Basically, any RV without an engine is considered a towable. The thing about towable RVs is you can have the nicest, best equipped one in the world, but if you don’t have the right tow vehicle to haul it, you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt. This problem typically arises from having more towable than your truck can handle. If you must err in this regard, it's better to have too much truck than too much trailer. However, when you’re considering pairing pickup trucks and towable RVs, too much truck can also result in unnecessarily high fuel bills, as well as having a larger truck than you really need.
Pairing Trucks And Towable RVs
Specific Truck Considerations
For heavier towables, most people swear by diesels. The durability and generous low-end torque are essential to pulling land yachts up hills and through the mountains, and they typically consume less fuel. However, in addition to brute power you also need to pay attention to the design of the truck’s tires, axle, suspension, hitch, and towing accessories to ensure they will handle the stresses of towing. To be safe, the tow vehicle, at its fully-loaded capacity and outfitted with a correctly-rated hitch and other ancillary mechanical equipment, must be capable of competently carrying, towing, handling, steering and stopping the RV at its fully-loaded capacity.
Yes, Weight Does Matter
Here’s a guide to the weight ratings you’ll typically encounter when considering towable RVs.
• GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating) – Probably the most important number to take into consideration. This is the limiting number that takes into consideration the total weight of the RV, as well as the tow vehicle itself.
• GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) – The tow vehicle and the RV will have separate GVWRs. The GVWR of the towable RV is usually conspicuously posted on the left front exterior section of the RV.
• GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) – Every individual axle (on the truck and on the RV), will have a dedicated GAWR. It is the maximum rated load a given axle can safely support. It assumes, however, that both ends of that axle will be carrying an equal load, which isn’t always the case.
• UVW (Unloaded Vehicle Weight) – Also known as dry weight, this typically refers to the weight of the vehicle as it rolled out of the factory. It does not take into account any cargo, fresh water, propane, dealer installed options or people and pets.
• NCC (Net Carrying Capacity) / CCC (Cargo Carrying Capacity) – This is basically the maximum limit of all the cargo you put into the RV; every can of beans, fresh water, propane, your Civil War cannon ball collection, occupants, pets, and the like—in other words, all of your stuff.
Fifth Wheel Trailer: Excel Limited 36GKE/Ram 3500 HD
Fifth wheel trailers enjoy more stability and traction, as the trailer’s weight is situated over the truck’s rear axle. Five-star hotels on wheels, Excel’s Limited is offered in 31-, 34-, 36, and 38-foot lengths. Standard features include floor to ceiling pantries, pull-out drawers and countertop extensions, a pull-out computer desk, a cedar-lined bathroom closet, a padded ceiling, theater-style seating, Berber carpets, solid wood cabinets, a convection microwave oven, a 10 cubic foot refrigerator, a 42-inch LED television monitor, and an independent hydraulic leveling system, all as standard equipment. The Elite Limited 36GKE offers 410 square feet of interior space, has a maximum GVWR of 18,750 pounds and will sleep four. Pricing starts at $122,450.
Ram 3500 HD Laramie Longhorn Limited Dually
With a maximum tow rating of 30,000 pounds when configured for fifth-wheel operation, the size and 18,000-pounds of weight of the Excel Limited 36GKE fifth-wheel towable RV fall well within the towing capabilities of the RAM 3500 HD DRW (dual rear wheels). The high-output 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel engine is good for 385 horsepower and 865 ft-lbs. of torque—when you pair it with the Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. If you’re looking to complement the luxurious style of the Excel Limited, you’ll want to go with the Laramie Longhorn Limited package which will get you remote start, navigation, power adjustable pedals, keyless entry and start, automatic wipers, a rearview camera, and a heated wood and leather steering wheel. For 2015, Laramie Limited pricing starts at $53,305.
