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Alice

5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer

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My husband and I have come to the conclusion we will be buying a larger tow vehicle. Suddenly it occurred to me we hadn't considered fifth wheels at all!  Because originally we'd been thinking of a light travel trailer,  they hadn't even occurured to us.   Sadly, we know even less about them than we do trailers. 

First, do I have this right?   A 30 foot TT will actually only have about a 27 foot box.  So to tow 27 feet of living space, it'll be about 49 feet total...18 foot truck + a foot or so for hitch + 30 feet of tongue and trailer.  But, a 30 foot 5th wheel is pretty much 30 feet of living space and since it overlaps the truck bed,  the combo of truck and 30 foot fifth wheel will be about 44 feet?  I'm assuming about a 4 foot overlap.   So while it will be taller,  its footprint is smaller,  right?  

What other advantages are there to a 5th wheel?

 

 

Edited by Alice

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We found that a 5th wheel has more storage and is easier to tow, not susceptible to sway. We also like the higher ceiling, high enough for a ceiling fan. Generally laid out better than a TT. You should definitely consider them. Our last 5th wheel was a Heartland and had good quality, lots of innovation,  but that was 10 years ago, I don't know their reputation today

Don't buy any tow vehicle until you make some decision and don't listen to the salesman about a tow vehicle or towability. Come back to Escapees. Salesmen goal is to sell you the vehicle, forget safety.

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I agree on searching and finding what you think you are going to want in an RV before switching for that "bigger" tow vehicle (TV).  Don't discard looking at 36' to 39' fivers.  There are some in that range that it would be possible to pull with a 3/4 ton pickup.  More than likely for full time use and loaded like most of us are, you could very well end up with a 1 ton diesel PU TV for pulling the right size fiver.

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1 hour ago, FL-JOE said:

I agree on searching and finding what you think you are going to want in an RV before switching for that "bigger" tow vehicle (TV).  Don't discard looking at 36' to 39' fivers.  There are some in that range that it would be possible to pull with a 3/4 ton pickup.  More than likely for full time use and loaded like most of us are, you could very well end up with a 1 ton diesel PU TV for pulling the right size fiver.

Oh I'm sure I don't want anything that large.  We saw them at anRV show this weekend and the 34s we looked at were plenty big.   There's only two of us. 

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If you are considering changing tow trucks and basically starting from scratch, then I think that you should look at every type of RV with an open mind and not limit yourself to those you tow. Look over the motorized choices too, as in class A, class C, and the super C. No matter what type you choose there will be those who say it is best and others who say you are wrong. But what really matters is that you choose what feels right for you and your spouse. We all tend to believe that whatever we chose was best and that everyone should choose what we did. We bought our fulltime home and were told many times that it was a bad choice, yet we managed to have a wonderful experience in it for nearly 12 years and owned it for 14 years. It suited us, our budget, and our lifestyle and what others think just isn't important. That should be your mantra as well. I suggest that you listen to what each owner likes about the RV that they chose and ignore what they may tell you is wrong with other choices. Not one of us is truly unbiased on which type of RV is best. Each RV type has good points and not so good points and what is best depends upon each person's personal priorities. 

Edited by Kirk Wood

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11 hours ago, Alice said:

Oh I'm sure I don't want anything that large.  We saw them at anRV show this weekend and the 34s we looked at were plenty big.   There's only two of us. 

I know many 32' to 34' RVs look pretty big when you are first starting out.  Keep an open mind and don't discount something a little larger.  You don't want to be trading after 6 months of being on the road full time.  Visit the Keystone Montana Owners (MOC) site and investigate the fivers they are talking about there.  It is one of the friendliest, most helpful RV sites you will find.  

