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skierd
skierd SuperDork
9/5/18 5:15 p.m.

After camping a few times with the whole family, my wife has raised the idea of getting a trailer instead of sleeping in a tent or renting cabins. We camped with our friends last weekend on the Clearwater River who brought their 5th wheel, and, while we aren't looking at getting anything that large, the appeal of having a dry comfortable bed at the end of a couple rainy days, no packing beyond stocking the fridge, and us getting old enough to not want to sleep on the ground anymore have us looking.  Actually she's convinced, and I'm only on the fence because I don't want to end up with a expensive cardboard box.

Why a trailer vs an RV?  I've already got a truck (2017 Tacoma DCSB V6 4x4 Auto, tow package, rated to tow 6400 pounds).  I don't want to add another vehicle with an engine to the fleet.  I don't see us replacing my Tacoma any time soon.

We've mostly looked at 20-24ft trailers with a slide out dinette, 2 bunks and a queen bed, and bathroom. I like the idea of a pop-up, but we're in Alaska.  It gets cold up here in the spring and fall and am worried they won't stay warm enough, and the bug pressure in summer makes me want something that doesn't have to be zipped together.  I can't help but notice they all the trailers we've looked at seem to have basically the same layout.  How much does brand matter in terms of quality/durability? How much of the different brands are just different graphics and fabrics off the same assembly line?  We're looking to buy new to a couple years old. 

Two axle vs single axle, at these weights (3000-4000 dry), how much of a difference does it make? Towing performance, durability, etc

Budget isn't unlimited, for sake of discussion let's keep it under $30k and preferably under $20k.  

What does the truck need to get ready for this kind of work?  Brakes? Brake controller? My stock tires will be worn out by the time I get to pick this up, should I get LT tires while I'm there?

Tell me your stories, horror or good or otherwise.  

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
9/5/18 5:46 p.m.

Paging SBF....

Hell, he might be able to deliver one to you. 

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
9/5/18 5:48 p.m.

Check insurance salvage sales.  There are 55 units this week on SGI salvage site, most of which are hail damage, gentle jack knifes or mouse damage.  Avoid the mouse damaged ones...

As an example, this is Saskatchewan:  https://www.sgi.sk.ca/salvage_bid/all_search.html

If you click on the "make" heading, it will organize all the RV's together on the list.

skierd
skierd SuperDork
9/5/18 6:09 p.m.
Pete Gossett said:

Paging SBF....

Hell, he might be able to deliver one to you. 

While I’m not against having one delivered, part of the fun is going to be going to get it. The plan is for me to do a banzai drive out of Alaska, pick up the trailer preferably in the North West, then have the family meet me for a road trip home. 

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
9/5/18 6:31 p.m.
skierd said:
Pete Gossett said:

Paging SBF....

Hell, he might be able to deliver one to you. 

While I’m not against having one delivered, part of the fun is going to be going to get it. The plan is for me to do a banzai drive out of Alaska, pick up the trailer preferably in the North West, then have the family meet me for a road trip home. 

A Canadian insurance auction might not be the worst option for you, then.  Not much farther than Washington, use your powerful US dollars...Even used in Canada might be a deal, unless the prices are 25% more in $cdn than a comparable unit in $us. 

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 UltraDork
9/5/18 9:03 p.m.

4X4 have a lower tow rating? I have a 16 Tacoma SR5 Extended Cab V6 tow package, rated at 6600 lb tow capacity. Daughter has an 18 Four Runner TRD 4X4 V6 tow package. It has a slightly lower tow rating although the engine is bigger and higher hp. I chalked the difference up to the Four Runner being heavier than the Tacoma. After a couple recent long weekend trips SWMBO and I talked about this. We are planning on getting a camper closer to retirement in about 6 years from now. Knowing I would need a bigger truck when I get a camper I opted for a smaller less expensive truck when I bought the Tacoma a couple years ago. Thinking that if I bought one then I would need to replace it when I got around to getting a camper so just get something smaller that would do what I need a truck for and have good resale when I step up to a 3/4 ton truck to tow a camper. Also still considering going motorhome vs. truck/camper. Either way will be towing something, a camper or a car (on a trailer). Thinking I could use it for race car or antique car events. But maintenance on another vehicle is a consideration too. She saw some small campers on the road this past weekend and asked about them. Told her there are campers that smaller trucks can easily tow but they are small. Found one local used that is light weight, weighing about 2500 lb. Only a year old. Has queen bed and full kitchen and full bath, slide out dinette. Fully self-contained. SWMBO gave approval to check it out. SWMBO mentioned one with a small inside kitchen and a larger outside kitchen. Kinda hesitant because I don't think we'd use it much right now. Can't see spending 14k on something that would be used once a year.

