2004 Campmaster Toyhauler

 

   
 
 

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 haulers.

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 images)

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 axle upgrade.

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. 

Speaking of 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 door.

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 write-up.