 

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15 hours ago, Alice said:

...First, do I have this right?   A 30 foot TT will actually only have about a 27 foot box.  So to tow 27 feet of living space, it'll be about 49 feet total...18 foot truck + a foot or so for hitch + 30 feet of tongue and trailer.  But, a 30 foot 5th wheel is pretty much 30 feet of living space and since it overlaps the truck bed,  the combo of truck and 30 foot fifth wheel will be about 44 feet?  I'm assuming about a 4 foot overlap.   So while it will be taller,  its footprint is smaller,  right?...

Yes, you have the length issue correct.

When choosing a tow vehicle, you need to be aware that a 5th wheel puts more weight on the tow vehicle than a travel trailer. The recommended pin weight for a 5th wheel is 20-25%. Recommended tongue weight for a travel trailer is 10-15%. So, for example a 10,000# 5th wheel will put 2000-2500# on the tow vehicle while a 10,000# travel trailer will put 1000-1500# on the tow vehicle. The tow vehicle needs sufficient payload capacity to carry the weight from the trailer without exceeding its GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating).  This runs counter to the fact that the 5th wheel tow rating is often higher than the travel trailer (conventional towing) rating. The calculators on this website may help you in matching truck and trailer/5th wheel combinations. The link comes up to the travel trailer calculator. There is a link to the 5th wheel calculator in the menu in the center of the page.

Another factor that is often overlooked in regard to sizing a tow vehicle and travel trailer is the wheel base of the tow vehicle in relation to the length of the travel trailer. This article covers the basics of this issue.

Edited by trailertraveler

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32 minutes ago, trailertraveler said:

Another factor that is often overlooked in regard to sizing a tow vehicle and travel trailer is the wheel base of the tow vehicle in relation to the length of the travel trailer. This article covers the basics of this issue.

A third factor that might need to be considered is the FRONTAL AREA of the trailer.  As an example, My 2012 F250 should not pull more than 60 square feet of Frontal Area.  To see what I'm talking about, take a look at page 17 of the 2012 Ford Towing Guide:

2012 Ford Towing Guide

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We moved from TT to 5w about 3 years ago and would not go back. The 5w is much easier to tow and setup. Then once in it is more comfortable overall than any of the 3 previous TT's we had.

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16 hours ago, Alice said:

My husband and I have come to the conclusion we will be buying a larger tow vehicle. Suddenly it occurred to me we hadn't considered fifth wheels at all!  Because originally we'd been thinking of a light travel trailer,  they hadn't even occurured to us.   Sadly, we know even less about them than we do trailers. 

Another way to become more familiar with what you may be seeking is to toggle back & forth between these two examples and view the specifications as well as the gallery, given that these two floorplans/lengths are nearly the same. 

Travel Trailer... http://northwoodmfg.com/arctic-fox-2/arctic-fox-25y/#

& 5th Wheel... http://northwoodmfg.com/5th-wheels/fox-mountain/fox-mountain-235rls-2/#

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2 hours ago, rm.w/aview said:

Another way to become more familiar with what you may be seeking is to toggle back & forth between these two examples and view the specifications as well as the gallery, given that these two floorplans/lengths are nearly the same. 

Travel Trailer... http://northwoodmfg.com/arctic-fox-2/arctic-fox-25y/#

& 5th Wheel... http://northwoodmfg.com/5th-wheels/fox-mountain/fox-mountain-235rls-2/#

That was an interesting exercise. Thanks for the links.

Linda

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23 hours ago, Alice said:

Oh I'm sure I don't want anything that large.  We saw them at anRV show this weekend and the 34s we looked at were plenty big.   There's only two of us. 

