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Are Palomino Truck Campers Right For You?

There are nearly 30 models of Palomino truck campers across 3 sub-brands. While it’s nice to have options, this number can be very overwhelming, and make deciding which is best for your camping needs can be challenging. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the various Palomino truck campers, and will help you breakdown which ones are actually worth considering. We’ll weigh the pros and cons and help you take steps toward finding the right rig for your future travels.

Let’s dive in and get started!

COMPLETE TOUR OF OUR TRUCK CAMPER | PALOMINO HS 2901

What Are Palomino Truck Campers?

Whether you have a half-ton truck or a one-ton, there’s likely a Palomino Truck Camper that will fit your situation. Palominos are generally considered more economical truck camper options, as they are more lightweight, mass-produced, and basic in their offerings. However, many campers in this lineup feature desirable options like fold-down patios, slides, and solar panels.

There are three types of Palomino truck campers; hard-side, soft-side, and a third “hard-side max” which refers to their more premium featured campers. Hard side models have hard sides, while the soft side models are pop-up truck campers with canvas walls when opened up. However, which suits you depends on your feature and layout preferences, as well as your tow vehicle.

Who Manufacturers Palomino Truck Campers?

Palomino Truck Campers are currently products of Forest River Inc. In 2002, the large RV manufacturer purchased the parent company, Vanguard Industries, which had started Palomino back in 1968. As a whole, the acquisition was a shot of energy into Palomino. It allowed for tremendous growth and the introduction of new brands and manufacturing facilities.

A few years later, in 2005, Berkshire Hathaway purchased Forest River Inc. Since Palomino RV is a division of Forest River, Inc., the parent company of Berkshire Hathaway ultimately owns them.

Where Are Palomino Truck Campers Made?

Palomino manufactures their truck campers in Colon, Michigan. It’s a tiny town in the south-western corner of the state with a population of just over 1,000. It’s approximately an hour from Elkhart, Indiana, the RV capital of the world.

However, the parent company, Forest River, has a solid presence throughout the Elkhart area. They have facilities in Goshen and Middlebury, Indiana, making it easy for them to stay connected to supplies and distributors. This allows for the mass-production of Palomino truck campers, as well as their other travel trailers, fifth wheels, toy-haulers, and destination trailers.

Pro Tip: We put together a comprehensive list of The Best Truck Camper Brands to help you find the perfect rig for you.

Which Palomino Truck Camper Fits Your Camping Needs?

There are more than two dozen models in the Palomino truck camper lineup. Thankfully, you can quickly cut them in half before you get overwhelmed. This is because Palomino creates identical campers under the Backpack and Real-Lite brands.

Yes, this is confusing to us, the end consumers, but it is just for marketing. Palomino says it allows them to offer the campers to more dealers in the same markets. We’re guessing this is to get around rules about dealer lock-outs or exclusivity. Where you live or shop will likely determine which of these two brands is more available for you.

Their third sub-brand, Rogue truck campers, has unfortunately been discontinued but are still available on the used market. These campers are low-profile with a half pop-top roof that is electronically lifted in the back.

Let’s closely examine each option, match them up so you know what you’re really looking at, and see if we can find which one might fit your camping needs.

Bedroom in Palomino truck camper
A Palomino truck camper is well-equipped for all of your camping needs.

Palomino Backpack Edition & Real-Lite Truck Campers

Whether you own a compact or one-ton truck, there’s a Backpack or Real-Lite truck camper that will likely fit your truck’s payload restrictions. These Palomino truck camper can be a suitable choice whether you want to travel the country or use it for short trips. Just keep in mind that these campers are built more for occasional recreation than the rigors of full-time living.

Again, Palomino offers three subtypes of models: hard side, hard side max, and soft-side. Which one you pick will primarily depend on how you plan to use your rig and the amenities you’ll need. However, they all have options for cooking spaces, full bathrooms, and the premium quality that many expect from a Palomino truck camper.

Hard Side

All the Palomino Hard side truck campers are half-ton compatible, except the HS-8801/HS-1806, which requires a three-quarter-ton truck. There is only one model, the Backpack HS-780, that is not yet available in the Real-Lite brand. It’s a bit different, as it does not have a kitchen or bathroom, and is more of a basic shelter for the back of your truck. It has a bed, couch, and spot for the cooler rather than a fridge or cooktop.

