Guide to the Best 5th Wheel Hitch for Short Bed Trucks
Picking a 5th wheel hitch for your short bed truck can be challenging. 5th wheel RVs provide many advantages over bumper pull travel trailers, but they also bring some new considerations. There are things you never had to worry about with a traditional trailer. Hitting the side rails of your bed with the pin box, or crashing the corner of your trailer into the back window of your truck. When towing a 5th wheel there are many hitch options, fixed, slider, auto slider. Or there are less conventional options, such as gooseneck conversions and the Andersen Ultimate Fifth Wheel Connection.
My recommendations for best short bed hitch
If you would like to compare all the hitches avaliable checkout the Complete 5th Wheel Hitch Comparison Table.
If you are looking to get straight to my recommendations, here they are.
What is the biggest concern when towing a 5th wheel with a short bed truck?
The biggest concern is turning angle. Until you have your truck and trailer hitched up you won’t know for sure what your turning radius will be. With any hitch you are looking at a few simple measurements can help you to determine its performance with your truck. This short video from B&W Hitches explains a way to estimate your turning angle before making a purchase.
Another thing to think about when choosing a 5th wheel hitch is how often your will remove it from the bed of the truck. Different hitch designs have vastly different weights. Your fitness level and the equipment you have to install and remove the hitch could be a major factor in your choice.
There isn’t one perfect hitch for every situation. This guide should help you determine what features are most important to you and help you pick the best 5th wheel hitch for your truck.
General 5th Wheel Hitch Information
5th Wheel Hitch Weight Ratings
Hitches come in a variety of weight ratings. The lightest ratings are usually 15,000 lbs and the heaviest hitches are rated for 30,000 lbs. Most Manufacturers increase their ratings by about 5,000 lbs as they move up. When selecting a hitch consider the RV you own or are buying now and think about what you may want 5 or more years from now. You will save money in the long run by buying a larger hitch than you need now instead of trading it in when you buy your next 5th wheel.
Bucking and Chucking
Loose connections can cause what is known as bucking and chucking. This is when you feel the RV pushing and pulling against the tow vehicle causing a bumpy unpleasant ride. When the all connections between the 5th wheel king pin and truck frame aren’t tight the RV and truck can move independently. When the loose connection finally runs out of travel a sudden jarring will be felt. Once this starts to happen on a bumpy road it may be impossible to stop without slowing to a stop.
5th Wheel Hitch Mounting Options
How you attach the hitch to your truck depends on how your truck is equipped. If you have a late model Ford, Ram or Chevy with the factory prep kit that includes pucks pre-installed at the factory mounting is much easier.
ISR- Industry Standard Rails
Industry Standard Rails, ISR kits install in your bed and provide a standardized rail system that will work with a variety of manufacturers hitches. Depending on the kit some are permanently installed in the bed and others are removable leaving you bed clear when the hitch is not being used.
Above bed mounting systems
Above bed systems use a bracket that is installed in the bed for attaching the hitch. Like many ISR systems these brackets are left in the bed even when the hitch is not in use. The size and shape of the bracket is determined by the hitch manufacturer, so they are not interchangeable. For example, a Reese system won’t work with a Curt Hitch.
Under bed mounting systems
Under bed systems work like the factory installed puck systems. The mounting hardware is attached to the frame with access holes drilled thru the bed. When you are towing, the hitch is connected to the brackets below the bed. When not in use you can remove the hitch leaving you bed clear of any obstacles.
Kits like the CURT 16424 Custom Fifth Wheel Installation Kit attach to the frame of the truck and may require removing the bed, exhaust or other equipment in your truck. To install most kits you will be drilling holes in both the frame and bed.
Once you install a rail system in your truck you can remove the hitch any time. Be aware that with some systems the rails remain in the bed of the truck and could cause a problem if you try to slide in a sheet of drywall of other items that could be damaged by the rails.
This video from Curt shows the installation process on a Ford F350
Factory Puck Systems
Ford, GM and Ram now all sell ¾ and 1 ton trucks from the factory with 5th wheel prep kits installed.
