Interested in full-timing in a truck camper and working remotely on the road? Blake Scott and Rachel Firmin are doing exactly that in their 2012 Lance 950 truck camper. Blake majored in International Business with a minor in Spanish from Hillsdale College, while Rachel has a Masters in Accountancy from the University of Denver. Soon after realizing that corporate life wasn’t for them, Blake decided to start his own film and production business, SkyPixel Media. The couple now travels to film jobs across the country, supporting mostly off-road brands, motorsports, commercials, and luxury real estate. They’ve been together for 10 years now, and have traveling full-time in their camper for two and a half years.
Thanks, guys, for taking the time to talk with us. Your Instagram feed is inspiring. How long have you been interested in truck camping?
Blake and Rachel: We bought our first truck camper in 2016 to use on weekends when we were both working full-time corporate jobs. We were regular weekend campers, but we were sick of tenting and sleeping on camping pads that constantly deflated overnight. We either needed to replace all of our tenting gear, or make the investment into a camper. Blake grew up RV camping, and thought a hard-side truck camper would be the best option for our first camper. As dirt bikers, the thought of sleeping on a real mattress and having running water after a long ride was really appealing. We had friends that drove to Alaska and lived out of their truck camper for a year, and thought this would be an ideal set up if we ever wanted to do something similar. Our first truck camper was a 1996 Elkhorn that we bought for $2,500. The roof had been compromised and had several leaks, and the wood under the mattress was starting to rot from water damage. We lived in it for eight months and drove it from Denver to Cabo and back before deciding to upgrade to a newer model.
Why did you decide to buy a Lance 950? What about that model was attractive?
Blake and Rachel: We specifically chose our 2012 Lance 950 for several reasons. First, we wanted a Lance because they are made really well and we wanted a camper made with an aluminum frame. Lance also makes four season campers that have fully-insulated plumbing and ducted heat to the battery compartment. Lance makes their truck campers with a sub-floor water tank that spans the length of the camper, which keeps the center of gravity low.
Second, since we already had a super duty, long-bed diesel F-350, the 950 made a lot of sense for our hauling capacity and desired overhang length. We were looking for a model without a slide-out because we pack up and move sometimes daily, and prefer to be able to use the entire interior space without having to adjust the slide-out, and a slide-out would put us over our GVWR. We need the storage space for camera gear for our business, and storage space is often lost with slide outs.
Third, Blake is just under 6-7, and the interior height of our model is 79 inches, allowing Blake to actually stand in our camper with a quarter inch of clearance before hitting the ceiling. Any models smaller than a 950 are only 78 inches tall. The 950 has a perfect amount of space for our lifestyle and a decent sized wet bathroom without going over our weight limit.
What is your favorite Lance 950 feature?
Blake and Rachel: We love the the electric jacks and wireless remote on our Lance 950. We do not remove the camper from the truck very often, but sometimes on windy nights we put the jacks down just to help reduce sway from the wind.
Which tie-down and turnbuckle system do you use?
Blake and Rachel: We use the Torklift FastGuns and Torklift Tie-Downs. Prior to installing the Fastguns, we had Brophy clamps and turnbuckles on the side of the bed, which allowed the camper to dangerously sway independently of the truck when going around corners, which severely impacted our stability and driveability and even bent the truck bed. Installing the Fastguns was a conscious decision to improve sway and stability, and we can not recommend them enough.
Have you made any modifications to your truck camper yet?
Blake and Rachel: Everything in the interior of the camper is stock, except for the lithium Battle Born batteries that we installed to replace the stock, lead-acid batteries. We installed 400 watts of flexible solar panels on the roof, and roof cross bars to support a large Thule box. We’ve made small improvements inside the camper, including a low-flow shower head and modernized the onboard radio with a Bluetooth adapter. We added two KC Hilites M-Racks on each side of the roof for area lighting.
How long have you been full-timing in your truck camper?
Blake and Rachel: We started full timing in September 2018. We lived for eight months in our 1996 Fleetwood Elkhorn, and since May 2019 in the Lance 950.
Do you have any advice for others contemplating full-timing in a truck camper?