Depends there are only two of us.We are long timers that means we spend a lot of time on the road and a lot of time living in the 5th wheel.We have a 40 foot 5th wheel with 4 slides. Think carefully on how you will use the RV. We had 4 TT's  before our first wheel

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Rich's thoughts on size are valid but do not buy larger just because others tell you to do so. We lived fulltime in an RV for nearly 12 years and ours was a 36', gasoline-powered class A with no slides. We were told many times that our choice was wrong and even what we should have, yet we were very happy in our chosen RV and owned it for 14 years. One contributing factor in the size of RV required that is seldom addressed is the physical size of those who are to live in the RV. Larger people usually want more space than those of us who are smaller. The girth of each occupant is very important when you share a small space. As nice as it may be to live in the largest of RV's available, with those bigger RVs come more weight to tow, more difficult to fit into an RV site and a bigger hole in the budget for both purchase and maintenance. We have seen people live very happily in some very small RVs while we met others that could not be happy in the largest ones built. I am very happy for those who enjoy the largest RVs with the most slides but some of us just have different priorities and needs. We are now back to part-time and we travel with a 20' travel trailer that has no slides, yet we have spent as long as 5 continuous months in it and we just returned for a 3+ month trip. Some days it might be nice to have more space, but ours works for us and fits our budget. 

Edited by Kirk Wood

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Kirk is probably in the minority by owning and spending so many years in RVs with no slides, or at least in the past 10 years.  Slides will expand your usable stationary living space.  We had friends that got a really good deal on a gently used Class C without slides, their first RV.  They took one trip in it and sold it.

Modern RVing and traveling means different things for different people.  We had a desire to see as much of the country as possible.  We like having creature comforts and other things with us as we travel.  My fishing gear and all of our motorcycle gear alone would take up all the storage on a 20' TT.  Even though we don't carry tons of clothing, we do have a variety for temps ranging from around 40 degrees to hot.  We cook a lot inside and outside, those items take up room.  

I'm not saying a 20' TT may not be the perfect fit for some couples, even full timing.  Just like some folks full timing may consider a 40' fiver barely big enough for the same purpose.  When starting out IMHO you just have to decide what RVing means to you and how are you going to go about it.  Heck, if we really wanted to "camp" we would just travel around the country on our Harley and tent camp.

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On ‎9‎/‎17‎/‎2018 at 10:21 AM, rm.w/aview said:

Another way to become more familiar with what you may be seeking is to toggle back & forth between these two examples and view the specifications as well as the gallery, given that these two floorplans/lengths are nearly the same. 

Travel Trailer... http://northwoodmfg.com/arctic-fox-2/arctic-fox-25y/#

& 5th Wheel... http://northwoodmfg.com/5th-wheels/fox-mountain/fox-mountain-235rls-2/#

That is very interesting!  Thank you.  At work I actually have two computer screens, so I'll be able to really compare side by side. :)

As for the size issue, while a 20' no slide may work for short trips for us - and really, that, used and lower priced, is what I'd like to find NOW...it's not going to work long-term.  Likewise, a 40' with 5 slides for full-time is out of the question.  We know we want to move a lot for the first year or two; really see the country.  We also plan, at this point, on doing a lot of federal and state campgrounds - we prefer nature over people.  So we're not just going to be going to a spot and parking for 6 months...more like a 6 weeks tops.  I know that a lot of federal and state park spots are too small for the big 40' rigs.  Sure they usually have a full hook-up RV places now, but we'd rather be more remote.  I know Yellowstone, for instance, we aren't even going to get into most of the campgrounds with a 30' - there we'll have to settle for a big RV park.  I expect we'll do a lot of mountains.  Our son is in Colorado and my favorite places in the world are in the rockies and the pacific NW, so bigger and heavier to tow, not a great idea.  We're not buying a semi, or even a dually.  We've realized we have to get a half-ton and so we got to thinking, maybe we'll look at 5th wheels that can be towed by 1/2 tons, or maybe we'll consider 3/4 ton trucks also. Pretty sure that's where we'll draw the line.   

We figure once we know the size trailer, then we'll know the size truck for sure.  But it won't be too big. :) 

Edited by Alice

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On ‎9‎/‎17‎/‎2018 at 10:21 AM, rm.w/aview said:

Another way to become more familiar with what you may be seeking is to toggle back & forth between these two examples and view the specifications as well as the gallery, given that these two floorplans/lengths are nearly the same. 



