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Best Pickup For Towing a Camper

Best Pickup For Towing a Camper

With so many pickup truck options available today, choosing the right one to safely tow your camper can be a challenging task. This comprehensive guide compares the top trucks across multiple factors to help you select the perfect tow vehicle for your travel trailer or 5th wheel. We’ll cover everything from engine types and towing capacity to pricing, features, and real owner experiences.


Throughout this in-depth post, you’ll learn the pros and cons of diesel versus gas engines for towing, discover which full-size and midsize trucks offer the best capability and value, and get tips on properly matching a truck to your camper’s weight and length. We’ll also recommend must-have accessories for easier towing.


By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to confidently pick the ideal pickup to pull your RV and camper for your needs and budget. Whether you want a light-duty midsize or heavy-duty full-ton truck, need to know the top brands for towing, or want tips on buying used, this guide covers it all.

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Diesel vs Gas Engines for Towing

When it comes to towing a heavy camper, the engine type you choose can make a big difference. Diesel and gas engines each have pros and cons to consider.

Diesel engines are known for their power and torque at low RPMs. This makes them ideal for pulling heavy loads up steep inclines or maintaining speed on highways. The high torque of diesel engines also puts less strain on the transmission when towing. Diesels get better fuel economy than gas engines when towing heavy loads. However, diesel engines cost more upfront and diesel fuel is more expensive than regular gasoline.

Gas engines need to work harder than diesel engines when towing, so they may struggle on steep grades. However, gas engines are less expensive to buy and operate. Modern gas engines have closed the gap in torque and tow ratings compared to diesels. For example, some new full-size trucks with turbocharged V6 or V8 gas engines can tow over 10,000 lbs. Gas engines also tend to be quieter and have a more responsive throttle.

For the best power when towing a camper, look for a truck with an engine that produces at least 300 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Diesel or gas engines in this range will provide confident acceleration and hill climbing ability. Also pay attention to the vehicle’s axle ratio, transmission, cooling system and other towing-specific features.

 

The Top Full-Size Trucks for Towing Campers

When it comes to towing heavy loads like campers, full-size trucks are designed for the job. Here are some of the top options:

 

Ford F-150

The F-150 has impressive towing capacities, ranging from 13,000 to 14,000 pounds for properly equipped models. This gives you plenty of power to pull even larger fifth wheel and travel trailers. The available 3.5L EcoBoost V6 provides robust torque while the 10-speed automatic transmission optimizes gearing for towing up hills. Ford’s Tow Technology package adds sway control, adaptive steering, and other helpful features. Owners like the smooth ride and handling of the F-150.

 

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Chevy rates the Silverado 1500 up to 13,400 pounds for towing, with the 6.2L V8 and Max Trailering Package. The strong 420 lb-ft of torque gives you confidence when accelerating uphill with a heavy load. The integrated trailer brake controller is convenient. Owners comment on the quiet, comfortable ride when towing their camper. The Silverado provides a very capable option.

 

Ram 1500

The Ram 1500 impresses with tow ratings up to 12,750 pounds properly configured. The 5.7L HEMI V8 supplies robust torque across the power band. The exclusive rear coil spring suspension gives the Ram a leg up for controlling trailers, while the available air suspension self-levels when hitched up. Integrated trailer camera views help with hooking up and monitoring your load. Owners love how stable and composed the Ram 1500 feels under load.

 

Toyota Tundra

Although the Tundra has the lowest tow rating among full-size trucks, it still pulls up to 10,200 pounds with the new iForce Max engine. Toyota’s emphasis is on durability and reliability, giving owners confidence on long trips. The standard integrated trailer brake controller simplifies setup. Owners comment that the Tundra’s firm suspension allows minimal trailer sway. Overall, the Tundra provides a very capable tow vehicle.

 

Midsize Trucks with Impressive Towing Capacities

While full-size trucks dominate the towing market, there are a few midsize trucks that can still pull decent sized trailers and campers without breaking a sweat.

 

Jeep Gladiator

The Jeep Gladiator combines the rugged off-road capability of the Wrangler with the versatility of a pickup truck. With the available Max Tow Package, the Gladiator can tow up to 7,650 pounds. This makes it one of the top midsize trucks for towing a small to mid-sized camper. The Gladiator’s truck bed provides flexible cargo space for gear while its 4×4 system can get you off the beaten path to remote campsites.

 

Honda Ridgeline

Honda’s innovative Ridgeline uses a unibody design more like a crossover than a traditional pickup. But it still offers a 5,000 pound tow rating when properly equipped. The Ridgeline’s car-like handling and comfortable ride make it ideal for long hauls. It may not have the highest tow rating in its class, but the Ridgeline’s overall blend of performance, fuel efficiency, and versatility make it a top choice for towing smaller campers.

