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KDilbeck

Need advice about Taking Travel trailer into Colorado

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Hello,  My husband and I are new to Rving and we really want to visit Manitou springs in Colorado.  We are from Oklahoma City and we drive a 2016 pathfinder.  Our trailer is a 2018 coachman clipper.  It has a dry weight of 3100.  The pathfinder has a tow rating of 5000 lbs.  We were wondering if anyone would be able to give some advice on this trip.  We are worried that our pathfinder might have trouble pulling the trailer up to that elevation?  We don't want to wear out the transmission.

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I am not sure what sort of advice you are expecting.  If your load is near the max for your tow vehicle, you will likely grind up the hills in a lower gear at maximum power.  Obviously that is not ideal and the best advice is to match your tow vehicle to the weight and allow substantial excess capacity.

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That's what i was wondering.  Would probably be best to pack it up with what we want to take and have it weighed then?  What would you say is a good weight to stay under so we don't grid up the hills?

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34 minutes ago, KDilbeck said:

...It has a dry weight of 3100.  The pathfinder has a tow rating of 5000 lbs... 

Unless the trailer will be empty, what matters is the actual weight loaded for travel. Another factor is what will the Pathfinder weigh with fuel, passengers, gear that you will take along and the tongue weight of the trailer.  Is it less than it's GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)? Is the combined weight of the Pathfinder and trailer ready for travel less than the Pathfinder's GCWR (gross combined weight rating)? 

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1 hour ago, KDilbeck said:

Would probably be best to pack it up with what we want to take and have it weighed then?  

Absolutlely!

Not considering any installed options the published curb weight is 4284lbs for a base 2016 Pathfinder and has a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 5985lbs... or roughly 1700lbs for options, passengers (1-165lb driver already included in the curb weight), hitch (~70-100lbs), pin weight of your trailer (~376lbs based on published "dry weight") and cargo.

What isn't readily available info is the GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating of the entire tow package), however, that should be posted on the sticker of the driver side door jam.

What can "getcha" is to be well under the vehicles -and- trailers GVWR's... published tow rating... but still be over the GCWR.

You'll also find that the "dry weight" of a trailer is more often that not inaccurate so that will also affect the actual CC (cargo capacity) of your trailer. Small design changes occur, additional options installed, the propane tanks, batteries, spare tire... etc. are sometimes, if not often, not included.

Pin weight will be approximately 10%-15% of your trailers actual fully loaded weight (that will be subtracted from your tow vehicles available cargo capacity).

It's not a bad idea to first get a weight of your Pathfinder, full fuel tank, passengers and basic "load-out" of your trailer before actually "loading" it for travel. That way you know exactly what you have to work with when considering what to take and what not to. Once "fully" loaded... weight it again to ensure you are within your max ratings.

By basic trailer "load-out" I mean LP tanks filled and all necessary items loaded. Ie., wheel chocks, leveling blocks, cords, hoses, etc. that are required for minimal operation of your trailer.

Pots and pans, linens, food stuffs, clothing, etc.... leave all that out for the time being as they are all considered "variable" weights.

In an ideal world, towing 20% below max ratings is considered a good safety margin. A vehicle should handle and perform well without undue strain. That's not to say that you can't safely tow at max ratings. Your tow vehicle might struggle, the engine might "scream" and your MPG might be in the crapper while doing 15mph lower than the speed limit... but for the occassional outing (and keeping an eye on your vehicle temps) it's done by many.

You're talking about a 3.5 V6 engine so be prepared for the MPG "shock" even when towing flat and level. 😉

Edited by Yarome

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18 hours ago, KDilbeck said:

  Would probably be best to pack it up with what we want to take and have it weighed then?  

Yes, and until then work with the trailers GVWR as a go to number & set aside the dry weight for now. GVWR - Dry Weight = CCC (how much weight your trailer can carry)

 

18 hours ago, trailertraveler said:

Unless the trailer will be empty, what matters is the actual weight loaded for travel. Another factor is what will the Pathfinder weigh with fuel, passengers, gear that you will take along and the tongue weight of the trailer.  Is it less than it's GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)? Is the combined weight of the Pathfinder and trailer ready for travel less than the Pathfinder's GCWR (gross combined weight rating)? 

This, and the further you are from maximum weight ratings the better, but many may be riding at or above. If you're overweight and have an accident, how will your insurance company respond?

17 hours ago, Yarome said:

on the sticker of the driver side door jam.

These weights are vehicle specific due to how a vehicle is optioned, including the drive train and tire size.

Edited by rm.w/aview

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1 hour ago, KDilbeck said:

That's what i was wondering.  Would probably be best to pack it up with what we want to take and have it weighed then?  What would you say is a good weight to stay under so we don't grid up the hills?

You will be grinding up the mountains even if the RV is empty.  Obviously the less weight you add, the better.  You need to also consider the cargo carrying capacity rating for your RV.  Some are really low capacity and the tires and axles are minimal for the size of the RV.  Regardless of what you do, it is real easy to add at least 1000 pounds, with propane, cooking gear, food, clothing, etc.  You can help by only partially filling the water tank. 

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We plan on getting reservations at an RV park so we do not plan on having any water in the tank.  Also we plan on taking only what we will need.  Not taking a lot of food, we plan on eating out for at least two meals of the day.  We really got this to travel and not use hotel rooms.  So we will be parking it at a park and then taking the pathfinder by itself and doing our day trips.  I really appreciate all the feed back.  I was looking for this kind of advice.  We are new to this and just wanted to be safe and make sure not to put too much unnecessary strain on the pathfinder.

