Years ago, if you had a half-ton truck, while you had a cargo bed, fifth wheels were beyond your reach due to your pickup’s tow capacity limitations. In recent years, lightweight fifth wheel camper trailers made fivers a reality for those with 150/1500 series trucks. There are so many out there to choose from; we’ll show you the 10 best half-ton towable 5th wheel campers that match well with ½ ton pickup trucks.
Key Points Anout Half Ton 5th Wheels
- Many half-ton fifth wheels are towable by ½ ton pickup trucks.
- The average half-ton truck can tow between 9,000-10,000 pounds.
- Match your truck’s tow capacity to the fifth wheel’s gross vehicle weight rating
- Low profile fifth wheels are suitable for full-timing and other RV lifestyles.
- Know all of your weight factors to avoid any problems
The 10 Best Half Ton 5th Wheels
We review all of these awesome half ton fifth wheels below in more detail but here is our list:
- Escape 5.0
- Forest River Arctic Wolf 271RK
- Genesis Supreme Genesis 29CK Low Profile Toy Hauler
- Ice Castle Fish Houses All Season Traveler
- Highland Ridge Light 292BH
- Grand Design Reflection 150 Series 278BH
- Jayco Eagle HT 27RS
- Dutchmen Astoria 2503REF
- Northwood Fox Mountain 235RLS
- Keystone Cougar Half-Ton 32BHS
Before we get into the RVs, we’ll first explore half-ton pickup trucks. Knowing the capabilities of your truck is essential to towing. Having the right hitch makes a big difference too. Once you know the ins and outs of your tow vehicle, we’ll show you an excellent variety of half-ton fifth-wheels on the market to give you a starting point to discover the best fiver for you.
During the shopping process, we always recommend trying before you buy. Renting a few half-ton fifth wheel trailers from peer-to-peer companies like Outdoorsy or RVshare is the best way to gain firsthand experience. Spend a few weekends trying out different brands and floor plans to learn what works for you and your family.
How Much Can a Half-Ton Pickup Truck Tow?
The average half-ton truck can tow between 9,000-10,000 pounds. If you have a heavy-duty tow package installed with the right engine, that capacity increases up to 13,000 pounds.
Towing a fifth wheel can be a challenging endeavor, even if your truck is matched well with an ideal RV. We always recommend taking an online RV training course taught by experts in the field. Mark Polk from RV Education 101 gives you the knowledge and expert tips to help you avoid those rookie mistakes that can make your camping trip troublesome.
Does My Half-Ton Pickup Truck Need a Tow Package to Haul a 5th Wheel?
Some pickup trucks don’t come with a standard tow package. Even though you’re using a fifth-wheel hitch in the truck’s cargo bed, there are components in a tow package you need to keep your truck healthy.
Besides the rear receiver that’s connected to the truck’s chassis, tow packages come with:
- Heavy-duty suspensions
- Reinforced chassis
- Upgraded engine radiators
- Bigger transmission radiators
- Electrical wiring to operate the DOT lights on the trailer through an umbilical cord
- A ball hitch in the cargo bed to connect the fifth wheel hitch
When towing, the pickup truck has additional stress from the added weight of the coach. The engine and transmission run hotter, so they need to be cooled better. Having these parts installed through the factory gives your truck the best performance to tow your fifth-wheel trailer.
Which Half-Ton Pickup Trucks Are Best for Towing a 5th Wheel?
You’ll see that the American brands have a higher towing capacity than the foreign manufacturers in the table below. Ford and GM offer a heavy-duty tow package on their half-ton pickup truck models. The two automakers build them in limited quantities, so your dealer may have to locate one.
You’ll also see that American brands use different engines. If you look at the Good Sam’s Club Towing Guide published annually through Trailer Life Magazine, there’s a long list for each of these brands. The tow capacities differ depending on the engine, cab size, wheel configuration (4×2 or 4×4), and other factors. You won’t see this variation among Toyota or Nissan.
One truck you do want to avoid is the flareside beds. Truck manufacturers stopped making them a while ago, but they’re still floating around on the used market. The problem with flair sides is the narrowness of the bed. Most RV dealers won’t install a fifth wheel hitch in them. When the hitch slides side-to-side, it crashes into the sidewall of the bed.
