As the name implies, towable RVs refer to any RV towed by another vehicle. They comprise a significant portion of the RV types at any given campsite and include a slew of shapes and sizes. For example, many lightweight travel trailers can be towed by half-ton pickup trucks and SUVs.
That’s one of the reasons towable RVs are so appealing: Once you drop them at camp, you’ll have a regular vehicle for sightseeing and errands. Contrast that with the difficulty of breaking down a motorhome for a grocery run, and you can see why towables are so popular.
Let’s dig into all the types of towable RVs out there so you can find what’s right for you.
What Are The Different Types of Towable RVs?
Towable RVs are a diverse bunch and range from tiny teardrop trailers to amenity-packed 40+ foot behemoths and everything in between. The beauty of this RV segment is that you can easily find the type and unit that fits your family’s exact needs and preferences. Let’s take a deep dive into everything you’ll need to consider when looking for the ideal towable, starting with towing capacity.
There are three main types of towables that you’ll see most frequently on the road or campsite — travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers. But within these groups are several other categories and hybrids, such as teardrop trailers and ice houses, destination trailers, and pop-up campers. Here, we explore the towable types of RVs.
Travel trailers are arguably one of the most versatile and user-friendly RVs on the market. They are also the most widely purchased unit on the market. Travel trailers come in a wide range of lengths, widths, and configurations and can vary from simplistic, lightweight versions to some of the most amenity-packed and luxurious units at the campsite.
Some travel trailers are tiny enough to fit in a parking space, while others feature slide-outs to expand living space at camp. Some are full-on homes on wheels featuring things like bunkhouses, washers and dryers, and many other comforts of home.
With hundreds of selections on the market from the majority of major RV manufacturers, it’s tough to know where to begin. To start, you’ll want to know where you stand on the following:
- Sleeping capacity
- Four season camping
- Stick and tin or laminate construction
- Single or double-axle
- Off-grid capability, like solar
If you are curious about where to begin, visit a local RV show where you can tour hundreds of units, rent a travel trailer for a weekend, or visit a dealership.
Fifth wheel travel trailers are some of the most versatile RVs on the market. They come in a wide range of floor plans and feature a vast array of amenities and options.
Fifth wheel trailers that are designed for families often feature a large bedroom area at the front, a bunkhouse at the back, and a second bathroom — a rarity in the RV world.
These amenities are perfect for RVing families, but they also tip these larger fifth wheels into a weight class that usually requires a heavy-duty dually (a.k.a dual rear wheel) truck for towing.
Luxury fifth wheels often feature multiple slide-outs, washers/dryers, cavernous kitchens, custom cabinetry, premium countertops, and more. The sky really is the limit here because many RV manufacturers use luxury fifth wheels to showcase the most cutting-edge features on the market today.
On the flip side, some smaller fifth wheel campers can be towed by certain half-ton pickups. These fifth wheel campers are ideal for couples because they still feature extra space compared to a travel trailer without tipping the scales into the heavy-duty territory.
However, this presents a new dilemma. Even if your half-ton pickup is tow-weight rated for a specific fifth wheel camper, you still have payload to consider.
Simply put, payload capacity is how much a truck can carry in the cab and bed of the truck. The hitch pin weight of a fifth wheel camper impacts payload, not the tow weight rating. Many half-ton trucks either don’t have or just barely have enough payload capacity for fifth wheel trailers. Learn more about towing fifth wheel campers with half-ton trucks.
One might choose a fifth wheel camper over other trailer types for a variety of reasons, with the most common ones being extra space, access to luxury amenities, and the family-friendly nature of these rigs.
Toy haulers feature a garage-style space at the back so you can tote your toys like motorcycles, ATVs, and side-by-sides with you to camp.
When your motorsports are out, the toy hauler part of your camper typically transforms into a screened-in patio, extra sleeping space, or other uses to help you enjoy the outdoors.
Toy haulers are a great fit for hunting enthusiasts, off-road warriors, or families who want some extra ‘mud-room’ space in their RV. One might opt for a toy hauler trailer over a fifth wheel toy hauler because of its generally lower weight and length.
Fifth Wheel Toy Haulers
These rigs include all the benefits of a toy hauler but with the added benefit of extra space over the pickup bed. You might choose a fifth wheel toy hauler over other trailer types if you want more space along with a garage area in the RV.