 

Nissan Frontier

Completely redesigned for 2022, the new Nissan Frontier provides best-in-class standard towing of up to 6,720 pounds. Available off-road enhancements like hill descent control, an electronic locking rear differential, and all-terrain tires enable you to reach those remote camping destinations. The Frontier offers strong V6 performance and an array of advanced driver assists to make towing your camper stress-free.

 

Key Factors To Consider When Matching a Truck to Your Camper

Choosing the right truck to safely tow your camper comes down to properly matching the truck’s capabilities to the size and weight of your camper. Here are the key factors to consider:

 

Camper Length and Weight

The most important specs to look at are the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of your camper and the maximum towing capacity of the truck. The GVWR includes the weight of the camper itself, cargo, passengers, and added accessories. This total weight must be less than the truck’s rated towing capacity.

You’ll also want to make sure the camper is an appropriate length for the truck’s wheelbase. A camper that is too long can cause stability issues when towing and turning. As a general rule, the camper length should not exceed 1.5 times the truck’s wheelbase.

 

Payload Capacity

In addition to towing capacity, pay close attention to the truck’s payload capacity. This refers to the maximum weight the truck can carry including passengers, cargo in the cab and bed, and tongue weight from the camper. An overloaded truck is dangerous to drive.

The tongue weight of the camper when loaded should be 10-15% of the total weight. Make sure the truck’s payload after occupants and gear can safely handle it.

 

Trailer Brake Controller

For safe towing, your truck needs a brake controller installed that activates the electric or surge brakes on the camper. This synchronization ensures smooth, balanced braking. Midsize trucks may require an aftermarket brake controller added.

 

Top Accessories For Safer, Easier Towing

Properly outfitting your truck with towing accessories can make a world of difference in towing performance, safety, and ease of use. Here are some of the most important accessories to consider:

 

Towing Mirrors

Replacing your standard truck mirrors with dedicated towing mirrors provides you with a wider rear view to clearly see your camper and surrounding traffic. Towing mirrors extend several inches further out from the vehicle and can telescope, tilt, and swivel to get the right view. Models with integrated turn signals and convex blind spot mirrors are available. Go with power-adjustable heated mirrors for maximum functionality.

 

Weight Distribution Hitch

A weight distribution (or load equalizing) hitch is a must for larger campers. It uses spring bars that transfer weight forward onto the front axle of the truck and backward onto the trailer axle. This balances the load so the rear of your truck doesn’t sag, allowing for safer, more stable handling.

 

Trailer Brake Controller

The extra weight of a travel trailer makes it take longer to slow down and stop compared to just a truck. A brake controller activates electric or hydraulic brakes on your trailer when you apply the brakes in your truck. This improves stopping distances and prevents trailer sway caused by the trailer pushing your truck during braking. For hassle-free braking, a brake controller is essential.

 

Top Trucks Summary

When it comes to picking the best truck for towing a camper, there are a few standout options to consider based on your needs and budget:

 

Ford F-150 – The F-150 has excellent towing capacity when properly equipped, with available features like Pro Trailer Backup Assist. It’s a reliable option that offers a comfortable ride for daily driving too.

 

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 – Chevy’s half-ton truck provides strong V8 power for confident towing, along with technologies like trailering cameras to make maneuvering easier. The Silverado is known for dependability.

 

Toyota Tundra – With its powerful i-Force V8 engine, the Tundra can confidently pull heavy loads while providing Toyota’s reputation for longevity and low maintenance costs.

 

Ram 1500 – The Ram impresses with its smooth ride quality and quiet, upscale cabin. The available air suspension helps level loads and improves control when towing larger campers.

 

For mid-size trucks, the Honda Ridgeline stands out for its innovative in-bed trunk and smooth V6 power. The Jeep Gladiator combines off-road capability with a respectable tow rating for a mid-size pickup. For heavy-duty towing needs, the diesel versions of the Ford F-250, Ram 2500, and Chevy Silverado 2500HD are top-rated choices.

 

Tips for Safe Towing

Towing a camper requires extra caution and preparation to ensure a safe trip. Here are some key tips for safe towing:

 

Proper Setup

The right hitch setup is critical. Use a weight distributing hitch for heavier campers to evenly distribute weight and improve handling. Properly adjust hitch height so the trailer sits level. Check tire pressure on truck and trailer. Make all necessary electrical connections for lights and brakes.

Load the trailer correctly by keeping heavier items low and centered. Do not overload the trailer or truck bed capacity.

