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Old 02-11-2023, 08:00 AM   #1
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Name: Justus
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Any Real-Life Towing with Hybrid Sienna?

Hello everyone, I am back after two kids, a big move, a fixer upper of a house, and plenty more. Suffice to say I haven't even had time to think about camping over the past two years!

Due to the aforementioned kids, I've given up my spot in our normal vehicle upgrade rotation. Instead of a truck, we've placed a new AWD Sienna on order. I am planning to sell or trade in our 2015 Toyota Highlander, which has been nothing but reliable, but tends to be a bit thirsty as a daily kid transporter and my wife's lead foot.

Now that things have settled down enough for us to breath, we're thinking about traveling and camping again. I believe the Scamp 16' with side bath and front bunk option is our best bet to sleep 2 adults and 2 young kids. Either Deluxe Layout A/C or standard layout 4, with some modifications I will make to childproof the bunks. Although still not crazy about the rat fur, this offers the best layout at a weight the Sienna can handle (on paper) and a price I'm willing to pay, and should last us many years.

Has anyone actually towed a 16' Scamp, or any similar trailer, with a 2021 or newer Sienna? I have read many expert and owner reviews that the CVT whines loudly under heavy acceleration. Wonder what it sounds like under constant load of a trailer?
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Old 02-11-2023, 08:30 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Justus C View Post
Hello everyone, I am back after two kids, a big move, a fixer upper of a house, and plenty more. Suffice to say I haven't even had time to think about camping over the past two years!

Due to the aforementioned kids, I've given up my spot in our normal vehicle upgrade rotation. Instead of a truck, we've placed a new AWD Sienna on order. I am planning to sell or trade in our 2015 Toyota Highlander, which has been nothing but reliable, but tends to be a bit thirsty as a daily kid transporter and my wife's lead foot.

Now that things have settled down enough for us to breath, we're thinking about traveling and camping again. I believe the Scamp 16' with side bath and front bunk option is our best bet to sleep 2 adults and 2 young kids. Either Deluxe Layout A/C or standard layout 4, with some modifications I will make to childproof the bunks. Although still not crazy about the rat fur, this offers the best layout at a weight the Sienna can handle (on paper) and a price I'm willing to pay, and should last us many years.

Has anyone actually towed a 16' Scamp, or any similar trailer, with a 2021 or newer Sienna? I have read many expert and owner reviews that the CVT whines loudly under heavy acceleration. Wonder what it sounds like under constant load of a trailer?
I think you could buy a whole lot of gas for what you will pay for a new Sienna (plus interest if you finance). We're not paying CA gas prices, and I don't know how many miles you put on a vehicle for everyday driving, but I fear you may regret selling the Highlander.

Reviews I've read of the hybrid Sienna talk about droning noise, languid acceleration, and fuel economy below expectations. And that's not towing. With a 16'er you'll be towing around 80% of your rated capacity (a bit less for the standard, perhaps a little more for the deluxe). It's not encouraging. I'd opt for an Odyssey myself.

Congratulations on the life changes, BTW! Camping with kids is awesome, and it's sure easier with a trailer. We're sending our last one off to college this fall.
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Old 02-11-2023, 03:16 PM   #3
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Following this post. I currently tow a 16ft layout 4 (as you’ve described) Scamp with a 2007 Highlander Hybrid and never had any issues. I will consider purchasing another Highlander Hybrid when my car reaches 350,000 miles. Unfortunately Toyota is no longer making the V6 engine on HL’ers.
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Old 02-11-2023, 03:40 PM   #4
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Yes, no V-6. Bummed me out when I learned that. We have 112,000 miles on the 2018 so I think I’ll be good for a while yet. What I’m looking at is an all electric something for the 20 to 70 mile trips that make up 95 percent of my daily trips and using the Highlander for just camping trips. Time will tell . The 2018 has been good for us.
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Old 02-11-2023, 04:24 PM   #5
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That’s what we do, the Highlander for towing and the Kia e-Niro for commuting. It matches the Tesla for range, but is not as flashy, but we wanted a hatchback compact Small SUV without the Tesla invoice.
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Old 02-11-2023, 06:12 PM   #6
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We have a Prius prime, 25 to 30 miles of electric then 50 mpg. We tow are Bigfoot with a Ram 2500. The 21 c we had was a good match for the early Highlander, unfortunately we are in a heavier trailer for the long cross country trips (we lived in the new trailer for a month in Portland with a new granddaughter). We will be spending months away from home. Still my last tow was a 2004 f150, I’m getting the same mileage with the new Ram and a trailer that’s 1500 lbs heavier. Does the new Highlander come in a Turbo 4 without the Hybrid ? If so it might. Be a better Tow.
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Old 02-11-2023, 11:47 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
I think you could buy a whole lot of gas for what you will pay for a new Sienna (plus interest if you finance). We're not paying CA gas prices, and I don't know how many miles you put on a vehicle for everyday driving, but I fear you may regret selling the Highlander.

