Towing the Pull Behind Camper

by Yvonne Johnson

Well, as you can see from the title, a PB camper doesn't have anything to do with peanut butter. Even though peanut butter is a great staple to take along with you on camping trips. A PB camper is actually a pull behind camper. But, the subject of this blog is not about the camper itself. It's about the tow vehicle that pulls it.

It probably goes without saying (but I'm saying it anyway), that the tow vehicle must be capable of pulling the weight of the pull behind camper and its cargo. The real question is how can we know if it is capable or not? Usually the vehicle owner's manual has the answer. Just look in the index for "tow rating" or "towing capacity."

Finding the Real Towing Capacity

The towing capacity is the maximum weight that the manufacturer says the vehicle can safely tow, based on the vehicle's transmission, the torque (or power produced by the engine), and the weight of the vehicle. In the U.S., manufacturers are sometimes a little "dodgy" about towing capacity.

Many time, especially with smaller cars, the owner's manual says you cannot tow with the vehicle, or it does not list a towing capacity at all (intimating that you can't tow with the vehicle). If this is the case with your vehicle, there is a way you can get the real scoop. Just Google the towing capacity of the identical year, make, and model sold in Europe or Australia. In many cases, you will find that the vehicle actually can tow. Be careful however to look up the exact model that you have including the same size engine.

Even if your manufacturer gives a weight for the towing capacity of your vehicle in the owner's manual, the European weight could be a lot more. So it's good to Google your make and model anyway.

An Example

Let's say that you have a pretty small tow vehicle – a 2016 Toyota RAV4 with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 176 horsepower. The U.S. owner's manual lists its towing capacity as 1,500 lbs. But the EU model lists a towing capacity of 1,650 kilograms which is 3,637 pounds! As you can see, even a car this small can pull a tremendous amount of weight.

Why this duplicity, you may ask?

We think that manufacturers would love it if no one ever towed anything with their vehicles because we are such a litigious society in America. So they "underlist" what the car is definitely capable of towing. The European or Australian spec sheets will almost always give the towing limitations that are much closer to realistic.

Do the Research and Then Select Your Camper

If you don't do the research on your tow vehicle, you won't know how big a pull behind camper you can get. Take our campers, for example. Our Small Fry is under 400 pounds; our 5x8 models (Half Pint, ECONO, and KnockAbout) range from 800 pounds to 1,200+ pounds, plus options; and our stand up model, Big Brother, weighs in at approximately 1,600 - 1,900 pounds. Just about any car in America can pull one of our pull behind 5x8 or smaller campers. Pulling the Big Brother will require more towing capacity.

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