Backpack
Edition
Real-LiteUVWTanks
(fresh, gray,
black gal)
Ext.
Length
Ext.
Height
Floor
Length
Truck
& Bed
HS-8801HS-18062460 lb21 F / 7 G / 8 B18′ 0″8′ 4″9′ 0″3/4 ton, 6’6″-8′ bed
HS-780n/a1328 lb8 F / 0 G / 0 B12′ 9″7′ 11″6′ 6″1/2 ton, 5’6″-larger bed
HS-750HS-18031870 lb21 F / 8 G / 8 B16′ 5″7′ 11″8′ 2″1/2 ton, 5’6″-8′ bed
HS-690HS-18051561 lb8 F / 0 G / 0 B12′ 9″7′ 11″6′ 6″1/2 ton, 5′-8′ bed
Palomino Hard Side Truck Campers – Comparison and Match-Up Chart

The HS-8801/HS-1806 is the heaviest and most capable of all hard side models. It has a full bathroom, a spacious queen bed, and a jack-knife sofa for additional sleeping space. Its beefier size offers storage space everywhere you look.

However, it’s crucial to note that the HS-690/1805 and the HS-780 only store eight gallons of fresh water and have no gray or black tanks. On these units, the outdoor shower is the only access to water, and there are no bathrooms. The HS-780 has a storage compartment, however, for you to bring your portable camping toilet.

Interior of Palomino truck camper
Some Palomino truck camper models come equipped with a bathroom, in addition to a bed, living room space, and kitchen.

Two out of the four plans feature wet baths and a kitchen sink, the HS-8801/1806 and the HS-750/1803. However, all except the HS-780 offer a convenient cooking space that makes it easy to prepare meals and stay fueled for outdoor adventures. The larger models deliver a jack-knife sofa for additional seating and as a makeshift dining space.

Hard Side Max

The Hard Side Max is the biggest offering in the Backpack lineup. You’ll need at least a three-quarter-ton to one-ton truck to haul any of these campers around. Weights range from 3,037 to 3,595 pounds, with external lengths ranging from 18 feet, 4 inches to 20 feet, and floor lengths from 9 feet to 10 feet, 8 inches. You also get more height and head room with these camper models.

Backpack
Edition
Real-
Lite
UVWTanks
(fresh, gray,
black gal)
Ext.
Length
Ext.
Height
Floor
Length
Truck
& Bed
HS-2912HS-19163595 lb45F / 20G / 20B20′ 0″9′ 9″10′ 8″1 ton, 8′ bed
*back patio
HS-2910HS-19143493 lb45F / 20G / 20B19′ 3″9′ 9″10′ 0″1 ton, 8′ bed
*one slide
HS-2902HS-19123261 lb45F / 20G / 20B18′ 4″9′ 9″9′ 0″3/4 ton, 6’6″-8′ bed
*one slide
HS-2901HS-19103037 lb45F / 20G / 20B18′ 4″9′ 9″9′ 0″3/4 ton, 6’6″-8′ bed
Palomino Hard Side MAX Truck Campers – Comparison and Match-Up Chart

One of the most significant features of the Hard Side Max lineup can be found in the HS-2912/HS-1916. It’s a unique truck camper layout on which Palomino engineered an 8 by 7-foot fold-down party deck. It’s the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the sunset after a long day of adventuring.

Truck camper with deck
The Palomino HS-2912/Real-Lite HS-1916 features a rear patio deck off the back of the camper.

Every Hard Side Max Palomino has 45 gallons of fresh water capacity, 20 gallons gray, and 20 gallons black. With more space and weight, Palomino can offer an indoor shower and toilet plus cooking space in each of the Hard Side Max units. Two of the models, the HS-2910/1914 and the HS-2902/1912 even have a slide-out that opens up to give you much more interior space. A dinette or sofa is on the passenger-side slide-out opposite of the small kitchen and bathroom.

Soft Side

The Palomino Soft Side Campers will be your best bet if you own a compact or half-ton truck. Again, soft-side refers to the pop-up nature of these campers and the canvas walls of the extension. Keep in mind that these campers are frequently not allowed in bear country. However, they are convenient for their low profile while driving or trying to fit it into your garage. External height is only 6-feet compared to the 9’9″ and about 8-foot height of the hard-sided models.

