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Open Roads Forum  >  Travel Trailers  >  General Q&A

 > Help choosing something like Cougar

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mtbfamily

Seattle

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Posted: 03/21/20 11:38pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi everyone. Newbie here, hoping you can point me to a few of the better travel trailers that meet our needs and wants. We just borrowed a friend's 2018 Cougar 29BHSWE and liked it. Only thing we didn't love is that the double bunks seemed like a waste of space for 2 kids (ours are just 3 and 12). We are new to travel trailers, so we don't know which brands are high quality. We're open to buying new or used, and max tow capacity is 8500lb with my vehicle. Here's what we have so far for needs and wants:

Needs:
Private bedroom w/door(s)
Auto-leveling jacks
Bunks (ideally singles not doubles for space saving / storage reasons)

Wants:
TV in front of couch (not at an angle)

It seems the Cougar 31BHKWE might fit the bill...but I'd love to know what other models you would recommend. Thanks in advance!

StirCrazy

Kamloops, BC, Canada

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Posted: 03/22/20 05:58am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

at that age it wont be long untill they are wanting to bring friends camping then you will love the double bunks. what we ended up getting was afith wheel that had its own bedroom for the kids, which had a bun on one side above the outdoor kitchen, a bunk on the other and a couch that could make into a queen bed. so if its just my two kids they use the bunks but if they want to bring friends then can. I have a cougar 330RBK, probably bigger than you want but it will give you an idea of the bedroom layout.

Steve


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camp-n-family

London, Ontario

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Posted: 03/22/20 07:00am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

With an 8500lbs tow rating I’m going to assume that you have a 1/2 ton truck? The Cougar you list is way too much trailer. At 7400lbs dry weight you will be well over 8500lbs loaded to start. Keep in mind the tow rating of newer vehicles is calculated assuming 150lbs each for a driver and 1 passenger. Any other weight added to the vehicle reduces your rating pound for pound.

The tow rating is not the only number you need to be concerned about. You also need to consider the vehicle payload and axle ratings. The payload must be enough to support the trailer tongue weight and weight of all passengers and stuff in the vehicle. Trailers should have at least 12% of the loaded weight on the tongue to be stable for towing. That’s at least 1k right there.

I suggest you do more research and as a newbie learn about towing, ratings, wd hitches etc before jumping in to anything. This forum is a good starting place. You’ll probably find yourself limited to trailers under 6k dry weight. Don’t forget that your kids aren’t going to get any smaller.

To give you an idea, we have a similar sized trailer that weights 1k less (empty)than what you are looking at. Lightly loaded we were 7600lbs which is just about the empty weight of that Cougar. We towed it the first year with a 1/2 ton truck. It pulled it ok, plenty of power, but we were always 400lbs+ over payload, right at the rear axle rating and hitch rating. We added airbags and load range E tires to help and used a $3k Hensley hitch. Not the most enjoyable experience. We now use a 3/4 ton diesel Ram in complete comfort.

Consider the length as well. At 34’ you will be limited in site selection and won’t be able to fit in a lot of places. Gas stations etc can be a challenge too. That is a long trailer for a newbie with little or no tow experience. If I were to buy again I would keep it under 28’.

* This post was edited 03/22/20 07:10am by camp-n-family *


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Lwiddis

Kern County, CA

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Posted: 03/22/20 08:12am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

At a max trailer weight that Cougar is 8800 pounds, 300 over your TV’s limit. Don’t fool yourself that you’ll “pack light” or drive without any water, propane or batteries. Look for a smaller TT or get a bigger TV.


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GrandpaKip

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Posted: 03/22/20 08:28am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Welcome to the forum.
Since you already have a truck, you will be looking to match a trailer to it.
The tow rating on a truck usually has no bearing on choosing a trailer. You will run out of payload before hitting the max tow rating.
So, what truck do you have and what’s the payload? The payload, or cargo limit, can be found on the tire sticker on the driver’s door jamb.
This info will get you started.


