Truck campers to avoid and why

Truck Campers to Avoid and Why

The truck camper gained rejuvenated popularity as an alternative to the #VanLife for Millenial Rvers. Yet, those who only see this RV category’s affordability don’t fully appreciate truck campers’ pros and cons. In our discussion, we’ll show you truck campers to avoid and why based on their general characteristics so you can determine if it matches your RV lifestyle.

The truck campers we’ll feature include:

Northstar Campers 600SSThe Intimidating Task of Loading a Truck Camper
Hallmark K2Making the Best of the Bathroom
Lance 865A Storage-Challenged Category
Palomino Real-Lite HS-1914Not the Best RV for Family Living
Phoenix Chassis Mount Pop-UpLosing the Versatility of Your Truck
Rugged Mountain Granite 11Complaints About Traveling With a Truck Camper

If you haven’t fully explored the truck camper category’s ins and outs, you can learn all about their capabilities in our feature about them. Otherwise, we’ll start by showing you the hard truth about pickup trucks capable of carrying these campers and then point out common characteristics people find challenging about truck campers.

What Do I Need to Know About Buying a Truck Camper?

A truck camper parked near the lake

First and foremost, you need to have a pickup truck. Trucks come in different levels based on half-ton trucks of the 1960s (the F-150 originally weighed 1,000 pounds, hence the title). Truck cargo beds come in various measurements too. These factors will determine which model of truck camper your pickup truck can safely hold. 

Quarter-Ton Trucks

Some lightweight truck campers meet the payload standards for quarter-ton trucks like the GMC Canyon or Honda Ridgeline. Many part-time RVers choose these models due to the truck’s fuel-efficiency. Green truck campers like the Scout Truck Camper Olympic are eco-friendly, but the features are minimal to make weight. Make sure you fully consider all sides of quarter-ton truck campers to determine if they meet your needs.

Half-Ton Trucks 

Half-ton trucks can carry a camper. Since the Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan, and the domestic counterparts outnumber all other truck levels, RV manufacturers build truck campers specifically for these trucks. The nuCamp Cirrus 620 may have a fair amount of features, but like most half-ton truck campers, you’ll find the overall space inside small. 

¾ and One-Ton Trucks

Three-quarter and one-ton trucks are known as heavy/super duty trucks. The real difference between the two levels boils down to payload and towing capacities. Good examples of ¾ ton trucks would be the Dodge Ram 2500 and GMC 2500 Sierra. The one-tons would be the Ford F-350 and Chevrolet Silverado 3500.

Short Bed

Short cargo beds come on all levels of trucks. You’ll usually find the 5.5-foot long bed on four-door crew cabs or extended cab trucks that have dual seating. Truck campers made for short beds typically have a part of it that continues past the cargo bed’s door. These campers are safe to use, but make sure you secure them correctly.

Standard Bed

Standard beds are 6.5 feet long. Truck campers made for short or long beds can fit in standard beds unless the coach’s manufacturer specifically states otherwise. For example, Lance makes their truck campers in short bed or extended bed versions. Only their largest models need a long bed. Do your research ahead of time to prevent any problems.

Long Bed

The 8-foot bed comes standard on regular cab trucks. You may find them on extended cabs. If you want a four-door pickup with a long bed, it’s possible, but the manufacturer must prepare the chassis to handle the extra length. 

The Problems With Electric Pickup Trucks

If you’re following the news, the electric truck manufacturers plan to have their trucks in full production for the 2023 model year. If you are eagerly waiting to get one for yourself, and use it for your truck camping adventures, focus your attention on the quarter-ton short-bed models.

The trucks will have anywhere between a 3,500-5,000 towing capacity and a 1,500-1,800 pound payload limit. Some may come with a standard bed, but the way the manufacturers talk about them, the focus is on outdoor adventures similar to the quarter-ton segment, which favors short beds.

The length of driving on a single charge is the giant nut the engineers are still trying to crack. Some RV manufacturers have discussed creating a second battery bay in their coaches. The first will be the house battery to power the RV. The second will act as a secondary power supply for the truck. As the truck’s batteries dwindle, the RV’s second power station will supplement the truck to increase the driving time. So far, this is all speculative.