Palomino Soft Side Truck Campers – Comparison and Match-Up Chart

Backpack
Edition
Real-LiteUVWTanks
(fresh, gray,
black gal)
Ext.
Length
Ext.
Height
Floor
Length
Truck
& Bed
SS-1500SS-16101910 lb15 F / 0 G / 7 B14′ 4″6′ 0″9′ 6″1/2 ton, 8′ bed
SS-1251SS-16081795 lb15 F / 0 G / 7 B14′ 10″6′ 0″8′ 6″1/2 ton, 6’6″ bed
with overhang
SS-1240SS-16091876 lb15 F / 0 G / 7 B18′ 4″6′ 0″8′ 6″1/2 ton, 6’6″-8′ bed
SS-1200SS-16051591 lb15 F / 0 G / 0 B18′ 4″6′ 0″8′ 0″1/2 ton, 6’6″-8′ bed
SS-550SS-16041594 lb15 F / 0 G / 0 B13′ 5″6′ 0″7′ 0″1/2 ton, 5’6″-8′ bed
SS-500SS-16001197 lb9 F / 0 G / 0 B12′ 8″6′ 0″6′ 0″compact

They comes with electric jacks to make setting up and taking down your camper a breeze. However, one of the most notable features is the relatively large entry into the camper. While much of the pop-up truck camper competition uses 46-inch or 47-inch doors, Palomino uses a one-piece 55-inch door.

Weights range from 1,197 to 1,910 pounds, and exterior lengths from 12 feet, 8 inches to 14 feet, 10 inches. Palomino’s Soft Side Campers are for compact and half-ton trucks. Weights range from 1,197 to 1,910 lbs.

You’ll likely still need to answer nature’s call, even when you’re out in nature. However, the Soft Side lineup has limited bathrooms across the series. Half of the units have no toilet or inside shower. This can make it challenging for those uncomfortable using the restroom in the wild or who want to avoid staying in crowded campgrounds.

Two Palomino truck campers
Palomino offers 55-inch solid doors into their soft-sided pop-up truck campers.

Palomino Rogue Truck Campers

Palomino designed the Rogue Truck Camper series to appeal to the more adventurous camper. It’s lightweight and intended to be for the more rugged travel that gets off the beaten path. These campers are half-pop-up campers, with a roof that tilts up in the back to give head-room in the kitchen area.

Because of their lower weights, these are easy to use with compact and half-ton trucks. The weight range for the Rogue Truck Campers is between 1,224 and 1,383 pounds. However, while you’ll maximize your potential for fun and adventure, it requires some sacrifices. For example, there’s no restroom. This means you’ll need a plan for using the bathroom and showering. These issues are easy to remedy, and you can enjoy epic adventures in these rigs.

There are 4 models of Rogue Truck Campers that were most recently manufacturer: the EA-1, EA-2, EB-1, and EB-2. However, in reviewing the stats on their website, we couldn’t discern any significant difference between EA and EB models. However, from EA-1 to EA-2, there are weight and length differences. The EA/EB-2 models are more designed for the Tacoma/Colorado/Ranger class of trucks, whereas the EA/EB-1 models are more for half-ton trucks of the Tundra caliber with 5′ beds or larger.

Unfortunately, these models have received the dreaded “DSO” label. This means that the manufacturer is no longer producing this specific model. The only inventory will be what a dealership has in store.

This isn’t strange in the RV industry. Manufacturers often use this label to phase out older RVs or after changing a floorplan enough that it deserves an updated model number. If a model you’re considering has this label, it may be more challenging to find, but it’s not impossible.

Pro Tip: Ready to hit the road in your truck camper? Find out if your Truck Camper Needs a Title, Registration, and Insurance

No matter what needs and wants you have in a truck camper, Palomino has a model for you.

FAQ: Do Palomino Truck Campers Have Bathrooms?

Typically, the larger Palomino truck campers have bathrooms in them. These are often wet baths, so you’ll have a toilet in your shower space. In these instances, you must remove anything from the bathroom before showering. If not, your stuff will be soaked.

Unfortunately, many smaller and lighter Palomino campers do not have bathrooms. In these instances, it may be worth purchasing a portable toilet. Many truck campers have plenty of storage space, allowing you to keep the portable toilet out of sight.

TRUCK CAMPER TOUR & SETUP | 2023 Palomino Real Lite HS 1803 | Tie Downs & Interior Modifications

Which Palomino Truck Camper Will You Choose?

Picking the suitable Palomino Truck Camper is a challenging task. However, you can quickly narrow your options by which brand is available. In addition, you can further reduce your choices by considering how you’ll use your rig. A soft side camper may not be the best option if you want to take your adventures into bear country.

Purchasing a camper is a significant investment. Make sure you take your time and do plenty of research. Trust us; you want to avoid feeling buyer’s remorse, especially with a camper.

Which campers on this lineup would work best for your camping style? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

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 “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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