So you’ve discovered the great outdoors, and you’ve finally saved up enough cash to buy your first trailer tent. Now what? Is towing a trailer tent really that easy? Do you even meet the legal requirement to tow your weekend getaway tent with you?
All the answers are right here as we share everything you need to know about towing a trailer tent and more.
Table of Contents
How Do You Tow a Trailer Tent?
Towing a trailer tent is easier than towing a full-size caravan or camper, but the same rules still apply.
There are a few considerations such as ground clearance, weight displacement ratio, and legal requirements you need to keep in mind to keep you, your family, and your vehicle safe. On average, a standard SUV can comfortably tow an economy line trailer tent.
What Is a Trailer Tent?
A trailer tent is a portable camping tent that is built into a trailer base. It is handy to pitch in more dense and inhospitable camping areas as the tent is secured to the base of the trailer, which enlarges. This keeps the tent clear of groundwater and small animals.
With a trailer base, a trailer tent can offer more amenities such as electricity and even a toilet or shower in some. The pay-off is that a trailer tent is half the weight of a caravan and will take less fuel to tow to your destination.
When deciding to tow a trailer tent, there are a few considerations you should keep in mind:
Size Vehicle to Size Tent Trailer
Most SUV class vehicles and trucks can tow a trailer tent. The weight of the vehicle should far exceed that of the trailer. A vehicle can’t tow a trailer that weighs more than the vehicle, and make sure your tow hitch bar is capable of handling the resulting trailer load.
While a trailer may be longer than the towing vehicle, this may cause complications when towing, especially with turning.
To be 100% sure of your vehicle’s towing capacity, you should consult the manufacturer’s guide. While a vehicle such as the Ford F-150 is rated to tow 12,200 pounds, it should only tow a trailer of 7,365 pounds.
Keep in mind that most trailer tents weigh in at over 1,200 pounds. The added extras of water, furniture, beds, and other sundries will potentially increase the weight of the trailer tent to well over 10,000 pounds.
Not all vehicles are designed to tow trailers. The Hyundai Santa Fe, while considered an off-road capable vehicle in the SUV class, has a towing capacity of merely 5,000 pounds and is only rated to tow a trailer weighing 2,300 pounds.
So if your trailer tent weighs in at over 2,300 pounds, you will not be able to tow it with this vehicle.
Legality of Towing a Trailer Tent
Most drivers have a standard driving license, which is suitable for towing a trailer tent. However, some states may have additional requirements that could involve the weight of the trailer added to the vehicle and the age of the driver.
There are also some speed limits that apply to where and how fast you can tow a trailer tent.
If traveling on a single lane road, the speed limit will be about 50 miles per hour, while a double lane road may feature a speed limit of 60 miles. This may differ from state to state, so check on local ordinances and keep an eye out for road signs to warn you of the effective driving laws.
In most U.S. states, a trailer tent needs to meet the same requirements as a regular trailer. A visible license plate that matches the towing vehicle should be adhered to the trailer. The trailer must be in roadworthy condition, and the trailer’s indicator and brake lights need to be fully operational.
Towing the Correct Way
There are several points you should always keep in mind and apply when towing a trailer tent. For starters, you should be confident enough to tow an increased length vehicle because of the overall length of the vehicle and trailer.
There are several challenges that come with a vehicle towing a trailer tent, and if you’ve never done it before, you need to learn.
- Making Turns
The longer the vehicle and anything it is towing, the greater the distance that vehicle requires to stop and turn. A vehicle towing a trailer tent needs to keep in mind that when making a turn that is at a sharp angle, the trailer tent will experience more force, which can make the trailer overturn.
Low trailers like a trailer tent are often lighter in comparison to larger trailers, which means that a trailer on which the wheel has climbed the curb may be more likely to flip over.
- Correct Hitching
The strength and control you have over your trailer tent is determined by the quality of the hitching mechanism. A poorly hitched trailer tent is a disaster waiting to happen.
If the owner doesn’t hitch their trailer tent correctly, the coupling will come undone, and the trailer could end up coming undone while traveling or even swing to the side since the trailer isn’t anchored to the towing vehicle.
- Safety With Trailer Tents
Trailer tents need to be safely towed. This not only includes the hitching and the actual tow-bar but also includes the contents of the trailer tent. A trailer tent that is filled with loose items like large water tanks or gas bottles is a ticking time bomb.
If the towing vehicle has to suddenly break, any heavy loose items in a trailer tent can sling forward, upsetting the balance of the trailer, leading to an unhitching or even a more serious accident. Therefore, be sure to pack your trailer tent carefully and mindfully.
Make sure there are no hazardous materials such as gas bottles that aren’t properly secured in the trailer.
