Among the Facebook Endurance groups there is a frequent question about trucks, trailers, and how you camp. I decided to go ahead and fully discuss my set up, and why I made the decisions I made.
First off, let me briefly explain that I am a 26 year old single woman with no kids, and own 1 horse. I’ve owned my mare for nearly a decade and showed previously in show jumping and eventing. I work as a teacher, and live with my parents who don’t require me to pay rent which has given me the opportunity to make these purchases (I take care of the house, clean, and do maintenance when they are at their other house in southern CA). I have no desire to want to move out of their house until I decide to get married and I enjoy living with them. They are also a little bit older (late 60’s, early 70’s) and it makes me feel better being able to keep an eye on them and help out.
Purchase #1: My 15′ Nissan Titan
Personally, I am a Ram Truck fan. I would have and still wish I was able to get a Ram Truck, but here’s the deal; my older brother has been a service manager at a Nissan dealership for years now. I knew that my brother would be willing to help me out and cut a lot of BS costs I’d have to pay for if I bought a truck outside of his dealership. I owned a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and was worried about not getting a fair price on my trade in. My brother took in my GC for about $5000 more than what other dealerships priced it at. You see, my family has worked in the car business most of their life. What a lot of dealerships do is they use Kelley Blue Book to give you a fair price on your trade, but one of the tricks they do is they mark your car as “Fair Condition”, instead of “Excellent” to make your car seem at a lower value and that they are being fair to you. My brother took my GC in on “excellent condition” as it truely was in perfect condition. Now, when it came to the truck and after much research, I felt the only way I could safely haul is if I bought the Utility Package Titan with a special tow package, different frame, and is able to pull about 2000 lbs more than a regular Titan. We had to have my truck shipped to his dealership because there were only 3 new ones in southern California at the time. My brother also sold me the truck without making any kind of commission. He was able to sell it to me at the price the dealership paid for it. My Titan ended up being what I call an “upgrade” at $8000 out of my pocket. The other reason why I decided to go with a 1/2 ton truck was because I knew it would be my commuter car. My family once owned a Ford F-250 Diesel truck. That thing was a pain to drive around everyday just to run errands. It made parking difficult as well (and the truck was a piece of shit-Fords suck and always broke down on us even though we bought it new). A lot of people will argue the more truck the better, but a 1/2 ton pick up should have no problem towing a 2 horse BP. So far, I have had no problems and have never felt like I didn’t have enough power. Yes, I can feel the load back there, but I’ve towed from Phoenix to Flagstaff which is up a hill and had no problems and was even able to pass Semis without a problem.
Purchase #2: My Trailer; a Royale by Trails West, 2 horse straight load BP with a ramp.
I fell in love with this trailer while shopping around at a dealership. It felt like it was a luxury BP and loved having a ramp and feed manger. The tack room was extra spacious, and when I decided I wanted this model I had the intention of turning the tack room into an LQ area. The other reason why I bought this model was because it was 7’6″ tall inside and is considered a “Warmblood” trailer. Although my 16hh mare can easily fit into a regular 7′ tall trailer, I didn’t know what my equestrian future would be and if I’d end up buying a bigger horse. I purchased my trailer used from a private seller who had only used it a couple times.
There is a downside but required an easy solution; trailer sway.
Because the tack/dressing room of this trailer is so big, it doesn’t put a lot of tongue weight on which can cause trailer sway. I never recall any issues with trailer sway when I towed a 3 horse slant, because you always had to put at least one horse up in the front closest to the tounge of the trailer. The solution for this was to spend around $500 and buy weight distribution/stabilizer bars, and a sway control mount. I had to get the sway control welded on, but was able to figure out the rest on my own. It made the biggest difference in my towing and I feel much safer. It was worth every penny.
