The Advantages of a Travel Trailer Over a 5th Wheel
Luxury RVs come in many shapes and sizes, but if you’re looking for something to tow, your two main choices are travel trailers and fifth wheels. While both RV types have a lot to offer their owners, travel trailers are more flexible than their heftier counterparts when it comes to tow vehicles, campsite locations, and creature comforts. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of a travel trailer over a fifth wheel camper.
On The Road: Tow Vehicles For Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels
One of the primary advantages travel trailers have over fifth wheels is their weight. The typical travel trailer weighs in at around 5,600 pounds, and Airstreams can weigh 7,000 pounds; a Bowlus has a dry weight of a mere 3,200 pounds. On the flip side, a fifth wheel averages 15,000 pounds and can run up to 20,000 pounds with multiple slideouts. And that’s the dry weight – whether you’re pulling a trailer or a 5th wheel, when you fill your water tanks, stock it with food, clothes, kitchenware, and all the other necessities, you’re adding at least another 1,500 pounds.
Why does weight matter? It’s simple math – the heavier the towable RV, the bigger the tow vehicle needs to be. Most fully loaded travel trailers can be towed by a crossover or SUV. The Bowlus Terra Firma and Endless Highways Editions can be pulled by any vehicle rated to 5,000 pounds, including the Audi Q5, Porsche Magan, Land Rover Discovery Sport, and the Tesla Model X. But with a 5th wheel, your only real choice is deciding how big your pickup is going to be.
By the very nature of its hitch receiver, a fifth wheel trailer must be towed by a pickup truck – and not a small one. Because of its weight, you’re going to want a half-ton or three-quarter ton truck. For many people, that means buying an additional vehicle that may only be used when camping. But the cost of a new truck isn’t the only downside to using a pickup as your tow vehicle. Consider the decreased fuel efficiency of a pickup as compared to an SUV. The fuel economy of your SUV will go down when towing, but it won’t be as significant as the drop you’ll see in a pickup with a 15,000 pound RV behind you.
A lighter weight aerodynamic travel trailer, like those offered by Bowlus, can also be towed with a hybrid or electric vehicle. The Bowlus’ low hitch weight and center of gravity make it easy to move and handle. Bowlus also offers a best in class integrated Bluetooth brake controller that provides highly responsive and smooth braking for any tow vehicle. It even has vehicle specific memory profiles so you can tow with your Tesla X or your Porsche Macan.
Whether you’re traveling full time or headed out for a weekend, one of the other advantages of towing with an SUV is that it’s often a more convenient vehicle for seeing the sights once you’ve parked the camper. It can be much harder to find a place to park a pickup, especially in a city setting. On-street parking for a vehicle of that length is virtually non-existent, and because of the truck’s height, most parking garages are out of the question. There are seating differences as well – even with a crew cab you may not be able to comfortably fit your entire family into a pickup.
Surprisingly, storage is another consideration. You might think that towing with a pickup would give you more places to put things like bikes and coolers. But the fifth wheel hitch receiver is permanently installed into the pickup’s truck bed and it takes up most of the usable storage space, even when you’re not towing. With an SUV, you still have the trunk area to stash things you might need along the way, and the much smaller trailer hitch can be removed once you’ve parked your trailer.
A Place to Call Home: Parking a Travel Trailer vs a 5th Wheel
When choosing between a fifth wheel and a travel trailer, the combined length of your tow vehicle and camper has to be considered. Most 5th wheel trailers are between 28 and 36-feet long. Travel trailers can range from 10 feet to around 35 feet. Bowlus models are 26 luxurious feet, which is the perfect length for people who want to stay in national parks, or go boondocking. With length restrictions, RVers with large units like fifth wheels or Class A motorhomes often find themselves shut out of the most scenic campgrounds, simply because the sites aren’t long enough to accommodate both the trailer and the tow vehicle.
RVers with long units are also restricted with where they can make pit stops. Stopping for food can be harder, simply because the parking lots of most restaurants can’t handle something close to the size of a semi. Fifth wheelers have similar issues when it comes to fuel stops. The roof of the fifth wheel is typically eight to ten feet off the ground, which may make the rig taller than the canopy at the corner gas station. Fifth wheelers have to make their plans according to where the truck stops are. Those pulling a shorter travel trailer don’t have as many of these limitations because their rig is more maneuverable.
There’s also the issue of where you’re going to park your rig when you’re not camping. Just like motorhomes, most fifth wheels require bigger, and more expensive, off-season storage facilities, especially if the pickup also needs to be stored in the same location.
You might think that a 5th wheel has the edge over a travel trailer when it comes to amenities. While it’s true that the largest rigs offer a lot of living space, many travel trailers provide an even more luxurious camping experience. Take Bowlus, for example. The well-appointed interior and gleaming aluminum exterior cut a striking figure in any campground, but it’s the amenities that make it the best RV on the market.
First, we’ve eliminated the need for the noisy generator that comes standard on many of today’s 5th wheels. Instead, a Bowlus travel trailer features powerful lithium batteries that allow you to camp for up to two weeks, off-grid, while still powering all the outlets and appliances. When you add in our solar system, you can extend your trip indefinitely. Rather than listening to the drone of an engine running, when you’re in a Bowlus you can enjoy both the sights and the sounds of nature.
We’ve also designed the Bowlus’ floorplan to be efficient and flexible, without the need for slideouts. The main living area offers dining for four. In the zen-like bedroom, you can easily convert the bed from an expansive king into two twins to perfectly accommodate your travel companions. Each unit has yours and mine closets and spacious cupboards and drawers. The hotel style bathroom even has a vanity with a medicine cabinet.
It’s clear that a luxury travel trailer like a Bowlus offers far more advantages to RVers than a 5th wheel can.