What Do You Need To Tow A Pop-up Camper?

It’s all in the weight specifications of the tow vehicle and the pop-up camper. With a little research and some easy math, you can determine whether or not any particular vehicle has the potential to tow that pop-up camper that can get you on the road to some great outdoor fun.  

 4 Things That Will Determine If Your Vehicle Can Tow That Pop-up  Camper

  1.  What is the towing capacity of the vehicle?
  2. What is the GVWR or “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating” of the pop-up camper you want to pull?
  3. What is the cargo capacity the vehicle?
  4. What is the tongue weight of pop up camper?

 Research these four pieces of information, do a little math and you will have an answer that will allow you to begin the process of becoming the proud owner of pop-up camper.  

 If this sounds like too much thinking and math, skip down to the “Vehicle Towing Capacity and Pop-Up Campers Mix and Match” 

Some of you may want to choose a pop-up camper to fit the vehicle you currently own. Some may be browsing for a new vehicle secure in the knowledge it can tow a pop-up camper. With the answers to those four questions you can reasonably calculate what pop-up camper you can pull with what vehicle. 

This article is not intended to allow you to calculate with absolute certainty that a vehicle can tow a pop-up camper. It will allow you to approximate the answer to your question so that you can begin shopping for the right sized pop-up camper or vehicle best suited to your needs. The weight specifications in this article uses to calculate the compatibility of a vehicle and a pop-up camper are conservative, a safety precaution. Towing can be very dangerous if your vehicle is over-loaded. However, further research into the subject can yield a wider range of possible combinations of vehicle and pop-up campers.      

Let’s Start with the towing capacity of the Car

Google makes the first step very easy, search “Towing Capacity” amended with the vehicle’s “Year Make Model”. The answer generally appears in a window right on the results page. 

Another way to get a rough idea of what a vehicle can tow is this quick search tool from   Carsguide that will tell you what your vehicle can tow.  

The Pop-Up Camper GVWR-When browsing sales ads for pop-up campers, you will find some inconsistency in the availability of weight specifications. The GVWR is absent in most dealer ads. Open a browser tab and search “GVWR” adding the pop-up camper’s “Year Make Model”. One of the links in the top results should take you to a page that will answer your question. Another method is to review the pop-up camper’s weight specifications on the manufacture’s home page. Google the manufacturer’s home page by typing in the “Make” of the pop-up camper and the words “home page”, the first result should be the manufacture’s home page. From there you will need to navigate to find your specific pop-up camper. There you should be able find the pop-up campers “Dry Weight” or the “Unload Vehicle Weight”, UVW for short. It should also list the CCC or “Cargo Carrying Capacity. Add the “Dry Weight” or UVW to the CCC to approximate the pop-up campers GVWR. Some make it easier and have the GVWR listed.  Here is an example below.

Is the GVWR greater than what your vehicle can  handle?

Does the GVWR, “maximum weight capacity” or “fully loaded weight” of the pop-up camper exceed the vehicle’s towing capacity? If you answered “No”, the vehicle should be able to tow the pop-up camper. The next question is can the vehicle support the tongue weight? Tongue weight is the amount of weight the pop-up camper will put on your hitch. 

Can your vehicle bear the weight of the hitch?

Google makes this step fairly easily, search “GVWR” amended with the vehicle’s “Year Make Model” and you should get an answer right on the results page. 

If that method doesn’t yield results, you may have to dig a little deeper. There is a bevy of terms used in vehicle weight specifications regarding how much weight you can put in or on a vehicle. It can get very confusing. Vehicles generally used to tow tend to specify “Hauling Capacity”. Cars tend to use the term CCC or “Cargo Carrying Capacity” to indicate the maximum weight the vehicle can bear. Other vehicles’ specifications don’t offer the CCC information or the “Hauling Capacity”. To calculate the CCC, subtract the “Curb Weight” of the vehicle from the GVWR. The vast majority of vehicle manufactures will include GVWR and “Curb Weight” in the vehicle specifications. Google “Home Page” amended with the vehicle’s “Year Make Model” to find weight specifications for your particular vehicle. 

What is the tongue weight of the pop-up camper?

The approximate tongue-weight of most pop-up campers will range from 9% to 15% of the GVWR, or “maximum weight capacity” or “fully loaded weight” of the pop-up camper. Multiply the GVWR of the pop-up camper by .15 to estimate the tongue weight of a camper. 

