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The Empty Promise of “Light Weight” Travel Trailers

The Empty Promise of “Light Weight” Travel Trailers

Are you considering buying a lightweight travel trailer in hopes that you’ll save on fuel? Or maybe you want to reduce the strain on your tow vehicle.

Whatever the reason, we’re here to tell you why you might want to think twice about getting one.

In reality, “lightweight” trailers may weigh less (or, maybe not), but it usually means sacrificing something important. Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes a “lightweight travel trailer” and why you might want to steer clear from them. 

What Are Light Weight Travel Trailers?

Lightweight travel trailers are campers designed to weigh less. They’re marketed towards RVers who don’t necessarily have a heavy-duty tow vehicle and/or those who want to save money in fuel costs. And it’s no wonder – three-quarter and one-ton pickups are not cheap, and fuel is typically one of the main travel expenses.

“Lightweight” doesn’t automatically mean small, either. In fact, lightweight travel trailers can be as long as 30 feet and sleep up to eight people. So, where does the weight go? And how much do these campers typically weigh? Let’s take a look. 

Couple sitting in front of lightweight travel trailer
Just because a travel trailer is light weight does not mean it’ll be small!

How Much Do Light Weight Travel Trailers Weigh?

Lightweight travel trailers typically weigh between 1,500 lbs and 6,000 lbs UVW (dry weight). This depends on the length, width, and construction, but you may find a travel trailer weighing over 6,000 lbs labeled “lightweight.”

The marketing may have you believe that you could tow almost any lightweight travel trailer with a half-ton pick-up or a Jeep Grand Cherokee, making them appealing for many. However, you must verify that your tow vehicle can handle the weight.

The dealer likely won’t give you ideal advice for safety (only advice for sales).

What Makes Light Weight Travel Trailers So Appealing?

What else makes lightweight travel trailers so appealing? They generally cost less upfront. For example, the 2022 Jay Feather starts at $41,055, while the heavier 2022 Eagle HT starts at $55,691.

Moreover, you’ll have many more options for tow vehicles (the tow vehicle itself will probably cost less), and you’ll save at the fuel pump. With all these reasons to get a lightweight camper, it’s not hard to understand why manufacturers are pumping them out and why consumers are snatching them up left and right. 

Pro Tip: Ready to invest in a travel trailer? We found The Best Travel Trailers for Holding Value.

SUV towing small travel trailer.
Travel trailers are not for the faint of heart.

The Real Problems With Light Weight Travel Trailers

While lightweight travel trailers are wildly popular, they’re not perfect. Below are some of the most common problems RV owners experience with their lightweight campers. 

Materials Are Not as Durable

While this doesn’t go for every lightweight trailer on the market, it’s a firm warning to beware of cheaply-made travel trailers. Before buying, make sure the camper of your dreams wasn’t made with cheap materials in the name of weightlessness. After all, there’s a reason why heavier travel trailers cost more.

Poorly Insulated

If there’s one thing that most lightweight travel trailers have in common, it’s their thin walls and lack of insulation. Truthfully, these campers are only meant to chase 70 degrees.

Meaning, they’re not the best for very hot or cold weather. Because of their lightweight build, you won’t have as much protection from the outside elements, and the cold will be able to seep into your home on wheels that much easier. 

Noisey

Another common problem with lightweight travel trailers is that they’re noisy – noisy when towing and even noisy when parked. Because they’re flimsier than heavier duty campers, they’re much more affected by the sway, bumps, and any kind of road disturbance.

Furthermore, the thinner walls let in sounds much easier than walls with robust insulation, which may make sleeping a challenge if you’re in an area with road noise or rowdy neighbors. 

More Susceptible to Windy Conditions

As we already mentioned, a lighter camper is more susceptible to sway and wobble while being towed. This is simply because there isn’t much weight to anchor it down.

Therefore, make sure to practice caution while you’re towing a lightweight trailer in very windy conditions. When in doubt, pull off to the side until the wind subsides. 

Not Good for Full-Time Living

If you’re looking for a lightweight travel trailer to live in full-time, we definitely recommend thinking twice. For one, can’t handle all four seasons (and even if you chase 70 degrees, you’ll run into very hot or freezing temps at some point). The holding tanks are usually exposed, making them much more susceptible to freezing, and your home won’t have the insulation it needs to keep you comfortable in extreme weather.

Moreover, manufacturers tend to save on weight by keeping the holding tanks small. Thus, you won’t be able to carry as much freshwater with you or go as long in between dumps.  

Pro Tip: Still unsure if a lightweight travel trailer is right for you? These are 5 Reasons to Avoid RV Travel Trailers in 2022.

Is a Light Weight Travel Trailer Worth It?

So, is it an all-around bad idea to buy a lightweight travel trailer? Not necessarily.

If you’re looking for a low-cost RV to take camping on the weekends or an occasional vacation when the weather is nice, a lightweight travel trailer might be your best option. You’ll likely be able to tow it with a vehicle you already own, and you won’t have to worry about inclement weather or freezing pipes. 

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a robust camper to RV full-time or even use for months on end, you’re better off spending the money to buy a durable RV that will better suit your needs.

Ultimately, every person will have their individual style of travel. What works for one person may not work for another!

And, to beat a dead horse, always verify your tow vehicle capacity yourself! Don’t count on a dealer to verify it properly for you.

So tell us, would you buy a lightweight travel trailer? Let us know in the comments below!

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R M

Friday 25th of February 2022

Imagine that, I chose a Grand Design. While many points in this article are valid, note that you can appropriate a model with added insulation. Prices are currently unreasonable and in the not too distant future will drop sharply when this COVID thing settles down. RVing is not for everyone as there are extra quirks most people won't want to deal with.

D

Thursday 24th of February 2022

Even if you don't listen to the excellent advice above, whatever you decide, please please please do NOT purchase a Keystone of any kind!

Ruth

Wednesday 23rd of February 2022

1967 Shasta 10 ft travel trailer towed by a 2007 Subaru Impreza. Does the job, handles Alberta winds and freeway driving. We carry 2 kayaks and 2 bikes as well. Have Zip on room for added space in the shoulder seasons. Big and heavier isn't the answer for recreating in the outdoors....

Casey

Wednesday 23rd of February 2022

People need to understand they're not all created equal. I'm a fan of Rockwood/Flagstaff campers. They aren't as heavily insulated I agree but I think the biggest weight savings is they don't have overly fancy woodwork. They do have enclosed, heated underbellys. They have better axles than most any camper in the industry and the craftsmanship is good. Ours is in the 10,000 lb range so lighter yes, light no. On the other hand, I've seen cheap, light weight campers I wouldn't take for free.

Glendon

Wednesday 23rd of February 2022

I have completely remodeled a 2007 Holiday Rambler Alumilite Bunkhouse with slideout. . Dry weight just under 5k. I picked this camper for the superior contruction of a light weigh travel trailer. It has a torflex axle, for a smooth ride. It don't beat itself to death and cause leaks. It is low profile, so it don't push as much wind. It has a insulated underbelly, covering the tanks, plumbing etc. I could have bought a 2022 model, if I wanted to. But,after reading and hearing about the junk they are building now, I decided to look for the best of the older travel trailers. I was not paying for a over priced airstream. But the alumilite, had a little of both worlds, priced right for the age and well made. On a diffrent subject. I had to laugh when I really thought about it, (while camping) but city people go to a campgound thinking they in the country and country people end up living like they in the city. Both ways, it is not camping, but staying in a trailer park. What is even funnier, a person with a older Rv can be surrounded by 250k and up Rv's. When the rich and the middle class walk out the door, they are both getting the same experience.

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