Use towing mirrors to improve rear visibility around the camper.

 

Driving Carefully

Drive slowly and avoid sudden acceleration or braking which can cause sway. Go easy on curves allowing extra room for the camper width.

Watch your speed and double your following distance from other vehicles.

Downshift instead of riding your brakes on steep downhill grades. Activate tow/haul mode if available.

Pay attention to passing vehicles that may push you with wind gusts.

Make wide turns allowing room for the camper tail swing. Use a spotter when backing up.

 

Cost Considerations

When choosing a truck for towing a camper, cost is an important factor to weigh. There are a few key costs to consider:

 

Truck Purchase Price

Full-size trucks with robust towing capacities start around $30,000 and range up to $70,000 or more for high-end models. Midsize trucks generally start around $20,000. Extra options like towing packages, bigger engines, and four-wheel drive can add thousands to the sticker price.

Consider what features you need for safe towing versus nice-to-have upgrades. Opting for a slightly used 1-3 year old model can also save substantially over new.

 

Fuel Costs

With gas prices fluctuating, fuel efficiency should be a consideration. Trucks with more powerful engines typically require premium fuel, which is more expensive. Diesel engines get better mileage but the fuel itself is pricier.

Calculate your expected yearly fuel usage towing the extra weight of a camper. This will determine if a diesel or gas engine is the better option long-term.

Look for advanced fuel-saving features like auto stop-start, cylinder deactivation, and hybrid options that improve efficiency.

Practice eco-driving habits like slower acceleration and avoiding excess idling to maximize MPG.

Weigh fuel costs against power – smaller engines work hard towing and may get worse economy than bigger ones cruising at low RPMs.

 

Used vs New Trucks

When selecting a truck for towing a camper, you’ll need to decide between purchasing new or used. Both options have their pros and cons.

Buying new gives you the latest features and technology, manufacturer warranty coverage, ability to customize, and assurance of the vehicle’s condition and maintenance history. However, new trucks come at a premium price and depreciate quickly in the first few years.

Opting for a used truck can provide excellent value, with many barely-driven models available off-lease after just a couple years. You’ll save a substantial amount over new, allowing more budget for the camper or other accessories. The downsides are no warranty, potential hidden issues, higher mileage, and lack of modern amenities found in new trucks.

When shopping used trucks, be sure to have a mechanic inspect it prior to purchase. Look for well-maintained models, preferably single owner with service records. Options like integrated trailer brake controllers, towing mirrors, hitches, and onboard generators can sweeten a used truck deal. For reliability when towing, target used trucks under 50,000 miles.

 

Leasing vs Buying

When selecting a truck for towing a camper, you’ll need to decide whether to lease or buy. Here are some key considerations:

 

Pros of leasing:

 

  • Lower monthly payments compared to financing
  • Get to drive a new truck every 2-3 years
  • Potential tax benefits for businesses
  • Lower down payment, often just first month’s payment
  • No hassle of selling when ready for new truck

 

Cons of leasing:

 

  • Limits on mileage, typically 10,000-15,000 miles per year
  • Restrictions on modifying the truck
  • Required to have full coverage insurance
  • Charges for excessive wear & tear at end of lease
  • No equity built up towards future truck purchase

 

Pros of buying:

 

  • No mileage restrictions
  • Can modify or customize the truck
  • Build equity as you pay down the loan
  • No end of lease fees for wear & tear
  • Lower insurance costs

 

Cons of buying:

 

  • Higher monthly payments than leasing
  • Down payment is typically 10-20% of truck price
  • Responsible for selling or trading in the truck
  • May need to repair or replace major components
  • Stuck with the same truck for years until loan is paid off

 

For camper towing, buying often makes more sense so you have full control over customizing, maintaining, and keeping the truck long term. But leasing can be a flexible option if you only plan to tow occasionally. Evaluate your budget, needs and how long you intend to keep the truck when deciding between leasing vs buying.

 

4×4 vs 4×2

When deciding between a 4×4 or 4×2 pickup truck for towing a camper, there are some key differences to consider:

 

4×4 trucks have greater off-road capability with four-wheel drive engaged. This provides more traction and control on loose, wet, icy, or rugged terrain. 4×4 allows you to reach more remote campsites and access unpaved forest service roads. The benefits are most noticeable when driving off-road or in poor weather conditions.

However, 4×4 does come with some tradeoffs. 4×4 trucks typically have lower fuel economy, cost more to purchase, and weigh slightly more. Engaging 4×4 also puts more strain on the drivetrain, which can lead to higher maintenance costs down the road.

