fifth wheel being pulled down a road pack with good weight distribution
    <p>There is nothing so freeing as hauling your camper trailer across the open countryside. Maybe there's a cozy little campsite waiting for you, or maybe you're out to discover what new horizons have to offer. Everyone camps a little differently, from the sight-seers to the hardcore nature enthusiasts. But there is one thing that all camper haulers worry about before a trip: Weight distribution.</p>

The way you pack a trailer can very profoundly influence how your trailer handles on the road. And it makes sense. The weight distribution inside the trailer will determine how it leans on the road. Whether it drifts to one side, swings too wildly, or is prone to tipping over. Today, we’re here to talk weight distribution with a few practical tips on how to pack your camper trailer or third-wheel RV to ensure that you have a smooth towing road trip ahead of you.

The Importance of RV Weight Distribution

Weight distribution for a hauled trailer or camper is no laughing matter. Disaster can strike if your trailer is packed incorrectly and even a little carelessness can lead to a long and unnecessarily difficult drive.

Trailers that are packed unevenly to one side may drift to one side throughout the trip and may even put you at risk of being pulled out of alignment or into another lane. Trailers that are too top-heavy can actually flip over when you turn sharply because the top is inclined to tilt and fall. And trailers that are weighed too heavily on one axle can become damaged on bumpy roads or going over potholes.

You do not want to take the risk of an imbalanced or poorly packed trailer on the road. 

Consider Waiting to Fill Up on Water

The first tip we can offer is to fill up your water tanks when you park, not when you embark. Water weighs an incredible amount and your tanks are not evenly distributed over the trailer. If you can, run without water or with minimal water until you park to camp. This can make the effort to stay balanced and under-weight significantly easier than a full sloshing tank of surprisingly heavy water.

Distribute the Heaviest Items

The easiest way to accidentally load your camper unevenly is with big heavy boxes of supplies. If you have one box just for canned goods, it can easily outweigh your duffel of clothes and pile of camping gear on the other side. For your heaviest supplies, break up the overweighted boxes and spread the weight out more evenly over the trailer.

In a lot of cases, this can involve simply splitting one stockpile of heavy gear into to piles set at matching points over the trailer axles. This way, the trailer is approximately the same weight on either side and the weight is not a concentrated mass inside the trailer acting as a pendulum bob.

Keep It Bottom-Heavy

Whatever you do, never pack heavy items in the top of a trailer or third-wheel RV. Unless you want the trailer to wind up flipped over on its side or top at some point during the trip. Top-heavy trailers tend to tip over when you have to make a turn or, sometimes, just an abrupt lane change. On the other hand, a bottom-heavy trailer moves in smooth expected arches that are easier to control and manage. It may be tempting to pack your heavy crates of supplies in the handy overhead compartments… but don’t.

Pack Light Items High

Anything you have that is lightweight can go into those handy overhead compartments. Boxes of cereal and plastic dishes are good for overhead bins. Your socks, and maybe even a few not-too-heavy stacks of t-shirts can go into the overhead bins. Your extra TP and paper towels can definitely go into the overhead bins. Consider sorting all the things you want to pack by weight and prioritizing the lightest things for that convenient overhead storage.

Pack Heavy Items Low

The natural next step is to pack all of your heaviest items as low in the trailer as possible. For a third-wheel RV, you can use the ‘basement’ storage below the living quarters. From there, pack your boxes, duffels, and crates of supplies on the floor of the trailer. Distribute the weight as well as you can and secure the items so that they don’t slide or roll around.

Focus Weight Toward the Front

Next, take a moment to consider fish-tailing. A trailer fish-tail is when the back of the trailer swings wide because it is heavy like the end of a pendulum. The best way to avoid this is by using a special hitch designed to lock your trailer into allow for turning but minimize both trailer sway and prevent the possibility of fish-tailing.

The strategy for packing to prevent fishtailing and easier driving weight distribution is not to load the tip of the pendulum. Instead, focus the bulk of the weight forward in the trailer, before the first axle or between the two axles. This will put the ‘swinging’ part of the weight close to the hitch which means that it is more controllable and unable to swing wide.

So you also want to avoid packing all of your stuff into the bedroom at the rear, tempting though it may be.

Distribute Over the Axles

Put some thought into how weight is distributed over your axles as well, especially if you have some serious weight to pack. Remember that your axles are holding up the weight of the trailer and the RV appliances inside as well as your stuff. The best way to do this is by weighing your RV at a truck stop and then distributing weight accordingly.

Consider Appliances

Keep in mind that appliances are heavy. Some of your axles will already be bearing extra weight so you’ll want to consider that when distributing your heavy boxes and bags.

Weigh Empty at a Truck Stop

Take your RV or trailer – empty of your stuff – to a truck stop that has a commercial scale. Go through the process to get the weight on each axle and side. This will tell you which axles are already weighed down by the appliances and trailer structure, and how much weight is on each axle. Compare this to your axle’s weight capacity rating to know how much you can load up each one from this point.

Pack Heavy Over Light Axles

For axles that are not very weighed down, use them to support your heaviest items. Pack your box of soup cans over axles that are holding the least amount of weight when the trailer is empty.

Pack Light Over Heavy Axles

And for the axles that are already fairly weighed down by your RV kitchen or roll-outs, treat them gently. Do your best to even out the weight with heavy stuff on other axles. But, of course, you can’t neglect whole sectors of the trailer when packing. So focus your lighter weight items like tents, bedding, and clothes on the axles that are already weighed down.

Do Not Skimp on Tie-Downs

Finally, always remember your tie-downs. In order to keep weight distributed the way you want it and prevent it all from sliding toward the back. Use whatever tethers work best for your trailer and gear to keep it all in place.

Properly balancing the towing weight of your RV or trailer is vital for safe driving. For more smart tips planning for your next RV trip, contact us today!