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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A camping trailer is shown parked on top of a hill during a sunset.

Matching a Camper to Your Chevy Truck (Or Vice Versa)

Are you ready to invest in a new truck and camper, but you don’t know which truck is best for towing a camper? You’re on the right track by searching for a Certified Pre-Owned Chevrolet dealer, but there’s a lot more to this process than you’d think. First, you need to figure out what kind of camper you want. Then, take a close look at each truck model and its max tow capacity to see which ones match up.

Put simply, you never want to buy one without considering the other. It’s going to take some joint planning and research, and that’s why we’re here to help. We’ve got everything you need to know before you buy the camper or the truck. Conversely, if you’ve already got one or the other, we’re here to narrow down your options and make sure you make the right purchase.

Different Types of Camping Trailers (And Their Weights)

There are several different types of camping trailers out there. You’ll see everything from a pop-up to a fifth-wheel and everything in between! Each one comes with multiple setups and weights, which we’ll list here below.

The Pop-Up Camper

Have you ever wanted the tent camping experience with a bit more privacy and better amenities? Then the pop-up camper is for you. You can even say goodbye to the communal shower house with some pop-ups! There are several pop-up campers on the market that offer small bathrooms and a stove to cook on.

Overall, the typical pop-up camper design is more like a tent’s, so don’t expect great insulation. The windows are zippable, and you can choose from either completely transparent windows or private, shaded zip windows.

That said, they do make hard-walled pop-ups now that are still lightweight yet feel more like a true camper trailer. Altogether, there are a lot of different types of pop-up camper designs, each allowing for lightweight travel. These campers can weigh as little as 700 pounds and as much as 4000 pounds.

A red 2022 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTD RST is shown parked next to a camper trailer.

The Travel Trailer

This camper category is interesting because its weight range carries over into both the pop-up and the fifth-wheel weight categories. Offering a broad spectrum of options, a travel trailer can be a single-person traveling bed, a two-person apartment, or a full family adventure trailer. However, most popular travel trailers you’ll see are larger, family-friendly campers. These campers range anywhere from 1,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds.

Fifth-Wheel Campers

Here’s where luxury really comes in. Fifth-wheel campers are the heaviest towable campers you can buy. The only option larger than this is an RV, which is a driveable camper that doesn’t need any towing (in fact, they can usually handle some significant towing themselves).

The average fifth-wheel camper falls between 7,000 and 20,000 pounds (dry, meaning “unloaded.”) These trailers are attached via a fifth-wheel hitch in the truck’s bed, allowing for better weight distribution and wider, easier turns to help accommodate the trailer’s vast length.

Truck Campers

Is that a truck, an SUV, or a camper? It’s likely that you’ve seen trucks with bed campers before. At the very least, many of you probably remember GM’s 1973 Camper Special, a truck made specifically for truck bed campers.

Either way, truck bed campers are among the lightest options and are designed specifically with payload in mind. Put simply, your payload (or bed hauling) capacity is what matters most, here. On average, truck campers weigh anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds.

Don’t let their compact size fool you, though. Slideouts will make these campers even more spacious, and many truck campers even include a small bathroom and kitchenette! These can be a great option if you don’t feel up to towing.

Different Types of Tow-Capable Chevy Trucks (And Their Capacities)

Now, let’s get to the towers and haulers. Chevy has four different truck sizes available. While towing capacities will vary depending on model year and equipment, we’ll give you the max available power for a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) truck of each model since that’s what you came here for.

A red 2020 Chevy Colorado is shown driving to a campsite after visiting a Certified Pre-Owned Chevrolet dealer.

The 2021 Chevrolet Colorado

Are you interested in a pop-up or a small travel trailer? A CPO Chevy Colorado can offer the towing capacity you need. Just be careful here when it comes to trim level and engine. Base-level Colorados come with a standard I4 engine that can only tow up to 3,500 pounds. While this is fine for the tiniest trailers, you’ll likely need the V6, which can tow 7,000 pounds, or even better, the diesel with its up to 7,700-pound towing capacity.

Keep in mind that while the towing capacity is reasonable with the Colorado, its payload capacity is not strong enough to handle a loaded truck bed camper. The max payload on the Colorado is only 1,550 pounds. Otherwise, this is a great model for small pull-behind campers.

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500

This one’s your full-spectrum travel trailer extraordinaire. You can tow a fifth-wheel camper with a CPO Silverado 1500, but only ones on the lighter side. Many buyers make the mistake of pushing a half-ton truck like this one as far as they can (often, too far), when in reality, it’s best to go with a stronger model when you’ve got a fifth-wheel camper or even a large travel trailer camper.

Again, make sure you’ve got the right configuration before making your purchase, though. For example, while the Silverado 1500’s max towing capacity is 13,300 pounds, that’s only with the 6.2-liter V8 engine. The base 4.6-liter V6 can only tow up to 7,900 pounds, which can get you into trouble with both travel trailer and fifth-wheel options.

Furthermore, this truck is not ideal for truck bed trailers with its max payload capacity of only 2,280 pounds. The consensus? Definitely consider the Silverado 1500 for your standard travel trailer needs, but don’t hesitate to upgrade if you want more.

The Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD

This is where we get into the good stuff. A CPO Silverado 2500 HD model can handle most fifth-wheel campers, along with all travel trailers and pop-ups. This model can tow as much as 18,500 pounds when using the diesel engine and up to 17,370 pounds with the standard gasoline V8.

This model can also handle smaller truck bed campers, with a max payload of 3,979 pounds. However, this is a case-by-case situation that you want to be very careful with. To play it safe, we recommend choosing the next model for your truck bed camper: the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD.

A black 2022 Chevy Silverado 3500HD is shown towing a fifth-wheel camper trailer.

The Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD

Here’s the beast that can tackle it all. The Silverado 3500 HD is a one-ton truck, meaning it can tackle just about anything you throw its way. And if it can’t, you’re treading into commercial truck territory.

However, for this truck to outperform the Silverado 2500 HD in tow capacity, you need to choose the diesel engine and dual-rear-wheel configuration. This is how you reach the 36,000-pound max tow capacity. This combo includes an up to 6,532-pound payload as well, making it perfect for any truck bed camper.

Speaking of truck-bed campers: if you’re solely looking for a truck bed camper and you’re not interested in a fifth-wheel trailer, you can choose the Silverado 3500 HD V8 engine option. While it offers a lower tow capacity of 17,200 pounds, it has an even higher max payload of 7,442 pounds. This makes it ideal for truck bed campers.

Final Thoughts?

This is a lot of information packed into one little space, so we want to break it up nice and clean for you. Below, you’ll see a list of the best truck/camper matches. Keep this list handy while you’re shopping!

  • Pop-Up Camper Chevy Colorado
  • Small Travel Trailer Chevy Colorado
  • Medium Travel Trailer Chevy Silverado 1500
  • Small Fifth-Wheel Camper Chevy Silverado 1500
  • Large Travel Trailer Chevy Silverado 2500 HD
  • Medium Fifth-Wheel Camper Chevy Silverado 2500 HD
  • Small Truck Bed Camper Chevy Silverado 2500 HD
  • Large Fifth-Wheel Camper Chevy Silverado 3500 HD
  • Large Truck Bed Camper Chevy Silverado 3500 HD

While this is specifically with recent CPO models in mind, it does broadly apply to older model years as well. Just be sure to check individual towing capacities if you decide to go with an older used Chevy truck. Happy camping!

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