Connecting a fifth wheel trailer to a truck typically requires a special hitch mounted into the box of the tow vehicle pickup truck.
This can be a real problem for a short bed truck as there is very little room between the front nose cap of the fifth wheel trailer and the rear of the cab.
With the wrong hitch, you could suffer a major accident when backing up or taking a sharp corner.
Finding the right fifth wheel hitch for a short bed truck campers can be a little tricky. Not every hitch will work safely and properly.
Some might pull the fifth wheel trailer forward, but the right might be uncomfortable or the nose cap of the trailer could contact the cab of the truck when backing up.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the 5 best fifth wheel hitches for a short bed truck. I will include the different styles and engineering features to accommodate specific towing needs.
This might also include features that will let you still use your truck’s cargo box to haul things when you aren’t towing as well as special safety and security features.
Best Overall Fifth Wheel Hitch For A Short Bed Truck: B and W RVK3300
Thoughtful engineering infused with durable materials. Arguably engineered specifically for short bed Ford trucks.
Best Lightweight Hitch For A Short Bed Truck: Andersen 3220
Made from lightweight heavy-duty aluminum this hitch is easy to install and remove for times when you do need the cargo box for hauling as well as towing.
Best Manual Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch For A Short Bed Truck : CURT 16541 A20
A manually adjustable sliding fifth wheel hitch for superior ride comfort and safety when towing a fifth-wheel trailer with a short bed truck.
Best Auto-Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch For A Short Bed Truck : PullRite 24K Isr Superglide
An automatic sliding fifth wheel hitch for safe towing behind a short bed truck.
Best Fifth Wheel Adapter Harness: Reese 30142 Elite Series 18K
With it’s easy installation and sound engineering principles the Reese 30142 Elite Series is the best fifth wheel adapter harness for a short bed truck.
Top 5 best fifth wheel hitches for short bed trucks
You can choose gooseneck hitches, fixed hitches, slider hitches, auto slider hitches you can mount in the short bed truck for towing 5th wheel trailers and campers, So, how to choose the best fifth wheel hitch for a short bed truck?
In guide we look at 5 of the 5th wheel hitches for short bed pickup truck that allows you to tow your trailer in a nice, level, safe manner.
B&W Companion 5th Wheel Hitch RVK3500
The B and W RVK3300 was engineered to specifically fit the Ford OEM hitch platform.
It’s often referred to as a“Companion Hitch” and has a reputation for being easy to install and remove.
This is due in large part to the cam-actuated latching mechanism as well as athoughtful two-piece design.
It has one-inch thick cast-locking jaws which give it a very strong connection while also making for a smooth towing experience.
It’s designed to handle a 20,000-pound Gross Towing Weight and a truck with a 5,000-pound VTW.
The coupler footprint measures in at 33.5-incheswide by 16.5-inchesdeep. The distance between each of the puck holes measures in at 30-incheswide by 13-inches Deep.
This short bed fifth wheel hitch also has some ride comfort and safety features engineered into it. It includes a cam action latching handle which makes it easier to disconnect.
This is especially handy if your fifth wheel is parked on uneven or unlevel ground. It also has polyurethane brushings for a smoother, towing experience.
If you are frequently camping at rustic RV campgrounds, or you are towing equipment or horse trailers to fair grounds, you might want to move the B and W RVK3300 up your list.
If you have a Short Bed Ford truck and you are interested in towing a fifth-wheel camper, this is likely the overall best fifth wheel hitch for you.
2: Andersen 3220 Fifth Wheel Hitch Gooseneck Version
The Andersen 3220 is made from lightweight aluminum which keeps the weight down to an astonishing 35-pounds.
It’s designed to work with most standard brands of gooseneck hitches.
It was engineered with a ball-funnel to make hooking up easier. It’s also compatible with 3-inch off-center ball.
If you prefer, the base can be uninstalled in a relatively short amount of time.
Even someone who isn’t necessarily mechanically savvy should still be able to uninstall it in under 10-minutes.
This lets you use the box of your truck when you get to where you are going for doing things like hauling wood or transporting bales of hay.
It’s rated for a 24,000-pound GTWR with a 4,500-pound tongue weight.
