Another new user with Subaru towing dreams - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-06-2017, 06:13 AM   #1
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Name: Rob
Trailer: Shopping
North Carolina
Posts: 11
Another new user with Subaru towing dreams

Hey everyone. I've only been browsing these forums for a day but I'm already very happy to know theres a supportive community out here.

For a few years the wife and I have had a dream of being able to tow a small camper for some outdoor adventuring, and we're making plans to start this process next year. We'll be buying a new Subaru sometime soon, and although I've read plenty already about how they aren't ideal for towing, it's still the car for us. 95% of the time its going to be just a car, and for our needs its the most desirable thing on the market.

What we're looking for is a camper that doesn't break an Outback, and which will probably be used 3-4 weeks out of the year. I know the limitations of the new outback are 2700/200 tongue weight, or slightly more on the 3.6R. We haven't bought the car yet, so I'll definitely consider the more expensive engine if it will get us farther.

Right now while I'm just dreaming and haven't been forced into realism yet, I'm wondering what everyones suggestions might be for a 13'-16' camper with all the bells and whistles. I know compromises will come, but I also know my wife would happily pay a little bit more if we had a shower and toilet on the inside.

The laundry list:
- Under 2700/200 lbs loaded.
- Indoor shower/toilet
- Indoor stove
- Potential for AC/venting and heat
- Modular capability for an eventual family (beds for two kids). Right now its just us, but that will change soon
- Price under $20K, used or new

I know how annoying it is for a new user to show up on forums and ask questions that have already been answered multiple times, and I really appreciate everyones time and patience to help me. I've already read a few threads about the debates of safe towing with a Subaru, and know that the Scamp 13' and more debatable to pull Scamp 16' seem to be the favorites for lightweight amenities, but I also know that I know very little about this, and there are probably entire companies I haven't heard of yet.

From what I've been able to learn on my own, Scamps, Trilliums, and the T@B 320 teardrop camper all offer these amenities with configurations meeting the weight requirements, but I'd love to hear any and all recommendations for things that I haven't discovered or considered yet.

We won't be full-time users by any means, and I don't think we'll ever be using it more than a week at a time, so I'm okay with smaller beds, modular use, and cramped comforts if it means it all fits. We went around California with a minivan that had a cramped wood frame bed in the back and were happy, but I'd love to know it could also be just us and the trees. I like being in the kind of Outdoors where I hear more birds than top 40 hits from the campsite next to mine.

Thank you everyone for your time. We're very happy to be starting this new adventure.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:22 AM   #2
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Name: Jon
Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13 S1
Arizona
Posts: 5,352
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Welcome, Rob!

I think you already know the answer here. "All the bells and whistles" including indoor bath and eventual beds for kids is the sticker.

A Scamp 13 front bath will do everything you want, but only for 2, maybe 2-1/2, people. To keep the tongue weight under 200 pounds, you'll need to stick with one LP tank on the tongue. One member (towing with a Forester XT) rigged up a small child bunk over the main bed, but with number one outgrowing it in a hurry and number two on the way, they sold the trailer.

When the kids come, a Scamp 16 layout 4 checks all the boxes, including price, but it is simply not possible to keep the tongue weight (safely) to 200 pounds. To make matters worse, with kids you'll have more weight in the car, too. The kids themselves don't weigh much, but all the "support equipment" adds up.

I'm stuck, honestly. The bigger engine doesn't solve the tongue weight issue. You need a minimum 10% tongue weight for stable, sway-free towing, so you are limited to a 2000 pound travel trailer, i.e. a 13'er.

Happier Camper makes a "modular" 13' trailer, but it doesn't offer an indoor bath, just a porta-potty module. It also runs well over $20K equipped with the typical modules.

Subaru will introduce a new, larger model for 2018, the Ascent. I haven't heard if they've announced tow ratings yet, but that might be another possibility. Likely a pricey one, though. There are any number of other compact and midsize AWD crossovers that offer 3500/350 towing capacity. One of them would open up the 16' trailer class for you.

Alternatively, you can let go of the indoor bathroom, and a basic Scamp 13 with front bunks, at around $13K nicely equipped, will give you everything else and fit within the towing parameters of an Outback.

