Can I Tow a Fifth Wheel Trailer With a Short Bed Truck?

Fifth wheel trailers are some of the more spacious and luxurious travel trailers available.

Since they are generally quite large, a common thought is that you need a heavy duty truck with a long enough truck bed so that you can support the hitch of your fifth wheel safely and securely. 

Can You Pull a Fifth Wheel With a Short bed Truck?

Fifth wheel travel trailers can be towed with a short bed truck. However, you will need a special hitch or combination of hitches to ensure there’s enough clearance between your vehicle and the trailer. You will also need to keep certain obstacles in mind, such as the trailer’s weight, your hitch weight, and the overall maneuverability of the towing setup. 

This article will cover how to tow a fifth wheel with a short bed truck, how the different short bed truck hitches work, how to calculate your turning radius, and the best fifth wheel travel trailers you can tow with a short bed truck. But first, let’s briefly define what a short bed truck is.

What is a Short Bed Truck?

Different models of pickup trucks come with varying bed lengths, depending on the model itself and the options available from the manufacturer.

While the length of the bed is determined by the brand making the truck, there is some standardization between vehicle manufacturers.

A standard truck bed is about six feet and five inches long, while a long bed is around eight feet long. 

A short bed truck is usually about five feet, eight inches long, although exact lengths may differ depending on the brand and their options.

Here is a list of the top pickup truck manufacturers and the length of each truck’s short bed:

Why Is it Hard to Tow a Fifth Wheel With a Short Bed Truck

Why Is it Hard to Tow a Fifth Wheel With a Short Bed Truck?

When it comes down to it, it’s difficult to tow a fifth wheel travel trailer with a short bed truck because these types of trailers weigh more than other trailers and their towing setup puts a lot more weight on the bed of the truck. 

The primary factors that make it difficult to tow a fifth wheel trailer with a short bed truck are weight and maneuverability, although your truck’s payload and available cargo room also have an impact.

The short bed trucks I listed above are all half-ton vehicles, which means that they’re rated to haul a reduced weight as compared with larger trucks with standard or long truck beds. 

Let’s go into a little more detail about why it’s difficult to tow a fifth wheel trailer with a short bed truck. 

Weight: Your Truck Must Be Rated to Haul The Trailer

Although most fifth wheel models are heavier and larger than other types of trailers, there are still some models that are lightweight enough for your half-ton, short bed truck to tow safely. 

Before you buy a trailer, you need to review your truck’s towing capacity and payload to find the maximum weight you can tow, and consider a few additional weight points:

  • Unladen Vehicle Weight (UVW) or Dry Weight is the total weight of the truck or the fifth wheel without any passengers, fuel, cargo or gear. It’s essentially the minimum total weight for towing. From the UVW, you can find out how much weight you can safely add to your trailer for towing.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the total maximum weight of the truck or trailer itself, plus the weight of any gear, equipment, fuel, and water that you can safely pack it with for towing purposes. Always make sure that your truck and your trailer are packed below the GVWR threshold for safe towing. If you exceed it, you can put undue strain on your truck’s engine, as well as the wheels and structure of both your truck and your fifth wheel. Not only is this unsafe when towing, it can also lead to expensive repairs and maintenance costs.
  • Tow Capacity is the maximum weight your short bed truck can pull behind it. So, your fifth wheel’s GVWR (the total weight of the trailer and any cargo) should be less than your truck’s tow capacity for safe hauling. Remember to leave a safety margin, such as 15 percent, so that your trailer’s total weight when packed is always lighter than your truck’s tow capacity. When referring to weight maximums for your trailer, the Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) is the GVWR minus the UVW, which gives you the total weight of cargo, equipment and supplies that you can safely pack into your fifth wheel.
  • Payload is the total amount of weight that your truck can handle in the cab and bed. This is an important weight consideration as well, since the towing hitch for your fifth wheel may be quite heavy.

Maneuverability: A Fifth Wheel Will Be Harder to Haul

The weight of your fifth wheel is only part of the difficulty when towing it with a short bed truck.