You can use a long bed (8-foot), a standard bed (6.5-foot), and a short bed (5.5-foot) as long as the width is the full measurement. Ford stopped production of flair sides in 2010, so if you’re shopping for a used truck, either look at one after that year or make sure the bed is flush with the rear wheels.
*= Heavy Tow Package equipped
|Truck||Displacement||Cylinders||Tow Capacity (in pounds)||Payload Capacity (in pounds)|
|Dodge Ram 1500||3.0L||V6||9,950||2,302|
|Chevrolet Silverado 1500/ GMC Sierra 1500||2.7L||4-Cylinder||6,800||2,280|
Do I Need a Special Hitch to Tow a 5th Wheel?
The original fifth wheel hitch dates back to the 1850s. It gave loggers and heavy haulers the ability to load up their wagons with more cargo. Their horse teams could maneuver better on rough terrain and through mountain passes. In 1915, the Freuhalf Company designed the modern-day floating fifth wheel hitch you see on long-haul semi-trucks.
RV fifth wheel hitches secure inside a pickup truck bed. The best fifth wheel hitches for RVs have mechanisms on them that allow the connection to slide side-to-side, front-to-back, and high-to-low. The adjustable hitch configuration lets you make tight turns, breeze through uneven roads, and tackle other road conditions. Sliding hitches are significantly crucial for short beds.
You’ll notice that the fifth wheel has a cylinder at the end of it. The cylinder is called the kingpin. Ideally, you want a hitch that has an “upside-down U-shape” to it that the kingpin connects.
Some gooseneck hitches (a ball hitch mounted on top of a base) on the market have conversion kits to connect to fifth wheels. There are many brands out there worth considering. As you research expert reviews, you can also get some consumer feedback by logging in to our Facebook page. Our RVBlogger friends have shared their knowledge and experience in the true spirit of the RV Community.
Half-Ton Truck Towing Weight Definitions
Before we continue, we need to address the important weight factors you need to be aware of when towing a fifth wheel. The RV and your truck handle weight differently at specific points. Your truck may be able to tow the coach, but if there is too much stress at the hitch, it can do severe damage to your truck and everyone inside the truck could get hurt. For more information, learn more with our detailed explanation.
Below is a list of weight factors and their definitions. When you’re shopping for your fifth wheel, have these numbers written down so you know your truck’s limits. Your truck’s owner’s manual will list them. If you can’t find them, your truck dealer or the RV dealership can assist you with finding them.
- Dry Weight: Also known as the Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) or Shipping Weight, this is the weight of the RV completely empty. When the holding tanks and other fluids are filled up, then it becomes the Wet Weight or Curb Weight.
- GVWR: This is an acronym that stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and other authorities require every RV manufacturer to publish the maximum weight every coach can safely hold. Never exceed this weight.
- Payload Capacity: Your pickup truck can tow a different weight than it can haul in the cargo bed. The payload weight puts the majority of the stress on the suspension and other parts. When your fifth wheel is connected to the hitch inside the bed, 20% of its weight is pushing down on the hitch. You want to make sure your truck can take it.
- Hitch Weight: As mentioned above, the hitch weight is the downward pressure the hitch puts on the receiver equipment. It’s usually 20% of the fifth wheel’s total weight. A quick indicator that something’s wrong is when the rear of the truck is bottomed out.
- CCC: The Cargo Carrying Capacity (also known as the Net Carrying Capacity) is the most weight the RV can safely hold. Your gear and personal items are only part of it. It also includes the holding tanks, propane, and passengers inside the RV.
- Axle Weight: When you look at fifth wheels, you’ll notice some have a single, double, or triple axle. There’s a reason for this. The axle weight is the maximum amount of weight that they can safely handle. When RV designers put floor plans together, they put the heaviest components above or around the axles for this reason. Fifth wheels distribute the rest of the coach’s weight through the chassis.
- Tow Capacity: The tow weight is the most known. This factor comes from the engine, transmission, chassis, suspension, and other parts. Think of it as a full-body workout for your truck. Towing overweight can crack cylinder heads, destroy your transmission, break the chassis, and ultimately cause irreparable damage. Riders inside the truck can get hurt. If it’s proven that you were towing overweight, insurance companies won’t payout.