Conventional Trailer: Airstream Classic / Ford F-250 Super Duty King Ranch
If you’re looking at full-sized conventional travel trailers, one of the best is the all-new 31-foot 2015 Airstream Classic. Airstream trailers evolve rather than change, so while the exterior looks much the same as Airstreams always have, inside you’ll find new high-end Villa furniture including a sofa with individually powered reclining seats, low-energy, high-visibility LED lighting, and a marine-grade Polk stereo system. The galley features cherry-wood cabinetry, hardware from Amerock, high-polish Corian countertops and Kohler faucets. New exterior features include powered stabilizer jacks and awnings with matching foldable Zip Dee chairs. Sleeping five, the 2015 Airstream Classic has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,000 pounds. Pricing starts at $121,720.
Photo Credit: Bentley Media
Ford F-250 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab
The luxurious Ford King Ranch package is a nice match for the upscale Airstream Classic. With Ford’s 440-horsepower, 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbodiesel’s 860 ft-lbs of torque, pulling the Airstream Classic’s 10,000-pound GVWR is child’s play. A six-speed automatic transmission routes power to all four wheels. With the diesel, four-wheel drive, a 3.55 axle ratio and the Crew Cab, the F-250 Super Duty is good for 14,000 pounds. Plus you’ll get seating for four, along with niceties such as dual-zone automatic climate control, adjustable pedals, a rearview camera for hitching up, remote statrt, navigation, and a premium audio system. For 2015, Ford F-250 King Ranch pricing starts at $50,800
Folding Camping Trailer: TrailManor 3124KS / Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon
The TrailManor 3124KS combines many of the favorable attributes of a conventional towable RV with the most obvious advantages of the folding trailer—namely packing 31 feet of length into a towing footprint of only 24 feet, and lighter weight. Of course, if you’re reading through these in order and have been (quite justifiably) wowed by the extraordinary features of the Airstream and the Excel, the TrailManor’s accommodations may strike you as somewhat spartan. Geared more toward short outings than lengthy stays, the TrailManor 3124KS offers a king-sized bed, dining for four, a sofa bed, and a bathtub with a shower. Capable of also sleeping four, the TrailManor 3124KS has a GVWR of approximately 4,500 pounds. Pricing starts at $38,032.
Photo Credit: General Motors
Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon
All new for the 2015 model year, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon fraternal twins best engine bet for this towing application is the 3.6-liter V6 with 305 horsepower and 269 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard; a six-speed manual is available optionally. The twins feature an extended cab with a six-foot bed and a crew cab with five- or six-foot bed lengths. Their towing capacity is estimated at up to 7000 pounds when properly equipped, so they will handle the 4,500-pound TrailManor and four people with ease. Colorado pricing starts at $21,020, while the more luxurious Canyon’s pricing starts at $22,65
And Now, For Something A Little Different...
Slide-in Camper: Adventurer 116DS Double Slide / Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD
Anybody familiar with the floor plan of a typical truck camper will look at the diagram of the Adventurer 116DS, and wonder what the heck’s going on. Among its distinctions are a rear kitchen slide, a mini peninsula for the galley, a California king-sized bed, a wet bath, and optional reclining theater seating. What’s more, you can access the bathroom when both slides are retracted. The interior height measures 76 inches and the floor length of 11 feet, six inches is where the model’s nomenclature gets its designation. Experts estimate its weight at just over 5,900 pounds with fluids and stocked for a trip. Pricing starts at $35,455.
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD:
In this case, payload capacity is what counts, as the Adventurer 116DS rides in the truck’s bed, rather than being towed. The Silverado 3500HD can tote a payload of up to 7,374 pounds, so the Chevy dually will haul the 5,900-pound Adventurer, plus your family with ease. Be apprised though, the 116DS requires the Silverado’s eight-foot bed length. Hauling all of that weight, we’d go for the 6.6-liter diesel with its 397 horsepower and 765 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic handles transmission duties, and four-wheel drive is available. Pricing starts at $33,265.