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What Is the Best Truck for a Truck Camper?

What Is the Best Truck for a Truck Camper?

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. 

truck with truck camper

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? 

Truck camper weights vary considerably based on style and materials. Light popups, like the Project M, weigh under 500 pounds, but the massive Eagle Cap 1165 weighs 4,917 pounds dry. 

Project M Truck Camper with Vinyl Pop-Up Liner
Source: fourwheelcampers.com

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. 

Payload Capacity

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. 

pop up truck camper on flat bed 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.

Driving & Off-Roading in a Truck Camper, Thoughts After 6 Months On The Road | Go North Explore More

Bed Size

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.

dually ford truck with a truck camper

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!

kimbo truck camper on chevy truck

What is your truck/camper combo? Let us know in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Harve Cohen

Sunday 6th of March 2022

Could you discuss what your thoughts are on 4 wheel drive? When do you feel it is necessary? Payload capacity obviously increases in a 2 wheel standard set up.

Can you also talk about rear axle gear ratios. What is your experience and recommendation for truck campers?

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 10th of April 2022

Search Truck camper on our site and you will find lots of articles. 4x4 is going to depend on what you want to do and where you want to go. Personally, 4x4 is an awesome thing you can do with a truck camper however compared to most other RV's. As for gear ratios, you wont need steep gearing for the weight of a camper unless you are towing heavy as well. If you want to put big tires on the truck you will need steeper gearing as well. Check out our videos on our 5500 and we talk about gearing a bit in them.

Brian Boardman

Sunday 16th of May 2021

Nice blog article. In response to your request to let us know what camper and pickup combination we have, we have a 2001 Ford F250 supercab, longbed, 4x4 with a Four Wheel Camper Keystone camper. This pickup is at the early stages of the real boom in GVWR and ours is rated at 8800lbs, and has a no camper weight of 7000 when full of fuel (38gal) and has normal travel stuff like tow straps, jumper cables, emergency road flasher lights and ball hitch stinger. Surprisingly when we loaded the camper we scaled at 8700lbs! (The camper factory weight sticker says 1050lbs with 20 gallons water, 20lb propane, and the 2.7 cuft refrigerator. ) when we added in the weights of everything from camper jacks to roof racks and food, clothing, camping equipment, tool kit the weight really crept up. We’ve been from Colorado to Dawson City YK and Chicken and Homer AK as well as tooling around the Pacific NW.

Now didn’t your blog mention something about a new pickup and camper rig…..? News?

Brian

Mortons on the Move

Friday 28th of May 2021

Thank you for sharing your truck/camper combination. Glad it's working well for you! :)

john urbas

Saturday 17th of April 2021

I saw that the 2021 Ford trucks can have 2Kw, 2.4Kw and 7.2Kw power ran to the bed of the truck and thought, "AWESOME"! That would provide truck campers with many options when boondocking to include getting rid of the generator and add more storage or batteries, being able to charge the batteries on the road and being able to run most anything in and around the rig. Then, I found out that the option is only available in most of the new F-150's which sorely limits the payload and towing abilities. Oh, well, better luck next year!

Mortons on the Move

Saturday 17th of April 2021

Wow that would be amazing! I am sure they will bring that to the commercial vehicles soon!

Don Rimel

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

You guys did a great job with this article. The experience you had with a truck camper as part of your Go North adventure, provides you with with experience with a truck camper in many different circumstances including porcupines.

The way you present information is easy to understand and the blog posts are a great addition to your videos.

We look forward to seeing you guys down the road.

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 15th of April 2021

Thank you, Don! Glad you're enjoying our blog!

Ric Doedens

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

Good information but here is the elephant in the room. Many campers designed for "short-bed"(6.5') trucks will inevitably exceed the payload capacity of the vehicle once loaded with gear/food/fluids/people. As an example, a popular truck camper designed for a short-bed truck has a wet weight of 3300 lbs. A 1 ton short-bed single rear-wheel crew-cab diesel truck with a payload capacity of 4400 lbs will only remain under the vehicle's payload capacity with extremely careful monitoring of the combined camper/gear/food/toys/people weight. But switching to a higher-payload dually is not an option because all duallies are built with long-beds (8') and are not compatible with the short-bed camper design. I think it is irresponsible of the truck camper industry to be building models which are destined to exceed safe payload ratings. No camper over 3000lbs should be built for a short-bed truck because no short bed truck is capable of safely carrying such a camper once fully loaded.

Joe Tirrell

Sunday 2nd of May 2021

Really great article and I can't wait to see what they selected. I agree that there is an elephant in the room concerning weight ratings of trucks and the carrying capacity of trucks. To ensure the truck and camper are matched, the Federal Government published "49 CFR 575.103 Truck-camper loading" the law documenting the requirement for matching truck and camper. The law requires truck manufacturers to publish a "slide in camper" a guide. Truck manufacturers do publish this guide (but it isn't something they seem to make readily available).

A short bed dually is an option. Ram makes a short bed dually, I have one for my 8-11 truck camper. It is the Mega Cab and if configured correctly can max out the GVWR, with a payload capacity of 6,810 pounds. I love the extra space in the truck and have added shelves and storage bins for things we don't routinely use in the truck camper. The other advantage of the Ram Mega Cab is its 160" wheelbase which is longer than a standard cab but not as long as a truck with an 8' bed. This wheel base makes for a very comfortable ride. My truck/camper fully loaded doesn't come close to the GVWR and it handles very well. Too bad the other manufacturer's don't offer this combination.

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