Vehicle to tow hunter camper up mountain - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-06-2013, 08:58 PM   #1
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Red face Vehicle to tow hunter camper up mountain

Hi, I'm new to this forum. I have a 1975 hunter camper that I LOVE! I am looking for a new vehicle that can tow my little camper (1,000 pounds) and is good for snow packed mountain passes as I ski all winter. I am looking at a Subaru Outback with towing of 3,000. My concern is that my favorite free camp site is up a VERY steep , unpaved, AWD required, switchback mountain grade road. I understand that the tow capacity is based on towing on flat land. Does anyone have experience or knowledge of whether the Outback would be strong enough to tow my camper up this steep road about 1 hour, maybe 6-10 x/ year. Would it ruin my transmission, brakes? Should I look for a larger vehicle to tow? And lastly, do I need to get brakes put on my camper trailer? Thanks for any input
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Old 09-06-2013, 11:03 PM   #2
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I have a 1975 hunter camper that I LOVE! I am looking for a new vehicle that can tow my little camper (1,000 pounds) ...
Although this sort of weight is often quoted for the smaller trailers, very few are this light even when empty... and when you tow it, it will be heavier due to your stuff carried in it. Examples are given in Trailer Weights in the Real World, but the best plan is to get the trailer to a scale and find out what it really weighs when loaded for travel.

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I understand that the tow capacity is based on towing on flat land.
It shouldn't be - ratings are for expected real-world use. Manufacturers following SAE standard J2807 (which currently means Toyota and almost no one else) must demonstrate that the vehicle can tow the rated weight up trailer up a substantial grade without overheating, among other performance challenges.

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And lastly, do I need to get brakes put on my camper trailer?
I believe yes. Any travel trailer is marginal at best with a smaller tow vehicle, and in challenging conditions I would not settle for marginal.
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Old 09-07-2013, 05:18 AM   #3
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Hello Winnie and welcome to the forum. I've driven in snow for years but have only towed in snow once. It was across Togwotee pass in Wyoming in early June. The tow vehicle was a 4wd first generation Tundra. I would prefer to never do it again. Going up was not bad but going down was a white knuckle ride all the way. I would suggest not only brakes on the trailer but would consider chains. We have at least one member that winter camps and runs chains on her trailer. Of course, clearance around the wheel will be the issue. Good luck, Raz
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Old 09-07-2013, 08:00 AM   #4
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Towing hunter camper

Thanks for the information. I have been reading different sites and chats about towing-with sometimes conflicting information...so I decided to join a chat (first time) to try and get straight forward, reliable information. Thanks.
I do not plan to camp in the winter time...I camp in warmer weather but need a vehicle that is also good for winter as I am on the mountain passes most every weekend in the winter for skiing. Does anyone tow with a small vehicle like the Outback? Or if you have trucks, are they good in snow packed mountain roads. I used to have a Chevy s10 but it fish tailed in snow and ice (I lived in Texas so that was a rare occurrence) My current vehicle, Saturn VUE v6 with tow package did fine in the snow but struggled hauling my camper up the mountain grade. I am not sure if the VUE struggled going up because it is old and has too many miles, transmission about to go out or if I need more than a 3,500 tow ability (which the VUE had). I prefer an SUV size vehicle but not opposed to a truck. Any suggestions? Also, any idea about how much it should cost to have brakes put on my hunter trailer? Either way, I definitely will do that...no way I am going down that road again without good brakes! I hope to get a vehicle in next 3 weeks and am anxious to get camping before the warm weathers is gone...this is the best time of year to camp.
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Old 09-07-2013, 09:50 AM   #5
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If you Hunter still has the original drop axle I don't believe it has the tabs for adding brakes (mine doesn't). The good news is that you can replace it with a straight axle and get brakes at the same time as another site member has recently done with a Compact Jr. This will also give you about 8" of much needed additional clearance.
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Old 09-07-2013, 09:57 AM   #6
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Welcome to FGRV Winnie.

Keep in mind that many vehicles come in different configurations. For example my Ranger Owners Manual has 4 pages devoted to charts listing options and tow capacities. Some sales people may not be well versed in matching your needs. Ask to see the manuals so you can be a better informed consumer.

