Best fifth wheels for half-ton trucks

Best Fifth Wheels for Half-Ton Trucks

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You’ve conducted a lot of research and determined that a fifth wheel is the RV of your dreams. Yet the idea of buying a massive truck that gets horrible gas mileage and has a near three-figure gas tank makes you cringe. We’ll show you a list of half-ton towable fifth-wheel campers that match well with fuel-efficient ½ ton pickup trucks.

If you’re new to the RV lifestyle, we’ll help you understand ½ ton truck towing capacities and other specifications. You’ll learn all of the important terminology when it comes to towing 2020 half-ton towable fifth wheels. Finally, we’ll present a list of how big of a camper a ½ ton truck can pull and the many floorplans available.

What is a ½ Ton Truck

When you look at the specifications of pickup trucks, you can look at the various weights ratings it has. How much it weighs, how much it can tow, what it can carry. So, why is it called a half-ton pickup? In today’s market, none of these ratings are equal to 1,000 pounds.

It dates back to the 1960s. The Ford F-100, Chevrolet C10, and other pickups of that era had payload capacities (the load they could haul in their bed) that equaled a ½ ton. As competition and the market evolved, truck manufacturers had to push those weights higher. Current half-ton trucks have an average payload capacities of 2,250 pounds.

½ Ton Trucks, Towing, and Specs

Fifth wheels RV in a campground

Half-ton pickup trucks are now made to balance power, fuel-efficiency, and comfort. They have the latest technologies in driving assistance, entertainment, and other features. Many of the American brand trucks come in a variety of trim packages that adjust the performance and aesthetics to suit your needs.

Most half-tons come with a standard tow package that has an average tow capacity of 10,000 pounds. Fuel efficiencies range from 14-22 mpg, with an average of 19 highway. You can choose regular cabs with a bench seat that can sit up to three or a crew cab/super cab that has two rows for six people.

American brand pickups have optional heavy tow packages that can extend the towing capacity up to 12,000- 13,000 pounds. The truck must come built from the factory with this upgrade pre-installed.

Foreign brand trucks don’t have the variation that the American brands have. Nissan and Toyota have set limits with one engine option. There are other trade-offs they offer that make their trucks worth looking at.

Most truck dealerships aren’t going to have heavy-duty tow package ½ ton trucks in stock. They may have to order it from the factory directly or find it at another dealership. They’re going to be more expensive than the regular tow package models, so prepare yourself for additional costs.

What’s Involved In a Tow Package

Tow packages aren’t just the hitch and the wiring. It involves all of the essential parts of the vehicle itself. When you tow, you are putting additional stress on the components of the truck. To compensate, the manufacturer puts heavy-duty parts and bigger cooling systems to counteract the stress.

Heavy-duty suspensions and radiators (both engine and transmission) parts replace standard versions. Wiring to the rear and front bumper come pre-installed for towing. The manufacturers add class IV hitch receivers to the rear of the chassis and prepare the front in case the truck is going to be flat towed.

Transmission gears, computer programing, and other settings alter the performance of the vehicle. These changes give it the torque it needs to tow the extra weight. You won’t win any drag races, but you’ll be able to pull your competitor on a trailer of the track without a problem.

If you were to try to make these changes on your vehicle with aftermarket components, you’d end up rebuilding the whole vehicle. Not only would it be cost-prohibitive, but some of the changes are virtually impossible to perform without proprietary equipment.

½ Ton Truck Towing Capacity Comparison

Below is a chart of the best ½ ton trucks on the American market for 2020 and 2021. The towing capacities reflect the maximum amounts and the engine that delivers it. This includes those trucks that have heavy-duty towing package option.

Model Camper Weight, lbs Engine
Nissan Titan 9,660 5.6L V8
Toyota Tundra 10,200 5.7L V8
Dodge Ram 12,750 5.7L Hemi V8
Ford F-150 13,000 3.5L EcoBoost V6
GMC Sierra 13,400 6.2L V8
Chevrolet Silverado 13,400 6.2L V8

Towing Terms You Need to Know

White fifth wheel is parked in a campground

There are different terms you need to know when it comes to towing. Each one deals with the towing process and different weight factors.

  • Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW): The UVW is also known as a vehicle’s/RV’s “dry weight.” It’s the weight of the unit when it’s empty.
  • Curb Weight: Referred to as the “wet weight,” this is the UVW plus all liquid tanks filled up. For an RV, this could be the water holding tanks, fuel, and other automotive fluids.
  • Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC): This is the maximum amount of cargo weight the RV can hold safely. Some RV manufacturers refer to it as the Net Cargo Capacity (NCC). RV companies are required to disclose this weight rating.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW): The RV manufacturer provides the GVW as a rating (GVWR). This is the safest total weight of the RV. This includes the coach itself, fluids, cargo, passengers, and any other weight. If you’re in an accident, insurance companies use this as a guideline to determine if being overweight was a factor.
  • Axle Weight: The axle weight is another rating. It’s the maximum amount of weight the axles can safely hold without damage. It relates to how much weight you add to the RV. It also relates to the hitch receiver you place in your truck’s bed.
  • King Pin: We’re not talking about Vincent D’Onofrio’s character on Marvel’s Daredevil. This is the connection point on the RV that joins up with your hitch receiver in your truck bed.
  • Pin Weight:The weight the fifth wheel puts on your hitch receiver should ideally be 20% of your RV’s GVW.

2020/2021 Half-Ton Towable Fifth Wheels

When you start your research into half-ton fifth wheels, you’ll want to narrow down your focus. Not all of the units in this category line up with the towing limitations of what a ½ ton truck can pull. Here are several criteria to make your search successful:

  1. Look for half-ton fifth wheels between 25-30 feet in length
  2. Identify dry weights between 6,000 to 8,000 pounds
  3. Give yourself a conservative gap of 2,000 pounds between your maximum towing capacity and the dry weight. This will allow you plenty of horsepower even when you’re loaded up for your vacation.
  4. Average sleeping capacity is 4-6 people. Bunkhouse models go up to 10.
  5. Don’t worry, there is a 5th wheel floorplan in your weight limit.

Camper Smarts Tip: If you can’t decide between your final two choices, storage is a priceless commodity. The biggest concern for veteran RVers is finding storage for everything. RV manufacturers are making great strides in adding storage, but you can never have enough. Ask around at your next campfire discussion.

1. Coachmen Chaparral Lite 25RE

  • Length: 29.3 pounds
  • Dry Weight: 7,273 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 9,800 pounds
  • Sleeps: 4 people

There’s no better way to set a benchmark than Coachmen. Since 1964, this RV manufacturer has been providing the American public with quality RVs that are affordable and innovative. As a subsidiary company of Forest River, they use the best materials and state-of-the-art technologies to make lightweight coaches for every category of towable and drivable on the market.

The Chaparral Lite 25RE is a half-ton towable fifth wheel with a floor plan that’s perfect for couples. Its 30-foot length makes everything comfortable, so you don’t feel claustrophobic inside. With smart packing, it’s possible to use a standard tow package ½ ton truck with this 5th wheel camper.

Most fifth wheels of this caliber come standard with 30 amp electrical service. Coachmen go the extra mile by providing 50 amp service in this unit. This allows you to run the optional second air conditioner at the same time as the primary unit instead of alternating back and forth.

Coachmen isn’t stingy on the storage. The pantry is a full closet with deep shelves. The 12 cubic foot refrigerator rivals many residential level versions. The closets, wardrobes, and overhead storage bays give you plenty of space to pack all of your gear and personal items. The exterior pass-through storage bay is extra-large for all of your essentials as well.

Exterior features also include electronic jacks, a rear hitch for additional equipment, and an optional upgraded suspension for a smoother ride down the highway. You’ll see from the exterior bay that Coachmen takes your safety and comfort into consideration. You’ll see they use aluminum framing, radiant insulation, and duct their heating.

The Chaparral Lite’s slideout furniture has different options to fit your lifestyle. You can replace the sofa with theatre seating that has massage and heat installed. The dinette is replaceable with a freestanding table and chairs.

2. CrossRoads Volante 270BH

  • Length: 31.5 feet
  • Dry Weight: 7,838 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 9,400 pounds
  • Sleeps: 10 people

CrossRoads RV is a 600 employee strong independent company that sits within the greater RV Capital of the World. They established themselves as a top-selling independent since 1996. They offer many lines of products including the Redwood series.

If you’re looking for a ½ ton towable 5th wheel bunkhouse, you’ll want to consider the Volante 270BH. This almost 32-foot coach is the lightest 5th wheel camper on our list and it’s a family-friendly RV. It features two bunk beds that are full-size mattresses, an outdoor kitchen, and a bathroom and a half.

Parents will enjoy the master suite due to its design. There’s plenty of walk around space and a lot of storage for both of you. The half bathroom allows you to take care of business without having to disturb anyone in the middle of the night. You’ll also enjoy the TV ready set up so you and your partner can wind down the day your way.

Your kids or other guests will enjoy the extra space the bunks give them. Large families can sleep two to a bunk, the tri-fold sofa folds out, and the U-shaped dinette folds down as well. Smaller families with older children will appreciate the larger bunks, so each one can claim their personal space.

