What Can Your Truck Tow?: How to Understand Camper Weights


Answering the call of the open road and hauling a camper on your adventures in wide-open spaces is one of the best feelings in the world. However, towing safely requires travelers to know their stuff when it comes to hauling and calculating maximum towing capability. Figuring out your truck’s tow capacity can be more complicated than expected, and the following recommendations and terms can help you make the best decision possible when choosing a camper. 

Terms You Need to Know
Getting a firm handle on the applicable terms that will help you determine your actual towing capacity can make or break the validity of the weight you ultimately calculate. 

Cargo weight is the total weight of everything transported by your camper, such as passengers, luggage, water, and other items. 

Dry weight or shipped weight is the weight of your camper without any additional passengers or cargo. 

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is the dry weight of your camper added to the total amount of weight that comprises your passengers, cargo, and liquids.

Max towing capacity is the maximum amount of weight that your truck can tow. This number is computed by adding your campers' GVW to the weight of all passengers, cargo, and anything else inside your vehicle.

Payload capacity for trucks refers to the amount of weight you can safely put into your truck bed. Make sure to confirm your payload capacity with your vehicle's manufacturer, and it's also essential to add any hitch or pin weight values so that you don't exceed your recommended payload capacity.

Tongue or hitch weight is the weight and pressure applied from the camper tongue or coupler to the bumper hitch on your truck.

Check Your Manufacturer’s Specs
Purchasing a camper without knowing exactly how much you can tow is always a bad idea. Therefore, it's critical to cut out all promotional noise and personally research your truck's manufacturer specs. Your owner's manual is a great place to start your search, or you can use a VIN number to pull up your vehicle's specifications. If you can locate a complete towing guide for your truck, this will provide you with all the details you need to know to make an informed decision. 

Never use the advertised payload and towing capacities for your vehicle. The values in promotional content are often not specific enough and don't include many other important elements such as cargo, road conditions, the type of weight being towed, terrain, and much more. In addition, exceeding your GVWR can cause severe damage to roads, other vehicles and strain your truck's internal systems, so calculating the correct weight is vital. 

Additional Considerations
Where most calculations go wrong is when drivers forget to combine core and additional weight values to overall weight calculations. For example, an average camper is about 5,000 pounds of just dry weight. But you'll likely need to add at least an additional 1,000 pounds to your calculation to factor in the weight of your gear to achieve a more pragmatic number. It's also a good idea to adjust your camper velocity for potential driving conditions as well. Factors such as elevation and hills can change your towing power, and if you have a "live load," which is the type of load that moves, then your weight load will shift because of the added momentum.


Abigail Baker is a writer from Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with recreational outdoor fabric retailer Seattle Fabrics.

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