It’s no secret that fifth wheel campers have become increasingly popular amongst travel enthusiasts who like roaming around the country during vacations.
Perhaps the best aspect of having a 5th wheel is that it brings you all the amenities you need, even when you are away from home.
You get all you need during traveling and camping, from a fully-functioning kitchen to the living area to the bathroom.
If you are interested in knowing everything about the size of fifth wheel campers and how it affects your traveling plans, this article is for you.
What is a Fifth Wheel Trailer?
A fifth wheel trailer is essentially a camping trailer in which the camping trailer is attached to the fifth wheel coupling on the truck using a U-shaped coupling. Fifth wheels are hefty, so they need a large truck with the right 5th wheel adapter to tow them.
Fifth wheel RVs are large with lots of space, making them perfect for carrying lots of amenities for distant camping. Modern fifth wheels also have slide-outs, which you can use to expand the space available during camping.
Modern fifth wheels are so large that they can be compared to apartments. In fact, they often look like you are carrying your apartment on wheels. That’s because they have high ceilings and expansive living spaces.
Fifth wheels differ in length depending upon the brands and their models. Usually, a fifth wheel is around 32 feet long, but it can vary. Today, some fifth wheels are longer than this, ranging from 36 to 40 feet. However, not all fifth wheels are as long. Some come in smaller sizes, ranging from 19 to 29 feet.
The largest fifth wheel RVs are above 40 feet in length. For example, the length of Grand Design 390RK is 41.5 feet and its height is 13.5 feet. The Forest River’s 37MBH is 40.8 feet long, while the Coachmen’s Chaparral 355FBX is the longest on the list at slightly above 42 feet.
The height of a fifth wheel can vary depending upon its overall size. Usually, it is around 9 to 10 feet. There is also variation in height at different places. For instance, living areas have taller ceilings when compared to the front and back of the RV.
The usual width of a fifth wheel is 8 to 10 feet. Shorter width makes it easier for you to navigate tight spaces than wide five wheels.
The Truck Size Required
Different fifth wheels will require different sized trucks to pull them, depending upon the size and weight of the fifth wheel. Usually, you need to have a one ton truck to pull a fifth wheel. However, you can also do it with a ½ ton truck if you have a smaller fifth wheel.
Therefore, it is crucial to thoroughly research the towing capabilities of a truck before purchasing one. The internet is loaded with such information, so do not always go with what the dealer tells you. Sometimes, even the specs do not tell you everything, as you need to modify your truck with things like airbags.
Fifth Wheel and RV Parks
Before purchasing a fifth wheel, you should consider whether it would fit in an RV park or not. Unfortunately, not all parks have been updated to accommodate modern RVs. In addition, some of them cannot house 35-foot+ RVs, so keep that in mind before purchasing a fifth-wheel trailer.
Some parks in North America allow RVs up to and longer than 45 feet. However, the space is usually reserved and isn’t always available. So you need to check beforehand and make reservations in advance.
State & National parks usually cannot accommodate large fifth wheels, so get a shorter one if you plan to camp there. Sometimes, you can unhitch the towing vehicle and park it elsewhere, but that’s not always possible.
Full Time Living on a Fifth Wheel Trailer
Living full-time on a fifth-wheel trailer is a thrill, but it can be daunting if you do not have the right information. Since modern fifth-wheel trailers have everything, some travelers prefer them as their permanent home.
The best fifth wheel for living full time is 36 feet long. That’s because longer trailers can become a pain to manage. Similarly, some areas might have regulations that do not allow trailers above 36 feet. 36 feet and shorter trailers are also easier to haul, as you only need a ¾ ton truck for them.
Another important consideration here is the number of people living inside a trailer. If you are alone, then a shorter trailer is enough. However, you will need a 36 feet trailer at least to accommodate everyone if you plan to live with your family.
How to Find the Right Fifth Wheel Length?
Interestingly, there is no industry standard for measuring your fifth wheel, and everybody has their own method of doing that. However, there are some usual techniques using which dealers measure the length of the fifth wheel.
You can get confused regarding the length of the fifth wheel; therefore, research is critical. Here is how you can find out the true size of your fifth wheel and avoid ambiguities.
Researching the Right Fifth Wheel Length
The length mentioned by manufacturers is a good starting point here. Usually, they also tell you whether the length they have mentioned is of the living space or the length from bumper to the hitch.
The next step is to join online camper forums and see if the participants have discussed anything related to the camper you are considering. If their discussion doesn’t answer your question, start a discussion by posting a new question and wait for the answers.
The people on these forums are usually knowledgeable, friendly, and always ready to answer your questions. Make sure you frame the question in the right manner and make it specific so that others can determine your actual query and answer it accordingly.
You can also watch YouTube videos explaining different 5th wheels. Here is one explaining some of the best 5th wheels for ½ ton trucks.
Measuring it Yourself
Nothing can be more satisfying than measuring the length of your fifth wheel yourself. Unfortunately, sometimes you do not get the right or satisfying answer from online forums or the dealer, as dealers are also repeating the numbers they get from the manufacturer. So, it is better to perform the measurement yourself to permanently put all confusion to rest.
Just take a tape measure with you when you visit the dealer/camper store and ask someone to help you with the measurement. You can easily measure the length from the back bumper to the kingpin and from the bumper to the front cab.
Why Finding the Right Length Matters?
Knowing the right fifth wheel length matters because it will determine whether you can camp at a particular spot or not. Established campsites have lots of space to accommodate campers of all sizes.
However, once you start visiting the places that are not well-established as campsites, you may have several issues. First, national parks usually have tight spaces and roads that aren’t suitable for large five wheels.
These parks are from a different era when RVs weren’t a thing, so expecting them to accommodate all kinds of RVs is impractical and unwise. Usually, national parks allow trailers from 30 to 36 feet. So, if you plan to visit national parks often, keep that limit in mind.
Another important thing to note here is that you should also be aware of the length of your towing vehicle. Sometimes, you can unhitch the towing vehicle from your camper and park it somewhere else. It frees up the camping space and allows you to use it without facing any issues.
If you cannot do it, you will need a large camping site to accommodate both towing vehicles and the fifth wheel. Therefore, getting a smaller fifth wheel is usually recommended unless you really cannot do without a larger one. A smaller fifth wheel helps you park anywhere without worrying about its size and the parking accommodation.
Some Other Considerations
The length of your trailer also determines the rent you pay for storage space. The longer the RV, the higher the rent. Here, the length is measured from the front to the bumper, so the total length is considered.
Transportation is another important consideration here. If you are ferrying or transporting your RV to another destination, you will likely be charged for the whole RV, including the towing length.
The Bottom Line
Getting the right-sized 5th wheel trailer is tricky, as you need to consider multiple factors before spending your money. However, you can make the right decision with the right information in hand.
Whether you want to hit the road or go camping, 5th wheel trailers can be your perfect companion. However, they can also be a permanent abode if you plan to live alone or with your family.
They are worth the costs and maintenance efforts, as they provide everything that you cannot find elsewhere.