Reviews I've read of the hybrid Sienna talk about droning noise, languid acceleration, and fuel economy below expectations. And that's not towing. With a 16'er you'll be towing around 80% of your rated capacity (a bit less for the standard, perhaps a little more for the deluxe). It's not encouraging. I'd opt for an Odyssey myself.

Congratulations on the life changes, BTW! Camping with kids is awesome, and it's sure easier with a trailer. We're sending our last one off to college this fall.
I remember camping with my parents as far back as I have a memory. It was always tent camping and it was always an adventure! My dad always wanted to get a trailer but we'd have been limited to a popup and I guess that didn't sit well with him. But I attribute my love of nature partially to that upbringing and want our kids to get the same exposure.

From a strictly financial standpoint, it does make sense to drive our current vehicles into the ground. But it's more than just fuel economy driving the switch. It was fantastic when it was just the two of us, but now we're ready for something more suited to young children. The middle bench seat, cramped third row, and limited storage space just make this a subpar option for moving friends and family in addition to the 4 of us.

It's really between the Sienna and Odyssey right now. I estimate my 10-yr cost of ownership between a new Odyssey and new Sienna to favor the Sienna by several $thousand, growing proportionally with gas prices. If used prices continue trending downward, the Odyssey may be back on the table. I'd be towing at 80% of the Odyssey rating as well, the only difference being I instinctively know it will perform better under load than a similar-sized vehicle with a smaller 4-cyl engine. I'm mainly curious in how much better. Maybe the higher ownership cost of the Odyssey is offset by its better towing characteristics.

In lieu of evidence of the Sienna being a suitable TV, I'm not going to risk destroying it's transmission or endangering anyone trying to make the grades out of San Diego. If the choice ends up being the Sienna, then maybe the smartest thing to do is tent camp or rent a Class C when we're able to get away for more than a weekend. That takes away the "guest room" we'd hoped to have at home on account of the Scamp, but we're buying a vehicle to haul kids around 99% of the time and I want it to be ideal for that purpose, not for towing a trailer that we'll maybe use on the odd long weekend.

It's hard to justify a third vehicle at this point just for camping, so we'll either trade in our Highlander or our Altima. The Altima, with almost 100k miles on it, is getting long in the tooth and may be due to be swapped out, but as my daily commuter it still gets high 20s combined MPG and costs a good bit less than the Highlander to insure and maintain. Its trade-in value is substantially lower than the Highlander's. I'd like to get another 5 years out of it before moving up to a mid-size truck and a mfg 5th wheel.
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Old 02-12-2023, 06:57 AM   #8
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^^^ Sounds as if this isn't the right time for you to buy a trailer. Your kids will probably enjoy tent camping as much as you did!
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Old 02-12-2023, 07:01 AM   #9
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Justus, FYI, Totota has announced a new, larger 'Grand Highlander':

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Revealed: No More Tight Third Row

https://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/...ter-02–08-2023

And of course there's the Sequoia.

When we had kids, I preferred full-size vans (Chevy/GMC). But that's just me.
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Old 02-12-2023, 07:36 PM   #10
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Justus, FYI, Totota has announced a new, larger 'Grand Highlander':

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Revealed: No More Tight Third Row

https://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/...ter-02–08-2023

And of course there's the Sequoia.

When we had kids, I preferred full-size vans (Chevy/GMC). But that's just me.
We had a Savanna briefly growing up. Used it on one long trip and after that it got traded in for a Chrysler Town & Country. My dad hated the handling and even back then thought he was spending too much on gas. I asked my wife if she was interested in a Mercedes, but she lost interested when I told her it would be Sprinter...Even less enthused with the idea of a Transit and having spent many hours riding in Transits, can't say I disagree with that one.

