When making the decision to purchase a travel trailer, one of the first and most complicated mysteries our readers must unravel is – how much does this trailer actually weigh?
The average travel trailer has a dry weight of around 5,200 lbs. These weights will vary greatly based on size of the trailer, ranging from 1,200 lbs (104 lbs per foot), up to around 9,000 lbs (230 lbs per foot) for larger trailers. Gear, tank levels and other equipment will add, on average, another 500-1000 lbs to the overall trailer weight.
Why does trailer weight matter?
A Trailers chassis (frame, springs, wheels, axles, tongue, and tires) are built to specific standards for the maximum weight load they can safely carry. The maximum amount of weight that a trailer can hold on its axle and tongue is called the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR. Exceeding your trailers GVWR with too much additional weight can create unsafe towing conditions, such as dangerous sway or difficulty braking.
Dry weight vs. Loaded weight
Your travel trailers dry weight is what it weighs when it contains no gear, and all tanks are empty. You will be able to find the dry weight listed in the owner’s manual, online product spec sheets, and typically on a sticker inside the main door.
You should, however, be cautious in using this weight as your “true” dry weight. Additions and upgrades like mattresses, TV’s, appliances, antennas, slide-out covers, etc. will change the dry weight significantly. For your best baseline dry weight, pull your empty trailer onto a truck scale or local scrap yard scale.
Loaded weight is the actual weight of your trailer after you have added all of your gear, food, equipment, and fresh water if you are boondocking (camping in a location without access to fresh water hookups or electricity). Your loaded weight should never exceed the GVWR for your travel trailer.
Key factors impacting travel trailer weight
The weight of your trailer is going to be impacted by several factors, but the most significant are – overall length, construction, slide-outs, tank capacities and levels, and gear weight.
Most travel trailer sizes are designated by length. The length of the trailer will play the biggest factor in your overall trailer weight, as the weight and overall mass of the trailer increases with every additional foot of length.
Travel trailers can vary dramatically in length, from 11’ Scamps and E-Pros, all the way up to the massive 41’ Jayco Eagle.
As you can see in the chart below – travel trailer weights start at about 104 lbs. per foot of length and increase by approximately 30-40 lbs per foot for every 10 feet of length added. This is because a larger trailer will often have more that comes with it – slides, air conditioners, larger tanks, more cabinets, etc. whereas in a smaller trailer there is still a minimum of empty floor space that must be maintained, so in terms of percentages they are not as loaded with fixtures.
Number of slide-outs
Slides are an amazing feature that add a ton of living space to your travel trailer. They also can add a ton (almost literally) of additional weight. In addition to the actual slide frame and finishes, you must also include the motors and additional weight of siding and insulation.
Typically, trailers that are less than 20 ft in length do not have slides. Trailers 20-30 feet typically have one slide, and trailers 30-40 feet will often have two or three (we’ve seen as many as 4!). This accounts for the average increase of about 40 lbs per foot of length for every 10 additional feet, as the average weight of a slide out is approximately 800 lbs.
Construction materials – Fiberglass v. Aluminum
The conventional wisdom says that fiberglass sided trailers (Fiberglass panels on hollow aluminum tube construction) are much lighter that the alternative corrugated aluminum panels over wood framing. While this is technically true, our research demonstrates that the difference is not as significant as you might think. Consider this comparison of two travel trailers manufactured by the same company.
|Make and Model:||Heartland Prowler||Heartland Mallard|
|Length||36 ft||36 ft|
|Weight||7,980 pounds||7,746 pounds|
|# of Slides||2||2|
|Aluminum / Wood||Aluminum / Fiberglass|
|Weight-Per-Foot||221 lbs.||215 lbs.|
The average weight difference between these two trailers is about 6 lbs. per foot, or 216 Lbs. So while yes, the construction does make a difference, it is not the only factor influencing the overall weight of your trailer.
What about Azdel panels?
Another factor to consider is the use of Azdel Composite Panels in the sidewall construction. Many of the top RV brands have begun using Azdel as a lighter and more moisture and rot resistant alternative to luan or plywood. Azdel is up to 50% lighter than wood, and therefore can make a big difference in the dry weight of your travel trailer.
The amount of liquid, both fresh and sewage, that you travel with will have a significant impact on your overall weight. If you are camping in an area that you need to haul in and out your water and sewage, pay careful attention to the weight this adds to your trailer.
1 gallon of water weighs 8.2 lbs. Consider the Mallard M32 – one of the more popular brands of travel trailer sold in 2020 and has fairly standard-sized tanks.
Mallard M32 Tank Capacities:
|Fresh Water Tank Capacity||Gray Water Capacity||Black Water Capacity|
|45 Gallons||40 Gallons||40 Gallons|
|Total weight: 369||Total weight: 328||Total weight: 328|
If you were to fill your freshwater tank before your trip, you would need to factor in an additional 369 lbs. of water weight. However, at the end of your trip, it is possible that your freshwater tank is emptied, but you may have added up to an additional 656 lbs. of gray and black water. Consequently, you might be heavier on the way out than you were coming in.
To avoid having too much weight, it is best to dump your black and gray tanks before you leave the campground. For the freshwater tank, only fill it if you are going to need it (boondocking) as most campgrounds will have fresh water connections available.
Probably the most inexact area of weigh calculation is your “loaded” weight. Every camper is going to add additional weight to the travel trailer. This is reflected in the tools and supplies you need for camping and maintaining your trailer, clothes, bedding, sporting equipment, food and drink.
Gear weight can add up quickly. However for easy calculation, think about the most essential components and what they weigh. Here’s an example calculation:
Food, Water, and Clothing are consumables – you will need these for each day. Other consumables and personal care, Tools, and other miscellaneous items like books, toys, fishing poles, etc. only get counted once.
As you can see, there are a number of factors that influence how much your travel trailer actually weighs. The obvious reasons are length, number and weight of the slide outs, and overall construction. But as you have learned – there are variable factors like water and gear that can change your weight by hundreds of pounds. Pay close attention to these key weight factors in order to maximize your safety while traveling on your next camping trip.