Funny thing, we actually looked at a 5th wheel just like this - different manufacturer I'm sure, at the RV show we went to this weekend.  We thought it was perfect, except we didn't like the shower in the bedroom and separate water closet.  We'd prefer the 3-piece bathroom be one enclosed room instead. But the size, just over 30 feet, was about perfect. 

 

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As we sit here relaxing on a very rainy day (the remnants of Florence are passing over northern Maryland and our location at Aberdeen Proving Ground), a few thoughts come to mind. You have been given excellent advice on TTs vs. fivers, so I don't need to waste time and keystrokes on that. I'm thinking about space right now. On rainy days (or any kind of inclement weather, for that matter), comfortable seating and not feeling claustrophobic are important - at least to us. If I didn't have a place to put my Ekornes recliner, my wife didn't have a love seat she liked (I sit like a dog, she sits like a cat), and we didn't have enough space to breathe and move around, we'd go nuts. Slides help increase living space (we've not had any issues with our three slides) and enough window area goes a long way to relieving those feelings of claustrophobia. At 36', our floor plan is perfectly suited to us and our lifestyle - but may not be for everyone. In our travels we've run into people full-timing in everything from Class B vans, small Class Cs, and small travel trailers (think the fiberglass "eggs") to 42' toy-hauler fifth wheels and diesel pusher motorhomes. Everyone's tastes, needs and budget are different. The things that make the most difference are research, thought and planning.

Rob

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For me, the most important thing we do when choosing an RV is spend at least an hour inside it and preferably two hours. I like to sit in what I think would become "my" chair long enough to read the RV's manual. Any chair is comfortable for a few minutes but I want to be comfortable longer than that. We also go through the movements of our daily activities. Can I get to the bathroom while Dave is cooking? Do my elbows hit the shower walls when I pretend to wash my hair? Can Dave get his long legs and feet between the toilet and wall? Does he hit his head on anything? Could I remove hot food from the microwave safely? Can we both use our computers at the same time? Can we see the TV without getting a crick in our necks? Can we reach all of the bed to change sheets? Etc. The only of of these that's allowed a "no" answer is the microwave as long as Dave agrees to remove all hot foods from it whenever I need him to do so because most RVs have the microwave too high for me.

Linda Sand

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We would not consider any RV with no slides today. Reputable manufacturers solved the issues early slides had by the time I started Full-timing in 1997!

5th wheels have the storage to match the interior spaciousnes for us. We never had one with slides opposite each other like some have, and still felt spacious compared to any no-slide RV.

There is a reason the TTs need stabilizer hitches. lay a wooden chair down on its back and lift it from the middle. Easy right? Try to lift it from the end of one leg and it is impossible for all but a bodybuilder. The weight hasn't changed just the leverage. That is what the front A frame of the TT hitch does, gives the TT weight much more leverage to the hitch point. Thus they can affect the tow vehicle and be the tail wagging the dog. Thus the term "Tail-Wagger."

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7 hours ago, FL-JOE said:

Kirk is probably in the minority by owning and spending so many years in RVs with no slides, or at least in the past 10 years.  Slides will expand your usable stationary living space.

Do not distort what I am saying. We bought back in 1998 when slides were not as prevalent as today and they were still working out bugs. Also, chassis weight ratings have increased and we would most likely buy something with a slide or two if buying today, but there were valid reasons for our choice at that time. My point was not that anyone should do what I did, only that they should do what suits them, and not base their choice on a majority vote. People have been living fulltime in RVs for far longer than slides have been available in RVs. The Peterson's, founders of Escapees started with a 30+' Airstream which not only didn't have any slides, they had a daughter living with them (Cathy Carr). It is funny how things we used to think of as luxuries or even dreams are now considered by many of us to be necessities. 