Blake and Rachel: Based on our experience and interactions with other RV’ers, people only ever downsize, so you might as well start small. You don’t need as much “stuff” as you think, and many items we thought we needed to bring with us didn’t end up getting used. We were told to always remove something from the camper when you bring something new in, and I joke that everything in the camper should have two uses, but that is not necessarily realistic. Just make sure that everything has its place and gets put back in its place or else camper organization can get out of hand.
Do you use solar power or a generator to keep your truck camper’s batteries topped off?
Blake and Rachel: We have 400 watts of flexible solar panels installed on our roof, and two lithium Battle Born batteries and a 2,000 watt Victron Multi-plus Inverter/Converter/Charger. We can charge the lithium batteries off of our truck’s alternator with a battery isolator. We do not have a generator. The alternator can charge up the batteries within a couple hours of driving or idling. Our system allows us to run our microwave, charge computers, charge camera batteries and run our hard drives for our work.
Can you tell us about more about your truck?
Blake and Rachel: We have a 2003 Ford F-350 with the 7.3L turbo diesel that we purchased last summer. The truck has 460,000 miles on the body, but only 80,000 miles on the Ford remanufactured motor. The truck is an automatic, which is helpful for Rachel to feel comfortable driving, but not as great for engine breaking as our previous manual F-250.
You got a good one. Have you made any modifications to it to carry your truck camper?
Blake and Rachel: The biggest improvements to our truck have been installing Hellwig Front and Rear Sway Bars and Hellwig Big Wig Air Springs. The sway bars reduce most of the sway on curvy roads and air bags help support the weight of the camper. We also replaced all front and rear leaf springs for newer and beefier leafs in the front, and an added leaf pack in the rear. We upgraded to a MishiMoto transcoder to help increase the life of the automatic transmission, which is the weak point of a 7.3L diesel. We also added a ported compressor housing on the stock turbo to eliminate turbo surge in fourth gear under heavy load. The flatbed itself was a major improvement in rigidity compared to the stock bed. We also modified our truck to a dually in the rear by adding dually adapters to help with weight distribution. Because of our motorcycle carrier and the way the camper sits on the bed, 65 percent of our weight is on our rear axle. The adapters won’t increase our weight rating, just help with weight distribution. They are spacers to use dually tires on our current axle, which is a good alternative for not having to replace the entire axle.
We like your flatbed? Can you tell us more about and why you decided to buy one?
Blake and Rachel: We wanted a flatbed with utility boxes to replace our previous truck, and found a 2003 F-350 that already had an 8-foot-long Temco steel flatbed. We wanted a flatbed because it is better for hauling a camper, will increase the longevity of the bed under load, plus extra storage space in the utility boxes. We have two underside bed boxes with 7-foot-long bed boxes on either side. The flatbed is also a big improvement in stability because our Torklift FastGun tie downs anchor directly to the frame of the flatbed. The only unintended consequence in switching to a flatbed was extra height. The Temco flatbed was taller than we expected, and now puts as at 13 feet 1 inch with our Thule rack on the roof though it does provide us with the extra height need to clear the roof of the truck cab.
Do you have any regrets in your choices? Anything you wished that you had done differently?
Blake and Rachel: We would not make any changes in our camper choice. Regarding our truck, we could have started with a dually. We thought we would be off-roading into more remote places and didn’t want to be limited by a dually, but we’ve since realized that with the size of our camper, we are more limited anyway in the camp spots we choose and could have started with a dually to help with weight distribution, and this could’ve given us more top-sider flatbed box options from the beginning.
Have you made any mistakes relating to truck camper that would help our readers?
Blake and Rachel: We didn’t realize until after switching to a flatbed F-350 that the flatbed raised our height by 7+ inches compared to our first F-250, putting us over 13 feet tall. This was something we did not anticipate. We knew it would be taller, but didn’t realize the extent of it. This resulted in us ripping off our satellite antenna and Weboost Cell Booster antenna on some low hanging branches, so now we have to be more careful.
What kind of mileage are you getting with your setup?
Blake and Rachel: We get about 10 mpg.
