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Old 08-18-2020, 09:57 AM   #1
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2020 23' International
Evergreen , Colorado
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Towing an Airstream with a 1/2 ton truck

Hello all,

This is my first post, and I'm sure this topic has been discussed over and over. I'm in the process of reading and researching the topic here and elsewhere, but I thought I'd make a post and get some from real world advice from people with experience.

My wife and I are considering an Airstream purchase, and I'm trying to balance the size of the trailer to our needs and desires, and also to the size of our truck. Based on our needs and thoughts for the trailer, we are leaning towards a trailer in the 23 foot range. In particular, the Globetrotter 23FB. This trailer has a GVWR of 6,300 lbs, a base weight of 5,297 lbs. with tanks and batteries, and a tongue weight of 591 lbs.

My truck is a 2018 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali 4x4, crew cab, short box. It has a 5.3L normally aspirated V8 and a 3.42 axle ratio. The truck has a GCWR of 15,000 lbs. With a weight distribution hitch (which I will buy), the maximum tongue weight allowable is 1,250 lbs. The truck has a GVW rating of 7,200 lbs. The truck has maximum capacity for cargo and occupants of 1,479 lbs. The published max trailer/towing capacity for the truck is 9,100 lbs.

The truck has the trailering equipment package, which includes an integrated trailer brake controller, towing mirrors, etc. On paper, it appears that I should be able to handle this trailer. My question to this esteemed group is: do I have enough truck in the real world? I live in Colorado, and often drive in the mountains. I'm worried that I'm going to be chugging down the highway at 50 mph, wishing I had a bigger truck.

Any advice or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Dennis
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Old 08-18-2020, 10:26 AM   #2
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If you stay with your plan of a 23' trailer, as far as trailers go, the consensus of a huge number of posts tracks identically with the math and physics which indicates if a truck is your choice, the 1500's are the way to go. The combination will be plenty stable and enough additional axle load capacity to carry quite a bit of gear and will generally be more comfortable and handle better than a larger truck. Larger trucks will be more stable, but they will be harsh and handling will be stiff and less refined.

A 4X4 is not your best choice for towing (less stable, poorer handling, poorer cornering) but the trade-off may be worth it to you.

Another choice for a 23' and under is a high performing SUV. They will have fair to decent stability, excellent handling and cornering so they will feel comfortable and sure. They will greatly benefit from some sway and stability support but they will tow well.

If you go up to 25' and larger, the SUV's begin to have difficulty with stability, but they continue to feel great. The smaller trucks don't compete as well with the 3/4 tons in this range. For a 25 it's a tossup. For 27 and higher the 3/4's and 1 tons do better in all categories than the 1/2 tons, but the performance SUVs continue to feel handle and corner better, though again they have stability issues that as the trailer get larger, get more serious.
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Old 08-18-2020, 10:34 AM   #3
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Thanks for that. I appreciate it.

I don't think we will go larger than 23 feet on the trailer. If we don't go with a 23, we would likely go with a smaller trailer. I really like the design and floorplan of the Caravel 20FB, but the bed is just a little too small. The 23 foot trailers seem to be the first size where a queen sized bed is available with a decent sized bathroom.

I'll continue to read and research, but I'm glad to hear that my truck has the ability to handle a trailer of this size.
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Old 08-18-2020, 10:38 AM   #4
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You have more than enough truck to pull a 23 foot Globetrotter. Your Denali will look great pulling it down the highway!

We are former owners of a 28’ International which we towed with a Chevy Crew cab diesel. We will be purchasing another Airstream in the not too distant future. We are also considering a 23’ GT and we probably pull it with a 1/2 ton Silverado Crew cab diesel.
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Old 08-18-2020, 10:48 AM   #5
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You have your head on straight. We tow a 23FB FC with an F150 5L V8. It is the sweet spot for folks like us. You won’t have problems, even in the mountains.
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Old 08-18-2020, 10:49 AM   #6
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Dennis. I pulled a 23 foot Safari with a 4.7L 2007 Tundra 4x4. It was marginal, but never a problem when towing out of Castle Rock, Colorado into the Rockies. Too light for a 25 foot.

Used a 5.7L 2008 and a 2014 Tundra 5.7L 4x4 for the 23 footer and it towed like nothing was attached. Then a 25 foot which was... marginal, but not a problem.

A 2016 F350 Diesel 4x4... towing a 25 foot... like it was a balloon. Towing a 27 foot with ease. Could go to 30 and complain the trailer is way too big for Boondocking... but the 27 is good enough.

You will be happy with a 23 foot, until you compare it with the 25. Go to 16 inch Michelins and Wheels for handling any road use. A lift kit of 3 inches if you Boondock.

Towing a 25 foot would be marginal to tow with a 1/2 ton, but probably not a problem. The 25 is the absolute BEST size for US when learning and Off the Grid Boondocking. Some tow longer Airstreams with 1/2 tons, but are experienced and not YaHoos who think they have done all and know all. I learned from MY mistakes... sometimes.

