Ultra Lite Travel Trailers,
Guide to Light Weight RVing

Ultra lite travel trailers are catching on like wildfire! And when you go light, you'll need less fuel for the fire. You also won't need a monster truck to tow them. In fact, chances are, the same vehicle in your driveway will tow something resembling a travel trailer (if it has any tow rating at all, of course!).

And don't worry, you won't have to throw out the kitchen sink, as "ultra lite" doesn't equate to an empty box on wheels. These are full fledged RVs with all the fixings.

It's exciting to see all the new developments in this relatively new ultra-lite category. High-tech composites, super lightweight aluminum construction, and eco-friendly designs are changing the shape of the RV industry. Join me for a look at the lites.

ultra lite travel trailer
The Element is an ultra lite travel trailer by Evergreen RV that is virtually wood free

Ultra Lite Advantages

  • Ultra lite travel trailers can be towed by many 1/2 ton trucks, SUVs, mini vans, and crossover vehicles - and some can be towed by small passenger cars.
  • Most have an aerodynamic design which puts less strain on the tow vehicle and results in better fuel economy.
  • In addition to being lighter in weight, many are made of more durable materials, increasing the life of the travel trailer and minimizing depreciation.
  • Easier on the environment: with less weight to haul around, you'll use less fuel. You also won't need a heavy duty tow vehicle, which requires more resources to manufacture and maintain.

Construction

While there are a few ultra lite travel trailers made of molded fiberglass, these "egg campers" remain a small niche. Today, aluminum and high-tech composites are the prized materials used in constructing the lightest and most durable travel trailers.

Aluminum

Aluminum is quickly becoming the material of choice in constructing ultra lite travel trailers. Depending on the model, you'll find aluminum frames, floors, roofs, walls, cabinets, and even aluminum framed furniture. The more the merrier, as aluminum is roughly 40% lighter than steel. And unlike steel, it will not rust. Nor will it rot like wood. It's also 100% recyclable.

Taking aluminum construction to the max, is Livin' Lite Recreational Vehicles. Their Camplite travel trailer is constructed entirely of aluminum and composites. With a dry weight as low as 1400 lbs this is one of the lightest ultra lite travel trailers out there.

light weight travel trailer
Light weight travel trailer by Livin' Lite constructed entirely of aluminum and composites

High-Tech Composites

Unheard of in RVs made 5 years ago, composites are now becoming quite popular in ultra lite travel trailer construction. Composites are used to construct walls, roofs, and floors.

Lighter and stronger than wood, composites also provide much better protection against moisture damage than commonly used lauan paneling. In fact, composites are practically waterproof.

More advantages to composites:

  • No off-gassing from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, which is used in lauan paneling
  • Better insulation value
  • Recyclable

Molded Fiberglass

Molded fiberglass travel trailers, or egg campers as they're commonly called, have been around for a few decades. Fiberglass can make for a lightweight, durable, and aerodynamic travel trailer that can be towed by a small car. None exceed 20 feet in length and all are light enough for a single axle chassis.

These light weight travel trailers are durable enough to last decades. They can be compact and short on living space, which makes them better for short trips. Manufacturers of molded fiberglass travel trailers include Scamp, Casita, and Eggcamper.

Lightweight Features

Some innovative ideas are helping to shave off additional poundage in the quest for lightest of the lite.

Lightweight Slide-Out Mechanisms: Accu-Slide by Norco Industries has created an entire slideout mechanism that weighs less than 40 lbs. Considering that traditional slideouts add a substantial amount of weight, expect to see more lightweight version like this.

Lightweight Stabilizer Jacks are typically made of aluminum instead of steel, saving weight.

Ultra lightweight fiberglass propane cylinders like those used on the Evergreen Element save weight and are much easier to handle than steel tanks.

Double-Paned Acrylic Windows such as those found on the Jayco Skylark provide better insulation than glass and are more lightweight.

Spread Axle Systems are becoming increasingly popular. With this design there is more space between the trailer's axles, which in turn lowers the trailer hitch weight. It also provides for a smoother ride. The downside is that spread-axles can increase tire wear when making turns.

Enclosed Underbelly: Many ultra lite travel trailers have an enclosed and protected undercarriage. This can increase the RV's aerodynamics resulting in less strain on the tow vehicle and better fuel economy. Another bonus is that the holding tanks, as well as the whole RV, will be better insulated.

ultra lite travel trailer
The Skylark ultra lite travel trailer by Jayco has an aerodynamic V-nose design

Green RVs

There is a green revolution taking place, and that goes for the RV industry too. Ultra lite travel trailers are at the forefront of green RVing. Not only do they require less energy to tow, many are built using sustainable materials and in an environmentally friendly manner.

How do you know if the ultra lite travel trailer you have your eye on is really green? Good question. That's where "green certification" comes into play.

ultralite travel trailer
The Jayco Skylark ultralite travel trailer has achieved emerald certification by TRA

Third parties like TRA Certification Inc. and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) have a process of evaluating RVs for their "greeness". These organizations look at several factors including RV design, materials used, and the manufacturing process in order to rate an RV.

To find out which manufacturers have RVs with TRA Certification, visit the Certified Green webpage. The more popular green RVs become, the more it will drive other manufacturers to follow suit in building eco-friendly RVs. It's up to us to choose wisely.

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