Now you can answer the question: Does the estimated tongue weight, plus the weight of all gear and passengers in the vehicle exceed the CCC of your tow vehicle? If you can also answer no to that question too, then you might have a compatible pop-up camper and tow vehicle. 

Getting Professional Advice

Once you have taken the plunge and plan to spend the afternoon out browsing pop-up campers at local dealerships, you should consult with a professional at the dealership on the subject of towing. These conversations will educate and teach you many things need to know to hitch up and go camping for the weekend. When shopping for vehicles, you want to have similar conversations with the dealership about what the vehicle you intend to buy can tow. Be sure you tell them the GVWR of the pop-up camper you intend to pull. 

Vehicle Towing Capacity and Pop-Up Campers Mix and Match

Want to shop around and explore the possibilities without too much work? Us this link from USNews on the Best Cars  for towing. Also check out the potential pop up campers and their respective weights below. 

Here's A Snapshot Of Some Of The Most Popular Vehicles And What They Can Tow.

complements: Honda

1,000  to 1,200 lbs. Towing-Capacity

  • 2018 Dodge Challenger - 1000
  • 2018 Chevrolet Malibu- 1000
  • 2018 Honda Accord - 1000
  • 2018 Jeep Renegade with optional 2.4 liter engine - 1,200
  • 2018 Honda CR-V - 1,200
  • 2000 to 2,700 lbs. Towing-Capacity

  • 2019 Kia Sorento - 2,000
  • 2018 Kia Sportage - 2,000
  • 2018 Subaru Outback  with all-wheel drive and the optional six-cylinder engine - 2,700
  • complements: Subaru
    Credit: Chrysler

    3,500.00 To 3,600 lbs. Towing-Capacity

  • 2018 Chevrolet Equinox CCC With the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine - 3,500
  • 2019 Ford Edge turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or the 2.7-liter V6 with and all-wheel drive - 3,500
  • 2018 GMC Terrain - 3,500
  • 2018 Ford Escape - 3,500
  • 2018 Honda Odyssey, Touring trim or Elite trim and optional towing package - 3,500
  • 2018 Toyota Rav4 with optional tow prep package.
  • 2018 Volvo S60 - 3,500
  • 2019 Kia Sorento with the LC trim with the V-6 engine - 3,500
  • 2018 Chrysler Pacifica with the trailer-tow group option - 3,600
  • 4,400 To 4,500 lbs. Towing-Capacity

  • 2018 Porsche Macan - 4,400
  • 2018 Jeep Cherokee - 4,500
  • credit: cars.com
    credit: motor1

    5,000 lbs. Towing-Capacity

  • 2019 Kia Sorrento with the LC trim, the V-6 engine and all-wheel drive.
  • 2018 Volkswagen Atlas with the 3.6 liter V6 engine and the tow package.
  • 6,000 To 8,600 lbs. Towing Capacity

  • 2018 Nissan Pathfinder - 6,000
  • 2018 Land Rover Range Rover - 7,700
  • 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Big Sport Utility - 8,600
  • credit: Chevrolet

    Now let’s look at some of the most popular pop-up campers and what they weigh

    Potential Pop-Up Campers and Their Weights

    credit: Sylvansport

    Under 1,000 lbs

    • Tiny Tent Trailer by Lee-Sure Lite (700 lbs.)
    • Sylvansport Go (840 lbs.)

    Under 2,000 lbs

    • Quicksilver Livin Lite Tent camper (1,200 lbs.)
    •  Aliner Classic (2,000 lbs.)
    credit: Aliner
    credit: Aliner

    Under 2,500 lbs

    • Quicksilver Livin Lite 10.0 (2,090 lbs)
    • Forest River MAC/LTD 206LTD (2,291 lbs.)
    • Forest River Extreme Sports 1640ESP (3,278 lbs.)
    • Jayco Jay Series Pop-Up Camper (2,385 lbs.)
    •  Aliner LXE (2,500 lbs.)

    Under 3,000 lbs

    • Jay Sport 8SD (2,925 lbs.)
    • Coachman Viking LS 1760QS (2942 lbs.)
    • Aliner Titanium 12 (3,000 lbs.)
    • Forest River Extreme Sports 1970ESP (2,884 lbs.)
    Credit: Aliner

    Under 3,500 lbs

    • Coachman Clipper 1285 SST (3,065 lbs.)
    • Starcraft Comet H1232MD (3,250 lbs.)
    • Jayco Jay Series 1208 (3,490 lbs.)
    • Chalet RV XL 1935 (3,500 lbs.)
    • Coachman Viking Epic 2405ST (3,241 lbs.)
    • Forest River MAC/LTD 208 (3,255 lbs.)
    • Aliner Family Scout (3,500 lbs.)

