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Old 11-09-2018, 05:17 PM   #1
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Escape
Washington
Posts: 18
Greetings, this is Michael with "The Plan"

I have been a lifelong tent camper and backpacker. I have hated the idea of large RV's (hard to drive around, might need a car along with it, etc) but my spouse and I have been entertaining the thought of a small (15' ish) trailer in our "Someday" list. "Someday" needs to be prepared for as our current vehicles need to be replaced soon.

Our 2003 Toyota Sienna has about 175,000 miles on it and I am looking to replace it in the next few years with an SUV having tow package (we don't have one on our Sienna). We have older family members and kids, so we REALLY want an SUV/Van/Crossover and not a truck. After this point we would look into buying a trailer. I am interested in 2 major styles. Molded Fiberglass like Scamp/Casita and hard sided A frame pop ups like Aliner and Chalet. The Fiberglass seem to hold their value well and stand up to a lot of use. The A frames are light and easy to tow.

But in the MEANTIME, I have had an idea. I was thinking of getting a transmission cooler and tow hitch for my Sienna and RENTING (Where Possible) some of the trailers I would be interested in buying. Within a few hours of us there are several bolers/scamps to rent and I would be very interested in seeing how both the 13' and 16' feel. Each time I rent I would likely be towing the trailer for 200 miles or less roundtrip . I figure if I rent 2-3 times per year over the next 3 years I will still put less than 2000 miles of towing on the Sienna so hopefully it would not be a tremendous strain on the "converted" sienna to haul 100 miles or less at a time about 15-20 times in the next 2-3 years.

Well, that is "THE PLAN". Convert, rent, and a couple years from now buy a new tow vehicle. After that keep an eye open for the type of trailer we most liked - or perhaps even look at ordering if we come across something we really love and suspect we would use for a long time. Comments or thoughts on the plan - especially how much/far you suspect my after market tow conversion might work are appreciated. But the van is old enough and not worth that much so I may just try it anyway even if many people think it's not a great idea...

MB
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Old 11-09-2018, 06:06 PM   #2
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Name: Gordon
Trailer: 2015 Scamp (16 Std Layout 4) with '15 Toyota Sienna LE Tug
North Carolina
Posts: 5,136
I tow a Scamp 16 with a 2015 Sienna (with no back seats). There were some changes made in this generation that made it better for towing than the previous generation. It does well for the most part but took a good amount of effort to wire up for towing. The tow package is not an option but standard and does give it a 3500 lbs rating (figure 2600-2800 lb limit to be practical). However it needs more and Toyota will not support, endorse or authorize any of the equipment you need to tow a camper. It has plenty of power for the Scamp 16 on the eastern half of the US. Clearance on the hitch is low and I have hit bottom twice. Front wheel drive is fine most of the time but its best to load the van so the weight is not all at the back, and even then some slippage under some conditions can happen.

As far as molded fiberglass campers, go to a rally if you can (see link in the forum). Also call the various manufactures and ask for local owners who will show their rigs. Once you have an idea what trailer you want, you are in a better position to buy a new vehicle to pull it. And in about 18 months, my Sienna might be for sale.. all ready to hook up and tow.

Molded fiberglass camper rental (Scamp, Casita, etc) are few and far between but maybe you can find some.
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Old 11-09-2018, 06:33 PM   #3
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Name: Shelby
Trailer: Casita SD
Tennessee
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Is it possible to rent an appropriate tow vehicle when needed? You are thinking of putting hundreds of dollars into abusing an older vehicle that you are hoping to nurse along for another few years. Some items like the brake controller may transfer to your new vehicle but....
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Old 11-09-2018, 08:38 PM   #4
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Name: Jon
Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13 S1
Arizona
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Greetings, this is Michael with "The Plan"

We started towing our Scamp 13 with a 2000 Sienna, no tow prep package, Class I hitch, similar mileage. I would not go any bigger than 13'. The tow rating is 2000# and that's about right. How many people are you traveling with? More people means less trailer.