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I don't remember any mountains between Oklahoma City and Manitou Springs.  You'll increase in altitude okay, but I think it's a pretty gradual thing.  Once in Colorado Springs at an RV park, you can do lot's of mountain touring in the area without your trailer.

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3 hours ago, chirakawa said:

I don't remember any mountains between Oklahoma City and Manitou Springs.  You'll increase in altitude okay, but I think it's a pretty gradual thing.  Once in Colorado Springs at an RV park, you can do lot's of mountain touring in the area without your trailer.

Exactly! Oklahoma City is roughly 1200', most of Colorado's eastern/southeastern border is roughly 3500', and Manitou Springs is around 6500'. 

All of the above advice as to loading of your TT and tow vehicle is excellent advice. Please follow it! 

You will be climbing the entire way. I live in Colorado and after many trips back from Texas we factor in added $$ for the increased fuel usage. It is what it is. Chirakawa is correct. Drop your TT in an RV park and explore the area in your tow vehicle. You will have no problems with the elevation when you are not towing. 

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46 minutes ago, Chalkie said:

Oklahoma City is roughly 1200', most of Colorado's eastern/southeastern border is roughly 3500', and Manitou Springs is around 6500

Very close if you were guessing. OK City is listed as 1201' and Manitou Springs is listed as 6412' in altitude. As to what you can safely tow, I went to the Coachman website and was unable to find any Clipper model with a dry weight of 3100# but did find one that shows 3065# so that may be the one that you have. It then lists a GVWR or maximum loaded weight of 4380# so you have about 1300# for cargo that will be safe. Since your Pathfinder has a tow rating of 5000# you should have no problems in the safety area unless you severely overload the trailer. In looking at the possible routes that you could travel, none have any severe grades as Manitou is on the eastern edge of the mountains. How well your Pathfinder will handle the load will be greatly impacted by the engine choice that you have and I think that means a V-6 which should manage pretty well as long as you leave the trailer in Manitou for any mountain exploring. Even loaded to the GVWR of the trailer, you should still be fine in making the trip you want. 

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18 hours ago, Kirk Wood said:

Very close if you were guessing. OK City is listed as 1201' and Manitou Springs is listed as 6412' in altitude. As to what you can safely tow, I went to the Coachman website and was unable to find any Clipper model with a dry weight of 3100# but did find one that shows 3065# so that may be the one that you have. It then lists a GVWR or maximum loaded weight of 4380# so you have about 1300# for cargo that will be safe. Since your Pathfinder has a tow rating of 5000# you should have no problems in the safety area unless you severely overload the trailer. In looking at the possible routes that you could travel, none have any severe grades as Manitou is on the eastern edge of the mountains. How well your Pathfinder will handle the load will be greatly impacted by the engine choice that you have and I think that means a V-6 which should manage pretty well as long as you leave the trailer in Manitou for any mountain exploring. Even loaded to the GVWR of the trailer, you should still be fine in making the trip you want. 

I second what Kirk wrote.

Additionally:

--  There is nothing wrong with "grinding" up the hills. Grinding up the hills and mountains at 3000 to 4000 RPM's (even 4500 RPM is good) is best when you are pulling a load. That is easiest on the transmission.  Ever watch a loaded 18 wheeler going up a steep hill, they have the RPM's up and the speed not so high. 

--  What you want to avoid is to just let the transmission decide when to down shift.  By that I mean the auto/SUV transmission (and 1 ton trucks in my opinion) do not down shift as soon as I think they should when going up a hill or mountain under load.  The delay tends to put the engine under a stressful load and builds up heat. 

--  As you approach an uphill grade, make a habit of listening to the engine.  When you hear and feel it start to load down a bit, press a little harder on the accelerator to encourage the transmission to down shift.  Once it downshifts you can let up a bit on the accelerator, but not so much that it up shifts. If your vehicle allows you to manually select all the gears, go ahead and manually shift down so that your RPM's are in the 3000-4000 range when going up the steeper hills.  Also watch the temperature gauge and if it starts to climb.

--  Going down hill.  Again down shift, let the RPM's go up to 2500-4000 depending on the steepness.  Going slow and let the transmission and engine keep your speed down.  Plan on going slow enough and in low enough gear to stay off your brakes for at least 30 seconds.  Better is 45-90 seconds between braking.  When you do brake, press hard and drop your speed by 10-15mph and the let the speed slowly build up again.  Also pressing hard on the brakes means your trailer brakes will engage while braking.  If you press too lightly the trailer brakes may not activate so all the braking will be done by the SUV. 

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On the normal route, your biggest concern will be Raton Pass 7800 ft near the NM-CO state line. If you make it up that with no issues, then the short climb from CO Springs to Manitou Springs will be a non issue.  If the Raton Pass climb concerns you enough, there are options to avoid it by heading north around Amarillo, into western Kansas or eastern CO and then back west to Pueblo and I25. much longer routes but avoids the worst steep climb.

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15 hours ago, JRP said:

On the normal route, your biggest concern will be Raton Pass 7800 ft near the NM-CO state line. If you make it up that with no issues, then the short climb from CO Springs to Manitou Springs will be a non issue.  If the Raton Pass climb concerns you enough, there are options to avoid it by heading north around Amarillo, into western Kansas or eastern CO and then back west to Pueblo and I25. much longer routes but avoids the worst steep climb.

Good point. Raton Pass can be interesting especially for someone not used to mountain driving. Certainly not the highest or steepest pass in Colorado but interesting none the less. 

The way I would take given a concern for pulling grades would be to take I-35 north to I-135, i-70 and US-24 into Manitou. The distance is only slightly longer (50 miles or so) with no real steep grades along the way. An alternative would be I-35 to US-50 to I-25. Again, no real grades but I find US-50 is not a real good highway.

 

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