as it would be on a typical trip.

Here’s one more math problem you can run once you have some of the basic numbers I brought up above.

Your camper also has a gross vehicle weight rating which tells you how much weight your camper can weigh legally, fully loaded. In my case, this number is 8250 pounds, regardless of what you are towing with. So, if I put 15% of that weight on the tongue of the camper, I’m looking at 1237.5 pounds on my hitch which would put me about 135 pounds over my limit (1102 – 1237.5 lbs = negative 135.5 pounds) So, in my case, if I were to load my camper to full capacity, and load it to 15% tongue weight, I’m risking breaking my truck, I will definitely shorten the lifespan of it, and hopefully nobody dies. Not taking that chance.

In my example, if I were to load my camper with 12% of the weight on the tongue instead, I would be asking my truck to shoulder 990 pounds of that weight, which it can do, at least on paper… (1102 – 990 = 112) Thankfully, I never tow fully loaded or even close to it, but in an emergency, I could.  I knew before I bought my travel trailer that I would always be within the limits of my trucks capabilities as long as we pack smart and keep things on the lighter side. Please keep in mind that your camper will tow differently with 12% on the tongue vs. 15%. If you don’t load properly and you end up putting too much weight in the back of your camper, you could end up in a dangerous situation with the ‘tail wagging the dog’ as you drive down the road.

I seriously recommend that once you have confirmed that the camper you want to buy (or already own) is safely towable at least on paper with your current truck, you take it down to a certified public scale and confirm first hand what your *real numbers* are. If you don’t have access to a scale, and you can reasonably estimate how much weight you are adding to your camper as you load it (properly) you can be reasonably assured if you are picking the right camper for your existing truck, or if you need to buy a bigger tow vehicle.

I am buying a bigger truck this year for the extra capability I want, but don’t necessarily need. I would like to take a dirt bike along with us, and an extra friend. I can always use more cargo room for beer. I know that my F-150 will not be able to accomplish this.

Amazon sells some tongue weight scales that cost around 100 dollars that you can use at home to tell you what your loaded tongue weight is – even just having that knowledge goes a long way towards ensuring your next road trip goes smoothly and you don’t become a liability on our roads. I just ordered one and will put up a review for it when I get the chance.

Happy Camping,

Mark.

 

 

10 Items you can’t live without Part 1

When we purchased our new travel trailer, we didn’t own any products for the RV. What it came with, is exactly and only what we had on hand when we were planning our first camping trip. After some substantial research, and advise from some of my RVing friends, I felt like I would be prepared for our first camping trip. I’m on a first name basis now with the UPS and FedEX drivers serving my house. For the first part of this article, I’m focusing primarily on items that will make, or break your first camping experience in your new camper.

As one would expect, we had to purchase a number of required items to make our first RV experience a pleasant one. I think new RV’s should come with some of these items from the dealer, but ours didn’t and you should have these on hand before you make your first trip. This will be a multi-part article with Part 1 – this one – focusing on items that you really cannot live without. You will use all of them.

  1. Sewer Hose Kit

The hose that I purchased, and recommend is the RhinoFLEX 20′ Sewer hose kit. It comes with 2 hoses that can be connected together to create 1 long hose, or kept separate if you can get close enough to the dump station to get by with the 10 foot length. As you would expect, it comes with the elbow swivel fitting that connects to the hole at the dump station.  Sewer hoses are known to break after a lot of use and with this kit, which was specifically recommended to us by the lead tech at our dealership,  you have a ‘spare’ on hand already. The service departments at dealerships go through a lot of hoses. This was the one they recommended we buy. As expected, both hoses fit in the standard square bumper most of us have on our campers. We saw the same kit at Camping World, but you can save a lot of money buying this kind of stuff online.

2. Fresh Water Hose(s)

We ended up purchasing 2 fresh water hoses for our camper and a crate at one of the big box stores to store them in. At the campsite, you can generally get by with 1 hose that’s 25 feet long if you have hookups that are close. However, when I park my camper at home to prep it for camping, or am at a site where the water spigot is not right next to the other utilities, as I experienced at a state park in Rifle, Colorado last week, it’s nice to have the option to connect a longer fresh water hose.  Our water spigot was far enough from the camper I ended up needed to connect both hoses together. If you only want one hose, get the longer one. Hoses take up a fair amount of space in your storage and the longer ones aren’t the lightest things around so I like the flexibility of just being able to take the smaller one if I know in advance I won’t need more than 25 feet.

Our camper has a black tank flush connector a few feet above the dump valve. If you have one of these too, any old hose you have lying around will work. I sacrificed an old garden house out of my back yard that is clearly *not* a potable water hose that is only used for the black tank flush. Most of the dump stations I’ve been to have a non-potable (or other) water source right there, but often there is no hose for you to use. I throw my hose in the back of my truck as I don’t have enough sewer related items to mandate their own storage box in the camper itself.

