Today’s RV review is very different in that I’m responding to a number of reader inquiries about half-ton-towable bunk model travel trailers. There’s a form at the bottom of all these articles I write inviting you to chime in, and a lot of you have. In fact, I have a gigantic backlog of requests and comments and I am working my way through them as I try to be responsive to you. I sincerely appreciate your input and your reading these.
What I thought I’d do today is share a few bunk models that I think could be half-ton-towable, but that’s not a singular term.
America’s favorite vehicle is now and has been the half-ton pickup, with Ford leading this category for decades with the F-150.
All vehicle manufacturers whose vehicles can tow from tiny little speed bumps with seats to gigantic semi trucks are usually advertised with a number that they can tow. For example, the Ford I mentioned claims there are models rated to tow up to 14,000 pounds. That’s squarely in the ball park that three-quarter ton trucks were in only a few years ago. What’s going on?
Improvements in braking, technology, tires, metallurgy and company legal departments, to name a few things.
But what a company says you can tow and what travel trailer you can tow can be very different things. Tow ratings are measured with a sled that offers almost no aerodynamic resistance. Travel trailers, on the other hand, have tremendous frontal area that has a lot of resistance.
Here’s a video showing how towing is measured.
Another factor that really affects all towing is the tongue weight of the trailer. Your tow vehicle isn’t just pulling the trailer, it’s also a factor in carrying the load. For example, you might find that a trailer has a gross weight of 7,000 pounds but has two 3,000-pound axles. What gives?
The assumption with travel trailers is that about 15 percent of the weight of the trailer rests on the tongue and is carried by the towing vehicle. Your truck.
So, if you take that 7,000-pound load, your truck is responsible for 1,050 pounds of that load.
Further, if your truck is capable of hauling 1,600 pounds and 1,050 of that capability is being used to carry the trailer, now you only have 550 pounds of cargo carrying capacity.
If you weigh 250 and your spouse weighs 150, you now only have 150 pounds of capability to carry stuff. Like those fancy eBikes. Or your cooler full of beer. Or whatever. So carrying with anything that’s not overly capable means you should be cognizant of what the numbers are.
Here’s a web calculator for towing, and it’s really smart to have an idea of what these numbers are. You can find information on the trailer near the front on a federally-mandated sticker, and on the truck it’s typically in the driver’s door jamb.
Know that things like hitches, which can weigh as much as 90 pounds, or camper shells, or bigger wheels and tires and all that other stuff does have to be accounted for. It’s never a bad idea to have your truck weighed. You can do so for about $12 at a CAT scale. They are all over the place, generally where commercial trucks congregate.
Ford also has an optional feature where it will display the relative weight of what’s being loaded in the bed of the truck on the taillights. I think that’s nifty. Further, I wrote a review of the CURT BetterWeigh™ device, which can also give you some idea of what’s going on in the weight department.
Now, the trailers
There are a few trailers that I have shared that are worth bringing up again. There are aspects of these that I really like, and then we’ll also have links to the full articles.
Coachmen Apex Ultra-Lite 256BHS
With a gross weight of 7,600 pounds, the Coachmen Apex Ultra-Lite 256BHS could be a great choice as well. I really, really like the way these have totes for storing stuff such that you can put each camper in charge of making sure they have their own belongings and clothing for the trip by filling one tote.
You could also use this as a learning lesson, weighing each tote before it goes in to help teach the value of Gross Vehicle Weight and towing safety.
Meanwhile the responsible adults get their own bedroom with an actual queen-sized bed. That bed features a really unique set of cabinets underneath.
This trailer also features a flip-up lower bunk plus a cargo door. I think that is important when you have younger campers along for the trip. Everybody can’t leave their stuff behind or the trip isn’t worth making.
For example, as a young traveler I bought a Tonka Winnebago that just had to go on all our road trips. Have I ever told you that I still have that?
This one also has the cargo carrying capacity to accommodate those young campers and their stuff.
Rockwood Geo Pro 20BHS
Packing a lot of good in a small box, the Rockwood Geo Pro 20BHS comes in at 4,442 pounds gross weight. That puts it squarely in the realm of what many half-ton trucks can safely tow. Know that Rockwood always has an identical product in the Flagstaff line, in this case the Flagstaff ePro E-20BHS.
I like the build quality of Rockwood products a lot—having chosen one. This trailer features bunks in the back, of course. But it also has a cargo door to load the things the younger campers might want to take with them.
