Being able to measure your camper or RV the right way is important. None of the manufacturers does a good job explaining just how their camper measurements are calculated. So the best way to go about it is to measure the length and height yourself.
How do you measure the length and width of your RV/camper? A camper should have three sets of measurements. The first set of measurements should be the actual space inside of the camper. The next set should be the exterior size of the camper and the last should be the size of the camper including the trailer it is sitting on top of.
With these three sets of measurements, you have the information you’ll need to make a smart purchase.
Now let’s take a look at how the dimensions are defined as well as some real-life examples of the dimensions of RVs.
You’ll know where you can tow the camper, where you can park the camper, and how much room you’ll have once you’re inside of the camper.
Let’s start by defining how everything is calculated and measured.
Interior Length and Width
The interior length is the amount of living space you’ll have when inside of your camper.
Measuring the length is easy as you’ll just measure from the front wall to the back wall of the camper inside the camper.
Measuring the interior width of a camper can be a little more complicated. You’ll want to take measurements with the slides in and with the slides out.
Exterior Length and Width
The length and width of the camper are measured by measuring the outside of the camper without adding the additional length of the parts of the trailer without a camper overtop. For instance, you won’t include the measurement of the trailer tongue.
Once again, you may have two different width measurements. The first measurement will be the width of the camper with the slides in and the second will be the width with the slides out.
These two measurements are important as the closed width will tell you how wide the vehicle will be when driving and the second will tell you how much space you’ll need when choosing a campsite.
Overall Length of Your Rig
The overall length is the length of the entire trailer. This length is always longer than the length of the camper. Sometimes the length variation can be large while other times it will be close to the same.
You’ll see that campers with front entrances like the Bowlus Roadchief make use of almost the entire trailer.
Should I Measure the Hitch?
You won’t count the hitch length when measuring a camper unless you’re counting the length of your tow vehicle as well.
The only time you may want to do this would be when finding a parking spot or choosing a place to camp.
Some campsites will have a total length that they give you and you’ll have to make sure your camper, as well as your tow vehicle, will all comfortably fit inside of this length.
How about Gooseneck Mounts and Fifth Wheel Camper Hitches?
Another measurement you might want to be aware of is the length of a fifth wheel camper’s tongue. This is because you’ll need either a fifth wheel hitch mount or a gooseneck mount to properly set up a fifth wheel rig.
These mounts are both attached to the bed of your truck. The main difference is that the gooseneck mount is a ball hitch and your fifth wheel campers tongue will need to be able to safely reach the ball hitch in order for you to tow your camper. Take the wrong measurements and you may up mounting your gooseneck mount in the wrong place.
Remember the rule, measure twice and cut once.
Measuring the Height
There are two and sometimes three camper heights you’ll need to worry about.
- The first height you’ll want to consider is the interior height of the camper. Find this height by measuring inside from floor to ceiling. Just be careful as some campers will have different height measurements inside of the camper.
For example, a fifth wheel camper will have more headroom in the living area than in the area overtop of your truck’s bed.
- You’ll also need to take a couple of outside measurements. The main exterior measurement to be aware of is the height of the camper including any ceiling mounted air conditioning units.
- The next outside measurement you may want to take is the exterior height without the rooftop mounted air conditioning units.
Examples of How Camper Heights and Lengths are Listed
The AirStream Flying Cloud
The Airstream Flying Cloud has a width of 19′ an exterior width of 8′, an exterior height with the air conditioning unit of 9’9″ and an interior height with the air conditioning unit of 6’7.5″. As you can see, they didn’t mention the heights without the AC and they didn’t mention what the total length of the camper is.
The Casita Liberty
The Casita Liberty is listed as having an overall length of 16′ an overall height of 7’8″, an interior height of 5’10” and an overall width of 6’8″.
This is interesting because they call this camper a 16′ camper but if the overall length is 16′ than the actual camper would have to be shorter than 16′ since the tongue will add at least another 3′ to the length of the camper.
The Coachmen Catalina Legacy Edition
The Coachmen Catalina Legacy Edition is listed as having an exterior length of 36’9″, an exterior height of 11’1″ and an exterior width of 96″. Why did they list the width completely in inches and not in feet? Does the height include the AC unit?
As you can see, there aren’t any standards when it comes to listing the heights and widths of campers. Unfortunately, the salespeople may not even know what these measurements actually are. In order to get the proper measurements of a camper, your best bet is to go to the showroom with a tape measure in hand. Take the measurements yourself and you’ll know for sure.
Length and Height Considerations
Before Buying A Camper
Before you buy a camper you’ll need to carefully consider what height and length to choose. Take into account how much living space you’ll need as well as how much total space you can manage.
For instance, you may find that your garage will not accommodate a camper with a tall rooftop air conditioning unit, but you may be able to get a tall camper with a side-mounted AC unit.
It isn’t just storage considerations you’ll have to take into account either. Many state and national parks will have length restrictions. In the United States, most parks will allow up to 27′ campers, but no more than this.
If you’re buying a homemade camper or building a DIY camper, height and length measurements become especially important. This is because it may not be legal to travel with a camper that is too wide. In fact, it may not even be possible to travel with a camper that is too high.
I’ve watched many videos of campers being decapitated by low bridges. Even if your camper is of legal height, you may still have to watch out for low bridges as older bridges may not conform to newer standards.
Length and Height Considerations While Towing
As we said earlier, some campers will be harder to tow on account of their height or length. When towing a camper that is taller than your vehicle, take the highest height measurement including the AC unit and write it down somewhere you can see it while driving.
This way, when you come to a low bridge you’ll know whether or not you can safely pass under it or whether you’ll have to turn around.
The length can be a consideration when trying to park. A standard parking spot in the united states is 20′ long.
This means you’ll have about 40′ to work with when you pull through two parking spots. If you know the length of your camper and your vehicle, you’ll know whether or not you’ll need to find a special place to park.
How to Measure A Camper For A Cover
A camper cover is great for keeping a camper out of the elements. Of course, it’s not so great if the cover doesn’t fit.
In order to find out what size cover you’ll need for your camper, you’ll need to take a few measurements.
Measure the total length and width of your camper as well as the length of just the box of the camper without the trailer.
This is because some covers are meant to only cover the camper while others are meant to cover both the camper and the trailer it’s sitting on.
Personally, I think you’re better off protecting both, but you may have a different preference than I do.
You’ll also need to take measurements for the height of the camper as well. Again, take a measurement that only covers the box and one that includes the height of the camper from the bottom of its trailer’s wheels to the top of it’s AC unit. Having all the measurements in hand before you try to make a purchase will make everything easier.
Never rely on the manufacturer’s measurements. The RV industry does not have any true measuring standards and you won’t know for sure what the measurements are until you’ve taken them yourself.
Christopher Schopf is an avid camper, hiker, and an advocate for a better environment. He likes to write about alternative lifestyles and small spaces.