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Old 01-27-2013, 12:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question tongue weight and towing

Hi all! long time lurker, first time poster.

I've got a 2000 Outback 2.5 (AT), and my wife and I are looking at a vintage Apache "Mesa" popup trailer, but I've got some concerns about towing (I'm new to towing). The Outback is limited to 2000 lbs. towing/200 lbs. tongue weight, while the Mesa weighs in at about 1400 lbs./200-300 lbs tongue weight. (found some specs here - see the Mesa section)

We're planning on working/traveling in it for a year around the country. We'll set up camp for 2-3 weeks, then move on, so while we won't be towing constantly, when we do tow it may be for long stretches (upwards of 500 miles or so). Since it's around the US, imagine every kind of towing situation (open plains to high mountain passes, cold to hot weather).

I assume a 1400 lb. trailer along with whatever gear we bring with us will be really close to that 2000 lbs. if not slightly over, and probably well over that 200 lbs. tongue weight, so here are my main questions:

1: what is the consequence of going over the tongue weight?
2: could the car handle this, or should we look at other options (option b is an 80's VW Westfalia)?

I've done some searching and found some good advice (transmission cooler will be installed!) and even found Outback owners pulling Apache popups, but they haven't been specific to my model (usually H6's) so I would appreciate any advice before I invest anything!
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Old 01-27-2013, 01:33 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi all! long time lurker, first time poster.

I've got a 2000 Outback 2.5 (AT), and my wife and I are looking at a vintage Apache "Mesa" popup trailer, but I've got some concerns about towing (I'm new to towing). The Outback is limited to 2000 lbs. towing/200 lbs. tongue weight, while the Mesa weighs in at about 1400 lbs./200-300 lbs tongue weight. (found some specs here - see the Mesa section)

We're planning on working/traveling in it for a year around the country. We'll set up camp for 2-3 weeks, then move on, so while we won't be towing constantly, when we do tow it may be for long stretches (upwards of 500 miles or so). Since it's around the US, imagine every kind of towing situation (open plains to high mountain passes, cold to hot weather).

I assume a 1400 lb. trailer along with whatever gear we bring with us will be really close to that 2000 lbs. if not slightly over, and probably well over that 200 lbs. tongue weight, so here are my main questions:

1: what is the consequence of going over the tongue weight?
2: could the car handle this, or should we look at other options (option b is an 80's VW Westfalia)?

I've done some searching and found some good advice (transmission cooler will be installed!) and even found Outback owners pulling Apache popups, but they haven't been specific to my model (usually H6's) so I would appreciate any advice before I invest anything!
2000 2.5 has a weak cooling system. If your living in it as you describe your packed weight will be far beyond your cooling capacity. Power was never an issue with ours cooling was a major handycap and we had the 5sp mt which is far better regarding heat generation. 600lb trailer we could pack heavy and go just about anywhere. 1700lbs I had to tow solo empty car for any sort of climb in 80+ temps. You would be better off with a pickup.
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Old 01-27-2013, 02:02 PM   #3 (permalink)
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For use like this you are not getting any mileage advantages either. 1700lbs you get around 18- 16 mpg. Vs for example same boat in tow behind 4.7l v8 doing 70-80mph we were doing 14mpg during a 3600 mile round trip.
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Old 01-27-2013, 02:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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2000 2.5 has a weak cooling system. If your living in it as you describe your packed weight will be far beyond your cooling capacity.
Thanks for the quick reply, subiesailor. Would a trans cooler and/or some other aftermarket cooling parts help overcome this, or is the 2.5 just not going to work for pulling something like this?

If it ends up we need a different vehicle, then we'll probably just save up for a camper
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Old 01-27-2013, 03:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks for the quick reply, subiesailor. Would a trans cooler and/or some other aftermarket cooling parts help overcome this, or is the 2.5 just not going to work for pulling something like this?

If it ends up we need a different vehicle, then we'll probably just save up for a camper
At cooler that actually works would be a must. A new higher capacity radiator would be a must. What cant be fixed is the exhaust porting that creates lots of heat and is a big weakness with that generation 2.5. For your plan I would do full size used pickup and a some what light cab over camper. You can find both for really good prices. Again weight is key some of the big campers are way to heavy for the standard trucks
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Old 01-28-2013, 09:20 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks again Subiesailor, that does help guide our decision. Will probably drop the trailer idea and go with a self-contained camper like the Westfalia.
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Old 01-28-2013, 09:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Lots of issues with Westfalia (VW) be on a lookout!
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Old 01-28-2013, 12:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks again Subiesailor, that does help guide our decision. Will probably drop the trailer idea and go with a self-contained camper like the Westfalia.
You'll find that the pickup with cab over holds its value better for selling later over the traditional RV. Which case if you go RV look at the older one's that were parked and hardly ever used that have lost nearly 80% of their value already. Plenty of Ford350 RV's out there which have hardly seen any sort of use at all that are selling for pennies on the dollar. The down side is fuel costs but you need to burn a crap load of fuel before you start reaching costs that put you into the more modern more fuel efficient RV's which are VERY pricy.