Examples of Truck Campers to Avoid Based on Characteristics

A truck camper in a desert

Before we start our discussion on the examples, we want to point out a few quick definitions. Truck campers rely on the payload capacity of a truck since they sit in the cargo bed. A truck’s payload weight can range from 1,500- 7,850 pounds depending on the level of truck you buy.

You’ll also see that RV manufacturers publish the center of gravity on the truck camper. There’s a point where the coach balances the front and back on the bottom of the camper. The center of gravity ranges from 25-45 inches from the front wall of the cargo bed. The front wall refers to the part of the cargo bed resting against the passenger cab’s rear.

Quarter-Ton Pickup Trucks

Northstar Campers 600SS: The Intimidating Task of Loading a Truck Camper

Length12,2 Feet
Base Payload Weight1,258 Pounds
Center of Gravity22 Inches
Required Cargo BedLong Bed Preferred

As fuel-efficiency and lightweight truck campers continue to stay in the forefront of the American Dialogue, quarter-ton truck campers like the Northstar 600SS, though rare, may continue to be good sellers despite the many sacrifices to features needed to keep them underweight. When you’re debating which is better, a truck camper or travel trailer, loading one of these into your truck takes practice.

Affordable truck campers use manual stabilizer jack posts instead of the electronic versions. Adjusting these four devices takes an experienced perspective. You’ll need to learn how high you need to raise the camper so you can back your truck under it. Then, you need to know how to secure the RV correctly.

We advise practicing a few times at the RV dealership when you pick up your truck camper. Having your sales rep or an expert there to guide you through the process will significantly benefit you. The last thing you want is to back into the camper and knock it over. Truck campers are easy to remove, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, loading up your RV can be a nightmare.

Northstar Campers 600SS (Video)

Half-Ton Pickup Trucks

Hallmark K2: Making the Best of the Bathroom

Overall Length13 Feet
Base Payload Weight1,262 Pounds
Center of Gravity34 Inches
Required Cargo BedStandard or Long Bed

You’ll find that bathroom space in most truck campers is a water closet or a camouflage cabinet. Those that have a water closet are campers with a wet bath. There are a handful of truck campers with dry baths on the market, but those units require a long bed one-ton truck and have a price tag as beefy as the truck that carries them.

The Hallmark K2 has an optional 5.3 black holding tank that some may like, but cassette commodes have the same capacity. Many find cassette systems easier and more sanitary than dealing with a long sewer hose that breaks down with age. 

Since the K2 is a Pop-up truck camper, the three-quarter sized closet that houses the commode gives you enough privacy to do your business, but men may have a problem with others in the RV since your head is exposed while standing. For men with bashful bladders, the Hallmark K2 may not suit your needs.

Hallmark K2 (Video)

Lance 865: A Storage-Challenged Category

Overall Length16,5 Feet
Payload Wet Weight2,330 Pounds
Center of Gravity34 Inches
Required Cargo BedShort Bed

As you walk through the Lance 865, you’ll see that there’s an upgrade feel to the furniture. The LED TV is perfectly mounted, so you can swing it bedside or facing the living room. Yet, if you take a step back and look at the overall floorplan, this truck camper makes storage as rare as Palladium in a lifestyle where storage is gold.

You will find that truck campers don’t offer much storage. Rarely do these RVs have exterior storage bays. The various hatches that you do see scattered throughout the exterior fiberglass or corrugated aluminum panels are utility-oriented. People compensate through external cargo carriers, using the back of their crew cabs, or adding a custom cargo bed with built-in storage bays on your truck.

One of the first lessons truck campers for beginner articles like RV Troop and others discuss is learning how to live a minimalist life in this RV category. If you’re looking for a glamping lifestyle, even the best truck camper with luxury features may not match your needs and wants list.

Lance 865 Truck Camper

¾ and One-Ton Pickup Trucks

Palomino Real-Lite HS-1914: Not the Best RV for Family Living

Overall Length19,3 Feet
Payload Wet Weight3,493 Pounds
Center of Gravity46 Inches
Required Cargo BedOne Ton with a Long Bed

Rest assured, Palomino truck campers are a good brand. As a Forest River subsidiary, you’ll find that the construction and materials’ innovations are high-quality. You won’t have to worry about how long this truck camper will last as long as you keep up with the preventive maintenance.

