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Towing a travel trailer with a Class B van

| Updated Nov 6, 2021

If I had known ahead of time how high some of these mountains out here in Colorado really were, I'm not sure I would have decided to tow a travel trailer on our Great Roadtreking Family Vacation of 2013.

But now that I'm here and have climbed those super steep grades and come down them with brakes nearly smoking, I'm glad I did.

At about 8,500 feet towing the travel trailer

I'm towing a 21 foot long AmerLite travel trailer that we bought just for this trip from American RV in Grand Rapids, MI. It weighs 2,780 pounds. Empty. With supplies and gear for my daughter, Wendy; son-on-law, Dan, and granddaughters Hua Hua and Rachel and Charlie the Goldendoodle (he weighs 75 pounds), we've probably added another 200-300 pounds to the towing weight.

The Roadtrek eTrek on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis is rated for 5,000 pounds towing weight.

It has pulled that trailer up and down mountains all over Colorado. We've towed that trailer to 0ver 9.500 feet. The pictures accompanying this post were taken while we were coming down from the mountains at the Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado the other day.

Sticking the camera outside the driver's side window from our Roadtrek eTrek you can see part of the trailer we're towing and Jeff and Aimee in the Roadtrek SS Ideal in the background and behind them, in our Honda Pilot, my daughter and her family.

The biggest effect towing a travel trailer has on our Roadtrek is mileage. The normal 17-18 mpg I get with the eTrek has been cut to between 10-12 mpg, This now after more than 2000 miles of travel.

Pulling up a typical mountain grade of 7 to 8%, I'm lucky to get my speed up no more than 45-50 mph. Going down, I shift the gears down and use the engine to help brake, as well as the brakes on the trailer, tied to my Sprinter brakes by a brake controller.

On super steep grades, on a couple of occasions we have had had to let those brakes cool down by pulling over to the road at the bottom of a descent to let them cool off.

So far, it's been no problem at all. We still have to get home, so I am sure there will be more to write about towing a trailer with a Roadtrek on the remaining 2,000 miles back.

Right now, we're spending several days at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. That's about 8.500 feet in elevation.

But at the mid-way point in our family vacation, this has been a ball. My son Jeff and his wife Aimee are following us in a Roadtrek SS Ideal. We've picked up lots of curious looks from people seeing two Roadtreks and a travel trailer in a caravan.

But the funniest moment came when a fellow camper, spotting us in the campground in our matching Roadtrek windbreakers, asked: “Are you guys in some sort of gang or something?”

Oh yeah. We are. A Roadtreking gang.


Mike Wendland

Published on 2013-08-13

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

15 Responses to “Towing a travel trailer with a Class B van”

September 15, 2014at11:51 am, Joan Oberlander said:

Hi Mike,
I am thinking of buying a SS Ideal…..what did your son get for mpg in the mountains and how did it drive going up the mountains. also how does it handle in snow mountain roads?
I am wondering if you could have brought tent and sleeping gear , etc. for three extra people in the SS Ideal?
Thank you for the wonderful information you give about the Roadtrek because of you I am considering buying one.

March 03, 2014at3:02 pm, Tim Kennelly said:

Hi. Really enjoy these discussions on towing with the Road trek Sprinter/ Mercedes. I too will retire & wife very comfortable with Van vs. RV. I
also weighing possibilities of comparable slide in campers which have two power slide-outs which give more space than a camper van. The new Ram small diesel pick up truck is in the high 20’s & with the right tow gears should easily tow 7,500 lbs. Plus I will also be able to pull enclosed motorcycle trailer or jet ski- fishing boat etc. During different seasons activities. Really thought engineering by now would yield a higher tow capacity Mercedes engine van with 9 speed transmission & in the 20’s as well. I Know manufactures are all working on better built & higher efficiency for the future. If other folks have down sized RV needs the van looks easier to park. However, use of a pick up when not traveling is great buying supplies at Lowes & bringing home furniture from Costco that would not fit in my vans ( 2013 Chrysler w/ stow in go seats). Lots of room but no match go long bed pickup truck.
Being able to walk back to fridge in RV to the fridge or stretch your legs instead of pulling over with pickup camper combo is a plus too! Would like to here from others that made these choices & how they like the Road trek lifestyle vs. Truck camping. Not motor home comparisons-that to me is apples & oranges with a 35′ unit! Cheers! Cherish your freedom & enjoy the ride! TIM

March 03, 2014at2:35 pm, Tim Kennelly said:


February 10, 2014at5:21 pm, Mike Wendland said:

No, Jonathan Miller YOU are wrong. The Permitted Weight and Loads page from the 2012 Sprinter Chassis Owners Manual (Chassis Year of my Roadtrek) there is a 5,000 lbs towing capability. Now it is true if you max out the weight carrying capacity of the chassis you can loose some of your towing capacity. But In the case of our E-Trek, loaded with gear etc. I am allowed to weight in at 9990 lbs GVWR . With my Roadtrek loaded with gear etc., plus my loaded trailer, I am allowed to weight in at 14,900 lbs GVWR. So, 14,900 lbs minus 9990 lbs comes to 4910 lbs remaining that I can tow , so I loose 90 lbs if I load your Roadtrek to its maximum weight rating. If I load my Roadtrek to 9900 lbs (or less) Iu maintain the 5,000 lbs towing capacity. AN loaded up, I am nowhere near 9900 lbs.

February 09, 2014at6:44 pm, Jonathan Miller said:

Luckily you got a small lightweight trailer. Unfortunately you are spreading the misinformation that the e-Trek has a 5,000 lb towing capacity. It does not. It has a Class IV Hitch which is rated at 5,000 lbs. The true measure of towing capacity is to take the Gross Combined Weight rating (heaviest that vehicle and trailer can weigh) and subtract the Gross Vehicle Weight rating (the most the vehicle can weight) and that tells you the towing capacity. According to Roadtreks literature that works out to 4,220 for the e-Trek. Including water and all the junk inside. So yes it can tow, but if you get a 5,000 lb trailer you will be grossly overloading the e-Trek.

December 11, 2013at6:32 pm, Jim Baldwin said:

Mike, we towed our 22″ Airstream Sport through those mountains with a Dodge Durango with the 4.6L engine this summer. We get the same mileage and the same uphill speed as you. Coming down the 7%-10% grades (like coming into Jackson Hole from Idaho) I go down to first gear, put on my blinkers and roll along at 35 MPH without so much as a tap on the brakes. Works great!

October 04, 2013at10:01 pm, armani japan said:

seiko セイコー

August 19, 2013at11:19 pm, Mike Wendland said:

PauL: Write and they will be glad to oblige!

August 19, 2013at10:01 pm, PAUL said:


August 13, 2013at11:00 pm, Nancy said:

What better gang to belong to!

August 13, 2013at10:05 pm, Okinawa57 said:

Saw my first Roadtrek this afternoon on Highway 24 west of Divide, CO. Lookin’ good!

August 13, 2013at6:44 pm, Mark Handler said:

It’s that Wild Wendland Gang! Clear the road! 😉

August 13, 2013at5:15 pm, Pam Hicks said:

30,000 RT’s on the road = a very big gang 🙂

August 13, 2013at4:41 pm, Lucy said:

Is Jennifer driving? Looks scary to me!!!!

August 13, 2013at4:36 pm, Lawrence Evans said:

You are really convincing me that I need to buy a Roadtrek when I retire next year. That is very impressive, towing a travel trailer up those huge mountains with your little Roadtrek. Wow!

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