The Best Half-Ton 5th Wheels On the Market
1. Escape 5.0
The fiberglass-molded travel trailer side of the RV industry has two sides to it. Direct descendants of the Boler molds and those that aren’t. Escape Trailers aren’t on the family tree but have a great quality to them. In 2006, Escape gave Scamp serious competition with the lightest 5th wheel made with their 5.0 model.
After a short time selling through RV dealerships, they decided to bring everything back in-house because they wanted a better connection to customer feedback and quality control. With their direct sales and fiberglass rallies, they hear their customers loud and clear, making them one of the leading fiberglass-mold RV companies.
The Escape 5.0 is so light, a quarter-ton pickup truck, like the Ford Ranger, can pull it. It rides relatively low due to the torsion axle suspension (the same type that Airstream uses) and comes standard with electric brakes. There’s a queen-size loft bed up front and a U-shaped dinette in the rear. As a direct-order coach, there is a full menu of features you can add, including solar, off-road, security, and glamping options.
Main Specs for the Escape 5.0
- Dry Weight: 3,910 pounds
- GVWR: 5,500 pounds
- CCC: 1,590 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 646 pounds
- Length: 21.2 feet
- Sleep: 4 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 28 gallons /Grey- 28 gallons /Black- 30 gallons
2. Forest River Arctic Wolf 271RK
You’re at that stage of life where the kids are grown and have their own families. Although you’re happy about how well each of them is doing, one’s living in Atlanta, and the other works for a company in Seattle. The house is in good shape, but maintaining such a big structure is becoming a burden. You’ve always wanted to travel, so why not give full-timing a try with your Toyota Tundra?
Forest River’s Cherokee Arctic Wolf series is a great option. The 271RK is one of the best 5th wheels for ½ ton trucks for full-time living. The rear kitchen comes with a massive amount of counter space and a huge closet pantry to make your RV a mobile family dinner table. The outside kitchen allows you to keep things hot while you dine al fresco too.
As you travel, the two lounge recliners are a great setting to enjoy your morning coffee as you enjoy the morning sunrise through the picture window. Keeping the RV at the right temperature is easy with the ceiling fan moving the air around. The best part: you get to be the “cool” grandparents with awesome travel stories.
Main Specs for the Arctic Wolf 271RK
- Dry Weight: 7,808 pounds
- GVWR: 11,385 pounds
- CCC: 3,577 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,185 pounds
- Length: 31.5 pounds
- Sleep: 4 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 49 gallons /Grey- 70 gallons /Black- 35 gallons
3. Genesis Supreme 29CK Low Profile Toy Hauler
If you’re looking for the best half-ton towable toy hauler fifth wheel, check out Genesis Supreme. Both Pablo Carmona and Michelle Treangen left their top management positions at one of the Big Four RV brands after 30 years in the business each. In 2012, the two of them started their own family-owned company outside of Los Angeles, California. They specialize in toy hauler travel trailers, fifth wheels, and open deck RVs.
The Genesis 29CK has a near 17-foot garage space for your motorized adventure toys. A near queen-size bed lowers from the ceiling for guests. The off-door wall has an optional slideout with a three-seater sofa that sits opposite two lounge recliners. The corner kitchen shares a wall with the bathroom that’s on the same level as the master suite.
While the cabinetry and interior have a dark grey completion, the light walls keep the interior bright giving the space an open feel. The furniture, counters, and overall features have an upgraded feel to them, making the RV look ruggedly top-end.
Main Specs for the Genesis 29CK
- Dry Weight: 8,330 pounds
- GVWR: 11,550 pounds
- CCC: 3,220 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,950 pounds
- Length: 33 feet
- Sleep: 5 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 100 gallons /Grey- 50 gallons /Black- 50 gallons
4. Ice Castle Fish Houses All Season Traveler
Those that enjoy ice fishing look forward to the day the lake officials open the frozen lakes up for the sport. RV manufacturers have jumped into the arena with coaches that are replacing the older-style skid houses with travel trailers and fifth wheels. Once in place, the axles lift up creating a seal against the ice and the RV floors have portholes to drop your fishing lines.