The engineering and installation also make for less chattering and bucking, which is especially nice if you need to start out at an incline.
It also has a latching and unlatching cable, which helps keep you out of harms way when it comes time to hook up your fifth wheel trailer.
The Andersen 3220 has three height adjustments. One at 16-3/4-inches another at 17-7/8-inches and the highest is at 19-1/8-inches.
If you need the cargo bed of your truck to haul as well as tow, then the Andersen 3220 is the best lightweight removable hitch for a short bed truck.
CURT 16541 A20 short bed fifth wheel hitches
The CURT A20 5th wheel hitch was engineered for smooth towing as well as durability.
This includes CURT’s proprietary and patented“A-Series” technology designed for easy handling and maneuverability via a cast yoke with poly-torsion inserts to buffer shock loads.
It also has the net effect of reducing overall noise levels while towing.
This fifth wheel hitch also has heavy-duty interlocking jaws for superior stability as well as the freedom to pivot and swivel for superior maneuverability.
It also comes witha roller that can be mounted in a short-bed truck viawheelbase rails and a special bracket kit.
Just keep in mind that the rails and brackets for this are sold separately.
The CURT 16541 A20 was also engineered with full articulation for superior control of your fifth wheel trailer.
This includes things like patented head technology which is built on a cast yoke as well as poly-torsion inserts.
You’ll definitely appreciate this if you have to back your fifth wheel trailer over uneven ground.
This is a true rolling fifth wheel hitch, whichessentially means it rolls on the wheels that bear the weight of the trailer instead of sliding on hollow rods as you find with many of the competitors.
The CURT A20 5th wheel hitch also has a thick operating handle and locks into position while still being able to slide for superior maneuverability with up to 12-inches of displacement.
If you frequently stay in tight campsites or pull trailers into cramped fairground parking areas, the Curt A20 is one of the best manualsliding fifth wheel hitchesfor a short bed truck.
PullRite 24K Isr Superglide Fifth Wheel Hitch
The PullRite SuperGlide fifth wheel hitch was engineered to accommodate short bed trucks that need to tow a heavier load.
This includes things like a fifth wheel trailer that sometimes needs to be loaded heavy with things like horses or equipment.
PullRite notes that this auto-sliding fifth wheel hitch can be installed with standard rails and mounting equipment.
Though they recommend scrapping your existing rails and using what they describe as "Better Than Theirs" Industry Standard Universal Base Rails.
When set up to their specifications this auto-sliding hitch can pull a larger fifth wheel trailer up to a gross trailer weight of 24,000 pounds.
It’s specifically engineered to accommodate for the towing conditions and forces.
Not only does it provide for a smoother towing experience, the auto-sliding feature also gives you better maneuverability and confidence when backing up and setting off.
This is something you will appreciate if you sometimes have to navigate tight turns or cramped spaces.
This fifth wheel hitch was designed for short box trucks and ideally those with the King Pin located even with, or ahead of the trailer’s leading edge.
In this configuration, the SuperGlide will be capable of performing up to a 90-degree turn with minimal concern of jack-knifing.
If you need to pull a heavy fifth-wheel trailer and you don’t want to sacrifice maneuverability the PullRite SuperGlide is the best auto-sliding fifth wheel hitch for a short bed truck.
Reese 30142 Elite Series 18K Fifth Wheel Hitch
The Reese 30142 Elite Series comes preassembled and has a weight rating of up to 18,000 pounds. This makes it a pretty good option for towing somewhat lighter fifth wheel trailers and campers with a short bed truck.
It has a lockable extended-length handle with a special quick-lock mounting system for a tighter fit.
The Elite Series has a heavy-duty, stamped rounded head with a 4-way head pivot and a 9-inch-wide funnel area that leads to the King Pin.
It has a robust forged single jaw that maximizes contact with the King Pin to hold it securely in place.
Just note that this fifth wheel hitch is not designed to work with flare side or step side trucks or trucks with built-in toolboxes in the side walls.
Reese also kept an eye on convenient installation when they engineered the 30142 Elite Series. As it comes preassembled which cuts out around 60-minutes of installation time.
Many of the fasteners are simply hand-tightened and you simply need to install folding tab washers and tighten down firmly with a wrench, which they even include in the purchase. They even made it a point to make the instruction easy to read.