3. Water Pressure Regulator

The water pressure at some campgrounds is high enough to blow out your plumbing system in your camper. One of my biggest fears is coming back to the camper to discover that it is flooded, or to hear the sound of rushing water hitting my floor. The pressure regulator dramatically reduces the risk of that happening. They are so inexpensive, it is really a no brainer to buy one and keep it in the same crate you store your water hoses in. I bought the one that Camco makes – Camco 40055 Brass Water Pressure Regulator – Lead Free When I am connected to ‘city’ water, this is connected directly to the city water connector on our camper, the hose obviously then connects to the regulator. There is an arrow on the regulator so you don’t accidentally put it on backwards. Cheap insurance.

 

4. Water Filter

The water quality at your campground, or even your house for that matter can vary from excellent, to nasty. We’ve found that some of the water taps at the campgrounds we’ve visited so far can also contain small amounts of sediment which is harmful to the valves and overall plumping of your camper. The filter I purchased seems to be one of the most popular ones available. They say you should plan on replacing it once a year / camping season. You can also install a filter system that is more expensive, with replaceable cartridges. We may move to that kind of system in the future. We have zero complaints with this one – Camco 40043 TastePure Water Filter with Flexible Hose protector.

5. Power Plug Adapters 

In America, and some other countries, your camper came from the factory designed to accept either a 30 amp, or 50 amp power source and may have come with a built in extension cord that allows you to plug into either 30 Amp or 50 Amp service. In my case, my camper is a 30 Amp system, but the same logic applies if you have a 50 Amp system. You will want the ability to plug your camper into other types of outlets. I prefer the ‘dog bone’ style because they are built better than the type where both connections are made on the same cheap plastic housing. You have to be careful here because regardless of what adapter you use on your camper, you are obviously not changing the Amps that are being made available to it from the pedestal, or power source. 2 examples of when I use adapters are as follows:

Most commonly, I want the ability to plug my 30 Amp rated camper into my 15 Amp receptacle here at home. This is the adapter that I bought from Amazon for that purpose – Camco 55165 15M/30F 12″ PowerGrip Dogbone Electrical Adapter with Handle. This is a case where you have to be a little careful. Your AC, Television, and Microwave draw a lot of current. When you are plugged into 15 Amp service, don’t use them if you aren’t 100% sure you aren’t overloading your 15 amp service. In my case, I can run my air conditioner on low, OR my television, but not both at the same time. The reason you want an adapter like this is so you can charge the battery(s) in your camper at home, get your fridge cold, and get your camper ready to go camping. It’s not for long term use, well that’s how I look at it anyway. I plan on having an electrician wire me up a dedicated 30 Amp circuit here at home, but that’s for later.

The second case is when I’m at a campground site that either only offers 50 Amp service, OR the 30 Amp receptacle is messed up. You don’t have to worry about messing up your camper with this arrangement because it is only going to draw as much current as it was designed to draw. If you have a 30 Amp system and it pulls more than 30 Amps when plugged into a 50 Amp pedistal, your problem is not with the power source, you are running too much gear or have a major problem with one of your appliances. To use a 50 Amp power source with my 30 Amp camper, I bought this Camco 55165 15, also on Amazon –  50 Amp Male / 30 Amp Female Dog Bone Adapter.

You may also want to pick up an adapter that allows you to plug a 120 volt power tester, like the one I mention in number 7 below, into a 30 or 50 amp receptacle.

6. DC fuses rated for your power panel.

Sooner or later you are going to blow some fuses in your camper. Hopefully that isn’t on your first trip out, but if there were any wiring problems from the factory, you could run into them at any time and hopefully the worst thing that will happen is you will blow a fuse. For this reason I strongly recommend that you pick up a pack of assorted fuses that are rated for the circuits in your camper or RV. In my camper the most common size fuse is 15 Amp. These kits are handy because they come with several different Amp ratings, and include a tool for testing the fuses already installed in your power panel. This makes it easy to determine if a specific fuse is blown without having to remove it from the panel. You can pick this kit up on Amazon here or find the fuses you want at your local auto parts store.

7. Power Tester

Plugging your camper into a power source of unknown quality is risky business. You don’t know if it’s going to work until you’ve made the connection and if something is wrong, by then it is too late. Damage to your campers electrical system is something you should spend a few dollars to avoid. I consider a power tester to be a must have item, and like most of the items above, they don’t cost much at all. Used in combination with the adapters you already know you need to buy, you can test the power at your camping spot safely before you plug your expensive investment into it. This is the GFCI outlet tester that I purchased. InstallerParts AC GFCI Outlet Circuit Tester

A true power management system is going to cost you a lot more money. The gold standard based on every RV’er I’ve discussed this with both online, and at the camp fire is the
Progressive Industries EMS RV Surge Protector.

They are available in 30 and 50 amp versions, pedestal mounted and hard wired versions. Please review this product on Amazon and make your own decision, but take my word for it – if you are concerned about the the quality of the power that is running everything inside your expensive camper, it’s hard to argue against buying a top notch product that will pay for itself time and time again, every time it detects, and protects your camper from the numerous faults that happen in some of our camp grounds. While I don’t consider the Progressive Industries EMS to be a top 10 must have – it’s close. If you are going to be plugging your camper into ‘borderline’ power sources where you don’t have a lot of confidence in the power running into your rig, I do recommend them. Lightening can hit the pedestal in your campground, and fry every camper in the area, you should be safe. Life time warranty, no questions asked.

