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Short-bed trucks are everywhere these days and this new phenomenon has many owners wondering if their short-bed pickup can pull a 5th wheel trailer. Will that short bed length prevent you from towing the 5th wheel of your dreams? It can be tricky to navigate all the ins and outs of towing, especially when it comes to a specific question like this. Luckily for you, we have researched everything there is to know about short-bed trucks and towing to find the answer for you.
Yes, it is possible to tow a 5th-wheel trailer with a short-bed truck. There are, however, some obstacles to overcome, including the trailer’s overall weight and hitch weight, maneuverability, and cargo space.
If either of the last two obstacles gets in your way, know that there are solutions out there that can help you realize your towing dreams. And, as always, check the trailer measurements against your truck’s rated towing and payload capacity (located on the sticker on your drivers-side door jamb) before towing any trailer.
Further down, we will discuss everything you need to know about the problems and possible solutions when it comes to pulling a 5th-wheel trailer with your short-bed truck. Stay with us for this in-depth discussion about towing a 5th-wheel trailer with a short-bed.
What is a Short Bed?
When we say “short bed,” we are talking about full-size pickup trucks that are equipped with a bed measuring in at around 5 and a half feet long. Depending on the manufacturer, that length can vary, however. Here is a breakdown of each manufacturer’s 2019 short-bed measurements:
Ford F150: 5’6″
Chevy Silverado 1500: 5’9″
GMC Sierra 1500: 5’9″
Nissan Titan: 5’7″
Ram 1500: 5’7″
Toyota Tundra: 5’6″
Notice that all of these trucks are half-tons. That means that, compared to their heavy-duty siblings, they are generally rated to tow and haul less weight. Because 5th wheels put more weight in the bed of the truck and also weigh more overall than most bumper-pull travel trailers, weight can become a problem for these half-ton trucks.
Luckily, we have another article dedicated to the issue of pulling a 5th wheel with a half-ton truck. Check it out if you want to become an expert on the topic.
Now, some other bed lengths can sometimes be referred to as “short-beds. You will occasionally see the Ram 2500/3500 with a 6.5′ bed called a short bed. That’s because this bed length is the shortest option for these heavy-duty trucks, even though their beds are a good foot longer than the shortest half-ton bed.
For our purposes today, we will ignore these pickups because they can handle bigger trailers and more payload than any short-bed half-ton we will be discussing here. You can assume, then, that any of those short-bed heavy-duty trucks will be able to handle a 5th wheel just fine, if not as well as a longer-bed truck.
Also omitted from this article are mid-sized trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevy Colorado. While these trucks certainly do offer short bed lengths, you really shouldn’t consider them for 5th-wheel duty because they are just too small. The only exception would be the Scamp 19′ 5th-wheel trailer that weighs less than 3,000 lbs. You will be hard-pressed to find any other 5th-wheel trailers even double that weight.
Need more information about the subject? Check out our guide: How long is the bed of a pickup truck? for some interesting averages.
The Problem with Short Beds
Okay, so we have established exactly what trucks we are talking about when we refer to a “short bed truck.” And, from our article on the subject, we know that some 5th wheel trailers are light enough for today’s half-ton trucks to pull. Once you have made sure your truck can handle both the weight and payload of a 5th wheel trailer, you still aren’t quite out of the woods, unfortunately.
There are a couple of other issues to consider that might not be so obvious. Here are the two other biggest problems when it comes to pulling a 5th wheel trailer with a short-bed truck:
Maneuverability: This problem arises when it comes to making tight turns with that big nose situated over your bed. That’s because your short-bed truck requires the trailer to sit closer to the cab than a long bed does. This means that, when making turns, the big nose can swing right up to your cab and either 1) bang into your truck and/or 2) prevent you from making that tight turn. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty big problem.
Cargo Room: Having your short bed filled up with your 5th-wheel hitch means you will have considerably less room for anything else in there. You might be used to the luxury of throwing just about anything you need back there before your camping trip, but that reality will change fast once you hook up to your 5th-wheel trailer. Make sure your trailer has enough cargo room for all of your goodies before you make the 5th-wheel plunge!