With it’s easy installation and sound engineering principles the Reese 30142 Elite Series is the best fifth wheel adapter harness for a short bed trucks.
What to Look for When Buying a Fifth Wheel Hitch For Short Bed Truck
If you are new to the RV experience then you might not be aware of the technical differences between a fifth-wheel camper or trailer and a travel trailer or pull-behind camper.
A fifth-wheel trailer needs a special type of hitch that is securely installed into the bed of the truck.
Fifth wheel hitches for a short bed truck add an extra wrinkle into the process, as there isn’t necessarily a lot of space between the front of the fifth-wheel trailer and the rear of the truck’s cab.
When backing up the front of the fifth wheel trailer can potentially contact the cab if the wrong hitch is installed in the short bed of the truck.
What Is A Fifth Wheel Hitch?
A fifth wheel hitch differs from the ball mounted to the bumper of a pickup that you might use for pulling a lightweight travel trailer, in that it’s mounted directly into the cargo box or bed of the truck.
The fifth wheel hitch is connected firmly to the frame of the truck’s bed. This often calls for the use of heavy-duty pucks or welded to frame rails.
What Are The Different Types Of Fifth Wheel Hitches?
Engineers have been hard at work coming up with different types of fifth wheel hitches.
This includes gooseneck hitches, fixed hitches, slider hitches, auto slider hitches. There are even some gooseneck conversion hitches.
Each one has its own potential strengths and weaknesses, which can be pronounced in the short bed truck.
Is There A Drawback To Permanently Installing A Fifth Wheel Hitch In The Box Of A Short Bed Truck?
Having a fifth wheel hitch permanently installed in the box of your truck can be a little bit of a hassle if the truck in question is your daily driver, or you need the cargo box to haul things for work.
The short bed already means you’re trading off cargo space for more room in the cab.
Putting a somewhat large hitch in the box might not leave a lot of room for other things. In some cases, you might not even be able to fit a standard truck toolbox!
Of course, engineers have gotten savvy to this, and some offer lightweight fifth wheel hitches that can be removed and reinstalled on your own without the use of industrial tools or heavy equipment.
Just keep in mind that you might need a second person, and you still need to have some technical skills to do it properly.
An example of this is the Andersen 3220 - Aluminum Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection 2 Gooseneck Mount, which is made from cast aluminum and only weighs in at 35-pounds.
When you aren’t using it to tow your fifth wheel RV you can uninstall it to maximize your short bed truck’s cargo capacity.
You could even remove it when you get to your campsite to haul firewood back to camp.
Fifth Wheel Hitch Components
A fifth wheel hitch is made up of several key components. Getting a better understanding of what they are and what they do will help you better find the best fifth wheel hitch for your short bed truck.
- A Hitch Coupler – This is the flat part of the hitch that sits in the box of your pickup truck. Its primary job is to interface directly with the fifth-wheel trailer. They are typically bolted or welded directly to the truck’s frame.
- The King Pin – Is the portion of the hitch that’s affixed permanently to the fifth wheel trailer itself. Its job is to connect the hitch coupler while also being able to turn while towing.
- The Hitch Locking Leveler – Is designed to Lock-down on the bar and plays a key role in releasing the receiver from the wheel pin box. It’s important to have a lock to help prevent the fifth wheel from accidentally detaching.
- A Slider Fifth Wheel Hitch – This is an important feature to look for in a fifth wheel hitch for a short bed truck. It Is engineered to slide backward and forward in the bed of the truck to help the trailer pull smoothly when going forward and then producing the ideal turning angle when going around corners. It also prevents the fifth wheel trailer from hitting the back of the cab during tight turns.
- The Extended Pin Box – Also helps prevents the front of the fifth trailer from hitting the rear of the cab when turning tightly.
- The Mounting Rails – Are necessary to attach a fifth wheel hitch to your truck bed. They securely fastened to the truck bed and connect securely to hitch coupler. They’re typically installed under the bed of the truck.
- Pucks – These are the attachments in the bed of your truck that you see and tell you that that the under-bed frame has a hitch prep package installed.