As for brakes, it sounds like Frederick has done it on his Compact Jr.
7" Brake Drums/hubs for 4-lug wheels
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Old 09-07-2013, 10:09 AM   #7
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Smile

Wow thanks for the quick response! I am finding out that the dealers do not know much about towing...as I also do not. Thanks for the advice on the axial...another thing I did not know about:-) I hope the mechanic I go to will be familiar with how to change the axial and brakes. I am biting at the bit to go camping but obviously will need to wait until at least the brake issue is resolved. I am grateful for your help and look forward to reading and learning more in this forum
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Old 09-07-2013, 10:15 AM   #8
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One issue with the Outback is ground clearance, although all wheel drive, once you get into snow ruts you may get stuck. A Jeep or other high clearance vehicle is less likely to have issues in the winter.
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Old 09-07-2013, 10:29 AM   #9
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New Axle with Brakes

You'll need to take the trailer in to the trailer mechanic of your choice and have THEM take measurements of your existing axle:
  • Spring mount center-line to center-line width
  • Full width Hub-face to Hub-face
  • Request 7" brakes and a 2000 lb capacity axle/springs

I kept the 4" drop design to maintain garage-ability of my trailer under a standard 7' door. Going with a straight axle to gain ground clearance may compromise this, or make the fit difficult.
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Old 09-07-2013, 02:15 PM   #10
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Thanks again for good information:-)
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Old 09-07-2013, 02:18 PM   #11
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If you thought your V6 Vue 'struggled' up the mountains, I would expect you to feel that a 4 cylinder Outback is 'struggling' as well. Anything less than a good sized turbo (a diesel pickup or a 3.5L Ecoboost Ford) is likely to be slowed down by a steep grade when towing. It is normal and doesn't mean your engine or tranny are failing. One just has to accept that the only way to charge up the long, steep grades at full highway speed is to get a big turbo engine.... but then, with all the twists and curves that usually accompany such grades, who needs to go fast?

I just downshift to 3rd or even 2nd to get my RPMs up (to apply more power to the wheels) and drive at a lower speed (35 to 50 mph, depending) when going up mountains. If you want to go faster than your Vue could take you, better to get something other than an Outback. Check out the Ford Explorer Sport instead.
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Old 09-07-2013, 02:53 PM   #12
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Towing a trailer up the steep dirt road switchbacks and all weather performance for your ski trips I would want something with a 2 speed transfer case so you dont cook your tranny. Too bad they dont make the old Jeep Liberty any more it would have been just right for this application. We have one and its just the right size for hauling skiers and towing small trailers. With 4wd and 2 speed transfer case and automatic traction control it would go most anyplace you'd want to go. Mileage wasn't the greatest but typical for Jeep products.
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Old 09-07-2013, 02:57 PM   #13
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The ford explorer sport looks great. It's too expensive for me, I need something around $30,000. The subaru outback does come in v6 (3.6r). I am not certain if my VUE struggled or if it was me, I had never towed anything up that grade before. My leg was shaking so bad at one point I'm not sure if I kept pressure on the gas pedal...or if my leg was shaking so bad because the VUE was slowing to an almost stop at the steepest part of the road. The row of crosses where people died going off the cliff (no guard rails) to the valley 2,000 ft below did not help. Either way, I am going to make sure I have a safe vehicle and good brakes when I go back. The camp site is wonderful...just over 30 minutes drive from my driveway I can climb 2,000 feet and be in the cool mountain air! I just need to find a safe way to do that. Thanks for everyone's input. I wish I could find a vehicle that I can afford, tows well, good for snowy mountain passes and descent has milage. I will keep looking.
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Old 09-07-2013, 03:18 PM   #14
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The subaru outback does come in v6 (3.6r).
That Subaru engine has six cylinders, but they are not arranged in a vee - it's a flat-six, not a V6. This really doesn't matter, but if anyone is looking for information about this Subaru engine and searches for "V6" , they won't find it.

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I am not certain if my VUE struggled or if it was me, I had never towed anything up that grade before.
I've seen this before - people who think their vehicle is struggling or has inadequate performance, and they are not using even half of the available power. A Vue V6 (which has one of four different engines) has enough power... although more power is almost always nice to have, rationally it doesn't need it.
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