What a ride!

This post is for all the folks out there that are thinking about taking a trip and are curious about outfitting your vehicles and trailers. There’s a lot of technical jargon in this post, so I’ll try and make it as digestible as possible for everyone.

This was the original setup at the start of our trip on 9/21.

The truck is a 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport. The truck was outfitted with a cold air intake from TRD, roof rails by Rhino Rack along with a cargo box by Thule, and Firestone Ride-Rite Springs. The springs were added to help level out the front to back of the truck when the trailer was hitched up. The trailer is a 2020 Coachmen Apex Ultra-Lite.

Why This Setup “Worked”

Jen and I did our first trip in June from CA to FL and back for 30 days with this setup. For the most part, it was completely fine. There were definitely hills that the Taco had a hard time climbing—RPMs would sometimes go up to 5,000 while climbing hills and the truck would start to lose speed. Often times, in these scenarios, we had the pedal to metal just to try and keep speed!

This setup worked because the specs were all in-line with the manufacture’s recommendations. The GVWR (gross vehicle weight ratio) for towing on the truck was about 6,200 pounds. The dry weight, or unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) of the trailer was just under 5,000 pounds. When loaded for our first trip, we were well under 6,200 pounds. The GCWR (gross combined weight ratio) of the truck—this is the total weight of the truck (including cargo and occupants) and the total weight of the trailer including cargo—was 11,360 pounds. The curb weight (weight of the truck without cargo or occupants) of the truck was about 4,400 pounds.

OK. Lot of numbers there. Let’s break it down:

Truck Cargo + People & Dogs600
Trailer Cargo800

Why This Setup Didn’t Work

While the specs were all in-line with the manufacture’s recommendations and it “worked,” it didn’t feel good having to slam on the gas to get up some of those hills.

As we started this most recent journey, Jen drew the straw to tow the trailer up to Tahoe and found that the Taco was struggling! In our anticipation of a 6 month journey, we definitely packed more stuff than we did in June. Knowing this, I opted to buy a BetterWeigh Mobile Tongue Weight and Payload Scale to weigh our rig. Without going into too many details of the product, it communicates with the computer of the truck to calculate weights. One of the features weighs your GCWR. I didn’t get a chance to run a test prior to leaving, so I ended up running a test a few days into the journey. I ran 3 tests—the BetterWeigh showed 11,000, 14,000, then 12,000! We were definitely overweight.

What To Do Now?

Yup… You guessed it! Gotta get a new truck. I was anticipating that were going to need to do this, and in retrospect, I should have delayed the launch date of our journey to purchase a truck back home. As it is with everything, you can only move forward.

I started research on a truck that could easily pull and haul everything that we needed with our setup. I really wanted to get the GMC Sierra AT4. It would have been a bit of a throwback to the GMC Sierra my grandfather gave me before he died. It’s also a bad ass truck! I could go on and on with how much I love this truck, but I didn’t end up getting it so I’ll refrain from drooling.

I’ve known for years that the Toyota Tundra has been rated the most reliable truck forever. It’s a very safe buy and fulfilled all the weight requirements. If I learned anything by buying my Tacoma, I learned that I should have been looking for a TRD Pro trim. It comes with everything you need and don’t need—and looks way better than the even the trim just below. I started my search and discovered that the Tundra TRD Pro is a unicorn. It just didn’t exist—new or used. I mean… It exists… You just can’t find them because Toyota makes so few of them and no one wants to part with them.

The next best option for me was to start looking for a Toyota Tundra SR5 TRD Off-Road. I found that, for the increased price of the Limited and Platinum trims, it just wasn’t worth it to me because they were just too shy of a TRD Pro and a lot more expensive than the SR5 trim. At this point, we were in the Idaho area on our way to Utah.

After some searching, I found a dealership in the Salt Lake City area: Tony Divino Toyota. I contacted them and was immediately put in touch with Fernando. All I can say is, Fernando hooked us up! He did a great job securing the vehicle and working with all the ins and outs of our situation, including the trade-in of the Tacoma, accessories, and financing. Everyone we worked with there did an amazing job of getting us this truck! I even had a Rhino Rack installed on the truck then next day by Rack N Road.

Quick photo op at Arches National Park

And Then…

Did you ever see Dude Where’s My Car? We spent a night in our trailer in Park City, UT where it got down to ~35º. We thought space heaters would sustain us coupled with the furnace in the trailer. Nope.

We immediately started doing more research on how we could avoid the uncomfortable temperatures we knew we were going to hit come the dead of winter in Idaho and Utah. To save you all time and energy researching for yourselves, just do yourself a favor and pick up a four season rated RV. There’s really no substitute. Even if you’re planning on doing summer camping or boondocking, just pick up a four season RV.

Jen immediately hopped on the research wagon as I was completely burnt from doing research on trucks. She found one of the few RV manufacturers out there that builds four season rated travel trailers—Grand Design.

Since we loved our Coachmen with its rear bathroom door and entry, we really wanted to get something with a similar layout, making stopping at gas stations for a fill up and bio break easy and quick. We landed on a Grand Design Imagine 2600RB. Jen quickly found one in stock near our next destination in TX at McClain’s RV SuperStores in Fort Worth. David Copeland, Derek Hess, and Aaron Charles did a great job securing the RV, trade in, and financing. Another excellent job from folks on the road!

Nothing against Coachmen, they make some great RVs, but this Grand Design is really nice! We have a lot more living space, making it just a little bit more comfortable. The shower is bigger, and while we’re not big people, it’s nice to have a little bit more room. And yes, we did our due diligence to make sure the Tundy is capable of towing the, slightly more heavier, trailer.

This all was quite a learning experience about capable trucks and RVs, weight acronyms and what they actually mean, and finding great people to work with to accomplish the needs.

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