Whether you’re shopping for a travel trailer or fifth-wheel, there are a number of ways to get hitched
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Or tow a trailer.
Since mankind got the notion to attach a home on wheels to the back of the family car or truck, the RV industry has been on a never-ending quest to improve the towing experience. Whether travel trailer or fifth-wheel, the goal has always been to make a hitch system lighter, quieter, safer, smoother and more convenient (or all of the above) than any that came before it. Some have succeeded to a greater degree than others, but one thing is for sure: there’s a hitch out there to serve every need, application and budget.
To give you an idea of what’s available, we’re presenting this handy hitch guide. Keep in mind that almost every company featured offers a variety of products; we just can’t fit them all in these pages. So if you see a hitch that strikes your fancy, be sure to visit that company’s website, because there’s more for you to peruse and consider.
When you first see the Andersen Weight-Distribution Hitch (MSRP: $519.99 to $589.99), it’s hard to comprehend how it works. Chains instead of hitch bars? Yep, and it actually makes perfect sense. Instead of steel bars providing tension, the tightened chains perform the same function, with less weight and less bulk — and less bounce, according to the company. Because the chains don’t bend and rebound like bars, and are dampened by a urethane bushing at each adjustment end, bounce is minimized. A tapered ball shank and proprietary friction sleeve provide the anti-sway element. Initial setup is easy, and tension is adjusted by turning a nut at the end of each chain.
Owning a fifth-wheel hitch can be somewhat of a commitment. Once it’s in the bed, removing it can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth. The Companion is one of the original fifth-wheel hitches designed for easy installation and removal, thanks to a unique mounting system, called the Turnover Ball, attached to the frame underneath the bed. One 4-inch hole in the bed, flush with the surface, contains a receiver that the single post of the Companion slides into. After the Companion base is set into the receiver hole, a lever in the driver’s-side wheel well is turned, engaging a pin through the post. A draw-down bolt on top of the post creates upward pressure on the pin, and a locking bracket holds the bolt in place. At 129 pounds, the Companion RVK3500 (MSRP: $971) is no lightweight, but once it’s removed, you’re again left with a flat-load floor. Other features include a fully articulating head, cam-action latching handle for easy release (even when parked on uneven surfaces) and polyurethane bushings that provide a rattle-free towing experience, according to the company. The RVK3500 is rated for 20,000 pounds gross trailer weight and 5,000 pounds of pin weight.
Most fifth-wheel hitches are heavy due to their intended purpose of safely handling several tons of shifting weight. All this bulk usually makes removing the hitch a two-person job, but the Super Ride (MSRP: $1,527) takes a different approach. Its lightweight, modular design allows it to be sectioned off, making installation and removal a one-person job. Two versions are available: one for industry-standard bed rails (BRX7200) and one that attaches directly to any brand of gooseneck hitch with a 25⁄16-inch ball (BRX6200). First the base is installed, followed by the shock towers, and finally the hitch head itself. The shock towers contain four rubber springs to smooth the ride, and both the hitch head and shock towers can pivot rearward for extra clearance during tight turns by pulling the locking handle to the rear. Both models are designed to tow up to 20,000 pounds gross trailer weight and up to 5,000 pounds pin weight.
When we hear the term “bulletproof,” we associate it with something that is unbreakable or impervious to failure. Rated for up to 30,000 pounds, Bulletproof weight-carrying ball mounts (MSRP: $269 to $439) are aptly named. Offered in 2-inch (Class IV), 2.5-inch (Class V) or 3-inch, these solid-steel gusseted ball mounts are available with a drop/rise from 4 inches all the way up to 16 inches for seriously lifted trucks. Height is adjustable by pulling two pins, and each model comes with a dual Bulletproof Ball with a 2-inch ball rated for up to 12,000 pounds, a heavy-duty 2 5⁄16-inch ball rated for up to 22,000 pounds, and for big jobs, an Extreme Duty 2 5⁄16-inch ball rated to 30,000 pounds. The ball mounts are made in the USA using domestic steel.
