Towing a pop up camper with 2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 12:12 PM Thread Starter
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Post Towing a pop up camper with 2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i

We just purchased a 2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i and would like to consider purchasing a used smaller size pop up/tent camper/folding camper. Some of the questions I have are:
  • Do any of you tow pop up campers with your 2010-2013 outback and if so what are some issues or quirks I need to be aware of when shopping for a pop up, i.e. max unloaded vehicle weight (UVW), Maximum Tongue Weight, etc. Im primarily looking at 8' box campers to keep it simple.
  • Regarding hitches I hear some say they installed a hitch without drilling, but all of the videos I see online show drilling a pilot hole to pull the bolts through the factory holes in the frame rails (the factory holes are plugged with plastic plugs) and in order to get the heads of the bolts on the inside you need to pull them through a pilot hole. Also which brand and model hitch is best for a 2013 Outback. We only need a 1-1/4 receiver.
  • Being that I have never pulled anything with any vehicle I am completely new to this. All I have done with a hitch is utilized a yakima hitch rack on our Honda CRV I want to do this right, i.e. not stressing out our primary family vehicle so any tips would be helpful. We live in the flats of central Indiana so we will be on flat ground 90% of the time, but we do want to go to the Smoky's or to Colorado with the pop up as well
Any help you may provide will be great

Jon

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post #2 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 01:04 PM
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Towing a popup is not going to stress the vehicle, as long as you stay withing it's limits, drive carefully, and use good fluids.

I have towed with every car I have owned... From a subcompact Scion xD to a Mercedes Sprinter van. Basically, the first thing I do when I buy a car or truck is install a hitch. None of my vehicles has ever had a towing related problem. I sent oil samples from the Scion out to Blackstone for analysis regularly, and it was still well within spec at 10,000 mile intervals. I chose to change the oil at 10k intervals because it was easy to remember.

Keep the tongue weight down! These cars have a max capacity of 200 pounds on the tongue, but they drive better at 150 pounds. You can pack up your camp with more weight above or behind the axle to help reduce tongue weight. You can also switch out the steel propane tank for a fiberglass one. I would stay away from models that have two propane tanks... Or at least plan on removing one of them.

You do NOT need 10% of the weight on the tongue. This is a myth that has taken hold in the US. The standard in most parts of the world is 4 or 5%. The major concern is that the lighter the tongue weight, the lower the speed will be that trailer sway can occur. US trailer manufacturers assume that people are going to drive at 75-80 MPH with a trailer in tow, so they build for a higher tongue weight. In Europe, they require people to drive at reasonable speeds with trailers... often having lower speed limits. If you drive no faster than 60-65 MPH, you will be fine with 5% tongue weight.

State laws vary in regards to trailer brakes. My 1,200 pound camper does not have them, and it stops just fine. It takes a little longer, just like it does when you have more people/stuff in your car, but nothing crazy. There are two types of trailer brakes: electric and surge. Electric brakes require you to install a brake controller in the car, and have it wired back to the trailer connector. The brake actuator looks a lot like a radar detector. It will sense your braking through a line connected to your brake pedal switch and through its own sensors, and send the appropriate signal to the trailer. If you get one, get a "proportional" one, such as the Tekomsha Prodigy2 or Prodigy3. Surge brakes have an actuator at the trailer coupler, and it works like your brake pedal. When you brake the car, the coupler gets pushed, and hydraulic fluid is forced to the trailer brakes. There is no connection to your car. These are simpler, but you can't operate them on their own like you can with electric brakes... Which is the best way to stop a swaying trailer (operate just the trailer brakes to bring it back in line with your car).

As far as hitches, you don't need to drill for access holes. You can remove the bumper to access the frame rails. Some hitches need holes drilled for bolts, though. My Curt hitch uses two of the existing holes, but needs two more holes drilled. I don't mind that, as I have installed many hitches, and have never seen any problems from drilling. I'm not a big fan of the 1.25" receivers, as they limit the types of ball mounts and accessories you can use. I have owned both, but would take a 2" hitch over a 1.25" any day.

