Cargo Capacity

One specification that will get a fifth wheel knocked off the short list of what we would buy are those with a lighter cargo capacity. Since first starting to research trailers in late 2014 I consistently read 3,000 pounds of cargo capacity or more is suggested for fulltime RV living. A quick check of nine full-timer rigs, who weighed their trailers and posted results, averaged closer to 3,448 of cargo capacity.  Some say their next trailer will have way more than that. I would really appreciate your opinions on the matter!

For us we might be hauling around the following “extra” items:

  • Full grey and black tanks at times: We plan to boondock at times so I could see hauling in fresh water and adding to that tank from jugs. If we are looking at trailers having in the range of 75 grey water capacity and 45 black water I suppose just the water in these tanks if full would be 996 pounds. What’s the chances of having to haul that any distance outside a camping area to dump? I have considered we might purchase a blue boy. We have stayed at electric only sites and found not having to worry about water or sewer connections for shorter stays is a bonus.
  • Hobby items for entertainment: We are not yet sure of what hobbies we might haul around with us. Board games, bikes and tent camping equipment. We already own an inflatable kayak and love it. I’d think all that could add up to less than 200 pounds. And Karen loves real books she can hold in her hands so we are going to haul a few around.
  • Extra battery and maybe solar someday: Although we are leaning towards an RV gas/electric refrigerator we might go with a residential. For sure we are starting off with at least two batteries. If we add a solar system we could see adding several more batteries. At 60 pounds apiece or so that can add up. Six batteries could be around 360 pounds plus the solar panels and components.
  • Washing machine: Karen wants at least a combo washer/dryer for smaller loads of laundry. We have used the ones in campgrounds and she is thinking it would be convenient to have a unit in the trailer. I’d rather just have two weeks worth of clothing and haul it to a laundry twice a month. That adds 148 pounds. I don’t view any compromise as reasonable if both persons can’t live with it. In this case if she wants a combo unit then we are getting it.
  • Generator: For sure we will have at least a portable setup that can power up to one air conditioner. That adds about 94 pounds. And if we were to go with a full size 5500 watt propane unit that would add about 279 pounds.

These above items total at least 1,973 pounds. We could see having a few other lighter weight amenities we read about such as solar shades that hang from the edge of the awning, a screened room for the picnic table and such. From what I understand when an RV manufacturer lists the estimated cargo capacity in their advertising the weight assumes what comes with the basic build. The advertised cargo limit does not include optional equipment such as a second outside awning, backup camera and more that are of lighter weight. But what about upgraded insulation packages, larger propane tanks, a heavier pin or whatever?

Realistically one should be able to compromise and just be willing to give up what would not fit within the weight limits. We can do that. But I’ve read where people can’t fill half their cabinets because of weight capacity limits. Or they found out they enjoyed Rving so much they were going full time and only had a couple hundred pounds capacity remaining, having used their trailer for extended stays.  In one extreme I read where a motorhome technically did not have the carrying capacity to haul all the passengers.

I started this year looking at 38 trailers with the basic floor plan we were interested in which is a rear living room fifth wheel. The list is now 24, chiefly because the floor plan comes with less than 3,000 pound of cargo capacity. More importantly, this knocked out a few serious brand names which are trailers commonly used for full timing.

We are going with a dual wheel truck and I suppose one needs to research methods of storing items on the truck rather than the trailer.

Am I thinking in the wrong direction on this one?

(8/17/17) Update: The more I read about possible upgrades to a trailer and the stories people tell about being over weight, the more I want to go with a high cargo capacity trailer. For example, for those of you who might want to upgrades your suspension, tires, axles brakes and such, read this forum thread.

(9/3/17) Another update: I’ve been zooming in on the labels for various trailers as I pull up photos. I’ve found a few that advertise X amount of cargo capacity on the manufacturers website, which I know is an average figure. However, the actual labels of any given trailer might show less cargo capacity. I assume this is because of all the options such as heavy dual pane windows. It still remains reasonable, I’d think, a trailer that starts with a larger cargo capacity will be left with the greatest capacity after the options are installed.

July 13, 2017 the 100,000th Keystone Montana rolled off the factory line.

Good video compilation on what we wish we knew before we started Rving from seven full-timers.

19 thoughts on “Cargo Capacity

  1. We are having the same discussion. Leaning toward a Cedar Creek Champagne model that has ~3k of CCC. However, we also took a look at both DRV and the new Vilano, but neither had anywhere near the CCC we want. I’m hopeful Vilano will address this issue in future models as we like the Tiffin brand, and can have them in the consideration set.


    • Jeff, the Vilano is a fine example of cargo capacity limitations. I’ve been following this trailer since 2015. We looked at both rear living room floor plans. One lacks grey water capacity and the other lacks cargo capacity. I think the issue might be their 10″ I beam rather than using a 12″ beam.

      We also liked the upgrades that come with the Champagne edition of the Cedar Creek.

      Another big player that has a chance of being dropped off our list is Grand Design because of cargo capacity. The 2018 models appear to have fixed their water tank capacity issues.

      Ironically, what has been helping us narrow the list when considering lengths is the cargo capacity. Some of the better built units in a specific price range, for example the Heartland Bighorn, often keep the same basic foundations. Their shorter units have greatly increased cargo capacity because of this. Hope that makes sense.