Camco claims the Eaz-Lift ReCurve (MSRP: $439.99 to $801.49) is the company’s most user-friendly weight-distributing hitch, and having used one ourselves, we’d have to agree. Both the R3 and R6 employ a mono trunnion with an inverted bent-bar design, which means the bars load from the top, making setup easier. A collar with brake-pad material clamps down around the center spindle for constant but adjustable sway control with the turn of a bolt on the R3 model. The R6 adds adaptive sway control, which can be engaged or disengaged with the turn of an Allen-head bolt. When backing or making a low-speed turn, the sway control will disengage once the trailer has rotated about 10 degrees off center. On the highway, the R6 provides the right amount of sway control for the conditions at hand.
A-Series fifth-wheel hitches (MSRP: $630.72 to $1,709.65) feature a patented articulating head design, as well as a cast yoke, torsion springs and “poly-torsion” inserts to add smoothness and stability to the connection. A lockable handle self-resets to the ready-to-couple position after the hitch is uncoupled, and features fast, one-pin head removal to lighten the load for taking the hitch out of the bed. A-Series hitches are available in 16K, 20K and 25K capacities, and are compatible with multiple mounting options, including puck-system legs or rollers, custom brackets and gooseneck adapters. Other features include three-position height adjustability, a polyethylene lube plate and a three-position coupling indicator that clearly displays coupling status.
The Recon (MSRP: $636 to $734) is the newest addition to Demco’s Premier Series fifth-wheel hitches, with a lighter-weight geometric design that works with industry-standard bed rails.
A dual-articulation head makes it easy to hook up and release on uneven terrain, and three height adjustments from 15½ to 18 inches are available. Also offered is the Recon Gooseneck Ball Mount, which fits any 2 5⁄16-inch gooseneck ball. Both models are rated at up to 21,000 pounds.
Nearly every trailer hitch on the market shares one characteristic: they all pivot on the hitch ball, and sway is controlled by some manner of friction. Most of the time this simple design works satisfactorily, but under extreme conditions, trailer sway can rear its ugly head. The Hensley Arrow (MSRP: $2,875 to $3,175) solves this problem by not using the ball as a pivot point, creating a solid connection between the tow vehicle and the trailer through a unique hitch-box linkage system and solid-steel strut bars attached to the trailer’s A-frame. When force is applied to the side of the trailer (i.e. strong wind), the hitch keeps the trailer and tow vehicle locked together in a straight line, making it impossible for the trailer to sway, according to the company. The system also incorporates spring bars that are raised and lowered by screw jacks instead of a chain, and the whole shooting match remains attached to the trailer. Hitching up requires backing the 2-inch steel square bar (attached to the tow vehicle) into the 3-inch tapered box in the front of the hitch assembly, then attaching the over-center latches and securing with two safety keys. Also available is the Hensley Cub (MSRP: $1,770 to $2,070), which works on the same principle as the Arrow but is designed for smaller trailers.
If there’s one thing every fifth-wheel owner shares, it’s the fear the kingpin isn’t correctly secured. The Husky 16KS (MSRP: $645 to $860 for OEM kits) hitch helps reassure users that they’re good to go with a simple red and green indicator. When the slide bar is in the open position, the indicator is red; when the hitch is locked into position, a green indicator pops out to verify that the kingpin is engaged. How simple is that? Other notable features include a side-to-side tilting plate, front-to-rear pivoting head and a four-position height adjustment in 1-inch increments from 14 to 17 inches. Pictured is the 16K with Ford uprights, designed for use with the Ford factory fifth-wheel prep package; GM and Ram applications are also available. The hitches are backed by a five-year warranty.
As it’s often said, you can’t argue with success. The original Equal-i-zer sway-control hitch (MSRP: $765 to $885) has been around for more than 70 years, and its simple design is still a favorite with RVers. What looks like a typical weight-distributing system is actually a four-point sway-control hitch, with linear friction on the spring bars themselves and two points of rotational friction at the patented Equal-i-zer hitch head. Easy to adjust and use, the Equal-i-zer doesn’t rely on chains or add-on sway-control devices, so it can be hitched up from virtually any angle, according to the company. Made in the USA from American steel, the Equal-i-zer is backed by a lifetime warranty.
