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Understanding the weight of your RV and the towing capacity of your vehicle is critical for any RV trip!
That much is obvious.
But what’s not always so clear is exactly how much your rig weighs and how much your vehicle can tow.
The average weight of a 30 foot camper is between 5,200 and 5,800 pounds dry weight which is the weight of your camper with empty water tanks and no gear on board. Filling your tanks and throwing in your gear will bring the weight of most 30′ campers up to 6,700 and 7,300 pounds.
Of course, there’s always going to be variation based on your individual camper and gear so let’s break down a few factors that you need keep front of mind.
Understanding the Vocabulary Behind Camper Weights
Figuring out the actual weight of your camper (30′ or otherwise) isn’t always easy and one of the first things to understand is the jargon behind it all. You’ve got hitch weights, dry weights, gross weights and more that all describe the weight of your camper but still describe slightly different things.
So let’s breakdown the terms you need to know before you tow.
Unloaded Vehicle Weight or Dry Weight
Unloaded Vehicle Weight (sometimes abbreviated as UVW) or dry weight is the weight of the camper as manufactured by the factory. In other words, it includes everything that the RV would be equipped with right out of the factory but doesn’t include anything additional like water, gear or extra accessories.
Gross Vehicle Weight
Almost the opposite from the UVW, the gross vehicle weight is one of the most important when it comes to determining whether or not your vehicle can tow your camper. That’s because the gross vehicle weight describes the fully loaded weight of your camper including gear, water, passengers and optional equipment.
Hitch Weight or Tongue Weight
These terms typically mean the same thing and they describe the actual weight that’s applied to the hitch ball by the trailer. Usually, this number comes out to about 10 to 15% of the weight for the total trailer.
Cargo weight is exactly what it sounds like: the weight of all your cargo that you bring into your camper. You’ll want to pay attention to this weight since overloading your camper can have much bigger consequences than having a tougher time towing!
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
The gross vehicle weight rating (often called the GVWR) is the maximum operating weight of your camper or RV based on all components including gear, water and passengers.
How To Determine the Real World Weight Of Your 30 Foot Camper (Or Any Camper Size)
Once you have the unloaded vehicle weight of your camper, you’ll need to figure out how much gear and cargo you’re going to throw in. While individually weighing out every item is going to get you a precise number, no one has time for that!
So we suggest two strategies for determining a real (or at least working) weight for your camper.
Strategy 1: Add 1,500 Pounds to the Dry Weight
You’ve probably heard this rule before. Folks usually suggest adding between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds on top of the dry weight of the camper. This covers water, gear and anything else without getting stuck in the weeds trying to weight everything.
But it’s obviously not a perfect system and you risk underestimating your actual weight.
Strategy 2: Use the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
If you want to play it safe and make sure your vehicle can tow your camper, simply use the GVWR aka the gross vehicle weight rating. Remember, this is the maximum capacity of your camper with gear, water, fuel and passengers included.
This is the strategy I use since I’d always prefer to overestimate the weight just to play it safe. It also means that your vehicle is always ready since you know you can handle the max capacity of your rig if needed.
The obvious downside is you may end up with more vehicle then you actually need for your camper.
How Much Does My Stuff Weigh?
Which ever strategy you use, it’s still useful to understand how much a few items weight that can really change the weight of your camper. First on the list, is your water weight.
On average, water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon and amount of water you carry is going to vary based on the type of RV’ing you do. I love to go dry camping and really get out there into the wilderness so I tend to carry a lot more water than the typical weekend warrior or RV park camper.
The average 30′ foot or class C RV typically carries between 35 to 60 gallons of fresh water which comes out to 290 to 500 lbs.
Slide Outs and Pop Outs
While I do think slide outs are awesome, they can also add a surprising amount of weight to your rig. Adding just one slide out to a typical 30′ camper adds between 600 to 900 pounds of weight. As with most things however, the exact weight is going to vary greatly so make sure you do your homework on your specific slide out.
Pop outs are usually a little lighter since instead of extending your interior they really just give you a little shade. Still, if you’re already running heavy you can’t skip adding the weight of a pop out.
Keep in mind that if you’re traveling with young children or pets you will have more personal items that need to be accounted for. If you’ve got young children or a lot of specialty gear for things like rock climbing or skiing you’ll want to consider going with the GVWR to play it safe.
You also need to consider any additional equipment you’ve added to your rig overtime. If you’ve upgraded or added things like a TV, extra furniture or generators you’ll need to factor that in. I’ve actually added a wood burning stove for my RV to keep things extra cozy during the Portland winters which adds some weight that is definitely not factored in by the manufacturer!
How to Find the Weight of Your RV Online
We’ve talked a lot about gross weight, capacity and other jargon that you need know…but where do you actually find this information?
One of the best sources for finding weights of RVs is RVUSA.com’s Specs Guide. All you need to do is throw in some basic information and you’ll get detailed information all specs and floorplans.
How to Find the Towing Capacity of Your Vehicle
Okay, so you might think that Google is your best bet for finding your towing capacity but there’s actually a lot of variation between the exact same model based on options selected. Your best option is to check your driver’s side doorjamb which will include everything you need know about your specific vehicles towing capacity.
Ford even specifies on their website that, “See label on door jamb for carrying capacity of a specific vehicle” when they advertise their F-150!
Stay Safe When Towing
You always want to leave yourself some room when it comes to towing capacity. The general rule is to keep your camper’s total weight under 80% of your vehicles total towing capacity.
First, realize that towing capacity doesn’t exactly factor in hills. And if you’re putting in any kind of miles or distance you’re most certainly going to encounter some hills!
Push your towing capacity to the max and not only will you find yourself putting up every incline but there’s also a chance you won’t get up the hill at all. Spend anytime checking out some RV forums and you’ll see the stories of RV trips cut short but a little old hill! But it’s also plain dangerous not only to you but also to other vehicles on the road who are expecting you to make it up that hill!
Second, pushing the max towing capacity of your vehicle can really do a number on the longevity and health of your truck. Towing is especially hard on your vehicles transmission, and you certainly don’t want to pay for a new transmission!
Third, you want to give yourself some room for error or optimism! Again, towing capacities can be measured in a variety of conditions and they aren’t always what you’re actually going to face on the road as you push through hills, rain, snow and dirt. If you’re riding the edge of what your truck can handle then you’re just asking for problems.
While the weight of 30 foot camper is going to vary, there are plenty of averages that you can work with to get a good idea of how heavy a camper will be. At the end of the day, it’s always better to play it safe. That means going with the gross vehicle weight rating and staying below your vehicles maximum towing capacity.