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Old 11-29-2020, 10:16 AM   #1
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TV suited for you needs/terrain

So I might be stepping into a hornets nest but I enjoy reading about proper choosing of TV based on the numbers. Itís very interesting and sort of a science/hobby to get the numbers right.

But what I was thinking about was the difference that the terrain in your state and how you plan to use your camper.

For example. I live in Michigan which is very flat and outside of a few highways most roads are local 55 MPH roads. Our state doesnít allow semis to run triples and the number of semis on the road is far less than our fellow RVers out West.

So, letís say that you are a weekend camper exploring your state and maybe the surround states in the Midwest does a larger TV really necessary vs the highways, mountains, and traffic of the West?

What are the thoughts? If you are a purely but the numbers guy would you consider a huge trailer if you typically only go short distances and use a ht? Is there a tipping point to where the tv step up is necessary vs a better experience for weekenders?
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Old 11-29-2020, 03:59 PM   #2
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Personally, I run an F250 diesel as a TV but I don’t use it just to tow. At a GVWR of 10K pounds I can throw a bunch of stuff in the bed when needed. If a little is good then more is better. BTW, fuel economy is fantastic!
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Old 11-29-2020, 10:09 PM   #3
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I think you are taking the factors into account, but you shouldn't base your choice of TV on the "type" of camping you do. Most of my camping is in East Texas, where the terrain is relatively flat. And I could probably get by easily with a gas. But the diesel tows my 5th wheel so nicely, I couldn't imagine towing without it. And my plans are not to always tow only in East Texas, but venture further out. I am only waiting on that move to my next job, which is the best job in the world...retirement. I will be ready for it.
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Old 11-29-2020, 10:46 PM   #4
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Both needs and terrain here.
I wouldn't necessarily say that struggling with my last TV was the situation but, safety was. So towing here in the Carolinas, it's, to the mountains or the coast. Living right smack dab in the central part gives us quite a bit of camping to choose from. We're looking forward to retirement though. By the way we travel, shouldn't be a problem with how we explore different states on our excursions. Just glad we up graded our TV, from midsized to half ton.
We're content with our type of camping but, planning on going further distance, once we enter our retirement plans.
For me, It's really a decision, based upon how much, how far, how often we're going to take this opportunity to travel!!
Just wished I'd started this journey earlier in my life!
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Old 11-30-2020, 02:03 AM   #5
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This is really a fair question and terrain should be a factor when picking a tow vehicle.

For me, picking the tow vehicle was about 3 things:
1. Staying within the vehicles weight ratings and having adequate payload left over.
2. Having enough to power to maintain 65mph while towing our 7500lbs trailer loaded.
3. Simplicity & durability. After having a couple major issues with a previous, late model 1/2 ton, the F250 w/ 6.2 had a good track record of reliability out of a basic engine.

So far, the truck in my signature has met the above needs perfectly. It stays at speed and has taken our family to the OR coast and Glacier National Park without issue.

I know many others disagree and express how inferior the 6.2 is to all diesels and the "mighty" Ecoboost. But, for ME, it has been a great truck.

To add a visual aid for the question of terrain, take a look at the map below showing the topography of the US. For the most part, our country is relatively low elevations.

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Old 11-30-2020, 02:28 AM   #6
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To add a visual aid for the question of terrain, take a look at the map below showing the topography of the US. For the most part, our country is relatively low elevations.

That's a great map to show just how mountainous the West is, compared to the East. Many in the East really have no clue since geography isn't taught much anymore.
For us out West, a strong and capable tow vehicle is a must.
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Old 11-30-2020, 08:43 AM   #7
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That's a great map to show just how mountainous the West is, compared to the East. Many in the East really have no clue since geography isn't taught much anymore.
For us out West, a strong and capable tow vehicle is a must.
Most of the Western Mountains sit on a high plateau. The peaks and hills aren't that much, if any, worse than many in the Appalachian Range. Some of the very toughest hills to climb in the country are in the East.

Because of the mountains sitting on plateaus in the West, the overall elevation is higher. That's what the map emphasizes, not the number of 7% grades.

And while the Western mountains are definitely tougher overall than the eastern ranges, they're not as much as you might think.