  2. Hi mark and karen,
    We are also tesearching to go full time as well.
    After reading your blog about cargo capacity, my only comment i would have is for karen.
    I have done a lot of research and discussion with woman who full time and would not get a washer dryer combo. Most if the ladies i talked to would have 2 seperate units. Reason being the length if time it tskes to do the load. Many woman have changed them out, to seperate units. Just a tidbit of info,
    Thanks for your blog! Enjoy it!


  3. Hi Mark and Karen,
    We really can’t thank you enough, not only for all of your research, but for for sharing it with all of us. We’ll be going full- time in two years and your blog is hugely valuable. Looking forward to many more posts!
    Don and Ronni Deam


  4. Even though we don’t have one, we’ve heard the same thing about washers and dryers. Also, since you will have a dually, try to get that generator onto the truck. Try to start out as light as possible on your cargo, because that is guaranteed to grow. Consider where the tanks, refrigerator and washer/dryer are placed, as those areas are the heaviest. You don’t want them all concentrated in one area, as that can overload a wheel. It’s nice to have trunks in the back and front, as that allows you to adjust your cargo. Be sure to get each wheel weighed individually before heading out. Also, if you have the option to get heavier axles right from the get-go, do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mark, only the journey will prove you right or wrong with your decision, but you are definitely going about it in the right way. Two things about boondocking. 1. Solar is a must to keep the batteries charged. I never had to run my generator when I was boondocking. 2. A residential refrigerator will need a lot of batteries and solar panels. I cannot run my inverter at night because it would run my batteries down to nothing. I only use my inverter when I want to make coffee, use the toaster oven or the microwave. Many campgrounds specify no washers or driers can be used in the RV. We found it easier to do laundry once every two or three weeks. It takes us about 2 hours and it is done. We usually leave the campground and go to a commercial laundromat in town. I am planning to stop and see you our return trip in the Spring. When I get to the planning stage, I will let you no the dates. Russ


    • Hi Russ, hope you and Kay are doing well. We are looking forward to your trip back through the area.
      I remembered what you said about leaving the inverter on overnight.

      I have been wondering about the need from an inverter for times we are off the grid. We do not plan to get a residential fridge, it’s just too limiting as to where we might stay and I don’t want that much solar or that many batteries. Plus, I’ve been in a campgrounds with only 30 amp or poor electric service and was glad to have the gas option on the fridge.

      Do we need an inverter for other things? For example, how do you run the TV and an outlet or two if you have no inverter and they are not 12 volts? I know we could start the generator and handle that, but I’d rather just run them off batteries. I’ve seen some portable inverters but think those require a 12 volt outlet.

      Regarding the washer/dryer. How common is it that a campground will not allow them? Karen is back and forth on getting one. If we do we are going to compromise and get a combo unit that is vented rather than the stackable kind. Which will mean we will still use campground or public laundromats at times. Personally, I would rather just have three weeks worth of clothes and go in town and get it all done in an hour.


      • We don’t watch much TV. So I do not run the inverter for that. I use a tablet for my computer when I am off the grid. We have a 12 volt outlet to plug in our chargeable devices. We do run the Keurig coffee maker, the toaster oven and the microwave off of the inverter. The solar also keeps our batteries charged so that we have 12v lights, 12v to run the propane forced hot air heater and 12v to run the controls for the propane refrigerator.

        When we took our trip to Vermont, which had no hook ups, and the Solar did not work, we had to run the generator twice a day to charge the batteries and make coffee, etc. We did not need the generator once on our 7 month trip. We have 4 AGM batteries and 480 watts of solar.

        The campground that I have been a seasonal in for 12 years does not allow washers and driers. I have noticed it mentioned in other campgrounds, but never payed attention to how many forbid it.


      • The original install set it up on an automatic transfer switch. I changed it out to a manual transfer switch. The main feed, which is 30 amp 120 volt, was interrupted and the 20 amp 120 volt from the inverter then feeds the panel, so that all the outlets have power. I just have to watch what I turn on so as to not overload the inverter. I will show it all to you when we come through town next Spring. I will plan to spend a week there so that we have plenty of time to visit.


    • I’m planning a series of posts regarding the process I’m using to decide on a trailer. One of the hard parts is it’s about a moment in time, more or less. Every day I learn something new that influences my opinions. Every trailer I look at has a chance of changing an opinion. Thankfully (I suppose) we have until late 2019 to decide. But we plan to make the purchase earlier to enjoy a bunch of stored up vacation time.

      For 2018 models I have about nine more trailers to review, then I’ll have the “list” done. Probably will look at the top five floor plans as a potential purchase. If nothing changing when the 2019 models come out in as early as April or so of 2018, then we will buy one of the top five. Guessing at this point, but that sounds doable.

      Looking forward to you guys touring the Northwood Manufacturing Artic Fox. No dealership here. I like the 35-5Z model on paper. Really wondering about their AC runs and if they are quite. Also wondering if you can get MCD type window shades. Also, their grey water tank might be marginal for boondocking. As I recall, it seems like their hot water tank was on the smaller size. Anyway – hoping you find a dealership and can let us in the Midwest know what they are all about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Our intention is to go check out the dealership sort of nearby tomorrow to get some footage of it! Hopefully we’re not too smoked out! The wildfires around here are really getting geared up! We should have lots to show though on Friday!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Budgeting Part Two – Initial Start-up Cost for Trailer and Truck | Our Future in an RV

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