Don't mean to be morbid but sometimes you can find deals on campers that older people are selling because they can't use them anymore for some reason. Often someone not being able to drive anymore or passing away. My mom had to get rid of a truck and camper when dad passed away 20 years ago. A friend got a deal on a truck and camper last year for the same reason.

skierd
skierd SuperDork
9/5/18 9:37 p.m.

I have no problem benefiting from someone’s life event. Better I get a deal so I can enjoy it than letting it sit or worse paying full price. 

 

Two that have stuck out so far are the Camplite 21BHS and the Forest River No Boundaries 19.7. Dual vs single axle, slide vs no slide, etc. Theres also a bunch of other Forest River, Jayco, etc brands out there but it may hard to tell quality from bad fisheye photos and walkthroughs. The Camplite definitely seems to be nicer, but at a $10k+ premium in street price. What am I getting for that money?

Rons
Rons New Reader
9/5/18 9:52 p.m.

I don t know a lot about trailers, but I would ensure it s cold weather ready.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
9/5/18 9:53 p.m.

If you're on FB, check out the regional trading groups.  There should be tons of used travel trailers in your weight range and well under your budget. Hell, for that budget you can probably find an Airstream in decent condition, which is generally among the best you can buy.

eastsideTim
eastsideTim UltraDork
9/6/18 8:43 a.m.

I've done some research myself, but never jumped yet, as I don't think I'd use one enough.  Once I get closer to retirement, that may change.  I've heard Jayco is to be avoided in general, pretty much bottom of the barrel for major brands.  Slideout quality has supposedly gone down in recent years, I think due to one of the better manufacturers going under, but I can't remember more details than that.

Two I've heard good things about, but I'm not sure they make something you want, would be Aline and Scamp.  Aline makes popups, but they are hard-sided, so more of a fold out.  As I understand, they are also a bit more "adventure" oriented, so I suspect they are more durable for use on gravel and dirt roads.  Scamp makes old school style fiberglass(I think) trailers, that should be less susceptible to leaks.  Theirs may be on the smaller side of what you want, though.

Picking the right size also seems to be a confusing thing.  I've heard from people complaining they went too small, and had to upgrade.  I've also seen where people went too big, and the trailer/RV was more unwieldy than they wanted, so they just didn't use it as much.  Another danger with going bigger is making it too comfortable.  If you are camping to go and see and do things, you don't want to get there, then just hang in the trailer, because you've got A/C, heat, satellite TV, room for everyone to have their own space, etc, and it is a bunch nicer inside than out.

Curtis
Curtis UltimaDork
9/6/18 9:13 a.m.

I much prefer some sort of towable thing.  In fact, I strongly prefer travel trailers over 5th wheels, but its just my preference.  I never liked motorhomes except for road trips and sight-seeing.  Once you get to your campsite and level the motorhome, hook up electric, water, and sewer, you are stuck there.  You can't go to town for dinner, see a show, or see some sights without completely undoing all that you did.  With a travel trailer you just pop it off the ball and you have a vehicle.

My personal preference for TTs instead of 5ers is that I like to sometimes load the motorcycle, bikes, or a 4-wheeler in the bed.

One thing with TTs, and I can't stress this enough.  Never use the GVW of the trailer to determine if it fits within your tow rating.  It's not the weight, its the fact that you're towing a billboard.  It's like a sail in the wind.  I towed a 31' TT with an F250.  The TT's GVW was 8600 and I was good to tow 10k with the truck, but every truck that passed and every gust of wind meant making a correction.  Perfectly fine for a 50 mile trip, but after a day of constantly being "on" made for a lot of stress.  Tow ratings are based primarily on how the vehicle handles weight; frame strength, brake torque, vehicle weight, spring rate, cooling capacity, transmission capacity, etc.  The secret to happily towing a TT is tire sidewall stiffness, sway control, proper tongue weight, longer wheelbase, and choosing a trailer that isn't too long.  Flatbed trailer?  Go for it.  Travel trailer?  size kills the deal.  A good example; my friends didn't listen to this advice and they bought a 26' ultralight to tow behind their Discovery.  They used it once and sold it.  Perfectly fine on the GVW/tow rating, but the short wheelbase and air suspension meant the truck just couldn't control the trailer.