Purchase #3: My 16′ Lance Truck Camper
So my dad and I tried to make some plans about turning my tack/dressing room into a small LQ area for myself. We just couldn’t seem to make it work and he doesn’t have the most handy man skills to get that job done. I was over sleeping in a tent, my truck, the guilt of inviting myself to stay with someone else, or finding a motel in the middle of nowhere when I did show jumping and eventing. I wanted a place to truly enjoy and call my own. I wanted to not only enjoy riding, but enjoy the camping aspect. I started to research truck campers and decided I was going to get a pop-up camper by Palomino RV which would cover my basic needs. I didn’t know you could get a truck camper for a 1/2 ton but you definitely can! When I went to go look at these pop-up campers I decided to bring my parents along with me. My mom quickly drained my excitement when she noticed these Palomino Pop-Ups had no toilet. My mom is the type of woman who holds her bladder because she refuses to relieve herself in a portable. At horse shows growing up she would actually drive off the property to use a real bathroom. She looked at me in horror and said, “Ashley! You can’t get a camper and not have a toilet are you nuts!”. She proved herself right as I recalled sleeping in a tent in Flagstaff once for a cross country schooling event and froze my buns off trying to squat down and pee behind my Jeep tire at 3am where it was 30 degrees. So I quickly changed my mind and we started looking for a pop-up with a toilet. Then, my mom also noted that these pop-up campers had no AC or heater because the pop-up part is a mesh-like screening. She told me to recall all of the horse shows and horse trials I had been to during extreme weather. I quickly flashbacked to the amount of heat waves, windstorms, thunderstorms, torrential rain, show grounds a foot deep in mud, and literally a blizzard where I had to ditch my tent and go to a crappy motel because the freezing wind attacked it. So then, my search changed to a solid truck camper with AC, Heater, a toilet AND a shower. I ended up getting sold on the great quality a Lance provided and was sold when the salesman told me he’d sell it to me for $5000 under the original sales price since it had been on the lot for some time. My dad once owned an RV dealership and when he supported me on this offer I knew I had to take it (especially since he is really smart about big investments/purchases) Because I no longer had the ridiculous expenses of stupid expensive horse shows, and paying trainers and outrageous board fees, I was able to buy my 2016 Lance 650 Truck Camper in March 2016 and have been gleaming about it ever since. The Lance 650 is designed for 1/2 tons. At first, figuring out how to back into it, and getting it on and off my truck was frustrating, but now it’s a breeze now that I’ve figured it out. The first night I had to try to take it off after doing my first LD and then driving home a couple hours later for a few hours after being extremely tired I’m not going to lie I sat under my truck and cried trying to figure out how to get it off at 11pm at night. I am so grateful I have a toilet to pee in at 3am, a heater to turn on when the temperature has dipped down into the low 30’s, and an AC that I’ve only been able to run once when I used my ex-bf’s generator. However, I do have this wind tunnel fan thing over my bed which runs off my 12 volt battery if I really need it. I took my 4th trip before I finally decided to use the tiny shower. It was the most miserable but amazing feeling when I did use it because I did my 3rd LD during a heat wave and the humidity was high that day. I was literally covered in dirt from it sticking to me as we got stuck on a single-track for miles behind another group. I didn’t turn the water heater on because I was drenched in sticky sweat so my shower consisted of about 3- 20 second bursts of cold water. But omg, I felt so much better after I got out and was grateful for it. I couldn’t imagine sleeping that night covered in dirt and sweat and would have rather poured a bucket over my head than not showering. Anyways, I love my truck camper, it is my pride and joy, and I love being able to fully immerse myself in the camping experience of being able to cook, pee, shower, dine, watch the rain, color at my dinette, and go on any getaway my little heart desires without having to pay for a hotel.
I love being able to look at Annabel through the window where my dinette is. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent reading, coloring, eating, and watching her through the window during our downtime at rides.
My truck camper is my happy place. I definitely gave it a touch of my love and style.
Here is a list of the upgrades that were necessary to make sure that my truck can safely tow both my horse and my camper.
- Utility Package on Titan (~$2400?) I can’t find the exact number because they no longer are making my Titan they are only making Frontiers and the new big XDs. Allows me to tow 2000lbs more than a regular Titan.
- Brake Controller Installation in truck (under $100)
- Equalizer Bars/Weight Distribution Hitch/Sway Control (under $500 at Camping World) on truck and trailer.
- Tie Down Bracket Installation on Truck for Camper ~$800
- Rear Suspension on Truck so Camper doesn’t weigh down the rear axle ~$800-$900.
