If you have been thinking of getting a 5th wheel tow vehicle, especially a short bed, a 5th wheel hitch, or a new 5th wheel RV (Recreational Vehicle), this important information is for you!
The biggest question that comes to mind when considering any of these purchases is ” Do I need a slide hitch”? If you frequent any of the online RV forums, This question is asked over and over, and I always see the same answers. “If you have a short bed truck you need to have a slide hitch or you will hit the cab when you turn”. I myself was given the same reply with the many others that I researched online. Well, I was already invested in my tow vehicle at this point. I had a 2016 F-250 short bed Crew Cab with a 6.7 liter diesel with the FX4 package, that part of the deal was sealed already. That led me to determine which 5th wheel was right for me and the family, and which hitch to pull it with.
I travel often for work, and would usually be alone to transport, park, hitch and unhitch the RV by myself, so I wanted a system that was middle aged, overweight person friendly, and I also wanted the bed of my truck clear when I was not hauling the RV. So, I started to do my research on RVs.
I was working in Austin, Texas at the time and staying in our 17 year old 28′ bumper pull travel trailer and decided to hit the local RV show to take a look at the different models, floor plans of the 5th wheels and what they had to offer. As soon as I stepped into the building of the RV show, I could see there were hundreds of recreational vehicles of all sizes and styles.
The first one nearest the door was a Van Leigh – Beacon. A large and beautifully painted 40′ 5th wheel. What a great place to start! (so I thought) That 5th wheel had every bell and whistle on it and was huge, and had a beautiful interior and amenities, but I was not biting at $130k! We saw many other 5th wheels that day, but none of them measured up to the first one, The Van Leigh – Beacon. I did get a good idea of what I liked and required in the floor plans. I was worried as I left though, as I found I had $100k taste! But while I was there, I also looked at the 5th wheel hitches, and just like the RV forums, all of the representatives were directing me to the slider hitches. They were definitely bigger than what I was wanting. Here are the hitches I was looking at, all of them very well known with great reputations.
B&W Companion 20k Sliding hitch. This hitch was very robustly built. It also looks like it would be pretty big in the bed of a truck. This hitch weighed 287 lbs. That was a disappointment for me as it was too heavy for me to handle by myself without a lift. Pricing was in the $1,600 range.
The next hitch was Curt 20k sliding hitch. Also a very well known brand, with the same issue. 278 lbs and in the $1,300 range.
Next was Reese 20k sliding hitch. This hitch appeared a little better suited at 160 lbs and it was in the $1,500 range. We were improving!
Then I saw the Pullrite Booth. They also have a well known Super Glide slider hitch, BUT, I saw another interesting hitch that I had never seen before while there.
It was a newer product, the Pullrite Superlite 20k hitch. It was simple, it was light at 52 lbs, and it could easily be hitched or unhitched, and installed and removed from the truck easily when not in use. The feature that I really liked also, is I did not need the 4 point attach system installed in my truck most hitches use as they had a single point attachment model as well. It could directly attach to my B&W Gooseneck ball. After I saw that hitch, I knew that was going to be the hitch I wanted to use. That ended up being a very informational and productive trip to the RV show.
About a month later while scanning RV classifieds, I accidentally stumbled upon a 5th wheel for sale within an hour of Austin. I was not actually shopping yet, but this one caught my attention in price and condition. It was a 2013 37 foot Heartland Sundance 3270RES. It seemed to have all of the features in a 5th wheel I was looking for, Accessible bedroom, bathroom and kitchen with slide outs closed for traveling. It had a full size residential tub ( which I had never seen in a 5th wheel) with an ample bath area, king size bed and the icing on the cake was that it color matched my truck paint! and the price was right! (no where near the $100k+ taste I had feared! ) I arranged a viewing of the RV for the following weekend, I took a friend of mine that was more experienced in RVs than I was and could possibly spot problems better than I, and other than a few minor things noted needing repair, it turned out to be the one that I purchased. The most important feature that I did not mention is what allowed my truck, hitch, RV system to work so well together. It was the specially designed Front Cap of the RV that was designed to be towed by a short bed truck and allowed up to 88 degree turns without contacting the truck cab. This was an outstanding feature and sealed the decision for me.
So the most important factor to decide if you will need a slider hitch or not is the shape of the front of the 5th wheel. It the 5th wheel cap is “squared off with corners”,
those are the areas that will contact the short bed truck cab on a turn, and will most likely require a slider hitch, where as if you have the 5th wheel with the rounded front cap, Those are more “tow friendly” to short bed trucks without a slider hitch.
Naturally, There are a multitude of combinations and factors for each RV / Tow Rig combination. Each will be different and will need to be evaluated based on their own merits and circumstances.
In closing, I am very satisfied with my Truck/RV and hitch combination. Being new to 5th Wheel RVs, there was a lot of potential to “go with the flow” and just buy the slider hitch, But having always been a rebel, and the desire to go against the flow, worked for me this time, and luck had a fair play in it as well. Good Luck on your endeavor to find that perfect set up for your travels.