I would look for something in the 22-24' length.  26 might be ok, but I haven't driven a newer Taco to know how it handles weight.

Hal
Hal UltraDork
9/6/18 9:35 a.m.

In reply to eastsideTim :

Don't know much about travel trailers except that my neighbors have had an Aline for 4 years now.  Every summer they take off from Frederick, MD pulling it behind an older Ford Escape and are gone for 2 months.   Theirs is rather minimalist with just sleeping quarters, a propane cooktop, and a porta-potty.  But that fits their needs.

They just got back from this years trip.  They had intended on going back to Washington and Oregon but only made it as far as Colorado because they had to be back in Kansas on a certain date for a family reunion.

D2W
D2W HalfDork
9/6/18 9:35 a.m.

What is the biggest load you have ever hauled behind your Tacoma? I would be really worried about a trailer of any size behind that small of a truck. Don't forget to add the weight of all the things you put in the trailer. It adds up fast, and towing a load that's at the limit of your truck is not going to be fun. If its an option you might try to rent a trailer to try it out, not just for the experience, but also to see what its like to tow.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin PowerDork
9/6/18 9:46 a.m.

I'm curious what brands have actual quality.  I recently went to a trailer/RV dealer as part of a brainstorming event for my job.   I was truly amazed at the quality of these things.  Brand new on the lot and already falling apart.  Laminates peeling, doors that don't work, mechanisms jammed, not to mention sawdust from various work on them never cleaned out, etc.

We had several when I was young, but I guess I was too young to appreciate how E36 M3ty they actually were.  By comparison watch a video of how an Airstream is made.  A whole different world.

That said, I'm not against them.  In fact, in like 10 years I'd like to live in one for a year or so while traveling the continent.  But my recent experience has me considering paying the extra coin for an airstream or refurbing one of them.

eastsideTim
eastsideTim UltraDork
9/6/18 10:16 a.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

As I understand RVs/travel trailers are selling so well right now that pretty much every major factory is capacity constrained.  Quality is going down as they push harder and harder to get units built.  The plan is to push them out and let the dealerships handle warranty problems.

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler PowerDork
9/6/18 10:22 a.m.
ProDarwin said:

I'm curious what brands have actual quality.  I recently went to a trailer/RV dealer as part of a brainstorming event for my job.   I was truly amazed at the quality of these things.  Brand new on the lot and already falling apart.  Laminates peeling, doors that don't work, mechanisms jammed, not to mention sawdust from various work on them never cleaned out, etc.

We had several when I was young, but I guess I was too young to appreciate how E36 M3ty they actually were.  By comparison watch a video of how an Airstream is made.  A whole different world.

That said, I'm not against them.  In fact, in like 10 years I'd like to live in one for a year or so while traveling the continent.  But my recent experience has me considering paying the extra coin for an airstream or refurbing one of them.

We are on our second one now, and my FIL has had 4 in the last 10 years ago. The quality is universally poor, regardless of brand, from what I've seen. We've had a Jayco and a Keystone, FIL has had Heartland, Forest River, and another Keystone. They are cardboard boxes with fancy paint. Interior bits were breaking in our Keystone Outback the very first time we took it camping. The radio died a year after we got it. 

I suppose that's why people buy Airstreams, but I have two problems with them. One, they don't appear to do slideouts, and slideouts are a godsend to give you more interior space. And second, they are crazy expensive, like 2-3x the price of the "typical" brands. So, I'll deal with fixing something on my trailer every time I use it. I don't have $100k sitting around to invest in a travel trailer.

As for towing, I'd be cautious about going too big with a Taco. Remember that the "tow rating" is somewhat of a BS number. It's the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) minus the weight of the tow vehicle, all it's contents, and the trailer and all it's contents. So, when you load four people, a couple of dogs, and a bunch of gear in your tow vehicle, you just took up a big chunk of the GCWR and your "tow rating" is reduced accordingly. Also, wheelbase is your friend, and compact trucks simply don't have as much as bigger ones.