    Under 4,000 lbs

    • Coachman Viking Clipper 2485SST (3,502 lbs.)
    • Palomino 12FS Basecamp Edition (3,552 lbs.)
    • Forest River Flagstaff High Wall (3,721 lbs.)
    • Forest River Extreme Sports 2280BHESP (3,838 lbs.)
    • Forest River Flagstaff HW27KS (3,870 lbs.)

    Under 4,500 lbs

    • Jay Sport 12SC (4,455 lbs.)
    • Coachman Viking V-Trec V3 (4,427)

    Under 5,000 lbs

    • Forest River Rockwood HW296 (4,773 lbs.)
    • Forest River Highway Wall HW296 (4,999 lbs)

    My vehicle seems like it can tow a good deal, maybe want to upgrade?

    If your vehicle can tow more than 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 lbs. you may want to look into a light weight travel trailer, especially if you don’t need a lot of sleeping space. You might want to read our article on the 15 things to know before buying a travel trailer.

    Become an Educated Shopper

    While shopping for your pop-up camper, there are other things you will need to consider.

    Learn About Towing

    Whether you have purchased a vehicle “ready to tow” or you are going to use a vehicle you already own, you will need to explore getting your vehicle ready to hitch up. To ensure that your hitch receiver, hitch and ball are installed correctly and are rated to tow the pop-up camper your plan to pull, you should have a professional help you select the correct hitch package. We also recommend that you have that same professional install the hitch package. This will help you avoid mismatching your vehicle, pop-up camper and hitch configuration which can create extremely dangerous and deadly driving situations. While we recommend that you ultimately consult with a professional, you should still understand the basics. Here's an article from Curt on the parts of a trailer hitch. 

    Want to know more? It is always good to have a basic understanding of hitches, their configurations, and weight limits. Hitches are often divided into classes. Classes 1 – 3 will be your main focus of research when working with pop-campers. If you want to learn more on hitches check out this article from curt, that goes into greater detail on hitches.

    Choosing the Best Floor Plan For You

    Ah, browsing floorplans can be very exciting. Trying to find a floor plan that will meet your needs as well as provide you with the comforts you crave is a fun part of the buying process. There are a lot of things that you will need to take into consideration:

    • How many people plan to sleep in the Pop-Up camper?
    • Is there enough storage room for the items we will need inside?
    • Do I need to be able to cook indoors?
    • Do I want a mini-fridge, microwave or TV?
    • Do I want a toilet and shower?
    • Will I need air conditioning or heating options installed?

    As you shop for campers, you might want to take a moment and review what features your pop-up camper should have to give you the camping experience you crave. While there is no way to anticipate all of your needs, you should have a feel for your pop-up camper needs to offer you.

    If you plan to camp alone or as a couple, then indoor conveniences might be higher on your list. While a pop-up camper will never approach the at-home comfort of a RV, there are pop-up campers that come with small refrigerators, stoves, ovens, microwaves, toilets, showers, televisions, dinettes, sofas, sofa tables, and outdoor accessible extra storage spaces. If you crave a sturdier feel to your pop-up camper, at 3,500 pounds the Aliner Expedition model pop-up camper has solid walls and roof, a mini-fridge, stove, toilet and dinette area.    

    Be safe, and save on gas and repair bills!

    If you plan to drive long distances or go camping more than a four or five of times a year, most experienced RVers recommend that your camper weights 25% less than what you vehicle can tow. Multiple the maximum vehicle tow capacity times .75. The resulting number will give you a new number for the GVWR of your pop-up camper.

    As an example, if your vehicle is rated to tow 5,000 lbs., then you may want to consider a camper with a GVWR of less than 3,750.00 lbs. This is a general rule of thumb for RV enthusiasts. It is safer to tow, you are less likely to have issues and get into an auto accident. You will greatly reduce the wear and tear on your tow vehicle and avoid break downs due to over-burdening your tow vehicle. You will also save a great deal on gas.

    Learning what you need to know to tow a pop-up camper is a broad subject. However this article should have set your feet on the path to becoming an educated and knowledgeable shopper of both tow vehicles and pop-up campers. You may have even already found the right combination for you.    

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