How Large Families Tow Fifth Wheel Campers

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Fifth wheel RVs are the most popular option for fulltime traveling families. They have lots of storage space, are available in “toyhauler” models that have a customizeable rear garage space, and are often the most affordable way to get a big family in a rolling home.

But what if you can’t fit your whole family into the truck that pulls it?

We’ve met and talked with a number of large traveling families living in fifth wheel campers. Here are five solutions for getting their entire tribe mobile.

Strangely, none of them involve strapping kids to the roof.

One Truck with Bench Seats

If your family has 2 adults and up to 4 children you can look for a truck with bench seats front and rear. Three kids go in the back and one child sits up front between the parents.

There are age and car seat considerations, but families like the Longneckers are making this approach work.

Advantages

  • One truck to buy and maintain
  • Two bench seats is a factory offering - no custom work needed

Disadvantages

  • A crowded ride going down the road
  • Not much room for coolers, backpacks, or other travel-day niceties
  • Might be a temporary solution as kids grow

One Truck with a Cowtown Sleeper

You know what a ‘sleeper cab’ is on a Semi, right?

Take the same idea, apply it to a standard pickup truck, and boom - instant added seating space.

Cowtown Sleepers offers sleepers for pickup trucks.

The Golden Gang is a family of 7 who traveled extensively in the USA. They started in a Class A, then traded to a fifth wheel and added a Cowtown Sleeper to their truck.

They are now off the road, but their blog with photos of the sleeper is still online (questions about the setup are probably best asked elsewhere).

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The Travel Toast family also started with a Cowtown Sleeper.

I also found the Purposeful Family Living family using a Cowtown sleeper.

Prices mentioned from $3200 -$4600 depending on options choosen.

Advantages

  • One truck to own and maintain
  • Install is reversible if you want to sell the truck
  • Wheelbase remains the same - turning radius unaffected

Disadvantages

  • Loss of truck bed space for toolboxes, bikes, etc
  • Access to rearmost seat is limited
  • Longbed truck required

A Custom 6-Door Truck

Stretch limo meet pickup truck!

While walking in a Florida campground I came across a truck that just looked…different. I counted door handles on one side..1..2..3!?

The owner had a large family and wanted to travel all in one truck. His solution was to take a 4-door truck and make it a 6-door. The stretch job was so well done you had to look twice.

A quick Google search found this truck customizer who sometimes has units for sale.

Advantages

  • One truck to own and maintain
  • Added seat is as accessible as others
  • Great conversation starter!

Disadvantages

  • Cost
  • Added wheelbase length - you’ll need more room to maneuver
  • Constant attention/questions
18 minutes - that's how long it takes us to setup our fifth wheel. Subscribe to our newsletter and get our fifth wheel setup guide:

The Automated Safety Hitch

The Automated Safety Hitch is a heavy-duty tag-axle with brakes and steering with a fifth wheel hitch plopped on top.

You set the trailer on it, then attach your tow vehicle to the Automated Safety Hitch at the bumper. The bumper-based connection means you can use a van or SUV to tow the 5th wheel.

It looks as odd as it sounds.

We’ve seen exactly one of these in our 5 years of travel - but the videos are pretty convincing that the setup is safer and more maneuverable than towing in a conventional manner.

The Travel Toast family used an Automated Safety Hitch. You can see it all hitched up here.

Advantages

  • Allows vans or SUV’s to pull 5th Wheels
  • Added braking power
  • Added maneuverability
  • Great conversation starter

Disadvantages

  • Added cost
  • Longer setup overall
  • Constant questions

Two Vehicles

This is the most common answer for large families that want to travel. You split up the family between the truck towing the trailer and another chase vehicle (commonly a van).

The Ticknor family has 12 children and travels with 8 or 9 of them. They’ve used this approach for 5+ years on the road.

Advantages

  • Flexibility - the second vehicle can be one you own already or source while traveling
  • The nimbler chase vehicle can be used for shopping, exploring, or pre-running into campgrounds before pulling the big RV in
  • Young drivers can be trained up and practice using the chase vehicle
  • Parents can go in two directions if need be (one to a coffee shop to work, the other out exploring with the kids, etc)

Disadvantages

  • You are never all together while traveling
  • Extra communications (CB, family radios, etc) will be needed
  • You’ll have to find extra parking space in campgrounds
  • Some campgrounds will charge extra for the extra vehicle

Most Traveling Families are Large

Well, large from our viewpoint anyway.  Our research has found that most fulltime, RV-based families traveling the USA have 4 or more children - so take heart, there are people making it work!

We maintain a Pinterest board for large traveling families in all modes.

More Fifth Wheel Reading

If you are still debating on whether a fifth-wheel is right for your family you can read our reasons for buying one here.

If you just bought a fifth wheel and need some towing tips we have those here.

If you’re worried about fitting in all your gear you can look over our list of stuff that we fulltime RV with.

10 Comments How Large Families Tow Fifth Wheel Campers

  1. Picture of HaleyHaleyJanuary 27, 2016

    I did a double take at the picture. First time I have seen a truck with 6 doors too!

  2. Picture of MikeMikeJanuary 28, 2016

    Great post!

    Another option may be the http://www.bedryder.com/ + a truck cap… that way you’ve added two additional seats

    ...but the two kids in the back would be cut off from the rest of the family compared to the Cowtown Sleeper

  3. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkJanuary 29, 2016

    Thanks Mike - I hadn’t seen that (well, since the Subaru Brat days anyway…;)

  4. Picture of Jerry SmithJerry SmithFebruary 01, 2016

    On our website is a “SIDE WINDER” that give you 22’’ more from the axel to let you put a sleeper compartment with seats facing each other with lap belts. The SIDE WINDER is made by Reese which you can see on the 5th row under “pictures” on our website <www.cowtownsleepers.com>

  5. Picture of Jeff - Tow Truck OwnerJeff - Tow Truck OwnerAugust 31, 2016

    Great Article Mike!  As a former 5th Wheel owner, I absolutely loved hauling them.  They turn so much easier and flow down the road so much easier as well.  I had a Chevy Silverado 3500 Dually to pull it, so we never really had any issues with room, hehe.  But still good article!

  6. Picture of JarebJarebJanuary 04, 2017

    Wow, what a site!  We are a 7-person family, normally residing in Indonesia, but on our year home assignment now.  Since we homeschool and have 10,000 miles to travel around our grand America to visit supporters, my wife wisely wants to have a trailer to school and sleep on the road.  We bought an ‘08 Yukon Denali to pull a travel trailer but now are wondering if we want a stronger engine to pull something bigger than a Yukon can—like a 5th wheel.  If you have any places to point us to for reasonable ideas and prices, please let us know.  Thanks for what you already have on this site!
    -Jareb

  7. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkJanuary 04, 2017

    Hi Jareb - thanks for the comment. We’ve long been out of the truck-shopping game, but when we where I just googled around to find towing capacities of the various trucks I found for sale.

  8. Picture of DougDougJuly 27, 2017

    Family comfort is a must on long road trips, especially with kids. This truck looks like the perfect vehicle for a family of 6.

  9. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkJuly 27, 2017

    Fair warning to folks like Doug who are only dropping comments to get a link to their towing-related website…

    ..I am not above editing the link to point to a competitor.

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