That’s because you’ll have the benefit of a toy-hauling garage plus a spacious bedroom or living room section at the other end of the camper. In many fifth wheel toy haulers, the toy hauling area doubles as an indoor/outdoor patio that the whole family can enjoy. This zone also often features an extra half bath for extra functionality and family-friendliness.
These rigs also offer all the same luxury amenities as regular fifth wheels, such as larger kitchens, custom cabinets, washers/dryers, and other cutting-edge options.
Fifth wheel toy haulers are typically some of the heaviest rigs on the market, so you’ll probably need a bigger tow vehicle to handle one.
Other Types of Travel Trailers
Pop-up campers have long been one of the most popular trailers on the market because of their ease and versatility.
These lightweight trailers can be towed by almost anything with a tow capacity. At camp, they pop up to create a comfy living space that can sleep more people than you might think. Generally speaking, pop-up campers feature bed space on either side with a kitchenette area in the middle.
Some pop-up trailers even feature traditional camper amenities like portable toilets, kitchenettes, and air-conditioning, so you can have all the things without all the extra towing capacity.
Pop-up campers are best suited for families, couples, and singles who love shorter camping trips and want to use a smaller tow vehicle.
Teardrop trailers get their name from their iconic shape. They feature a wide and tall front that tapers down to an end that can often hide an outdoor kitchen. These tiny rigs can be towed by just about anything and feature a comfy sleeping space along with other cool amenities like kitchenettes, awnings, and more.
Teardrop trailers are best suited for shorter camping trips where you spend most of your days outside and come back to your campsite primarily to eat and sleep. These units have also given rise to a movement of tiny RVs that might not be shaped like a teardrop but are still ultra-light and amenity-packed.
These are the big brother to traditional travel trailers. While still mobile, they feature things like taller ceilings, sliding glass doors, residential amenities, and lofted sleeping areas.
In the past, if you wanted these sorts of amenities, you’d have to opt for a park model. Park models are technically towable, but they’re generally designed to be towed to a quasi-permanent location.
Destination trailers, on the other hand, offer cutting-edge residential amenities in a towable package that can skip from spot to spot. One might choose a destination trailer over other trailer types when planning to post up at an RV site for long periods of time.
Destination trailers are ideal for families and couples who like to occasionally change their scenery and want home-like features but don’t necessarily want to roll from place to place all the time.
This travel trailer type takes the cake as one of the most unique campers on the market. Picture a trailer that’s low to the ground, has holes cut in its floor, and sometimes features home-like amenities, and you’re envisioning an ice house.
This is the ultimate man cave (or she shed), designed exclusively to help ice fishing folks do so in comfort and style.
Don’t believe us? Check out these ice houses for sale.
There’s some debate about how truck campers should be classified, and often they receive their own category. These rest on top of a truck rather than behind one, so whether you deem them a “towable” is up to you. But they are highly versatile campers that are completely contained over the bed of a pickup truck.
Some truck campers can slide into medium and light-duty trucks, while others offer cutting-edge camper amenities and need a heavy-duty dually truck to handle them.
Much like travel trailers, truck campers come in a range of sizes and weights designed to fit any pickup you might have.
You could opt for a truck camper that’s solely a sleeping space, one with slide-outs and a bathroom, and everything in between. One might choose a truck camper over other trailer types due to its unmatched mobility. Because the camper is contained over the truck bed, you won’t have to worry about things like the turning radius, ground clearance, and other considerations that come with towing a long trailer behind you.
Towing Considerations for Towable RVs
What Is Tow Capacity?
Tow capacity refers to the amount of weight a vehicle is rated to tow. You will need to know the tow capacity of any tow vehicle to safely tow an RV and never exceed that weight.
For example, fifth wheel travel trailers generally need the towing capacity provided by heavy-duty trucks — though a growing number of fifth wheel campers that can be towed by half-ton pickups.
When considering purchasing a towable, you might use your current vehicle’s towing capacity as a filter to narrow your choices before deciding to buy a larger tow vehicle. Travel trailers come in so many different shapes and sizes that there’s probably one out there that can be towed by a car you have right now.
Check out this resource page to discover everything you need to find the right fit between tow vehicle and trailer weight.
Our RV Towing Guide also serves as a tow capacity calculator to help you figure out the exact rating of your specific vehicle.
