As an RVer, you may hear and read a lot about the importance of knowing your camper’s weight. Regardless of the type of rig you have, weight is always an important factor, for a variety of reasons. Knowing your rig’s weights and how they impact your towing capacity, and the overall health of your RV, is very important. That’s why in today’s post, we’re explaining and answering the question, “What is the dry weight on a camper?”
We have a 43-foot diesel pusher and we tow an SUV behind it. We need to understand certain weight-related information before we can safely tow our Honda. Another RVer might drive a heavy-duty pickup truck, towing a camper trailer or fifth-wheel behind it. Yet another RVer could be driving a Class B camper van that can only hold so much weight before it’s too heavy for its own good.
When discussing the weight of a camper, the best place to start is with dry weight, so let’s investigate dry weight and how it impacts various facets of RVing.
- 1) Why is it Important to Know the Dry Weight of a Camper?
- 2) What Does the Dry Weight of an RV Include?
- 3) Is Hitch Weight Included in Dry Weight of a Camper?
- 4) Is GVWR the Same as Dry Weight?
- 5) How Do You Find the Dry Weight of a Camper?
- 6) How Much Weight Does Water Add to the Dry Weight of a Camper?
- 7) How to Read Camper Weight Numbers
Why is it Important to Know the Dry Weight of a Camper?
Knowing the dry weight of a camper is important to other calculations such as appropriate toad weight, cargo-carrying capacity, passenger-carrying capacity, and more.
An overweight rig is not only unhealthy for the rig itself, but it can also be downright dangerous. The dry weight of a camper is where we begin to calculate other important numbers.
For example, tires are rated to carry a certain amount of weight at a particular PSI. Certain transmission coolers are installed based on weight ratings, and if you push the limits of that weight, you could seriously damage the transmission of your rig or the truck hauling your camper.
So, knowing the dry weight of a camper allows you to calculate additional weights appropriately so that you can stay within safe weights as you travel – not only for the safety of your RV but also for the sake of your safety on the road.
What Does the Dry Weight of an RV Include?
The dry weight of an RV includes everything on the rig as shipped from the manufacturer without any passengers, cargo/belongings, liquids (including fuel, fresh water, and black/gray water), or any additional accessories or options that may have been installed by the dealer (or previous owner).
However, it’s important to understand that while the above definition of dry weight is the generally-accepted standard, different manufacturers may have their OWN definition. So, knowing how the manufacturer of your RV calculates dry weight is also important.
Some manufacturers include certain types of optional equipment in the dry weight, while others do not. Some RV manufacturers include RV batteries in a rig’s dry weight – and others do not. And despite the fact that, by definition, dry weight doesn’t include fluids, there are RV manufacturers who include the weight of fuel, coolant, and oil in their dry weight calculations (which is, actually, understandable for motorized RVs since you can’t even operate them without those fluids being included in the calculation).
But this complicates the question of “What is dry weight on a camper?” and is the reason we can’t generalize when assessing dry weight.
Is Hitch Weight Included in Dry Weight of a Camper?
First, let’s talk about what it is! Hitch weight (also called “tongue weight”) is defined as the downward force that the tongue of the trailer applies to the hitch of the tow vehicle. It’s a portion of the total weight of the trailer. Most of the weight of the trailer is supported by the wheels & axles, the rest is supported by the tow vehicle’s hitch, through the tongue.
So, hitch weight IS included in the dry weight (and Gross Vehicle Weight, see below), and most experts agree that an acceptable hitch/tongue weight for any trailer is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of the trailer weight.
So if you were in the market for a travel trailer, for example, you’d want to know not only the total weight of the camper itself, but also the hitch/tongue weight, so that you can be sure it’s not exceeding the capabilities of your tow vehicle (you want to be sure the hitch on your tow vehicle, and it’s cargo carrying capacity, can handle that weight).
The issue is that hitch weight (or tongue weight) is not a constant. It can be affected by how loaded your camper/trailer is… and even HOW your camper/trailer is loaded. Putting too much weight forward of the trailer’s axle(s) will increase the weight being transferred to the hitch. While putting too much weight behind the trailer’s axles can lower hitch weight.
Why is this so important? Because too much hitch weight and too little hitch weight can both cause problems.
Too much hitch weight can overload the rear suspension of your tow vehicle, causing excess friction & wear and tear on the rear suspension components and tires (possibly leading to component failure or a blowout). But it can ALSO reduce the weight on the front axle of the tow vehicle, which can cause issues with your ability to steer.
Too little weight on the hitch can cause problems with excessive sway while towing because the weight of the trailer is distributed too far to the rear. That sway can lead to serious trouble maintaining control of your vehicle, since the trailer can literally become the tail wagging the dog!
Is GVWR the Same as Dry Weight?
No. GVWR and dry weight are two very different weight ratings.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is defined as the maximum allowed weight of the RV, including passengers, cargo, fluids, etc.
As a reminder, the dry weight is the weight of the vehicle as it comes from the manufacturer WITHOUT such things as passengers, cargo, fluids, etc.
You may see many other weight ratings on RV’s/campers/trailers, such as cargo carrying capacity weight (CCC), gross vehicle weight, hitch weight, axle weight, and gross dry weight.
GVWR is exceedingly important to know as a factor of safety. GVWR represents the maximum weight your fully-loaded rig should not exceed (as determined by the manufacturer, based on the capacities of all of the structural, suspension, and braking components) — not just the weight of passengers and cargo, but also the vehicle itself.
How Do You Find the Dry Weight of a Camper?
Usually, if you check the chassis or the inside of the door to the entrance of your RV, you’re likely to find a sticker that states the dry weight of your camper (along with other information), based on how the manufacturer has calculated it. If it’s not located there, you may also find it posted on the side of the camper, or inside a storage area or cabinet.
Because this is such important information to know, if you don’t find it posted anywhere on your camper itself, you can contact the manufacturer or your RV or, if the RV is new enough, find it posted on the website of the manufacturer.
Even if you have an older RV, you may be able to find dry weight information in a simple Google search, but be sure to look into what the manufacturer included in their calculation of “dry weight”, if possible.
How Much Weight Does Water Add to the Dry Weight of a Camper?
Water can add significant weight to a camper, but that weight is easily calculated.
One liquid gallon of water weighs roughly 8.34 pounds (lb) or 3.785 kilograms (kg). So, if you fill a 20-gallon fresh water tank with water, for example, you’ll be adding 166.8 pounds (or 75.7 kilograms) of weight to your RV.
Simply multiply the number of gallons of water you’re taking on board by 8.34 for pounds (or 3.785 for kilograms).
How to Read Camper Weight Numbers
The various weights and numbers posted on a camper can be confusing, to be sure. Here’s a list of several weight types that might be of interest to you, along with a brief definition of each.
- Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
The maximum allowed weight of the RV, including passengers, cargo, fluids, etc. This is the maximum weight rating established by the manufacturer – the heaviest your RV can be for safe operation.
- Gross Vehicle Weight
The total actual weight of the fully-loaded RV with full tanks, all cargo being carried, fluids, optional equipment, and all passengers.
- Dry Weight/Shipped Weight
The weight of the RV as shipped from the manufacturer, usually with no liquids, accessories or options, cargo, passengers, etc.
- Dry Hitch Weight
The amount of weight on the trailer ball of your tow vehicle when the trailer is unloaded (no water and gear).
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