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Newbie - lots of questions


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I am looking for a small travel trailer for quick trips. Hook it up and go! (I'm a birder).

Here is what I want:

- 18' or less

- sleep 4 or 3

- pull with a half ton truck

- can be fully self contained and sufficient - generator/solar panels, etc.

- used (I'm slightly cheap)

- no popups or outs


Here are some of my questions, I'm sure I will come up with more:

- aluminum or fiberglass

- 1 or 2 axle (pros and cons of each)

- opinions on manufacturers


Any other ideas, advice, etc. ??


Thanks in advance.



Oh and I live in Texas.

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Welcome to the forum. Let's see if we can't bump this thread up and get some feedback. Some additional information would be helpful for others to be able to help much.

Not all half ton pickups are created equal. To help determine your vehicles towing capacity could you provide year, make, model, box length, cab configuration, engine, gear ratio and 2X4/4X4.

Is there a specific reason you would like to stay under 18'? Options would be very limited.

"Self contained".. by way of holding tanks and LP shouldn't be a problem, however, in that size class of travel trailer, the additional of a generator/solar panels would likely be an owner addition.

Is there a specific reason you would prefer no slides/hybrids/pop-outs? Sleeping for 4 in a rig of that size might be difficult without at least pop-outs (basically a solid trailer with drop down bedding that might extend out front/back/both/side. Not to be confused with a slide out). Of course.. depending on your comfort levels, when I was young, I often slept in a sleeping bag on the floor in the walkway. If it's just for an occasional trip with a young one, that might be a viable option.. or having guest 3 and/or 4 sleep in a small tent might work.

You mentioned you are from TX, but where will you be camping? Strictly in the SW or do you plan to travel. How long do you plan to stay out and about at a time?

1 or 2 axles will generally depend on the overall weight and cargo capacity of the trailer and would depend on your needs. Ie., a single axle 19' trailer might be doable, but cargo capacity might so limited as to not be practical for anything but a single overnight stay.

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Wow Yarome! Thanks.


- truck - 2002 GMC Sierra Z71 4x4, extended cab (half doors), not a short bed, has towing package and brakes.

- hybrids - they may have gotten better over the years but how do they hold heat and a/c. Also security? Would they have to be popped in before leaving? Might have to re-visit and look at one.

- not so young anymore and like some comfort. There will be no children or pets, all adults. Sleeping will be minimal but needs to be comfortable, previous trailer I had I bought a foam add-on and it worked great. Lived in it while home being built.

- traveling mostly in Texas (save on hotel and food, and I like my cooking) but never know. I can't imagine staying "out" more than a week at a time, would usually be 2-3 nights.

- I understand the issues with storage and can be very efficient (learned from living in a 22' with lots of visitors). The 22' was bigger than I want now.

- I have just heard lots of cons on single axle, the main one being if you ever have a flat. And I know that sway bars are needed for the lighter trailers.


The trailer would be stocked with the essentials all the time or as much as possible (not attracting unwanted critters, I live on a ranch) and be ready to load food, clothes, etc. and pull out. When setup at destination, living outside (other than sleeping, cooking, bathing, etc.) would be the norm.


Normally there would be at least 2 people but if I wanted, I want to take off on my own.



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I too want to welcome you to the Escapee forums and like you, am a Texan and also travel with an RV that is close to what you seem to be looking for. We (Pam & I) live near Tyler and travel with a 19' travel trailer that is classed "ultra light" and is easily towed.


- 18' or less

- sleep 4 or 3

- pull with a half ton truck

That part is quite easy as most travel trailers in that size range will have plenty of sleeping capacity and be towable with a half ton rated truck. As mentioned by Yarome, the capacity of trucks has been changing a lot recently so check the weight ratings of the one that you own, or share what it is with us and folks here can probably find what the ratings are. Most trailers in the size that you are looking at will be light weight enough to be towed by the 150/1500 series trucks.


- can be fully self contained and sufficient - generator/solar panels, etc. - used (I'm slightly cheap)

This part is more difficult. I can't recall ever having seen a travel trailer in that size which came with a builtin generator and only a few which an owner had installed one. The same is true for solar and one of the reasons is that units that small don't have enough roof to carry much generation capacity in solar panels. The amount of power generated in one is directly connected to the amount of surface area that it has. Since the roof also has things like a TV antenna, interior vent, plumbing vents, air conditioner, and such it means that there is even less space for installing solar. My suggestion would be to plan on carrying a portable generator with you for electrical supply. It is very easy to find small trailers of that type which have no slides so that won't be difficult.


