13 or 16? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-28-2005, 06:40 AM   #1
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I am making the leap from cruising sail boats to a travel trailers next summer with some question as to what is the best size Scamp for my tow rig. Being a big fan of fiberglass, the Scamp line of trailers naturaly appealed to me. I have a 03 Nissan 4 cylinder Frontier with a tow rating of 3001 lbs. I would like to tow the 16 ft Scamp. I am getting a lot of conflicting reccomendations from friends and salesmen so I am looking for some sage wisdome. The litarature shows the Scamp 16 weighing in at 1750 dry and unloaded which seems to fall within my range with room for all the "stuff". However, I do not want to push the envelope too far to the point of stressing the rig too much, being last to make it to the camp ground and suffering on milage. I want to make some long distance cruising adventures out west in the mountain states. Should I play it safe and choose the 13 ft Scamp instead?
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Old 11-28-2005, 07:08 AM   #2
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Hi Tom! Welcome to the Forums!

Go ahead, just open Pandora's box! :94

This question is ALWAYS good for a spirited discussion! :l31

Everyone has an opinion, and I'll be happy to give you mine. In the past two years, I've towed a 13' UHaul behind a '92 Toyota 4WD standard cab 5 spd 4cyl pickup. I've towed a Trillium 4500 (15') and a 17' widebody Burro behind my Excursion. I've towed the Burro and a Scamp 16' Custom Deluxe behind a '94 Toyota extended cab 3l V6 auto 4WD pickup. And I now tow the Scamp 16' behind a 3.4l V6 Tundra 4WD auto.

It's all about trade-offs. Better unladen mileage vs. better towing mileage. Heavier vehicle for regular towing use vs. lighter vehicle for daily driving but occasional towing; ride comfort; towing safety; etc. etc. etc.

I guesstimated the UHaul at 1500lbs loaded. I never actually got to use the Trill, so I can't give any good info there; the Burro I guesstimated at 2500lbs loaded, and Scamp estimates the specific trailer I have at 2500lbs dry... probably pushing 3k loaded. Recognize that my Scamp is the full wood interior with wet bath and all of the options. It's significantly heavier than the 'standard' stock Scamp 16'.

The '94 Toyota extended cab V6 had a tow rating of 3500 lbs. It did fine with the Burro, but was all it wanted to do with the Scamp and only got me about 13mpg average towing. The Tundra has a 5000lb tow rating and gets me a solid 17mpg towing the Scamp.

The Excursion doesn't even know it has a trailer behind it, and the gas mileage was largely unaffected. It averages around 14-15mpg pretty much regardless of what I do (except towing a 34' Airstream where it gets 11mpg).

You also need to remember that towing involves more than just how much weight your drivetrain can drag around... it also needs to be able to stop and maneuver that weight successfully under panic circumstances.

So, back to your question. I find that the room and amenities offered by the longer trailers are necessary and desireable for my use. That's not the case for everyone. Whether your Nissan will do a 16' Scamp depends on a variety of factors. If you're towing in the relative flat for short distances, your Nissan if properly equipped with trans cooler (for an auto) and brakes, and some sort of sway control will handle a stock standard Scamp 16' just fine.

If you're willing to take the slow, easy routes on your trips and are willing to go slowly over the passes, your 4cyl will do fine in the mountains with a 16'. It'll work the engine and trans harder, but if you pay attention to maintenance issues you should be OK. You can expect lousy gas mileage under those conditions, but if you're only towing for one big trip a year, and the rest of your miles are commuter miles, then keep the 4cyl and eat the crummy mileage towing.

If you want to be in a little more of a hurry, or you plan on towing a LOT and towing fuel economy becomes important, my advice would still be to buy the trailer you want with the amenities you want, and then find a tow vehicle to match to it. Otherwise, you'll end up trading two vehicles later on... the trailer for the one you wanted to begin with, and then the tow vehicle to pull it with anyway!

