Camping in a trailer is one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors, especially if you are not fond of sleeping in a tent and on the ground. With a camping trailer, you can have the best of both worlds – comfort and the fun of camping. The type of camping trailer you may want to purchase can be a difficult decision. There are travel trailers and fifth-wheels, as well as motor homes and class C-motor homes. Which type of camping trailer to purchase needs to be thought out seriously.
What is the difference between a travel trailer and a fifth-wheel?
A few different things set a fifth-wheel trailer apart from a travel trailer, but the major difference is the hitch. A travel trailer Is towed by being attached to the bumper of a vehicle using a ball and coupler hitch. A fifth-wheel trailer connects to the bed of a pickup truck with a jaw hitch. Other differences include levels and space, the towing vehicle, the height, weight and length, and camping capabilities. You may want to consider the maneuverability, ease of parking in camping spots, and the room in your camping trailer.
A bumper-pull trailer and a fifth-wheel trailer may seem to be very similar, but when you look at them side-by-side, you will see that there are differences. One of the first things you need to consider before purchasing either a travel trailer or a fifth-wheel is your towing vehicle. The next thing to consider is the traveling space. While it might seem like you can ride in the fifth wheel because of the stability, this is illegal. Riding in a fifth-wheel is not an option. Think about what you have to pull your camping trailer with and then think about the conveniences and what you are looking for in a camping trailer.
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The Pros of a Fifth-Wheel Trailer
- A fifth-wheel trailer usually has more square footage of living space and more storage than a travel trailer. The space that goes over the bed of a truck contains a bedroom and possibly a bathroom which leaves more room for sitting, eating, and entertainment.
- Pulling a fifth-wheel is easier because part of the trailer goes over the truck bed, the length is often less than a travel trailer, the towing package allows for better control. Better towing control keeps a fifth-wheel much easier to tow.
- The master bedroom and a bathroom are usually located on the upper level, which allows more privacy. Along with a master bathroom, you may also have another bathroom the main level of the fifth-wheel. Two bathrooms can be a great convenience when camping with the family.
- When considering a camping trailer, note that because of the hitch set-up, the fifth-wheel trailer is more stable. The hitch is load-bearing, which improves the stability of the trailer. With a fifth-wheel trailer hitch, it is often easy for one person to hitch up the trailer and be ready to go.
- Generally speaking, a fifth-wheel trailer has a larger waste and freshwater tanks that make it more convenient to camp away from facilities and hookups. The fifth-wheel also has more space for batteries, which is nice on extended camping trips.
- It is common to purchase a fifth-wheel with two, three, or even four tip outs. These tip outs substantially improve the roominess of your camping house. Travel trailers usually only have only one or two tip outs.
Cons of a Fifth-Wheel Trailer
There are distinct disadvantages of a fifth-wheel trailer, however.
- The big difference is usually the cost. Because a fifth-wheel trailer offers more square living space footage and more storage, it is a bit more expensive than a travel trailer.
- Another disadvantage is the height. The fifth-wheel is higher than the cab of a truck, and this can make it inconvenient when you are camping in wooded areas. You need to watch the top of the trailer to make sure it clears the trees.
- Watch for the stairs in your fifth-wheel. If you have trouble navigating stairs at home, you may not want to try and walk up the stairs to the master bedroom of the fifth-wheel.
- Because of the configuration of the fifth-wheel, it is often colder in the master bedroom than the rest of the trailer. Temperature issues might be a consideration if you are camping long-term.
- A fifth-wheel is towed by a truck with a jaw hitch mounted in the bed of the truck. A jaw type of hitch eliminates using and storing a good portion of items in the truck bed. Also, not as many passengers can travel in a truck compared to an SUV. Take note that the hitch of a fifth-wheel is a chunk of steel that is heavy. You will need to leave your hitch in your truck permanently or take the time and help of friends to remove the hitch out of the truck bed after each trip.
- Fuel economy for a fifth-wheel is a bit less than with a travel trailer. The fifth-wheel has a higher profile and is much heavier than a travel trailer. These two issues reduce fuel efficiency by a few miles per gallon.
- The tips out in the fifth wheel add to the weight and can cause towing to be a problem. Each tip outweighs about 800 pounds, and many tip outs add substantially to the fifth-wheel.
Pros of a Travel Trailer
- Travel trailers come in all price points like a tear-drop trailer that’s relatively affordable to a regular rectangular shape and sizes. Travel trailers can be barebones or come with all the luxuries your camping world has available. There is an almost limitless number of travel trailer variations. This non-motorized towable is mainly used for shelter so you can choose something as simple as a fiberglass egg travel trailer or a million-dollar luxury trailer.
- A travel trailer can sleep anywhere from one person to your entire extended family. You also have the convenience of dropping off your travel trailer at a camping spot and taking your towing vehicle with you on wilderness adventures.
- The cost of a travel trailer is a cheaper choice over other RVs and are great entry-level trailers. A travel trailer is nonmotorized, and it costs less to purchase a travel trailer.
- Travel trailers contain fewer moving parts, and you’ll need less service.
Cons for Travel Trailers
- A travel trailer takes some skill to maneuver and drive since it is towable. Be aware that the larger your trailer is, the more difficult it will be for you to tow and park.
- The travel trailer (as well as a fifth-wheel) is subject to theft. Trailers are easy to break in with a pocketknife. You might want to add deadbolts or hide your valuables when you leave your travel trailer.
- The climate control in a travel trailer is not as efficient as a motor homes or even a fifth-wheel trailer. You will not have an air condition unit on while driving and when you find the camping space, you could find your trailer hot and stuffy. Temperature is just a small inconvenience that can be quickly overcome.
- A bumper pull travel trailer has a lack of maneuverability particularly when backing up and A fifth-wheel trailer hitched into the box of a pickup truck, is a bit easier to maneuver.
- It is more difficult to tow something else like am RV trailer or a car when you are already bumper-pulling or towing a travel trailer. It is often illegal in different States to tow double. On the other hand, if you are pulling a fifth-wheel, you can pull another towable item. (We always pull our four-wheel and trailer when we pull our fifth-wheel.)
If you are considering purchasing a trailer for your camping experiences, you might want to rent first. Try out a fifth-wheel and then a bumper hitch or travel trailer. Purchasing a trailer is a major purchase. They are pricey and take up a lot of space, and you want to make sure you make the right purchase.
Think about what you want a camping trailer to do for your family. Make note that if you are camping in a Forest Service or State or National Park campgrounds, the size of the recreational vehicle matters. If you have something that is over 30 feet long, you may not be able to find accommodations. However, if you camp in RV camping spots, you should be okay with a large fifth-wheel or travel trailer.
Do be careful where you pull your travel or fifth-wheel trailer. Going down a steep road to a lake could be a challenge with a large travel trailer or even with a large fifth-wheel. Consider a small fifth-wheel like an 18-footer that can go anywhere!