A factory 5th wheel prep kit makes installing your hitch much easier. Most manufacturers now make hitches that attach directly to the “pucks” in the bed of your truck. If you choose a hitch that utilizes industry standard rails an adapter such as the Reese 30156 Rail Kit Mounting Adapter will attach between the factory pucks and the hitch.
With these factory puck systems, a fifth wheel hitch can be installed in a few minutes without using any tools. If you are in the market for a new tow vehicle I would suggest putting a factory 5th wheel prep on your list of must haves. In addition to the ease of installation the factory prep will provide you with a trailer wiring connector mounted in the bed to make the process of hooking up your RV as easy as possible.
Alternative Mounting Options
In addition to the standard attachment methods there are some interesting alternatives that utilize a gooseneck ball. All factory prep systems include an attachment point for a gooseneck ball. Aftermarket gooseneck mounting kits are also available. These alternatives are great for anyone who tows a gooseneck trailer in addition to their 5th wheel.
Gooseneck Hitch Attachment
The Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection attaches directly to a gooseneck ball making installation quick and easy with no rails or adapters.
The B&W turn-over-ball system is a gooseneck ball that mounts to the frame of the truck. When not in use the ball can be flipped over leaving the bed of your tuck open. When used with the B&W Companion hitch the 5th wheel hitch attaches in the ball socket. This provides a single point connection of their hitch. This simplifies the process of installing and removing the hitch.
This video from B&W shows the installation of a turn-over-ball system
Lastly there are gooseneck adapters like the Andersen Ranch Hitch Adapter and the Reese Goosebox. Both allow you to connect your fifth wheel directly to a gooseneck ball in the bed of your truck. This makes connecting your fifth wheel as easy as any gooseneck trailer. The downside is that unlike most gooseneck trailers an RV has a wide front cap located forward of the hitch. This means that sharp turns may be impossible with a short bed truck. If you consider this option look closely at the design of your RV and take some measurements to be sure it will work for you.
The Reese Goosebox completely replaces the pin box on your RV. The new pin box has an airbag to give you a smoother ride and connects to the gooseneck ball in your truck. This product has been endorsed by Lippert Components, Inc the largest manufacturer of 5th wheel frames. The installation requires several people or some type of lifting device because the Goosebox weighs about 160 lbs.
Ranch Hitch Adapter
The Ranch Hitch attaches directly to the king pin on you RV and allows 12” – 16” of height adjustment. This hitch can be installed in under 30 minutes. If you choose to go with the Ranch Hitch. I would use the version with an 8” offset for a short bed truck. The additional 8” of clearance will allow greater turning radius. Be aware your turning may still be limited which could make backing or even tight turnarounds dangerous. Another concern is that some fifth wheel manufacturers will void the warranty if this type of adapter is used.
The fixed hitch design is time tested. The design is simple and has few moving parts.
Fixed Hitch Weight
The weight of a fixed hitch can vary. The Entry level Curt E16 weighs in at 101 lbs, but the B&W Companion Hitch is a hefty 206 lbs. While the lighter weight hitches can be moved in and out of the truck by one person the heavier options will need a hoist or multiple people to move.
Lightest Fixed Hitch
Demco responded to the light weight design of the Andersen and PullRite SuperLite with their own 21K rated design.
For the Recon Demco decided to keep the traditional 5th wheel hitch connection but used a pyramid base to lighten the weight while maintaining strength.
Fixed Hitch Towing Performance
The towing performance of a fixed hitch can vary depending on the quality of the hitch you choose. Lower cost hitches have a single jaw to lock the king-pin of your trailer in place. More expensive models have a dual jaw system for a more secure connection.
Another thing to look for when choosing a fixed hitch is an articulating head. This makes it easier to hookup and unhook on uneven ground.
The last major difference between more expensive and lower cost models is amount of “slop” in the system. The tighter all the connections are between the truck frame and the 5th wheel camper the better ride you will get.
