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[My first forum post: Total newbie,
still looking for our first camper]
Last fall, after camping in my
little backpacking tent for 5 days in Maine, we decided that it might be time
to start shopping for a small camping trailer. [Ok, so perhaps I had been
whining just a bit; but I’m pretty sure that the ground was not nearly so hard
when I was younger.]
We knew absolutely nothing about camper
trailers and there are very few local dealers in Northern NH (likely due to our
very long winters), so I’ve been doing a ton of online research. I recently traded
in my Honda for a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, with a 4500 pound towing
capacity, so all we need now is the camper trailer to go with it.
Finding a small, affordable, tough
camper has been way more difficult than I had expected, but it looks like the [email protected] 320 S or the new Little Guy Mini Max might meet our needs. The problem now
is deciding on which one might fit us the best.
The little [email protected] 320 S is my personal
first choice, but my boyfriend feels that it would be too small for us (I'm 6
feet tall and he's 6-1, and he's the practical one). My argument is that we've
only camped together in my little backpacking tent, so even the 320 is going to
seem roomy in comparison.
I initially considered the [email protected] 400
and the Little Guy Max, but both seemed a bit larger (and more expensive) than
what we wanted. The thing is, I’ve never pulled a trailer before, so I'm
nervous about my towing ability (my Jeep will do fine, but I may be a
wreck). When we began stopping at RV dealers, I soon discovered that my
fear of pulling seems to be directly proportionate with the size of the camper
we look at.
My biggest concern with the 320 S is its 5’9” maximum interior height and the
small bathroom (I love everything else about it!). I’ve read all the tall-guy
posts here, but I haven’t seen any tall-guy+tall-gal posts.
My biggest concern with the Mini Max
is that it is a brand new model, so there are not any long trip and back road
boondocking reviews on it yet. Plus, even though it is a bit roomier, it
appears to be a bit less open (due to the pantry closet) and the ceiling air
conditioner is definitely going to be a head whacker for us.
Our dream is to see the country after I retire in a few years (I've hardly been out of New England, and he's from Normandy France). One of my main
requirements is a camper that can be off-grid for several days at a time, as we
plan on spending quite a bit of time in wilderness areas, where we can set up our camper as our hiking base camp. So we will be
driving on some rough back roads, where the 320 S with the Boondock package
seems better suited for those conditions (I'm concerned that the straight
backend of the Mini Max will bottom out on moderate dips/inclines).
We're hoping to do a walk through of both models in mid June, where we should
have a better idea of which camper might be the best fit for us. This is
going to be a very tough choice, so I really welcome any feedback. I'm doing the best I can, but the learning curve has been a bit overwhelming at times.
CincyKid said:To me it sounds like your biggest issue will be your boyfriend who really needs to be 'sold' on whatever decision is made - so be sure to work that out. I suggest making a list of pros and cons together so that the decision will be a joint one.
Well there is one pretty obvious solution - your boyfriend buys a truck to tow the 400 with.
Definitely make sure your Jeep can manage a 500 lb tongue weight. If it can, then you will be fine towing.We installed a composting toilet to help deal with the relatively small holding tanks and are glad we did. It will come in handy especially when set up in one place for a while.While we have towed our 400 down a gravel road for a few miles, and we have pulled it up a steep rutted road on BLM land for a short distance, this is not an off-road camper. Even if the camper handles the jostling fully loaded with gear, food, and water, the contents of the camper will be shaking and bouncing like it is in a 4.0 earthquake. And the cabinets and interior walls are also getting a workout. It’s a well built camper, but we plan to take care not to over-do what we put it through.Over the last few weeks traveling from Texas back to the NW, we have seen a number of true off-road campers. These typically are soft-sided collapsible campers that are designed for really rough stuff. They are really awesome. If you really want to do “wilderness” camping with a camper trailer, I’d strongly consider one of these. Some come with a lot of amenities....or....When we want to head into rougher areas we’ll break out our backpacking gear and leave the camper in a secure place with wheel and hitch locks in place.Finally, you both should lay down together in the beds in both the 320 and 400. The 320 can be set up into two twin beds. In the 400 one of you will be climbing over the other to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Yes, you can make the 400’s dinette area into a bed, but I’m not sure it would be as convenient as setting up two beds in the 320.We love our 400!
If your Jeep is tow-ready you might try to locate a dealer who does [email protected] rentals (probably not an easy find - I know of one in PA) and try one out for a weekend. We don't own a [email protected] as yet, though we're sold on a 320, but may try a rental just to get our feet wet.
Thanks for your suggestion.
My Jeep is pretty much tow ready; just need to add the ball mount with
the right offset, and the brake controller.
The problem is that there are no [email protected] rentals anywhere in my region. And I’m currently working full time, so I can’t
travel too far right now.
Other than my instincts (which are telling me that the 400
is too heavy), I really have to rely on
the advice of others who have experience pulling these campers. I’m hoping that
someone who also has a Jeep Cherokee, and has towing experience might chime in
Your tongue weight is generally %10 to %15 of the tow capacity - that is from the Jeep site: https://www.jeep.com/hostc/towing/basics/calculator.do
I would do a search on what people were getting for tongue weight with their 400s here and do as @Verna recommends. As @Big Grover recommends, you could be just fine. You just need to make sure that the hitch ball is at the right height to keep the trailer level.
I can only state what I experienced with a similar vehicle (Toyota 4Runner) with a 5,000/500 lb. towing capacity - without weight distribution hitch or anti-sway bar - and the trailer towed fine. Where I felt it towing was in horsepower going up hills and in gas mileage.
Another thing you could do here is just do a search on the 400 and take note of what people are feeling they need to tow it with. The best thing is what Verna wrote and to also call your, or a local, Jeep dealer with the specs of the 400 and ask them what they think.
I would honestly go with just what you yourself feel. It is not fun to be worrying about safety margins when the whole idea is to be having a good time.
With my Sherline Tongue Weight Scale my 400 came in at 325 LBS loaded but the tanks were all dry!