Before turbochargers, the western ranges got a reputation because of their altitude. (turbos are an incredible amount of help at altitude) You could easily find a dozen or more cheby suburbans sitting at the bottom of a hill with the owners scratching their butts, wondering what to do.

Now, with the number of diesels and ecobeasts on the road, they're not nearly as daunting.
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Old 11-30-2020, 10:06 AM   #8
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When I was driving a semi in the late 80's. I had an opportunity to travel those western states, where elevation is phenomenal. Now that I'm older, I'm wanting to experience that again someday, with DW. Such beauty as far as the eye can see, on a good clear day.
Leaves me thinking, now that we're traveling...
Instead of purchasing a 1/2 ton but, we'll need a 3/4 to experience those there hill's...
As, the Clampett's from the Beverly Hillbillies
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Old 11-30-2020, 10:49 AM   #9
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This forum tends to focus on the mathematics of the weights in towing. But little attention is given to air resistance. In towing with various SUVs (Suburban, station wagons, Explorer, minivans), I have found air resistance dominates weight at highway speeds. Boats of the same weight tow far easier than campers. Going from an A-frame to a 6" higher, 300lb heavier A-frame was an eye opener. Towing gas mileage dropped from 17 to 14 at the same speed.

The only time weight comes into play is on the steeper grades - and having lived and trailered in the East and West, the grades on highways are generally steeper, but shorter in the East. Many of the interstate and major highway grades in the West are long and fairly straight, enabling much higher speeds upgrade than is possible in the East. This is where towing with marginal power in the West is felt - on a 6-15 mile drag up a 5-6% grade where the speed limit is 65-75.

I have also learned air resistance drops off with altitude - as significantly as power on non-turbo engines. Thus the hit from elevation is not as severe as many think. Fuel mileage is noticeably better at elevation because of both reduced air resistance and reduced power available from non-turbo engines.

None of this is as quantifiable as weight limits are. Ford posts frontal area restrictions on its tow capacities, but few others do. And Ford carefully fails to detail how frontal area is calculated (from the ground to the top times width is overstating frontal area, but how much area is added by the chassis if you start from the bottom of the body, how much difference does a more aerodynamic shape make, etc).

I do know that having the right transmission and differential gear ratios for the desired tow speeds, along with wide torque bands, make a huge difference in perceived towing capability and comfort. My 2008 Hyundai minivan (re-badged Kia) tows exceptionally well considering it only has a 3.5L 250HP V6 with a 5 speed transmission. Far better than the 1993 Ford Explorer (4.0L V6) or the 1994 Plymouth Voyager (V6). We just purchased a 2020 Toyota Sienna to replace the Hyundai (238K miles) when it dies - I hope it tows as well as the Hyundai.

For us, the minivan is more than adequate to comfortably tow an A-frame (3140lbs when weighed for camping) in the Colorado Rockies. The minivan is an extremely comfortable touring car for visiting tourist attractions, city museums, shopping, etc., when camping.

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Old 11-30-2020, 11:31 AM   #10
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Terrain is definitely a good factor when buying a tow vehicle. Our previous half ton was a bit anemic and I avoided a couple trips (camper or car hauler) because one of the areas we have to go through has some significant gullies the highway goes down into. We also knew we wanted to go through the Rockies occasionally. The diesel really shines going up or down significant hills.
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Old 11-30-2020, 03:13 PM   #11
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Stay within the manufacturer's limits. Don't push them. The manufacturers push them way far enough.

And remember, load levelers air bags etc can improve ride, but do not change legal load limits.
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Old 11-30-2020, 07:04 PM   #12
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TV

Wide open question, many variables-like what you are pulling. Going to a 3/4 ton are bigger you gain better brakes, better frame, more relaxed towing experience etc. Going to a diesel you add the engine brake. If you live in a "flat" state and only plan to tow in that area cool. But why limit yourself.
Went from Tundra to F-350 SD diesel-world of difference pulling 7500 lb. TT.
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Old 11-30-2020, 08:10 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by bikendan View Post
That's a great map to show just how mountainous the West is, compared to the East. Many in the East really have no clue since geography isn't taught much anymore.
For us out West, a strong and capable tow vehicle is a must.


I think you last sentence is what I was thinking about. Meaning those in the West a bigger tv is a must whereas the east maybe not so much.