- aluminum or fiberglass - 1 or 2 axle (pros and cons of each) - opinions on manufacturers

In general, the lighter weight travel trailers are of aluminum but the better insulated ones are of fiberglass. The number of axles is usually dictated by the weight of the trailer. If you get the smallest of trailers they usually have only one axle and particularly those that don't have any slides. As the weight increases the second axle is added. The second axle is a good thing for stability of the trailer and it does tow better but it also increases the cost of the trailer. If all else were the same, I'd buy the one with two axles, even though my present one has only one.


Manufacturers is another issue entirely. Most of us hesitate to list those we don't like, but it is probably less critical in the lower priced RVs than higher/larger units as all of the manufacturers use less expensive materials in the lower priced units. I like the Sportsman from KW that we own, but have seen many others that I would consider to be comparable.

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- truck - 2002 GMC Sierra Z71 4x4, extended cab (half doors), not a short bed, has towing package and brakes.

The car connection lists the following towing limits:

Wt Distributing Hitch - Max Trailer Wt. (lbs) 9500
Dead Weight Hitch - Max Trailer Wt. (lbs) 5000

Fifth Wheel Hitch - Max Tongue Wt. (lbs) 1500


While there are many travel trailers in weights of less than 5000# that doesn't require the use of an equalizer hitch, if you are willing to upgrade to the use of an equalizer that gets you up to 9,500# which is well above the weights you are likely to encounter with trailers of less then 20' in length, even if they do have a slide-out.


- hybrids - they may have gotten better over the years but how do they hold heat and a/c. Also security? Would they have to be popped in before leaving?

I'm not sure how to answer the "getting better" part of your question. There is still no insulation in the canvas cover over the opened beds of a hybrid trailer so they don't heat or cool as easily as a trailer of the same size without those. Our son has been using one with three open-out beds now for about 5 years and they love it because it is small to tow, light in weight, had a real toilet & separate shower, and plenty of space for them and two teenagers. They do use it with both heat and air conditioning but they don't use it in the harshest part of winter and they don't spend time on the desert. They have used it in 100°+ temperatures and they find that it will stay quite comfortable as long as they park with good shade for the RV.


- I have just heard lots of cons on single axle, the main one being if you ever have a flat. And I know that sway bars are needed for the lighter trailers.

I'm not sure why a flat is any worse on a single axle trailer than double as either one must be changed and either one can do damage if you experience a blow-out. The main reason that I prefer a double axle model is that they are more stable when towing or in a cross wind. They don't cause as much bounce on the tow vehicle in dips as does a single axle unit, but they also double the number of tires to maintain and replace and they cost significantly more. As to the sway bar, I would never tow any light weight travel trailer without a sway bar system. The less the trailer weighs the more it will be effected by wind conditions and by passing trucks and such. The addition of a sway bar is only minimal extra for hooking up and unhooking and is absolutely vital if you tow without the use of an equalizer hitch. Many of the very light weight travel trailers have an aluminum frame to lower total weight and the use of an equalizer hitch will violate the warranty due to the added stress load that one applies to the frame members & hitch assembly. One of the best parts of our little 19' Sportsman is that it doesn't require the use of an equalizer and so is very easy to hook and unhook. But we do use a sway assembly.

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Welcome to the Escapees forum!!!


As Yarome stated, there may be a big difference in the cargo carrying capacity of single axle versus double axle trailers. Looking at the offerings of one company in single axle models in the size you are interested in, the cargo carrying capacities range from 417# to 1100#. Keep in mind that any fresh water and waste water that may be onboard has to be included in the cargo carrying capacity. I am not sure how loading of a trailer over its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating(GVWR), axle rating and/or tire ratings while it is sitting stil may affect it; but doubt that it would be a very good thing. With that in mind, as an example a trailer with a cargo carrying capacity of 760# would be over weight with 4 persons averaging over 190# each without any water or other cargo onboard.


The amount of insulation (R-factor) in the walls, ceiling and floor will affect the ability to both cool and heat the trailer. The small size does make this less of a concern, but the heating and air conditioning units used in smaller trailers may have less capacity than the units used in larger RVs. So if you plan to use the trailer in Texas in the summer, you may want to pay attention to the insulation ratings,


I also have not seen small trailers with onboard generators. Many folks mount them to the A-frame at the front, carry them on a rack on the back of the trailer (have to watch the weight and bumper strength) or carry them in the bed of the tow vehicle. Some trailers come equipped with a second power inlet at the front of the trailer to make connecting to a generator on the A-frame or tow vehicle easier and even possible while underway.