BTW, there are a number of us who are former sailors here... :94 Frankly, I miss it, but it's tough to sail when you don't have any water large enough to put a boat on!

Roger
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Old 11-28-2005, 01:05 PM   #3
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I have both scamps the 13 ft and the 16 ft But i tow with a toyota tundra V8 I have no difference I suspect the 3001 lb seems a little hi for a 4 cylinder. Years ago I towed a 13 ft stick with 4 cyl Toy not to good on hills. I would recommend the 13 ft lighter ,less wind resistance. You can use a porta potii in the 13 ft, a furnace and be as comfortable as the 16 ft, you dont need the brakes with the 13 ft. The 13 ft can have all that the 16 ft has without the luxuries. It easier to empty PPotti, no water tanks to drain, and if you camp in the winter you don't have water in tank anyway Put the xtra money in dual tanks for the furnace, stove, refridge etc. I have both for sale as I would be just as happy with the 13 ft as the 16 ft
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I am making the leap from cruising sail boats to a travel trailers next summer with some question as to what is the best size Scamp for my tow rig. Being a big fan of fiberglass, the Scamp line of trailers naturaly appealed to me. I have a 03 Nissan 4 cylinder Frontier with a tow rating of 3001 lbs. I would like to tow the 16 ft Scamp. I am getting a lot of conflicting reccomendations from friends and salesmen so I am looking for some sage wisdome. The litarature shows the Scamp 16 weighing in at 1750 dry and unloaded which seems to fall within my range with room for all the "stuff". However, I do not want to push the envelope too far to the point of stressing the rig too much, being last to make it to the camp ground and suffering on milage. I want to make some long distance cruising adventures out west in the mountain states. Should I play it safe and choose the 13 ft Scamp instead?
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Old 11-28-2005, 02:25 PM   #4
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I think you're limited to the 13 footer. My Casita 16' travels over the road in camping trim at 2950 pounds and the dry weight according to Casita is 2065. My trailer is named Castle Pretentious which says something about my traveling style. Why travel so light you're practically roughing it again?

Of course, Morgan tows his with a lawn tractor! Well, maybe just around the property.

It's probably a good time to restart the What Does Your Trailer Weigh thread. Too bad it's gone because there was a good cross section of brands and sizes with actual over the road weights.

I miss the archives but I suppose it gives me a chance to speculate again about what people will do with towing recommendations. How do they drive? Over what roads? All weather? What is their skill level? What is the condition of the their tow rigs? what are their expectations with regard to satisfactory acceleration and stopping and rig durability? Is a transmission build every 7 years okay but every 5 years not okay? Trade in after 3 years, it's someone else's problem? Are they driving with kids and loved ones? Are they concerned if they're legally liable in an accident with a rig loaded over specification? Are they risk takers by nature? I wonder how one sorts through the sources to apply recommendations to oneself.

I'm prolly going to get hammered by the crowd, but oh well.
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Old 11-28-2005, 02:38 PM   #5
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Personally, for my own use I would not consider the lack of a brake requirement as an advantage of the 13' size, since even the 13' would be better with trailer brakes, especially in the case of a relatvely light tow vehicle. Anyone willing to tow the 13' without brakes would have a benefit from avoiding the cost and setup considerations of the brakes.

One difficulty with comparing the two sizes is that the comparison is not valid if the equipment level is different. Both sizes could have a bathroom, or neither; if a no-toilet/no-greywater 13' is compared to a toilet-plus-shower 16', the comparison is not really one of size, but of equipment.

I'm not convinced that a 16' would have significantly more air resistance than a 13'; in the Scamp lineup the 16' is a bit taller (due partially to more headroom, a good reason to choose it) but they are the same width, and in the Casita lineup they are apparently even the same height (the 17' is taller but again the same width). Although increased height means increased frontal area (which adds drag) the 16' has inherently better proportions for drag. I would be interested to hear of the experience of anyone who has experience with both and can distinguish air drag from rolling resistance (it's not trivial to do...) since the 16' is typically significantly heavier.

