Choosing an RV – RV Travel Trailers, bumper pull, hitch style


RV Travel Trailers

Travel Trailers are the beginning of what the RV or Recreational Vehicle  has to offer in “fully self-contained” RVs.

Travel Trailers can start very small in size and features, as Travel Trailers can also get very elaborate in size and amenities.  The most distinguishable features of travel trailers are that they are indeed that, trailer living accommodations that is made to travel.  Travel Trailers have hard sides, with the ability to add slides, and now even fold outs similar to Pop Ups, but are typically full height with hard sides during travel.  If there is any canvas on a travel trailer it is typically the fold out awning.

For this piece, we will focus on Bumper Pull Travel Trailers rather than the fifth wheel type covered in another section.  The bumper pull traditional style Travel Trailer was started much earlier in the century, when it was realized that cars had the ability to pull living accommodations behind them.  I have seen Travel Trailers from as early as the 1920’s,

Early Vintage Travel Trailer Example

with beautifully crafted wood interiors and ice box and stove amenities.  I own one from the 50’s that would be hard for me to sell, and is extremely basic, but a love for the vintage RV.

With all practicality of this selection process, these have fun restoration values to them, and can make a love of life as well as a fun hobby and sense of living in history, back in time.

The new RV Travel Trailer will have all the amenities of home.  We are full time RV Travel Trailer “residents if you will”, and ours has a full service bathroom with shower and small tub, full kitchen amenities including built in microwave, duel fuel propane/electric refrigerator and freezer, built in gas stove and oven, even vent hood fan with light, just like at home.  in the year 2009, we have wireless Internet and satellite TV with HD and surround sound.  Travel Trailers can get as big and modern, or as small and efficient as you choose!  In all cases, these are where full time RV use or extended RV stay starts, with hard sides that can give you a sense of four walls and a place to live.  The sizes and floor plans are for each individual need, offering couples with rear living and front living options, as well as bunk house options for Family RV unit Selections.  Look for the letter B for Bunk House, or the give away letters BH, when looking for your RV.

Travel Trailer RV

We wanted the floor plan to be useful for us as a married couple, so the Rear Kitchen Floor Plan gave us the most area for Cabinets.  We got lots of stuff, and bring everything with us.

Travel Trailers can be any number of beds, any length you typically choose, run a price range of 12,000 dollars and up to 50,000 dollars for new Travel Trailers with four slides and the weight that would require a diesel pulling vehicle to pull it with.

Your pulling vehicle may determine your RV Trailer Limit!  Many of the small RV Travel Trailers can be pulled with a car or light pick up truck.  With the thresh hold of about 5000 lbs dry weight, most can be pulled with a half ton pick up truck and a gasoline motor with some strength.  Automatic Transmissions are a must for pulling capacity, as a manual transmission is made to slip upon start, and will slip much more dramatically when pulling heavy weight.  Automatic Transmissions pull much more weight.  Your motor’s horsepower will also make a big difference, a 6 cylinder engine not pulling near the amount of RV Travel Trailer  the 8 cylinder sibling can with some bragging horse power.

Beyond our 25 foot Jayco Travel Trailer with a small slide at about 5000 lbs dry weight, we can fill it up with our gear and belongings, and have power to handle the altitudes in the Colorado Rockies with our motor’s horsepower, as well as have four wheel drive low gear,  to be able to shift to, if we get in a high climbing grade situation.

To summarize, match your weight, vehicle to RV Travel Trailer, and you should be prepared to go coast to coast, even through high altitude and steeper mountain areas.

(We have been in four wheel drive low and doing a 26 percent grade up California’s Senora Pass.  Don’t recommend that one!  We did have rear differential failure once, the weaker single axle puller, and now have a better limited slip rear end in the truck.)

Price as well as vehicle pulling capacity, size and beds, all are based on what you need in your RV.  The offering however is vast, so you will be pleased to start in this area.  You will need a hitch on your vehicle, and we highly recommend you do get two things, for yes another 400 dollars!