Families with babies and toddlers will like the open space living room and the tub-style shower. Travel cribs will fit well in the main living space. The tub is deep enough to clean up your dirt-attracting toddler. The room is water-friendly, so when they think it’s splash time, the only thing that gets ruined is your patience.

At the end of the day, all of you can congregate together outside to share an evening meal under the power awning. The outdoor kitchen has a dorm-size fridge, sink and a two burner gas stove to prepare full dinners. As you dine al fresco, set the mood with the built-in LED lights and outdoor speakers.

3. Rockwood Ultra Lite 2441WS

  • Length: 28.5 feet
  • Dry Weight: 7,630 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 9,695 pounds
  • Sleeps: 6 people

Rockwood is a name synonymous with quality RVs for entry-level campers. Even under Cobra Industries or Forest River, this legendary brand has a legacy of adventure and making their road. Founder Arthur Chapman created the company in 1972 instead of becoming apart of his grandfather’s company, Starcraft.

Rockwood has many half-ton towable fifth wheel floor plans in their Ultra-Lite series. The 2441WS is the best for ½ ton trucks. It’s GVWR is just under 10,000 pounds, yet it allows for a total Cargo Carrying Capacity over 2,000 pounds. You won’t find many coaches for half-ton trucks with this CCC.

Don’t let the floorplan rendering deceive you. It’s more spacious inside than it looks. Rockwood is very strategic with its overall layout. They give you full-size furniture and features with an openness you can relax in.

Storage is excellent in this fifth wheel. The huge pass-through bay upfront will hold all of your outdoor gear. The wardrobe and dresser on the slideout in the master suite is as large as most household closets. Rockwood even takes advantage of every square inch by placing a full-length pantry behind the entertainment center.

This RV manufacturer makes real-world common-sense decisions with their finishing touches. Things like side tables for your drinks and snacks on either side of the sofa. A flip-up counter in the kitchen adds much-needed space for meal prep. The main LED TV is well-positioned and swivels for optimal sightlines.

4. Palomino Puma 257RESS

  • Length: 30 feet
  • Dry Weight: 7,419 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 9,400 pounds
  • Sleeps: 6 people

Palomino is another long-lived brand that offers a great coach for your half-ton pickup truck. The Puma 257RESS will appeal to those that need the glamping lifestyle. Palomino has redesigned the Puma exterior, giving up its traditional shades of brown for tones of grey and LED highlights. Its curb appeal has been massively stepped up for the next generation of luxury RVers.

For those that can’t decide what to pack, Palomino made great use of the hallway space by designing a closet system enjoyed by many fashionistas. Can’t decide what to bring, you’ll have plenty of room to make sure you’re the best dressed wherever you go.

This RV comes with an interior that compliments your fashion-forward thinking. The coach comes with Thomas Payne furniture, one of the top designers in the RV industry. If you choose the theatre seating instead of the sofa, it comes with massage, heat, and other features.

Late season campers will enjoy the extended season package. The 35,000 BTU furnace and other enhancements will keep you cozy even if the temperature drops outside. The LED Fireplace has a heater built in to give you that added feel of luxury.

5. Grand Design Reflection 150 290BH

  • Length: 34.1 feet
  • Dry Weight: 8,236 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 10,195 pounds
  • Sleeps: 10 people

Grand Design gives you the most options if you’re pulling a 5th wheel with a half-ton truck. Their Reflection 150 line is specifically built for this type of towing. Grand Design has won multiple awards for their customer service and how their products reflect consumer desires.

The 290BH will require a heavy tow package, but it’s a ½ ton towable 5th wheel outdoor kitchen layout with a bunkhouse. The L-shaped bunks sleep and have storage for four people. It’s also prepped for a TV and has a pocket door, letting the kids have their own independent space.

The master bedroom comes with a queen-size bed with plenty of walk around space to get into bed. It has its own TV prep wall area. The bathroom has the biggest shower in the industry due to direct customer feedback.

The main living space has a U-shaped dinette and an 8 cubic foot refrigerator on a large slideout. The chef’s kitchen has extensive counter space and storage to make meal prep less complicated. It’s the ideal setup for those looking to win the Iron Chef competition at the campground. You can use the outdoor kitchen to keep things hot as the judges come by.

6. Gulf Stream Sedona 28CBF

  • Length: 31.6 Feet
  • Dry Weight: 7,500 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 9,840 pounds
  • Sleeps: 10 people

Gulf Stream is one of the few independent RV companies that’s still family-owned. Since 1983, they’ve built a reputation for products that have value and performance in the travel trailer and park model categories. Their Sedona fifth-wheel line has a lot of great features you’ll see in their top-end travel trailers.

