You want to take your boat with you on that next camping trip? Of course you do—here’s what you need to know before towing a boat with an RV.
It’s a fact that most Americans who love boating, fishing, and the outdoors in general also love camping. Many of us have both an RV and a boat, which at times can lead to a conundrum—do you take the family camping next weekend, or would launching the boat be a better adventure? The answer is simple: do both! While towing a boat with an RV does add a new twist to trailering, it also adds a new level of enjoyment to your camping trip. And it can be done safely and easily just as long as you keep these important factors in mind.
- Tow Capacity
- Turning Radius
- Braking Distance
- Insurance Coverage
- Campsite Restrictions
- Help at the Ramp
If you already have a trailer boat, you should already be aware of the important limitations regarding gross trailer weight, gross combined weight ratings, hitch rating, and tongue weight. All of the same rules apply when it comes to RVs, but it’s particularly important to include the weight of all the gear you have stowed inside the motorhome and any you might put on the boat when you calculate the gross combined weight. Gear and supplies can make a big difference, and it’s impossible to come up with an accurate figure without either keeping track of what you load up or loading the RV and then having it weighed.
Towing with an RV you’re almost certain to have poor visibility behind you. Most RVs have large side-view mirrors, which help, but if your RV doesn’t already have a rear-facing camera (mounted high enough that the bow of the boat doesn’t block visibility) consider adding one. And if you can’t see the boat trailer tires even with a camera, consider installing wireless tire pressure sensors. Otherwise, if you get a flat you might not even notice until additional damage has been done to the rig.
You already know to take turns wide with a boat in tow, but the additional length the RV and boat trailer together means you’ll need even more room than usual. Practice in an open parking lot before making a long haul, to get a feel for just how tightly you can take a turn. Also be careful about the rest stops you make, so you don’t end up jack-knifed at a too-small gas station or restaurant.
The need for additional stopping distance is again something that trailer boaters should already be aware of. In this case, however, you’ll be dealing with even more momentum than usual. Plan accordingly.
Don’t assume that your current policy covers your entire tow package. Some policies will, some won’t, and some will have value replacement limitations that aren’t sufficient to cover both the RV and the boat at the same time.
Some campsites simply aren’t large enough to accommodate the RV and boat trailer together, so call ahead or verify the ability to tow a boat into the site before you get there. Many campsites near popular lakes and bays will have storage lots they may ask you to park the boat in. If you have an expensive rig or lots of gear in the boat, you may also want to ask about security at the storage lot.
Help at the Ramp
Trailering your boat when you’re alone is tough enough with your usual rig, but it’s virtually impossible with an RV. You need to plan to have a spotter to assist you at the ramp and/or in parking lots where tight maneuvering may be necessary. Backing up your boat trailer is going to be a bigger challenge than usual even with good side mirrors and a camera, and with the longer rig, judging distances can be next to impossible. When launching with an RV also remember that when you park on the ramp, chocking the wheels takes on an added level of importance. And if you’re launching in saltwater be sure to give the underside of the RV a freshwater rinse at the end of the day—your boat trailer is probably made to survive the marine environment, but your RV is certainly not.
Keep these factors in mind, and your next RV camping vacation will be one to remember. Because one thing we can all agree on is that any camping trip will be a bigger, better adventure when it includes your boat.