8. Wheel Chocks and Levelers

Another must have item gives you the ability to make your camper level. I’m assuming that you have scissor jacks or another on board mechanism for stabilizing your camper already. What I’m talking about here is the ability to level your camper. In some of the sites I’ve been to, the tongue jack on my trailer doesn’t provide enough elevation on its own to allow me to even unhook, or rehook the camper. I bring about 3 feet in total height of various blocks just for that. Most of them are made from pressure treated lumber. Non pressure treated wood easily cracks and splits under the weight of my tongue jack.

I swear by the Lynx levelers for under my scissor jacks and wheels. I need to buy another pack now that I’m thinking about it. I also have a pair of xchocks but because I consider that to be optional, they aren’t a part of the must have items in this list.

9. Can you inflate the tires on your truck and camper??

After spending a beautiful weekend at the lake, you wake up to discover a flat tire on your camper! Thankfully, I haven’t experienced this yet as my camper is basically brand new but I have had to add air to them because apparently the dealer thought 50 lbs of pressure in a tire rated for 65 lbs was acceptable. I want to accommodate the inevitable and be able to air my tires up easily, so I bought the Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor. This model goes up to 100 PSI which is more than enough for me, but if your rig is a Class A motor home, or you have wheels and tires that require more than that, they have heavier duty models. The 100 PSI unit should handle any travel trailer currently on the market . This piece of gear is permanently stored in my pass through storage compartment, along with the safety triangles below.

10. Be Visible if you break down!

Last but certainly not least, you want the ability to make yourself highly visible should you ever need to pull over to change a tire or otherwise break down on the road. Especially at night. A 3 pack of the Blazer Triple Warning Triangles are a great start. They are heavier than you might expect and will not blow over on the road unlike some of the other products I’ve used. I put one of them behind my slide-out when I’m parked in front of my house just for added visibility when we are pre-packing at night.

In closing, owning a camper is one of the most worthwhile purchases I think I’ve ever made. It is a lot like buying a new home and when we towed our travel trailer home the first time, the list of items that we knew we had to have to make our trips possible started to grow. These items are by no means everything you will want to take along with you on your trips, but I would not leave home without them. Please leave me comments with any products you’ve found to be critical in your experience, or questions about any of the products above. I own and use all of them and would love to hear your experiences.

Regards,
Mark W

First Post! Here’s our brand new travel trailer.

Welcome to MyRVCamping! I have recently taken the plunge and purchased my first travel trailer, a Jayco 27BHS made in 2016. This is my first of what will become many posts on my families new adventures with everything related to camping out in RV’s (in our case, a travel trailer).

I have been camping since I was old enough to walk. Now in our mid-40’s, my family and I have decided that it’s time for us to explore the RV lifestyle. Sleeping on the ground 100% of the time we go on a camping trip is slowly losing its appeal. If you are here, I’m sure you can relate!

Speaking of family, there are currently 4 of us. My wife and I, my 8th grade daughter and our dog Iggi, a Siberian Husky who always comes along. We aren’t getting rid of our large pile of traditional camping gear, this was just our next logical step in experiencing the geographically independent lifestyle we are all seeking without having to sacrifice all of the comforts of home. We have a lot to learn and I want to take you along on the journey with us together.

I am currently working on a series of articles which will go into detail regarding the end to end purchasing process I went through to secure my new travel trailer. I had dozens of questions going into the process that should help cover most of the issues you may be wondering about. But this is just the beginning. As you may know, RV’s are not nearly as strong, or in many cases contain the same level of quality you get out of a traditional house. I will document fixes to the problems that will undoubtedly come up as we break in our new ‘Rig’. Reading other forums, I’ve found that the *same* questions are asked over and over so my goal is to make it easy to find the answers to all of the common questions here, in one site.

Please stay tuned to our blog, register and let me know if I’ve done something wrong, or maybe right from time to time, as I will be updating it frequently and learning with the rest of you. I’m sure you noticed by the title of this article, and the fairly stark appearance around here that the rollout of our blog is in the initial phases. More to come, much more.

Last but not least, for full disclosure, I am not using this blog to get rich selling you junk and my primary goal isn’t to review or sell products. If I mention a product that I have found to be extremely useful, I will provide information, or a link to the item when possible as a service to my readers. Let’s face it, if you are getting a new RV like I just did, you’re going to be buying stuff, like I have been. Ultimately what you buy or don’t buy is none of my concern. Any links to products I provide is simply to save you time if you’ve decided to purchase something.

To help keep the lights on here at the blog, I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. There will be many times I mention a product here on the blog that I didn’t purchase from Amazon, either because they don’t sell it, or I found it cheaper somewhere else. I’ll always disclose where I bought an item I am reviewing if it is relevant to the discussion. Amazon just happens to be my favorite online store so I buy a ton of stuff there. Clicking on one of the links I’ve provided to an item I have purchased on Amazon, or anywhere else, will not cost you a penny more than it would have if you had gone to Amazon directly, without my involvement.

Regards, and happy RV’ing

~Mark W.