For many people, the addition of toys to their RV camping gear is a must. We don’t mean board games and Frisbees here though (although those can also be lots of fun on a camping trip) but instead grown up ‘toys’ like mountain bikes, kayaks and even four wheelers or jet skis.
While all of these toys can be rented at many campsites, some do choose to buy their own, as well as make an investment in a toy hauler to get them from Point A to Point B and back again.
What is a Toy Hauler?
A toy hauler is essentially a traditional fifth wheel trailer with what could be termed an attached garage.
Most toy haulers are big, heavy affairs that are completely unsuitable for towing behind most passenger vehicles. As great as SUVs are, most of them are not designed for pulling heavy loads.
This means that unless you drive a larger, heavier truck, the number of toy haulers that are suitable – and safe – for use with an SUV or larger car are very limited.
Towing toys means taking into account both the weight of the bike/four-wheeler/jet ski itself and the trailer accommodating them, and this, in many cases, is more than a standard SUV type vehicle can handle.
However, before you assume that leaves you with a choice between buying a new vehicle and leaving your toys at home (or having someone else haul them in a U Haul trailer) there are some smaller toy haulers on the market that might be suitable.
These won’t be as ‘fancy’ as larger toy haulers – which are, as we mentioned, are really a standard, fits a family, RV fifth wheel camper with a garage – but they will get the job done!
And it is at some of those small toy haulers we are going to take a closer look at here.
When Shopping for a Small Toy Hauler
Towing anything behind a vehicle comes along with a certain set of risks, and making the right choices in terms of minimizing these risks when considering making use of one – let alone buying one – is a must.
Utilized incorrectly, a toy hauler can, at best, lead to damage to your primary vehicle and the toys the camper contains and, at worst, a deathtrap that could cause untold damage out there on the highway to you, your vehicles and everyone else on the road around you.
Careful shopping is the key to safe toy hauling.
Here are some of the most important things you must keep in mind as you do.
The Primary Vehicle’s Towing Capacity
One of the most important things you will need to determine is what your primary vehicle’s towing capacity is.
Technically this is not hard as the official specs for your vehicle will list this, and should be easy to find in your owner’s manual or via the vehicle manufacturer’s website.
Where things get trickier is actually calculating the weight of the load you will be asking your vehicle to tow. This will include the weight of the toy hauler itself, the weight of any additional furniture and contents you pack into it AND the weight of the ‘toys’ themselves.
You will even need to consider how many people will be traveling in the primary vehicle, as they will add to the demand being put on its engine as well.
Here’s an example.
One of the most popular SUVs for camping for a number of years has been the rugged Ford Explorer line (it even has adventure built into its name).
Between its various models and trim lines, the Ford Explorer can handle towing between 5,000 and 5,600 lb of loaded trailer weight in addition to five passengers under 200 lbs.
The average mountain bike weighs a lightweight 25-35 lbs, while the average four-wheeler can weigh between 300 and 1200 pounds, depending on size and attachments, while a jet ski can weigh in at between 350 and 900 pounds.
If you have a dirt bike you want to haul in a toy trailer then you are looking at between 250 and 300 pounds, while a full size motorbike is a hefty 300 to 700 pounds.
The math you will have to do will need to include the weight of the toy hauler, plus its contents, plus the weight of the toys.
There are tricks you can use to reduce these weights before your trip, but if you are looking for a small toy hauler – which is really all an SUV like the Ford Explorer can safely handle – it should be under 3,000 pounds.
Your Driving Skills
It is NOT easy to drive a vehicle while towing a toy hauler. While we don’t want to question anyone’s driving skills, you will need to make sure you are comfortable doing so.
As a toy hauler of any size is not an inexpensive buy, it may be best to try renting one first to see how well you can handle it.
Even a small toy trailer can cost more than your primary vehicle did. For those who love RVing this is still a worthwhile investment, as having their own toy trailer will open up a world of outdoor and camping fun to them.
However, if your trips are limited to just a handful of weekends a year, you may want to compare the costs of buying a toy hauler vs. renting one carefully before you do.
3 Great Lightweight Small Toy Haulers Your SUV Can Handle
While they are far from the only options, careful shopping will uncover, here’s a look at 3 of the best small toy haulers on the market in 2022 to give you a better idea of just what such things have to offer you.
This vehicle is great for couples that like to get away on the weekend for a big adventure complete with their favorite toys and yet still enjoy some camping privacy.
It weighs in at just 2,825 pounds and while at 18 feet long it is not as roomy as some of the other toy haulers out there by far, it does feature additional external storage that the others do not that might allow you to add a lighter mountain bike (or two) and additional luggage to your load with relative ease.
The amenities inside this toy hauler are basic, but also very good-looking. A Queen size bed is created in the rear of the trailer by putting together the two dining benches and is surprisingly comfortable, while a roomy kitchen (by toy hauler standards) comes complete with a fridge, microwave and food prep area and the bathroom features a very attractive and functional shower. There is also a ten-foot awning to help you get the most from those long summer evenings.
The KZ Escape E14 features a lot of high-end finishes, and you will pay a premium for the convenience of its ultra lightweight construction – its MSRP is around $20,000 – but if you are looking for a way to make the best – and safest – use of your SUV with a toy hauler this really is an all-around great choice.
This lightweight toy hauler – it weighs in at 3,235 pounds, making it perfect for use with rugged SUVs – is not as short as you might imagine and offers 22 feet of space, including the holding area for your various toys.
This camper will not only transport more than a few toys but also offers the basic amenities needed for a camping trip in general including a queen size bed, a sleeper sofa, a full bathroom with shower and even a fridge and microwave. A large ramp door in the rear makes for easy toy loading and unloading, and there is even a built-in 12-foot awning you can erect to enjoy relaxing outdoors when you arrive at your destination.
At around $18,000 MSRP, it is also one of the most affordable toy haulers on the market and an excellent choice for those looking for a lightweight toy hauler for a couple or small family.
As its name suggests, the NOBO 10.6 is designed to be able to handle rougher terrain, making it a good choice for those who prefer to head off the beaten track a little when camping (especially if they have dirt bikes and/or four wheelers on board).
The camper itself is super lightweight – weighing in at a mere 1,800 pounds – and the toy storage area is roomier than most, making it perfect for those who are carrying bulkier toys like motorbikes and jet skis.
The trade-off here is that the living area is completely open plan and there is no onboard bathroom. There is a full size bed and a rather cool built-in tent on the roof, though, and the trailer does come equipped with a fridge and small range. On average, you’ll pay around $18,000 for this lighter than most toy haulers, or a little more if you want to include extras like a TV.