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post #3 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
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On the tongue weight a Jayco 806 camper shows a "hitch weight" of 180 lbs which with a max of 200 thats cutting it close. The others I have looked at are in the 130 lb range on the tongue weight. I had no idea they had fiberglass propane tanks. I will look into that. Regarding the hitches I kept hearing people talk about removing the back bumper. Do you find that hitch dealers will do that or is it mainly the do it yourselfers that find that to be the best method? On the 2" vs 1-1/4 I know what you mean, but we have some accessories, i.e. a bike rack with a 1-1/4 that we would like to use. Is one any stronger than the other? Regarding the speed and the tongue weight we would probably not go over 65 in most cases, but if I woould hit I70 and go to Colorado we would get blown off the road going 65! so I would probably need to cruise at 70+
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post #4 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 02:16 PM
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On the tongue weight a Jayco 806 camper shows a "hitch weight" of 180 lbs which with a max of 200 thats cutting it close. The others I have looked at are in the 130 lb range on the tongue weight. I had no idea they had fiberglass propane tanks. I will look into that. Regarding the hitches I kept hearing people talk about removing the back bumper. Do you find that hitch dealers will do that or is it mainly the do it yourselfers that find that to be the best method? On the 2" vs 1-1/4 I know what you mean, but we have some accessories, i.e. a bike rack with a 1-1/4 that we would like to use. Is one any stronger than the other? Regarding the speed and the tongue weight we would probably not go over 65 in most cases, but if I woould hit I70 and go to Colorado we would get blown off the road going 65! so I would probably need to cruise at 70+
The hitch frame which has the 2inch or 1 1/4th inch receiver is basically the same hitch with a different sized hitch receiver on it. Given the car's frame capacity either hitch works fine for towing no difference. The major reason for getting the 2inch receiver hitch is for the newer bike racks which all work better with the 2inch set up.


Regardless of where your going or plan on going your trailer you select will limit your safe speed. If your purchasing a heavy trailer then packing your car and trailer you will not be doing 70mph or 70+ mph. Also depending on which state you are in vehicles towing trailers often have lower speed limits and yes the fine is usually double to triple the fine you would get if you were just driving the car with no trailer over the speed limit etc.

I have said this over and over and over - if you plan on doing long road trips across hot states and long climbs and expect to carry additional gear and toys along you need to shoot for as light as you can regarding empty trailer weight. That is why I set a max empty weight of 1200lbs when we started our trailer search. As a result we can do 70mph towing the very light compact trailer which sits on large 13inch wheels etc.

When you get heavy - and wide - sitting on tiny wheels your range of stability at speed is decreased given the trailer weight is just that much more load on the tow vehicle.

When towing short distances around town locally you can pack the trailer to the 2700lb limit of the outback and be just fine. When you do long distance travel with lots of various terrain and temps and weather conditions the general rule is that you shoot for half or less than the max tow weight for your basic empty weight this way you can pack gear and people and still be fully within the max towing capacity.

The worst thing people do is see 2700lbs or 3000lbs max towing capacity and they assume its safe and totally 100% workable for their trailer ideas assuming the empty trailer is within the 2700lbs or 3000lbs. Thats not really the case MAX capacity Empty with no passengers or gear simply does not work.

I have towed our large 21ft racing sailboat which on the trailer total weight was 1700lbs behind the car. When I did a regatta in Dillon CO - I opted to borrow a Chevy Yukon given I have towed the boat plenty with the 2.5 engine and the new OB with CVT to know that 25hr drive from CA to Dillon would not be enjoyable with the Subaru pulling 1700lbs + three adults and gear.

However my camping set up because I targeted 1200lbs or less empty weight for our camping rig we can pack the car to the brim with camping gear - toys kids - dogs Parents + the 890lb trailer and the car hardly even notices. We could have easily gone 1200lbs for the trailer but I couldn't find one for the price range I wanted to pay. Closest option was the Jumping Jack Trailer slightly used which ran about $4000 if I could fine one.
I looked at the Jayco's and the Coleman and other classic RV brands all were used super cheap in bad shape and quite heavy.

That is the one down side to having a low towing limit the RV options out there are still being built with the idea that everyone owns V6 and V8 large vehicles so weight and materials are kept as cheap as possible and weight is not really much of a concern.

The difference between a Pop UP and a Tent Trailer is either one and the same or the POP up HARD SIDED RV trailers which are rare and quite heavy and unless you can find a mini one built of light weight materials I've never seen a hard sided Popup trailer that would ever be within the Subaru towing limits.
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post #5 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 02:55 PM
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We just purchased a 2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i and would like to consider purchasing a used smaller size pop up/tent camper/folding camper.
SNIP
we do want to go to the Smoky's or to Colorado with the pop up as well
subiesailor speaks well - load your rig lightly! He used to drive an old Land Cruiser, so he knows about struggling with inadequate power in the mountains.... as do I.