One aspect of this choice which has occurred to me before is that a lot of people add external storage boxes to their 13' trailers, even extending the tongue to make room for one up front. If the stuff to be carried could go in the trailer, or in outside-accessible storage compartments, a 16' with no extensions might be a stonger, better-balanced, and aerodynamically superior alternative to the stretched-and-added-to 13', with a more usable interior.

In any case length costs weight, and it looks from Scamp and Casita specs that even identically equipped the extra 3 feet means about 750 pounds.
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Old 11-28-2005, 06:32 PM   #6
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The boys and girls in the wind tunnel break down aero drag to strictly projected cross sectional area. If you will, the area of the shadow the trailer and tow project on the wall from a light directly ahead. As Pete has mentioned in the past, altering the ride height to "hide" more of the trailer behind the tow will help. As Brian suggests, there's probably not much difference in drag between the 13 and the 16 if they're close with respect to height and width. Mass, of course, is another issue. That impacts the energy to move everything and the higher rolling resistances of the tires because of more load (assuming you don't bump up the air pressure).
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Old 11-28-2005, 07:23 PM   #7
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I suspect that rolling drag could use a lot of improvement in some of our trailers, and the heavier trailer will certainly have more drag, given the same design. At highway speeds, I suspect that aerodynamic drag is still the dominant problem. A big problem with predicting this is the interaction between the tow vehicle and trailer - independent test results for either (as if you could ever find them for the trailer...) would not predict the drag of the combination.

This gets back to real-world experience: has anyone ever had a 13' and 16' of the same design (e.g. both Scamp or both Casita) and (here's the tough part) weight? That would have to be well-equipped 13' versus a bare 16'. Even a 13' and 16' of the same equipment level would be interesting to compare for fuel economy at steady speed, or some other measure of drag. Even an actual fuel economy comparison between bdiscount's two Scamps (which I understand are differently equipped) would be interesting.

By the way, I'm not towing all the time, and if I had to rebuild the van transmission even every 7 years I'd be quite upset about it! We'll see how it actually works out.
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Old 11-28-2005, 08:21 PM   #8
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4 cylinder = 13' trailer. Pulling a 16' loaded with a 4 cylinder would not work appropriately, especially on uphill grades.

I have Toyota Tacoma truck, 4 cylinder, and it just barely has the power to tow my 13' Burro fully loaded. In fact, up real steep hills/mountains, it is a hard pull and limited to about 45 - 50 miles an hour. I can't imagine pulling a fully loaded 16' trailer with my 4 cylinder.
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Old 11-29-2005, 10:54 AM   #9
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This has been said before, but I think it's worth repeating: the number of cylinders is not - by itself - important.

There are small 6-cylinder engines in sports cars which would not be suitable for powering a compact pickup plus even a 13' trailer; on the other hand, there are four-cylinder commerical engines with more than enough reliable power. On a larger scale, most people would consider the V-6 engines in full-size North American pickup trucks inadequate for any significant towing (they need the V-8), but the premium towing machine from Dodge is a pickup with the Cummins 6-cylinder engine. It's really a matter of how much power is available and can be reliably sustained.

Having said that, the Nissan pickup 4-cylinder isn't a heavy-duty powerhouse. The Toyota lineup is similar - the 4 has much less power than the 6. The 3001 lb towing limit is a hint there - it's not the drivetrain that Nissan wants us to use for towing. In this specific case, pushing near the rated towing limit means over 3 tons of rig with 154 HP (in 2006, 2003 may be less...) and a relatively narrow power band, which seems unlikely to be satisfactory.

In the end, I think it's weight, drag, and available power that matter, not trailer length or number of cylinders.
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Old 11-29-2005, 01:00 PM   #10
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At this point in my fiberglass trailer ownership, I believe I will go through at least two different tugs before I even think about replacing my trailer. Replacing won't be because the tug was underpowered, it will because of the age of the vehicle and/or the amount of miles on it. I think others may have found the same.

