Although they have become as commonplace on the road as a traditional sedan or compact car, SUVs were originally designed to be as adventurous as their full name – sports utility vehicle – suggests.
Therefore, it would only make sense that they could pull a camper, a vehicle that also was designed to instantly evoke fun and adventure.
But that’s not always the case.
Which begs the question: what SUVs can pull a camper trailer?
The answer to this question is not clear cut. It depends on the weight and size of the camper in question, but as a general rule an SUV can only safely handle a lighter weight camper, as they lack the power and torque of a full size truck (more about that later).
However, there are plenty of SUVs that are capable of helping their owners head off an RV adventure and it’s the best of those we are going to take a closer look at here, along with some of the basic considerations to keep in mind about SUVs and camper RVs in general.
How Much Can An SUV Really Tow?
As popular as they have become, SUVs now come in lots of shapes, sizes and have significantly varying capabilities.
A smaller, very sporty SUV might struggle to safely tow a small bike trailer, let alone a hefty camper.
Just how much any SUV can tow is stated very clearly in the vehicle’s full specs – facts and figures that are available both from the dealer the vehicle is purchased from and via its owners manual.
The towing weight is, in North America, stated in pounds and it’s this figure you’ll need to use as a starting point when figuring out if your SUV – or a sports utility vehicle you are considering buying, leasing or renting – will be up to the task of hauling a travel trailer camper.
In very general terms, the smallest SUVs on the market can usually only handle hauling a weight of, at most, 1,500 lbs, limiting their use for camper towing to a smaller handful of very lightweight pop up campers and travel trailers.
On the upper end (both in terms of towing capability and purchase price, as well as fuel consumption) some heavier full size SUVs can handle up to 8,500 pounds which opens up all kinds of new RV camper possibilities.
How Much Does a Camper RV Weigh?
The term ‘camper’ covers a lot of different RV vehicles, so this question has a lot of different answers!
Teardrop style campers, stand-up campers, pop-up campers, and regular travel trailers are the four basic types of campers that an SUV may be able to tow.
They can range in weight from as little as 750 lbs for a small teardrop camper to around 5,000 lbs for an almost full size travel trailer that can accommodate a family.
Just what SUV and camper combination you can make use of will be determined by the weight and power ratios you have at your disposal.
A family who wants to head off camping in a larger trailer is not going to be able to do so if they only have a compact SUV to do the hauling.
Best 5 SUVs to Tow a Camper in 2022
As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of SUVs available in North America right now across a range of price points and sizes.
Which you might choose is very much a personal decision based on those things as well as other important factors like handling and fuel consumption (as well as style, of course.)
However, to help you get an idea of just which sports utility vehicle might be right to help you enjoy more of what RV camping has to offer, here’s a look at some of the best of them.
Long before SUVs were a ‘thing’ the Jeep Wrangler was helping people get out and head off on all kinds of adventures. And if you are happy with making use of a lighter camper, this classic off-road vehicle can help you include an RV in your plans too.
This great looking, smooth handling SUV has changed a lot over the years and can now be configured to accommodate up to 5 passengers – along with plenty of cargo – and feature ll has all the bells and whistles you might want on any road trip, including a great HVAC system, excellent Wi-Fi capabilities and built in GPS and navigation systems, which are always helpful when heading out into the relative unknown.
- Max. Tow Rating – Up to 3,500 lbs.
- Suitable Campers: Pop up trailers, hybrid trailers, Airstreams and teardrop trailers.
- Payload capacity: 1,052 – 1,351 lbs.
- Unladen fuel consumption: 17 city/23 highway
- Price Range: $33,000 – $56,000
Another hugely popular – and famously reliable and rugged – SUV that families have been making use of for everything from big shopping trips to long camping adventures for years, the Toyota 4Runner is a great choice if you are looking for an SUV that is capable of both hauling a mid-size camper and a car full of kids headed to baseball practice.
The latest Toyota 4 Runner models are tech heavy models that also boast one of the highest safety ratings across the board for an SUV in their class, and as safety is a must when towing any camper, this is another big plus.
- Max Tow Rating: 5,000 lbs.
- Suitable Campers: Pop-up campers, teardrop trailers and travel trailers, including Forest River Flagstaff, Winnebago Hike, KZ RV Escape and Forest River Rockwod Geo Pro Campers.
- Payload Capacity: 1,495 – 1,700 lbs.
- Unladen Fuel Consumption: 16 city/19 highway
- Price Range: $39,480 – $61,000
An American classic at this point, the Chevy Blazer is another great handling SUV that can handle a mid-size camper and accommodate up to five passengers and a LOT of luggage.
Its sporty design – especially its muscle car ‘face’ is appealing to many people – and its great off-road capabilities are great for those who like to head off the beaten trail.
Another great reason to consider a new Chevy Blazer is its better than average fuel consumption.
Once you hook a camper to the back of any vehicle, its standard fuel consumption increases fast, so the better the starting point, the more affordable your road trips will be!
- Max Tow Rating: 4,500 lbs. (2021 & 2022 Blazers)
- Suitable Campers: Anything from Travel trailers to campers.
- Payload Capacity: 1,706 – 2,094 lbs.
- Unladen fuel consumption: 19 city/27 highway
- Price Range: $33,400 – $48,500
Want to head off camping with a larger camper so that the whole family can join in the fun?
Then the Ford Expedition – as its name suggests – is up to the job.
Based on its larger, more powerful sibling, the Ford F150 truck, this tough SUV can handle hauling the bigger campers and yet still offer nimble, responsive handling that will make doing so safer and easier.
The new Ford Expeditions are also super stylish, with a retooled interior that’s more comfortable than ever and packed with techy bells and whistles you’ll love.
- Max Tow Rating: 9,300 lbs.
- Suitable Campers: Large pop up trailers like Rockwood HW277, hybrid campers like the Jayco JayFeather X19H or small travel trailers under 5,000lb GVRW like the Sunset Trail SS188BH.
- Payload Capacity: 1,757 lbs.
- Unladen fuel consumption: 17 city/23 highway.
- Price Range: $51,500 – $82,000
It’s the SUVs that are based on truck beds that are capable of hauling the big loads when it comes to campers, and while the Escalade can’t handle quite as much as the Ford Expedition, it does feature the iconic Cadillac styling, a great looking – and riding interior – and some of the most impressive tech found in any SUV.
This all comes at a premium price, as you might expect, but the fact that there are Cadillacs on the road that have been running for five decades and counting is a great demonstration of the excellent ROI they offer, and if you want to head off camping in style this SUV is hard to beat.