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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We are looking for a camper to fit our family of 4 (so need something with bunks). We can find several options around 3500lbs but the hitch weight seems high. I was hoping to find a camper around 3000 lbs with a hitch weight under 400.

This one looks like a good option and a local dealership has it available for deposit. I'm concerned about the 410lbs hitch weight. 2020 Keystone RV Passport SL Series M-175 BH Prices

Everyone keeps trying to tell me I need a WDH and I keep explaining that it is not an option with this vehicle.
 

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The GCVW is the biggest concern, but it sounds like this is under that, dry weight anyway.

If the hitch weight is an issue, there are several posts here where owners added sway bars, pneumatic spring assist devices, etc. to make towing more viable. I'd perhaps research some of the other posts for more information on these workarounds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
To be clear…. The GCVW would be the weight after we have everything packed? What makes you say that is the biggest concern? You don’t think the hitch weight is a big deal?

We have been camping in a pop up and have taken it across the scales a few times to check the weight. We never came close to the 1175 carrying capacity that this one holds so I wasn’t really looking at that number.We towed that one with a van and it was super low and I just don’t want to worry about weight this time.
 

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I just bought a Wolfpup 18TO which has a similar hitch weight, but a higher gross weight (4,999). I took it on a 600 mile round trip last week and it towed beautifully. It came with a WD hitch so I tried both with and without. I didn't really find much difference in handling. The rear end sags an inch or two more without the WD. I might add air lift shocks or bags.

GCVW is gross combined vehicle weight - the total weight of the tow vehicle, the trailer, and all contents of both. My owners manual for my 2018 with factory towing says tongue weight 500 lbs, trailer max gross 5,000 and GCVW of 10,150. I haven't had a chance to put the rig on a scale yet.

I make sure to minimize added weight when towing. Keep the tanks empty in the trailer - when full those alone can add 600 to 800 lbs. I pack light, buy food at the destination, etc.

Incidentally, with RVs, I have always found a slideout a nice feature. Adds a little weight but the floor space is great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That’s very helpful! I doubt we ever packed more than 500 lbs for our pop up trips. We are weekend trip people but I can see how it would be easy to pack more in this type of camper.

The only tanks that would ever be full would be the propane. I don’t see us camping at places without full hookups.

i don’t want to have to worry about weight like we did with the van and pop up. I was stressed every time we hit the road with it.
 

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That's a lot of trailer for an Atlas. Sure it'll pull it but what about in an emergency setting. Weight capacity also included passenger weight. If you intend to tow in a flat area you could get away with it but IMO I don't like white knuckle type of scenarios. Been there done that won't do it again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That's a lot of trailer for an Atlas. Sure it'll pull it but what about in an emergency setting. Weight capacity also included passenger weight. If you intend to tow in a flat area you could get away with it but IMO I don't like white knuckle type of scenarios. Been there done that won't do it again.
It won't be flat but it also won't be long distances. Most campgrounds we would go to are within 1:30.

My understanding is that I should stay within 80% of the capacity. This one seems to do that (even though it could be loaded with more). That would give us approximately 700lbs of stuff in the camper. What am I missing in the #s? 3,300 camper + 700 stuff = 4000 out of 5,000 capacity. I guess I don't understand why this is too much for the Atlas. I promise I am not trying to argue but I want to understand since all the campers we have looked at are in this weight range.
 

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If there are numbers other than what VW recommends, I would be curious where they are from. Is lighter weight easier on the vehicle and potentially safer ? Sure. Acceptable towing is very subjective. Anyone who has driven highways in Europe knows that :)

If you read towing experiences on this forum, I think you will find them positive. I've done a lot of towing with other vehicles and found the Atlas was very stable and comfortable with 4K plus pounds hanging on the ball. I didn't have any panic stops but did have to brake aggressively and had no concerns. I tend to keep speed below 60 and maintain lots of spacing. Conditions can make a difference. I would avoid high winds, driving rains, and steep grades as much as possible. There are some RV apps that can help with mapping out easier routes.

I think you will be fine. Is it an option to give the trailer a test run to see how you feel with it following you around ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If there are numbers other than what VW recommends, I would be curious where they are from. Is lighter weight easier on the vehicle and potentially safer ? Sure. Acceptable towing is very subjective. Anyone who has driven highways in Europe knows that :)

If you read towing experiences on this forum, I think you will find them positive. I've done a lot of towing with other vehicles and found the Atlas was very stable and comfortable with 4K plus pounds hanging on the ball. I didn't have any panic stops but did have to brake aggressively and had no concerns. I tend to keep speed below 60 and maintain lots of spacing. Conditions can make a difference. I would avoid high winds, driving rains, and steep grades as much as possible. There are some RV apps that can help with mapping out easier routes.

I think you will be fine. Is it an option to give the trailer a test run to see how you feel with it following you around ?
No test run but I would like to at minimum hook it up and see how it sits.
This one has the lightest hitch weight of any of the other options we have looked at. Several others were similar weights but higher hitch weight. There is 1 option that would work for us space wise (the Coleman 17b I think) that is quite a bit lighter. It was our first choice until we realized that the ceiling is low (6 feet I think) and my husband can’t stand up all the way so it’s not a realistic option for that reason.
 