Having said all that, you can tow quite a bit of trailer safely with a modern half-ton. Both of my trailers have been 30-foot bumper-pull "lightweight" models with a dry weight around 6k pounds. I've towed them with my 2011 F-150 and now the 2015 Expedition, both with the 3.5 Ecoboost, and they do great. I'm not going to say there's never any drama, I had big crosswinds in Nebraska a couple of years ago that kept me on my toes with constant small corrections, but we did almost 5000 miles on that trip with the Expedition and the Outback with no problems whatsoever. A good load-leveling hitch is a must, better yet if you can get one that does sway control and load leveling at the same time, like the Equalizer that I have.

This was us at Four Corners during that big trip out west:

ProDarwin
ProDarwin PowerDork
9/6/18 10:28 a.m.
Tom_Spangler said:

I suppose that's why people buy Airstreams, but I have two problems with them. One, they don't appear to do slideouts, and slideouts are a godsend to give you more interior space. And second, they are crazy expensive, like 2-3x the price of the "typical" brands. So, I'll deal with fixing something on my trailer every time I use it. I don't have $100k sitting around to invest in a travel trailer.

Yeah, I wouldn't consider a new one.  But a used one for $10k, then $10k for a refurb (is that reasonable?) seems like a lot better investment to me than $20k into a cardboard box that will be worth $4K in 10 years and be a constant source of problems.

 

https://asheville.craigslist.org/rvs/d/1973-airstream-argosy-26/6688436004.html

https://greenville.craigslist.org/rvs/d/airstream-land-yacht-air/6689301781.html

https://fayetteville.craigslist.org/rvs/d/1998-airstream-excella-1000/6687420620.html

https://asheville.craigslist.org/rvs/d/airstream-in-excellent/6679416343.html 

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler PowerDork
9/6/18 12:04 p.m.
ProDarwin said:
Tom_Spangler said:

I suppose that's why people buy Airstreams, but I have two problems with them. One, they don't appear to do slideouts, and slideouts are a godsend to give you more interior space. And second, they are crazy expensive, like 2-3x the price of the "typical" brands. So, I'll deal with fixing something on my trailer every time I use it. I don't have $100k sitting around to invest in a travel trailer.

Yeah, I wouldn't consider a new one.  But a used one for $10k, then $10k for a refurb (is that reasonable?) seems like a lot better investment to me than $20k into a cardboard box that will be worth $4K in 10 years and be a constant source of problems.

That's the smart way to go, honestly. And it's what we did when we bought our Jayco. It was 8 years old and we got it for $11k. Used it for a year, and over that first winter it developed a pretty major leak near the front that would have necessitated tearing out half the trailer to fix. At that point, having done some camping, we knew what we wanted a bit more, so when the dealer offered to get us out of the Jayco for what we owed, we jumped at the chance and went new. I sorta-kinda regret it, we'll be upside down on this thing for years, but it is really nice, though, and it's not like we're swimming in debt otherwise, so it was a sacrifice we were willing to make.

 

TGMF
TGMF Reader
9/6/18 12:13 p.m.

My wife and I bought a 23ft hybrid camper (Hard side trailer, with fold out queen beds on each end...no zippers or bracing installation needed to setup)  early last year. Its been fantastic for vacations as we (now) have two very young kids (baby and a 2 year old) . We've hauled it all over the entire eastern side of the US already.  Camping on the ground has zero appeal anymore. Plus im nearing 40 and sleeping on the ground sucks.  

Long road trips  where we want to just stop for a rest, is as simple as finding a empty parking lot or rest stop. catch some Z's,  even use the stove and oven to cook a real dinner. Having a decent sized fridge with you is awesome.  A real freezer...no melted watery  bags of ice ever again.   Kid gets his popsicle, I have solidly frozen ice for my capitain n coke.  

Road trip drinks  and snacks are just a quick stop to grab. Don't want to use the nasty gas station bathroom? no problem...use the camper.  Kids getting to restless in the car? pull over, cook some lunch at a park, let em run and play a bit....  Love it.

I also hate flying, and the restrictions it places on you.  Hotels, rental cars.....minimal luggage......never mind the people, the airports...tsa. (flying itself is cool). If time and continental restrictions allow,  the family and I  are on terra firma. 

