newcomer w/ a question - Fiberglass RV

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Old 05-05-2006, 08:32 PM   #1
johnsoba's Avatar
Trailer: 82 Scamp 13 ft
Posts: 61
Hello, everybody. My wife and I are total newcomers to this world, but we have a question and if this isn't the proper place for it, please let us know. What lightweight trailer can we pull with a '96 Subaru Outback 4 cylinder w/ 134K miles? The owner's manual says 2,000 lbs., but we've heard that older cars' transmissions may have problems even with lightweights. Is this true?

(We've been looking for only 2 days but are impressed with 13' Scamp, the smallest Casita, and our favorite is the new Trillium although we couldn't figure out from their website if they're in production yet.)

Thanks very much!
Ann and Bruce Johnson

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Old 05-05-2006, 08:45 PM   #2
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Name: Gina D.
Trailer: '77 Leocraft 17 & Former Burro owner and fan!
West Coast USA
Posts: 9,016
Hi and welcome!

I would think just about any 13 could work, as long as it wasn't loaded down with TONS of wizz bangs like heavy AC and extra tanks, generators etc.

I tow with a Honda Element. It's rated at 1500 and I squeek in at just below.

Check the for sale referals. There is a beut of a Compact II in there. (Tho I think his price is a wee bit high)

It is lighter than most off the egg shaped ones. Of course, it is laid out different and the floor space is not as plentiful.

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Old 05-05-2006, 11:14 PM   #3
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Name: Dave
Trailer: 2011 Escape 5.0
Posts: 184
Welcome to the forum!

I copied the following from the ad that I bought my Li'l Bigfoot from. I hope it helps.

Bigfoot Towing Experience

I thought I'd share a little bit about my towing experiences with the trailer since that seems to be a point of evaluation with light trailers. Over the years I've towed a number of things in the less than 20 foot range. They have included boats, utility trailers, cars and travel trailers with a variety of tow vehicles with 4, 6 and 8 cylinders. My 5 speed Forester makes 165 horsepower and has plenty of power to pull the Bigfoot and the car weighs 3,500 lbs. when loaded for travel. I do notice that the trailer will slightly wag and bounce the backend of the car around on a rough highway. On a smooth highway the car and trailer cruise well between 65-75. The trailer tracks really well. For my comfort level I'd feel better using the electric brakes rather than not. The Forester is actually a small car that looks big, it's a box sitting on Subaru's Impreza platform. Overall I am pleased with the how well the trailer tows behind the Forester.

I didn't notice what class hitch he was using, but he was not using either WDH or Sway Control. The trailer itself is about 1400 lb.
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Old 05-05-2006, 11:50 PM   #4
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Name: Benita
Trailer: Fiber Stream 16 ft 1982
Posts: 608
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My initial response is this is the literature of someone who was trying to sell you something.
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Old 05-06-2006, 05:27 AM   #5
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Trailer: 1986 U-Haul CT13 ft
Posts: 494

Our UHaul is one of the heavier 13ft. FGRVs. We towed it coast-to-coast with our '98 Subaru Outback. Had to use 3rd gear a few times in the mountains, but no problems and mostly you wouldn't know it was back there.
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Old 05-06-2006, 05:35 AM   #6
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Trailer: 1986 U-Haul CT13 ft
Posts: 494

Another view - Canadian Rockies. BTW, I would not recommend towing these rigs at the 65-75mph claimed in the Bigfoot post. Yes, it's possible, but no, it isn't safe IMHO (nor is it affordable, at present gas prices). We keep towing speed below 60, stay in the slow lane, relax and enjoy the scenery.
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Old 05-06-2006, 09:44 AM   #7
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Trailer: 1977 Scamp 13 ft
Posts: 190
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I also tow with a '98 Outback, no problems pulling my '77 Scamp. I did once pull a Casita with a front bathroom...and the hood of my car went up about 6 inches! Way too much tongue weight for my car - luckily, I was only going a couple of miles on city streets.