Hereís my analogy. If you live in Florida and donít want to get skin cancer a high level sunscreen is a must. But if you live in Michigan the level is not as necessary. Yes you still could get skin cancer but the risk is much less.

Btw. If I won the lotto Iíd get the biggest baddest tv know to man!
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Old 12-01-2020, 05:54 PM   #14
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Ahh, yes

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Most of the Western Mountains sit on a high plateau. The peaks and hills aren't that much, if any, worse than many in the Appalachian Range. Some of the very toughest hills to climb in the country are in the East.

Because of the mountains sitting on plateaus in the West, the overall elevation is higher. That's what the map emphasizes, not the number of 7% grades.

And while the Western mountains are definitely tougher overall than the eastern ranges, they're not as much as you might think.
You're right, Toe. I was stationed at White Sands Missile Range for two years, commuting from Las Cruces, NM.

Las Cruces was in the high desert, altitude 3900'. So was the missile range, but they were separated by the Organ Mountains (looked like a pipe organ). The peaks were a little over 7000' and the pass (US 70) was about 5725' with steep approaches on both sides.

The Army provided four-speed Diesel-pusher coaches for commuters from Las Cruces. They overheated in the summer. To prevent this, the drivers would drop down to 2nd gear and creep up the mountain, making for long rides. Eventually the mechanics fitted a water-tank pressurized with air, connected to a pipe that ran across the top of the radiator, with piercings regularly across it. When the driver hit the hill, he turned on the air, spraying the radiator. The bus left a trail of steam but could complete the trip in 3rd gear.

There was a lookout at the top of San Agustin Pass. One day, when driving my own vehicle to the post, I saw a young couple at the lookout, standing by an Opel station wagon--Michigan plates--with the hood up, and stopped to ask if they needed help. The young man stated that they were on their honeymoon, the car had overheated coming up the pass, and when he opened the radiator cap even more water had poured out. They were going to continue north when it cooled and get water and coolant at the next gas station.

I suggested they turn around and go halfway down the hill to the gas station in Organ, NM for water and coolant, and come back up the hill in second gear. The man said he thought they would simply proceed north to the next gas station, rather than attacking the hill again. I advised him that he was entering a military reservation and that there were no filling stations for the next 48 miles, until reaching Alamogordo. He agreed that going back was the right thing to do.
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Old 12-01-2020, 06:21 PM   #15
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I think you last sentence is what I was thinking about. Meaning those in the West a bigger tv is a must whereas the east maybe not so much.


Hereís my analogy. If you live in Florida and donít want to get skin cancer a high level sunscreen is a must. But if you live in Michigan the level is not as necessary. Yes you still could get skin cancer but the risk is much less.

Btw. If I won the lotto Iíd get the biggest baddest tv know to man!

Well you can get skin cancer just as easy in Colorado as in Florida . the sun is very intense at elevation . I tow from Montana , through Co , kansas all the way to Florida . but only do so twice a year so the 2500 6.0 gasser fits my needs . of the few passes i go over and am slowed down it's only for a few mins and then the RV is parked for months at a time .

Now if I was hauling the TH every weekend out west i would consider a diesel . my TH weighs in loaded at around 9300,lbs well with in the specs of my 2500 6.0
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Old 12-01-2020, 07:35 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by The Big Toe View Post
Most of the Western Mountains sit on a high plateau. The peaks and hills aren't that much, if any, worse than many in the Appalachian Range. Some of the very toughest hills to climb in the country are in the East.

Because of the mountains sitting on plateaus in the West, the overall elevation is higher. That's what the map emphasizes, not the number of 7% grades.

And while the Western mountains are definitely tougher overall than the eastern ranges, they're not as much as you might think.

Before turbochargers, the western ranges got a reputation because of their altitude. (turbos are an incredible amount of help at altitude) You could easily find a dozen or more cheby suburbans sitting at the bottom of a hill with the owners scratching their butts, wondering what to do.

Now, with the number of diesels and ecobeasts on the road, they're not nearly as daunting.
I think WA kind of falls into this challenging category as well. There's not really a plateau when you start at sea level. While WA is lower in elevation than the states in the Rockies, there is some steep terrain.

