Home Away From Home
The trailer is
currently up for sale, the ad with pricing info can be seen here.
On many of my 4x4
excursions, spending the night is required. Sometimes it is to
avoid having to do a long drive and a few trail runs in the same
day, other times it is to just enjoy the outdoors and make a long
weekend out of the trip. There are pretty much two ways to
stay overnight. You either assemble your shelter once you
reach the jump off point, or drag it along with you.
Tent camping is how
most people experience "roughing it" in the outdoors and
it has it's charms. Nothing beats waking up to the warm sun on
your face and breathing in the cool morning air. Of course to
get to that point you had to completely unpack your tow rig,
assemble chairs, setup a cooking area, assemble the tent and
organize your sleeping gear. When the trip is over you repeat the
whole process backwards and then once again when you get home to put
everything away. Under ideal weather conditions this whole
process isn't so bad. Now consider doing the same thing in
high winds, or with the rain coming down. You see where I am
going with this?
Yes, I was ready to go
to the next step which involves some sort of camper. The
requirements for the camper were that it had to have a bathroom,
shower, kitchen, heater and A/C. Obviously I also had to be
able to carry my rockcrawler along with. The first thing I had
to consider was whether or not a self powered camper was a viable
solution. A motor home offers the most luxurious
accommodations and most can tow a fair amount of weight but the
thing that turned me off to them was the need to maintain their
drive train. Since I still needed a truck to tow my
rockcrawler to short weekend trips I would have two tow vehicles to
care for, insure and worry about. I didn't think that solution
would work for me.
The next option is
some sort of camper that slides into the bed of the truck. I
was pretty sure this was the way I wanted to go so I traded in my
Lightning for an F-250 at the end of 2003. Once the new
tow rig was squared away the search was on for a suitable slide in
camper. What I discovered was you really need a dually to
handle the larger (and well equipped) slide in campers. The
maximum payload an single rear wheel F-250 is rated to carry in the
bed is really not that much, especially if you add in the tongue
weight of the car trailer, a full load of fuel, two passengers, full
coolers, spare parts and any other required camping gear. This
is a good FAQ
on how much you can haul with an F250/350, most of the info also
holds true for other truck brands if you adjust the vehicle weights.
With that info in mind I narrowed the field of slide-ins down to the
ones my truck could easily carry and discovered they did not meet my
original criteria (shower, bathroom, A/C). This led us to toy
A toy hauler is pretty
much a pull behind camper that has a living area up front and a
garage in back for your toys. Most toy haulers seem to be
setup for carrying multiple quads or a light dune buggy to the sand
dunes. What we initially found was that most did not have
enough ceiling height in the garage for a rockcrawler. Also,
the amount of cargo they could carry was very light. I figured
I would need something that was rated to carry 5-6000lbs (I'd guess
my rockcrawler is under 3k lbs.). We found a few that looked
like they would work but after doing some research I discovered that
the weight ratings were all "dry", meaning unloaded.
So you also have to add 8.3 lbs per gallon of water that you carry
(120 gallon tank is roughly 1000lbs), spare parts, clothes, pots
pans and the weight of your rockcrawler. Cargo capacity runs
out very quickly. The only toy haulers that met my criteria
were triple axled behemoths which was more than I wanted to pull.
I also had a problem with the floors, most were merely 1/2"
plywood with little bracing underneath. This is probably fine
for quads but a rockcrawler has the weight of a heavy quad
concentrated under each tire which I felt would be too much for
those thin floors. To be fair, some of the 2005 models did
offer a 3/4" floor upgrade, but they were out of my price
range. Things weren't looking good.
I was ready to throw
in the towel and settle for a small slide in when someone mentioned
race car trailers. There are several places that build these
and even a few more that build them with living quarters inside.
I eventually discovered the Campmaster
MURT line (link
to 2003 brochure). The chart on the first link shows just
a few of the possible configurations. Basically what you can do is
specify what size living area you want (8, 10, 12 or 14ft), then how
long of a cargo area you want (I think up to 34ft total length) and
then how much cargo capacity you need. So in my case we picked
out the 12 foot living area, 15 feet of cargo area and upgraded the
axles to 6000 lb units. This would give me an estimated 5900lb cargo
capacity and a little room for my rockcrawler to grow longer in the
future if needed.