3 hours ago, Alice said:

As for the size issue, while a 20' no slide may work for short trips for us -

We never expected to spend that much time in ours either as we bought it at a time that we thought Pam's medical would likely mean we could never stay out for more than a month at a time if that. But her health improved and that month grew into much longer periods so we adjusted. I would never suggest what we have as a fulltime RV for many reasons as it is a nice weather rig. There are still fulltimers out there with gasoline powered motorhomes of similar size to what we had, even though not many say so on these forums. One of the main reasons we didn't go with a diesel pusher as we initially planned was that it simply cost too much for our budget. There are many choices available today that were not available in 1998 when we went on the road. If there had been we likely would have gone with one of the new gas chassis coaches that had 2 slides and in a somewhat shorter length. Choose carefully and buy something that will suit you for a long time as trading RVs is always a financial drain. We put financial security above more space and diesel in our priorities and doing so allowed us to buy a home when we stopped fulltime life and we would do the same again. Life sometimes has big surprises for us and unanticipated challenges suddenly arrive. In our case, we knew that day would come since Pam had health issues before we left but we wanted to live the RV life anyway so we planned ahead and we had a great 12 years of the 15 years that we had targeted. 

My entire point is that you need to make your choices based on your needs, finances, and personal preferences and do not allow anyone to tell you that your RV is too small, or the wrong type, or anything else if it suits you. Had we followed the advice of many we either would never have had those happy 12 years on the road and have a nice home today. Financial security is more important than the "right" RV and if you want it badly enough it can be done without breaking the bank. Just shop carefully.

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Storage space does not necessarily equate to cargo carrying capacity. Light weight trailers and supposedly 1/2 ton towable 5th wheels often do not have what many on this forum would consider adequate cargo carrying capacity for fulltiming. A pickup bed covered by a cap provides a large volume of storage space. Of course the remaining payload capacity of the tow vehicle after the hitch weight, passengers, fuel, etc. is the controlling factor not just the volume. Many, RVs that I have seen make poor use of the storage space available. The addition of shelves, bins, and other storage aids can often help make far better use of the available storage areas.

There are trailer hitches like the Hensley, Propride and Pull-Rite that move the fulcrum point forward so that the forces on the tow vehicle are similar to that of a 5th wheel. 

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2 hours ago, sandsys said:

For me, the most important thing we do when choosing an RV is spend at least an hour inside it and preferably two hours. I like to sit in what I think would become "my" chair long enough to read the RV's manual. Any chair is comfortable for a few minutes but I want to be comfortable longer than that. We also go through the movements of our daily activities. Can I get to the bathroom while Dave is cooking? Do my elbows hit the shower walls when I pretend to wash my hair? Can Dave get his long legs and feet between the toilet and wall? Does he hit his head on anything? Could I remove hot food from the microwave safely? Can we both use our computers at the same time? Can we see the TV without getting a crick in our necks? Can we reach all of the bed to change sheets? Etc.

Linda Sand

Thank you Linda.  We have started doing that more.  It was trying to "prepare dinner" while my husband wandered behind me on the way to the bedroom, that made us rethink slides.  We loved this one no-slide floor plan, but I'd have burned my belly good if that was real.  At the RV show, our test of a shower became, can I stand and actually lean over and touch my feet?  I'm right at 5'10" and otherwise a big lady (but I can touch my toes - which is more than some skinny women, lol).  Husband just tries to turn around.  We've run across more than one shower where he can stand one direction, but knocks the door open with his shoulders when he tries to turn around!  Husband also always sits on the commode.  We've had more than one "deal breaker" where we literally can't shut the door because the knob hits him in the arm or the knees or he just can't do what needs to be done.  

I've got to admit, whether I could walk around it properly or not, while we likely won't get one, I love the idea of a king-sized bed a whole lot - making the bed is overrated. LOL  

12 minutes ago, Kirk Wood said:

My entire point is that you need to make your choices based on your needs, finances, and personal preferences and do not allow anyone to tell you that your RV is too small, or the wrong type, or anything else if it suits you. Had we followed the advice of many we either would never have had those happy 12 years on the road and have a nice home today. Financial security is more important than the "right" RV and if you want it badly enough it can be done without breaking the bank. Just shop carefully

I appreciate all your input Kirk.  You're totally correct.  Everyone's different.  I'm not going to say those huge 5th wheels with the decks and all the bells and whistles aren't awesome - heck, they're nicer than my house (and more expensive) - but I can't imagine towing one here and there all over the country.  Just not for us.  I want to keep things as simple, yet comfortable, as we can.