A few examples:
Rainy Pass at 5,476', 80 miles east of sea level. (5,100' of the elevation gain is in the last 50 miles of the drive)

Stevens Pass at 4,06, 55 miles east of sea level.

Chinook Pass at 5440', 50 miles SE of sea level.

And, thankfully, the elevation doesn't affect our naturally aspirated trucks like it would passing over some of the 10k' passes in the Rockies.

Very interesting info for sure.
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Old 12-01-2020, 08:02 PM   #17
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I use a 2500HD Dodge truck with the 6.7L Cummins to pull my 34RL Cedar Creek. I have pulled this out west up and over the Continental divide on I70 through the Eisenhower tunnel going to Utah. Going over the divide in 5th gear doing 55MPH, engine RPMS approximately doing 2,000, boost pressure under 30PSI and EGT'S under 800F. I have also towed out east on I40 going over Black Mountain in NC, in 5th gear and the engine operating with the same parameters.

Regardless what anyone has said about the benefits of a GAS engine in a TV, I will always use a Diesel engine vehicle to tow my trailers. In my opinion you can't beat the benefits of a diesel tow vehicle, which the modern diesel trucks encorportate a diesel exhaust brake. Providing high engine torque at low engine horsepower. On Michigan relative flat roads I tow in 6TH gear doing approximately 1600 RPM'S and 65MPH with relative ease.

Just my opinion and $0.02
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Old 12-01-2020, 08:13 PM   #18
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Thanks to all for the great responses. Very interesting.

But in the spirit of my original question/thought I was hoping to get more perspective from those not in the West and mountains. Meaning if you simply were a casual camper in a relatively flat area. Would you go big? Would the tv specs matter as much.

Anyway thanks all. Hard question but great responses.
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Old 12-01-2020, 10:28 PM   #19
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My thought is that everyone balances their priorities differently and therefore it's hard to find two people with the same opinion. How important is the cost? How important is the maintenance? How important is it that the vehicle perform other functions? How important is it that you look cool?

I, too, live in Michigan and I rarely tow my trailer more than 500 miles in a year. That means for me, the desire to have the latest, greatest, biggest, baddest truck is nowhere on my priorities list. I bought my Dad's truck 15 years ago when he got out of camping and it does the job I need it to do just fine. It's a gas engine 1-ton dually two wheel drive. If I had to replace it right now, I'd get something fairly similar, except I wouldn't get dual rear wheels again. For me, the cost of purchase and the cost of maintenance is important, so I'm not a big fan of diesels. I have decided that I am willing to keep my RV small enough that it will tow well with a gasser and just be willing to take my time getting there rather than spending huge $'s to get a TV that will pull my house down the road at 85mph.

I would also like to have a TV that is reasonably comfortable to use as a daily driver. My current TV is not really that nice to drive when empty, so I have a different vehicle I use as a daily driver. If/when I replace my current TV, I'm going to try and get something that I can also use as my daily driver without feeling like I'm compromising too much.

If I had to sum it up briefly, I would say that if I towed a lot, I would try to properly match my TV to my RV. If I am only going to tow minimal miles on relatively level ground, I'd probably be willing to go with something lighter duty in the desire to get a nicer driving rig.

Until my current truck dies, however, it's only speculation on my part...
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Old 12-02-2020, 10:20 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Mch5jdm View Post
Thanks to all for the great responses. Very interesting.

But in the spirit of my original question/thought I was hoping to get more perspective from those not in the West and mountains. Meaning if you simply were a casual camper in a relatively flat area. Would you go big? Would the tv specs matter as much.

Anyway thanks all. Hard question but great responses.
If you look at the upper Left Hand corner on my reply you will see I live in the flat land of IL. We travel and camp about once a week from May to late Sept or early Oct of each year. Than the trailer is put away for the year. We usually do one trip a year for a month or so, and this is when we have towed through the mountains.

Now only you can make the decision if you want a HD diesel tow vehicle or not. I have towed with a gas truck but only twice with a smaller 5er. I said to myself if we were still going to tow a 5er of any size it will be with a HD diesel pick-up truck. I am glad I made the move to the HD diesel pick-up truck, if for no other reason than in filling up the tow vehicle with the 5er attached.
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