First, a little about
the dealer we ordered the unit from. On a friends recommendation we
went down to World Wide RV (WWRV) in Mesa to check out the
Campmaster trailers. The salesman was very nice and showed us
everything we wanted to see but wanted to wait until the Campmaster
rep was in town to take our order. Apparently this was a new
line and they were not very familiar with it. This was fine
with us, we had 8 weeks till our trip to Johnson Valley so it seemed
like there was plenty of time. The next weekend we went back
down to WWRV and met with the regional Campmaster rep, Roger Tracy.
He was able to answer our questions on some of the options and even
brought to our attention some stuff not listed in the brochure.
In the end we ended up getting the A/C, on demand water pump /w
water heater, 24ft. awning, larger propane tanks (30lb units),
diamond tread plate on the rear door, 4 extra heavier tie downs,
powered tongue jack, CD player w speakers, ventilation fan, SS
appliance covers and the rear screen door option. We were told
a 6 week delivery would not be a problem which would leave us a week
to get the trailer prepped for our trip. As you can probably
guess, things did not go smoothly. It really boils
down to a lack of communication. Once the sale was made, WWRV
just kind of clammed up, providing no feedback as to how the trailer
construction was progressing. When the trailer delivery ran
late, we didn't find out from WWRV, we had to call Campmaster
ourselves to find out why the trailer hadn't shipped when promised.
They also failed to provide any helpful answers to the questions we
came up with while waiting for the trailer. In the end we
communicated directly with Campmaster when we had a question.
This seemed to rub the sales manager of WWRV the wrong way prompting
him to say some unprofessional things to my wife. It's a shame
you can't just order one direct and get rid of the middleman
altogether. Another annoyance was the old promise things at
the time of sale but don't follow thru routine. We were told
the tongue on the trailer could be setup to mount a generator on it
and that WWRV could install a weight distribution hitch if we
brought it down with us when we picked up the trailer. Neither
tasks were completed and I was left with having to figure out a way
around them the day before we were supposed to leave on our trip.
So in summation, I would not recommend WWRV to anyone, but since you
have to use them if you want to order a trailer here in Phoenix at
least you can go in knowing what you have to watch out for.
Also, be sure and
price the unit out on the internet via their build-it-yourself app
located at the WWRV
website. When you get to the floor plan selection you need to
pick one that starts with CAR which is the MURT line. The MURV
line is cheaper but the ceiling height is only 72". The
model # we ordered was a CAR8528-12TA4. CAR85 is the model, 28
is the total length, 12 is the length of the living area (cargo is
total length - (living area + 1 foot)) and TA4 is a 6000lb axle
package, TA3 is a 5200 lb axle package. A couple pointers, the
12 foot living area option was actually a little cheaper than the 10
foot living area and getting the easy order package for the 12"
living area saves you money vs. doing incremental upgrades.
With easy order package you get a bigger fridge (3 cubic foot), bath
package, TV prep, AM/FM CD player, 1 cubic foot microwave, the 16k
btu furnace, hot & cold water system, AC, 120v outlets and a
bunch of other stuff I am forgetting.
(Click for larger
Back to the trailer.
The model I ordered was 28 feet long, 12 feet living of living
quarters and 15 feet of cargo area. I also had the axles
upgraded to 6000lb units with load range "E" tires and the
trailer itself was lifted 6" to accommodate the lift on my
truck. The weight on this unit is 4400 lbs. according to the
mfg. sticker. The trailer is based off of a steel frame as
shown in the brochure and one is one of the big reason I went this
route. During the initial purchasing phase I was impressed to
discover the only thing needed to increase the cargo capacity was an
The rear cargo area
floor is 3/4" thick plywood which is covered with a layer of
diamond tread plate (standard). The diamond tread plate is
optional on the flap, I chose to just have tow strips laid down for
my tires. Under the floor are steel cross braces at roughly
16" intervals. The area just in front of the door is
dovetailed to ensure maximum clearance when loading your toys.
The total usable height from floor to ceiling is 84", and
distance between the wheel wells is 81.75". I believe
taller units can be custom made. Located at all for corners
are leveling feet (jacks are an option) and in the back are two
small wheels to keep the tail from bottoming out.
