Best 1/2-Ton Trucks for Maximum Truck Camper Payload

Remember when the payload rating of the 1/2-ton truck was only 1,000 pounds? Well, those days are long gone with the payload ratings of some half-ton trucks exceeding 3,000 pounds. This is good news for truck camper owners because payload is number one. Aside from cost, there isn’t a more important number when it comes to building a truck camper rig. Why? Because the payload rating tells you how much weight you can safely carry without overloading your truck. Everything from the frame and suspension to the axles, wheels, tires are considered when rating a truck for payload.

Fortunately, engineers at Ford, GM, and FCA have been hard at work when it comes to raising the payload of today’s half-ton trucks. Each year brings new claims on having the highest in-class payload. How is a truck’s payload rating determined? By subtracting the curb weight of the truck from its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which for today’s half-ton truck ranges anywhere between 6,800 and 7,850 pounds. When it comes to payload, more is better. A difference of 300 to 400 pounds in payload may not seem like much, but when it comes to hauling a truck camper, that difference can be huge. A heavier camper usually means more amenities.

When it comes to payload, options can either hurt or help a truck’s rating. As a truck camper owner, you should always opt for the “maximum payload” or “max tow package” as this maximizes payload. As for other options, however, choose wisely. Yes, having a diesel engine is great for climbing mountains and raising your testosterone, but it’s also heavier. This means less payload—not to mention more emission hassles—for you. Ditto for 4WD. That feature, while great for driving on rough roads, sand, and snow, isn’t so great for your payload rating—the typical 4WD drivetrain weighs 300 pounds more that the 2WD version (though we were pleasantly surprised that GM offers 4WD with a corresponding increase in GVWR). Think twice about getting that spacious crew cab as well. That larger cab outweighs a standard cab by roughly 350 pounds. For a half-ton truck, that increase in weight is huge.

A few words about the payload rating charts included in this article. Only the standard gasoline engine is included for each make. This is because a diesel engine weighs more than its gasoline counterpart. In an article that touts the best payload ratings, it wouldn’t make sense to include them. Other options, though, like drivetrain—either 4WD or 2WD—cab size, and bed sizes are included in our charts because requirements vary from one truck camper owner and another. If you’re looking for a long-bed camper, you’re going to need a long-bed truck. Note also, that the ratings in our charts represent a small sampling of what’s available. Ratings can vary by trim level and options, so even higher GVWR and payload ratings may be obtained depending on which options you choose. So without further adieu, lets take a look at the best 2022 half-ton trucks for maximum truck camper payload.

2022 Chevy Silverado 1500

The Chevy Silverado 1500 offers five engine choices in 2022: a turbocharged 2.7L V4, a 5,3L V8, and 6.2L V8, and a 3.0L I6 turbo diesel. All are backed with a 10-speed automatic transmission coupled to either a 3:23, a 3:42, or a 3:73 rear axle. For hauling a truck camper like the Cirrus 620, we recommend going with the 5.3L V8 that generates 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Equipped with standard leaf-springs, the payload ratings for the Chevy Silverado 1500 are the best across the board. A 4WD crew cab model with a 6.6-foot bed will net a payload rating of 2,217 pounds with the 5.3L V8, while a 2WD crew cab model with the smaller 5.7-foot bed will get you a slightly higher payload of 2,275 pounds with the same engine. For those looking for a rugged off-road model, the Trail Boss will not disappoint, though we recommend going with the new ZR2 instead that features a 6.2L V8, size-33 Wrangler Territory off-road tires, front and rear lockers, Multimatic spool-valve shocks, a 2-inch lift, and a 31.8 degree approach angle. Unfortunately, the ZR2 payload is only 1,440 pounds, which limits you to a small pop-up or truck topper.

  • Base price: $45,990 LT
  • Powertrain: 5.3L V8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Max payload: 2,443 pounds

2022 Ford F150

America’s best-selling vehicle for over 40 years, the Ford F150 offers an impressive number of engine choices. These include a twin-turbocharged 2.7L V8, a 3.3L V6, a 5.0L V8, a twin-turbocharged 3.5L V6 with a hybrid option, and a 3.0L V6 diesel. These power plants are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission with your choice of one of four rear axles, including a 3:15, a 3:31, a 3:55, or a 3:73. Even though we’re intrigued with the new 3.5L V6 hybrid that offers a 700-mile driving range per tank and a 7,200 watt onboard generator to keep the lights in your camper on, we recommend the 5.0L V8 that generates 395 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque to haul a heavy truck camper. Due to the excessive weight of the F150, Ford’s payload ratings are a mixed bag. A crew cab XLT model with 4WD and 6.75-foot bed gets you a lowly 1,731-pound payload, while a regular cab XLT with 2WD and an 8-foot bed nets a class-leading 3,325 pounds of payload. For off-road excursions in a pop-up camper, we recommend going with the Tremor rather than the Raptor because of the latter’s awful payload rating. In comparison, the Tremor offers a much-better, 2,102-pound payload that still includes size-33 all-terrain tires, an upgraded suspension, and a locking rear differential. Of course, the only negative going with a Ford is the taller cab that requires some kind of riser in the bed to keep the camper from touching the top of the cab.