My vote goes for trailer/5th wheel. Not having the RV as your only form of transportation is money. Not having yet another actual vehicle to maintain (engine/trans....) is a real plus as well.

As for towing, I started with  my Nissan Xterra (4.0V6 268 hp iirc)  with this camper.  It weighed in at about 4900lbs loaded. (I think the camper empty is rated at 3900lbs)  Pulled through the mnts of Virginia/kentucky,  area. Lots of revs, but really it had enough power. I would not want to be hauling more than 5,000 lbs with a similar engine setup. For what it's worth, despite being below my max tow rating, i was over my Gross Vehicle Rating by a good 500lbs.  Pay attention to this number. 

  The short wheel base made for a slight side to side rocking sensation sometimes, especially in the back seat even though the camper was towing straight and smooth.  In the wet on very sharp low speed turns the camper would push the car, setting off the skid control.  It was not ideal. I switched cars, and now drive a Nissan Armada pulling the same camper with  zero of the above complaints. So, if you plan to keep the Taco, stay as far under 5,000lbs as you can and still get what you want.   The Xterra got about 9.5mpg, the Armada, 10.5 with a much bigger more powerful engine. 

 Since you're in Alaska the hybrid tent side idea probably wont work so well for you as you mentioned the cold issue. (Though the forced air heater and electric heated beds are very effective) . Bummer because bedding takes up so much floor space in a standard hard sided camper and kind of forces you to go bigger. 

Do look for a camper with cold weather package, to reduce the chances of frozen water lines and such. 

 

As far as cost, btw, i think they are very reasonable in the used market. We bought our 2015 private party, very lightly used , flawless, for 11,500. It was 20k and change new.  

T.J.
T.J. MegaDork
9/6/18 12:53 p.m.
Hal said:

In reply to eastsideTim :

 

They just got back from this years trip.  They had intended on going back to Washington and Oregon but only made it as far as Colorado because they  were too stoned to drive.

For some reason as I was reading your post, the above is how I thought that sentence was going to end up.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
9/6/18 12:58 p.m.

I periodically think a trailer or RV would be fun, but on the other hand $20,000 to $30,000 will pay for a lot of hotel rooms...

KyAllroad (Jeremy)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) PowerDork
9/6/18 1:16 p.m.

Given my delusions of being an autocrosser I'd rather have a motorhome and tow the sports car. 

I've had a 24' Class C and a 20' B+.  The C was the way to go, the B+ was really a glorified travel van and was too short wheelbased to ever be comfortable on the road. 

But I got all the "camping" I care for while Uncle Sam owned my keister so for me it'd only get used for the National Tour circuit.  And the budget isn't there so long as the ex has her hand in my wallet. 

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler PowerDork
9/6/18 1:28 p.m.
stuart in mn said:

I periodically think a trailer or RV would be fun, but on the other hand $20,000 to $30,000 will pay for a lot of hotel rooms...

No doubt about it, especially when you consider that campgrounds aren't free, either. It's a different experience than hotel travel, though. You can bring basically as much stuff as you want (within reason), you sleep in the same bed every night, you can cook for yourself, have campfires, and it's more social. And the big thing for us is that we can take our dogs with us. I bet 60-70% of the people in a campground in a given time have dogs with them, at least it seems that way.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
9/6/18 1:36 p.m.

In reply to Tom_Spangler :

I’ve traveled a lot for work and personal.  I’ve found that hotels are hit and miss.  Top brands can have creepiness and funkiness in the room.  With your own camper there are no late night check in surprises.  

akylekoz
akylekoz Dork
9/6/18 1:45 p.m.

+1 for heated beds, we used our a lot.  

Ultralights are light 4500lb because they take the materials out of them and they cost more.  My one year old aluminum frame fiberglass sided trailer was 23k new, my friends trailer was 16k new and built way better also 6000lb.   Mine had all the bells and whistles, his got added over time so not exactly apples to apples on price.  

Fiberglass sides look nice but are way more costly to repair (if you can find someone to work on them), due to how they are constructed.  

If you get a trailer with a slide clean and re-caulk the top seal annually, and do it yourself so you know it was done well.  The roof too check it every other year adding more goop to the cracks.

All trailers are built like card houses treat them well if you want them to last.  

There are some unique layouts out there but you have to look, they do make a difference.

 

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