- Loading for Balanced Load Capacity
The most weight in any trailer should be distributed towards the front of the trailer, and it is no different for a trailer tent.
Should you have heavy items in the trailer tent such as boxes with canned goods, large water bottles, gas bottles, or even your hunting gear you must ensure these are stowed securely toward the front of the trailer.
Weight placed near the front of the trailer tent will create an even balance, placing no strain on the hitching mechanism of the tow hitch. However, if you load the back of your trailer tent, chances are your trailer tent will swing across the road while you are towing. This is extremely dangerous.
- Slowly and Gently at All Times
When towing your trailer tent, be sure to do everything slowly and gently. With the additional weight of a trailer tent, you will have to drive slowly, turn gently, and break long before braking is even necessary.
Even acceleration will be somewhat different as you will have to accelerate slowly and it will take longer to reach the different gear ratios. Flooring the accelerator will not provide a smooth or safe towing experience, especially when you go off-road with the trailer tent.
When it comes to stopping with a trailer tent, you need to decelerate slowly, letting the vehicle’s engine reduce its power and gear down incrementally. Ideally, you want to drive a short distance in second gear before actually stepping on the brakes and stopping.
- Reversing With a Trailer Tent
When reversing with any kind of trailer, the golden rule seems to be to put your hands at the six and ten or two o’clock position on the steering wheel. Then, using the side mirrors, back up and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go.
Again, back up slowly to prevent jack-knifing.
Learning to Tow a Trailer Tent
When learning, it’s nothing to be ashamed of to ask for help. Learning from a qualified driving instructor (even when you’ve been driving your vehicle for years) is always a good idea.
Practice turning, accelerating, braking, backing up, and stopping in a large empty area.
If you intend to drive your trailer tent on backroads, then practice driving on a few dirt roads near your home with a towing-experienced driver with you.
Practice will teach you what to listen to regarding the sounds of your vehicle, the feel of the trailer tent’s weight behind the vehicle, and the manner in which you need to respond with acceleration and braking.
The Two Most Serious Issues With Towing a Trailer Tent
There are two serious issues you want to avoid when towing a trailer tent: snaking and pitching.
A Snaking Tent Trailer
When a tent trailer snakes behind the towing vehicle, it results in the trailer swinging from side to side across the road. We often see this kind of dangerous towing event when a trailer is high sided and gathers wind resistance.
Braking the towing vehicle when snaking happens may lead to a more serious accident and perhaps a full collision. Instead of braking, take your foot off the accelerator. Allow the vehicle’s weight to slow the vehicle down, and when able, shift down in gears.
When the vehicle begins to slow down, gently squeeze the brakes, regaining control. Avoid steering to correct snaking as this can lead to overcompensation and a car crash. Instead, keep your hands straight on the steering wheel.
A Pitching Tent Trailer
A pitching tent trailer is when the trailer hops behind the towing vehicle, sawing up and down on the tow hitch. The real danger with a pitching tent trailer is that the tow hitch can become unhooked if it wasn’t secured correctly.
The trailer can also cause the vehicle to become unsteady on the road and this can lead to an accident.
Again, don’t jump on your brakes in a panic. Instead, let the vehicle decelerate under its own weight while steering straight. When a sense of control returns, you can begin to gear down, then finally squeeze the brakes and finally (if necessary) stop.
Towing a Trailer Tent FAQs
Can I Legally Tow A Trailer Tent?
With a valid driver’s license, you should be allowed to legally tow a roadworthy and registered trailer tent as long as your vehicle’s specifications are not exceeded by the trailer’s weight.
Is It Hard To Tow A Trailer Tent?
Most trailer tents are quite easy to tow as they are designed for comfortable towing by a wide range of vehicles. The skills required to tow a trailer tent are the same as for towing any other trailer, but it is always a good idea to practice before hitting the open road.
Finding a large open area to go through turning, accelerating, stopping, and braking will help you become comfortable towing a trailer tent in now time.
Which Cars Can Tow A Trailer Tent?
Some top vehicles to tow a trailer tent with include:
- Ram 3500 pickup truck
- Ford F-450
- Chevrolet Silverado (several models)
- Nissan Titan
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Chrysler Pacifica
Camping is always a great experience and by being prepared you can have an equally satisfying towing adventure when it comes to your trailer tent. Be sure to follow these golden rules, and you will have a stress-free towing experience:
- Go slowly, go gently
- Practice beforehand to tow like a pro
- Pack cleverly by weighting the front of your trailer
- Accelerate and decelerate using your vehicle’s gearing system
Looking for other essential guides to the outdoors? Look no further than our library of useful tips and tricks.