One of the leaders in the mobile ice house field, Ice Castle Fish Houses, created a 32-foot half-ton towable fifth wheel floor plan for a luxury experience. The All Season Traveler has a full kitchen, bathroom, and a queen-size bed. It also comes with an air conditioner for summer use, and a 30,000 BTU furnace to stay comfortable while you wait to catch that prize-winning fish.
Before you head out, check with the lake authorities to make sure the ice can tolerate the 12,000 pound GVWR and if they have any length restrictions on the lake. It’s also a good idea to bring a portable holding tank with you, so you can safely transport your wastewater without contaminating the ice.
Main Specs for the All Season Traveler
- Dry Weight: 9,740 pounds
- GVWR: 12,000 pounds
- CCC: 2,260 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,948 pounds
- Length: 32 feet
- Sleep: 4 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 30 gallons /Grey- 30 gallons /Black- 30 gallons
5. Highland Ridge Light 292BH
Some use their ½ ton towable 5th wheel for competitive reasons. For those that compete in the American Kennel Club or Westminster Kennel Club circuits, having a pet-friendly RV is a necessity. There’s a lot involved when it comes to getting your champion ready for show day.
The Light 292BH is apart of Highland Ridge’s pet-friendly floor plans. You don’t have to worry about your dog’s nails getting caught in heat registers since they’re located on the walls. All of the flooring is carpet-free, so cleaning up any grooming or shedded fur won’t be a problem.
The large shower and bathroom give you plenty of room to maneuver for bath time. You can choose the freestanding table for the dinette, making it your grooming workstation before you head inside to the prep area for the finishing touches. If you aren’t bringing family with you, the bunkhouse is an excellent space to store all of your equipment.
Main Specs for the Light 292BH
- Dry Weight: 8,125 pounds
- GVWR: 9,995 pounds
- CCC: 1,870 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,320 pounds
- Length: 34.9 feet
- Sleep: 6 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 51 gallons /Grey- 58 gallons /Black- 29 gallons
Learn more about how to camp with your dog and dog-friendly RVs.
6. Grand Design Reflection 150 Series 278BH
Many reviewers talk about how Grand Design creates most of their features based on customer feedback. They made their reputation as one of the leading manufacturers from this idea and they’re high quality. The interior features serve real world RV lifestyle issues like shoe trees at the entryway and having the largest shower in the industry.
It doesn’t stop there. Many of their exterior and safety features are second-to-none. Their 90-degree turn radius pin box allows you to create tight angles when maneuvering your fifth wheel into position; even if you’re towing the 5th wheel with a short bed pickup truck. The ductless flooring and motion sensor lighting lets you walk safely through the coach without skinning your toes at night.
Parents won’t have to worry about their kids at night in the bunkhouse. Three of the four sides are guarded by walls. The foot area is partially obstructed by a wardrobe and the steps to the upper bunk. If the worst were to happen, the windows act as emergency exits for your children’s safety.
Main Specs for Reflection 150 278BH
- Dry Weight: 8,295 pounds
- GVWR: 10,195 pounds
- CCC: 1,900 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,338 pounds
- Length: 32.11 feet
- Sleep: 10 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 62 gallons /Grey- 78 gallons /Black- 39 gallons
7. Jayco Eagle HT 27RS
You and your spouse have walked through full profile fifth wheels at the RV show and sigh with frustration. You’d love to have a kitchen island, but your Dodge Ram 1500 can only pull half-ton fifth wheels. All of the low profile versions you’ve walked through don’t have that type of kitchen configuration. Then you walk through the Jayco half-ton towable fifth wheel and smile.
The kitchen island in the Eagle HT 27RS places the double-basin sink to one side, giving you plenty of counter space for meal prep. Your eyes light up even more when you see the eight cubic foot refrigerator and dual closet-sized pantries. Your spouse reminds you that one of those pantries would be better served as a closet for storing other things, but you give them the look that tells him or her not to destroy your delusion.
Main Specs for the Eagle HT 27RS
- Dry Weight: 8,950 pounds
- GVWR: 10,995 pounds
- CCC: 2,045 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,675 pounds
- Length: 32.8 feet
- Sleep: 4 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 81 gallons /Grey- 43 gallons /Black- 43 gallons
8. Dutchmen Astoria 2503REF
Recently, Dutchmen made the decision for the 2020 model year to replace the Aerolite series with the Astoria lineup. The Aerolites had a lot of remarkable features, but once you walk through an Astoria, you’ll see why this next-generation series was a wise decision. The cutting-edge innovations and floor plan layouts are very forward-thinking.