As you walk through the coach, you’ll see that they enhance the openness feel with bright colors and lighter woods. The double-sized bunk beds are open at the foot to continue that feel, but still, keep your children secure from rolling out. The built-in bunk ladder stay’s in place when folded up or used to climb up to the top bed.

Families will appreciate the second entry door opening into the rear bathroom. Many use the bathroom as a mudroom. Everyone can peel off the mud-soaked clothing in a contained area preventing the dirt from coming into the main living space.

7. Highland Ridge Light 280RKS

  • Length: 30.7 feet
  • Dry Weight: 7,650 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 9,760 pounds
  • Sleeps: 6 people

Highland Ridge started in 2007 as Open Range. In 2014, they became apart of the Jayco family. Jayco is now a major subsidiary of Thor Industries. What sets Highland Ridge apart from everyone else is their focus on lightweight products with spacious interiors. Highland Ridge is also one of the most pet-friendly RV manufacturers.

The Light 280RKS is a rear kitchen floorplan that ½ ton pickup trucks will find manageable. The big counter space allows plenty of meal preparation and the storage cabinets give you all the room you need for your kitchen gadgets. Your four-legged friends will enjoy the pet bowl drawer too.

The walk-in pantry has all the storage you need to keep all of your dry goods. The eight cubic food refrigerator is residential size allowing you to keep food for weeks. When it’s time to eat, you can seat up to six in the U-shaped dinette.

The master bedroom has storage galore for your items. It includes shirt closets on either side of the bed, a full-length wardrobe and set of drawers on a slideout, and nightstands on both sides. You can upgrade the queen-size bed to a king.

The dry bathroom is convenient for everyone with its entrances from the hallway and the master suite. The corner shower gives you plenty of room to wash up without knocking your elbows.

8. Keystone Springdale 272FWRE

  • Length: 30.2 feet
  • Dry Weight: 7,846 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 10,300 pounds
  • Sleeps: 4 people

What would a half-ton fifth wheel list be without mentioning the company that built their success on lightweight towable RVs. This 1996 startup became the second fasted growing company in 2000. Catching everyone’s attention, it joined the Thor Industries family soon after.

The Springdale series is the series Keystone opened its doors with. The 272FWRE offers two slideouts. The first is the wardrobe and bathroom linen closet in the master suite and bathroom. When it’s open, it creates the second opening to the dry bathroom.

The second slideout in the living room sports a standard dinette for four and a tri-fold sofa. This gives the living room and rear kitchen area plenty of walking space for everyone to move around.

Keystone does a great job sectioning the major rooms. While one person is preparing a meal in the mid-coach kitchen, others can sit comfortably on the sofa watching their favorite shows. Although there is plenty of room for the sofa dwellers to peel potatoes into a bucket to help out.

Storage is excellent in this coach. The wall between the bathroom and the kitchen area has an excellent cabinet system. Some shelves are very high, so keeping a step ladder around may be handy.

A big surprise is if you compare the 272FWRE to its companion floorplans, it’s not the smallest floorplan. There’s a floorplan that’s smaller and heavier. Keystone gives you more space in this lightweight ½ ton fifth wheel designed for half-ton pickup trucks. This is one of the many reasons this RV manufacture has become one of the best selling RV brands.

9. KZ Sportster 280TH

  • Length: 32.8 feet
  • Dry Weight: 8,160 pounds UVW
  • GVWR: 10,000 pounds
  • Sleeps: 7-8 people

Do you have adventure toys that you need to bring with you? Most toy haulers require a ¾ or 1-ton truck to haul the weight. KZ RV didn’t get that memo. The KZ Sportster 280TH is a ½ ton towable 5th wheel toy hauler designed for half-ton pickup trucks.

With a GVWR, you want a truck with a heavy-duty tow package. The Ford F-150, Chevy Sierra 1500, or GMC Sierra will be your best choice since they can tow over 13,000 pounds. Having this much pulling power will give you enough strength for your gear, adventure vehicle, passengers, and driving horsepower.

Once your setup, the powered queen-size power bunk, dual flip around benches, jackknife sofa, and master queen bed lets you sleep up to eight people. With a full kitchen, dry bath, and all of that storage, your RV can be the mobile HQ for everyone in your party.

This toy hauler fifth wheel also comes with an optional 30-gallon fuel tank and gas pump hose. Keep your snowmobiles or other toys fully fueled all weekend without having to run back to town with gas canisters.

The garage itself has two measurements. On the driver’s side, it measures 12.3 feet. On the passenger’s side, it’s 18.11 feet. With some ingenuity, you can store multiple items in the RV at one time as long as you don’t surpass the maximum safe weight rating (GVWR). This means you can bring your kayaks with you and your ATVs for many different adventures in one trip.