I don't mean to be excessively negative, but you really should have bought the 3.6R...... You will have long lasting trouble on the Colorado Plateau - your little four banger will be putting out about 110 bhp at 10,000 feet. To say that your car will be struggling would be an serious understatement. You will have to flog it on every grade, and that is really hard on the car and your own peace of mind.

For the midwest flatlands (low altitude and full rated engine power), and an occasional trip to the Smokies, you should have no problems if you keep the load reasonable. A summer trip to the Rockies is a whole 'nother ball game, in terms of equipment needed. Even full sized pickups with gas engines struggle there, which is why turbo diesels rule in the mountains. Read this and weep: ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_mountain_passes

If you are serious about towing in Colorado, then you should seriously think about trading that new car back in for one with the power you need. Or plan on leaving the camper at home and just tent camp or stay in motels.

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post #6 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 03:45 PM
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subiesailor speaks well - load your rig lightly! He used to drive an old Land Cruiser, so he knows about struggling with inadequate power in the mountains.... as do I.

I don't mean to be excessively negative, but you really should have bought the 3.6R...... You will have long lasting trouble on the Colorado Plateau - your little four banger will be putting out about 100 bhp at 10,000 feet. To say that your car will be struggling would be an serious understatement. You will have to flog it on every grade, and that is really hard on the car.

For the midwest flatlands (low altitude and full rated engine power), and an occasional trip to the Smokies, you should have no problems if you keep the load reasonable. A summer trip to the Rockies is a whole 'nother ball game, in terms of equipment needed. Even full sized pickups with gas engines struggle there, which is why turbo diesels rule in the mountains. Read this and weep: ... Colorado mountain passes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Comparison between the supercharged Verado and normally aspirated Mercury engines at different altitudes: Verado Altitude Calculator | Mercury Marine

If you are serious about towing two miles up, then you should seriously think about trading that new car back in for one with the power you need. Or plan on leaving the camper at home and just stay in motels.

John Davies
Spokane WA USA
I miss that old truck it may have been heavy and short on power but it had a radiator big enough for a Semi you could do 45mph in 113degree heat hauling a heavy pile of gear up some of the worst climbs on the west coast and run the AC all day with out so much as a jiggle in the temp reading. The Subaru does not work that way sadly it is a car regarding cooling capacity and its geared tall for car type use which means you just need to be smart about your trailer choices regarding weight and drag vs your passengers and packed gear weights.
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post #7 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 03:50 PM
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On the tongue weight a Jayco 806 camper shows a "hitch weight" of 180 lbs which with a max of 200 thats cutting it close. The others I have looked at are in the 130 lb range on the tongue weight. I had no idea they had fiberglass propane tanks. I will look into that. Regarding the hitches I kept hearing people talk about removing the back bumper. Do you find that hitch dealers will do that or is it mainly the do it yourselfers that find that to be the best method? On the 2" vs 1-1/4 I know what you mean, but we have some accessories, i.e. a bike rack with a 1-1/4 that we would like to use. Is one any stronger than the other? Regarding the speed and the tongue weight we would probably not go over 65 in most cases, but if I woould hit I70 and go to Colorado we would get blown off the road going 65! so I would probably need to cruise at 70+
They do not have fiberglass tanks, all that is is a fibreglass cover for stones

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post #8 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 03:57 PM
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Metal tank vs fiberglass the fiberglass would be heavier by the way. You can go with a slightly smaller can to be lighter. Yes they sell slightly smaller gas cans. Or you can simply go without the can.
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post #9 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 04:31 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the insight guys. I may look at the tent trailer idea again, but without the mattresses being intact it really is not any more convenient than just throwing the tent in the cargo hold! What about the Livinlite Quicksilver 8? I believe dry it is 998 lbs! As you said before Subiesailor I know you answered me before but the way they advertise the vehicle as being one to be able to haul 2700 lbs. Imagine how many boneheads actually do that and are stranded on Vail Pass in CO with a broken down vehicle at the rest area at the top? I actually used one of the tongue platforms with our Honda CRV and it screwed with the braking severely. 98% of the time the vehicle will not be towing which is why we opted for the 2.5i Nothing against the 3.6R, but we probably would have went with a larger vehicle if wwe would have been ok with 24-25 mpg hwy. Thanks for the idea about the Tent Trailer as well as the Quicksilver. Another option would be to rent a Ford F150 with a V6 from Hertz LOL
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post #10 of 106 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 04:40 PM Thread Starter
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Im glad I joined this forum. Tough breaks on research pursuits are better than tough breaks on the road!

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