The Escape 5.0TA offers fifth-wheel benefits in a package that can be towed by almost any full-size pickup
We’ve been entangled in a few heated debates with readers over the years on the subject of half-ton fifth-wheel towing. “You can’t do it!” they howled. “There’s not enough payload capacity!” We calmly attempted to explain that, depending on the size of the fifth-wheel, its pin weight and the tow rating of the truck in question, that it is indeed possible.
“Noooo!” they’d continue. “You’re not accounting for the weight of passengers in the truck, the load in the trailer, the Earth’s negative axis forces…” and so on.
See Related Stories:
• Finding the Perfect Fifth-Wheel
• Smooth Moves: New Fiberglass-Built Trailers
Yes, yes, we know. And for those of you who still say it can’t be done, we present our humble rebuttal: the 5.0TA from Escape Trailer Industries. Weighing in at just 3,810 pounds (dry), it places a paltry 630 pounds on the pin. Even at its 5,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating, the little Escape burdens the bed with only a tad more than 900 pounds — and last we checked, any half-ton pickup can handle that. Boo-ya! Sorry, haters.
Now, we’ll admit that, at only 21 feet, 2 inches long, this isn’t your average-size fifth-wheel, but then again, that’s kinda the point. The Escape 5.0TA is the answer for those who want the easy, stable towing of a fifth-wheel, the size and maneuverability of a travel trailer and high-quality construction. If these attributes are on your checklist, the Escape 5.0TA is a viable option.
Based in beautiful Chilliwack, British Columbia, Escape Trailer Industries not only manufacturers a unique line of trailers (the 5.0TA being the only fifth-wheel in the lineup), it is a unique company in and of itself. Escape trailers are built one at a time on a 2-by-4-inch, 1/8-inch-thick structural steel frame of the company’s own making (the 5.0TA has a 2-by-3-inch frame), then topped with a hand-laid, 100 percent molded two-piece fiberglass body. Anchor blocks are integrated in strategic locations inside the trailer, to which the interior walls and cabinetry are mounted for a structurally sound interior/exterior, according to the company.
In addition to being lightweight, the 5.0TA was also designed for easy towing. The unit’s aerodynamic shape reduces wind resistance, while a low center of gravity helps with stability. Rubber torsion suspension is standard, and while some manufacturers consider the tires an afterthought, Escape fits the 5.0TA with 15-inch radials — and all are balanced, even the spare. While it’s true that no one rides inside the trailer (or shouldn’t) these features make for smoother towing and help prevent items in the cabinets from ending up on the floor. In the long term, reducing road impacts and vibration can help improve the life of the structure.
Great build quality, easily towed by half-ton pickups, comfortable sleeping area, abundant interior storage
What We’d Like to See
Warmer reading lights with dimmers in the bedroom, standard audio system,
The quality and attention to detail shows the moment you walk up to the 5.0TA. The exterior is smooth, shiny and free of any of the waves or ripples you might find on other trailers. There’s a 2-inch hitch receiver earmarked for bicycle racks (150-pound capacity) on the back, and up front, two compartments: the upper for storage, the lower for dual 5-gallon LP-gas cylinders. No, the 5.0TA doesn’t have huge pass-through basement storage like other fifth-wheels, but this compartment is large enough for short getaways, and there is another small compartment on the street side.
The test unit was also fitted with a few nice options that enhanced the appearance and functionality of the trailer, including 15-inch aluminum wheels, frameless, tinted dual-pane windows, an exterior shower, an 11,000-Btu air conditioner and an armless Dometic 9500E power awning with a wind sensor (a manual awning is standard).
THE LIVING END
The 5.0TA’s interior is at once contemporary and cozy. In fact, it has a feel similar to that of a large truck camper, with most of the space dedicated to the living area, and the rest to that hallmark cabover queen-size bed. At the rear of the test trailer is the dining area, and the optional U-shaped dinette is large enough to seat four average-size adults. It’s a bit difficult to squeeze into, but once seated, it’s comfortable, and the table has room for four place settings.
Supported by a pair of posts, the table is stable, and the dinette can quickly be made into a bed for two. Side windows, as well as a large rear window, keep the area light and bright, and overhead cabinets provide space for anything from pillows to playing cards. Pleated window shades will admit some light during the day when drawn but keep the area nice and dark when it’s time for sleep.
