How Camper Towing Works

Types of Campers
Campers come in all shapes and sizes.
Campers come in all shapes and sizes.
Les Graves/Fox Photos/Getty Images

There are three main types of campers: travel trailers, folding camping trailers and fifth-wheel trailers. Within each category you can find basic models that have very few amenities to luxury models with lots of extras. Manufacturers use a range of materials when building trailers. Some use sturdier materials like aluminum and steel while others use fiberglass or plastic. The material determines both how well the camper can withstand the elements and how heavy the overall trailer will be. Let's look at each type of trailer in turn.

Travel trailers attach to a trailer hitch mounted on the back of a tow vehicle. They range from 10 to 35 feet (3 to 11 meters) in length. Many have an expandable section called a slideout. When parked, you can pull this section out to increase the living space inside the camper. Larger trailers can sleep up to eight people comfortably. Typically, travel trailers can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 [source: RV-Coach Online].

Folding camping trailers are lighter and smaller than travel trailers. While the base of a folding camping trailer is made of sturdy material, the upper walls and top of the trailer are flexible. This allows you to collapse the trailer into a compact shape before towing it to your destination. Once you reach your destination, you can expand the trailer to its full size. Some folding camping trailers are large enough for six people to share. They are less expensive than travel trailers, ranging from around $4,000 to $25,000 [source: RV-Coach Online].

The third type of camper is a fifth-wheel trailer. Fifth-wheel trailers are the hunchbacks of the camper world. The upper half of the front of the camper extends over the back of the tow vehicle -- usually a large pickup truck. The bed of the truck must have a special hitch installed -- called a fifth-wheel or gooseneck hitch -- to pull a fifth-wheel trailer. This trailer design tends to be more stable and maneuverable than other trailers. They range in price from $15,000 to $150,000 [source: RV-Coach Online].

Basic campers may only have a few amenities. But on the other side of the scale you can find features such as:

  • Electrical systems (usually 100-125 volt systems)
  • Entertainment systems (LCD televisions, DVD players, video game consoles)
  • Propane gas supply
  • Stoves and other cooking appliances
  • Refrigerators
  • Water tank systems, toilets and showers
  • Heating and air conditioning systems (usually only found in travel trailers or fifth-wheel campers)
  • Power generators
  • Ceiling fans

Let's say you've made up your mind on the kind of camper you want. What do you need to know about towing a camper before you set out on the open road? Find out in the next section.