For couples who’ve decided to work-on-the-road, the Astoria 2503REF is the best 5th wheel RV on the market for the work and life balance in the half-ton subcategory. The rear hutch is a great place to set up your computer workstation. Your spouse, partner, or traveling companion can use the freestanding table as their work area.
The main LED TV makes a perfect video conferencing unit where you can place the camera on the shelf right below it. Make sure you’re in full business attire when sitting in the theatre seats because, from that angle, the people on the other side will see your shorts.
Main Specs for the Astoria 2503REF
- Dry Weight: 7,804 pounds
- GVWR: 9,950 pounds
- CCC: 2,146 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,437 pounds
- Length: 30 feet
- Sleep: 2 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 50 gallons /Grey- 78 gallons /Black- 39 gallons
9. Northwood Fox Mountain 235RLS
If you’re looking for a true all-season fifth wheel for your F-150 or Chevy Silverado 1500, check out the Fox Mountain 235RLS. Four-season RVs are generally heavier than standard season coaches due to the additional features, so make sure your truck has the heavy-duty tow package. The trade-off, in this case, is insulation values like R-11 for the sidewalls and a combined R-23 for the roof.
To make the most of the bathroom, Northwood split the bathroom putting the commode in a privacy closet on the door-side and the sink and shower on the off-door side. This configuration puts the stairway to the master in the center, rather than against the walls like most other fifth wheels.
For the couple that loves extreme climates, this coach is the perfect mobile cabin for yuletide. You can enjoy the scenery outside through the rear picture windows on the lounge recliners sipping your favorite hot beverage.
Main Specs for the Fox Mountain 235RLS
- Dry Weight: 8,761 pounds
- GVWR: 12,000 pounds
- CCC: 3,239 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,930 pounds
- Length: 27.10 feet
- Sleep: 4-6 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 59 gallons /Grey- 42 gallons /Black- 36 gallons
The 32BHS is a Cougar Half-Ton fifth wheel that changes the paradigm for bath and a half RVs. Every other 2 bathroom fifth wheel places the main bath with the master bedroom. This particular floor plan places it next to the bunkhouse. The main bath also has its own entry which makes it double as a mudroom.
The 10-sleeper 32BHS has three twin-size bunks and a jackknife sofa in the bunkhouse, a fold-down dinette, and a tri-fold sofa in the living room. If the kids can’t keep still, let them run around outside while you prepare lunch or dinner in the outdoor kitchen.
Main Specs for Cougar Half-Ton 32BHS
- Dry Weight: 9,336 pounds
- GVWR: 11,500 pounds
- CCC: 2,164 pounds
- Hitch Weight: 1,570 pounds
- Length: 35.9 feet
- Sleep: 10 people
- Tanks: Fresh- 60 gallons /Grey- 60 gallons /Black- 60 gallons
Can I Really Use a Half-Ton Pickup to Tow a 5th Wheel?
In the RV world, fifth wheels come in two categories: full profile and low profile. The low profile versions are also called half-ton 5th wheels. Half-ton 5th wheel campers are smaller, lighter, and not as luxurious as the full-profile behemoths. You do have to be careful though, while the manufacturers may label a certain model as a half-ton, it may not be light enough for your Nissan Titan or Ram 1500 to safely tow.
When you are researching low profile fifth wheels, use the GVWR, not the dry weight, as your first indicator to see if your truck can tow it safely. Some of the examples we mentioned above are towable for heavy-duty half-tons only. If you haven’t purchased your truck yet, you may want to consider a 250/2500 series truck instead.
Three-quarter ton trucks don’t have the fuel-efficiency that ½ tons offer, but their other advantages are worthwhile. Their wider wheelbase, higher towing capacity, and other features will make the towing experience smoother. The effects of windshear and other issues that come with towing won’t be as significant as if you’re towing with a half-ton truck. The overall stress on the vehicle decreases, giving a better longevity to your truck.
That being said, whatever you decide, the half-ton fifth wheel category is an excellent choice. Each year RV manufacturers release more floorplans and new innovations due to their popularity. Susan and I hope to see you on the road.