For regular paved roads, a 4×2 truck will likely be sufficient when towing a properly loaded camper. The rear wheels provide the power for towing, so two-wheel drive is usually enough traction. However, if you plan to go off-road or drive in mountainous areas, a 4×4 truck would be the safer choice.

Overall, 4×4 trucks provide more capability for remote camping adventures. But a 4×2 truck can still confidently tow a camper for most on-road travel. Assess your specific needs to decide if 4×4 is worth the extra costs.

 

Crew Cab vs Regular Cab

When selecting a pickup truck for towing a camper, you’ll need to decide between a crew cab or regular cab configuration. Here’s a look at the key differences:

 

Passenger Capacity

Crew cabs offer seating for up to 6 passengers with four full doors, providing ample room for family and friends. Regular cabs typically seat 3 passengers and only have two doors. If you plan to carry rear passengers often, the crew cab is the way to go.

 

Interior Space

Crew cabs have a much roomier backseat and overall interior space. You get more leg room, head room and shoulder space compared to the cramped quarters of a regular cab. Crew cabs are more comfortable for longer trips.

 

Storage

Although crew cabs have a shorter bed length, they often offer similar overall cargo volume when you factor in the backseat area. You can fold up the rear seats to haul oversized gear inside. Regular cabs maximize bed size but lack interior storage.

Ultimately, crew cabs are ideal for camper towing if you need extra passenger capacity or interior storage. But regular cabs can get the job done if you mostly haul cargo and don’t need rear seats.

 

Electric Trucks

Electric trucks are starting to emerge as a viable option for towing campers. While they currently have lower tow ratings than gas and diesel trucks, capabilities are quickly improving.

The Rivian R1T offers an impressive tow rating of 11,000 pounds. With its quad-motor AWD powertrain, instant torque, and low center of gravity from the battery pack, Rivian built the R1T specifically for recreational towing applications. Towing range is estimated at around 180 miles.

Tesla plans to enter the pickup market with the upcoming Cybertruck, claiming it will offer over 14,000 pounds of towing capacity. With ultra-fast torque and sophisticated self-driving features, the Cybertruck could be a game-changer for electric RV towing.

Ford will also offer an electric version of its best-selling F-150 pickup. The F-150 Lightning is projected to have a tow rating over 10,000 pounds. Leveraging decades of truck engineering experience, the Lightning aims to deliver a seamless transition to electric for truck owners.

While range and charging time remain challenges, electric trucks are poised to offer a quiet, eco-friendly towing experience. As the technology continues advancing rapidly, they have the potential to become serious competitors to diesel trucks.

 

Conclusion

When choosing the best pickup truck for towing a camper, there are a few key factors to consider. The truck needs to have sufficient towing capacity for the fully loaded weight of the camper, a powerful and fuel-efficient engine, and features like an integrated trailer brake controller and towing mirrors. Based on the trucks reviewed, the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 are top recommendations for full-size trucks. For those wanting a smaller truck, the Honda Ridgeline and Jeep Gladiator also offer impressive towing capacities.

It’s important to match the truck not just to the camper’s weight, but also length and width to ensure stable handling. Carefully calculating the gross combined weight rating and choosing the right hitch setup for a fifth wheel or travel trailer is critical. Investing in towing accessories like a weight distribution hitch, backup camera, and brake controller can make pulling a camper much easier and safer.

While diesel engines offer tremendous torque for towing, modern gas V8s can also handle moderate camper weights. Go with a 4×4 or upgraded suspension package if planning to go off-road. And test drive different trucks to find the best blend of power, comfort, and value for your travel style.

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Questions About Towing a Camper With a Pickup

The best pickup trucks for towing campers in Canada are the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and Toyota Tundra. These full-size trucks offer the right combination of capability, technology, comfort and efficiency to handle towing a variety of RVs and campers.

 

When selecting the best truck, it’s important to consider the vehicle’s tow rating, engine power and torque, transmission, suspension and brakes. Additional factors are payload capacity, bed length, towing aids like integrated brake controllers, and advanced driver assistance safety features.

The 2023 Ram 1500 has the highest maximum conventional towing capacity amongst Canadian half-ton pickup trucks, with some models rated to tow up to 14,370 lbs. Other top conventional towing capacities for Canadian trucks include:

 

– Ford F-150: 14,000 lbs

– GMC Sierra 1500: 13,400 lbs

– Chevrolet Silverado 1500: 13,300 lbs

The most fuel-efficient half-ton pickup for towing a camper in Canada is the 2023 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid. When properly equipped, it can achieve an impressive 10.6 L/100 km while towing up to 9,200 lbs.