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The Keystone with tandom axles will track far better(not sway) like a single axle trailer could.
See if the RV dealer will hook up the Keystone or something similar to take a short test drive, I've done this.
They may want to drive or come with which is fine, it'll let you know for certain if your comfortable with it.
You Atlas is all wheel drive correct?
DRO has a lot of good points.
Doesn't sound like your towing in the Rockies and you have towing experience so that's a big plus.
Let us know how things go, good luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
We won’t be in the Rockies but will be in the VA/TN/NC Appalachians. Mostly interstate for us with a few rural roads getting to and from campgrounds.

We are planning to have the sway bars switched over from the pop up to the new camper.

i think the test drive idea is excellent and I will ask to do one. I am the copilot in this situation so actually my husband would be driving. I do the research and he implements the plan. :)
 

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Vdubber has a excellent point about the tandem axles. Not only better tracking but safer if a tire blows. Trailer manufacturers use cheap off brand tires. Mine are only a couple years old but will replace shortly with Goodyears
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Any suggestions for a bunkhouse with queen camper with tandem axles. I haven't seen anything with all these without a substantial increase in size/ weight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I have the Wolfpup 18TO which is larger than the 16BHS. I keep the loading down and have found it easy to tow. It's just me and a dog, so we don't need much.
That’s great to hear! We are weekend campers (but with kids and 2 small dogs). We pack pretty light.

I assume you don’t use a weight distribution hitch?
 

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As you know, VW states that a WD hitch should not be used. Some people have used them without problems. I towed my trailer with and without to compare and didn't find much difference. The back end sags a little more without. I think my ultimate solution will be to go without WD hitch and use some air lift shocks or suspension bags. Also maybe a sway control device.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
As you know, VW states that a WD hitch should not be used. Some people have used them without problems. I towed my trailer with and without to compare and didn't find much difference. The back end sags a little more without. I think my ultimate solution will be to go without WD hitch and use some air lift shocks or suspension bags. Also maybe a sway control device.
Thanks. We plan to use a sway bar but no WDH.
 

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The hitch weight may very well be an issue. I have a camper that is 3500 max with a tongue weight of 275 dry. With 100# battery, full propane tank and maneuvering of cargo in the inside I get the tongue weight to 425-450 using a tongue scale for precision. Without fail every time we tow our TT the Front Assist sensor goes out of calibration. Even under the 500 max hitch weight, the tongue weight lifts the front of the vehicle and blows the sensor. I even have air bags installed and still have this problem. This requires a trip to the dealers every time. Only way to solve this is with WD bars to level out the Atlas which cannot be used per the manual.
 

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Here is our experience towing our trailer with our Atlas.

  • Vehicle: 2018.2 SE Atlas w/ 4motion, tech package, and factor hitch.
  • Trailer: 2021 Taxa Mantis with optional bunks and wet bath. Taxa Mantis
- Dry weight ~3,000 lbs, tongue weight on our scale 390 lbs with 2 20 lb full propane tanks.
- Trailer has electric brakes and came with wireless brakes but we ended up getting a Curt Bluetooth brake controller
- Hitch ball mount: weight safe 4" drop 2" ball mount

We live in the mid-Atlantic area and have traveled as far as the outer banks in NC. Overall the Atlas handles well with the trailer hooked up as well as brakes very nicely once we were able to make better adjustments using our curt brake controller.

Initial problems:
  • We needed a 3" rise hitch ball mount to level the trailer. Not that serious although there is mixed information on using ball mount rise with the Atlas specifically when the distance between the hitch bolt and ball mount exceeds over 8".
  • More serious problem. Our VW sagged almost 3" in the rear with only a full tank of gas and the tongue weight of the trailer. Even more serious was that the front raised almost an 1".

Fixes: Slowly we began to address these issues since we enjoyed the trailer and were set on keeping it.
- I had some H&R springs installed to stiffen the suspension. This certainly addressed our "sag" or "squat" issue. We are now at 1" sag in the rear and the front doesn't raise beyond 1/4" measuring at from center of the wheel to the bottom of the fenders.
- The Atlas received a 1" height increase (lift) all around.
- Some time later it was time to get new tires so I opted for fifteen52 17" wheels with falken wildpeak 255/70/17 tires. The larger tires gave us the almost 2" lift needed to have our trailer tongue level with our hitch receiver. Now we are at 8" from the hitch ball mount bolt to the center of the ball, although we can probably drop the mount about an inch.

Final observations
The Atlas as said before can handle our trailer of 3k lbs with maybe no more than 600-700 lbs of gear and water, and in the cabin two adults, two kids in car seats, and snacks with bags of activities. It seems that the towing limitations for the Atlas is the suspension (which can be addressed) and the unibody. What surprised me was that with slightly wider tires the Atlas feels much better "planted" when towing than before. Not to say the vehicle shifted left/right uncontrollably but it just seems to drive more straight (although we did get an alignment with the lift) and once we are up to speed 60-5 mph the Atlas maintains speed much better than before which I expected the opposite. It is hard to say but I think we lost about 1 mpg with this new set up.

A few months back my mother was visiting from CA and drove her none 4 wheel drive 2020 Toyota Tundra which I got to use on a camping trip. With the tundra, I couldn't even feel the trailer behind us. Following this experience I can now sense how much the trailer jerks the Atlas when stopping and going. Based on some reading this is due to a shorter wheelbase than full size trucks and of course the Atlas' unibody.

Future upgrades
Our goals have been to tow safely, not use a WDH unless we really have to, and be comfortable so the first upgrade next year will be some air lift spring inside the rear springs and a gen-y 2" drop ball hitch mount with shock absorbing. There is a youtube video of someone using this hitch on an Atlas and it seems to take out a lot of jerking that comes from the trailer and translates onto the unibody.
 
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