The Different Types Of Fifth Wheel Hitches For A Short Bed Truck
As you might imagine, there are a few different types of fifth wheel hitches to choose from for mounting in the short bed truck.
1: Gooseneck Hitches
These hitches are very popular. Installation takes little time as it doesn’t incorporate any adaptors or rails.
Most use a turn-over-ball system where the gooseneck ball is mounted directly to the frame of the truck.
Another advantage here is that the ball can be flipped over when you’re not using it to restore the normal function of your truck’s box.
This is very handy if you need to say take your fifth wheel camper to a campsite and then make a run for a load of firewood.
2: Gooseneck Adapters
Essentially allow you to connect your fifth-wheel trailer directly to the gooseneck ball installed in the box of the short bed trick.
However, a fifth-wheel trailer that has a lot of overhang in the cap can get perilously close to the box of the truck.
If the front of the trailer is wide, like you might find with a horse trailer and camper combo, it could potentially contact the cab of the truck when reversing and turning.
3: A Ranch Hitch Adapter
It Is designed to attach directly to a height-adjustable king pin. They generally take around half an hour or so to install and for a short bed truck you may need to choose a hitch adapter with at least an 8-inch offset to maintain a feasible turning radius.
4: A Fixed Hitch
It Is less versatile and is often heavy enough that you usually need multiple people or equipment to maneuver it into place.
So, it’s not the ideal option if you want to use the box to carry a lot of cargo once you disconnect.
The benefit here is that you’re getting a more robust hitch with strong towing capacity.
Ideally, you want to prioritize a fixed hitch with a dual jaw system to lock in the connection to the fifth-wheel trailer.
This extra-firm connection reduces “Slop” and jerking motions while towing.
If you are going to be taking your fifth wheel camper off the pavement, you might want to prioritize a fixed hitch with an “Articulating Head.” This makes it easier to hook up or unhook on rugged, uneven terrain.
One drawback of the fixed hitch for a fifth wheel camper for a short bed truck is the somewhat limited turning radius.
You won’t be able to get a full 90-degrees out of it, which is why they aren’t very popular for short bed trucks.
5: Sliding Hitches
Sliding 5th wheel hitch are suited best for short bed trucks. As the name implies it slides backward and forward in the cargo box of the truck which helps improve the handling and ride comfort. It also helps with overall maneuverability.
The trade-off here is that they tend to weigh more, and with all those moving parts you need to give it some extra routine maintenance.
You also won’t be able to easily uninstall it when you get to your intended destination.
So, it might not be the ideal option if you need to haul firewood or tools in the already limited space in the short bed of the truck.
Sliding hitches can further be broken down into Manual and Automatic versions.
With a manual sliding hitch, you’re saving a little bit on weight, as there are fewer moving parts.
Yet it also means that you are going to have to physically manipulate it before getting underway and again when you get to your destination or you need to reverse it.
There can sometimes be a jarring motion as you get underway, which is more pronounced because all sliding hitches are mounted farther back in the short bed.
This might take a little getting used to, and chances are you will double-think yourself the first few times.
With an automatic sliding hitch, there are a few more components, which can increase the weight and might also increase the price.
This is not the kind of fifth wheel hitch that you are going to install all on your own, and you will likely draw a larger number of man-hours having it professionally installed.
Of course, the major benefit here is that you tend to get a smoother towing experience. This is due in large part to it moving forward and back in response to your turning angle and speed.
It also makes for fewer problems with “Over Correcting” when reversing your fifth-wheel trailer, which is something handy if you are somewhat new to backing up a trailer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does A Fifth Wheel Hitch Require A Lot Of Maintenance?
While the maintenance needs can vary a little bit depending on the engineering, style, and manufacturer, the most important thing with all fifth wheel hitches is lubrication.
The process needs to start with removing any old lubricant or grime that might have built-up.
Even something like excess tree pollen can gum up old lubricant.
Once it’s clean you can lubricate with automotive-type chassis grease to lubricate the skid plate surface.
Any exposed moving parts can then be lubricated with engine oil or white lithium spray lube.
White lithium spray is also the best option for lubricating the joints inside the hitch head.
For any other moving points, it’s best to use a high-pressure gear lube (80/90 gear lube).