You will want to go from a 23 foot to a 25 after a few years... so consider that. We used the 23 foot for 8 years and then the 25 and later the 27 is all we will ever need.

You will be fine with the 23 foot. You will be happy towing a 25, but avoid piling in loads of unneeded stuff for weight. A 4x4 is an excellent choice. Those saying a 2 x4 is the way to go... live in flat land, no snow and have no idea what the topography of Colorado is like. Their map is FLAT, so they think it is Texas with a longer name.

Make sure the Dealer in Denver sets up your HITCH correctly. Just personal experience. Also... Equalizer has worked fine for us for 14 years. If they want to sell you another brand, check out some Forum Advice. Simple works for ME all of the time. Not one complaint. The Hitch is IMPORTANT.

Enjoy your future Airstream. You will tinker with it for years and will love it. Your truck is fine with or without a shell. Equalizer hitch with bars for a 1/2 ton. Go to 1,000# bars with a 27 foot for sure, and ask the dealer what # of bars to use with the 23 or a 25.

I am careful whom I take advice. Location, kind of use if a RV Glamper or Boondocking...makes a difference. I have heard it all, argue a bit too much and know what works from... experience.

Solar, solar and solar. Fixed to the roof, or portable panels. Pay now and get over the cost when you have all the 12 volt power you need.

Get in touch with GetawA-S... he sounds competent. I am... borderline.

My opinion. The first year will be absolutely... EXCITING. Enjoy.
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Old 08-18-2020, 10:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
If you stay with your plan of a 23' trailer, as far as trailers go, the consensus of a huge number of posts tracks identically with the math and physics which indicates if a truck is your choice, the 1500's are the way to go. The combination will be plenty stable and enough additional axle load capacity to carry quite a bit of gear and will generally be more comfortable and handle better than a larger truck. Larger trucks will be more stable, but they will be harsh and handling will be stiff and less refined.

A 4X4 is not your best choice for towing (less stable, poorer handling, poorer cornering) but the trade-off may be worth it to you.

Another choice for a 23' and under is a high performing SUV. They will have fair to decent stability, excellent handling and cornering so they will feel comfortable and sure. They will greatly benefit from some sway and stability support but they will tow well.

If you go up to 25' and larger, the SUV's begin to have difficulty with stability, but they continue to feel great. The smaller trucks don't compete as well with the 3/4 tons in this range. For a 25 it's a tossup. For 27 and higher the 3/4's and 1 tons do better in all categories than the 1/2 tons, but the performance SUVs continue to feel handle and corner better, though again they have stability issues that as the trailer get larger, get more serious.
I've got all three of the tow vehicles listed and from experience I can say

This is by far the best post I have ever read on this forum. It should be a sticky.
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Old 08-18-2020, 11:11 AM   #8
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I think your plan, assuming you don't get a case of two-foot-itis, is good. My only comment would be that the published tongue weight is likely optimistic. I would plan on as much as 12%-15% of trailer GVWR for tongue weight, or in your case 750#-950#. The main thing to watch with 1/2T trucks/SUVs is payload. Consider everything you will put in or on the truck that wasn't there when it rolled out of the factory, add tongue weight, and compare that to the occupants and cargo specification in the driver side door frame, not any published data.
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Old 08-18-2020, 11:15 AM   #9
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Lots of threads on here about TV sizes and types. Some of the guys can lead you down a rabbit hole of GVWR, GAWR, GCVW and on and on.

I towed a #5500 trailer with a RAM 1500 for 2 years, then upgraded to a 2500 diesel and never looked back.

Having said that, what I don't see talked much about, is what do you do with your TV when not towing? Unless your a full timer, thats most of the time.

I'm off to the hardware store in a minute, with a big ass diesel truck with an empty bed and nothing being towed. As a contractor, I can justify it, I have a big dump trailer and pick lots of heavy stuff, but if your not using the TV that way, maybe the advantages of the bigger diesel doesn't pan out for the few times a year its used.

Stand by for lots of opinions.
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Old 08-18-2020, 11:18 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the responses and advice. It's very helpful. My wife and I were just discussing this, and in particular discussing cargo weight. It certainly can add up quickly! With the two of us, our Great Dane, a small generator, and other gear, it gets heavy. The weight distribution hitch also adds some weight. I've got a roll-up metal tonneau cover on the bed, so that adds weight too.

There's lots to learn here, and I am thankful to have a resource like this.
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Old 08-18-2020, 11:23 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ginophiles View Post
Lots of threads on here about TV sizes and types. Some of the guys can lead you down a rabbit hole of GVWR, GAWR, GCVW and on and on.

I towed a #5500 trailer with a RAM 1500 for 2 years, then upgraded to a 2500 diesel and never looked back.

Having said that, what I don't see talked much about, is what do you do with your TV when not towing? Unless your a full timer, thats most of the time.

I'm off to the hardware store in a minute, with a big ass diesel truck with an empty bed and nothing being towed. As a contractor, I can justify it, I have a big dump trailer and pick lots of heavy stuff, but if your not using the TV that way, maybe the advantages of the bigger diesel doesn't pan out for the few times a year its used.

