The Toyota 4Runner gives other full-size SUVs a run for their money when it comes to cost and reliability. But what about towing power? Can you pull a travel trailer with a 4Runner? We've dug deep into this topic, and we have the information you need.
Toyota designed the 4Runner with towing in mind. The 2022 4Runner has a 5,000-lb. towing capacity and comes standard with a trailer hitch receiver and wiring harness. It is a great towing vehicle for many travel trailers on the market today.
In this article, we'll look more at the 4Runner's towing capacity and what that means for choosing a camper. We'll look at some of the best campers for the 4Runner and even camper conversion projects for the 4Runner. Keep reading to get the full story.
What is the Toyota 4Runner's towing capacity?
When choosing a camper for your 4Runner, you'll need to know the towing capacity of your 4Runner. The 2022 Toyota 4Runner has a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. This is the same towing rating for most 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation 4Runners, from 1996 to the present.
However, there are some exceptions. For example, Toyota set the towing capacity of the 2014 4Runner to 4,700 lbs. On the other hand, the V8 engine was available for 4th generation 4Runners. That boosted the towing capacity up to 7,300 lbs. on 2WD models.
Because of this variability, be sure to check the towing capacity for your specific model year and configuration.
Once you know the towing capacity of your specific model, you'll also want to consider the 80% rule. In essence, this is a guideline that advises against using more than 80% of your maximum towing capacity.
Following the 80% rule helps prevent extra strain on your vehicle and can make driving on inclines or with crosswinds easier and safer. Not every RV owner follows the 80% rule, but we highly recommend it.
Applying the 80% rule to the 2022 4Runner leaves you with 4,000 lbs. for towing. Next, we'll look at how to find a great camper that fits this limit. If you're craving more towing power, though, check out this article: What’s The Best SUV for Towing A Travel Trailer? [Including Six Recommendations]
How big of a camper can a Toyota 4Runner pull?
We've seen that the 2022 4Runner following the 80% rule can tow 4,000 lbs. To buy a camper that stays under this weight, you need to know the difference between two weights: the unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) and the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
The UVW is the weight of the vehicle as it leaves the manufacturer. This does not include cargo, water, propane, or any accessories added by you or the dealer.
For this reason, you should not use the camper's UVW to estimate your trailer weight. Doing so puts you at risk of exceeding your towing capacity.
The GVWR, on the other hand, is the most weight the camper is rated to handle, including the camper itself. When choosing a camper, it is much safer to use the GVWR instead of the UVW to estimate its weight.
When actually towing, it is best practice to weigh your trailer after loading it to find out your camper's exact weight. However, the GVWR can also be used as a weight estimate when weighing is not possible.
Best Campers for the 4Runner
Choosing a camper with a GVWR under 4,000 lbs. might take some of the larger campers off the table for your 4Runner. However, there are a number of great campers that fit the criteria. Here are a few of the best.
Bambi 16RB by Airstream
Without a doubt, Airstream is one of the most iconic brands when it comes to travel trailers. Their Bambi 16RB keeps their signature look in a smaller package, with a GVWR of 3,500 lbs.
Although the Bambi 16RB is only 16 feet long, it has all the RV essentials and the quality you expect from Airstream.
Independence Trail 172BH and 172RB by Forest River
The Independence Trail comes in several floor plans, two of which keep the GVWR under 4,000 lbs.
The 172BH comes in at 3,836 lbs. and has a surprising amount of sleeping area. It has a 54x74" master bed, two bunk beds, and a dinette that converts into another bed too, making it perfect for a family.
The 172RB is better suited for couples. It ditches the bunk beds and upgrades the master to a 60x74" queen. You'll also get a large over-under fridge and freezer and a more spacious bathroom with its own sink in this floorplan.
Viking 7 ft Saga by Coachmen
The Viking 7 ft Saga also comes in two floorplans under 4,000 lbs. The main difference between them, like with the Independence Trail, is the sleeping setup.
The 17SBH weighs 3,883 lbs. It has a 54x74" master bed, two bunks, and a convertible dinette.