The design of fifth wheel travel trailers makes maneuverability more difficult, since the front or ‘nose’ of the trailer is positioned over your truck bed.

When towing it with a short bed truck, the front of the trailer will sit closer to the driving and passenger cab of the truck, so that tight turns become tricky or even impossible.

What happens is that the nose of the trailer will swivel in the turning process, and it might bump the cab or simply not be able to achieve the angle necessary to make the turn. 

However, RV manufacturers have designed some fifth wheel trailers with a special nose to accommodate towing with a short bed truck.

These fifth wheels have a shorter nose with a curved profile to prevent the trailer from hitting your truck’s cab.

We’ll talk about some of the best fifth wheel trailers to tow with a short bed truck later in this article. 

In addition, there are specially designed hitches to help improve maneuverability when making turns.

The most popular ones to use when towing a fifth wheel trailer with a short bed truck are the slider and sidewinder hitches, and I’ll discuss how to tow your trailer with these hitches next.

Cargo Room: Towing a Fifth Wheel Reduces Space in the Truck Bed

Whether you’re towing the fifth wheel with a truck that has a standard bed or short bed, the equipment required will significantly reduce your available cargo room in the truck bed.

This is because fifth wheel trailers require a special hitch that rests in the bed of your truck, and these hitches are often quite bulky and heavy.

If you need more storage space, you’ll just need to make sure that the fifth wheel you choose to buy has what you need in terms of storage capacity as well as CCC, to keep the overall weight lower than your trailer’s GVWR and your truck’s tow capacity.

Towing A Fifth Wheel With A Short Bed Truck: How It Works

Although it might be more difficult, it is certainly possible to tow a fifth wheel travel trailer with your short bed truck.

Before you buy the trailer, though, be sure it falls below your truck’s rated tow capacity and payload.

You can find these maximum weights on a sticker that’s usually located on the door jam of your driver’s side door.

If your trailer is specially designed for towing with a short bed truck, with a shorter or more curved nose, you probably don’t need a special hitch to tow it.

But if you’re buying a more standard fifth wheel, you should consider buying a hitch that’s uniquely designed to improve maneuverability when towing a fifth wheel with a short bed truck.

We also recently published an article on the best fifth wheel towing hitches for a short bed truck, if you need more information.

There are two types of hitches you can use to tow your fifth wheel with a short bed truck:

  • Sidewinder Hitch
  • Slider Hitch

Both of these hitches rest in the bed of your truck and position the trailer nose further back in the bed toward the tailgate, so that you can make tighter turns without having the trailer collide with your truck’s cab.

However, be sure to measure your trailer and truck with the hitch before you buy it to verify that you’ll have at least four inches of clearance for turns. 

How To Determine if Your Short Bed Truck Will Have Enough Turning Clearance With Your Fifth Wheel

When measuring to find out if your trailer and truck will have enough turning clearance, follow these steps: 

  1. 1
    Measure the distance from the middle of your fifth wheel’s hitch head to the back of your truck’s cab (measure from the center of the truck’s rear axle if your hitch isn’t installed yet).
  2. 2
    Measure the width of your fifth wheel trailer, and divide the width by two.
  3. 3
    The distance from the trailer’s hitch head or rear axle of your truck (Step 1) must be at least four inches longer than half the width of your travel trailer (Step 2) to provide sufficient turning clearance.

Using a Sidewinder Hitch to Tow a Fifth Wheel Trailer

If your truck’s short bed is less than six feet long, a Sidewinder hitch is a great option for towing a fifth wheel trailer.

This hitch will replace the standard hitch you would use to tow the trailer, and works by extending the kingpin of the hitch forward so that your trailer will rest further back in the bed of your truck. 

The Sidewinder also transfers the pivot point of the hitch toward the tailgate to provide more clearance between the trailer and truck cab for turns (and make more cargo space available). 

You can find a Sidewinder hitch in a few different versions, which all position the trailer’s pivot point 22 inches backward in the truck bed:

Using a Slider Hitch to Tow a Fifth Wheel Trailer

In cases where your turning clearance with the standard fifth wheel towing hitch is less than four inches, you will likely need a slider hitch instead of a Sidewinder hitch. 