Another nice feature
of this style toy hauler is the divider wall and door which seals
off the cargo area from the living quarters. We can still
utilize the cargo area to sleep some friends by rolling out some
carpet and leaving the rear ramp down. Fold down bunks are also an
option. Campmaster does offer a generator prep option but it
requires about 3 feet of cargo area for an enclosed box in which you
can hard mount a generator. The inside of the box is accessed
from the outside. We opted to keep the trailer as short as
possible so we did not choose to have the generator prep option.
We were told the trailer tongue can be prepped to mount a generator
but Campmaster thought WWRV was going to do that and WWRV thought
Campmaster was going to do that so in the end no one did it and I
was forced to come up with a secure hardmount for the generator in
the bed of my truck.
generators, we went with a Yahmaha EF3000ISEB, a small 3000 watt
generator that uses a small internal battery to boost output up to
3500 watts for a few seconds to aid in initial startup. This
particular generator is one of the most expensive but had the lowest
noise rating currently available. I can vouch for how quiet
these units are, I got up one morning and after walking the dogs
told my wife I would turn on the generator, she looked at me funny
and said she had already started it. I really couldn't hear it
over the ambient camp noise from 10 feet away! We easily ran
the A/C, lights and TV/DVD combo with the little Yahmaha so it
looks like it'll handle all our power needs.
One other problem I
had involved the tie downs. There were supposed to be 4 small
tie downs and we paid for 4 more 5000lb tie downs to be installed by
Campmaster. When the trailer arrived the day before we were
supposed to leave there were no tie downs installed (although there
was a bag of them in the trailer). WWRV refused to install the
tie downs for "liability" reasons and could only offer to
take the trailer someplace in the morning. With no guarantee
of the job even being started in the morning I opted to do the job
myself. I took a half day off work the next day and fabricated
the tie downs shown in the first picture above. The tie downs
that shipped with the trailer required a rather large hole be cut in
the floor to mount them and I did not have the tools to do that.
There is a matching clamp plate underneath the trailer and I was
able to sandwich the floor and trailer frame with some of the bolts.
I would have really rather had the tie downs located further inboard
but that would have meant I wouldn't have been able to tie into the
trailer frame without braking out the welder. I talked with
Campmaster after we arrived home from the maiden voyage and they
agreed to refund the money I paid for the additional tie downs and
apologized for the mistake.. The second picture shows the
ceiling clearance. There is an option to add some fluorescent
lights to the cargo area but they hang down nearly 6 inches so I
stuck with the standard lighting.
On to the inside.
My wife chose to have the optional stainless steel appliance package
which dresses up the kitchen. We opted for the standard
fridge/freezer, 2 burner stove and sink. We did add a
microwave. I believe you can get a bigger fridge and stove.
The heater is located below the sink with the controls being located
on the front bulkhead. This is the first heater I have seen that is
temperature controlled just like at home. Maybe this is
standard now but in all the older units we looked at or have stayed
in it seemed like the heater was either on or off and manually
controlled. Also located on the bulkhead are readouts to
check the levels of the battery, fresh water, grey water and black
water tanks. The trailer can carry 40 gallons of fresh water
This is the new maroon
interior color, it's not listed in the brochure. We ordered it
sight unseen because it was supposed to be a more modern looking
pattern. We were very happy with the way it looked when we
picked up the trailer. Living in Arizona we are a big fan of
southwest style interiors and the pattern and colors give the
interior a southwest flavor. Located directly to the left as
you walk in is a wet bath with a shower, sink and commode. If
you want a dry bath (separate showering area) you have to get the 14
foot living area. The bathroom is a little short, anyone over
6 feet will have to stoop to get into it and may have to stoop when
inside. I believe the floor is raised in the bathroom to give
a buffer between the black water tank. We also purchased the
external shower option for doing quick cleanups. The external
shower head and controls are located on the far side of the trailer,
behind the kitchen.
The rear mounted spare
tire was another option but the main reason for these two pictures
is to show the rear screen door option. It effectively screens
off the back effectively keeping bugs out and dachshunds in.