Another product from Progress Manufacturing, the Fastway e2 (MSRP: $388 to $544) is also designed for simple setup and operation, thanks to a built-in, two-way sway-control feature that operates via the system’s spring bars. The bars ride atop rigid steel L brackets, offering linear friction in similar fashion to the Equal-i-zer. No chains to adjust — simply move the L-brackets up or down to increase or reduce tension on the spring bars. Available in round-bar or trunnion style in a variety of sizes, the e2 is an economical alternative to the Equal-i-zer and uses a similar philosophy for a no-hassle towing experience, according to the company.
The extended-cab shortbed pickup is like the Swiss Army knife of the automotive world — it can do just about anything you need it to. Its one shortfall, however, is its ability to tow a fifth-wheel trailer without the risk of cab-to-trailer cap interference. PullRite is the originator of the automatic sliding fifth-wheel hitch that solves the shortbed towing dilemma. The ISR Series SuperGlide (MSRP: $1,219 to $1,999) uses mechanical cam action and a capture plate, which restricts the kingpin on the trailer from turning in the fifth-wheel plate on the SuperGlide. Once the truck begins to turn, the “captured” fifth-wheel plate forces the large roller of the turntable cam-arm assembly to rotate and roll along the path of the cam slot to begin the turn. This action pulls the plate and turntable assembly away from the cab of the truck; the more you turn, the more it moves back. When returning to straight-ahead travel mode, the hitch automatically moves forward to its optimum towing position. The ISR Series SuperGlide is available in 16K (2700, shown), 18K (2900) and 24K (2300) ratings.
Reese is one of the biggest, best-known names in the hitch business and has a wide range of offerings. So when the company claims its new M5 fifth-wheel hitch (MSRP: $1,708.03 to $1,908.62) provides the quietest and smoothest tow possible, that’s saying something. In addition to a wider stance, tighter tolerances and a shock-damping system, the M5 features a “ready-to-receive” Talon Jaw system that does not require the user to exit the truck and open the latch before backing in. A 20 percent greater landing area, a fully articulating head and convenient V-notch are designed to make coupling easier, and a clear Tow/No Tow indicator, visible from the cab or next to the bed, informs the user at a glance whether he or she has hitched up successfully. An ergonomically shaped, easy-to-reach handle releases the Talon Jaw with little effort, according to the company. Backed by a limited lifetime warranty, the M5 is available in 20K to 27K capacities and 5,000- to 6,700-pound pin-weight ratings.
In addition to safety and longevity, the goal of many fifth-wheel hitch manufacturers is to provide the smoothest ride possible by damping bumps and preventing what is commonly known as “chucking.” Comfort Ride has been one of the leading choices for smooth towing, and recently the company was acquired by Roadmaster, another well-regarded RV-equipment company. Comfort Ride hitches (MSRP: $1,890 to $3,490) are available in three capacities: 18K (184), 24K (245) and a massive 30K (308 HD). All employ easily adjustable proprietary cellular technology instead of airbags to damp undesirable bumps and clunks. Made in the USA using American-made steel and hardware, the hitches feature a four-way articulating coupler, multiple height adjustments, self-lubricating nylon bearings and an anti-friction pad.
You’re not seeing double. Torklift’s new SuperHitch Magnum (MSRP: $890.99) features the company’s patented dual-receiver system (2.5-inch upper, 2-inch lower) for added strength or the option of adding accessories to the top receiver. Rated to tow up to 30,000 pounds and handle up to 3,000 pounds of hitch weight (weight distributing) or up to 20,000 pounds and 2,500 pounds hitch weight (weight carrying), the SuperHitch Magnum features hardened, reinforced hitch-pin locations to prevent “egging” the holes (making them out of round) when pulling heavy loads over long periods. The hitch does not require drilling in most applications and is backed by a lifetime warranty. Also available are the SuperHitch 15K and 20K, and the SuperTruss extension, which allows the user to tow a trailer when hauling a truck camper with rear overhang.