Just remember that the weight of the trailer is only the beginning......then you get to add clothing, food, camping 'stuff '- pots, pans, BBQ, chairs; plus water in tanks (if you have them and fill them), and the people going with you. I, personally, would feel very uncomfortable pulling a 16 foot with my Subaru. But a 13 problem.
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Old 05-07-2006, 12:42 AM   #8
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Name: Dave
Trailer: 2011 Escape 5.0
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My initial response is this is the literature of someone who was[b] trying to sell you something.

Well, yes.
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Old 05-07-2006, 02:40 AM   #9
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Trailer: 73 Surfside 14 / '05 Magnum RT AWD
Posts: 170
I was going to comment on
has plenty of power to pull the Bigfoot and the car weighs 3,500 lbs. when loaded for travel. I do notice that the trailer will slightly wag and bounce the backend of the car around on a rough highway. On a smooth highway the car and trailer cruise well between 65-75.
but two of you beat me to it. The only thing I can add is just because it can pull it doesn't mean it can stop it thus the electric breaks are a good idea. I don't have them on Buttercup as the previous owner cut the lines and taped them up.(yes I could reverse that, but didn't) After riding with my sister, who just got a brand new (almost) Scamp, I'd say get the brakes. I always thought the controller wasn't an issue to mess with, but have changed my mind. We went to Uhaul, and got the tow-er rewired for 7 pin and had them add a brake controller. easy, works . I like.

I just reread that quote - "wag and bounce the backend" that could be weight distribution. Too heavy in the rear of the trailer will cause wag AND bounce. No way would I drive 70 with a bounce and wag. (shiver) Not sure I'd drive 55.

Oh, one more thing - WELCOME Ann and Bruce.
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Old 05-07-2006, 04:45 PM   #10
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Name: Brian
Trailer: Boler (B1700RGH) 1979
Posts: 4,999
I think Gina's comments make sense, but maybe "any 13" could use clarification for the new people. The "13" is the length, in feet, measured in the standard trailer fashion of coupler to rear bumper. It's not that the length matters so much, it's just that almost all of the 13-foot moulded fiberglass travel trailers are so similar that they're very close in weight - and just about any longer trailer of this type would likely be too heavy by the time it was loaded.

13-foot models sometimes just use the length as their name (the Casita and Scamp, for instance), and sometimes build it into a model number (Boler 1300, Trillium 1300). The next size up of old Trillium, the 4500, is 4.5 metres or almost 15 feet long - this may be the one larger size which would fit the tow capacity, but a Trill' owner might have better information.

I think it's important to note a couple things about towing capacity in this context, which haven't been mentioned yet:
  • a trailer within the basic weight limit (2000 lb in this case) might still be too heavy, because there are also limits for axle capacity, and combined (car with passenger and cargo, combined with trailer with cargo) weight limit, for instance; and
  • factory weight limits often make assumptions about air drag, such as a maximum frontal area for the trailer (more drag means more sustained work for the tow vehicle, which may mean heat problems for the engine or transmission).
While the 13' "eggs" are small as travel trailers go, and they have rounded corners, they're still over six feet wide, seven feet tall, and are not good aerodynamic shapes. The really small units (like the Compact) may be a better fit for smaller cars; at a minimum I think consideration should be given to keeping sustained towing speeds down for the sake of the tow vehicle's durability.
1979 Boler B1700RGH, pulled by 2004 Toyota Sienna LE 2WD
Information is good. Lack of information is not so good, but misinformation is much worse. Check facts, and apply common sense liberally.
STATUS: No longer active in forum.
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Old 05-10-2006, 08:15 PM   #11
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Trailer: 82 Scamp 13 ft
Posts: 61
Thanks to all for the great advice. We're now in the market for a 13' or smaller!
Ann and Bruce Johnson
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Old 05-17-2006, 10:02 PM   #12
Trailer: 1985 Scamp 16 ft
Posts: 97
This time last year, I was sweating the same question. I wanted a Scamp/Casita/whatever, but I didn't want a new car or, worse, a truck. My Forester, an '04 XS, would have to do. Then a clean, used 16' Scamp popped up an hour down the road at an unbelievable price, and I gave it a try-- in spite of the advice of the Scamp parts guy and a Subaru service rep, who both said, "no way."