The battery is mounted
up on the tongue which proved to be another problem when I went to
install the weight distribution hitch brackets. The battery
box had to be moved back to allow clearance, not a big deal but when
you discover it a few hours before you are supposed to leave it is
more of an issue than it should be. I also opted for an
electric tongue jack. It makes hook ups so much easier.
Overall we are happy
with the trailer. All the major systems worked well and the
dogs really appreciated the A/C while we were gone four wheeling.
Speaking of which, the A/C cooled the 12 foot living area
surprisingly well on a dry lakebed, no shade and temps around 95
degrees. My only complaint is a lot of the handles, latches
and other misc odds and ends seem so delicate. From what I
have seen this is typical with all RV's. For instance the
screen door has a small plastic handle to latch/unlatch it. I
fear the handle won't survive it's first encounter with a 5 year
old. I also had quite a few nuts and bolts rattle loose on the
first trip, something that wouldn't happen if loctite was used in
the construction of the trailer.
The last thing I'd
like to comment on was how my truck pulled the trailer. The truck is
a Diesel Super Cab F250 4x4 with a 4" exhaust (turbo back),
35" tires, 3.73 gears, a Tru-Cool Max tranny cooler and a 40hp
program being run in the ECU. I also have a full gauge set to
monitor EGT, boost and transmission temperatures. This is the first
heavy load I have ever pulled so bear that in mind. I would
guess the total weight I was pulling (including cargo in the bed of
the truck) was just over 9000lbs. So with the truck that comes
to about 16,500lbs. From Phoenix to the California
border I was able to maintain 72 mph on the flat stuff, anything
above that and the trailer started to sway. Hills dropped me
to about 60-65 mph. Once in California we picked up a headwind
and I needed to drop out of overdrive to maintain 60-65mph. On
the big hills in Morongo and Yucca valley I was in 2nd around 50mph.
Due to high EGT's and boost levels I couldn't keep my foot in it on
the really steep climbs. The transmission cooler really did
its job, I never saw anything over 175 degrees. FWIW I have
the Tru-Cool inline with the stock transmission cooler and I removed
the radiator connections from the loop.
Gas mileage suffered
with the head winds, I got 11 mpg in Arizona which dropped to 6-8mpg
in California (the hills didn't help any). I am using a Reese
Straight Line Hitch system and while it is loads better than no sway
control you still need to pay attention when semis come up and pass.
You get the typical push-pull-push effect from their air
displacement. Wind movement of the trailer was pretty light
despite the gust but I suspect that was due to them being headwinds
instead of crosswinds.
Future improvements to
the tow rig will include a set of airbags in back to help stiffen
the rear suspension. While the weight distribution bars helped
bring the back of the truck back up roughly 5 inches to nearly level
after hooking up the trailer, the back end was still a little bouncy
despite having installed some Bilstein gas charged shocks in back.
I am also considering going to 4.10 ring and pinions. these
would definitely help compensate for the bigger tire I am running
and make pulling hills much easier.
Update 5-22-04 -
Finally got a chance to take some pictures of the underside.
These two are from in front of the axle. You can see the main
frame rails and the bracing. The floor is 75" thick
plywood. The second picture shows the location of the grey and
black water tanks.
Looking at the axles
from the front. These are torsion axles. They provide a
very smooth ride and act like an independent arm suspension as
opposed to a solid axle.
A look at some of the
bracing where the rear deck ramps downward for full clearance at the
This last shot shows
the rear axle from the back. You can also see the 6" lift
block that was welded in to raise the trailer.
Update 7-16-04 - On
the way to Colorado I stopped and weighed the tow rig and trailer so
I would know how much I was hauling. The truck had myself and
the dogs up front. In the bed I had spare parts, the generator
and 15 gallons of gas (the truck had a full tank of diesel).
The Toyhauler had all our gear for 4 days, 3 coolers (2 full of ice
and food), a full fridge, 40 gallons of water, our camping chairs
and a couple bags of misc. camping stuff. The weight of our
tow rig came to 9040lbs (some of that is tongue weight), the trailer
came to 6780lbs. I think the trailer tag on the Campmaster is
a little optimistic with the empty weight listed as 4400lbs.
Add the weight of my wife and the Zuk and the total weight comes to
19,060 lbs, A lot more than I guessed (16,500lbs) earlier in this