Do you have any favorite places or trails you like to explore?
Blake and Rachel: We generally camp in BLM or national forest areas that are remote enough to get away from crowds, but still have relatively easy access. Our limiting factors for getting into remote areas is our 13-foot height when there are low tree branches, or our weight for getting into areas with off-camber or sandy approaches. We prefer to get a decent camp spot with somewhat easy access, and then explore further on our dirt bikes. We mostly find camp spots based on trails we want to hike or dirt bike. We love hiking in places like Glacier National Park or Escalante, Utah, and love dirt biking in south and central Utah or the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho. We love being able to relocate based on the best season to visit certain places and getting variety throughout the year.
What has been the most difficult and challenging road you’ve been on?
Blake and Rachel: The most difficult road we’ve taken the truck camper on (on the F-250) was the Left-Hand Collet Wash in southern Utah, which connects the Smoky Mountain Scenic Backway to the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Left-Hand was more rugged than we’d expected, taking us through several river crossings, and several rock drops that we had to pile up rocks for.
We’ve noticed that you like to Jetboat. Can you tell us more about the hobby and your setup?
Blake and Rachel: We filmed a Jetboat project last summer and ended up deciding to purchase one of the boats from the shoot. It’s a one of a kind 2020 Jetstream 12-foot aluminum jetboat powered by a 260HP supercharged Jet-ski Sea-doo motor. The video we filmed with the three jet boats in Lake Powell can be found by searching Mini-Boat Mafia: Episode 1 on YouTube.
Pulling a boat trailer was never one of our goals. We’ve actually put a lot of effort into making sure that we don’t have a trailer, which is why we haul our dirt bikes on the dual rail carrier, but this was an opportunity we jumped on to explore rivers in a whole new way, and have had a ton of fun with it since. We have two bike rails welded on the tongue of the trailer to also pull our dirt bikes with us when we have the boat. Our goal is to pull the boat during the summer months, and then keep it in storage for the winter and swap back to the dual rail carrier for the bikes when we don’t have the boat.
We’ve taken it along many different sections of the Colorado river, the most fun being through sections of Canyonlands on a multi-day camping trip out of the boat.
What are your favorite places states where you like to explore?
Blake and Rachel: We mostly travel on the west coast between Colorado, Utah, Arizona and California. We have also traveled through Idaho, Washington and Montana, and would love to spend even more time in the Pacific Northwest this summer. Although we both grew up in Colorado and spent our winters skiing, we now prefer to travel somewhere warm for the winter because spending extended amounts of time in the cold in a camper gets extremely difficult. We do have a four season camper, but prefer not to deal with the snow in a camper. We love spending the winter and spring in the Utah deserts and the summer and fall in a pine tree forest.
What’s the most worrisome or scariest moment you’ve experienced during your travels?
Blake and Rachel: We pulled off the road across from an OHV staging area in Bear Valley, California to level up for the night, and while Blake was standing in the door jam of the driver side with the door open, three gunshots went off and the third one hit our driver side door, a foot from where Blake was standing. We immediately jumped in and backed out and high tailed it back to the highway to inspect the damage. It was likely someone target shooting that missed their backdrop, and made the mistake of shooting back towards the road and at dusk. The bullet luckily did not go through the other side of the door. We got very lucky in our placement and don’t take life for granted after that. There’s a safe way to operate firearms and someone was clearly not being safe.
Do you have any full-time tips on how to stay organized in your truck camper?
Blake and Rachel: The advice that we were given was to remove something from the camper every time you add something. The key to staying organized is to actually follow this advice and not just ignore it like we do.
Do you have any meal preparation tips for those living on the road?
Blake and Rachel: We love our Coleman Fold and Go Portable Grill that hooks up to an auxiliary propane hose on the outside of our camper. For the first two years of living in a camper, I wasn’t open to using the oven because I didn’t think it would cook evenly and it was more difficult to monitor the temperature. Once I got used to how a propane oven cooks, I love using the oven to make sheet pans of chicken and vegetables and pizzas and cornbread. You just have to remember to rotate the tray based on if you aren’t parked perfectly level.