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Can I Leave My Tailgate on with a Truck Camper?

Can I Leave My Tailgate on with a Truck Camper?

Having a truck camper can be a great way to explore some hard-to-reach locations while camping comfortably. However, if you’re new to truck campers, you might have a question or two about them. One of the most popular questions asked is, “Can I leave my tailgate on with a truck camper?” Good news, we’ve got the answer. Let’s take a look.

Can I Leave My Tailgate on with a Truck Camper?

Depending on the size of your camper and truck bed, you may leave your tailgate on without any issue. However, your tailgate will add weight to your truck, which will take away from your payload capacity. 

If you have a large dually truck, this may not concern you. However, if you’re already up against your payload capacity, you want to save every pound possible.

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The Great Truck Camper Tailgate Debate

Back in 2019, Truck Camper Magazine innocently posed the question about whether or not readers drive around with or without their tailgate without their camper. If you thought the pineapple on pizza debate got out of control, the tailgate debate was equally as unpredictable.

The debate primarily centers around the idea that a truck bed is essentially useless if there is no tailgate. It is not safe to store items in the bed of your truck as they’ll likely fall out as you travel down the highway. However, the opposing side of the debate has a valid argument, too.

The other side states that hauling a tailgate around is a massive waste and just adds weight to your truck. Many truck camper owners also share that they have difficulty removing and reattaching it. Some specific brands make it almost impossible to do by a single person. It often requires an extra set of hands to avoid damage.

Pro Tip: Ready to take your truck camper on your next adventure? Make sure you have these 9 Truck Camper Accessories You Can’t Travel Without.

Join the debate on whether or not you should leave your tailgate on when using a truck camper.

Does the Tailgate Support the Truck Camper?

The tailgate does provide some support for the rear of the camper. If you remove it, you could end up with a bit of your truck camper overhanging your bed. 

So without the tailgate, this slight overhang will not have support and could become an issue for you. 

Reasons to Remove Your Tailgate

There are a couple of major reasons why you might want to remove your tailgate. Let’s take a look at why we think you might want to consider removing your tailgate when using your truck camper.

Close up of truck camper loaded onto truck.
Protect your tailgate from damage by removing it when using your truck camper.

Removes Extra Weight

A truck’s tailgate can add anywhere from 50 to 150 lbs to your truck. This is a considerable amount of weight, especially if you don’t need it. Removing as much extra weight as possible helps you save on your payload and fuel consumption.

Your truck will have a payload capacity, the maximum amount of weight your vehicle can carry. Truck campers are often extremely heavy and often put some of the heaviest-duty trucks near their capacity. Removing the tailgate can help maximize every bit of weight.

Protects Tailgate from Damage

You never know what your tires will toss up from the road. When you keep your tailgate down, rocks and other road objects might scratch and chip away the beautiful paint job.

You likely don’t want any part of your truck getting beat up while you travel. So removing the tailgate means not having to worry about damaging it and that it’ll look beautiful for years to come.

Some Campers Require It

Some truck campers are designed with an overhang off the back of the bed. The Lance 1172 that we drove to Alaska was designed this way, so we had to travel without a tailgate.

Pro Tip: Discover What Is a 5th Wheel Tailgate? (AKA Louvered Tailgate) to make traveling with your rig easier.

Reasons to Leave Your Tailgate On

While many choose to remove their tailgate, not everyone does. There are a couple of reasons we think you should consider leaving it in place. Let’s take a look!

Truck with truck camper driving through desert.
Removing your tailgate can pose future challenges with your truck use.

Removing and Reinstalling Can Be Difficult

You may have difficulty removing some tailgates and may even need at least two people. This is especially true if it’s on the heavy side. You want to avoid damaging the truck or tailgate because both cost a lot of money to repair. 

If your tailgate happens to be one of these models, you may not want to deal with removing and reinstalling it. You may find it easier to keep it in place, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Pro Tip: Truck campers can get expensive! Save some money by building your own. We discovered How Do You Build a DIY Truck Camper?

Close up of tailgate with truck camper on top of it.
Consult your vehicle’s manufacturer to decide whether or not you need to remove your tailgate.

If You Are Full-Time and Need a Tailgate When Unloaded

When you travel full-time with your truck camper, you may unload your camper at a campsite. This can allow you to explore without your truck camper and reach some exciting and remote locations. 

However, if you remove the tailgate, using the bed of your truck for storage becomes more difficult. Many full-time truck camper travelers opt to keep their tailgate attached to give them more storage space.

However, there are mesh tailgate nets like this one that you can easily pack and bring along to attach when the camper is dismounted.

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If You Can Close The Tailgate with the Truck Camper On

Some truck campers are so small they can fit entirely into the bed of a truck. This may happen if you put a short bed truck camper into a long bed pickup, or you build your own truck camper to fit this way.

In this case, leaving the tailgate on the camper can provide a few benefits. You keep some extra storage capability (like the ladder in the photo below.) It may also help keep the camper in place (although this is better done with tie-downs and turnbuckles.)

Pro Tip: Use these 5 Expert Strategies for Off-Truck Truck Camper Stability and Storage to keep your truck camper from rocking.

If You Can Use The Tailgate As An Entry Step

Finally, if your camper is small enough, you can use your tailgate as an extra step at the entry of the camper. This is extremely convenient for a plethora of circumstances, from loading groceries to taking your shoes on and off.

Depending on how much space you have on your tailgate, you might be able to set up a grill or camp chairs and use it as a small “porch” or “deck.”

tailgate entry step for truck camper

What Does Your Manufacturer Recommend? 

You can easily find online debates with valid arguments on both sides. However, one person’s opinion matters most. Consult your vehicle’s manufacturer to avoid any warranty or other issues. 

You may need the tailgate to remain in place for structural support to the truck bed. You don’t want to solve one problem by creating a much bigger one down the road.

Consider how you use your truck and how often when deciding if you should remove the tailgate. However, if your vehicle’s manufacturer doesn’t recommend removing it, follow those guidelines. If they give you the green light to remove it, it will likely take some time to see which works best for your camping style. 

Do you keep or remove your tailgate when using your truck camper? Drop a comment below!

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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.
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Wednesday 1st of December 2021

One drawback to leaving the tailgate on is if your camper fits entirely in the truck bed some joker could close the tailgate while you were inside thus locking you in h


Monday 29th of November 2021

My truck campers are camper shells. The trucks have their existing gates as part of the setup. My trucks are light duty half ton models, so the only feasible option is to use a shell, rather than a slide in camper body. The debate over the gate depends on the type of camper and the truck's cargo capacity. A slide in body will likely require removing the gate, while a shell might need the gate especially if it's a hatch style shell. One more tip regarding shells for 1986 and later model trucks: if the truck has a factory center mounted stop lamp (most 1986-93 model trucks didn't have them as they were exempt from the center mount stoplight mandate), they are required to have the center mounted brake lamp visible with a camper shell in place per DOT 108 regulations, as they are considered "permanent" installations. Camper bodies are exempt from center mounted stop lights at this moment, but can become subject to the center mount stop light regulation, depending on the region. Bodies, however, may require clearance lights and identification lights if it's 80 inches wide or wider.