Hi Shellback -
I am pretty new to towing, but here is what I learned with my recent experience last fall. Please note that I'm a far cry from being an expert on the matter.
We have 2018 JLU Rubicon, equipped with the factory tow package. This gives us the ability to pull 3,500, same as you. Side benefits of the tow package for our model was the 4pin/7pin power adapter at the tow hitch, beefier alternator, and pre-wiring for a brake controller.
We wanted to "try before you buy" and get a taste of the RV life during the annual ORP 2019 "Not-Cinder's Trip on the Rim". We ended up renting an R-POD 179 and it ticked a lot of boxes for us.
Convertible dinette that slept our 2 kids
Large Pull-Out Slide (for some extra room)
All of this comes in at 2,300 lbs DRY (no water, no supplies).
The R-POD 179 was wonderful, comfy, and easy to pull. It had (if I remember correctly) a 30 gallon water tank and two (2) 15 gallon tanks (1 grey, 1 black water). It also came with a stereo, tv, outdoor shower (in addition to the indoor shower), lots of storage, and a Dometic fridge.
Our experience was very largely positive. We did have a mechanical issue with the driver side brake, but it was no fault of the trailer design. It was the fault of the owner not maintaining their gear properly.
Extra equipment we had to purchase:
Tekonsha P3 brake controller + appropriate wiring harness
Husky weight distributing hitch
Appropriately sized hitch ball for our specific application (2" in our case, our weight distribution hitch came with a 2 5/16")
Grease gun and grease
Gloves (rubber disposable for handling your black water tank disposal)
RV toilet paper / sanitizer tablets
The ball, grease gun, gloves and toilet paper were all surprises for me and represented costs above and beyond what I anticipated. The nice thing, though, is that now I own everything I need to tow a camper trailer again in the future with no extra costs.
Some things I learned.
Brake Controller: Trailer brakes and a compatible brake controller were a MUST for us. No compromises. Especially considering 90% of our trips out of the valley will involve the steep inclines/declines of the I17. Our Tekonsha P3 was extremely easy to install. It utilizes adaptive braking and progressively increases the force applied to the trailer brakes equivalent to how hard you're stopping.
It has an internal sensor that measures how quickly you are stopping. You can manually brake with a touch of a lever, and adjust the amount of braking applied on the fly.
Weight Distribution Hitch: I'd highly recommend a weight distributing hitch for both safety and performance. It essentially uses a "wheelbarrow" effect and help redistribute the tongue weight of the trailer across both your front and rear Jeep axels. This results in better handling, braking, etc...
In the two below images you'll see the before/after.
In the first shot, I just brought the trailer home from the rental place. There is quite a bit of squat.
In the 2nd shot, I've got the WD hitch installed and torqued up, helping to take a huge bite out of the "squat" and leveling the Jeep and the trailer.
Here's a close up of the WD hitch. Sorry it isn't a very good photo and the load bars are not installed in this photo.
There are some zerk/zirc (sp?) fittings to allow for easy greasing up of the load bars. You'll also want to apply a little grease to the ball prior to coupling up the trailer.
Our WD hitch also came with a sway control arm, but I didn't use it. It requires drilling holes in the trailer, and since our was a rental we didn't go there.
Ball Size: Yes, size matters! Our WD hitch came pre-installed with a 2 5/16" ball. Our trailer rental required a 2". I had to go buy one. Installing it is easier said than done. Our new 2" ball required 480 ft/lb of torque to install. I ain't that strong...
Some of the RV forums I was trolling around on had other solutions that involved a B.A.W. (big-assed wrench) and a cheater pipe. Essentially, you will insert the hitch/ball into the receiver sideways and stand on the cheater pipe to get the appropriate torque. You'd then calculate out your weight and the distance up the pipe you need to stand to get the right torque.
Sounded shady. I went up to a local shop and the zipped it on with an air wrench. The shop tech said his air tools produced up to 450 ft/lbs.
Sanitation: Another unexpected expense/experience was related to the black tank. This is the wastewater tank where the really nasty stuff goes.
I ended up needing to purchase some disposable gloves for when I needed to perform the dump of the black tank (see what I did there?) and handle the waste water hose. Dysentery doesn't agree with me, so I figured better safe than sorry.
RV toilet paper. Had to buy a 4 pack for our trip. Not something I thought of until the day prior. This stuff is designed break down quickly and to not gum up your black tank.
Sanitizing tablets. You'll flush one of these. It helps sanitize the tank and deodorize.
Driving: The actual act of towing wasn't anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I had COMPLETELY freaked myself out leading up to the big day. My JLUR was confident, and when the trailer was empty, it was almost like it wasn't back there. I don't know if that is a the bonus of the WD hitch, but frankly, it towed like a dream.
Towing Safety Checklist: I try to be as safety conscious as I possibly can be. My personality makes me pretty risk averse, but I've also got a pretty crappy memory, especially when dealing with an overload of information regarding RV's and towing.
Something I found that helped me out a lot was to create a "towing checklist" in Excel that I printed out and kept in the glove box. It helped me make sure everything was hooked up properly in an order that made sense to me. I also included a "double check" column to force myself in to validating I'd done everything I set out to do.
Videos & Forums: Even though I was just renting for a week and not making a long term commitment, I found that finding some Youtube reviews and joining some forums went a long way in understanding the vices and virtues of the RPOD. The RPOD forums in particular were amazing, with a TON of great information regarding common problems, mods, upgrades, and features between the made different years and models of RPOD. A nice thread was out there on maximizing your battery power when you are dry camping and don't have a generator.
Youtube videos helps me understand the "how" portion of it. The RV has a ton of different "sub-systems". I watched videos on how to flush the toilet (hahahahaha), how to dump the waste water, how to operate the stove, how to properly use the 3-way fridge (it ran on propane, battery, and "shore power"), how to top off the freshwater tank, and many many many more.
I hope this helped, even if only a little. My wife and I have the itch again to buy a trailer, and after our experience - we're pretty sure the RPOD will be at the top of the list of considerations. We've just gotta pay off the Jeep first!
Some comparable trailers we will also consider include:
Forest River Flagstaff E-Pro
Travel Lite Aura 21RB
Jayco Jay Flight
Airstream Sport (in my wildest dreams)
Airstream Nest (also in my wildest dreams)
Since we've got a growing family, we can't expect our two kids to sleep on a dinette, so we're personally going to have to look at something with a bunk bed, or possibly a Class C or Class A motorhome and then flat-tow the Jeep...