Hitch weight is the amount of weight a travel trailer’s tongue places on the hitch it is mounted to. Any individual who is contemplating buying a camper should be aware of the weight of the camper and the towing capabilities of their tow vehicle. You will see many weight figures on a camper such as gross dry weight, axle weight, cargo carrying capacity weight, gross vehicle weight and hitch weight. Often the hitch weight is overlooked and more attention is paid to the gross vehicle weight rating. Although the GVWR is an important number to look at, the hitch weight is just as important.
So how does hitch weight affect the tow vehicle? Well, as mentioned above this is the amount of weight which is transferred from the camper’s tongue to the tow vehicle’s hitch since the tongue of the camper is attached to the hitch on a ball mount. Since the hitch is attached to the frame of the tow vehicle, this additional weight will load down the back of the tow vehicle causing not enough weight to be on the front axle of the tow vehicle. When this happens, the rear axle takes on the burden of not only the tongue weight of the camper, but additional weight of the vehicle since it is sagging in the back and not enough weight is on the front axle. If you don’t have enough weight on the front axle of the tow vehicle, it can hinder steering, decrease your vehicle’s performance, you lose traction, and it can make stopping much more difficult (especially when you have the heavy load of the trailer behind you). This is why hitch weight is so important to understand.
Obviously, safety comes first whenever towing a camper, so make sure the tongue weight is not too much for your tow vehicle to handle. One addition that can also help with hitch weight is a special hitch called a weight distribution hitch. This type of hitch has spring bars, or equalizing bars, in it which allows leverage between your vehicle and the camper, subsequently dispersing some of the weight off the back axle to the axles of the camper as well as the front axle of the vehicle. This allows for a “leveling out” of the tow vehicle which can mitigate some of the problems you will see without this type of hitch. A sway control accessory is also a nice addition which can reduce the sway of the camper.
Talk to a salesperson at ExploreUSA RV Supercenter to see if a weight distribution hitch is needed, and if so, how much of a weight rating you will need on this hitch as they come in different weight ratings. Special scales are also available which can measure the hitch weight. Getting out and camping is all about having fun in the outdoors with friends and family, but the most important thing is getting there safely. Understand the limitations of your tow vehicle and find a camper that weighs an appropriate amount, but don’t forget the little things like these hitches which can improve safety.