I've seen mentions of the Grand Highlander before but you got me to do a little bit more looking. Interested to see pricing of this now, as it might fit the bill! There's something to be said for sliding doors, but that's a tradeoff I'll make to keep a 5,000 lbs tow rating and better ground clearance. Thanks for the tip!
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Old 02-15-2023, 11:33 AM   #11
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Just an FYI - I towed my 16' Scamp with my Odyssey until the transmission went out. and it was just for short trips to dog shows. Then Honda told me that the Odyssey was not rated to tow it - not what it said in literature nor what the salesman told me. So now we have a Pilot which seems to do fine. But I sure miss the extra space inside the Odyssey with the middle seats out!!
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Old 02-15-2023, 05:16 PM   #12
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Just an FYI - I towed my 16' Scamp with my Odyssey until the transmission went out. and it was just for short trips to dog shows. Then Honda told me that the Odyssey was not rated to tow it - not what it said in literature nor what the salesman told me. So now we have a Pilot which seems to do fine. But I sure miss the extra space inside the Odyssey with the middle seats out!!
You didn’t mention the year of your Odyssey. Early years were notorious for transmission failures. Starting 2005 (I think) the Odyssey got the same, more robust 5-speed transmission used in the Pilot. That seems to have fixed the problem.

Since then they’ve gone through a number of transmission changes in both the Pilot and the Odyssey, including a 6-speed, a 9-speed, and now a 10-speed. There have been a few software hiccups, but nothing major I’ve heard about. I’m not a fan of the latest push-button selector, but I’d probably get used to it over time.
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Old 02-16-2023, 01:12 PM   #13
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I find the "rat fur" to be very functional. I see the comment about staining it. Now I havea 1993, but it has probably not changed a lot. It is kind of hard to damage and I have ended up getting stuff on it and have simply cleaned it with an upholstery cleaner and that worked great. The kid did some "art work" which was removed that way. Very few camper walls will put up with all of this.


As for child proofing. What ages are the kids? Always somewhat hard to child proof a small multi-use space. One thing to think about, someone managed to lock the bathroom shower room door, and was unable to unlock it. That mean actually doing some damage to get her out.
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Old 02-16-2023, 09:15 PM   #14
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Yes - my Odyssey was a 2005.
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Old 02-16-2023, 09:19 PM   #15
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I find the "rat fur" to be very functional. I see the comment about staining it. Now I havea 1993, but it has probably not changed a lot. It is kind of hard to damage and I have ended up getting stuff on it and have simply cleaned it with an upholstery cleaner and that worked great. The kid did some "art work" which was removed that way. Very few camper walls will put up with all of this.


As for child proofing. What ages are the kids? Always somewhat hard to child proof a small multi-use space. One thing to think about, someone managed to lock the bathroom shower room door, and was unable to unlock it. That mean actually doing some damage to get her out.
They will be 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 by the time we would get around to camping. Good catch on the lock, I would just remove that, and always carry outside door keys on me. Mainly I was thinking about the sleeping situation. I saw another owner make a bed rail for the top bunk and crib front for the bottom bunk. All removable in a few years, with holes to be patched with wood filler or epoxy as appropriate.
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Old 02-16-2023, 10:49 PM   #16
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When the question of going electric or hybrid comes up, I like to ask, "How much do you drive?" The average US car is driven one hour a day, so it sits parked 95% of its life. We trailer owners may rack up more miles and more hours than an average commuter, or we may not. If you're an environmentalist like me, you want to do your part. But can we really save the earth with a device that's actually used so little? If I did the math, I think you'd get a bigger eco- or financial benefit by installing solar PV on your home, or even upgrading an older system like mine. They'll be on the job for at last 8-12 hours per day, every sunny day.

What's the right answer to my question? Below 8K miles/yr, I'd say drive whatever you want. Around 10K and up and you might want to choose a hybrid. The EVs ought to go to those who drive 25k a year and up, in a perfect world. They won't do any world-saving sitting in your garage!
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Old 02-17-2023, 07:11 AM   #17
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They will be 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 by the time we would get around to camping. Good catch on the lock, I would just remove that, and always carry outside door keys on me. Mainly I was thinking about the sleeping situation. I saw another owner make a bed rail for the top bunk and crib front for the bottom bunk. All removable in a few years, with holes to be patched with wood filler or epoxy as appropriate.
You’ll want to keep some kind of rail on the upper bunk even for older kids. Ours were 6 and 9 when we started out, so a single rail attached to the top of the support posts was sufficient. The older is petite and used the upper bunk into her teens.