  • Base price: $38,310
  • Powertrain: 5.0L V8, 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Max payload: 3,325 pounds

2022 GMC Sierra 1500

With the exception of styling, the Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 are practically twins. Powertrain and drivetrain options are nearly identical with only minuscule differences noted for payload. Five engine choices are offered, including a turbocharged 2.7L V4, a 5.3L V8, and 6.2L V8, and a 3.0L I6 turbo diesel. All engines are backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission with either a 3:23, a 3:42, or a 3:73 rear axle. For hauling a truck camper like the Lance 650, go with the 5.3L V8 that generates 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. You’ll need that extra power and torque to get up mountains and to get up to cruising speed quickly. Like the Chevy Silverado 1500, the payload ratings for the GMC Sierra 1500 are excellent. A 4WD crew cab model with a 6.6-foot bed will net a payload rating of 2,215 pounds with the 5.3L V8, whereas a 2WD crew cab model with the smaller 5.7-foot bed will get you a slightly lower payload of 2,186 pounds with the same engine. For luxurious off-road excursions, go with GMC Denali AT4. The package comes with a 3.0L I6 diesel or optional 6.2L V8, an impressive 2,233-pound payload, size-33 Wrangler Territory off-road tires, front and rear lockers, Multimatic spool-valve shocks, a 2-inch lift, and a 31.8 degree approach angle.

  • Base price: $56,090
  • Powertrain: 5.3L V-8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Max payload: 2,441 pounds

2022 Ram 1500

FCA offers four engines for the 2022 Ram 1500, including the standard 3.6L V6, a 5.7L Hemi V8, a 5.7L Hemi with eTorque, and an EcoDiesel 3.0L turbo diesel. All are paired with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic. Consumers can choose from one of three gear ratios, either a 3:21, a 3:55, or and 3:92. For hauling a truck camper, we recommend going with the 5.7L Hemi V8 for extra power and efficiency along with the 3:92 rear. Consumers will enjoy the Ram 1500’s smooth ride thanks to a rear suspension that uses standard coil springs or optional air springs, rather than the traditional leaf-springs found on the competition. In spite of the coil springs, the Ram 1500’s payload ratings compare favorably with its rivals, though some owners with truck campers still report an excessively soft and “bouncy” ride with sway corrected only through the use of a sway bar and either Timbrens or SumoSprings. A quad cab model with 2WD and a 6.4 foot bed gets a decent 2,325 pounds of payload with a 7,100 GVWR, while the regular cab with an 8-foot bed and 2WD gets an impressive 2,856 pounds of payload. For aggressive off-roading with a pop-up truck camper, we recommended the Rebel (rather than the TRX) that offers the 3.6L V6 engine, size-33 Wrangler DuraTrac all-terrain tires on 18-inch aluminum wheels, upgraded Bilstein shocks, a 1-inch lift, hill-descent control, a rear locker, skid plates, a 3:92 rear diff, and a host of other upgrades too long to mention here.

  • Base price: $36,785
  • Powertrain: 5.7L V-8 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Max payload: 2,325 pounds

2022 Nissan Titan

The worst-selling half-ton truck today, it also features the lowest payload ratings in North America. Aside from its exceptionally good looks, the truck has little going for it. Yes, the Titan’s recalibrated 5.6L V8 features 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, but that’s using 91-octane premium fuel. Anything less than 91-octane drops the output to 390 ponies and 394 pound-feet of torque. Fortunately, Nissan upgraded the transmission with an excellent nine-speed automatic with an AAM 3:692 rear axle. Nissan offers only two cab styles. The crew cab gets the standard 5.5-foot bed, while the king cab and Titan XD crew cab include a 6.5-foot bed. Nissan’s payload ratings are the lowest in the half-ton market with a crew cab model with 2WD getting only 1,549 pounds of payload. If you’re looking for payload, go with the Titan XD, which gets much better ratings, including an 8,800-pound GVWR and up to a 2,400-pound payload. For off-roading in a truck camper, we recommend going with the PRO-4X option that comes with special branding, all-terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, a rear locker, skid plates, and hill descent control. Unfortunately, even the PRO-4X off-road package is found wanting when compared to the Rebel, Tremor, and ZR2 offerings.

  • Base price: $37,785
  • Powertrain: 5.6L V-8 engine, nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Payload: 1,646 pounds

2022 Toyota Tundra

Like the Toyota Tacoma, the Toyota Tundra is a fine looking import, but its sales numbers still fall short compared to its American rivals. Toyota’s only engine is the iForce twin-turbo 3.5L V6 that generates 389 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque with an optional hybrid version that cranks out an impressive 437 horsepower and an amazing 583 pound-feet of torque. Toyota’s new engine is coupled with a brand-new 10-speed automatic with a 3:31 rear axle. Fortunately, the new V6 is an improvement over the older and larger 5.7L V8 that offered 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, which says something about Toyota’s commitment for improvement. While the Tundra’s payload ratings are an improvement over previous years, it should still be used to haul a pop-up rather than a hard-side. A double cab model with 2WD and a 6.5-foot bed nets a payload of 1,940 pounds, whereas as double cab 2WD model with an 8.1-foot bed offers an even lower payload rating at 1,875 pounds. Even though the TRD PRO off-road package features Bilstein shocks, a Heritage grill with light bar, tow mirrors, and the excellent Faulken Wildpeak all-terrain tire, we recommend bypassing the package because it features 20-inch aluminum wheels that are poor for airing down.

  • Base price: $35,170
  • Powertrain: 3.5L twin-turbo V6 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Max Payload: 1,940 pounds

About Mello Mike 661 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, he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management, 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 2013 Ram 3500 with a 2021 Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper mounted on top and holds a Ham Radio Technician License (KK7FKQ).

1 Comment

  1. Hi Mike

    Just noticed in the pic of the Lance on the RAM the bumper mounted swing out dual spare wheel carrier – do you have any close up pics/more details on this setup?

    Thanks

    Matt

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