You should also double-check that the jaws engage and lock smoothly before each use and that all the pull pins are in the correct position.
How Much Can My Truck Tow?
At first glance, you can simply open the driver’s side door of your truck or the truck you are thinking about buying to tow a fifth-wheel trailer.
There will be a stamped plate or a special sticker with the truck’s basic specifications. This includes basic information about towing capacity.
The thing you want to look for here is the Gross Combined Weight Rating, which might also be expressed as GCWR.
This is the maximum total weight of the loaded truck as well as a fully loaded trailer.
With this information in hand, you then need to subtract the stated Gross Vehicle Weight or GVW.
This is the rated combined weight of the truck itself with the estimated weight of fuel, passengers, and an average load of cargo.
The remaining number is the reasonable maximum loaded trailer weight that a particular truck can tow.
Is It Worth It To Buy A Truck With A Factory Prep Packages And Fifth-Wheel Rails?
If you are shopping for a truck to go along with a fifth wheel RV or you are upgrading to a new truck to tow your existing fifth wheel camper, you might want to prioritize one that comes with a factory prep package.
Some manufacturers even include them as a standard or an affordable upgrade package for three-quarter-ton and one-ton pickup trucks.
Not only does a factory prepped cargo bed saves you on the material cost of buying rails and other frame components, but it can also spare you labor hours if you’re having the fifth wheel hitch professionally installed. It’s especially handy if you are hoping to install it yourself.
What Is Bucking and Chucking?
This is a common term used to describe the uncomfortable pushing and pulling that can be caused by loose connections between the fifth-wheel trailer and the hitch or the fifth wheel hitch and the frame of the short bed truck.
You’re more likely to experience it on a bumpy road, though it could become an issue even on smooth pavement if you’ve got a mechanical problem with the hitch.
If you have a lightweight gooseneck adaptor that you installed yourself or a manual sliding fifth wheel hitch and you are experiencing a persistently rough ride, you might want to stop and double-check to make sure everything is properly installed.
In the case of a manual sliding fifth wheel hitch, it might simply be that you need to set the bar differently.
If you have a fixed fifth wheel hitch or another type of fifth wheel hitch that is permanently installed in the box of your truck, you need to double-check all the connections to the frame.
Especially if you’ve noticed some underbody rust. When the fifth wheel king pin and the truck frame aren’t tightly connected the fifth-wheel trailer and the truck can start to move separately, which can be a very serious road safety issue.
What Is A King Pin?
The king pin is essentially a cylindrical pin made from heavy metal that is securely connected to the front nose of the fifth when trailer.
When properly installed it locks into the fifth wheel hitch in the bed of the truck to marry the two together, while still being able to pivot inside the jaws.
Some king pins are mounted toward the front near the cap of the trailer or are offset to put more space between the front cap of the fifth wheel and the cab of the truck.
If you are shopping for a new or used fifth-wheel trailer for your short bed truck, you want to prioritize one that has a kingpin positioned around 18 to 24-inches from the trailer’s cap.
So, What is the best fifth wheel hitch for a short bed truck?
At first glance, a short box truck might seem like a poor choice for a fifth-wheel hitch. Yet you might not want to compromise space in the cab for people and gear.
Especially if you are going to be transporting a crew to a job site or getting your family of four around on your average weekday.
Fortunately, modern-day hitch manufacturers have caught onto this niche demand to provide fifth wheel hitches that are specifically engineered to accommodate a short bed pickup truck.
If you own a Ford three quarter or one ton truck your best choice is likely the B and W RVK3300.
If you need your truck to still haul tools, equipment, or bales of hay in the cargo box, then you might be eyeing a fifth wheel hitch that can be easily removed and reinstalled.
In a scenario like this the Andersen 3220 might be the best lightweight fifth wheel hitch for you.
If you prize easy towing and superior maneuverability when reversing, then a manual or auto-sliding fifth wheel hitch might be best for your short bed truck.
If this sounds like you then the CURT 16541 A20 5th Wheel Slider Hitch and the PullRite 24K Isr Superglide will likely shoot to the top of your priorities list.
Regardless of your specific needs and characteristics of your tow vehicle, chances are if you have a short bed truck then the best fifth wheel hitch for you is likely somewhere on this list.