14 minutes ago, trailertraveler said:

Storage space does not necessarily equate to cargo carrying capacity. Light weight trailers and supposedly 1/2 ton towable 5th wheels often do not have what many on this forum would consider adequate cargo carrying capacity for fulltiming. A pickup bed covered by a cap provides a large volume of storage space. Of course the remaining payload capacity of the tow vehicle after the hitch weight, passengers, fuel, etc. is the controlling factor not just the volume. Man, RVs that I have seen make poor use of the storage space available. The addition of shelves, bins, and other storage aids can often help make far better use of the available storage areas.

There are trailer hitches like the Hensley, Propride and Pull-Rite that move the fulcrum point forward so that the forces on the tow vehicle are similar to that of a 5th wheel. 

You know we noticed that!  We saw some huge 5th wheels with like 1,000 lbs CCC.  What do they expect you to pack that "basement" with, feathers?  While we really don't think we'll come anywhere close to the 1,500 - 2.000 lbs per person I've read here, there are some things we're going to want to take that will be kind of heavy.  We do medieval reenactment and my husband wants us to take some camping supplies for that - a tent and poles that are about 100 lbs altogether, some cast-iron cookware, etc.  I personally just really want my Kitchenaid Mixer. :)  So yes, in short, we'll have to keep an eye on the CCC. 

Our understanding what that meant was something else that startled the salesmen. ;)

 

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42 minutes ago, Alice said:

Our understanding what that meant was something else that startled the salesmen.

Very likely your salesperson doesn't actually understand it, but tries to bluff his way through. Very few of them are actually RV people and some have never even spent a night in one. 

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6 hours ago, Alice said:

 I expect we'll do a lot of mountains.  Our son is in Colorado and my favorite places in the world are in the rockies and the pacific NW, so bigger and heavier to tow, not a great idea.  We're not buying a semi, or even a dually.  We've realized we have to get a half-ton and so we got to thinking, maybe we'll look at 5th wheels that can be towed by 1/2 tons, or maybe we'll consider 3/4 ton trucks also. Pretty sure that's where we'll draw the line. We figure once we know the size trailer, then we'll know the size truck for sure.  But it won't be too big. :) 

 I had a newer F150 that worked great with tent camping & also with the pop up tent camper. Then came a 21' travel trailer which was at about 70% of the truck's towing ability. Switched to an F250 and the trailer is at 45% of the truck's towing ability which really comes in handy in the mountains with less stress and less heat build up. The F250XL cost less than the F150XLT and gave me much more truck... F250 Extended Cab 2X4 w/ 8' bed has 3868 pound cargo capacity, F150 Extended Cab 4X4 w/6.5' bed had 1492 pound cargo capacity. F250 tow rating 13000 pounds, F150 tow rating 7000 pounds. F250 GCVWR 19000 pounds, F150 GCVWR 12000 pounds. With a sharp pencil and an eye on the budget, the choice of a less expensive truck (due to less bling and options) that actually was more truck was clear. I focused on what I needed in a truck and what I wanted it to do. For two people the extended cab works well and has more cargo capacity than the crew cab. The 2X4 has more cargo capacity than the 4X4, and I use the cargo capacity more than I use the 4X4. I also chose a single over a dually primarily due to budget. So I rule against a 1/2 ton and in favor of a 3/4 ton as, based on what I've read here, your parameters and camping/traveling style & interests are very similar to mine. Trucks are tools for a job and having the right one sure does make the job easier. As jobs change so does the tools, as trailers change so will the trucks. Good Luck & Happy Trails!

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