So, now we know that RVs are not necessarily driven alone, and that trailers are hitched to a vehicle’s bumper. But what’s a fifth wheel? Well, it’s towed as well but the hitch for a fifth wheel is located on top of the tow vehicle’s rear axle. In reality, it’s the same type of hitch many tractor trailers use for coupling to their trailer–just in a bigger version. The advantage is that the weight and pivot point of the trailer is right over the truck’s axle. This allows you to tow without trailer sway and allows for heavier and longer trailers.
Here is a typical fifth wheel hitch in the bed of a truck.
The disadvantage to towing a fifth wheel is that the hitch takes up a lot of room in the bed of the truck, and you can’t have your bed covered up while towing. Fifth wheels are more expensive than trailers and they have stairs in them, which is hard for people with limited mobility. However, they offer by far the most variety in floor plans and livability. A lot of people who live in an RV full time choose to live in a fifth wheel as they can be very roomy and have more storage, compared to a trailer.
So, why do I have a fifth wheel? Well, I had a few unpleasant trips towing my trailer. Even though I had an anti-sway hitch, there were a few times I felt like it was moving my truck around and I was convinced I was going to end up in a ditch! Once I decided I was going to Alaska, I just couldn’t imagine wanting to tow a trailer for that many miles. So, I decided to upgrade to a fifth wheel.
I chose another Open Range product. It is actually a little shorter than my trailer, at just over 33 feet. But it’s very open inside.
Here it is hitched up to Rory. I was in Goshen, Indiana at the time. See how it’s hitched to the bed of the truck and not at my bumper?
You can see my hitch here in good detail.
Ok, now you know a lot more about fifth wheels. There are tons of floor plans; most have the bedroom upstairs, but some have a living room up there and a few even put the kitchen in the front! Here is my specific floor plan:
The island is on casters, so it moves around. This makes configuring the floor space really flexible.
Here is a front living room fifth wheel floorplan:
And two versions of the kitchen in the front:
Here is a rear bunkhouse model. These are really popular with families. Notice it also has a rear half bath. The extra toilet might be a real life saver when you have a bunch of people camping with you.
And, finally, a version with a “mid” bunk has become really popular recently. If you look at the rear bunk model above, you can see you lose a lot of living space due to the large bunk room at the rear. The mid bunk models keep the concept of a large rear living room and yet still give a separate room for kids, though it is much smaller. Most of them have a loft area above the mid-bunk room that is more sleeping space for kids.
Ok, now you know all about fifth wheels. I find mine much easier to tow, and I really love the floorplan. It should be pretty easy to live in for 3 months on the road! Questions? Make a comment below.