It’s also a narrow-body trailer. That makes for easier towing, as the narrower width creates less of a drag aerodynamically. I also like the suspensions in Rockwood products, as well as the frameless windows.
But the downside is that this has an east-west bed. That could be either a deal breaker or, with one person having to crawl over the other to get out, could provoke the creation of another camper. But now you only have two bunks but a third camper on the way.
One of the bigger down sides of this trailer is the very limited cargo carrying capacity at just 848 pounds.
With a gross weight of 7,468 pounds and an unladen weight of just 4,135 pounds the Forest River Ibex 19MBH also can carry a lot of stuff.
Like the Rockwood, this is a narrow-body trailer. But this one features a Murphy bed system, and that means it’s a north-south bed when it is deployed. Further, that’s actually a queen-sized bed.
There are a number keynote features of the Ibex brand. Those include their use of Azdel substrate in the wall construction, a 12-volt TV (meaning you can run the thing without having to turn on an inverter), a 1,000-watt inverter, heated and enclosed underbelly with heating pads on all the tanks, a JBL wireless Bluetooth audio player (hooray, no horrible iRV radio!!), and a solar panel.
There’s also a standard central vacuum system in the entire line, including a dust “kick” component.
This trailer has no slide room and is a simpler design, but has some good features. It is well within the towing capability of many half-ton trucks.
Wildwood FSX 190RT
Honestly, if I had offspring I would most likely go the toy hauler route. Bringing along bicycles and all that other stuff younger travelers want to take with them, toy haulers make so much sense. Plus, the flexible space is a bonus.
So, allow me to include the Forest River Wildwood FSX 190RT in this list. With a gross weight of 7,595 pounds and a cargo carrying capacity of more than 3,000 pounds, this one has a lot of what might work really well for a family.
If the youngest travelers are truly new humans, the fact that the ramp door can double as an outdoor patio might be a huge bonus for giving them the experience of being outdoors while also providing some containment of their wandering ability.
This is also a great place for mom and dad to sit and keep an eye on things. I really, really like these ramp door patio setups.
Once again, Wildwood is here with their totes. The same lessons can apply with regard to having each camper responsible for one tote.
I recently was on a vintage trailer campout where several teenage travelers were given this responsibility. None of them brought underwear, so they had to wash their swimsuits along with their daily showers. This is how we learn things.
Choosing an RV is such a unique decision. I always suggest thinking about your camping style, who goes with you, and all of those sorts of important details.
When evaluating the kitchen and bathroom, pretend you’re doing all the things you would normally do and see if the RV fits your needs.
But look underneath and, as much as possible, beneath the skin as part of your decision-making process. The way an RV is built is one of the most important aspects of its ability to serve you over the years.
I know I write a lot about RV suspension. But there are also a lot of RVs that spend their lives in seasonal sites, so the suspension isn’t as critical when it’s just sitting there. This is all part of the process of this decision.
I hope this helps. I always appreciate and read your feedback, even if I’m slow to respond—as I have been lately.
I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.
Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has an RV podcast with his wife, Peggy.
These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.
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I have a 2016 Toyota 4Runner and I am considering a Lance 1575. What are your thoughts? I live in Colorado so I will be towing over many mountain passes. The SUV has a 5000 lb. Tow rating with 500 lb. Tongue capacity.
As with all towing I recommend using the calculator shared here to look at your specific numbers.
Remember the cargo carrying and towing numbers of your 4Runner have to include anything in the vehicle including the driver and passengers.
The biggest issue you may find with the 4Runner is the wind resistance of the trailer going against limited towing with that vehicle, especially in the mountains of Colorado. That’s also where you’ll want a great transmission that affords engine braking as stopping is actually more important than going.
How about some love for 1/2 ton towable RVs without the wasted space of bunk beds?
After all of Tony’s rave reviews about the technology included in the new Keystone products, I find it significant that all of the 1/2-ton towables listed in this article are from divisions of Forest River, not Thor! Do all of these FR divisions use the same suspension system as Rockwood/Flagstaff? If so, then I completely agree with his choices, after buying two new Rockwood products over the last 11 years. If not, the differences in those suspensions would be useful in comparing which 1/2-ton towable to purchase, especially for one planning to be used for non-RV park/boondocking/off-highway camping.
I reread the reviews for the above TTs using the links. I also went to the FR websites for some of them. What I was most impressed with were the standard features of the Ibex towables (except for the front windshield!), a brand I never heard of before his review. If I were shopping for a new TT these days, I might choose an Ibex over even Rockwood/Flagstaff.