With so many types of campers available, it can be overwhelming. The key is to start by narrowing the list. One of the most important considerations is weight. For instance, if you have a smaller half-ton truck or mid-size SUV, you can be limited in how large of a camper you can pull. And there are benefits to towing campers under 5,000 lbs even if you have a larger towing vehicle.
Advantages of a Travel Trailer Under 5,000 lbs
One of the biggest pluses of campers under 5,000 lbs is the flexibility. You don't need a gas-guzzling full-size pickup truck to comfortably tow it. So, you likely don't need to upgrade your towing vehicle while investing in a new camper. Smaller campers also tend to be more affordable than some of the larger campers available. And, of course, you'll also save on gas.
Another plus is they're easier to fit into tight spaces as they're usually shorter. That means you have more options for campsites. And, they're easier to maneuver, so travel with a smaller camper tends to be less stressful—even if you miss your turn or exit and have to turn around.
A wide range of manufacturers offer models of this size, so you have a lot of different sizes, layouts, and features to choose from to fit just about any family or type of travel.
Drawbacks of Campers Under 5,000 lbs
As with everything, there are also trade-offs. For instance, campers under 5,000 lbs tend to have few amenities, such as an extra bathroom, outdoor kitchen, or extra sleeping space for a large family or friend group. They also tend to have few, if any, slide-outs. And storage space as well as tank size (for fresh, gray, and black water) may be more limited, which may impact how long you can stay at a campsite.
If you're interested in a fifth-wheel camper, you also have fewer options under 5,000 lbs.
Knowing Your Weight
Understanding weight definitions and weight-related ratings is a great place to start. You'll find campers under 5,000 lbs with differing dry weights, GVWR, carrying capacity, etc.
Let's dive into some of the most valuable ratings:
- Dry weight is the weight of the camper without any load, including fuel, cargo, fluids (e.g., water or waste), or passengers. This unloaded weight results from materials, features, and amenities.
- Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR or Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight) is probably the most practical. It includes the camper's weight when fully fueled, water tanks filled, loaded, and ready to hit the road. Because people and their gear can vary widely, the most accurate way to find the GVWR is to put your camper on a truck scale when you're all loaded and ready for your next trip. Remember, even the same model can differ in weight, depending on the load and features.
- Tongue Weight (TW) is important for understanding how much control and how well the camper handles on the road. It basically refers to how much weight presses down on the hitch of the tow vehicle. For optimal handling, the TW should be around 10 to 15% of the GVWR.
- Cargo Carrying Capacity defines the max weight of gear, belongings, food, and bedding. As you load up, keep a chart with the weight of each item to avoid overloading your camper.
Top 8 Campers Under 5,000 lbs
Over the years, campers under 5,000 lbs have come a long way and now offer many of the same features as larger campers, including comfortable sleeping areas, efficient kitchens, and onboard bathrooms.
All the options listed below are rated at under 5,000 lbs (GVWR), even when fully loaded. They're from manufacturers known for their quality. They also offer popular features and amenities to help you get the greatest bang for your buck.
Specs: 23'2”; 3,797 lbs unloaded weight, 4,999 lbs GVWR, sleeps up to 6
Great for couples as well as families, these campers offer all the amenities you need with plenty of storage and surprising sleeping solutions (including a hidden bunk). They also have a full slide-out for extra space, so you're more comfortable on a rainy afternoon or a more extended vacation. The kitchen is efficient with plenty of food storage. Finally, it provides a full bathroom on board.
Specs: 20'2”; 3,775 lbs unloaded weight, 4,995 lbs GVWR, sleeps up to 5
Perfect for a family that likes to spend time together yet travel light, the Feather Micro offers a queen bed and a set of bunk beds along with an efficient kitchen that provides everything you need for a family dinner, off-road tires so you can get off the beaten path, and even an onboard bathroom.
Specs: 16'9 to 22'2”; 2,350 to 3,520 lbs unloaded weight; 3,500 to 5,000 lbs GVWR, sleeps up to 5
With excellent quality and a range of floorplans and upgraded packages (like off-road and solar prep), there's a good reason why these lightweight campers have been popular for decades.
Specs: 16''; 3,000 lbs unloaded weight; 3,500 lbs GVWR, sleeps up to 4
With its iconic look, quality craftsmanship, and stellar reputation, Airstream is one of the most popular options. The Bambi is small but offers a surprising amount of space as you enjoy your campsite. The engineers made use of every inch to maximize storage. Plus, you can easily upgrade the Bambi with solar power.
Specs: 17'2”; 2,320 lbs unloaded weight; 3,500 lbs GVWR, sleeps up to 4
With a small footprint but big features, the Mini Max can even be pulled with a small SUV and some crossovers. It offers everything you'll need to be comfortable while camping, despite the compact size. The quality can be seen in everything from the 100% hardwood cabinets to stainless steel sink and microwave. Plus, you can upgrade it for offroad adventures for greater freedom.
Some of our favorite campers come in at under 5,000 pounds. They offer tremendous flexibility and greater affordability without sacrificing comforts and conveniences. So, you get amazing bang for the buck with these lightweight options!