A Question About Half-Ton Pickup Truck Payload

This weekend I received the following question about hauling a hard-side truck camper on a half-ton, short-bed pickup truck.

Hi, Mike!

I have a 2000 Sierra 1500 short box pickup with less than 100,000 miles, and I’m in the market for a hard-side camper. However, it seems they all are pushing 2,000 pounds which greatly exceeds all the manufacturers’ specs for their half-tons (usually around 1,500 pounds box carrying capacity). My local Lance dealer says no sweat, since he can upgrade any half-ton suspension to handle the load. Would sure appreciate your insight as to the “doabililty” and how much is too much. Thanks. Wayne in Minnesota.


Hi, Wayne. This is a common problem with dealers who will tell you almost anything to make a buck. There is no way a 2000 Sierra 1500, short-bed truck can safely carry a hard side camper, especially if you’re looking for one with a bathroom. A pop up, yes, but not a hard side. No matter what they do to the suspension, you won’t be happy with how the truck handles. The rule of thumb on weight is to add 1,000 pounds to the weight of your camper to account for full tanks, food, camping gear, clothes, etc. If you want a hard side truck camper, then you’ll need a truck with a payload of around 3,000 pounds. This means you’ll need either a heavy-duty half-ton, long bed pickup truck with a standard cab (the payload for these often exceed 3,000 pounds) or a three-quarter ton pickup truck with sufficient payload, or a one-ton pickup.

Also, the payload rating is based upon the entire suspension system, meaning the frame, axles, springs, brakes, wheels, and tires. The payload rating is actually based on the lowest capacity component of the system. Upgrading one or two of these items usually isn’t enough. You’ll have to upgrade them all. Now, it’s possible to upgrade a three-quarter ton to a one-ton because in many instances the only difference between the two is an extra leaf spring. But a half-ton is not a good starting point if you want a big, hard-side camper.

More about payload and half-ton pickup trucks can be found in my Raising Your Truck’s Payload and Truck Camper 101 articles.

About Mello Mike 878 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.


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