Some like to draw parallels between truck campers and pop-up trailers. While they share many components of similar sizes, pop-ups are more family-friendly. The Palomino Real-Lite HS-1914 does have a convertible four-seater dinette on a slideout, but we wouldn’t recommend it for families. It gives more walking space for a couple, but the overall storage and interior space isn’t ideal for more than two people over a long period.

The dinette makes an adequate sleeping space for overnight guests who join you for a specific trip or enjoy the evening a little too much. Truck campers give you a pleasant interior environment that’s more functional than anything else. If you’re looking for a family-friendly RV with a good interior experience, you may want to look into travel trailers or fifth wheels.

Phoenix Chassis Mount Pop-Up: Losing the Versatility of Your Truck

Length11,5 Feet
Payload Wet Weight3,800 Pounds
Center of GravityN/A
Required Cargo BedOne Ton (cargo bed removed)

Phoenix Pop-up Campers’ chassis mount camper has a 75-gallon freshwater tank, 6.9-foot interior height, and many other features you won’t find in removable truck campers. Their construction methodology and user-friendly features make the permanently mounted unit something worth considering to those thinking of pursuing full-time truck camper living.

Yet you have to weigh all advantages and disadvantages of truck campers, including the overall use of your truck. Chassis-mounted truck campers stay on the pickup for good. You can’t remove the camper and replace the cargo bed without high-powered air wrenches and tearing apart the interior floor. 

Most of the time, companies like Phoenix and others that offer these types of truck campers order the truck direct from the auto-maker without the cargo bed. You need to think about your long-term and figure out what’s the best truck camper for you. If you need the cargo bed or flatbed of your truck, there are plenty of other slide-in models to choose.

The Phoenix Pop Up Camper (Video)

Rugged Mountain Granite 11: Complaints About Traveling With a Truck Camper

Length18,10 Feet
Dry Payload Weight3,720 Pounds
Center of Gravity44 Inches
Required Truck and Cargo BedOne Ton Dually Long Bed 

If you want a residential queen-size bed, a dry bathroom with all of the gadgets and gizmos possible, the Rugged Mountain Granite 11 is your luxury truck camper of choice. Even without a slideout, the seven cubic foot refrigerator and the plethora of storage are almost unheard of in the truck camper category.

To adapt Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Gravity, the RV has an equal and opposite drawback to have all of these features. It can be challenging to drive with this hardshell truck camper loaded up. The designers do their best with the aerodynamic front cap, but wind shears from the side can catch you off-guard if you’re not paying attention. 

The dual rear wheels on your pickup truck add stability and payload capacity, but at over 3,700 pounds and standing at 8.4 feet, you’re asking your vehicle to do a lot. Maximum payload capacities for one-ton trucks range from 7,400-7,850, so you don’t have to worry about the weight. 

Truck campers are safe, and some states even allow you to legally ride in a truck camper while traveling. To minimize losing control while driving, keep to the speed limit and avoid areas known for high wind. If you prefer something that makes traveling more manageable, you may want to consider pop-up truck campers or other models that minimize air displacement.

Rugged Mountain Granite 11 (Video)

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Are Truck Campers Good?

Overall, truck campers are worth the money for the right type of RV lifestyle. RVers looking to explore the country on their own or with a traveling companion are best suited for these types of campers. You’ll want to live a minimalist life where you spend much of your time away from the RV, using it as a mobile HQ. Those with particular health concerns might not like the experience due to climbing up into the coach and bed area. 

Financially, it can be an affordable way to live the RV lifestyle. Truck campers don’t need insurance. Since they reside in the truck’s bed, the insurance industry considers truck campers “cargo.” We recommend looking into insuring it anyway, especially if you have a more expensive unit, because your truck’s insurance policy may not cover the camper as well as you would like.

With all of the recent advances in off-grid technology, you’ll find truck campers used outside of campgrounds more than inside. 

If you’re interested, check out a peer-to-peer RV rental website to try it out before you buy one. Don’t forget to bookmark RV Troop to stay up-to-date on the latest information coming out of the RV World. All of the experts agree that the next few years will be an exciting time in the RV Industry.

Welcome to the RV Lifestyle!

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide

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