Another One-Ton Pickup Truck Lesson Learned

Truck Camper Adventure recently received this email from Chris Heatherton about his 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD. His email provides serious food for thought for readers who are in the process of choosing a pickup truck to haul a truck camper.

Good Morning, Mike.

Well, I now own a new Northern Lite 811 Sportsman. I look forward to my first review. Unfortunately, that will have to wait because I now need to buy a new truck.  I cannot tell you how disappointed I am in the manufactures of trucks and truck campers. I did 18 months of research, but in the end my camper, wet but without any gear in it, put me 460 pounds over my truck’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). I have a Chevy Silverado 2500HD. It has a GVWR of 9,500 pounds, not the 10,000 pounds that the manufacture claims. Curb weight of the truck is 6,500 pounds. The Northern Lite 811 Sportsman should be 2,170 pounds dry weight. If I add 300 pounds for a 33 gallon water tank (three-quarters full), 50 pounds for my two propane tanks full, that should still leave me with close to 380 pounds for passengers, dog, and a little gear.

I weighed in at 9,960 pounds with just me in the truck, no gear, and as mentioned above only about three-quarters full water tank. Add to that the warning I saw about truck campers in the glove box of my truck and I am now convinced this is not enough truck.  How does this happen?  The Northern Lite web site says the Sportsman is good for half-ton or three-quarter-ton trucks. There is no way you could put this camper on a half-ton truck. And how can Chevy claim that this truck has 3,500 pounds of payload?  It’s just not true. And don’t get me started about the payload warning for truck campers that is hidden away on the upper glove box (by the way I only found this because of one of the posts on your blog, thank you for that. Wish I had seen it 18 months ago).

The moral of the story in my mind is that four season, hard wall campers should be on a one-ton truck. I did my research and went as light as I could and I still overshot the GVWR. It makes me wonder how many of the truck campers on the road are actually over their GVWR.

I will say this, your advice and your web page have been invaluable for me. If not for you I would have looked at the Chevy website and assumed the 3,500 pound payload in the 2500HD was plenty and I would be driving around clueless. Thanks to you and your readers, I am more aware and will make the  appropriate upgrade. I am heading to the Dodge dealership today.

I welcome you to use this email as a word of caution to anyone trying to make a tough decision on their truck purchase, go for the one-ton truck. You cannot trust the weights given by these manufacturers and not doing it right the first time can cost you.

I look forward to getting out there and to writing my first review of the Northern Lite 811 Sportsman. It is a beautiful camper.


Chris Heatherton

We feel your pain, Chris. Unfortunately, many truck camper owners have been down this road before. Misleading advertising by some truck camper manufacturers have led many consumers astray, especially with regards to the compatibility of their campers with half-ton and three-quarter-ton pickup trucks. When it comes to choosing a pickup truck payload is the key and you want more of it. I’d much rather be below my rated payload and GVWR when hauling my truck camper rather than over it, when it comes to the safety and the longevity of my truck. This is why I always recommend buying a one-ton pickup truck to haul a four-season hard-side. All of this changes, of course, if you’re interested in buying a lightweight pop-up. If you’re going down this road, then a three-quarter-ton or heavy duty half-ton, in most cases, will be more than sufficient. If in doubt, ask a friend or someone that you trust.

For additional information about this topic, check out our Truck Camper 101 article.

About Mello Mike 890 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.


  1. In the different truck camper discussion groups, one sees one to two requests a month for information on selecting a truck for use with a truck camper. Sadly, most start or have a truck and then try to make the truck work without regard of the truck’s specifications. This is often by soliciting information that only matches what they want to write and or hear. Validation, if you will.

    While there are some that will take sage advice and act upon it. The majority will discount good advice, some angrily, and only accept what they want to hear. Even when it is from someone that is selling the camper. I am not as quick to put the blame on a dealer as some are. Then you have another camp, those that have no experience with a truck and assume a truck is a truck and it will haul and pull anything. You see this often with those that are pulling trailers.

    While we will never be able to inform and or educate all that wish to join the RV group, we can do a public service by repeating this issue often. What I do fear are these people when I encounter them on the road I am traveling on, too.

    Safe travels.


  2. Hello Mike, This unfortunely is a topic that comes up too often with side in campers and just as unfortunate you can’t count on the camper dealership to be completely straight with you about if that side in will be reasonably safe on your truck. I too had to learn the hard way about putting a Lance 815 on a 1/2 ton truck, it’s not a good idea. They’re some online calculators to help you out or check list to calculate if your truck can handle the weight of that future slide in, but they too have some limitation in themselves.

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