Solving the Short-Bed Problem
If your half-ton short-bed truck isn’t rated to tow either the weight or payload required for the 5th-wheel you want, unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do. Either downsize your trailer or up-size your truck. If, however, either of the other issues pops up, there are some very handy solutions out there that can help you out.
To get around the maneuverability problem, there are a couple of solutions to consider. The first one involves picking from a short-list of specialized trailers, while the second is a broader solution that will allow you to choose from a wider range of trailers.
Some 5th wheel trailers have a specially-designed nose that works well with short-bed trucks. One popular and well-built model is the Grand Design Reflection 150 Series trailer. By shortening the nose area and giving it a curved profile, these trailers will prevent your truck’s cab from coming into contact with them on sharp turns.
If you purchase one of these trailers, chances are you will not need any additional equipment to use this trailer with your short-bed truck. That’s because the shorter nose area prevents the 5th wheel from contacting the cab of your truck when making tight turns.
If buying one of these special trailers is out of the question for you, there is one other way to make a 5th wheel work with your truck. Special hitches, such as the slider and sidewinder hitches, can make it so that your 5th wheel stays out of the way of your can when making those tight turns.
How’s this for convenient? Slider hitches will actually slide (see where the name came from?) the trailer back when making sharp turns. This gives more breathing room between your truck cab and the trailer. Here is one example of a highly-rated 5th wheel slider hitch on Amazon currently, the B&W RVK3270:
Types of Slider Hitches
The more affordable (but much less convenient) option is a manual slider hitch. These hitches require you to get into the bed of the truck and operate the sliding mechanism manually. This is clearly not a great option for anyone who plans on making tight turns frequently, but these hitches do come with a couple of advantages. First, they cost less than the automatic units, and second, they are lighter and therefore easier on your truck.
The more expensive (but way easier) option is the automatic slider. Whenever you make a tight turn, these amazing devices will move the trailer back automatically. Once you have one of these guys in your bed, there is no more headache involved because it does all of the work for you. Unfortunately, you will pay for the convenience, both in money (expect to pay well over $1,000) as well as in weight.
If you are one of those stubborn folks who insist on using a standard 5th-wheel trailer with a standard 5th-wheel hitch, don’t lose hope because there is still an option for you! It’s called the Sidewinder:
After hooking one of these up to your 5th-wheel hitch, it works by moving the trailer’s pivot point backward. Like an automatic slider, it does not require you to get out of the truck before making sharp turns. While still expensive, this is a popular option for those looking for a way to increase their 5th-wheel trailer’s maneuverability.
One thing to note is that these sidewinder hitches move the trailer further back than slider hitches do. While this increases the maneuverability during tight turning situations, it will make your overall rig length that much longer as well because these hitches are stationary and do not slide back up after straightening out.
When it comes to the smaller problem of cargo room, there are some easy fixes. For one thing, you can simply shop around until you find a trailer with suitable storage capacity for your needs. If that’s not an option for you, you can always consider purchasing some car accessories to increase your cargo carrying capacity.
On the cheaper end, there are roof bags like this RoofPax 19 Cubic Foot Bag:
Or, for even more protection, there are hard-sided units such as the high-end Thule Motion XT:
If roof-mounted options don’t appeal to you, there are always the handy hitch-mounted carriers, as long as your trailer has a hitch. Check out this highly-rated Mockins Cargo Carrier:
How Big of a Truck do I Need to Pull a 5th Wheel?
As we have discussed earlier, it is certainly possible to find a half-ton/5th wheel combination that works. Still, some RV owners feel that these large trailers should only be pulled by heavy-duty trucks, which tend to offer much more secure towing experiences. Whichever side of that argument you fall on, just make sure that your trailer weights are well within your truck’s limits. Often, if you find a trailer within a half-ton truck’s tow rating, the hitch weight of the trailer will still be too high for that pickup’s payload capacity.
While short-bed trucks are not ideal for 5th-wheel trailers, there are many solutions out there to make them work. Whether this article made you decide for or against hooking your short-bed truck to a big ole’ 5th-wheel trailer, we hope you find a great solution that works for you.
When done properly and safely, pulling a travel trailer or 5th wheel is a rewarding and fun way to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. So, do your homework and then relax and have fun!
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