Fixed Hitch Limitations with Short Bed Trucks
The biggest problem with using a fixed hitch in your short bed truck is limited turning radius. 5th wheel trailers are more maneuverable than their bumper pulled counterparts mostly due to the ability to turn 90 degrees or more. This is usually not possible with a fixed hitch and short bed truck. The last thing you want to do is get stuck at a gas station or get to your campsite and not be able to turn into you site.
Solution for Short Bed Towing With a Fixed Hitch
Reese Sidewinder Pin Box, 2nd Best option for 5th Wheel Towing with Short Bed
One product that solves the problem of using of a fixed hitch in a short bed truck is the Reese Sidewinder and 5th Airborne Sidewinder. This innovative design replaces your RV’s pin box with one that shifts the pivot point of the hitch backwards by 22”. A wedge is installed on the pin box that stops the king pin from rotating in the hitch. This allows the rotation to take place in the pin box instead of at the hitch. With this design, most short bed trucks can still make turns of up to 90 degrees. For an even smoother ride the 5th Airborne Sidewinder adds an airbag in the pin box. This provides the smoothest ride and still allows a great turning radius. The sidewinder provides the best of both worlds allowing you to use a light weight fixed hitch and maintain an almost 90 degree turning angle.
Check out this video from Reese for more information on the 5th Airborne Sidewinder
Recommended Sidewinder Combination under 16K
If your RV’s gross weight is under 16K I recommend the Airborne Sidewinder pin box paired with the Curt A16. This combination provides great maneuverability and a great ride with your short bed truck. The Curt A16 has a wide king pin opening and fully articulating head. These features allow you to easily hookup your RV when on uneven ground. The hitch is designed with a single pin to separate the head from the base making it easier for you to install and remove from you truck bed. It also has an auto-resetting handle with a 3 position coupling indicator.
Coupling Indicator Positions
Uncouple – Jaws are locked open, safe to pull away
Couple – Jaws are ready to couple to trailer
Tow – Jaws are locked close, safe to tow
The A16 is available with several mounting options to fit your needs, Industry standard rails as well as Ram, Ford and GM factory prep.
Some 5th wheel hitches are not compatible with the sidewinder pin box. The Huskey 16K S and Huskey Roller are not compatible. Please verify the hitch you plan to use is compatible with a rotating pin box.
The sliding hitch was developed specifically to address the issue of towing a 5th wheel with a short bed truck. A sliding hitch does exactly what you would expect it to do. It slides forward and backward in the bed of the truck to provide an optimal ride when going straight and optimal turning angle when maneuvering. The tradeoff of a sliding hitch is that they have more parts which means more weight and more items for you to maintain.
Auto Sliding Hitch
Manual Sliding Hitch
Manual Sliding Hitches
Manual Sliding Hitch Weight
Manual sliding hitches are slightly heavier than their fixed counterparts. The entry level Huskey 16K Fifth Wheel with 10-16 glider weighs in at a manageable 136 lbs while the combined weight of the B&W slider with the Ram puck mounting is 305 lbs. So weight is definitely a consideration when comparing manual sliding hitches.
Manual Sliding Hitch Process
When you need to change from towing to the maneuvering position, here are the steps.
- Get out of your truck and pull the slide release lever.
- Get back in your truck pull forward until the hitch locks into position.
- Make any needed sharp turns.
- Get out of the truck and pull the slide release the lever.
- Get back in the truck and back up until the hitch locks into the towing position.
Now you are ready to travel again.
This means that although the manual operation isn’t bad when backing into a camp site if you need to make a U-turn or maneuver around a gas station you must get out of the truck and change the position of the hitch twice.
Some other things to note with manual sliding hitches are. The sliding and sudden locking into position can be a little scary the first couple of times. Finally, you should never tow at road speeds in the maneuvering position. The weight of the RV is positioned too far back in the truck causing unsafe handling and braking.
Auto Sliding Hitches
Best option for full time towing with a short bed
If you do a lot of traveling and plan on leaving your hitch in the truck and an auto sliding hitch is probably the best option for your short bed truck. An auto sliding hitch automatically move back in the bed as you turn. The sharper you turn the further the hitch slides back in the bed. This give you the maximum turning angle and straight towing performance without any manual adjustments. Just hitch up and go, the auto slider will do all the work for you.