Great vehicle, one of the best I've ever owned, but at the time we decided it made more sense to start over with a newer vehicle rather than put money into the Sienna for brakes, ATF cooler,, upgraded hitch and wiring, and a few other non-towing repairs. We found a lightly used Pilot with a 3500# tow rating.
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Old 11-10-2018, 02:53 AM   #5
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Trailer: Escape 21, behind an '02 F250 7.3 diesel tug
Mid Left Coast
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175000 miles on a toyota sienna is really not that high mileage, as long as service has been kept up with and there's nothing obviously wrong with it... most of my vehicles in the past 10-15 years have ended up with way over 250000 miles and still in good solid shape, yes, I do maintain them to a reasonable standard. my current daily is a 1993 Mercedes 300CE convertible with 260,000 miles, my wife's daily driver is a 1994 Mercedes E320 wagon with 280,000 miles, and my tow truck is a 2002 f250 diesel with 250,000 miles, all these are totally reliable solid cars.
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Old 11-10-2018, 04:52 AM   #6
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Trailer: Boler 13 ft
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Originally Posted by ShelbyM View Post
Is it possible to rent an appropriate tow vehicle when needed? You are thinking of putting hundreds of dollars into abusing an older vehicle that you are hoping to nurse along for another few years. Some items like the brake controller may transfer to your new vehicle but....
HMMM, interesting, we are thinking of a cross country trip next summer and I am in the same situation.
I will need a new tow vehicle or...…
I was thinking the same thing.
Does anybody know if any establishment will rent out a tow vehicle for say 3 months?
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Old 11-10-2018, 05:51 AM   #7
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Trailer: Escape 21, behind an '02 F250 7.3 diesel tug
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one vacation when we were between campers, we rented a uhaul e250 van. there were just the two of us. we slept in a REI Kingdom tent with a queen airbed, and were remarkably comfortable for tenting we put up 2 10x10 popups over the tent, and ran sloped tarps from the awings to the ground on the windward and sunset-ward west side...




the E250 carried all this, all my astronomy equipment, 5 gallon water bottle, 5 gallon gas can, a 2KVA inverter generator, and really wasn't even 1/4 full or 1/2 GVWR. it drove and rode surprisingly well (we'd previously had a E150 van, so we had a baseline, the 2013 E250 was a way better van)
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Old 11-10-2018, 06:07 AM   #8
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Name: Jon
Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13 S1
Arizona
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I agree, John. A well-maintained Sienna should have plenty of good miles left. The question mark in my mind, since I didn't attempt it, is whether the ATF cooler alone will suffice to pull a larger trailer.

Without the factory tow prep package, the rating is 2000#, and mine had some issues even with an under-2000# Scamp 13 in demanding conditions. The transmission overheated on a long grade against a headwind on a hot day. Sensors caught the overheating transmission, putting the vehicle into limp mode before catastrophic damage occurred. After a 30 minute cool-down we were able to continue to our destination. An ATF service showed slight discoloration. The engine temp gauge didn't rise at all.

With the tow prep package the rating goes up to 3500#. The content, I believe, includes upgraded engine and transmission cooling, along with a larger alternator. The alternator shouldn't be a problem if you don't run a charge line, the ATF cooler is a straightforward addition, but I don't think you can easily upgrade engine cooling. That may or may not matter. I don't know.

With the addition of an ATF cooler, the vehicle should do fine with a 13' molded trailer or smaller a-frame, but I'd be concerned about a larger trailer of either type, especially since the OP mentions kids and older adults. You can't fill up the seats on a minivan and expect to tow the full rated trailer (and beyond in this case).
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Old 11-10-2018, 10:33 AM   #9
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Greetings, this is Michael with "The Plan"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerry View Post
HMMM, interesting, we are thinking of a cross country trip next summer and I am in the same situation.

I will need a new tow vehicle or...…

I was thinking the same thing.

Does anybody know if any establishment will rent out a tow vehicle for say 3 months?