The 3,863-lb. 16SFB has the same master bed and dinette but loses the bunks. It also has a smaller footprint than the 17SBH, shaving 22" of the length of the camper. This can make it easier to drive and maneuver.
Trillium Heritage 4500 by L'Air Camper Co.
The Trillium Heritage 4500 has a funky, retro design that goes back to their first campers in the 1970s. Don't take it for being old fashioned, though. Its recent improvements landed it in RV Life's list of the 10 best lightweight travel trailers of 2022.
This camper has a GVWR of 2,500 lbs., making it the lightest on our list.
No Boundaries NB10.6 by Forest River
The No Boundaries NB10.6 is designed with adventure in mind. This isn't just a travel trailer, it's a proper toy hauler. It has a ramp door so you can get your toys in and out with ease and off-road tires so you can get it where the fun is.
It has a GVWR of 3,736 lbs., but the UVW is just 1,763 lbs. That means you've got 1,973 lbs. of cargo capacity to load your favorite outdoor toys.
How do you increase towing capacity?
If you've got your eye on a camper that exceeds your towing capacity, you may be tempted to modify your vehicle to improve its towing power. However, increasing your towing capacity is no easy feat.
Some manufacturers offer towing packages for their vehicles. These often included trailer hookups as well as upgraded radiators and coolers for the engine and transmission. Some may also improve braking systems, axles, and suspension for towing.
The 2022 4Runner does feature a hitch receiver and wiring harness with 4- and 7-pin connectors standard but no available towing package. Toyota currently only offers towing packages for the Tacoma and Tundra.
Unfortunately, there is no way to increase the 4Runner's towing capacity. While investing in improved coolers, radiators, or other upgrades may increase how well your 4Runner performs while towing, it does not legally increase its maximum towing capacity.
What happens if you exceed towing capacity?
There are a number of reasons why you shouldn't exceed your towing capacity. The most basic is that it is dangerous. You may not be able to brake or maneuver effectively to avoid an accident when towing above capacity. This puts you and others in danger.
If you are in an accident while exceeding capacity, it will also increase your liability for the accident. Even if you obey all other rules of the road, you can expect more legal and monetary ramifications if you're in an accident while above capacity.
Even if you don't find yourself in a dangerous situation or accident, it's not a good idea to tow above your towing capacity. It puts more strain on your vehicle than it's designed to handle. Your engine, transmission, brakes, and even the chassis will all wear down faster or can be damaged.
Can you sleep in the back of a 4Runner?
While off on adventures in your 4Runner, you might find yourself needing a place to rest without the usual options available. Fortunately for you, the cargo area of the 4Runner is surprisingly comfortable.
The second- and third-row seats can fold down and lay flat in the cargo area. This leaves you with 89.7 cubic feet of space. Just unroll a couple of sleeping bags or pump up a small air mattress, and you'll be set.
If you find yourself camping in your 4Runner regularly, you might even want to invest in an air mattress specially designed for it. Luno produces just such a product. You can see it in action in the video below:
If you're looking for a place to park your 4Runner while sleeping, it's best to stick to campgrounds to avoid running afoul of the law.
To learn more about this and related topics, check out this article: How Much Does RV Camping Cost? [A detailed Analysis with Examples] You'll find information on camping across the US as well as the best places to overnight when campgrounds aren't available.
How do I turn my 4Runner into a camper?
We've seen campers the 4Runner can pull, but what about turning the 4Runner into a camper itself? There are a number of great camper conversions built on the 4Runner!
Most of these conversions involve removing the second- and third-row seats and building a platform in the cargo area. This platform allows shelf storage underneath a sleeping/sitting area on top.
Many conversions also use cut-out reflectix insulation to fit the windows while parked. This helps insulate the camper and also gives you more privacy while resting inside.
Check out the video below to see a camper conversion on a 2000 4Runner. This conversion follows a typical style with the clever addition of a simple fold-out table:
The 4Runner is more than a reliable and sensible choice for a full-size SUV. It also has the towing power to go on some great adventures as long as you know how to use it.
Now that you know more about the 4Runner, travel trailers, and camper conversions, you'll be ready to make the right choice to get you started on your own adventure. Safe driving and happy hauling!