There are 2 manufacturers of auto sliding hitches, Demco and PullRite. Both hitches are built well and function in very much the same way.
The Demco Autoslide series is available in models rated from 13K to 21K. Mounting options include ISR and under bed mounting that leaves the bed free and clear when the hitch is removed. A version of the Autoslide is also available that you can mount directly to the Ford factory prep system.
The PullRite SuperGlide series is available in models rated from 12K to 24K. Mounting options include ISR versions as well as under bed versions that use PullRite’s “clean bed technology”.
This video from Demco shows the benefit of an auto sliding hitch
Auto Sliding Hitch Weight
Due to the added parts required to make the hitch work auto sliding hitches are by far the heaviest. The Demco 13K Autoslide with the under bed mounting system weighs an incredible 352 lbs. These hitches are really designed to be left in the bed all the time. So if you use your truck for work or other projects this probably isn’t the hitch for you. Lastly, if you are towing your 5th wheel with a ¾ ton truck and are already close to the max payload you may want to look at one of the lighter options.
5th wheel towing with less than 6 foot bed
Both companies also produce a hitch designed specifically for super-short less than 6 foot beds. The Demco 13K Autoslide and PullRite 12K SuperGlide feature over 20” of travel. These hitches were designed to be used with Ultralite 5th wheel trailers being pulled by ½ ton trucks. The Demco has a slight advantage in these super long travel hitches. It also shifts 2-3/4” side to side while turning creating more clearance between the back of the pin box your bed rails or tonneau cover rails.
Check pricing & reviews on Amazon
Auto Sliding 5th Wheel Hitch Performance
There is no doubt that auto sliding hitches do their job and do it well. There really isn’t an entry level auto sliding hitch. They are all built very well, and you should experience minimal bucking and chucking when using any of them. If you are looking for the safest option to pull your 5th wheel with a short bed truck the auto sliding hitch is it. You will never forget to slide the hitch, or decide that you don’t want to get out in the rain to release the lever and risk damaging your truck or RV. The only down side is they are more expensive and very heavy. If you are planning to be full time in your RV, I would suggest an auto sliding hitch.
Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection
My pick the best 5th wheel hitch for short bed trucks
The Andersen Ultimate hitch is a revolutionary design. It takes the general concept of a gooseneck ball and raises it up to the height of a 5th wheel hitch. The design is available two material options steel and aluminum. It is also available in a rail mount and gooseneck ball mount version. The hitch consists of a pyramid shaped base mounted in the bed with an adjustable ball on the top and a coupler block that attached to the king pin on your 5th wheel. The design is light weight and provides several advantages over a traditional 5th wheel hitch. I recommend this hitch to anyone with a long or short bed, who frequently removes their 5th wheel hitch. In case you are wondering I am not getting paid by Andersen Hitches, I’m just a very happy owner of their product.
Andersen Ultimate ball coupler
The same coupler is included with all versions of the Andersen Ultimate. You attach it to your 5th wheel’s king pin allowing it to connect to the hitch base. The coupler installation takes about 10 minutes using hand tools. To install the coupler you slide the block around the king pin and secure it with 2 long bolts. Next, align the coupler with your pin box and tighten the set screws locking it in place and preventing rotation. Finally, tighten the 2 long bolts.
The locking mechanism is connected by a cable to a handle that is mounted on your RV. If you don’t like the idea of drilling into your RV to mount the handle it can be secured to the pin box using heavy duty magnetic bases.
The coupler has 2 possible mounting positions. The standard position locates the ball socket in front of the king pin providing the most clearance between the RV and the truck cab. In some truck beds like my 6.5’ Ram this position will allow the pin box to hit the sides of the bed when making a sharp turn. To correct this the coupler can be turned around moving the pin box further forward. Slightly reducing the turning angle.