  • Heavy duty hitch on vehicle, not just a bumper hitch.  (bumper mounts are weak!  Frame Mounted Square Receivers are far better)  This could cost 250 dollars.
  • Leveling bars for leveling out the weight of vehicles.  This requires big receiver component with level bar attachments, as well as bars.  This leveling system might cost 400 or more.  It is well worth it. (It pushes the weight to your front tires, making turns much more predictable.  Rear vehicle overweight makes your front end light!  This system pushes the front of your vehicle down to be more level, bringing headlights back down, as well as required steering weight!)
  • Install a towing sway bar, if you feel you need one.  (The sway bar has simply a friction bolt to tighten and loosen, that adds friction to your sway motion.  This will help keep from basic swaying due to wind, but will have friction from the component to return to straight.  This can create a push or over steer, so for the safest in towing, go slower than you normally might to remain at a safe speed.  We are not big fans of sway bars, if weight distribution and leveling bars are all set up correctly.)
1957 Comet Travel Trailer with Bay Window

Please consult the advice of your manufacturers for your vehicle and RV for recommended attachments, Weight matching, as these are opinions to consider before asking these questions.  Here is a shot of our old camper, the vintage 1957 Comet Travel Trailer.  They call these Vintage Travel Trailers, Canned Hams.  Can you see the similarity to the vacuum packed can of ham?

1957 Comet Travel Trailer with Bay Window

14 thoughts on “Choosing an RV – RV Travel Trailers, bumper pull, hitch style

  1. I have a 1955 Comet that I’m trying to restore. Do you have any pics of the inside so I could see what it’s supposed to look like in good shape? My trailer doesn’t have the bay window like yours. I know that the ice box is original in mine, but the stove has been replaced by an old ugly brown 70’s model. I live in Tulsa and it’s hard for me to find other vintage trailer enthusiasts here to talk shop. I’ve never tried any project this big before and I feel a little overwhelmed. Thanks and I love the trailer.

    • I wish I did have inside pics for you. It is currently with my son in law. It is a simple layout. Bed on one end, built sidewall to sidewall, and as long as a small bunk bed size mattress is wide. The other end has booth benches on each side, with a table that dropped to the table benches to also make a bed. Over the wheel wells on the back side was small refrigerator, (ice boxes back then), and small three burner stove, and the other wheel well had a cabinet that made a great table area. I think the new ones of these sizes such as TAP

  2. I also have a 1955 Comet. It’s the 12′ model and it’s in rough shape. We just got it today, but I can send you pictures to compare our campers. I still have much of the original interior in place, but the counter area is a mess. There appears to be original cushion covers under some sewn sheets. Let me know what you’d like to see.

  3. Well, I’m about as deep as I think I want to go, today. I tore out the paneling on the rear bed end and found the expected rot. All of the cross boards are wet and rotted, from the ceiling to the floor. The side wall paneling is peeling some, but the frame seems to be, acceptable. The front of the trailer looks to be about as bad, but I haven’t removed any paneling yet. Will I have to remove the skin to replace the horizontal boards or is there another way?

  4. Hey Mike! Sure, you can post your pictures here! Where you write your post, you should see a box above that allows you to add pictures from your picture files. Put a brief description after you add the picture, and be sure and click the right box, (insert in post), to get it to upload. I can create a new category for this string too, Vintage RVs… I love all types of Vintage RVs, especially these old “canned hams”. You can poke them on a river beach and be right in the action, I love that about them, they go anywhere. Good luck in your find, and don’t get discouraged. It is just wood frame with tin outside and wood paneling inside. The decor is the fun part once the wood frame is restored. I believe you have do disassemble from the outside in, starting with taking the outside tin off, then the framing, then the inside paneling last. I hear the new Tab RVs are 15k. Check them out! I peaked in one. Very cool for ideas too!

  5. I’m looking into buying a 1964 Comet trailer. I am a first time buyer and was wonding if the brand had a good history and if you had any advice for things I should look out for or be aware of with the brand. Any direction you could give would be much apriciated.


    • I only know of Comet RV Travel Trailers from our 1955 Vintage Canned Ham one.

      What do I know about Comet? I have learned (subject to more thorough information) Comets were not made in Indiana like many Travel Trailer builders. My Comet was built in Wichita, Kansas. I have loved our comet, of course you must love any canned ham style RV like that. I think any Vintage RV is excellent if solid! Comet is more rare than Airstream, Jayco, Shasta, but in good shape, can be enjoyed as much as any other. Having rare is sort of cool. They are all a part of American nostalgia of Vintage RVs, and a 1964 is indeed vintage for sure!

