Not everyone wants to pilot a drivable RV or tow a massive fifth wheel or travel trailer. That’s why truck campers are gaining in popularity and could be an excellent option for you. Today, we want to share what to look for when seeking the best truck for a truck camper. Let’s get started!
What Is the Best Truck for a Truck Camper?
The best truck for a truck camper greatly depends on what you’re hauling and what you want to do with it. If yours is more compact and you’ll only use it occasionally, you won’t need a massive dually truck to haul it.
However, if you’re planning to travel regularly or your camper is exceedingly heavy, you’ll need a dually. Once you’ve answered those two questions, you can find the truck that exceeds the spec requirements for your specific unit.
What Is a Truck Camper?
A truck camper rests in the bed of a pickup truck. Due to the minimum storage space available, they are often compact and efficiently use space.
In some cases, the camper is small and confined to the length of your pickup. It’s large enough for one or two people to sleep but not much else.
Other times, it extends over the top of your cab and off the edge of the bed a little. These larger truck campers have more amenities and require a larger truck to haul them.
Regular Truck Campers vs. Pop-up Truck Campers
Traditional truck campers have hard tops and don’t expand, but pop-up truck campers collapse into a compact design for travel and expand once you set up camp. The pop-up versions are more lightweight, therefore can work with a wider range of trucks.
How Much Do Truck Campers Weigh?
As you can imagine, the weight greatly depends on the number of amenities in this compact home-on-wheels. A camper containing only a couple of beds will be on the light end, while one with large holding tanks will weigh considerably more – especially when those tanks are full!
When It Comes to Truck Camper Trucks, the Bigger, the Better
You’ll commonly see truck campers on huge, “Big 3” trucks – Dodge/RAM, GM, and Ford. Duallies are among the most popular carriers. As a general rule, it’s better to have too much truck than not enough in this case.
Having too small of a truck can over-tax the suspension, the tires, the brakes, and the engine. Not only does this wear your truck out faster and result in more repairs, but it can also cause dangerous driving situations that threaten safety. This is why it is so important to match the proper truck with your truck camper.
However, there are some specifically designed Truck Campers for Half-Ton Trucks. So don’t fret if you’re not up for getting a giant truck!
How to Determine the Proper Truck for Your Truck Camper
When you’re shopping for the proper truck, there are a few critical specifications you’ll want to know and consider.
The payload capacity is often the most overlooked item, so let’s talk about it first. The yellow sticker on the door jamb of the driver’s door indicates the payload capacity. You can also often find these numbers online or in the vehicle manual. It will tell you how much weight you can safely add to your truck.
The payload capacity depends on the particular truck’s optional add-on packages, features, and the year it was built. Not all F350s have the same payload capacity, for instance.
Payload capacity is the total weight of all people and objects that your truck can safely carry. This includes fuel, tools, gear, people, and, in this case, a truck camper and all it’s add-ons and gear, too.
Every ounce of every item you add to your truck counts against this number. Exceeding the weight limit can create unsafe driving conditions. For example, it can put more weight on the shocks and rear axle and less on the truck’s front. As a result, the front wheels will have less traction, and you won’t have optimal steering performance.
Are Gas or Diesel Trucks Better for Truck Campers?
While both engine types are perfectly capable of hauling your cargo, the diesel engines simply outperform their gas counterparts. Diesel engines are more efficient in carrying heavy cargo for interstate driving, but gas engines excel when it comes to city driving.
If your vehicle’s primary purpose is hauling your truck camper (and other things), and you’ll be traveling long distances, a diesel engine is the best bet. If you plan for occasional trips, don’t haul things often, and are primarily driving in the city, you might consider a gas engine.
For our Go North expedition, we carried the Lance truck camper nearly 15,000 miles on a Ford F350 with a 6.7L Turbo Diesel engine.
Whether you have an extended bed or a short bed, you’ll want to know this important detail before starting to shop. Long bed trucks are approximately 8 feet long, standard beds are 6 feet 5 inches, and short beds are 5 feet 8 inches long. Flatbed or commercial vehicles may have even longer beds.
Truck campers come in different sizes to fit these different size beds. Choose your truck bed size accordingly to match your truck camper.
Dually or Not?
Dually trucks by design have a considerably larger payload capacity than their single-wheel counterparts. For instance, a diesel Ford F350 single rear wheel has a payload capacity of just over 4,000 pounds, but the dual rear wheel version payload capacity jumps to over 5,700 pounds.
In addition to payload capacity, the dual rear wheels help tremendously with stability. Adding a truck camper to the bed of your truck raises the center of gravity. As a result, you will experience some swaying as you go over uneven surfaces. Having additional stability side-to-side can make the truck camper driving experience much easier.
Knowing how much you plan to carry and how often you’ll take it along will determine whether you should spring for the dually or single rear-wheel pickup.
Full-Time or Part-Time?
Will you be traveling full-time or part-time? Traveling full-time requires easy access to many more amenities like your own kitchen, restrooms, and shower facilities. Meaning, you’d likely need a bigger camper and a bigger truck. Otherwise, if you don’t have a camper with these amenities, you must plan your trips carefully around camping facilities.
Using your camper part-time means you’re most likely setting up in a campground for the weekend and would have easy access to water, restrooms, and shower facilities. So, in theory, you could get by with a lighter truck camper with fewer amenities or smaller holding tanks.
Off-Road or Pavement?
If you want to use your truck camper primarily off-road, it is generally better to be significantly under your max payload capacity. This enables the vehicle’s suspension to operate safely within its design in these more extreme situations.
Percentage numbers under payload max will vary on who you speak with. But, the lighter the better for off-road use.
How Do You Plan to Use Your Truck Camper?
Overall, truck campers can provide memorable camping and traveling experiences. The big question is: how do you plan to use your prospective truck camper? Knowing this information is critical when selecting your truck.
We hope the information we’ve shared will assist you in your pickup truck purchase!
What is your truck/camper combo? Let us know in the comments!
Become A Mortons On The Move Insider
Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!