Forward of the dinette is the well-equipped kitchen, which in the test unit included the optional three-burner stove with an oven, an overhead vent fan, a stainless-steel sink with a high-rise faucet and pull-out sprayer, and on the street side, a 6-cubic-foot three-way refrigerator. A cabinet-mounted microwave is an option. We found that the kitchen had adequate countertop space to prepare meals, but if more is needed, the sink cover and bi-fold range cover can be pressed into service.
A surprising amount of storage space includes overhead cabinets, plus a large cabinet underneath the sink, three floor-level cabinets and two drawers. On the opposite side is a large pantry, with two good-size upper cabinets and a larger one below with a shelf. There’s more than enough room here to supply a family of four, and all of the cabinets feel sturdy and well made.
Across the doorway threshold, there’s a waist-high cabinet that would be a good place to store a trash can and a small broom. Above it is a shelf with a drawer that seems to have been designed as a catchall area. The shelf is equipped with a 12-volt DC socket with dual USB ports and 120-volt AC outlets for charging phones and other power needs, and the drawer could be used for keys, wallets and remotes. To its left, the second of three stairs up to the bed not only doubles as a comfy bench but lifts to reveal another wide, deep storage compartment.
BED AND BATH
The small wet bath looks more like it belongs in a boat than a trailer, with its gleaming white fiberglass surfaces and even a white fiberglass sink. It is functional, however, with a cover to keep the TP dry, a powerful little roof vent, a mirrored medicine cabinet, Thetford low-profile toilet and a plastic shower curtain. At 6 feet, 1 inch, I had no problems using the area for showering or routine trips to the loo.
Climbing the steps to the bed made us feel like kids crawling up to a giant bunk bed, and that’s a good thing. It’s a cozy spot with windows and cabinets on either side and a huge skylight, and there’s carpeted space on either side of the bed to put things you want to keep within easy reach, like clothes or a flashlight. There’s also a 120-volt AC outlet on either side, so you can plug in phones, computers or CPAP devices. Not being equipped with a television, we used one of the outlets to watch Netflix on the laptop and charged phones with the other.
The coil-spring mattress was supremely comfortable after a long day, and the furnace kept us quietly warm throughout the night. About the only complaint we had in this area, and it’s a small one, were the reading lights. They were very bright and had a cool, bluish light temperature that seemed out of place in an otherwise welcoming area. Changing bulbs and adding a dimmer would solve the problem.
Having tried selling through a dealer network and finding that customer relations suffered, Escape Trailer Industries brought the process back home and has been offering its trailers factory-direct ever since. Not having dealerships may make it difficult to check out one of its trailers, but the positive side is that customers have a direct line to the manufacturer and can even make some custom requests when having a trailer built.
The company also offers a Customer Referral Program, where it can guide you to an Escape customer near you in the United States or Canada so you can see a trailer before ordering one for yourself. Buying an Escape 5.0TA may take a little extra time, but if a small, half-ton towable fifth-wheel is what you’re after, the wait will be worth it.
Exterior Length 21′ 2″
Exterior Width 7′ 4″
Exterior Height 9′ 7″
Interior Width 6′ 9″
Interior Height (Maximum) 7′
Construction Two-piece molded-fiberglass body
Freshwater Cap. 28 gal.
Gray-Water Cap. 28 gal.
Black-Water Cap. 30 gal.
LP-Gas Cap. 10 gal.
Water-Heater Cap. 6 gal.
Refrigerator 6 cu. ft., 3-way
Furnace 12,000 Btu
Air Conditioner 11,000 Btu
Converter 55 amp
Battery Group 27 deep cycle
Suspension Torsion rubber
Weight, Dry 3,810 lbs.
Hitch Weight 630 lbs.
Axle Weight 3,180 lbs.
GVWR 5,500 lbs.
GAWR 3,500 lbs.
Cargo Carrying Cap. 1,690 lbs.
MSRP, Base $28,995
MSRP, As Tested $36,836
Basic Warranty 2 years
A frequent contributor to Trailer Life, Chris Hemer is the former technical editor of Trailer Life and MotorHome, and has been an RV and automotive journalist for more than 20 years. An outdoor enthusiast who now makes his home in Portland, Oregon, he enjoys camping, motorcycle riding, mountain biking and hiking.