A slider hitch increases clearance by whatever length the slider is. For example, if you install a hitch that slides 10 inches, it will add 10 inches to the measurement from the trailer’s hitch head or rear axle of your truck to the cab.

How to Hitch Your Fifth Wheel to a Short Bed Truck

How to Hitch Your Fifth Wheel to a Short Bed Truck

Now that you know your short bed truck can tow a fifth wheel, and which hitches to consider to do the job safely, you should prepare yourself about how to set up the hitch and prep your trailer and truck for towing.

Keep in mind that the detailed process for hitching your trailer to your truck will vary based on the type of trailer, hitch, and even truck you have, but generally, the steps will be as follows: 

  1. 1
    Install and secure the hitch within your truck’s bed.
  2. 2
    Stabilize and secure the trailer by placing chocks or wedges behind the wheels.
  3. 3
    Set the pin of the fifth wheel at the correct height in order to easily slide it onto the hitch. You can measure the distance between the pin and the hitch and make adjustments as needed. Keep in mind that you’ll need to adjust the height in the pin box and not the hitch, since you can’t raise or lower the hitch within the truck bed.
  4. 4
    Slowly back your truck into position, using assistance from a friend to guide you from the outside. Slide the pin of the fifth wheel into the hitch, and make sure the jaws of the hitch are closed securely around the pin.
  5. 5
    Put your truck in park with the emergency or parking brake on just in case, and proceed to the final steps depending on which hitch you have.

Steps for Securing a Standard Fifth Wheel Hitch or Sidewinder Hitch

After the initial steps above, finish the process of hitching your fifth wheel to the standard hitch or Sidewinder hitch in the bed of your truck by:

  1. 1
    Rotating the safety lever on the hitch.
  2. 2
    Threading the safety pin through the latch openings to keep the hitch from loosening or breaking free.
  3. 3
    Attaching an extra safety chain (optional).

Finals Steps for Securing a Sliding Hitch

If you have a sliding hitch, you will need to follow other steps to finalize the hitching process:

  1. 1
    Double check that the hitch is firmly attached to the pin.
  2. 2
    Rotate the side handle to allow the hitch to slide backward so that there’s more clearance whenever you reverse or turn.
  3. 3
    Pull your truck forward slightly in order to draw the hitch all the way backward so that you’re positioned to drive away.
  4. 4
    Rotate the handle on the hitch a second time to allow the hitch to slide back into towing position.
  5. 5
    Lock the side handle in place and secure any safety pins.

Prepare to Hit the Road

After your fifth wheel is securely connected to your short bed truck by way of the hitch, you should make sure the truck and trailer are safely ready to depart by hooking up your emergency breakaway system.

This can prevent your trailer from breaking away from your truck if the hitch fails, and even if the trailer does become detached, the emergency breakaway system forces your trailer to stop. 

Lastly, you will need to make sure that the brake lights and turn signals are connected between your trailer and the truck.

Check to make sure that the trailer’s battery is fully charged, then connect the electrical cable and pin to the battery switch.

Connect the brake light and turn signal cables and ask a friend to help you test them to make sure they’re working properly. 

Then, you can raise your truck’s tailgate, retract your fifth wheel’s stabilizer legs, and remove the chocks or wheel wedges. You’re ready to hit the road!

Best Fifth Wheels You Can Tow with a Short Bed Truck

While the special hitches I mentioned above will help you safely tow your fifth wheel with a short bed truck, there are several fifth wheel trailers that are better suited for towing with a short bed truck than others. Some of the best ones are listed below.

1. Crossroads Volante VL270BH

Crossroads Volante VL270BH

Ext. Length

Ext. Width

GVWR

Hitch Weight

Price

31’ 5”

8 feet

9,400 lbs

1,476 lbs

$34,500

The Volante VL270BH from Crossroads RV is one of the larger models on this list, with two bathrooms and a bunkhouse at the rear that sleeps up to four people.

