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What You Need to Know About Truck Campers

What You Need to Know About Truck Campers

A camper that’s as versatile as a camper van but separate from your vehicle, enabling you to go explore or run errands without breaking camp. Sounds great, doesn’t it? That camper is a reality! If this is the kind of lifestyle you’re looking for, then a truck camper might be right up your alley. 

What Is a Truck Camper?

A truck camper is a camper that sits in the bed of a pickup truck, also called a pickup camper or slide-in truck camper. Truck campers come in a variety of sizes and can fit in a variety of different truck beds. Additionally, they are excellent RV choices for the solo traveler or adventurous couple who want versatility and all the comforts of home. 

truck camper

Types of Truck Campers

There are several types of truck campers available on the market that fit just about any need – from small, pop-up truck campers to large truck campers that will blow your mind.

Hard-Sided Truck Campers

Hard-sided truck campers slide into the truck bed and have an overhang over the cab of the truck. They can be big or small and can even feature slide-outs. They also have hard walls and are tall enough that you can comfortably stand up in them.

Pop-Up Truck Campers

Pop-up truck campers sit in the bed of a pickup truck, too. But to use the camper, you’ll have to pop up the top. These are popular options for overlanding because the pop-up truck campers have a lower center of gravity and aren’t as heavy in general. These campers are shorter for more overhead clearance and less wind-resistance. They can sit on a smaller duty truck, but they typically come with fewer creature comforts and have poorer insulation than hard-sided campers.

Flat-Bed Truck Campers

These truck campers are specially designed to sit on a flat-bed truck. This allows more use of the space that would typically be taken up by the sides of the bed of a standard pickup truck. Instead of the skinnier bottom section, flat-bed truck campers can utilize the extra bed space for more storage or tank space. 

Truck Camper Details

Sizes

Truck campers come in a variety of sizes to fit a variety of trucks. You can find truck campers for short beds and long beds, and some will have a 1-3+ft overhang off the back of the truck for additional living space. Some of the smallest truck campers can fit on half-ton trucks, while some of the largest truck campers have dry weights of over 4,000lbs and need a heavy-duty 45-series+ dually.

Slide-outs

While many truck campers don’t have slideouts, there are quite a few models that do. Slide-outs make these campers much more comfortable to live in, but they add a considerable amount of weight to the camper. The maximum number of slide-outs in a truck camper is 3. For example, the Host Mammoth 11.5 features 3 slide-outs – it really is bigger on the inside!

Source: hostcampers.com

Weight Ranges

The weight range for truck campers can range anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds in dry weight. This means your truck’s payload capacity – not towing capacity – needs to be able to handle at least this weight!

Price Ranges

Truck campers vary widely in price. If you’re buying a new truck camper, you can expect to pay anywhere from around $8,000 to $65,000 or more. Used truck campers can be found for as little as $1,000 for older, smaller units. Prices depend on features, amenities, size, and ruggedness. 

Sleeping Capacity

Truck campers can sleep up to 6 people – but it might feel crowded! These small campers are best suited for full-time RV couples. But for short trips, the more the merrier! The main bed is located in the section that hangs over the cab of the truck, but often the dinette will fold down into another bed. Sometimes, a bunk bed can fold down and hang just above the dinette bed as well. 

Features and Amenities in Truck Campers

While some truck campers feature most of the amenities you’ll find in a larger RV or travel trailer, many are lacking in certain features, especially in the older models. 

Lance 1172 truck camper interior view from couch slide-out

Most new truck campers will have some type of bathroom, whether it is just a cassette toilet, a wet-bath, or a full bathroom in the larger models. Truck campers have the bed and closet space in the cab-over area. And many of them have a dinette seating area and a small kitchen. 

Larger truck campers will come with additional seating, a table, TV, and perhaps even a fireplace. You will also find that these campers have freshwater tanks, wastewater tanks, on-board propane, and even outside storage in the larger models. 

What Kind Of Truck Do You Need for a Truck Camper?

For hauling a truck camper, bigger is better. Since the weight of the entire camper rests in the bed of the pickup, you will need a truck with a payload capacity ample enough to carry the camper plus your water and cargo. More is definitely better! You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on your Gross Vehicle Combined Rating, too, if you’re looking to tow any toys behind you.

For huge truck campers like the previously mentioned Host Mammoth 11.5, many owners haul it with a 4500/F-450 or even 5500/F-550 because this behemoth of a camper weighs 4,700 pounds dry.

A half-ton truck will be able to haul the smallest of the truck campers, but even then, it would be pushing the truck’s payload capacity. 

truck camper

Many truck camper manufacturers offer compatibility guides when you’re shopping. We recommend deciding on your truck camper before making your truck purchase. Otherwise, you may be forced to make some serious compromises. Many of the standard truck camper models do best on a one-ton truck, and dual rear wheels help tremendously with sway. 

Advantages of Truck Campers

There are many advantages to truck campers – these versatile RVs make getting around a breeze! Here are the best advantages: 

You can park just about anywhere. Since the camper sits in your truck bed, you’ll be able to park in just about any parking spot, even in busy downtown areas. 