      Vintage RVs have wood frames that are built from the inside out. Do look over the RV as you would any other, but one good trick is to stand in the middle of the floor, push up on the ceiling, and if it moves anywhere, the ceiling wood structure is weakened. If the ceiling is strong everywhere, then is a good indication the structure is good.

      These were built from the inside out. The frames were put together, walls were built made of 2X2’s of sorts, each panel was built with the interior panels, then assembled so that the interior was underlapping between the ceilings and the walls. The last thing; outside skin was put on. The problem in redoing these is that you must pull the outside skin, tin first, then the entire frame complete with interior panel.

      In other words, to redo the whole thing if it is weak, basically you have to tear it completely down and rebuild it.

      Restoring a Vintage RV Travel Trailer is not easy if you have ceiling structure weakness. Everything else adds up too, Air Conditioning, Refrigerator, heater, stove, all this does add up.

      It does depend on what you want to do with it. If you are camping within a few hours of where you live, primitive dry camp, don’t mind coolers, don’t need air conditioning, as long as the roof doesn’t fall in on you, cool!!!

      If you choose to redo your Comet, Cool! All is American History to be enjoyed! I would love to see it!

  6. Thanks for the great advice. I am new to all this. I grew up working on vintage cars. (mustangs, camaros, etc.) but I’m a first itme buyer when it comes to vintage trailers. I love camping and I love the classic look of older American made products so I have been drawn to the vintage trailers for while now but have been limeted by my budget ( I’m a teacher) . I have been driving past this Comet on the street where I grew up for a while now and finally got the courage up to leave the owner if he would ever consider selling it. To my surprize he called me back. Right now he is out of my price range by about $100.00 But he is willing to talk to me about it. So I’m hoping we can hammer out a deal that will make us both happy. He seem like a genuinly good guy.

    I will try your advice about standing in the middle and pushing on the floor and the ceiling at the same time. Any advice on what other tricks I might use to check the other trailer systems (gas,electric, water tanks, appliances?) I know that the rear lights do not work and the grey water tank has a hole in it. The tank is sheet metal. Do you think a welded patch could be a solution? Also the wooden fender wells seem a bit weathered. Is that somthing that I would need to tear the trailer completly apart to fix or could I treat them in some way?

    Hope that I’m not overwhelming you with questions.

    Thanks for your helpful advice.

    • The propane gas system in my old Vintage RV is nothing but a bunch of copper lines, hardware store stuff. The stove is easily checked with a match. Rear lights are typical set of wires, that is easy, tanks should probably be bought, but the plastic ones you bolt up can’t be that expensive. If your old refrigerator works and is electric, all I can say is WOW. Many of the old RVs were just simply ice boxes with a drain. Not sure about RVs made in 1964. General appearance and condition is mostly what you would look at, I think. Do look at the axle and frame, looking straight and all. Wood rot is probably the worst thing, so again how important an area, and what results you want out of it. I think you can cover some areas with tin, if you want to prevent or protect areas. Paint is always good, with primer to help it stick. Depends on how deep of rot, some might just need some replacement if in an important area.

      Vintage RVs like this will require a few dollars, but the pleasure you get is a lot of fun. Again how far will you pull it, how important it be perfect, and how showy do you want to be with results. That is the big thing. After that, it is a primitive sort of fun for sure! Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

  7. This one is all copper piped. The frig. is gas cooled which I did not know was really possible. ( I thought that Harrison Fords character in the Mosquito coast just made that theory up.) I have hope on the rot issue because it has been stored here in Arizona for what sounds like over 20 years. Our lack of rain fall may work in my favor. My hope is to restore it a little at a time as I get the $$$ and still be able use it as it under goes restoration. I would like it to look nice, but I really. want to be able to use it if I am able to get it. If it all works out I will try to attach some before pictures to my next comment. Do you have a specific vintage RV picture section on your forum?

  8. Sure! If you sign in using our system and get a name and pw, I can set you as author, and you can post pics and make comments. I can then categorize it. If you get a sign in, let me know, and I will set it for you and let you know when I do.

    I live in Colorado now, and the dry climate is huge! We have lots of log cabins around that are over a century old, and still look good. Should make a big difference!

    Sounds like a play while restoring for sure. Gas frigs are the best, and actually did not expect it. Our modern living quarters here has a gas/electric, so that It will switch to propane if there is an electric power disconnect, runs on gas while running down the road. Level is important for Gas fridges, so make sure the unit is very close to level.

    Sure, would love to see the pics!

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