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Grit dog

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Posted: 03/22/20 10:21am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Welcome OP. Generally the heavier and more expensive, the better the quality.
Since you are new to campers, don't get dissuaded by the weight cops on here.
Like "8500lb tow cap has little to do with how big of trailer you can pull...blah blah blah"
If you follow the most conservative on here, you will be towing a pop up ultralight and think you're on the brink of being overloaded.
I'd suggest some real world experience from folks, in person, towing similar size trailers.
Here, you'll get sucked down the " weigh every can of beans and pair of socks you load" and then the members will argue that you're doing it wrong.

8500 lb tow cap = mid grade 1/2 ton
Most trailers of 8000lb gross weight are in the range of your truck.


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handye9

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Posted: 03/22/20 10:52am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

As you've noticed, you don't want to base your trailer search on that mythical "max tow weight" rating. Here's a list of various pieces of information that will help in your search.

1. Max tow weight ratings are calculated without passengers or cargo. That's not how we go camping. As you fill your truck with people, pets, and cargo, it's true towing capacity is going down.

2. There's a tire / loading sticker (on your drivers door jamb) that shows your particular trucks capacity to carry everything / everybody you put in it or on it. That number is listed as "max occupant / cargo weight" (AKA payload). Depending on installed options, cab size, power train, drive train, suspension, axles, tires, etc, every truck has it's own payload number. Not all F150's, F250's, Ram 1500's, Ram 2500's, GM 15 and 2500 series, etc are created equal.

3. The weight of added hitch / anti sway equipment and tongue weight from a trailer are counted as cargo weight on the truck.

4. Trailer tongue weight is NOT a constant number. It fluctuates with loading and usage during every trip. Average is 12 - 13 percent of loaded trailer weight, however, it can be higher at times. You never want your tongue weight lower than 10 percent.

5. Trailer sales people talk unloaded and gross weights on the units they sell. Neither of which is likely to be what you'll be towing. The trailer will be heavier than unloaded weight, before it gets off the dealers lot, and it's very rare for an average camper to load up to the gross weight on the trailer. Average loaded trailer weight is 800 - 1000 lbs higher than it's unloaded weight.

6. Take your payload number and subtract weight of your family, weight of your cargo, weight of aftermarket accessories (if any) added to the truck, and 100 lbs for hitch equipment. Whatever is left over is payload available to carry trailer tongue weight. If you divide that available payload by .13, that will give you a ball park figure of what "loaded" trailer weight will put your truck at or near it's max weight. That loaded trailer weight could be considerably lower than your "max tow weight" rating.

Note: Closer you get to max weight or over weight, the more unstable / unpleasant you towing will be. Give yourself some cushion.


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mtbfamily

Seattle

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Posted: 03/22/20 12:23pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks so much everyone for your detailed and clear explanation. I can't believe the RV dealers we went to didn't provide the same. You are right that the towing capacity is calculated based on just one 150lb person driving. After I did the math you provided, I ended up with just a 5100 lb towing capacity. We just towed a trailer 3 hrs each way that's 6875 lb dry (not counting the weight distribution / sway hitch). I don't think my family will be happy with anything smaller than that trailer, so it seems I now need to look for a tow vehicle as well.

So, let's ignore the towing capacity for now and just focus on figuring out which TTs we should be looking at. Can folks help me with that please?

* This post was edited 03/22/20 01:09pm by mtbfamily *

Lwiddis

Kern County, CA

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Posted: 03/22/20 01:35pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Start off with where do you believe you’ll be camping. Private RV parks usually can take all sizes. Boondocking down a dirt forest service road may be 4x4 and 20 foot TT...or even TC only. I picked a 22 foot TT box with a 4x4 TV to go many places...but I can’t go everywhere. Most federal, state and local government websites list their max lengths.

campigloo

Baton Rouge, La

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Posted: 03/22/20 03:47pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you’re going only to rv parks most anything with the amenities to want will do fine. If you’re going
to do any dry camping, especially more than just a weekend, fluid capacities can be important. Also consider ground clearance. Watch out for the tires on these things too. Makers sometimes put insufficient tires on them.
Happy trails!

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