I’m sure you’ll want something more robust for your toddlers. Use the google search at the top of the page on “bunk rail” and you should turn up lots of ideas in old threads.

I wish we had started when ours were that young! We tried tent camping, but my wife was just not a camper. It wasn’t until years later we decided to try again with the Scamp, and oh, the difference it made!
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Old 02-17-2023, 07:55 AM   #18
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They will be 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 by the time we would get around to camping. Good catch on the lock, I would just remove that, and always carry outside door keys on me. Mainly I was thinking about the sleeping situation. I saw another owner make a bed rail for the top bunk and crib front for the bottom bunk. All removable in a few years, with holes to be patched with wood filler or epoxy as appropriate.

Not the outside door, the shower door. And Yeah the replacement door latch had no lock ;-) The old one could have had the lock removed with a good set of wire cutters. But That was what I ended up cutting up to get the 5 year old out of the bathroom. Then she would not let loose of me for the rest of the day. ;-)



With that ages, I have seen someone who had been camping in a scamp for a while with preschoolers. Two will fit in the lower bunk. Then he put the bunk up and used the top one when camping for storage. Then he used a pickup bed net (it was one with small net holes) between the two bunks. I know the top connection was actually heavy duty velcro. Not sure about the bottom one. But I do remember that the net went under the bed and then was from what they said was attached to a piece of plywood that was the side of the dinky mattress. And the mattresses are dinky. ;-)



I was looking at it because I was camping at the same location (Midwest old threshers) They had been doing this with kids about your age bracket from when the younger one was crawling well. But the older one was now 8 and they were not really fitting any more and the issue was not bed safety. Neither was going to be accidentally exiting the bed. But it was how to get the older one into the top bunk. So they could could have her use it. They had already found out what I did about a kid and the top bunk. As shipped, the kid has to be lifted in and out of the top bunk. I can tell you from experience that gets old really really fast.


I had one and ds used the very designed of the scamp as most of my "child proofing". Put a night light powered from the battery on the under side of the bulk above the lower bunk. Do remember the night light. ;-) Yes I am good with wiring and etc. Then I had an old padded foot stool that was also storage. I put that halfway across the bottom so that there was a about a foot and a half gap between the bathroom/shower door. That made a nice cubby hole that the kid could get in and out of and could sleep in. The side of the bathroom/shower made the side rail.


Do remember with any design that you will need to lower the top bunk for travel. You can't use the support polls while in motion.
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Old 02-17-2023, 08:33 AM   #19
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I wish we had started when ours were that young! We tried tent camping, but my wife was just not a camper. It wasn’t until years later we decided to try again with the Scamp, and oh, the difference it made!

I hav e done a lot of tent camping. Still tent camp some where the camper will not work. End up having to tent camp in the back yard somewhat. Kids are sure that a tent in the backyard is the place to sleep in the summer. ;-)

I find the big difference is not what at least most people say. I can setup to be pretty comfortable in a tent. But that takes a lot more prep work and a lot more work right before you leave. And then it is a massive amount of work when you get back. A camper is a separate unit. It stays ready. The pretrip work can be done ahead of time. When you get home you can secure the situation that relates to wet things and things that have to stay cold. (But you can leave the frig on ;-) ) Then deal with the rest days later.

I am also operational out of my camper both for work and volunteer work in disaster/incident response. It is ready to go. I keep a seperate set of things in the camper so it takes about 15 minutes from the "we needed you hear yesterday" till I roll out. Well usually an hour and a half because most of the time I also need to take water and bleach and filling takes that long.
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Old 02-17-2023, 08:39 AM   #20
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PS for the night light for the kid I have some 12 volt embedded LEDs in the "ceiling". They are very low power very low light ones. They are "stars" and we have the big and little dipper. And I was able to have her do a lot of the work. It was even her first time with a soldering iron. OK adult reality. I had everything setup and was holding the soldering iron and applied the solder. So really it was me soldering them more or less as normal, but with her hand on the iron. But her reality she "soldered all the stars" and as you can tell from the quotes years later she will still tell anyone who is looking at this that she did the soldering.
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