The advantage to the cab over is you can easily leave it at your RV site on the jacks and use the truck without having to pack up your house for each time you need to drive some place. Down side is the smaller space in the Cab over however it would seem like luxury compared to the little trailer ideas you were thinking about for the subaru to tow.

Given you would be living in it for an extended time you might want to consider a cheap car on a tow bar behind the primary RV so you can leave the home parked when your doing your thing. Having to pack up the house every time you need to run to the Grocery store or head to work is a major pain in the back side. Good luck
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Lots of issues with Westfalia (VW) be on a lookout!
Yep! That's still our long-term plan as we like the compactness, versatility and cool factor of the Westy - nice, self-contained full camper but roughly same length as the Subaru, so it's easy to drive anywhere (including cities). Been researching them for awhile now, and have gotten good at spotting the lemons. There are some good ones out there if you know what to look for, and if you can get a TDI or Subaru engine conversion, that takes care of 80% or your problems.

That said, it's also months away as far as affordability. We stumbled across the Apache trailers which we could get into now ($600 - $2000), have the cool factor (we think) and uses our current, paid for and reliable car (we've literally driven the Outback from one end of the country to the other THREE times now with no trouble!). But sounds like it might be too much for the little guy.

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The advantage to the cab over is you can easily leave it at your RV site on the jacks and use the truck without having to pack up your house for each time you need to drive some place.
You know, I hadn't thought of that. We like to explore quite a bit while camped - ghost towns, dirt back roads etc. - so an AWD (Subaru) or high-clearance vehicle (Westy) is ideal. Having cab over would cover all of this, and perhaps be cheaper than the Westy.

Look like it's back to research again
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:49 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Yep! That's still our long-term plan as we like the compactness, versatility and cool factor of the Westy - nice, self-contained full camper but roughly same length as the Subaru, so it's easy to drive anywhere (including cities). Been researching them for awhile now, and have gotten good at spotting the lemons. There are some good ones out there if you know what to look for, and if you can get a TDI or Subaru engine conversion, that takes care of 80% or your problems.

That said, it's also months away as far as affordability. We stumbled across the Apache trailers which we could get into now ($600 - $2000), have the cool factor (we think) and uses our current, paid for and reliable car (we've literally driven the Outback from one end of the country to the other THREE times now with no trouble!). But sounds like it might be too much for the little guy.



You know, I hadn't thought of that. We like to explore quite a bit while camped - ghost towns, dirt back roads etc. - so an AWD (Subaru) or high-clearance vehicle (Westy) is ideal. Having cab over would cover all of this, and perhaps be cheaper than the Westy.

Look like it's back to research again
couple of things - the cab over on the pick up will be just as compact as the Westy but offer standing room with full hard / insulated sides. Also will not suffer the horrific VW issues that I would not want to have in a vehicle you depend on as your home. VW Westy as a weekend toy if you like to tinker yes - but not for the couple doing a year long road and work trip. I see exceptionally clean very nice 8ft cab overs for $5000-$6000 - toss it on a clean lower mileage full size truck which can be found for cheap these days and you have your self a rig that will be as trouble free and comfy as possible for as little cost as possible. My Uncle enjoys rebuilding Westy's he has three in his back yard right now. He likes to tinker and has rebuilt VW since a kid. Oddly enough his own personal rig is a 2012 Tundra long bed with a light weight 4x4 pop up camper with Artic package which tips in around 770lbs empty. At 60-65mph cruise he hovers around 18mpg and spends upwards of 2-3 months a year living out of it traveling doing outdoorsy stuff. His Westy's are simply toys that he sells to old Hippies trying to rekindle some prior life. That and the cheap one's get used as Burning Man once a year base camps by younger folks.

If you look at Cab overs only get used one with jacks given they are the largest add on cost if the camper lacks jacks. With jacks you can dump the camper in your RV spot in a matter of minutes and use the truck as transportation. Also with the full size pickup and reasonable camper that doesn't max out the truck - you could add a small Wells Cargo trailer to serve as your shed for bicycles and even clothing gear you don't want taking up space in the camper.
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