- I keep an electric tire pressure pump ~$50 in my truck at all times and check my tires with a tire gauge before all my long trips or about every month.
- I have both my horse trailer and my truck camper on my AAA insurance policy which includes theft. My insurance plan is unique for RVs.
- I print out my directions for long trips on MapQuest instead of using Navigation (which I have in my truck) so I don’t take my eyes off the road and already have an idea of where I’m going.
- I listen to CDs when hauling so I’m not fussing with my phone while driving.
Pros of my Set Up:
- My truck is fairly easy to drive around town and to work.
- Annabel likes the ramp of my trailer more than the step up of our previous trailer. You just have to always sweep the hinge of the ramp or it won’t be able to close all the way.
- You don’t have to hang hay bags up like a slant trailer because it has mangers.
- I can check on her during travel and offer water by opening the door to the tack room.
- I love my tack/dressing room and enjoy cleaning and organizing it during my downtime at rides.
- Owning a bumper pull/tag-along makes it quick and easy when hauling to local regional parks for conditioning. Easier to park, and less stress when going to gas stations than a gooseneck.
- I can use my truck camper for more than just rides whereas a GN LQ your stuck with the horsey part even if you just want to camp without horses. I can not only camp without my horse and go with girlfriends instead, but can use it for when I go on family beach trips, concerts, and tail-gating at football games.
Cons of my Set Up:
- My trailer did sway before I added that kit to it.
- My truck is less powerful than bigger trucks but so far I’ve not had any issues. It tows my camper and trailer like a champ.
- My truck is a gas guzzler- can’t argue that.
- I have to take my tail gate off to put my truck camper on. This gets rid of my backup camera which makes hooking up a bit more challenging and I have to have someone around to help me get my tailgate on and off.
- It takes about 20 minutes to get my camper on and then hook up the trailer. I’m sure a gooseneck is probably like 5 minutes. If I don’t have to put my camper on it’s pretty quick to hook up since the backup camera is hooked up.
- Goosenecks are supposedly safer and the more secure way to haul.
- I have to “climb” to get up into my camper because its usually hooked to the trailer and didn’t come with stairs.
Even though I have equal pros and cons listed, it doesn’t justify them as all equal. Some things aren’t as big of a deal as others. If I had to go back and change anything I wouldn’t. I’m really happy with my set up and big purchases I’ve made. Sometimes I wish I could have gotten a Ram 1500 or 2500 but I know I’d be cursing at myself when I have to park the 2500 and am not sure if things would have turned out the way they did if I had to pay significantly more for a truck and lose significantly less on my Jeep as a trade in. I most definitely wished I could have gotten a 4×4 because I’ve scratched my head a few times hoping I could get out of some areas but I didn’t have the option to get a 4×4 truck. Yes, you can safely tow with a 1/2 ton pickup which is a frequent debate on forums and groups even though the most common answer is get more truck. Having a big truck can be a pain in the ass, and my 1/2 ton is able to do the job I’m asking it to do. I made sure I made the necessary purchases to make sure I can haul everything safely. I’ve had many, many people stop by my set up and raise their eyebrows at my Titan with my camper aboard concerned about the weight or ask if it was the new XD diesel at a first glance. I’ve also had gooseneck owners envy my set up and saying how they wished they’d just gotten a little BP or how they wished they could camp without the horses if they wanted to without a big LQ horse trailer. My set up works for me, it may not work for everyone else. As I mentioned before, it’s usually just me by myself, or a friend tagging a long. I don’t have a husband or kids where I need extra room or extra horses. I have no doubt in my mind that someday when I’m married with kids I will have that big Ram 3500 Dually with a beautiful Lakota 3-4 horse trailer, but right now this is what works for me. My dad also raised me on the power of investing as he invests in real estate. A lot of people are bitter towards me and my truck/trailer/camper lifestyle but I consider it a living bank account. Rather than having my savings for a house sit in a bank, I’m using it to enjoy these things; in which my trailer and camper do not depreciate that fast. If it came to hard times or when I’m ready to buy my own house I’m prepared to sell these things if I had to.
I hope you found this useful, and I understand that honest opinions are important for others when making big purchases.