What Does Dry Weight Mean on a Camper? (GVWR, UVW & Tow Capacity)

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There are various weight measurements and towing capacities relevant for campers and trailers.

It’s beneficial for truck owners to understand what the dry weight means on a camper. However, it’s just one of several useful weights and metrics that are relevant for truck owners, and people in the market for a new or used camper or trailer.

Towing safely is essential to avoid potential accidents caused by exceeding defined limits from the manufacturers.

We aim to provide useful information for people wishing to own an RV towable and pull it with their truck or another vehicle.

What is Dry Weight on a Camper?

The dry weight of a camper is the complete weight of the vehicle when it’s empty. Essentially, it’s the weight of the camper when it’s just left the factory. That’s with no additional items added. This includes no H2O loaded into the freshwater tank, no gray tank usage, no waste sitting in the black tank, and no extra personal items either.

Indeed, the dry weight for another towable like a travel trailer relates to the same thing too.  When owning a tow vehicle and wanting to avoid exceeding its towing capacity, knowing the dry weight of the camper model is somewhat relevant information.

What Does UVW Mean on a Camper?

Another piece of terminology for RVs is the UVW. This is an abbreviation for the Unloaded Vehicle Weight.

The weight measurement may also include necessary engine lubricants, a filled-up fuel tank, and propane to power internal equipment, such as a cooker, heater, refrigerator, or other pre-fitted appliances.

See Also: How to Keep RV Fridge Cold While Driving?

The UVW excludes after-market accessories, dealer-fitted extras, water, other supplies, and driver and any occupants too.

Furthermore, when the dealer has installed extras after the manufacturer, then it’ll be necessary to learn the total weight of the extras and add them to the UVW to use a more accurate figure.

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) vs. Gross Trailer Weight (GTW)

The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is a far more important metric.

A camper’s GVW relates to when it’s been loaded up with a realistic amount of gear. This would include the items that you’d expect to be added or installed inside your camper.

For trailers, this is also sometimes referred to as the Gross Trailer Weight aka the GTW. But don’t get confused about the different terminology for trailers, because it’s the same as the GVW for campers.

By comparison, the dry weight is the weight of the camper or trailer when nothing was added beyond the default, manufacturer’s fit-out on a standard towable model.

Read Also: How to Get Rid of Mildew in My Camper


What Does GVWR Mean on a Camper?

With towable manufacturers, not only do they confirm the dry weight and gross vehicle weight, but they also provide a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).

The GVWR is the maximum that the towable can carry. It is not saying what it’s likely to weigh with extras added by the owner or the dealer.

Instead, it’s saying this is how much the camper or trailer may weigh before potentially risking the structural integrity if overloaded. As a point of reference, this is similar to how bridges have a maximum capacity and can be thought of in this way too. Never exceed the GVWR for your camper or trailer.

Dry Weight vs Gross Weight Camper

The dry weight of the camper is what it weighs without any additional installations, water, propane, or other items beyond how it came out of the factory. It’s functional but it’s in factory condition from the weight standpoint.

The gross weight camper is how much the camper weighs when gear has been added to suit its purpose. That might mean clothes, footwear, foldable camping chairs, and more. It’s essentially an estimate with the difference between the dry weight and gross camper weight being what’s additionally added.

What Does GAWR Mean?

The supporting axle has a rating for the amount of distributed weight it can handle.

With campers and trailers, this is referred to as the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR). This denotes the maximum weight for both the front (FR) and rear (RR) axle limits. This rating is usually different from the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).

Two young women sitting on the roof and bed of a truck

Why is GVWR Less Than GAWR?

An important distinction must be made between the weight that a towable front or rear axle can support and that of the camper or trailer itself.

The GVWR may be lower than the GAWR.

Why is this?

Because the weight bearing down on an axle could exceed the GAWR limits, however, it may still not yet exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This information could be material to both the towing vehicle and/or the camper or trailer being towed.

Trailer Weight vs Towing Capacity

The gross trailer weight is a measurement confirming what it weighs when loaded up. It’s usually an estimate from the manufacturer and will differ from reality.

The towing capacity of a truck is the limit of what it can tow safely. This is provided by the manufacturer and shouldn’t be exceeded.

For instance, a Ford F-150 truck has a lower towing capacity than a Ford F-250 or F-350 truck. Indeed, different models, engine sizes, and specifications alter the towing capacity with the F-150 range of truck models too.

When considering towing capacities to pull a camper or trailer, work both with the manufacturer’s confirmed towing capacity for the tow vehicle and the GVWR for the camper or trailer. The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) may also provide some useful comparison too. Always allow spare capacity between the towing limits of a truck and the estimated total fully loaded, spec’d out weight of a camper or trailer.

Often, the weights are off. It’s easy to unknowingly exceed the maximum towing capacity. Always allow a considerable margin of safety. Exceeding towing capacities can cause serious road accidents. Be forewarned!

Camper Tire and Trailer Tire Max Loads

The tires fitted to the camper or trailer will have their single and dual maximum load stated on the sidewall of the tire.

Consult your camper or trailer manual for proper guidance on recommended tire inflation levels, carrying capacities, and more. Ensure that your tires aren’t the weakest link in the weight-carrying chain.

Closing Thoughts

While the dry weight is a good starting point, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is a more useful metric. Knowing the maximum towing capacity of your tow vehicle to ensure it doesn’t exceed the GVWR is the safest option.

Then you’ll want to weigh the camper or trailer once it’s fully loaded to ensure it doesn’t exceed its GVWR or put too much weight on the front or rear axles either. Lastly, check the tire capacities too. Ensure they’re not exceeded and are inflated with the correct PSI relative to the weight being supported.

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