Figuring out what is needed to tow a camper is confusing and I’ve had to do a lot of research. Through my research, I’ve learned a lot about typical fifth wheel towing systems and gooseneck towing systems.
What are the differences between a fifth wheel and a gooseneck towing system? A fifth wheel camper hitch uses a kingpin and a receiver and a gooseneck hitch use a ball and coupler. Fifth wheel campers will usually use fifth wheel hitches but some people will use a gooseneck instead. Both of these systems are attached to the inside of the truck bed.
Looking up campers and planning out the layouts is a whole lot of fun.
I’ve spent many hours just gazing at photos of fifth wheel campers. But what about actually towing these campers?
The Difference Is In The Hitch System
Fifth Wheel Camper Hitches
A fifth wheel camper hitch is what most manufacturers fifth wheel campers are set up to use.
These hitches have rails and are mounted right into the frame of the pickup truck.
They do not have a ball attached to them and if you’re new to the world of RVs you might not recognize them as towing equipment upon first glance.
These hitches are mounted just above the rear axle. A pair of rails is mounted into the truck bed and then the hitch is attached to the rails.
Installing this hitch isn’t overly complicated but it does require you to drill into the bed of your truck and you will need to remove the rear wheel to successfully mount everything that is needed.
Advantages of Fifth Wheel Camper Hitches
- A fifth wheel camper hitch is the standard hitch that is used with a fifth wheel camper.
Using this type of hitch will provide greater compatibility.
- Fifth wheel hitches also offer a smoother ride than gooseneck hitches.
You’ll have less swaying and a quieter ride with a fifth wheel hitch than you will with a gooseneck hitch.
Disadvantages of Fifth Wheel Camper Hitches
The major disadvantage of a fifth wheel camper hitch is that it cannot tow as much as a gooseneck trailer hitch.
If you have a larger trailer or intend on having a very heavy fifth wheel camper built for you then you may need to use a gooseneck trailer hitch instead.
A fifth wheel trailer hitch usually costs more than a gooseneck trailer hitch.
Also, you can’t tow as much weight with a fifth wheel hitch compared to a gooseneck hitch.
Gooseneck Trailer Hitches
Gooseneck trailer hitches have a ball hitch just like a bumper pull hitch.
These hitches also mount into the truck bed which allows for an overall shorter towing footprint. It also centers the weight overtop of the truck just like a fifth wheel camper hitch does.
A gooseneck hitch is also installed over top of the rear axle but it does not require any rails.
To mount this hitch, you might need to drill into your truck bed and you’ll often need to remove your spare tire before doing so.
If you have decent DIY skills, a few tools, some extra time and you want to save some money, then feel free to install this hitch yourself.
This being said, I’d recommend that you pay a professional to install this type of hitch.
In the event of a malfunction or accident, you’ll have some protection against liability because you’ll be able to go after the company that installed the hitch. If you’ve installed the hitch yourself, you’ll only have yourself to blame.
Advantages of Gooseneck Trailer Hitches
- Gooseneck trailer hitches can pull a lot of weight. A larger truck that can make full use of the gooseneck trailer hitch can tow over 25,000 pounds.
- This type of trailer hitch also provides more flexibility.
The reason for this is that you’ll be able to pull a large horse trailer and fifth wheel toy haulers that you wouldn’t be able to mount onto a standard fifth wheel hitch mount.
Disadvantages of Gooseneck Trailer Hitches
- A gooseneck trailer hitch does not provide as smooth of a ride as a fifth wheel trailer hitch.
This means you’ll end up with more trailer sway and you’ll have a noisier ride.
People who do a lot of traveling may want to go with a fifth wheel mount over a gooseneck trailer mount.
- Another disadvantage of a gooseneck trailer hitch is that it can sometimes be more difficult to mount the trailer onto it.
The driver needs to perfectly position the ball mount underneath of the camper’s hitch adapter and this can be more difficult than doing so with a bumper pull hitch.
How to Tow a Fifth Wheel Camper With a Gooseneck Trailer Hitch
If you want to tow a fifth wheel camper with a gooseneck trailer hitch, you’ll need to get an adapter.
The adapter makes it so that the fifth wheel kingpin and receiver-style hitch can fit and lock onto the ball hitch of the gooseneck trailer.
The drawback to this is that you’ll end up with a ride that is less smooth than either a standard fifth wheel hitch mount or even a standard gooseneck trailer hitch mount.
If you find you have to tow both a fifth wheel and a gooseneck trailer, you may be better off installing a fifth wheel rail to your truck. ‘
This way you can change out the hitch each time you change trailers.
When you’re pulling a fifth wheel camper you’ll use the actual fifth wheel hitch and when you’re pulling a gooseneck trailer, you’ll use the gooseneck hitch. This will add a little to the expense of the mounting system but you’ll end up with a smoother and safer ride and you won’t have to buy an adapter.
Inside-Truck-Mount vs. Bumper Pull Hitches
Fifth wheel hitches and gooseneck hitches are both superior to bumper pull hitches in many ways.
One factor is the turning radius that these types of hitches allow for.
This is especially apparent when backing up.
These hitches make it easier to turn and easier to get into tighter parking spaces.
Jackknifing and other issues you may find with a bumper pull camper usually don’t exist when pulling from a hitch that is mounted inside of the truck.
Here’s a picture of the bumper pull system from my camper trailer. It’s a European mount and it’s much like the standard U.S mount system.
This is especially helpful for people who will be navigating city streets with their campers.
If a tractor trailer can make it up the street then generally you’ll be able to make it up the street as well. The same thing cannot be said with a more traditional bumper pull camper hitch setup.
Since both of these trailer hitches place the load within the center of the pickup truck, both types make towing easier than the traditional bumper pull towing systems you find with standard campers.
With a hitch mounted inside of your truck bed, you’ll have less sway and a smoother ride.
The disadvantage to towing from inside of your pickup truck is that you won’t be able to use the bed for additional storage.
Also, if you have a cap over the top of your truck bed, you’ll need to remove it before you can tow anything. This cap will then need to be stored and you may have trouble selling it when you put it back on.
I have a truck cap on my camper and it has leaked ever since I removed and then reattached it and many truck owners have shared similar stories with me.
Even though fifth wheel camper hitches and gooseneck trailer hitches share many similarities, the two types are different and you’ll find advantages and disadvantages for both of them.
Can I tow more with a fifth wheel camper?
Yes. You can tow more weight with a fifth wheel camper than you can with a travel trailer.
There are two reasons for this.
- The first is that the bed of the pickup truck can support more weight than the hitch of the pickup truck.
- The second reason for this is that the pickup truck can handle better with the weight centered over the rear axle.
This type of setup gives the truck a better center of gravity and allows it to tow more weight smoother than it could tow a normal pull-behind bumper pull camper.
Another thought to keep in mind is that you can tow a longer camper as well.
This is because some of the campers are centered over the top of the truck and you do not have to worry about the additional length of a trailer tongue.
Since you’ll have a shorter footprint, you may be able to park in places that were previously inaccessible with your bumper pull camper.
In most cases, you should tow your fifth wheel camper with a fifth wheel hitch.
Doing so will give you a smoother and more controlled ride and you won’t have to make use of any adapters. You’ll pay a little more for the hitch but it will be worth it.
If you have to tow more weight than a fifth wheel camper hitch will allow, go ahead and switch over to a gooseneck trailer hitch.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.