Years ago, it was hard to find a family-sized trailer that weighed less than 4,000 pounds. Heavy chassis, steel wheels and wooden framing really added up — but today, modern construction techniques and materials have made lightweight travel trailers a popular choice, particularly with younger families.
Unlike with frozen dinners, however, “light” doesn’t necessarily mean that your options are limited. In fact, lightweight trailers often require more imagination on the part of the manufacturer, so it’s not uncommon to find anything from a traditional travel trailer or vintage teardrop model to a so-called hybrid, which combines hard walls with tent-trailer-type beds that pull out of one or both ends and has cloth enclosures. Other interesting designs, as well as creative floorplans and use of space, are also part of the mix, which makes shopping fun.
Since you’re reading about this category, we’re going to assume you’ve got a small truck or SUV that has a moderate towing capacity — which means weight is of particular importance to you. So rather than using the manufacturer’s claimed weight, let the unit’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) be your guide. For example, if your small SUV has a tow rating of 3,500 pounds, look for a trailer with a GVWR of 3,500 pounds or less, which will help you prevent an overload situation once all equipment is on board. A trailer with a claimed “dry weight” of 3,000 pounds or more will almost certainly weigh more than 3,500 pounds when it is filled with water, LPG and supplies.
Another point of emphasis for lightweight trailers is length. Longer models catch more sidewind — and without the extra weight to keep them on track, they tend to blow around more, causing stability issues. A good weight-distributing hitch with sway control can help, but all things being equal, a lightweight trailer will typically move around more than a heavier unit of similar size.
Beyond these considerations, choosing a lightweight model is similar to shopping for other travel trailers. Begin your search online, for example, by entering “travel trailers under 4,000 pounds,” or “ultra-light travel trailers” and then visit a dealer or RV show near you. Tell the salesperson that you’re only interested in viewing units that are within your weight (and budgetary) limits, which will help narrow down your options. From there, you can view units that have the appropriate number of sleeping positions, the most holding-tank capacity, desirable options, etc.