Enterprise Truck Rental
Not the car rental different offerings but still Enterprise!

I rented this one for a few weeks over the summer

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They pretty much have anything you want
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Old 11-10-2018, 10:54 AM   #10
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Name: Claire
Trailer: 1978 Trillium 4500
British Columbia
Posts: 316
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Hi Michael,

We had a 01 or 02 Sienna. bought it used. We had a hitch and a transmission cooler installed. We (2 adults and 2 children) towed a very old and heavy tent trailer from Victoria, BC through the mountains to northern BC and back. Then we bought a 1500 lb tent trailer and towed it to PEI and back (2 adults and 2 children). We were told to have the transmission flushed in PEI, and when we got home again.
Then we bought our 15' Trillium that weighs in around 2200 lbs. We (2 adults) towed that down to California and back, then did a north western National Park tour - Cascades to Glacier, Yellowstone, Arches, Bryce,and Zion, out to the coast and home. Lots of mountain passes on that trip.

Then, with 300,000 plus km on the odometer, we, again 2 adults, drove up to Alaska. Unfortunately, that killed her. But, she did not die on the side of the road. She made it almost 1000 km on less than 5 cylinders, cause we had to. So they are a tough vehicle. We loved the fact that we could store things inside out of site. With out the back seats there was a lot of storage room. We now drive a Tacoma, but miss the Sienna.
As you can see, your plan is very do able, esp. as you are not planning on going very far.
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Old 11-10-2018, 11:51 AM   #11
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Name: Gayle
Trailer: Casita Spirit Deluxe
Illinois
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We have a 2005 Sienna XLE that we towed a 17’ Casita Deluxe to Florida and back to Chicago. The Casita came with a load distributing hitch. The van came standard with towing package in gen2 Sienna. I added a class 2 hitch from e-trailer.com. I wired up a Techumseh brake controller starting with instructions from e-trailer.com but did it with all the wires running inside the van instead of under it in the weather. The van towed O.K. as long as you don’t expect to be flying by anyone on the highway. Toyota says to use fourth gear instead of D and keep your speed under 55mph. We did 60 anyway, where it ran at 2600rpm. We got 14 miles per gal. The load distributing hitch helped with the low clearance issue but it wasn’t completely satisfactory. So I add air springs from airliftcompany.com. These made all the difference to level the van. We’ve gone to Minnesota and driven around Lake Michigan. No problems. Just slow down on long grades and let it shift down to keep it under 3500rpm or so. All that said, we decided to buy a Subaru Ascent for its 5000 lb tow rating. Also, the van has 200,000 miles on it. It’s in really good shape considering and has new tires, radiator, and brakes this year and I replaced the headlamp assemblies so they aren’t fogged up. It’s for sale��
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Old 11-10-2018, 12:37 PM   #12
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Name: Glenn
Trailer: 2009 Escape 17B
British Columbia
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Originally Posted by GayleBooth View Post
I added a class 2 hitch from e-trailer.com.

You should have had a Class 3 hitch receiver for weight distribution hitch.
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Old 11-10-2018, 12:58 PM   #13
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Escape
Washington
Posts: 18
Thanks for the input all - Especially Island Claire, Jon in AZ and everyone else who uses a Sienna - especially without a tow package.

There are a few 13' Bolers/Scamps to rent in Washington state according to Outdoorsy. and while I HAVE thought about renting trucks to tow a trailer, it adds another layer of expense and hassle that I would like to avoid.

If I attempt to tow a 16' Scamp (there is one listed for rent in Western Washington) It could be arranged that only 2 adults (and MAYBE one child) would be on that particular trip. We could take the 16' to the seaside and a campground with potable water and take minimal gear (I do a lot of backpacking so I have a bunch of minimalist gear). This would remove long inclines and water weight, keeping the trailer as close to dry weight as possible.