Something's gotta give.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:23 AM   #3
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Name: Eddie
Trailer: 2014 Escape 21
Virginia
Posts: 1,546
I own an Outback. The only in-production fiberglass campers you should consider towing is the Scamp 13 and the My Pod. The Outback is a good car but does not have the suspension or frame attachment points for the higher tongue weights. The engines are not the issue. You need to be looking at least 3.5 K towing capacity with a 350 lb. tongue weight capacity. At least you can tow a Scamp 16 with that. (But not a Casita 17.) 5K and 500 TW will handle most any medium sized Fiberglass trailer. It's really best to shop for vehicles that offered a factory tow package.

Eddie
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:48 AM   #4
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Name: Rob
Trailer: Shopping
North Carolina
Posts: 11
Thanks Eddie, Jon, for the quick and honest replies. I'm definitely not expecting the holy grail, so I'm glad for this opportunity to be cut down a little bit before I'm actually putting money down somewhere.

I've heard about Subaru reviving the Tribeca as the Ascent so that may be worth the wait. I also know there are other AWD midsize SUV's out there, but I'm stubborn in the fact that I know I'll appreciate a Subaru more. Fatalistic for this scenario, but I'd probably go three to the bed go outside with a tent to keep the combo a reality.

Does anyone know anything about the Travel Lite Express E15Q? It doesn't fit the fiberglass vision, but does seem to have features and appropriate weight. I can't find anything about tongue weight though. It's a shame there aren't more 15' options out there to help scrape under the requirements.
Travel Lite Express E15Q Travel Trailer
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Old 09-06-2017, 09:02 AM   #5
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Name: Mike
Trailer: 2018 Escape 21 (on order) & 2017 Jeep GC 5.7 (Sold 2012 Casita FD 17 & 2010 Audi Q5)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTs View Post
We'll be buying a new Subaru sometime soon, and although I've read plenty already about how they aren't ideal for towing, it's still the car for us. 95% of the time its going to be just a car, and for our needs its the most desirable thing on the market.
Rob,

This may be the most desirable car for you, but towing is a whole different world that only responds to the physics inherent in barreling down the road at speed with a heavy load effectively mounted on roller skates and tenuously connected to your tow vehicle.

There are a lot of safety and stability issues involved such as sway, the ability to maintain a safe speed on grades, proper front-to-rear vehicle weight distribution to maintain adequate braking ability, safe handling and proper head light alignment, and even the way a trailer wants to push the rear of the car sideways. Published towing capacities include consideration of braking and suspension characteristics, not just the engine size. These factors can all potentially impact both you and those around you on the road.

Published dry trailer weights don't include common accessories and options, nor all the "stuff" we bring along. The vehicle's cargo capacity is a critical consideration that is often neglected. Look for a thread here called "trailer weights in the real world". Learn about GVWR, GAWR and cargo carrying capacity.

You might possibly be able to safely tow a Weis Craft Little Joe with 1,100 dry weight and 180 lbs of tongue weight or similar under limited, favorable conditions if you manage your loading properly, but that's about it. However, if this is really the car for you, then I suggest looking into renting or borrowing an alternate tow vehicle for the other 5% of your time, or looking for a trailer that has about a 1,000 / 100-lb maximum published weights.

We started with a teardrop trailer and an AWD Passat Wagon. As we grew to love trailer travel, the perfect trailer and tow vehicle for us changed to accommodate our evolving interest and knowledge.

None of this is meant unkindly and I hope you will not take it as such. It's just that the fundamental physics and the practical side of all this just doesn't really care what we'd like, so it's best to embrace what it really takes to make it all work in order to provide for safe and enjoyable journeys.
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Old 09-06-2017, 10:11 AM   #6
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Name: Jim
Trailer: Burro
California
Posts: 25
Subaru

