For consumers looking to buy a new RV, most never consider a truck camper and I think that’s a serious mistake. Today’s truck campers possess the same accouterments as the finest motorhomes and fifth wheels found in today’s market. Indeed, some hard-side, long-bed truck campers offer large dry baths and sport as many as three slide-outs to increase living space. Most are also quite spacious and roomy and offer large kitchenettes and full-size queen beds. If you haven’t been in a truck camper lately, you need to do so. You may be surprised by what you see.
Aside from the standard creature comforts, the truck camper has much to offer the consumer. Like other RVs, truck campers come in various sizes and styles including long-bed and short-bed models, hard side and pop-up models, as well as slide-out and non slide-out models. You’ll need a one-ton dually for the heavy, multiple slide-out models, but smaller pop-up campers can easily be hauled by a half-ton pickup truck. Got a mid-size truck? Smaller and lighter pop-up truck campers—like those made by Four Wheel Campers and Outfitter—can also be purchased for the Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado, and Toyota Tacoma.
In spite of the differences between hard-side and pop-up models and slide-out and non slide-out models, the truck camper has a common heritage with numerous things in common. These commonalities are what we’ll examine in this article. It’s also hoped that this article will explain why you should buy a truck camper—the pros if you will—and what makes them such a great RV. Now let’s take a closer look at the 11 benefits of truck camper ownership.
1. Unmatched Versatility:
Without a doubt, the truck camper rig is the most versatile RV on the market. The rig provides a rock-solid platform for towing things like Jeeps, utility trailers, and fishing boats. For those who enjoy fishing and four-wheeling in places like Glamis or Moab, the ability to tow is a very important capability. But that’s not all. The fact that you can unload your truck camper from your pickup truck allows you to not only use your truck as a daily driver at home—a very important consideration for those who still work—but also allows you to use your truck on recreational outings for things like four-wheeling, collecting firewood, and taking your boat to the lake. No other single RV on the planet can do all of these things like the truck camper can. A small Class-B or Class-C motorhome comes close, but both are still found wanting compared to the versatile truck camper rig.
2. No Registration Fees and Low Insurance Rates:
Did you know that 42 states still classify the truck camper as cargo rather than an RV? It’s true. That means if you live in those states you won’t have to pay annual license and registration fees like you would would other RVs. Not only that, but insuring a truck camper is cheaper, too. Those companies that insure RVs and truck campers, usually offer terrific rates, typically around $20 a month for full coverage. Note that not all companies insure RVs, though some level of coverage will be provided when your camper is mounted on your truck or parked at home. Just make sure you don’t go over your truck’s GVWR as this could void your coverage in the event of an accident. As you can see, owning a truck camper can save you hundreds of dollars a year in insurance, fees, and taxes.
3. Superb Maneuverability:
The maneuverability of the truck camper rig is hard to beat. The compact size of the rig coupled with the small turning radius of the pickup truck means you can maneuver out of trouble much easier than with towable RVs and large motorhomes. The size and maneuverability of this combo also means you can park practically anywhere in town—no need to take up 15 parking spaces at the back of the parking lot just to go shopping or eat at a restaurant. It also means that you can park in small, national forest campgrounds and negotiate steep and narrow mountain switchbacks much easier than other types of RVs. Due to its superb maneuverability, there are few rigs I would rather be in when exploring unknown roads and new territory than the truck camper.
4. Easy to Drive:
If driving a large motorhome or pulling a massive fifth wheel or travel trailer intimidates you or has lost its appeal, then you’ll love driving a truck camper. Owning a truck camper means you won’t have the hassle of hooking up a trailer hitch and anti-sway tow bar before leaving on your trip. Not only that, but you won’t have to worry about fish-tailing on the freeway from heavy winds and passing semi-trucks, nor avoid inattentive drivers merging on the interstates. Both men and women enjoy the ease and simplicity of driving a truck camper. In fact, it’s really no different than driving a regular pickup truck. My wife, who would never take the wheel towing a travel trailer, enjoys driving our truck camper.
5. Outstanding Off-Road Capability:
If you like to explore and boondock far off the beaten path, then the truck camper rig is one of the best options out there. Why? Well, the compact size and two-axle configuration means you can go places where the typical large RV can’t. Add the go-anywhere capability of a four-wheel drive pickup truck mated with a pop-up or low-profile hard-side truck camper and you’ll be able to go practically anywhere your heart desires. Travel down remote, narrow forest roads on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim? Sure! Climb steep hogbacks in Moab, Utah? No problem! Spend a few weeks boondocking with family and friends at Quartzsite during the winter? Absolutely! When you own a truck camper the world is at your doorstep.