As I was saying I don't think I want a Sienna without a tow package to be our final tow vehicle, Our selection of Tow Vehicle may depend on what we like and what we feel we can live with and how we feel about towing 13' vs 16' or 17'. Likely candidates are a Ford Escape or Toyota Highlander (with Tow package)

The OTHER part of the plan is to have an electric car for running around town, but that belongs in a different forum...
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Old 11-10-2018, 02:12 PM   #14
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Name: Gayle
Trailer: Casita Spirit Deluxe
Illinois
Posts: 7
Thanks Glen. Sorry, my mistake. Our hitch is Class 3 for the weight distribution hitch.
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Old 11-17-2018, 12:56 PM   #15
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Name: Nolan
Trailer: Boler 13ft 1972
British Columbia
Posts: 37
Hi Michael. Good plan. We did a 10000km road trip incl mountain passes with a mazda 5. Search the forums for towing with a mazda 5. Tranny cooler and smart driving saw us right towing 1600lb boler. But we had manual option on out gearbox. Auto mode would not have worked. But with a sienna maybe it will as its all about how much torque you have in highest gear.
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Old 11-17-2018, 01:12 PM   #16
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Name: Nick
Trailer: Escape 17B
Vermont
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So Michael,

I have a more basic question for you. Why are you considering a trailer rather than increasing your car camping capability? If you are sold on a camper, we have a trailer brand you might want to consider, made just a few hours North of you in BC, but we still use our tent camping set up as it allows us to be much more adventurous. We use the camper during the winter and when bugs are a problem.
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Old 11-17-2018, 03:21 PM   #17
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Name: Mike
Trailer: Escape 21 & Jeep GC 5.7 (Previous 2012 Casita FD17 & 2010 Audi Q5)
Puget Sound, WA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbtigger View Post
I am interested in 2 major styles. Molded Fiberglass like Scamp/Casita and hard sided A frame pop ups like Aliner and Chalet. The Fiberglass seem to hold their value well and stand up to a lot of use. The A frames are light and easy to tow.

<snip>

Well, that is "THE PLAN". Convert, rent, and a couple years from now buy a new tow vehicle. After that keep an eye open for the type of trailer we most liked - or perhaps even look at ordering if we come across something we really love and suspect we would use for a long time. Comments or thoughts on the plan - especially how much/far you suspect my after market tow conversion might work are appreciated. But the van is old enough and not worth that much so I may just try it anyway even if many people think it's not a great idea...

MB
Michael,

Welcome to the forum. In brief, I like "the plan".

I was pretty taken with the A-frame trailers. I especially like how they can be towed with much lower wind resistance, and the sense of airiness inside with their "cathedral" ceilings. In the end, several things drew us away from them. One was seeing the countertop edging and "wallpaper" type finish materials peeling when we looked at new ones on the dealer's lot in Tacoma. Another, albeit relatively minor, was concerns with keeping them sealed up from the rain. Most importantly, we found over time that we had ambitions to go further and longer and that we would be happier and more comfortable in a larger trailer. Our choice "grew" into our current trailer and tow vehicle over the course of several years and several trailers.

However, this is us, with one foot into retirement, and you probably have much different needs, interests and tastes. So, you will be best served by exploring options that suit your family, and that's exactly what you propose to do.

Regarding the Sienna, one factor to consider is the service conditions. If you are going to drive from Puget Sound out to the coast, that would be pretty light duty as compared to leading the pack over I-90 at 3:00 PM in July. Your needs and choices in terms of how much you tow and the road & weather conditions will have a lot to do with how much stress is placed on your tow vehicle.

Provided you feel the investment in getting the Sienna set up for towing is worth it for two or three years of service, I think that one of your greatest exposures to risk is the transmission, particularly as they can be so expensive to swap or repair. I think an engine that has enjoyed regular oil changes has much less exposure to any severe internal mechanical damage. However, it would be good to evaluate the "bolt-ons" such as water pump and alternator along with belts, hoses and whatnot.

I don't know if you can monitor the transmission temperatures while towing; this can apparently be done on some vehicles through tools that plug into the onboard diagnostics port. Perhaps a Toyota forum could provide some guidance regarding others' experience.

