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I've read many of these threads looking for answers and I've gotten a lot of good information, but just looking for direct feedback. We're considering purchasing a Ranger 12 or Scout.

Our cargo:
2 adults: 300#
2 dogs: 100#
2 small children: 200#

Trailer: ~1700# dry (with propane and battery)

Total: 2300#

In theory, this means we have approximately 400# left for gear? (which would put us right at the limit of our car) I come from a backpacking background so I cannot imagine it being a problem staying under 400# of gear even considering 4 people, but maybe I'm being a bit naive.

I'm assuming when towing this amount of weight, it'd be wise to be on relatively flat terrain and to pay attention to transmission. Is transmission cooler advised? We would certainly have trailer breaks.

We are in the Sacramento area and are assuming we would have to stay out of the Sierras with this setup, but that we could frequent the Central and North coast areas.

Thanks all.
 

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2014 Outback 2.5i touring package
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The Subaru tow rating is not a GCWR (combined car and trailer maximum), so you don't need to count passengers against it. However, avoiding overloading of the car or the trailer will still be your biggest issue. Between the people, dogs and trailer tongue weight you will pretty much hit the GVWR of the car, so you will need to pack all of your gear in the trailer (I'm guessing you would do that anyways to keep the cargo area free for the dogs). A 1700 lb trailer probably comes with a 2000 lb axle, so you will have about 500 lb left for gear (200 lb on the tongue and 2000 lb on the trailer axle). Pack carefully with the heaviest items directly over the trailer axle and the rest distributed to keep the correct tongue weight, and make sure the trailer manufacturer didn't cheap out and use tires rated for less than 1000 lb each. If you aren't buying the trailer new and ordering brakes as a factory option, be aware that 2000 lb trailer axles with brakes are a bit of a rarity and many of them don't even have brake mounting flanges, so you may need to replace the entire axle to add brakes. The 7 inch drums you will get are also barely adequate for a fully loaded trailer with 12 inch wheels - you will probably need to crank your controller to maximum to get them to work reasonably well. Unfortunately smaller diameter wheels (which would increase the effective braking torque) are also rather rare, except for the 8 inch size that won't fit over the brakes at all.

I have towed a boat loaded with gear which came in close to 3000 lb with the same car. I didn't realize it was so far over the limit until I actually weighed the boat instead of using an estimate based on the hull size (the manufacturer built them solid, but heavy). It has worked just fine for about 10,000 km so far, including some significant mountain grades. Only time I couldn't keep up with traffic was climbing an 8% grade on a freeway at an altitude of about 1200 m (4000 ft), which I couldn't do faster than about 85 km/h (55 MPH). First time I tried that climb the car slowed itself down as I got near the summit (RPMs didn't stay pegged at 5800 despite keeping my right foot on the floor), and then I got an AT overheat warning. Stopped for a while to cool off and then continued on with no further problems. After that trip I added a transmission cooler and haven't had any more overheat issues (including repeating the same climb), although it was a few degrees cooler the second time.

If you aren't planning on going to the mountains, I don't think you will have a problem. If you do want to head for the hills, extra cooling would be a good idea.
 

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On the sticker inside your door frame (can't remember if it's front or rear) you'll find your vehicle and axle weight limits.

There will be a curb wt and a max weight. Without looking at the sticker right now, I'm going from memory on the terminology.

The difference between the max weight and the curb weight is the amount of cargo (downward force) allowed.

I *think* the curb weight includes a full tank of gas, so the cargo weight will be the weight of all the bodies, luggage and the 200 lbs max tongue weight pushing down on the trailer hitch.

You'll need to do the math for your vehicle, but I think the cargo limit is going to be about 900 - 1000 lb.

In your case:

>>
Our cargo:
2 adults: 300#
2 dogs: 100#
2 small children: 200#
<<

That's 600 lb. So if your trailer tongue weight is an additional 200 lb, then you are at 800 lb. That will leave you with approx 100-200 lb spare capacity for luggage inside the OB or on top in a cargo box, and don't forget to account for the weight of that cargo box.


edit:

In the US curb weight does include fuel -

>>
Curb weight means the actual or the manufacturer's estimated weight of the vehicle in operational status with all standard equipment, and weight of fuel at nominal tank capacity, and the weight of optional equipment computed in accordance with 86.1832-01; incomplete light-duty trucks shall have the curb weight specified by the manufacturer.
<<
https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/40/86.1803-01

So take the gross vehicle weight (GVW) minus the curb weight and you'll come up with the maximum payload. Then subtract your trailer's tongue weight from that to figure out how much meat and luggage you can carry inside or on top.
 

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While the total cargo capacity of the Outback is 460 kg / 1000 lb (curb weight of 1620 kg and a GVWR of 2080 kg), it will be hard to get all of that in without overloading the rear axle when towing a trailer. With the hitch being behind the car, the resulting lever effect of 200 lbs of tongue weight will add ~250 lb to the rear axle, and unload ~50 lb from the front axle.

That problem is why weight distributing hitches were invented, but the readily available models of those were designed for much heavier trailers being towed by full frame vehicles and can easily overload the hitch mounting points on a unibody car. A smaller, lighter weight distribution system for the wagon / crossover market would be nice, but with many car manufacturers deliberately underrating vehicles in this segment to upsell potential buyers who want to tow things I don't know if there would be enough demand.
 

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While the total cargo capacity of the Outback is 460 kg / 1000 lb (curb weight of 1620 kg and a GVWR of 2080 kg), it will be hard to get all of that in without overloading the rear axle when towing a trailer. With the hitch being behind the car, the resulting lever effect of 200 lbs of tongue weight will add ~250 lb to the rear axle, and unload ~50 lb from the front axle.
The sticker does have the axle ratings, too.

I don't know how well balanced an extra 150lb would be if you put in on the roof vs cramming it into the back with 200lb tongue weight and a 100 lb of dogs.

Looking at the numbers this closely gives a pretty good idea of just how easy it is to overload a car.
 

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So I just looked up the specs on the campers in the OP. Looks like they have a 2500 lb GVWR and brakes are standard equipment. That probably means a 3500 lb axle with 10 inch brakes, which will work well with the standard 13 wheels. 2500 lb gives plenty of capacity for extra stuff, but you still need to consider Subaru's 200 lb tongue weight rating. Conventional wisdom is to keep at least 10% of the total trailer weight on the tongue for stability reasons, but you can probably cheat a bit if you keep your speed down. 200 lb on the tongue would be 8% if the trailer is fully loaded. My boat is stable with 150 lb on the tongue, but boat trailers tend to be more stable than campers and usually work well with 5-7% tongue weight.
 

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5% of your trailer weight on the tow ball is the minimum that you should have - never go lower. I typically aim for 7%. As you increase the % of the trailer weight on the ball, the trailer becomes more directionally stable but the weight on the ball starts to reduce the weight on the front wheels giving you less steering authority. I have certainly had one trailer with the weight well forward (ie a high % of the trailer weight on the tow ball) try and over steer me in the corners.

For heavier trailers with higher tow ball weights I recommend the use of load adjuster springs (aka trailer stabilizer bars). These allow you to have the higher tow ball weight and keep the weight on the front wheels for steering control.

You should always have a transmission cooler on a cvt / auto transmission if you are towing. It saves you from any overheat problems. In Australia, the walk to the next town can be quite some distance....
 
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