Stand by for lots of opinions.
I use the truck as my daily driver. I am home based and I travel frequently, so it doesn't get driven too much. It's nice to have a comfortable vehicle that fits in my garage for my every day use.
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Old 08-18-2020, 11:39 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis C View Post
My wife and I were just discussing this, and in particular discussing cargo weight. It certainly can add up quickly! With the two of us, our Great Dane, a small generator, and other gear, it gets heavy. The weight distribution hitch also adds some weight. I've got a roll-up metal tonneau cover on the bed, so that adds weight too.
You're on the right track. We tow a FC 25RB with a 1/2 ton based SUV. Two people, two smaller dogs, small generator. We pack most everything else in the trailer to stay within the truck's payload limit. You may wish to load up your truck the way you think you will travel and go to a CAT scale to get an idea of what you have to work with.
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Old 08-18-2020, 08:34 PM   #13
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When I bought my 23' (6000# GVWR) in 2017, I bought an F-150 with an 1895# payload capacity. I consider that the max this truck can safely and comfortably handle in all circumstances. If I had gone with a 25', I would have gotten the F-250 or better.
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Old 08-18-2020, 08:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis C View Post
My truck is a 2018 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali 4x4, crew cab, short box. It has a 5.3L normally aspirated V8 and a 3.42 axle ratio. The truck has a GCWR of 15,000 lbs. With a weight distribution hitch (which I will buy), the maximum tongue weight allowable is 1,250 lbs. The truck has a GVW rating of 7,200 lbs. The truck has maximum capacity for cargo and occupants of 1,479 lbs. The published max trailer/towing capacity for the truck is 9,100 lbs.

Dennis
We have a 25' FBT, and we towed it quite comfortably with a 2017 Sierra SLT with the max trailering package / 5.3L 8-speed. It had a cargo capacity of 1920 lbs. and a towing capacity of around 11,000 lbs. We had no problem towing through the Appalachians and Rocky mountains, and to AK and back through the Canadian Rockies. If you can manage your cargo you would be fine with a 23'.
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Old 08-18-2020, 09:16 PM   #15
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I have an F150 XLT that easily tows my 28’. I have no idea where these people get this idea you can’t pull a 28’ AS with a vehicle that can tow 11,000lbs when a 28’ AS weighs 7600lbs. In fact I just ordered a new F150XLT that is configured to tow 12,500lbs. I love it as a daily driver. Does an F250 tow a trailer easier? Sure. But so does a semi-truck.

Before you choose a monster truck I would suggest you message Andy and Colonial Airstream. Read the article below.

https://rvlifemag.com/towing-half-to...e-quarter-ton/
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Old 08-18-2020, 09:19 PM   #16
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A 4X4 is not your best choice for towing (less stable, poorer handling, poorer cornering) but the trade-off may be worth it to you.

Guess you have not visited the Rockies in winter...
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Old 08-19-2020, 06:40 AM   #17
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My truck is a 4X4. For 95% of towing the lower COG, improved handling and cornering of a 2x4 is better and safer. I have had to use 4 wheel drive four times to get into and out of a camp site. Used to use it up north visiting family in the snow. I'll do all I can to avoid towing in snow and Ice. But like I say the trade off was worth it to me and no doubt is to others. Still, if you stay on the pavement and away from the snow, not so much.
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Old 08-19-2020, 07:38 AM   #18
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I have no idea where these people get this idea you can’t pull a 28’ AS with a vehicle that can tow 11,000lbs when a 28’ AS weighs 7600lbs.
It is the tongue weight vs payload capacity. You can tow the Space Shuttle with a Toyota Tundra. There are videos. However, that doesn't mean that is smart or safe.
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Old 08-19-2020, 07:47 AM   #19
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Dennis C already has a capable TV and intends to live within his means, so I’m not sure why we’re discussing 2 wheel vs. 4 wheel, other than that it’s good fun.
Our first TV was a 1ton Ford van with a positronIc waste of $ axle. It would slip on snot. I still remember the Michigan campground and the Christmas tree farm, spending a eternity to get going. Oh, there were the back yard incidents...
The only times I’ve used the 4WD on my trucks has been parking my trailer next to the house in FL. The site is up on a mound of sandy soil (standard for FL houses) and climbing over a pavement edge is enough to spin the rear tires. (Eventually I listened to the wife and put down enough pavers for a smooth ramp.)
4WD is not the maintenance and fuel hog it used to be. I consider it sensible insurance for unexpected towing situations, and would tell any other shopper to go with what they want.
“Oh, the farmers and the ranchers should be friends...”
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Old 08-19-2020, 10:04 AM   #20
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Dennis, load your truck up with the wife, dog, full fuel and what you might take in the back bed and go to a CAT truck scale and get it weighed. That will give you actual base line weights. You might be surprised on the amount of weight that is available for remaining cargo/tongue weight. Also the 591# tongue weight as published is very likely low by 100#+. Most of us never have the published tongue weight. Always higher.
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