 

Other top fuel-efficient trucks for towing in Canada are:

 

– Ram 1500 EcoDiesel: 12.1 L/100 km towing capacity

– GMC Sierra 1500 Duramax Diesel: 12.5 L/100 km towing capacity

The best diesel pickup trucks for towing 5th wheel campers and large RVs in Canada are:

 

– Ram 3500 with Cummins diesel: Up to 35,220 lbs towing

– Ford F-350 Super Duty: Up to 27,500 lbs towing

– Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD Duramax: 23,300 lbs towing

– GMC Sierra 3500 Heavy Duty: Up to 23,300 lbs towing

 

These 3⁄4 and 1 ton diesel trucks provide the power, torque, payload and bed capacity for handling the largest 5th wheel and travel trailers with ease.



The midsize truck with the highest towing capacity currently sold in Canada is the 2023 Jeep Gladiator, which can tow up to 7,650 lbs when properly equipped. This edges out other top midsize pickups like the Ford Ranger (7,500 lbs) and Chevrolet Colorado (7,700 lbs).

Some helpful features that enable pickup trucks to tow recreational vehicles and campers more easily and safely include:

 

– Tow/haul mode – Adjusts transmission shifting and throttle response

– Integrated brake controller – For electric trailer brakes

– Backup camera – Provides improved visibility when backing up

– Tow mirrors – Extend to increase rear visibility

– Hitch guidance system – Helps align hitch with trailer

For small to midsize travel trailers under 5,000 lbs loaded weight, a full-size light-duty truck like the Ford F-150 or Ram 1500 is generally sufficient. For larger 5th wheels and bigger travel trailers exceeding 10,000 lbs, a heavy duty pickup like the Ford F-250, Ram 2500 or Chevrolet Silverado 2500 is required.



Truck drivers often praise the exceptional maneuverability and easy towing capability of the 2023 GMC Sierra 1500. The optimal wheelbase, responsive steering, and available features like a multi-angle rear camera and in-vehicle trailering app help provide confidence and control while towing.

Ram consistently sets the benchmark for advanced integrated towing features. The 2023 Ram 1500 and Ram Heavy Duty trucks offer useful innovations like an available surround view camera system for hitching, an interactive mobile trailer light check system, and industry-first rear axle steering for remarkable maneuverability with heavy loads.

 

The GMC Sierra 1500 with the available 3.0L Duramax turbo-diesel engine is arguably the top half-ton diesel truck in Canada. It provides abundant torque for towing capability up to 9,500 pounds while also delivering superb fuel efficiency and smooth, quiet operation.

The most capable 2023 Toyota Tundra pickup trucks sold in Canada can tow up to 12,000 lbs when properly equipped with the available iForce MAX engine and Max Towing Package. Other Tundra models have maximum towing capacities of 11,170 lbs or 8,800 lbs.

With available upgrades like an e-locking rear differential and tow package, the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 can tow up to 7,700 lbs. This gives the Colorado the highest tow rating amongst midsize pickup trucks currently sold new in Canada.

To safely tow a 30 foot travel trailer and have enough room to mount a gooseneck hitch, you will generally need a full-size light duty pickup with an 8 foot long bed, like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan or Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500.

For maximum conventional towing capacity, Ram currently leads the pickup truck segment. When equipped with a high output Cummins diesel engine, some 2023 Ram 3500 models can tow over 35,000 pounds. No other light duty or heavy duty pickup from Ford, GM, Toyota or Nissan can match Ram’s highest-in-class tow rating.

Useful pickup truck features that enable easier and safer trailer backing include:

 

– Backup camera system

– 360-degree surround view camera

– Rear axle steering

– Integrated trailer brake control

– Trailer light check system

– Trailer reverse guidance

The Toyota Tundra traditionally leads all full-size pickup trucks for resale value in Canada. This makes the Tundra an appealing option for RV and camper owners who plan to sell their truck after several years. Midsize trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Jeep Gladiator also retain exceptionally strong resale values.



The GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate trim offers an unparalleled blend of luxury, technology and capability that makes it excellently suited for long trips towing heavy loads. Available features that reduce fatigue and enhance comfort include:

 

– Heated and ventilated front seats with built-in massagers

– Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance for highway driving

– Innovative MultiPro tailgate with six position configurations

– CarbonPro composite bed that will not dent or rust

The most fuel efficient midsize pickup truck while towing a trailer is the 2023 Ford Maverick compact pickup. Equipped with the optional 2.0L EcoBoost engine and AWD drivetrain, the Maverick can achieve 8.9 L/100 km highway when towing a trailer up to 2,000 kgs. No other midsize truck comes close to the Maverick’s fuel economy.



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