6. Cheaper to Maintain:
With no towing or running gear, the truck camper is the cheapest RV to maintain. If you’ve owned a travel trailer or fifth wheel before, you know the time and cost involved in maintaining the tires, bearings, and brakes. It can be a major pain. With the truck camper all you need to do is maintain your truck as you normally would with periodic servicing like oil changes and engine tuneups. Yes, it’s true that the camper itself will need periodic maintenance as well, but in the long run, you’ll spend much more time enjoying your truck camper rather than working on it. When it comes to our busy schedules, having more time for family activities and for fun is important. Having that extra time for fun is always a plus in my book.
7. Better Fuel Economy:
With the cost of diesel fuel and gasoline in today’s economy, every mile counts. On average, truck campers get better fuel economy than the typical RV. Indeed, most truck camper owners are realizing anywhere between 10-15 mpg (my 6.2L V8 gas engine with a 3,000 pound camper typically gets a little over 12 mpg). Low profile, pop-up truck camper owners realize even more savings by using a diesel pickup truck to haul their camper. Some diesel owners have claimed as much as 20 mpg hauling around a light-weight, pop-up truck camper! Try getting those numbers with a Class-A or Class-B motorhome. It isn’t going to happen.
8. Easy to Store:
The compact size of the truck camper means that storing it will be less of a hassle. Most of us live on small lots of one-third of an acre or smaller. This means that a small RV like the truck camper will be much easier to store than a massive fifth wheel or Class-A motorhome. Still, if storing an RV on your property isn’t possible due to HOA regulations or other limitations, then storing a small RV like a truck camper at a storage lot means you won’t have to pay as much for storage fees. Oh, and one more thing. Unmounted truck campers are much more difficult to steal than other types of RV’s. Just make sure you store the remote for the electric jacks and the electrical umbilical cord separate from the camper. You want to make things difficult for thieves, not easier.
9. A Great Bug-Out Vehicle:
Need to “bug out” due to an approaching storm, fire, or flood? No problem with the truck camper. The amenities and compact size of the truck camper means you’ll have all the essentials you’ll need to get you and your family through an emergency. If you think a truck camper is too small. Think again. Some long-bed campers have as many as three slide-outs. You can easily survive a couple weeks in a large, solar-powered truck camper stocked with food, water, and fuel. In most cases two weeks is more than enough time for the trouble to pass. The small size of the truck camper also makes it more stealthy in a bug-out scenario compared to other types of RVs and is more likely to avoid unwanted attention. This means it can be parked practically anywhere including a secluded street, a large shopping center parking lot, or a family member’s driveway.
10. Upgrade and Maintenance Independence:
Since the pickup truck and truck camper are two separate units, upgrading one or the other is much easier. Need a bigger pickup truck with more payload, a fuel-saving diesel engine, and a four-wheel drive capability? Then get one. Want a bigger truck camper with a slide-out and more room? No problem, buy it. This versatility when it comes to upgrading doesn’t exist with a Class-A or Class-B motorhome–it’s all one unit. One other thing about the truck camper. The fact that the truck and camper can be separated also means that taking one to the shop is much easier; you can still use one while the other is at the shop. Sure, a hotel stay might be required for a night or two if your camper needs some overnight work, but, hey, sometimes things happen, even to a truck camper.
11. Excellent Depreciation Value:
The versatile truck camper holds its value much better than the typical RV. Why? Two things: the smaller niche truck camper market and the fact that truck campers, in general, are built better than your typical RV. Most truck camper manufacturers are industry leaders in quality, design, and innovation, and often customize their products to meet the requirements of each individual truck camper owner. Sure, there are a few truck camper manufacturers that produce sub par campers, but by-and-large, most truck camper manufacturers—like EarthCruiser, Lance, Four Wheel Campers, Host, Alaskan Campers, Outfitter, and Bundutec—build high-quality units. This quality and attention to detail means a better product for you that will provide many years of quality service.
Truck Camper Cons?
These are the primary benefits of truck camper ownership. There are certainly others, but these are the ones that really standout above the rest. Is the truck camper for everyone? Of course not. Full-timers who need more living space won’t like what the truck camper has to offer nor will those who have physical disabilities—getting in and out of the cabover can be difficult for those who have leg and back issues). But the truck camper does provide unmatched capabilities and benefits that can’t be beat by other classes of RVs. So if you’re thinking about buying an RV, give serious thought to the versatile truck camper. It might be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.
A special thanks to Host Campers, Alaskan Campers, Jim Caruthers, Randy B. (Ramlinwillie), John M., Mark Larson, and Laurie Heimbigner for permission to use their photographs.