I have a 2016 Subaru Outback and I tow a 1983 Burro that weighs about 1450 pounds. To get the tongue weight to about 200 lbs I secure the propane tank inside the Burro when towing (and leave the battery on the tongue). I installed electric brakes on the Burro. So far I've had no problems towing with the Subaru (knock on wood). In place of a bathroom I have a porta potty (which I still haven't used, since bathrooms have always been close by in campgrounds) and in place of a shower I made a shower using a 1 gallon sprayer (to which I add warm water - works great) and a pop-up shower tent for privacy when needed. Good luck!
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Old 09-06-2017, 10:17 AM   #7
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Name: Pete
Trailer: Casita
Georgia
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My wife really loves her Subaru Outback, and we really love towing our Casita 17' with my K3500 long bed pickup. We will relegate the wear and tear of towing to the vehicle that was designed and built to tow and haul.
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Old 09-06-2017, 10:30 AM   #8
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Name: Paul
Trailer: Bonair
Ontario
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Hi Rob,

Welcome to the forum.

I don't have the same experience as the other members of this forum. I've only been towing a Bonair Oxygen for the last 4 years. I am responding because many of the points you raise were similar to my own thoughts four years ago.

The Bonair Oxygen is a rare trailer that has a toilet, sleeps four (two adults and two small children) and some are configured with a shower. Bonair went out of business in 2002 shortly after they started making the Oxygen. There are only 75 made but they do come up for sale from time to time. If you check out the Gallery and then choose View More, you can see pictures of the Oxygen. Most of the pictures are of mine.

My Oxygen weighs about 2700 lbs fully loaded with about 400 lbs on the tongue. The tongue weight is high because I carry 2 bicycles there. The trailer has an internal length of 16.5 feet and an overall length of 19 feet. For now it accomodates our family of four but it is tight.

My first tow vehicle was a Volkswagen Touareg TDI (diesel) rated to tow 7600 lbs with 760 lbs on tongue weight. You would hardly notice that the trailer was there under normal driving conditions.

I've had to park the Touareg due to the VW diesel scandel. I've replaced the Touareg with a lesser tow vehicle, a V6 Hyundai Santa Fe. The Santa Fe (not the smaller Sport model) is rated to tow 5000 lbs with 500 lbs on the tongue.

After towing the Oxygen with this vehicle up and down big hills in Northern Ontario in heavy rain and fog I can honestly say that this is the minimum vehicle class I want to tow something of this size and weight. I am looking into options to add weight distribution and rear suspension air bags to level out the Santa Fe. If I can't do this, I'll be looking at replacing the Santa Fe with a truck.

Many owners of fiberglass trailers have strong opinions of tow vehicles. Some say it's okay to tow with a vehicle close to the weight limits. Some say you should have double or more rated capacity to tow safely. Some recommend weight distribution and anti-sway. I think it all depends on your tollerance for risk.

In my short experience, towing is a risk. Based on the fact I have the most valuable people in the world with me on a vacation while towing, I want to minimize risk. I think you should not tow close to the limits, you should tow level, and you should drive at a reasonable speed staying away from other vehicles as much as possible. You should empty your water tanks before towing any great distance. You should pack your trailer with most of the weight as close to the trailer axel as possible. Minimize placing weight at the extreme front or back of the trailer - especially the back. I have found that suspension and wheelbase of the tow vehicle are actually more important to safe towing than the horsepower and torque provided by the engine.

This is just my current opinion based on my experience so far.

Good luck.
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Old 09-06-2017, 10:51 AM   #9
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Name: Jack
Trailer: 2015 Casita 17FD
Rapides Parish La.
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I truly don't mean to pop bubbles, step on toes or kill dreams BUT, everything civil guy said is doubly so...personally, I wouldn't tow anything bigger than a HarborFreight kit trailer with a Subie and would be leery of even that...The Subie is a great car but is truly not designed to tow anything down the hiway...you should really consider something more capable for your safety, the safety of others plus the longevity of the vehicle......
madjack

p.s. a nice teardrop, a tent and a potty tent with portapotti might work out for you...........mj
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Old 09-06-2017, 11:19 AM   #10
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Name: Tom
Trailer: Shopping
CO
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At least some Outbacks utilize a CVT, or Continuously Variable Transmission. Imagine steel belts on opposed cones, replacing the gear and chain on a bicycle.