It also has an exterior kitchen and a spacious interior living area with a dinette, tri-fold sofa bed, entertainment center and fireplace.

This fifth wheel also has lots of storage in the bedroom and under the dinette in the living space.

The Volante VL270BH is excellent for towing with a short bed truck, since it has a shorter cab extending over the hitch in your truck bed.

2. Grand Design Reflection 150 Series

Grand Design Reflection 150 Series

Ext. Length

Ext. Width

GVWR

Hitch Weight

Price

26’ 7” - 34’ 1”

8 feet

8,995 - 10,995 lbs

1,222 - 1,391 lbs

$51,500

Grand Design RV has specifically designed their 150 series of fifth wheel trailers to be short bed friendly, offering a 90-degree turning radius for 5.5-foot truck beds without a slider hitch.

There are 10 different floorplans available, including some with bunkhouses, exterior kitchens, and more.

Some models have the kitchen situated in the rear of the trailer, and others have a residential-style island.

All of the fifth wheel trailers in Grand Design’s Reflection 150 series have pass-through storage and theatre seating in the living area.

3. Jayco Eagle Half-Ton 27.5RLTS Fifth-Wheel

Jayco Eagle Half-Ton 27.5RLTS Fifth-Wheel

Ext. Length

Ext. Width

GVWR

Hitch Weight

Price

31 feet

8 feet

9,995 lbs

1,520 lbs

$34,900

One of the leading brands and RV manufacturers is Jayco, and they have several fifth wheel models they offer that are compatible with half-ton trucks.

There are nearly a dozen floorplans to choose from, but the 27.5RLTS is particularly convenient for towing with a short bed truck.

It has sleeping capacity for four, and features three slide-outs to expand your interior space when parked.

In the main living area, there is a tri-fold sofa, two recliners and a free-standing dinette adjacent to the entertainment center.

The Jayco Eagle Half-Ton 27.5RLTS fifth wheel has lots of storage in the bedroom as well as overhead cabinets throughout the living space. 

4. KZ Sportsmen 251RL

KZ Sportsmen 251RL

Ext. Length

Ext. Width

GVWR

Hitch Weight

Price

28’ 11”

8 feet

8,500 lbs

1,180 lbs

$27,995

The 251RL fifth wheel from KZ Sportsmen is one of the lighter trailers on this list, with a GVWR under 9,000 pounds. It’s also shorter, coming in under 29 feet long. 

These two features make it more compatible for towing with a short bed truck.

Inside, there’s a convertible dinette and 70-inch sofa with end tables, and an L-shaped kitchen for more room to spread out and relax.

In the center of the fifth wheel, there’s a single bathroom with lots of pass-through storage space underneath.

The bedroom has a queen-sized bed, two wardrobes and access to the bathroom linen closet for more storage.

5. Winnebago Minnie Plus 25RKS

Winnebago Minnie Plus 25RKS

Ext. Length

Ext. Width

GVWR

Hitch Weight

Price

27’ 3”

8 feet

9,995 lbs

820 lbs

$43,094

Winnebago is another classic and popular brand of RVs, and they make shorter and lighter-weight fifth wheels that are perfect for towing with a short bed truck.

The Minnie Plus 25RKS model sleeps up to four, and has a unique layout with an angled hallway up to the bathroom and bedroom to maximize comfortable living space. 

The L-shaped kitchen is perfect for cooking up your favorite meals on the go, and features a convertible dinette in the fifth wheel’s single slide-out.

You can choose to have either theatre seating or a tri-fold sofa in the living area, which is equipped with a full AV system with AM/FM, CD, DVD, USB ports, and Bluetooth®. Outside, the Minnie Plus 25RKS has patio speakers and LED lights in the 17-foot awning.

Summary About Towing a Fifth Wheel With a Short Bed Truck

As you can see, your options are certainly not limited for towing your fifth wheel travel trailer with a short bed truck.

There are numerous ways to do so and special hitches to help make it possible and more safe, as well as lots of choices among fifth wheels that are specifically suited for towing with a half-ton or short bed truck.

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