Is an overland 5th wheel an option?

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Teufelmeister

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Hello all
I have been researching if a fifth wheel trailer is a viable option for overlanding. I know that it’s not a “real” off road package, but I’m thinking more unimproved roads and easier 4wd trails? I’d like to do something more than an RTT, specifically with a bathroom, and protection for full four season adventures. Basically in North America. I found that refitting larger axles, suspension, wheels and tires is doable as long as there’s enough room between the tandems initially. Does anyone have experience with this or has seen anything like it? Or is this best kept for pavement only, since they are a big investment. Any advice, opinions or guidance would be appreciated.
 

CR-Venturer

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I think your biggest hurdle would probably be the trailer coupling - the attachment points on these trailers and the hitch receiver thingy (the mount that bolts into your pickup bed - not sure what exactly they're referred to as) were not designed for significant bends/angles that you would encounter even on relatively easy FSR's. I would also be concerned with the top heaviness of a fifth wheel design, making it far more prone to rollover in any kind of cambered situation (and it would probably take your vehicle with it).

There are specifically designed off-road camper trailers in the overland world, some of them pretty nicely kitted out, but they are all of the hitch variety, usually with specially designed off-road hitch attachments.
 

Steve

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Almost all travel trailers and 5th wheel trailers consist of a lot of stapled together chip board. None are made for even washboard forest service roads, let alone actual trails. That's why dedicated off-road trailers cost 3-4 times an equivalent "travel trailer." I don't think you'd have much longevity using something not built for the situation you expect to encounter.

But of course, you can use a 5th wheel to base camp in an area, and explore in your truck from there!
 
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Teufelmeister

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Thanks for the responses. I was Worried about both of the things you guys bought up. The articulation of the hitch, and of course the quality of the trailers itself. I’m trying to find a viable alternative between a tent and a full blown dedicated expedition vehicle. A upscale trailer if you like. I saw one from Australia, a ”Brüder” I believe it was called. I like the idea of setting up a base camp and then going exploring from there with the vehicle. Don’t want to sound like a wussy but comfort and convenience is important to me and my wife. Don’t expect to be doing worldwide travel. But, definitely all over US, Canada, and Alaska.
 

Steve

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An oft used option is to buy an enclosed trailer and build it how *you* want, to the quality for longevity. Of course, that route takes time and know how, which isn't always available.
 
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Romont

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Hi Teufelmeister,

I have a quite similare search.

I haved find an Australian maker, who produce strong fifth wheel, two of them are "rought road ready"
You can easely find it on internet, by using winjana fifth wheel
As I'm still looking for an american product, would you tell me if you have al ready find something ?

All the best

Bob
 

oldmopars

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Thanks for the responses. I was Worried about both of the things you guys bought up. The articulation of the hitch, and of course the quality of the trailers itself. I’m trying to find a viable alternative between a tent and a full blown dedicated expedition vehicle. A upscale trailer if you like. I saw one from Australia, a ”Brüder” I believe it was called. I like the idea of setting up a base camp and then going exploring from there with the vehicle. Don’t want to sound like a wussy but comfort and convenience is important to me and my wife. Don’t expect to be doing worldwide travel. But, definitely all over US, Canada, and Alaska.
I think both issues can be overcome to some degree. No, you will never find a "Off-Road" 5th wheel that will let you take it down extreme trails, but there are some smaller 5th wheels that are very rugged and can handle most of what you will encounter.
As for the issue of articulation, the standard 5th wheel hitch is not designed to do steep angles, however they do make Gooseneck adapters that convert it to a 2 5/16 ball in the bed. This is most often seen on horse trailers and stock trailers.
I think the reality is that with any trailer you are not going to be doing anything extreme. If you want to do extreme trails, either don't tow the trailer of get a purpose built short small trailer with a RTT.
Take a look at Scamp trailers, they offer (or did) a small 5th wheel that I have seen people use off road a lot. It is smaller and very well built.
 

MidOH

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Try a 23' or smaller TT instead. And nothing labeled ''lightweight''. They won't hold up. Outdoors RV have nice TT's. You'll have to repair, and maintain things more, with every mile of gravel or dirt road added. But you have to do that with an ''offroad trailer'' as well. Plenty of us have gone boondocking with RV's for years. The more you shake them up, tje more you need to fix, and vice versa. [It's not a deal breaker, burn them in a CA forest when your sick of them.]

Don't spend $100,000 on some BS overlanding trailer. Half the time they'll just take your deposit and close shop forever that same day. If you have that kind of cash, rent a Landrover and resort in Barbados or something.

5'ers are too heavy, and too tall for dirt roads around here. Keep in mind that smaller trailers have all the same stuff in them. If you need room for gymnastics, go outside.
 

tjZ06

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...the attachment points on these trailers and the hitch receiver thingy (the mount that bolts into your pickup bed - not sure what exactly they're referred to as) were not designed for significant bends/angles that you would encounter even on relatively easy FSR's...
That's not true at all. There is a lot of articulation in 2 directions on most 5'er hitches. I use a Pullrite Superglide on my 5'er, and I've done a ton of non-paved towing with it. I regularly glamp in sand dunes, and I used to go to Pismo a lot where we had to go pretty deep into the dunes on VERY uneven surfaces to find prime spots. Here's a vid of a Superglide working:


The Superglide is unique in how it moves the trailer rearward as you turn, to avoid hitting the cab. But if you watch the vid you can see the hitch head and pivot on one axis represented by the big bolt facing you, then on an axis 90 degrees to it in the same plane which you can see as the little "saddles" with the small retaining pins on either side. Those 2 axes of motion are common to all 5'er hitches. Watch that vid for a bit, plenty of movement for basic improved roads and mild trails, or even deep dunes like I've done.