In general, I like the measured approach you describe. While there are some attendant risks, I think they can be managed acceptably, and this approach would give you the time to gain experience and make the best choices for what can quickly become a pretty expensive hobby. It sounds like you might be fairly close to GoGo camper where you could check out a pretty broad variety of their trailers, something I wish in retrospect that we had done.
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Old 11-17-2018, 08:25 PM   #18
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: Titanium
Alberta
Posts: 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbtigger View Post
I have been a lifelong tent camper and backpacker. I have hated the idea of large RV's (hard to drive around, might need a car along with it, etc) but my spouse and I have been entertaining the thought of a small (15' ish) trailer in our "Someday" list. "Someday" needs to be prepared for as our current vehicles need to be replaced soon.

Our 2003 Toyota Sienna has about 175,000 miles on it and I am looking to replace it in the next few years with an SUV having tow package (we don't have one on our Sienna). We have older family members and kids, so we REALLY want an SUV/Van/Crossover and not a truck. After this point we would look into buying a trailer. I am interested in 2 major styles. Molded Fiberglass like Scamp/Casita and hard sided A frame pop ups like Aliner and Chalet. The Fiberglass seem to hold their value well and stand up to a lot of use. The A frames are light and easy to tow.

But in the MEANTIME, I have had an idea. I was thinking of getting a transmission cooler and tow hitch for my Sienna and RENTING (Where Possible) some of the trailers I would be interested in buying. Within a few hours of us there are several bolers/scamps to rent and I would be very interested in seeing how both the 13' and 16' feel. Each time I rent I would likely be towing the trailer for 200 miles or less roundtrip . I figure if I rent 2-3 times per year over the next 3 years I will still put less than 2000 miles of towing on the Sienna so hopefully it would not be a tremendous strain on the "converted" sienna to haul 100 miles or less at a time about 15-20 times in the next 2-3 years.

Well, that is "THE PLAN". Convert, rent, and a couple years from now buy a new tow vehicle. After that keep an eye open for the type of trailer we most liked - or perhaps even look at ordering if we come across something we really love and suspect we would use for a long time. Comments or thoughts on the plan - especially how much/far you suspect my after market tow conversion might work are appreciated. But the van is old enough and not worth that much so I may just try it anyway even if many people think it's not a great idea...

MB
For peace of mind on a holiday, the last thing you want is to be worrying every step of the journey. Always get a step above what you need. Transmission. Suspension. Braking. Everything needs to be worry free. You get the best safety, and with that you save on gas mileage.

Gerry Bast
Finished Bizness Inc
The Little Camper Painter
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Old 11-18-2018, 10:44 AM   #19
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Name: Mike & Gail
Trailer: 2015 Casita 17' LD
Loveland, CO
Posts: 3
Take a look at Scan Gauge 2 ($169) to monitor Transmission Temp (plus other stuff). It plugs into the OBD port under the dashboard, and sticks on the dash.
https://www.scangauge.com/products/scangauge-ii/
I towed a Little Guy 6' wide teardrop with a 2016 Sienna without a tow package. It lets me see when the transmission is starting to get too hot so I can slow down, downshift, or pull over.
160 to 200 degrees is normal, over 200 to 230, I do something about it.
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Old 12-02-2018, 08:03 AM   #20
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Name: Ginny
Trailer: Escape
Alaska
Posts: 112
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilcamperpainter View Post
For peace of mind on a holiday, the last thing you want is to be worrying every step of the journey. Always get a step above what you need. Transmission. Suspension. Braking. Everything needs to be worry free. You get the best safety, and with that you save on gas mileage.

Gerry Bast
Finished Bizness Inc
The Little Camper Painter


We happily pulled our 13’ Scamp with a Sienna but we knew we wanted a bigger camper when we retired. We moved up to a Highlander and, if you can afford to give up some gas mileage, it’s a great choice. Much more powerful engine and it tows like champ. Comfortable ride, too.
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