Your hitch connects your camper with your tow vehicle and is a crucial connection point for safe and efficient towing. Here are the main hitch types to consider as a primer for the various types of RVs.
Most towables use a conventional hitch. Conventional hitches are relatively easy to operate and provide a flexible turning radius for your travels.
There are various classes of conventional hitches differentiated by their rated weight capacities. All involve a hitch receiver mounted to the frame of the tow vehicle, a shank that inserts into the hitch receiver tube, and a ball mount that provides the solid mounting area for the hitch ball. The hitch ball and the coupler on the tongue of your trailer provide the connection point between the trailer and the tow vehicle.
In most cases, the shank, ball mount, and hitch ball are sold as a package, such as in this case. You can purchase them separately, but they must all be rated for your towing setup and should be professionally installed.
Fifth Wheel Hitch
Fifth wheel RVs connect to a special type of hitch mounted in the bed of a pickup truck called a fifth wheel hitch. This feature offers several benefits, including reducing the overall length of your rig and allowing for a better turn radius. Most importantly, this hitch type allows you to tow far more weight by putting more weight directly on the axle of the tow vehicle.
Weight Distribution Hitch
Many RVers use weight distribution systems for increased safety and ride quality. Sway control systems and anti-sway bars are additional pieces of equipment that help with safe and fuel-efficient travel trailer towing.
The key is to get deeply acquainted with the weight, height, length, and other specifications of your camper to pick the right hitch type. This article gets you everything you need to do just that.
Hitch Weight Ratings
The most important thing to remember about hitch types for towable RVs is that they come in several different classes that are rated for different weights.
For example, a Class 1 hitch can tow up to 2,000 pounds and is best suited for very small travel trailers like mini teardrops, while a Class 5 hitch is capable of towing up to 12,000 pounds. Meanwhile, fifth wheel hitches tow weights in excess of 20,000 pounds.
Most cars and crossovers will come with hitches in the Class 1-3 range, whereas trucks and large SUVs usually come with hitches in the Class 3-5 range.
Frequently Asked Questions About Towable RV Types
With all the different types of towable RVs out there, you probably still have some questions floating around your head about towing a camper. Let’s dig into some of the most common ones.
Which Cars Can Tow Towable RVs?
The beauty of towable RVs is that there’s something for (just about) every car. From teardrop trailers to travel trailers to fifth-wheel campers, chances are good you’ll find something your car, truck, or SUV can tow.
There are exceptions, of course. If you have a super compact car that’s not rated to tow anything, you’ll probably need to think again.
Can You Be In A Towable RV While Driving?
It depends on which state you’re driving in. There are 24 states that allow this in some form or fashion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it.
Most towable campers lack seat belts and other safety features that reduce the likelihood of serious injury in an accident. Unless your trailer is equipped with proper seat belts and other safety equipment, carrying passengers back there can, and should, be avoided.
Having said that, if you own the camper and it is technically legal in a state you’re driving through, it is within your right to have passengers in a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
We wrote up this post that shares all the states where you can do this and talks about the precautions you should take.
Can You Live In A Towable RV?
Yes! Fifth wheel campers, large travel trailers, and destination trailers are especially popular options for full-time RVers.
Ultimately, however, you could live in any travel trailer you so desire. We’d simply recommend you find one that has, at minimum, an onboard bathroom, kitchen, and climate control.
What Is the Lightest Travel Trailer With A Bathroom?
The lightest travel trailers with bathrooms hover around the 2,000-pound range, making them towable by a wide range of vehicles.
There are also scads of campers just under 3,000 pounds that pack a bathroom into the package.
If you want a rig with a few more amenities beyond that bathroom while still saving on weight, check out these travel trailers clocking in at 4,500 pounds or less.
Towables are a popular camper type because of their unmatched versatility. No other style of RV has the array of floorplans, flexibility, and function offered by the sorts of travel trailers we break down above. We hope what we’ve shared has helped you find the right rig for you and your tow vehicle.
To help you continue your search for the perfect motorhome, here are a few more articles we hope you’ll find useful:
- Popular Fifth Wheel Floor Plans
- 8 Best Pop-up Campers of 2023
- What Is the Best Toy Hauler Travel Trailer?
- Small Fifth Wheel Campers We Love
What further questions do you have about the different towable types? Let us know in the comments below.