What’s so interesting about towing with an SUV? Surprisingly, many SUV models do not have a high towing capacity.
RV manufacturers are doing a good job recognizing that fact as they are building more small, yet efficient, travel trailers than ever. But before we get into a few great options in the smaller lightweight travel trailer segment, let’s start by looking at towing capacity is a good idea.
SUVs and Towing
As you may know, it’s critical to do your due diligence and research the heck out of your SUV’s towing capacity.
Your best decision is to not fall in love with the travel trailer first as you have more options than you might think in small lightweight travel trailers. So, go ahead and fall in love with the SUV at the start, but make sure to get the model that will easily tow what travel trailer fits your family’s needs.
Now, here comes the trick in selecting your SUV. Different models within an automotive brand will have drastically different capacities. Case in point, one of the most popular SUV in the midsize SUV segment is the Ford Explorer. The Explorer comes in with a tow capacity rating from 2,000 pounds (2019 Ford Explorer 2.3L EcoBoost I4) to 5,000 pounds (2019 Ford Explorer 3.5L EcoBoost V6).
You will immediately realize the limitations of a 2,000-pound towing capacity. Therefore, we will be using a 5,000 pound limit. But using that limit, let’s not forget the travel trailer weight you will be working from is the maximum weight, also known as its GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating).
This number equals everything you will be putting into your trailer, including water (if you’re a boondocker you will be filling that tank, and every gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, so take that under serious consideration).
One more thing about towing capacity. If you’re planning on traveling in the mountains, you’ll put a ton of strain on your transmission, engine, brakes… your whole SUV. As such, it’s best to keep to a recommended weight of about 15-20% less than the auto manufacturer’s stated maximum capacity. Fifteen percent off 5,000 pounds and you’re sitting around 4,250 pounds.
We could go on and on with towing capacity (weight distribution etcetera) but enough jibber jabber. Let’s get to those travel trailers. A good guesstimate is there are at least 100 different models under the 5,000 pound GVWR limit.
We can’t go through them all so I picked a handful of small, yet super-efficient and comfortable travel trailers towable by a midsize SUV for you to consider, highlighting them by what they have and what they can hold.
Forest River Flagstaff E-Pro 19QB
Every Flagstaff E-Pro model falls under a GVWR of 5,000 pounds. The 19QB is a sweet hipster-ish laminate travel trailer designed for a couple. It’s a rear bath floorplan with a queen bed upfront and has a single slide to open up the main living area.
The 19QB can carry an impressive 37 gallons of water. Dry weight of the 19QB is at 3,144 pounds and its maximum CCC (Cargo Carrying Capacity) is 1,269 pounds. As such you can pretty much pack it to the max.
Coleman Lantern LT 17FQ
Every Lantern LT single axle model fits under the 5,000 pound limit. The 17FQ is a conventional bunkhouse model, a great family option that – with its single-over-double bunks, convertible dinette, and corner queen bed – can sleep up to six.
Dry weight of the 17FQ is a svelte 3,370 pounds, but its recommended CCC sits under 500 pounds. This makes the 17FQ ideal for those who love the full hook-up campground life.
Forest River R-Pod 195
Every R-Pod model fits under the 5,000 pound GVWR limit. The 195 is a laminate couples-centric model and has a dinette on a slide to open up the main living area. The 195 also has a rear kitchen and upfront a camper queen bed.
With a dry weight of 3,587 pounds and a CCC of 1,175 pounds, towing with a mid-size SUV isn’t a huge concern. You’ll find a water capacity of 30 gallons makes the 195 a nice choice for the boondocker.
Keystone Bullet Crossfire 1800RB
Most of the Bullet Crossfire family are under our chosen 5,000 pound GVWR limit. The 1800RB is an excellent lightweight laminate travel trailer for the couple who loves to camp and wants a little extra in their camper.
The 1800RB has a nice size rear bath with a wardrobe/linen closet. Up front you’ll find the unique Murphy bed that can be a comfy couch in the daytime; a queen bed at night. Dry weight sits at a light 3,314 pounds and its maximum CCC at 1,086 pounds. With its whopping 43 gallon fresh water capacity, this could be a great boondocking option.
Forest River Salem FSX 179DBK
The Salem SFX, along with its sister the Wildwood SFX, have a lot of models to choose from perfect for towing with a midsize SUV. The 179DBK is unique. It’s a bunkhouse floorplan giving you the double-over-double bunks so popular in larger travel trailers. As such, the 179DBK can sleep up to seven.
The 179DBK also has a Murphy bed system as well as an outside kitchen prep station plus 38 gallons in fresh water capacity. Your maximum CCC is nearly 1,450 pounds. Conservatively, I’d stick to around 800 pounds.
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