Standard Coupler Position
Reversed Coupler Position
Andersen Hitch Gooseneck Mount Version
The gooseneck mount version is available in aluminum or steel and is rated at an impressive 24,000 lbs. More impressive is the weight of the aluminum version, only 35 lbs! The Steel option is still a manageable 75 lbs. The super light weight of the aluminum hitch makes it great for the weekend RV’er who wants to get home for work quickly get hitched up. Then, at the end of the weekend take the hitch back out of your truck and be ready for the week.
Attaching the Andersen Ultimate Gooseneck Hitch
If you have a truck with a gooseneck ball or factory gooseneck prep you can install the hitch in as little as 5 minutes.
- Set hitch on top of the gooseneck ball.
- Inset the locking pin and secure with a cotter pin.
- Torque the top bolt to tighten the hitch down.
- Torque the 2 locking bolts.
Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection Performance with Short Bed Trucks
I will focus on the aluminum gooseneck version for this section because it is the version I personally own and recommend. The connection to the bed is very secure and with no moving parts there is no potential for any jarring, bucking or chucking with this hitch. The ball socket on the coupler uses an anti-friction coating meaning you will never have to grease this hitch. Once the coupler is locked to the ball the entire system had no slop or movement. Unlike traditional 5th wheel hitches the ball connection makes it possible for you to connect or disconnect your RV on a slope. The “ball funnel” on the coupler even guides the hitch if you are an inch or two off.
The design of the hitch and coupler shifts the pivot point a little bit rearward compared to a traditional 5th wheel hitch, this allows a turning angle almost as tight as a sliding hitch, but with a fraction of the weight. The Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection trades some maneuverability for the light weight and compact design. For anyone who frequently removes their hitch I believe this is the best option.
This picture is my own truck and RV and as you can see I can turn almost 90 degrees with a 6.5 ft bed.
This video from Andersen demonstrates the hitch with and even shorter 5.5 ft beds
Andersen Hitch Rail Mount Version
The Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection is also available in a rail mount version. It is only available in steel and is rated for 20,000 lbs. This hitch can attach to any ISR system or if your truck is equipped with a factory puck system simply use a “picture frame adapter”. The rail mount version can be installed with the ball offset towards the cab for long bed trucks or with the ball offset towards the tailgate to provide more clearance for short bed trucks. The rail mount hitch weighs an impressive 40 lbs.
Andersen Ultimate Safety Chains
There is some debate about using safety chains with the Andersen Ultimate Connection. Because of the ball connection there have been reports of highway patrol officers citing people for not having safety chains. Andersen offers a safety chain kit that I have installed on my own RV. The kit is inexpensive and easy to install. It also gives some extra assurance that you will be safe going down the road. I spoke with Andersen and was told that most hitches are sold without the chains, so I guess it’s up to you. I would recommend using the chains.
PullRite SuperLite 5th Wheel Hitch
After the introduction of the Andersen Ultimate Hitch, PullRite introduced their own variation of a light weight ball connection hitch. The SuperLite is built from steel and rated at 20,000 lbs. While not as light as the Andersen it only weighs 52 lbs.
PullRite reversed the ball connection by locating the coupler on the hitch and attaching the ball to the king pin of the RV. Unlike Andersen the ball connection and locking pin on the SuperLite require lubrication. They do share the tight connection with limited moving parts to provide a smooth ride. Finally, PullRite has introduced a gooseneck adapter for your traditional gooseneck trailers allowing them to be used with the SuperLite.
PullRite SuperLite with Short Bed Trucks
Will the SuperLite work with a short bed truck? The answer to this question is unclear. Similar to the fixed 5th wheel hitch the SuperLite was not designed specifically with short bed truck in mind so the performance will depend on the specific truck and RV combination. But, If you are towing with a long bed truck this might be the perfect solution for you.
5th Wheel Hitch Comparison Table
Check out this table for a side-by-side comparision of most the the hitches on the market today.
When it comes to selecting the right 5th wheel hitch for you there are many things to consider. I hope this guide helped to explain the options and benefits available to you. If you have any questions, or if I missed any hitches you would like to see added to the guide please comment.
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