As mentioned, there is not a lot of room on the roof of small trailers for solar panels. I have seen some rigs with panels on the roof and more panels on the side(s) of the trailer that can be tilted out like awnings. Others use portable panels that they carry in the tow vehicle and deploy at the campsite. Still others install panels on the roof of a cap on a pickup or the roof of a van used as a tow vehicle. Finding a place for enough batteries to take full advantage of the solar panels is another consideration as two batteries is often about the max that can be put on the A-Frame.


If you plan on doing much travel on unpaved backroads, don't forget to consider the ground clearance of the trailer. some have much more than others.


Good luck with your quest for the right trailer for you and again, Welcome to the Escapees Forum!!!

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... truck - 2002 GMC Sierra Z71 4x4, extended cab (half doors), not a short bed, has towing package and brakes...

Since you are considering small light weight trailers, it is likely not an issue. However, the information provided is not enough to determine the towing capacity of your truck as there was more than one engine/transmission combination available. The Trailer Life 2002 Towing Guide lists different maximum trailer towing ratings for the various configurations of the Sierra in 2002. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) and payload capacities of the various configurations may also be different. If you have the owners manual for the truck, it will probably provide the necessary information. The GVWR and maybe the GCWR for the truck is likely on a sticker on the drivers side door or door frame. The capacity of the hitch with and without weight distribution is normally on a sticker or stamped into the metal of the hitch. If you can not find the information for your truck, a dealership should be able to look it up using the VIN number.

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From what I'm seeing.. and depending on which engine and gear ratio your rig has.. with the stnd. tow package.. for a travel trailer (with WDH 'weight distribution hitch) should be more in the 7800-8800lb range (V6 & V8 respectively and 5000lb with just a standard hitch). The rig I saw with the 9500lb capacity was the heavy duty Sierra with what they call their "max tow package".. not the Z71. That still not too shabby though considering the size of rigs you're considering will probably have dry weights in the 3.5k-5.5k range. That's a respectable amount of reserve capacity.


Plenty of great information from others on axles, power, etc. so I'll just mention a couple of mfg's that might be worth taking a look at. Forest River (West coast not Midwest) and Northwood. Price points are going to be different, but both have several options available in the type you're looking for. Fairly well appointed, 'practical' floorplans., and most will have very respectable cargo capacities (1500-3500) that would be well in range of your trucks capacity.


On edit: trailertraveler was quicker on the draw with regard to tow capacities, but the same conclusion.

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Sorry I haven't replied sooner, my computer hiccuped.


I will get the exact specs on my truck and towing package. I did this once before as I occasionally have to haul livestock, so if I remember correctly: 6000 lb towing, it is the lower size v8 and the standard towing package. I added air brakes.

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Engine - 8 cylinder - 5.3/325 displacement

4WD Extended Cab Standard Box SLE


GVWR - 6400 lb

GVWR FRT - 3925 lb

GVWR RR - 3750 lb

dead weight hitch - max trailer weight - 5000lbs

max tongue weight - 600lbs

gear ratio: 4th gear 0.7min 1.0max


From everything everyone has said and what I have read, I think with the addition of sway bars I should be okay with the trailers I have looked at online. Shouldn't have too much extra weight and can probably make it self-sufficient with a smaller generator.


Thanks everyone for the welcome, information and getting me to research more ;-) .


So my next question is when buying used what are tips/suggestions/questions/etc.. Know a few (leaks, wrecked, where stored, ???).

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  • 5 months later...

Check the interior corners for weak or soft spots could indicate a leak. Feel around roof vents for soft spots, or water staining. Look under the trailer for damage, and if you can see the holding tanks give a visual for cracks. Make sure everything works, or what doesnt for negotiating purposes. Check the tires for wear and cracking. Ask when it last had the bearings greased (very important) I learned all of these things the HARD way. All is well now. Good Luck!!!

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So my next question is when buying used what are tips/suggestions/questions/etc.. Know a few (leaks, wrecked, where stored, ???).

Try using this inspection check list as you check out potential RVs. You may also want to consider getting the RV checked over by a professional before you buy.



There is another list which I like better that comes from the RV Consumer Group, but they seem to have taken theirs down from the internet free access, so if you will send me a PM with your email address, I'll be happy to send a copy to you in .pdf format.

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