If you’ve read our Buyer’s Guide, you understand the importance of vehicle towing capacity and camper weight. But what can you do to shave pounds and tow lighter and safer? Here are some practical tips for shedding pounds, or in some cases redistributing the weight for easier and safer towing.
First let’s talk about the overall camper weight. On average, popups and even larger recreational vehicles have around 600 to 1,000 pounds of payload capacity. This may sound like a lot, but the weight adds up quickly and it’s not difficult to become overloaded.
Water weighs 8.35 pounds per gallon. This means that the usual 20-gallon fresh water tank, 6-gallon hot water heater, and 5-gallon cassette toilet adds 256 pounds when all full. Sometimes it makes sense to tow all of this from home. Other times you’ll want to consider ditching hot water or even filling the fresh water tank halfway to have enough payload capacity for extra items you want to carry inside the popup. If camping at a full hookups campground, all this weight can be eliminated by trailering with the water tanks empty.
All that stuff inside your popup can add up to a lot of weight. Opt for lighter versions of furnishings when possible, from cooking ware to bedding. Saving a small amount of weight on a lot of items can add up to 50 or even 100 pounds of savings in total.
Beyond the camper’s total carrying capacity, the amount of weight transferred to the trailer tongue (versus the popup axle) will have an impact on your tow vehicle. Below are a few ideas for lessening tongue weight to make things lighter on your hitch. But don’t forget that tongue weight should always be 10% or greater for towing stability to avoid sway.
This only applies to new purchases, but if you’re in the market for a new popup, pay close attention to both the initial tongue weight (which can vary widely) and the floorplan configuration which can determine where the weight of items packed inside the popup are directed to. For example, if you can only access storage areas in front of the axle while popped down, that weight is going more to the trailer tongue. If you can get to the rear, this weight will be transferred to the popup axle instead.
Most deep cycle batteries weigh between 50 and 75 pounds. Some popups have dual battery setups for twice the weight. Often times the battery weight can be moved from the trailer tongue to the axle, such as mounting the battery under a rear dinette or in a storage cabinet.
Just make sure to opt for a sealed battery or install a vented battery box like the picture above.
30 lb Propane Tank
If 20 lb of propane isn’t enough but dual tanks is too heavy, consider a single 30 lb propane tank like the 30-lb Flame King shown above. That’s 55 pounds of total weight for 30 lbs of propane supply versus 74 pounds of total weight for 40-lb of propane supply (dual 20-lb tanks). Most PUP bunk ends will clear the height of a 30 lb tank when sliding out.
Tow Vehicle Weight
There are several ways to carry cargo in the popup instead of overloading your tow vehicle, including:
Depending on the floorplan of your popup, including what storage areas you can access while popped down, try to pack your bags, coolers, firewood, and other miscellaneous camping items inside the popup instead of in your car or truck. This can easily save 100+ lbs weight in your vehicle.
Bikes are heavy, averaging around 35 pounds each. For a large family, this can easily overload your vehicle. Sometimes you can put them on the popup instead!
Most popup will support the installation of a roof rack. The popular Swagman Roamer LT is shown above. Check both the roof capacity and verify that enough general capacity exists for the weight of the bikes before installing.
If enough capacity exists, you can even look at installing a general cargo basket on the roof rack for toting messy and heavy things like firewood and coolers. The Yakima LoadWarrior is shown above.
These are a just a few ideas. Surely there are more out there. Please share yours below…