What do I need to know about trailers - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-23-2006   #1
Loveland, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 128
What do I need to know about trailers

Hey Buzzers,
I just bought a 14' raft setup. I have a Subaru Forester, which is pretty small inside, so I am thinking I'll need a trailer to transport this raft, frame, and other gear. I know nothing about trailers except that they go behind the car. What do I need to look for in a good one. My car has a tow rating of 2000lbs and a tongue weight of 200lbs-what is tongue weight and why do I care? I am thinking that I will want a smaller trailer and deflate/break down the raft to load it-does anyone pull a trailer large enough to put a 14' inflated raft on it with a similar size vehicle? Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks, Paul

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Old 09-23-2006   #2
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,011
Hi Paul,

The rule of thumb is that at least 10% of the total weight of the trailer should be on the hitch, or tongue -- that's what the tongue weight is. So if you estimate the entire rig (trailer, boat, gear in boat, etc.) weighs 1,000 pounds, then you want at least 100 pounds of weight bearing down on the hitch ball. That will keep the trailer stable as it goes down the road -- sort of like how a dart is nose-heavy so it flies straight. When you see trailers going down the road wiggling, it's likely they have too little tongue weight, or a tire with low pressure (which will blow out shortly).

On the tow vehicle itself, even though it's rated to 2,000 pounds, I'd stay as far below that as possible. Pulling at the limit will stress your drive train real quick. I'd say a small trailer weighing less than 4-500 pounds itself, plus another 500 pounds of gear, and you'd be OK.

You might be able to find something in that category that would let you stay inflated and rigged on the trailer, which will be a great labor-saver. Set up properly, you can back it right into the water and unload and load in about 2 minutes, and be the envy of everyone else on the ramp.

One thing I'd recommend would be to see if you can get an auxiliary transmission cooler for your model, so you can keep the transmisison fluid temp as low as possible. And since it's not likely a raft trailer will have its own brakes, make sure the brakes on the tow vehicle are in good shape.


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Old 09-23-2006   #3
rwhyman's Avatar
Unincorporated Douglas County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 971
The tow rating is the total weight of the trailer and everything you put on it must not exceed 2000 lbs. The tongue weight is how much downward pressure you can put on the ball on your car. The trailer must be loaded in such a way so that there is slightly more weight on the front of the trailer so that there is downward pressure but no more than 200 lbs. You should be able to lift the tongue by yourself, but it should be tough to do unless your a big bobybuilder type dude. I see a lot of people using aluminum snowmobile type trailers behind lighter type vehicles. The other thing to remember is that the smaller the wheels, the faster the spin when your ripping down the highway and the more likely you will have wheel bearing problems. Get the bearings repacked once a year if you put a lot of miles on (it shouldn't cost a lot and it's good insurance) and keep them out off the water when loading and unloading. I personally wouldn't want to pull an inflated 14 ft raft behind a Forester, especially in a cross wind.
I know a guy that pulls an enclosed trailer that is kind of his rafting garage, so all his stuff is inside and you never leave anything behind. Stap the frame to the top.
You might want to talk to AAA. They make a trailer designed for rafts that looks pretty nice and I'm pretty sure it is aluminum.
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Old 09-23-2006   #4
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Golden, Colorado
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I've had 6 or so trailers, mostly old or crappy ones. I don't recommend buying the cheapest one out there. The last thing you want is a broken axle (done it), a wheel flying off (been there).

Given your capacity, I'd be hesitant to go with a steel frame. If you're planning on carrying a loaded trailer with coolers and gear (which can weigh about 1000 pounds alone), you will want as light a trailer as possible. Although they're expensive, aluminum trailers save half the weight and will pull better over the passes. This one is about $2K. http://www.alumaklm.com/sections/pro...uct_category=5

The rig that I've seen that I really like is a utility trailer with about 30" sides (like the one above), with a wood platform built up above for the raft itself. That way you can load the trailer bed with coolers & dunnage without have it blow out of the raft on the highway. If you go with a flatbed (like a snowmo trailer) you can load & launch, but you need a full crew to pull a loaded boat off without rollers. There are a few companies that make custom raft trailers, but I'm thinking those will be heavy and expensive.
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Old 09-23-2006   #5
pnw, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
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thats a pretty incredible trailer if its unloaded weight is 440 lbs.
"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 09-23-2006   #6
Parker, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
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I also have owned trailers for years. I do not ever remember not owning a trailer. I once owned small, light cheap one that I pulled with an Isuzu Trooper. I overloaded the trailer more than once, damaged it and had to haul it out of the mountains in a stock trailer.

I currently own a trailer with a bed that measures 5' X 10' and 30" sides. As previously discussed, I have a platform for the raft on the trailer and carry it inflated with all of the gear underneath the raft on the bed of the trailer. The trailer has an axle rated for 3500 lbs and I carry a 14' raft with it. By the time I load it for a Westwater trip with frame, dry boxes, ice chest, ect.. it is well over 1,000# of gear. I would never try to pull it with anything that has a 4 cylinder engine. It is just to heavy. If you want to transport a 14' raft fully outfitted for multi-day trips you are going to need a trailer that is to big for your vehicle.

If you want to minimize your cost my suggestion would be to find a rafting partner that can share the expense of owning the raft and gear and that has vehicle that will pull a trailer large enough to carry it all.

I am a Kayaker and I co-own a raft with a partner who does not Kayak. We share the cost and he oars the boat. I kayak, he carries the gear. We have been partners for over 5 years and have never argued about the raft. That works best for us both and I am grateful that he puts up with me. Who knows some day when I am to old to Kayak, 80 or so... I might even learn how to oar that raft.
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Old 09-23-2006   #7
pnw, Colorado
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Even at 80 your sons will keep you paddlin....
"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 09-23-2006   #8
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The forester is fine if it has a tow package. Trailers are cheap at harborfreighttools.com. Get the 4 x 8 and put the deck on a little bigger. Seal deck with layer or two of paint. Get the 6in wide wheels (not the 4in) and a set of Bearing Buddies. Pulls a sled, raft, wood, dirt bike, ATV, etc and all ya s*%t when the wife kicks ya out for spending to much on toys.
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Old 09-23-2006   #9
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Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,820
I haul a 7 x 10 modified aluminum snowmobile trailer with a 14' raft and all my gear just fine with my 1994 Subaru Legacy wagon. It tows just fine and I haven't had any trouble hauling when its fully loaded for multi-day trips. I do wait until I'm over the passes to load up on groceries and water so I'm not pulling anything through the mountains that I don't need to be carrying up to the tunnel and Vail Pass.

Marshall Welding in Salida can do custom modifications (rollers in the back are sweet), Lampert Hitch in Denver on 38th Ave installed my hitch.

Good luck,

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 09-23-2006   #10
Lakewood, Colorado
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 82

Looks like a pretty great trailer!

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