You’re probably googling camper weight to figure out how big of a trailer you can buy and successfully tow with your pickup. How much does a camper weigh obviously depends on the size of your trailer, the construction material and how much water, gear and food you pack into it.
This article will give you a ballpark figure for where your camper’s weight will start, how to estimate for the things you’d pack, as well as examples of some best selling campers of different box length and their weight for your reference.
When you’re shopping for campers, make sure you check the actual number for the camper weight and don’t get taken by the marketing. There are many models today marketed as “lightweight”, “superlight” or “featherlite”, although they are quite bulky and heavy.
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Camper Weight: Important Metrics
When it comes to camper weight, it’s important to distinguish between different metrics that are commonly used for weight measurements in the towing world. More than one of these measurements can come into play when planning your travels, but some may be more relevant than others, depending on the tools available and how you travel.
The most important metrics for most RV owners are usually Dry Weight and Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW).
Dry weight is essentially the weight of the vehicle when unloaded, that is without any added passengers, cargo, fuel or water tanks (this is why it’s called “dry” camper weight and sometimes unloaded weight). As a general ballpark, the average dry weight of a camper trailer is 5,200 pounds.
That said, the dry weight range of recreational vehicles can vary greatly, from about 1,000 to 9,000 pounds, depending on the construction materials, internal features, amenities and size of the loading space. The weight is often directly proportional to the number of amenities available in the vehicle. Bigger RVs with more space for more travelers often offer more amenities and thus are a lot heavier.
Towed units obviously will have a much smaller dry weight than self-driving units or motorized RVs, but they also require that you have a tow vehicle with the correct towing capacity in order for safe travel.
To find your trailer’s exact dry weight, unload all of your gears and equipment including propane tanks, water tanks and batteries, then go to your local truck stop to use the scale there. Once you have weighed the trailer, detach your trailer from your tow vehicle and then only weigh your tow vehicle. Subtract these two numbers to get the dry weight of your trailer.
Below are a few examples of popular RV models and their dry camper weight without fuel and water tanks and batteries:
- 19 feet box length (2015 Jayco Jayflight 19RD): 3,715 pounds
- 23 feet box length (2017 Coleman CTS192RDWE): 3,974 pounds
- 24 foot box length (2017 Salem Hemisphere 24BH): 5,118 pounds
- 25 foot box length (2017 Rockwood Mini-Light 2504s): 4,800 pounds
- 26 foot box length (2015 Jayco Jay Flight 26RKS): 5,605 pounds
- 27 foot box length (2015 Jayco Jay Flight 27RLS): 6,030 pounds
- 32 foot box length (2017 Cherokee West 274DBH): 7,705 pounds
- 38 foot box length (2016 Jayco Jay Flight 38BHDS): 7,690
Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)
The most practical metric for camper weight that you must know is gross vehicle weight. GVW is the weight of your camping vehicle when your fuel and water tanks plus cargo load inside the trailer are completely full. The most accurate way to determine the total gross weight of your motorhome is to fill all the tanks fully, add your equipment, gears, food and supplies and put them on a truck scale.
Do note that the same model of recreational vehicle can have differing gross weights, depending on the size of cargo load and optional features included.
Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)
This is the maximum amount of weight your gear, belongings and food supplies should total to. You can weigh your items separately before loading, to accurately keep track of your cargo’s weight. It’s also a good idea to note these weights down somewhere so the next time you might not need to weigh them again but can still have a pretty close estimate of your cargo weight.
Average Camper Weight: Real World Example
As a general rule, you can expect your gross camper weight, when filled with fuel, water, gears and supplies, to be about 250 lbs (113 kg) per foot of trailer. Do note that “per foot” refers to the box length but not the total vehicle length including the hitch.
In short, the average dry weight of a recreational vehicle is around 5,200 lbs (2,350 kg), and you can expect to add an average of 1,500 lbs (680 kg) of cargo to that number to get a realistic example of the average RV weight.
Adding On: Water, Gear and Food
The most important and heavy items to load on your trailer are water, food and gear. Water weighs eight pounds (3.6kg) per gallon, and an average trailer has a 48 gallon fresh water tank. That means your fresh water tank alone will add nearly 400 lbs (118 kg) to your gross camper weight.
The rule of thumb from seasoned campers is to add at least another 400 lbs (118 kg) of food and kitchen supplies plus camping gear. Of course, if you’re the outdoorsy adventurer type and bring a lot of gears along, it’s best to weigh all of your gears separately. Do note that a generator capable of powering a travel trailer air conditioner will weigh about 90 lbs (81 kg) alone.
Remember that if your trailer has slide-outs, it will dramatically increase the camper weight. A single slide-out typically adds 800 lbs (363 kg). However, if your camper instead has “pop outs” which are made of canvas tent material, it won’t really add on a lot of weight.
Others That Affect The Weight: Construction Materials
The construction materials of your trailer significantly affects its camper weight. There are two major materials with which recreational vehicles are built: with fiberglass or “stick built” campers.
The first is fiberglass. Fiberglass camper trailers have smooth exterior side walls and have aluminum metal structuring, making them a lot lighter than traditional “stick built” trailers with wooden 2×4’s.
Stick built trailers will have the bumps along the entire exterior of the trailer as they are made with aluminum corrugated siding on the outside. Since they include the weight of a large load of lumber, these trailers are usually about 900 lbs (408 kg) heavier than a fiberglass trailer, with all else being equal.
But How Much Should You Really Tow?
Now that you’re figured out how to check your camper weight, you must check how much weight your tow vehicle can safely tow. You should actually look at the sticker that is on the inside of the driver door of your tow vehicle. It will tell you the amount of weight the vehicle can tow, and it’s crucial that you go by that number instead of the information that Google tells you.
This is because the camper weight that a vehicle can tow will heavily depend on the options and packages purchased with the vehicle when it was new. So the only way to know the specific metrics for your specific model is to check the sticker on the driver door for the “maximum towing capacity”.
Your gross camper weight might be smaller than the “maximum towing capacity” for your tow vehicle, but you should never reach this towing capacity. The safe approach is to make sure the estimated gross weight of the camper you want to buy, that is when fully loaded, does not exceed 80% of the total weight your towing vehicle says it can tow. So take the dry weight of the camper you want to buy and add 1,500 pounds, and see if it’s less than 80% of the maximum towing capacity of your tow vehicle.
There are good reasons as to why you should not make your tow vehicle bear its maximum towing capacity:
- Save your transmission: First of all, towing the maximum load means you’re likely to burn out your transmission over the long run.
- Safer and easier handling: Towing too heavy a load obviously means less ease in handling and maneuvering. Also, you likely won’t be able to safely reach the speed limit when going up hills, that is if you can make it up hills at all.
- Margin of error: Always, always leave a bit of wiggle room in your calculations to ensure you get to where you want to safely, in case either the trailer company or your towing vehicle are giving overly optimistic numbers for advertising purposes, or to allow for the truck scale’s inaccuracy, with which you weighed your loaded trailer.