Congratulations, you’re about to buy your first travel trailer! You are going to love the freedom of traveling to unseen places and experiencing the great outdoors. Travel trailers date back the the 1800s when they were pulled behind horses in Romania. These gypsy cabins were perfect tiny homes for European tribes on the move.
In the 1930s, the travel trailer craze hit America full force. The combination of freedom and road travel made the concept popular even in the height of the depression. Today, travel trailers are classified as an RV along with a fifth wheel, pop up camper, truck campers, and of course the motorhome.
A travel trailer must be pulled by an appropriate size vehicle that has enough power to overcome hills and dales. When purchasing a trailer make sure that your vehicle can easily pull the gross weight. Just because your vehicle can pull the trailer empty, does not mean it’s a good fit. Remember that once the trailer is full of all your stuff, plus water tanks, and it’s occupants, the weight can rise considerably.
In addition to choosing the right vehicle to pull the trailer, you must make sure that you have the correct type of trailer hitch.
Choosing a travel trailer hitch doesn’t have to be complicated. This article will lay out your choices and help to discover the best hitch for your rig.
Let’s start with the receiver hitch. Today, many travel trailers are referred to as bumper pull campers. This is because they connect right at the bumper of the truck. The receiver hitch is connected to the trailer you plan to pull. While travel trailers often come with a factory installed unit, many owners choose to upgrade the hitch prior to use.
Here are the five categories of receiver hitches.
- Class 1: This hitch is for passenger cars and small SUVs towing a trailer not more than 2,000 pounds. Which means a small trailer like a teardrop.
- Class 2: This kind of hitch is one step up from Class 1s, but again are designed for smaller SUVs or tiny pickup trucks. This type of hitch can be used for a trailer 3,500 pounds or less — like a folding tent camper or a T@B.
- Class 3: This hitch is for vans, pickup trucks or even a mid-size SUVs. 6,000 pounds is the max it can tow, and would be right for lightweight travel trailers, or mini travel trailers like a Wolf Pup.
- Class 4: Class 4 hitches are used for lots of applications including full size pickups, vans and anything big enough to tow a full size travel trailer. 12,000 lbs is the maximum, and most travel trailers are suited for easy use with a Class 4 hitch.
- Class 5: This is a heavy duty hitch that can tow 18,000 lbs of weight. Nearly all trailers will work with a class 5 hitch, and that’s why many people choose to upgrade to this extra strong hitch.
Check your vehicle manual for the true tow capacity of your vehicle and don’t rely on the dealer. I recently met a woman who had bought a bumper pull way too big for her SUV. The dealer told her it would be fine. One hour into the trip her vehicle overheated and the travel trailer was swaying out of control. As a single mom, she was furious! Take this lesson to heart. Do your due diligence and make sure your vehicle and trailer are right for each other.
Now that you have decided what hitch class you want to purchase, there are a few more issues to discuss.
The Ball Mount
The number one way a hitch connects to a trailer for towing is with the ball mount. A ball mount provides compensation for weight distribution and low sway. It is economical, however, in high winds or if the weight of the trailer is close to the vehicle’s maximum capacity you may have challenges.
Weight Distribution Hitch
A weight distribution hitch uses multiple points of the trailer to distribute the weight. You aren’t relying solely on a little ball. The axles equally carry the weight and the driver experiences a much better towing experience. Without weight distribution, a travel trailer will often push down on the ball mount and rise up in the back of the trailer. This is called a squat. The truck is low at the back end and the trailer is higher at the back end. This is not a safe way to tow.
Sway Control Hitch
Sway control hitches use a variety of methods to make sure your travel trailer doesn’t sway when it is towed. With sway control the bumper pull remains straight behind your vehicle and doesn’t move to the right and left with the wind or with passing vehicles. Yes, it is a more expensive — sometimes costing an additional $100 over a hitch without sway control.
If you want a multiple point sway hitch fully installed it can run up to $2,000 or more. These are top of the line hitches using chains, pulleys and hydraulic pistons to safely pull your travel trailer. A few good options are the Blue Ox Sway Pro, the ProPride Hitch, and the Hensley Hitch.
Your standard travel trailer comes from the factory with a very basic and sometimes lower class hitch. It’s important to do some research prior to buying a bumper pull. Be assured that the cost of the trailer will not be your only expense. You may need to do a major upgrade to your hitch before leaving on your first big adventure.
In addition to your hitch, you will also need brake controllers. The RV Wholesale Superstore has a great article on this topic.
What do you think? Do you have a travel trailer? What type of hitch do you use and why? Did you upgrade? Leave your comments in the box below and share your experience with our readers. At RVShare we are a community who inspires others to travel the road!