I am neither a proponent or opponent of these. But, I am recommending that you become familiar with them, particularly for towing. Much as you might get to know a different engine, like a diesel or rotary. Come to think of it, don't Subaru's use a horizontally opposed engine? Just kidding.

Something else to ponder. Instead of a new Subaru, possibly a late model Van or SUV with larger capacity?
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Old 09-06-2017, 11:21 AM   #11
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Trailer: 2011 Escape 15A
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I tow an Escape 15A with a Subaru Forester (2012, tongue weight limit 200 lbs, weight limit 2400.) Trailer has brakes. I put a cargo rack on the back (keeping within the recommended limit for weight on the back hitch) to carry a few things, switched to 11 lb propane tanks on the front, and I'm at the weight limit. Works just fine, very stable. It was very slightly unstable (I tested it by making a sudden swerve to see if I could make it fishtail) the way the cargo rack originally fit but I shortened the hitch bar on it to put it 6" closer to the trailer and now it is like a rock.

Having said that- mine is a manual transmission which I think tows better, but some people have had problems with the hill holder and shifting with a trailer. I haven't but haven't tried starting on an uphill slope. It was a pain in the neck in stop and go traffic on slight hills. Also, someone else who was towing with an Outback reported a lot of repairs and ended up switching vehicles. I've only towed the Escape since October of 2016 (but have put about 2500 miles on it) and knock on wood no repairs yet.

I am actively looking at other vehicles, though, mainly because I don't like the tongue weight limitation. I weigh it before each trip (not difficult if you have a scale that can hit 300 lbs or so) and adjust if needed.

Also, my trailer is on the light side for its model as I don't have a bathroom or any water tanks (no sink) and no AC. One concern I would have if you go to the max an Outback is rated to tow is your % of weight on the tongue drops. I try to stick to about 10% although I haven't actually weighed the trailer, just calculated all the stuff I take. (Subaru says 8-11% for the Forester.) I also keep my speed down to the legal limit and reduce it for those yellow curve warning signs.

I do think you may have to give up on the bathroom to be able to have 4 person size and be light enough for towing with an Outback. I've looked at the Ascent (what's known now) and it just seems awfully big but for a growing family it makes more sense than it does for me.
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Old 09-06-2017, 11:26 AM   #12
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Name: Bobbie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madjack View Post
I truly don't mean to pop bubbles, step on toes or kill dreams BUT, everything civil guy said is doubly so...personally, I wouldn't tow anything bigger than a HarborFreight kit trailer with a Subie and would be leery of even that...The Subie is a great car but is truly not designed to tow anything down the hiway...you should really consider something more capable for your safety, the safety of others plus the longevity of the vehicle......
madjack

p.s. a nice teardrop, a tent and a potty tent with portapotti might work out for you...........mj
I towed a Campster for 8 years before getting the Escape and a sailboat before that. Forester 2000 and Forester 2012. The Campster weighs about 1000 lbs. As long as the tongue weight was high enough (about 100 lbs) I never had a problem. (Manual transmission.) I put a total of about 200K on the 2000 and quite a bit of that was towing before I passed the 2000 down to my daughter and bought the 2012. She drove it for five more years. The new Foresters are not designed for towing but the Outback is still very capable.
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Old 09-06-2017, 11:54 AM   #13
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Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13 S1
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Originally Posted by Bobbie Mayer View Post
...Also, someone else who was towing with an Outback reported a lot of repairs and ended up switching vehicles...
That was member Carol H. If she doesn't chime in here, you can look up her old posts regarding her experience towing a Scamp 16 layout 4 with a 2007 Outback. Her bottom line: great tow vehicle, but not for a 16' or larger trailer, which you can read for yourself in the "Tow Vehicle" section of her registry.
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Old 09-06-2017, 11:54 AM   #14
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Name: Dan
Trailer: in the market
Florida
Posts: 10
Hi Rob,

Welcome aboard.

My 2013 Outback happens to be for sale. We've used it as a daily driver and toad behind our motorhome.

Has the 6 speed manual transmission, trailer hitch installed, etc.

PM me if you might be interested in more information.

Thanks

Dan
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