Hi I’m Mike and today we’re talking about camper and travel trailer weight, averages, and how to reduce it. We’ll compare a few popular models to help you get an idea of how heavy these trailers are. You’ll also find information about how weights are measured. Let’s get into it 🙂
The purpose of an RV or Travel Trailer is to be able to see new places, have fun, and relax. While planning and logistics may not seem fun or relaxing, a bit of forethought can make your time on the road a lot more enjoyable.
Of all the planning and research you can do on your camper, there are few things more important than knowing the total weight of your rig.
Making sure you know the weight is paramount to keeping your family safe, on schedule, and on the right side of the law.
Travel Trailer Weight Terms Explained
Newcomers to the RV world may be tempted to believe that there is only one number associated with the weight of a camper. After all, doesn’t it just weigh whatever it weighs? The specifications of RV’s can be a confusing and a collection of obscure acronyms. Luckily, there are only a few terms you need to understand.
Likely the most common abbreviation you will encounter is GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating).
Because this number often appears at the top of a specification sheet, many people assume this number is the total weight of the RV.
Thus, the weight of the camper, combined with people, water, and supplies, should not exceed the listed GVWR.
In the context of motorhomes, the GVWR is specified by the manufacturer of the chassis. In contrast, the GVWR of a trailer is often determined by the weight-rating of the axles.
UVW stands for “Unladen (or Unloaded) Vehicle Weight.”
This is the number that most people think about when they consider the weight of an RV.
This is almost an unrealistically low number. A vehicle in use will never be as light as the UVW indicates. But it’s a significant number to know so you can tally the total weight of the rig.
A significant number to know is the maximum weight of “stuff” you can put in your RV. To get this number, subtract the UVW from the GVWR. This number will be how much weight your unit can safely carry.
It is crucial to factor not only your camping supplies and toys, but also the weight of your passengers, fuel, and water.
Hitch Weight or Tongue Weight
Hitch weight, also known as “tongue weight,” is one of the most important measurements for a trailer owner to understand.
In a towing situation, the truck and trailer function as a giant lever. The more weight on the hitch of your tow vehicle, the more weight that will be on the back tires, and less weight will be on the front tires.
Having too little tongue weight can take traction away from the rear tires of your tow vehicle and make the tow vehicle fishtail on slippery roads.
Having too much tongue weight can remove traction from the steering tires, making the rig challenging to steer.
Making sure the hitch weight is correct is essential.
Need to increase towing capacity?
For a travel trailer, your hitch weight should be 10-15% of the GTW. For a fifth-wheel, the hitch weight (also known as “pin weight” for a fifth-wheel) should be between 15-25%.
These figures should be on your trailer, but if not, most truck stops or RV supply companies should be able to help you determine your hitch weight.
Whether your setup is a travel trailer or a motorhome towing a “toad,” the entire weight should be less than the listed GCWR of the tow vehicle.
For example, if your fifth-wheel has three 9,000-pound axles, the total carrying rating would theoretically be 27,000 pounds. While it is a nice number to know, there is not a lot of practical purpose in studying the GAWR.
The GAWR accounts only for the strength of the axles, whereas the GVWR is a number that takes the entire vehicle into account. Therefore, the GAWR is not a number you need to be overly concerned with understanding.
Travel Trailer Materials
The weight of a travel trailer is determined by its size and materials. Generally, trailers are constructed of either aluminum or fiberglass. Aluminum is the lighter of the two. We’ll discuss them more below.
Which is lightest?
The lightest trailers and campers are going to be aluminum, but these will also be the most expensive option.
If your goal is to have the lightest trailer possible at a reasonable cost, a wooden-framed, aluminum-skinned trailer is a solid choice.
What else adds weight?
Many people buy an RV, camper or travel trailer and never think about weight again. However, the equipment carried by most campers can be substantial.
It is significant to always consider the weight you are adding to your RV to ensure you are safe.
What are the main culprits for adding unaccounted for weight?
Short Travel Trailer Weight Examples (10-20 ft Travel Trailer)
Let’s look at some typical ranges for different types of trailers. Here are a few real-world examples.
Long Travel Trailer Weight Examples (20-30 ft Camper )
Travel trailers get heavy as the length increases. Let’s look at a few examples.
How Much Do Campers Weigh on Average?
The various makes, models, and types of RV’s are as diverse as the people who own them. Thus, it is difficult to pin down a solid average even if you narrow the spectrum to a specific class of RV.
Getting a rough idea of what a typical unit weighs can help show how different nits vary. Each specific nit is different, so always make sure to check your RV rather than trusting a list.
How to Reduce Weight
By far, the number one tactic to reduce the weight of your trailer is to travel with empty holding tanks.
Water is heavy, and there is no need to subject your tow vehicle to towing more than necessary.
Almost all RV parks have convenient dump and fill stations. Get into a habit of emptying your tanks as you leave, and refilling your freshwater as you enter.
Further, never underestimate a simple spring cleaning. Much like our homes, our RV’s are prone to accumulating a lot of junk after years of use. Once every season, go through the closets and drawers and remove anything you no longer use. You might be surprised by what you find.
Weight matters for travel trailers, campers, and motorhomes!
When considering the weight of a camper, many people think this factor is only for trailers or other towed RV’s. However, this number is necessary for RV’s and motorhomes.
The weight and capacity of your motorhome can affect the stability, longevity, and legal status of your setup.
Didn’t the manufacturer’s engineers figure this out for me?
Most people think that because their motorhome was engineered by a manufacturer that the work of ensuring load ratings has been done. In many instances, this might be true. However, in some cases, the weight-carrying capacity of a motorhome can be surprisingly low.
Thus, if you do not take the time to understand the weight and carrying capacity of your motorhome, you won’t know if your coach is overloaded.
What’s the harm in overloading a motorhome?
Overloading a motorhome has many dangers.
First, it can make your motorhome less stable or more challenging to steer.
Next, parts are more likely to fail when exposed to a higher weight than they were designed for. This includes tires, suspension components, cooling systems, transmissions, and much more. Failure of any of these items can result in a costly repair, a stressful delay, or a dangerous accident.
Lastly, the weight of a motorhome can have legal implications. For example, some states require a commercial driver’s license, or “CDL” to operate a vehicle with a GVRW over 26,000 pounds.
Both Washington DC and Hawaii require a CDL to drive a coach over 26,000 pounds.
But, North Carolina, Kansas, Maryland, Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming do not require a CDL. They do, instead, require a “Class B” driver’s license. Illinois shares this Class B requirement, but for units as low as 16,000 pounds.
As you can see, the legal requirements vary by state. Hopefully, you understand by now the importance of knowing the weight of your motorhome!
The plethora of numbers on a travel trailer weight spec sheet can become overwhelming.
Making sure you understand the basics of weights and capacities is crucial for the safety of both your family and your equipment.
Keep track of your weights and be kind to your equipment. Your camping experience will be as enjoyable and relaxing as possible.