Easy to drive. Truck campers are pretty easy to drive. While you still need to be considerate of your height, weight, and center of gravity, driving a truck camper isn’t much harder than driving the truck. They are also easy to maneuver since they sit right in the truck bed.

Off-road capability. With the high-clearance and the readily available 4x4 of the truck, these campers are ideal for getting off the beaten path. Check out the 5 Best Off-Road Truck Campers if you really want to go remote!

Home and vehicle are separate. You can unload the camper and do your exploring in the truck without packing up camp or having the extra weight of the camper. Since your vehicle is a very capable truck, you can venture almost anywhere! Bonus: If your truck needs to go into the shop for repairs, you’ll still have the camper to stay in. 

Want to learn how this is done? Check out our video with the steps on How to Load and Unload a Truck Camper.

Can still tow behind your truck. Do you want to pull a boat or a trailer full of toys? You still can! These campers are very popular for towing boats, horse trailers, ATV trailers, and jet skis along for the weekend camping fun. 

Easy to store. Since they’re so small, it’s easy to store these campers right in your driveway. 

Disadvantages of Truck Campers

Disadvantages to these kinds of campers are: 

Truck campers are heavy. Many truck campers can require a substantial truck to carry it. This can mean a more expensive tow vehicle, which can cost more than the camper itself. 

Top-heavy. Some of the bigger truck campers are top-heavy and require extra care (and maybe suspension upgrades) when driving off-road on uneven surfaces. 

Small space. Small space means less storage inside and out, and less room for more than just a couple of people. 

Can’t access the interior from the cab of the truck. For some people, having easy access to the camper or a pass-through is very important, from either a safety or comfort perspective. While possible in some truck campers, these pass-throughs can be small and tight to maneuver through. 

Truck Campers Are Seriously Cool Adventure-mobiles!

There’s no doubt about it – these campers are seriously cool! If you’re looking for a versatile camper that is separate from your engine but still has all the comforts of a traditional RV, we highly recommend checking out truck campers. 

Tour the Lance 1172 Truck Camper - The Go North Expedition Vehicle | Go North Explore More Ep 1

To see one in action, be sure to watch our Go North truck camper adventure series where we drove a Lance truck camper all the way through Canada, Alaska, and to the edge of the Arctic Ocean. We drove 15,000 miles in an epic 6-month expedition that you can watch on Amazon Prime or YouTube.

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John Carston

Friday 17th of December 2021

I like how you mentioned that there are small and big camper trucks for your needs. My uncle mentioned to me last night that he is hoping to find a reliable camper trucks dealer as he considered buying a camper truck for our vacation and family gatherings and asked if I have any idea what is the best option to do. Thanks to this informative article and I'll be sure to tell him that he should try consulting a trusted RV dealer in town as they can answer all his inquiries.

Tahoe Bob

Sunday 10th of January 2021

I have had a Palomino (Forest River) 1500 CC truck camper since 2016 on a 2008 Tundra (76205 miles on it and I bought it new) with added leaf springs and "commercial brakes" added for around $1400 total. I love my camper, but it is only good for one person and a pet. I have a toilet, shower, two burner stove, refrigerator with freezer compartment and a very comfortable bed. I had a 4 Wheel Granby and hated it because I did not like lifting the top up manually and I did not like the front lift slat at a diagonal over my bed, cramping my sleep. The 1500 has electric lifts and it is a piece-of-cake to lower it by closing off all of the vents and screens, and turning on the fan which sucks the sides in. I have lived in this camper for up to 5 weeks in Montana each year and it is perfect for my needs.

Mortons on the Move

Monday 11th of January 2021

Great feedback for our readers! We have not traveled in a pop up yet but the electric lift seems like a huge benefit!

Thomas McCullock

Friday 8th of January 2021

Hope I get mine built buy the time lockdown ends

Mortons on the Move

Friday 8th of January 2021

We hope you do, too! :)

John

Thursday 7th of January 2021

Hey Guys! You got my attention with the Go North series because that is what I want to do. Pack up and go. You also answered and beyond if it is possible to effectively charger the camper system utilizing the vehicle's charger system. I currently live in South Dakota and wonder do you have any information as to which truck camper is best for winter camping (think UP in the winter)? Manufacturers of four season campers say they have the "best" but, I am looking for practical knowledge. Thank You!

Mortons on the Move

Friday 8th of January 2021

We only have personal experience with the Lance 1172 Truck Camper. But we can say, after living in it for 6 months in both moderate and cold temps, it is a great four-season rig!

Tony

Thursday 7th of January 2021

I know a truck camper is incredibly adventurous but my wife and I work full time currently so we really like to spread out and rest while we explore this countries great offerings! So we went from a pop-up to a new 29’ travel trailer with a bunk house - 5, soon to be 6 grandkids we hope to introduce to the RV lifestyle!!

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 7th of January 2021

We're glad you found an RV that works for your family. Enjoy and safe travels!

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