By Tony Barthel
What’s the smallest fifth wheel trailer you can get? Can you really tow a small fifth wheel with a half-ton truck? Looking at these questions will inevitably lead you to the Scamp 19 – a 19-foot fifth wheel trailer from a company that’s been making small, fiberglass trailers for a half-century. In fact, it’s the same family that’s been doing so in the same place, no less.
Scamp fifth wheel
The Scamp fifth wheel, called the Scamp 19, is a small, lightweight fifth wheel trailer that Scamp says is sold to a lot of people towing with Toyota Tacomas and the new Ford Ranger. I’ve seen a lot of fifth wheels and trailers in general where the marketing material said they could be towed by something but common sense dictated that that was less than prudent.
In this case, taking even a base V6 Tacoma or the new Ford Ranger, this trailer is well within their capabilities. That’s even thinking of being fully loaded plus having actual humans inside the truck. For example, the gross weight of the Scamp 19 is 3,500 pounds with a pin weight of just 400 pounds. The trailer is approximately 2,000 pounds dry.
The new Ranger’s cargo carrying capacity is 1,860 pounds. This means even with two bigger folks aboard the Ranger and a dog and some cargo, you’re still well within the capability of that truck.
What do you get in a Scamp?
The Scamp fifth wheel is available in three floor plans with a “Standard” and “Deluxe” variant. All models feature the same fiberglass build method, but the Deluxe features all wood cabinets and has a richer interior. But let’s stick with the Standard for the sake of this article.
The Standard 19 features a couch right at the base of where the trailer jogs up to the second level that rides above the pickup box. Opposite the entry door is a wet bath, depending on how you configure it, and then a two-burner stove set into cabinets with storage overhead.
The entire rear of the trailer is a four-person dinette which, of course, folds down into a bed.
On the camp side is a sink and a refrigerator with counter space next to both the two-burner stove and the sink.
Interestingly, since all Scamp trailers are sold factory-direct, there are a lot of choices you get to make. You can outfit them with a toilet or without, with a fresh water system or without. If you prefer a dry toilet, that’s an option. You can add a TV, generator, outdoor shower, solar systems and much more.
What is Scamp
Scamp trailers are built more like boats than your typical RV. They are essentially a fiberglass “egg” into which the various trappings turn it into an RV. The shell is essentially molded in two fiberglass halves. They’re then joined down the line by fiberglassing the two halves together. Then an aluminum strip is riveted around the beltline over the joint.
The steel frame is also built in the factory and the whole thing is placed on a torsion axle.
The beauty of this kind of construction is that there are no structural aluminum or wood ribs in the frame – the fiberglass itself is the structural element. There are wood strips fiberglassed into the interior onto which are fastened the cabinets and some of the other fixtures.
A layer of insulating material is glued to the interior of this shell and then a layer of a “furry” fabric is glued to that.
Inside cabinets can either be made from fiberglass with wood door fronts or entirely from either oak or birch in the case of the “Deluxe” model.
The original Scamp trailer is 13’ in overall length and is still in production. At some point they added 3’ to that design and, even more recently, came out with a small, single-axle fifth wheel at 19’ in overall length. With the return of the Ford Ranger, the folks at Scamp told me sales of their fifth wheels have surged specifically due to this truck coming back on the market.
It’s funny to watch the company’s videos because they compare camping in a Scamp to tent camping, extolling the virtues of having one of their trailers over a tent.
Surprisingly, even in their 13’ travel trailer they talk about three people enjoying camping in that trailer. There’s even more sleeping space available in the larger 16’ model.
One thing all Scamp trailers have in common is a dinette at the back that can seat four. From there the 13’ models feature either a front dinette with no restroom or a front restroom model.
The basic Scamp models all have a two-burner propane stove and a 12-gallon fresh water tank. Options include a six-gallon gas/electric water heater, a propane furnace, air conditioning, a manual awning and more.
Owners of Scamps
One of the pluses of having a Scamp is the company itself. They’ve been building these for years and years and parts are readily available even for older models. They’re also so simple, in many ways, that you don’t necessarily have as many complicated systems to fix.
If you do have a question, you have a legacy of owners to speak with. Scamp owners tend to be Scamp enthusiasts, owing to the way these are built.
Another advantage of these Scamps is that the top fiberglass shell has almost no voids in it that need attention. In a typical travel trailer, all the vents, antennae and other things that require a void in the roof are also potential sources of leaks. A lot of people aren’t so great at maintenance and that’s where you see so many issues with water damage and such. Leaks destroy the wood and other materials that a trailer is made with. That doesn’t happen when there are fewer holes and the structure is almost completely impervious to water damage.
As such, older Scamps are sold now and then but not often – people tend to keep them. If you do find one, it’s likely almost as functional now as it was when new. There are advantages to keeping things consistent and minimalistic.
However, the same consistency and minimalism is also a bit of a downside. Modern RVs often have plentiful USB charging outlets, bright lighting, and other features. I think what would really make a difference to Scamp owners is if the company adopted something like what was highlighted in the RKS Purpose Off Road trailer, where the sink and shower drain into the gray tank and that is used to flush the toilet.
There are no outside storage compartments. Period.
Scamps aren’t all-season campers at all. The tanks aren’t enclosed, so you won’t want to take one of these where it freezes without draining the water out of it first.
And, these fifth wheels are so popular don’t expect to get one soon. The company is currently taking orders for 2023 models – so expect a 20-month delay. I told you they were popular.
I thought it interesting that the Scamp is, essentially, a direct descendant of the Boler trailer. The folks who made the Scamp were licensees of Boler, which originated in Canada. In 1972, when Boler America went out of business, the Eveland family just continued producing the trailers under the new Scamp name. In Canada, a company called Trillium is producing trailers in the same place as the Bolers were made. Also, the Armadillo Backpack trailer is also essentially an homage to the Boler.
Ray Olecko, a car salesman who also invented the first fiberglass septic tank, was also one of the three who brought the Boler to market in 1968. Olecko and Sandor Dussa were given a Design Award in 1969 by the Manitoba Government Department of Industry and Commerce for the Boler trailer.
It is estimated that more than 10,000 Boler trailers were produced through 1988, the year the company ceased operations.
For a lot of reasons, Scamp has quite a following. While they’re certainly not for everybody, the iconic shape and long-lasting build make them popular within a certain segment of campers. The outstanding video manuals along with events and such just help to fuel the fire of enthusiasm.
Interestingly, in doing research for this article I found a few owners of these little fifth wheels who lived in them full time. Despite the overall length, they do offer a lot of usable space in a very lightweight package which also is quite towable. So I can see that. And, considering how the trailers are made, life could be quite carefree. Not bad.
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.
Got an RV we need to look at? Contact us today and let us know in the form below – thank you!