I would purchase the trailer I plan on keeping. The tug will more than likely change overtime. I can go to any vehicle dealership and find a tow vehicle, but finding that fiberglass trailer that suits my needs/budget is considerably harder to come by. You may find that to be similar in your situation Tom. Make a list of the amenities you want/need/can't live without, etc. Go from there.

For me, this is definitely a case of putting the cart before the horse.
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Old 11-29-2005, 01:19 PM   #11
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All the 16/13 tech stuff doesn't answer the BIG question. How do you want to use the trailer? If your plans include extended family trips with a spouse who demands an on-board bathroom, the 16 is the way to go. If economy, simplicity and easy towing are paramount, a 13 may please you better.

Beware of manufacturers' weight claims. My UHaul 13, with its normal camping load, comes in above 1600 poinds. Last year, we towed it across the continent and up the spine of the Rockies with a 4-cyl. Outback rated for 2000lbs. It was fine towing, no problems. This year, we towed with a Mazda MPV 6-banger rated for 3000lbs., because it had more stowage space in the tug.

Barb and I seriously considered upsizing to a new Escape, but decided that the additional cost and weight wasn't worth it for the way we camp. But we're old backpackers and wilderness travelers; we prefer a simple, uncluttered lifestyle, and just feel no need (nor desire) for on-board toilets and blackwater tanks and TVs and generators and A/C and all that other stuff that seems to go with the bigger eggs.

If we did want all those trappings, of course, we'd go for a 16ft. egg.
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Old 11-29-2005, 02:42 PM   #12
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... I would purchase the trailer I plan on keeping. The tug will more than likely change overtime. I can go to any vehicle dealership and find a tow vehicle, but finding that fiberglass trailer that suits my needs/budget is considerably harder to come by.
...
I understand the reasoning, and I like the egg-centric view of the world, but the reality of my situation is that I will not be replacing my van any time soon - if I were to buy a Bigfoot 25B21FB, it would become a cabin in my yard, since I couldn't pull it down the road: the van has a useful towing capacity 3000 lb and that trailer is well over 2 tons loaded. If the appeal of a small fiberglass trailer is that it is affordable, then requiring a new vehicle makes no sense; if accommodating the trailer means that the most demanding and critical vehicle use (towing long distances) is done in some old vehicle because the new and reliable primary family vehicle is too small, that probably makes no sense for a lot of us either.

It's easy to find a tow vehicle, not necessarily so easy to buy it.

I think that a rational choice is always going to be some sort of [b]compromise, and the possilbility of changing tow vehicles should always be considered.

Ironically, I bought a molded fiberglass RV instead of a stick-built largely because I made the trailer fit the tow vehicle, and the Boler was the best fit to our requirements with that restriction.
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Old 11-29-2005, 06:48 PM   #13
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Gary Lynch is right! I have the same setup. The 19 mpg is nice but I wish I could get out of bad weather. My 13' has no comfort inside unless its bedtime. Two little chairs can barely squeeze inside, just don't try to open the fridge.
I would rather have the 16' Scamp but don't have a large enough parking space. I would take out the bathroom and create a comfy little sitting area.
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Old 11-29-2005, 07:16 PM   #14
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I have an artist friend who lives in Vermont, drives a 4-banger manual shift Toyota pickup, and owns a 13' Burro. His Burro also had the frame extended and a large cargo box mounted on the back, effectively making his trailer a 16'. He used these vehicles on a trip to California. He reported that his particular truck was under-sized for his trailer, after having to go real slow to get over the mountain passes. I don't think he put a lot of thought into matching his vehicles; he just hooked up what he aquired.

I put in a lot of research to decide on just exactly what tow vehicle I would purchace. It's all compromise if your limiting yourself to one of each vehicle...
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