If you’re planning on towing a trailer, you’ll want to know how much weight you can expect to be hauling. This information isn’t strictly for bragging rights—you need to be sure that your truck or SUV will be able to handle the load.
So, how much do travel trailers weigh, exactly? Don’t worry if you’ve never given the matter any thought before.
There are a few basic rules of thumb that will make it easier for you to calculate the weight of your trailer, whether it’s a new purchase or an older model that’s coming out of long retirement.
How Much Do Average Travel Trailers Weigh?
The average weight of most recreational travel trailers is about 5,000 pounds, depending on size. What you’ll want to remember about this equation is that this number refers only to the “dry weight” of the unit.
This means that the weight is measured when the tanks are empty and the unit contains no gear or other incidentals.
If you have a background in construction, this measurement is similar to what’s commonly known as the “dead load”—an immutable base number that doesn’t include goods or inhabitants.
Once the fuel and water tanks are full and the unit is loaded with camping gear (thereby adding the “cargo weight”), you can expect the number to increase.
In general, the camper will weigh about 250 pounds per foot of trailer length, although it can vary depending on the size of the camper and the type of gear you pack. This total is known as the gross trailer weight, or GTW for short.
To make this concept easier to grasp, here’s a guide that uses some of the most popular trailer lengths as examples. Note that the measurements refer to the total box length of the camper, not counting the trailer hitch.
|Size of Trailer||Dry Weight||Gross Trailer Weight (GTW)|
|17-Foot||3,700 pounds||4,250 pounds|
|19-Foot||3,800 pounds||4,750 pounds|
|20-Foot||3,900 pounds||5,000 pounds|
|23-Foot||3,975 pounds||5,750 pounds|
|26-Foot||5,500 pounds||6,750 pounds|
|30-Foot||6,000 pounds||7,500 pounds|
|32-Foot||7,000 pounds||8,500 pounds|
|38-Foot||7,500 pounds||9,500 pounds|
Basic Gear Weight
Most trailers come equipped with 48-gallon freshwater tanks. Since water weighs in at about eight pounds per gallon, a full tank will add nearly 400 pounds to the weight of your trailer.
When making your calculations, assume that the water tank will be full at all times (even though it obviously won’t be). This will help you to err on the safe side and avoid putting too much stress on the vehicle.
Larger camper trailers can obviously accommodate more gear, but that’s no reason to go overboard. You can expect to add at least 500 pounds of gear to the GTW ( gross trailer weight ) even if you stick to the basics.
Don’t be tempted to overload the trailer just because you have more space. When it comes to camping, it’s always best to err on the lighter side.
Understanding Dry Hitch Weight
You might also come across the term “dry hitch” weight, and be surprised at how low the number is compared to the total weight of the travel trailer.
That’s because it refers to the amount of weight that’s put on the trailer ball itself—usually about 10 percent of the trailer’s dry weight.
For example, if you’re towing a 26-foot trailer, you can expect the dry hitch weight to be between 500 and 550 pounds.
Towing Capacity Breakdown
|Label||Weight Capacity Types||Description||Details|
|GCWR||Gross Combined Weight Rating||Maximum towing weight of a vehicle.||This is the weight of both the tow vehicle and the trailer combined.|
|GVWR||Gross Vehicle Weight Rating||Maximum loaded weight of a vehicle .||This is the total weight of the vehicle AND passengers and cargo combined.|
|GTW||Gross Trailer Weight||Total weight of a trailer.||The total weight of the trailer and all cargo .|
|TW||Tough Weight||Total weight at the hitch.||The weight that is focused on the ball of the hitch.|
|Curb Weight||Curb Weight||Total weight of an empty vehicle.||The weight of the vehicle with no cargo or passengers.|
|Dry Weight||Dry Weight||Total Weight of empty vehicle and without any fluids.||Same as Curb Weight but also without automotive fluids.|
How To Tell If Your Vehicle Can Handle The Weight
Since we’ve already discussed the importance of finding the (GTW) gross trailer weight versus the dry weight, you’re off to a good start.
The next step is to find your vehicle’s towing capacity. Some larger trucks and SUVs might have this information listed on the VIN sticker (usually found just inside the front driver’s side door).
Here is a great tool you can use to find the specifics on your vehicle.
Note: You don’t necessarily need a truck or SUV in order to haul a trailer. Some cars and crossover models are equipped with tow hitches as well.
Tip: Just follow the directions listed above to make sure the vehicle can handle the weight of your camper before you head out.
Here is a video for further help with finding the vehicle’s weight ratings.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to towing a travel trailer:
- You should keep in mind that you should never exceed whatever is the lowest-rated component of your towing setup. This will be the weakest link and can cause issues.
- If possible, invest in a truck with a diesel engine if you’re planning on towing a heavy camper often. Since these engines are built for towing, you’ll get much better mileage.
- Learn to spot the difference between wooden and aluminum frames. Wooden ones are distinguished by thick stripes on the exterior of the camper and add a significant amount of weight. Campers with aluminum frames will feature a smooth exterior and sleek design.
- If you can’t locate any information about your camper’s dry weight, take it to a roadside scale to get a reading. It’s imperative to keep the total weight below the vehicle’s maximum towing capacity; otherwise, you could risk damaging the transmission.
Best of luck, and happy camping!
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