In the first year, I've towed over Berthoud and Wolf Creek Passes in Colorado. I've towed across the Great Plains and into the Appalachians, in 100 degree heat. Over 5,000 miles, it's been a safe, secure and satisfying driving experience. Sure, my performance envelope resembles my old VW Squareback's (which, now that I think about it, sort of resembled a Forester). It takes patience to attain 65-70 mph, and a downshift to maintain that speed up every long swell crossing Kansas, but even on those high, steep passes, the speed limit was attainable uphill and easliy maintainable going back down. (Oh, and it doesn't matter how fast or slow you drive-- everyone will want to pass you anyway, because you're pulling a trailer. It's an instinct among four-wheelers to pass that trailer immediately, and it wouldn't make much differenceif I was driving 75 or 80.)

Unlike my Squareback, the engine temps remained immovable, in the midrange. At the end of the summer, I had my (synthetic) oil analyzed, and they found no indication of abnormal wear. Subaru should make more hay of the towing talents of its cars-- especially manual transmission models like mine.

There are qualifications to this pretty picture. My Scamp, The Skimp, is truly stripped down, with no amenities beyond a cooktop, a hand pump and a rooftop fan-- and brakes, of course. I load heavy items in the car, except the cooler, which trims the tongue weight. That's the limiting factor in these cars. My trailer, showing 1800-1860 lbs on the scale, needs almost 200 lbs of tongue weight to avoid up-and-down jacking movements on rough pavement. Although I'm 500 lbs below Subaru's tow rating, I'm right at the tongue weight limit, even witout adding a 30lb sway bar. A fully equipped, heavily packed 16' with 15+ gals. water for the bathroom could easily weigh 1,000 lbs more, and you'd never be able to use enough tongue weight to tame that load. There's no available option to beef up the rear strut-based suspension of a Subaru, except the stiffer springs sold by Subaru Extreme in Australia. I plan to get those in a year or two, but installing them means new struts, too, so it winds up near a $500 job.

Sometimes I think I'd be just as happy with a 13' Scamp that I could pack with features and cargo. "No we wouldn't," says my wife, and she's probably right. But what's important to you? Generous interior space or cargo capacity and amenities? We don't mind cooking outside or putting the porta=potty in a tent by the door. Smaller eggs are harder to find. Used ones seem to be priced not by square footage, like houses -- the premium price goes to newer, well-optioned ones. At $2,500, my 16-footer was a big bargain. But as long as it's trailing my Forester, it'll always have to be on a diet.

Manwhile, I can't think of a better tow vehicle, if that tow vehicle also has to serve as a weekday commuter car. It's hard to find a larger SUV with a manual transmission, and almost impossible to find a manual with anything like Subaru's Hill Holder, which makes easy work of uphill starts. I'm not looking to switch until Subaru or someone else puts a diesel in a similar package.
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Old 05-20-2006, 08:09 PM   #13
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Trailer: 2004 Trillium Outback
Posts: 48
Welcome aboard Dave

I had similar questions before I bought my trillium in '04. This forum and the good folks at CAN AM RV in London, Ontario help with the towing question. My Sonata has the 4 cyl engine and managed to pull the trailer loaded with a week's supplies for myself and two daughters from Toronto to Calgary (about 3,500 kms) without any problems. I made sure the car had a transmission cooler installed and brakes added to the trailer. As recommended, a weigh distributing hitch and sway control were also installed. Kept the speed at 100 KPH and it was an uneventful trip.

Jack's posts probably sum up your position the best though.
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Old 05-20-2006, 08:27 PM   #14
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Name: Pete
Trailer: 17 ft 1986 Burro
Posts: 882
I tow my 13' Burro with a 2002 Astro van. It has a V6 and is pretty peppy.
In the mountains around Yellowstone I usually dropped down to 3rd gear because in forth your speed slowly drops to the point where you can't recover.
I usually tow at 62 mph as that seems to be the best mileage for my setup.
Mileage is around 16 - 17 on the highway towing. 22 not towing.

So dropping to third in any mountain range just seems reasonable to me, I think I had to do that with my 87 Suburban diesel too.
This does not make a tow vehicle bad.

Going 65- 75 thought the mountains seems kinda of nuts anyway, you went there to SEE the mountains didn't you?

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