I mean, think of your average gas-station driveway, your truck is in it way before the trailer, and the truck is probably climbing and moving on an angle while the trailer is out on the "flat" road. The hitch has to allow that even for pavement duty.

Still, I personally wouldn't want something as big as even the smallest 5'er you'll find for "Overlanding." Again, I pull my trailer pretty far off paved roads, but I don't consider that Overlanding. I don't really have any great shots of it off the pavement, but here's one where you can see the ample clearance between the bed-rail and trailer:

trailer.jpg

This is one of my previous trailers, but I think this one was a few miles out a dirt/gravel road:


Again, previous trailer, but out on the sand:


These are some pics I had from when a previous Superglide bound-up, causing it to bend the top plate of the head, but you can see the big bolt that attaches the head and allows pivot "side to side" in this pic:


And this is one of the "saddles" where the head rides to pivot "front to back":


This kind of gives you an idea of where we go to camp, we go down a long stretch of hard-pack like this (this would have been going out, since the Ocean is on my left) and then you turn into the dunes into the soft sand and have to be able to handle the dips and rises to get away from the crowd down on the hardpack (that always seem to come in at low-tide, then start getting flooded as the tide rises and it's a total s-show as they scramble for higher ground... we just start up high):


Glamis, setup in the sand, not far from the road but some good dips and stuff to get to this spot:



I can tell these pics are old by how stock my truck looks, lol. But if you look in the distance in this pic you can see more of the rolling dunes we often pull through, obviously all the pics at "camp" look flat because we pick flat spots to camp:




Anyway, I'm not saying it's hardcore offroading, but the angles can get pretty high as you're moving through dunes. And I've also done lots and lots of miles on forest service roads with the 5'er going to places like Moonrocks. Personally, I would have ZERO interest in actually "Overlanding" with a 5'er, at least by my deffinition of Overlanding (which doesn't involve 3 ACs, heat, 150 gallons of fresh water, satellite TV with 3 TVs including one outside, full kitchen, full bathroom, etc. like my 5'er has).

Please understand I mean NO offense by this, but have you owned/used a 5'er? If not, and you're not actually familiar with them why would you tell the OP what they are or are not designed for and can or cannot do?

-TJ
 
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tjZ06

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Almost all travel trailers and 5th wheel trailers consist of a lot of stapled together chip board. None are made for even washboard forest service roads, let alone actual trails. That's why dedicated off-road trailers cost 3-4 times an equivalent "travel trailer." I don't think you'd have much longevity using something not built for the situation you expect to encounter.

But of course, you can use a 5th wheel to base camp in an area, and explore in your truck from there!
I'd agree they're not meant for hardcore offroading. But the white Weekend Warrior in the pics above has hundreds of miles on dirt and washboard roads. Sure, the construction in them isn't up to the snuff of a nice diesel pusher, but with a few little mods they will last offroad. I sold that trailer 5+ years ago to a good friend who still uses it in the conditions I've described above. It was beefed up where the pin-box joins the trailer and has additional out-riggers supporting the walls as well as extra cross-braces for all of the spring hangers. Nothing has ever rattled loose or fallen on that trailer, and it's an '06. I was even hit hard in the back left corner on the freeway and there was zero structural damage. Another time at Pismo the wind kicked up so bad that it blew nearly all the sand out from under the left side, such that the front-left landing gear, the rear-left stabalizer jack, and all but the center tire on the left side weren't even touching the ground anymore (and I wasn't hitched up)>

Again, I don't want to "Overland" with this thing... but washboard roads, rolling sand dunes, rutted/(small)rocky trails are all fine and that trailer has done it all.

-TJ
 

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So coming from the heavy duty side of things I would have 2 concerns. Firstly when you allow a fifth wheel to rock side to side (multi axis) it greatly increases the loads associated. On the heavy duty side multi axis fifth wheel plates are quite a bit larger (standard on highway stuff runs a 2" king pin, all multi axis set ups I have seen run a 3", also the saddles and the plate itself is larger, not to mention they have an extra locking device on the jaws). Second would be stability, when you allow your load to rock side to side over top of your "tractor" it amplifies the natural rocking of the suspension. With a leaf sprung suspension I could see a trailer pushing your truck over easier. Basically every off highway truck I have seen with a multi axis fifth wheel runs a walking beam rear suspension (basically no suspension) so that the rear of the truck is always solidly planted, so when the trailer rocks it has less of a tendency to "take off". The basic idea is if you let you coupling articulate (like you want to in many off road situations), you dont want your suspension to, you always want one or the other to be solid to help with stability. Anyway thats just a little info from the big side of things.
I could be over thinking it ( I mean my experience with fifth wheels of the off road type are designed to carry weights from 50,000lbs to 300,000lbs), but if I were to run a setup like above I would defiantly want air bags to help plant my rear suspension better. Also I would make suspension inspections more frequent. Most travel trailers are built well enough for pavement, but running washboard roads and such I could see the risk of broken springs go up, and naturally your spring and shackle bushings will wear faster. I wouldnt worry much about it though, just be careful of dropping wheels into ditches going around tight corners, thats where you will get into trouble.
 

MidOH

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Our cheap boxed utility trailers at work are even more flimsy that RV's, and we beat the tar out of them off road and on construction sites.

Rust is the killer with those.