Truck Camper Adventure is proud to present a truck camper review written by a guest author. In this insightful and informative piece, Steve Barsky provides us with his thoughts on the 2015 Lance 865, a hard-side, non-slide truck camper light enough to be hauled on a 3/4-ton truck.
About a year ago, my wife and I decided to buy our first truck camper. We had both just retired and moved to Utah for the outdoor opportunities here, having lived in California most of our adult lives. We had owned oceangoing scuba diving boats for over 25 years and could see the similarities between spending time in a camper and boating, which appealed to us very much. Our goal was to spend as much time outdoors in the backcountry as possible
We purchased a 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD 4×4 expressly to carry a truck camper and tow a utility trailer with a side-by-side. A week after purchasing the truck, I discovered by reading the owner’s manual, that the maximum truck camper payload for the truck was only 2,615 pounds (for more information about this surprising revelation click here). This was a fact not disclosed on Chevy’s website or in the catalog. Accordingly, we adjusted our sights for a smaller, lighter camper than we had originally planned.
After much research, we traveled from southern Utah to Las Vegas to look at Lance Campers and were pleasantly surprised by what we found. With a wet weight of 2,320 pounds, the Lance 865 was the best compromise we could find based upon its size, weight, storage capabilities, and amenities. We purchased one and have had it for just about a year now. The following report covers both the good features and the small number of disappointments we have found in using this camper.
The overall fit and finish of the camper is very nice, with many excellent features for such a small truck camper. For the most part, Lance paid attention to the details, although admittedly, they missed a few small issues that were both surprising and annoying. Ours came with just about every option they had, including electric jacks, four season insulation (very nice), a ladder, and an air conditioner (not usable for dry camping).
The floor plan of the camper works well for us. We both have medium builds and are reasonably slender (I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall and weigh 176 pounds, my wife is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds). For people who have large builds, you may find that the dining area and the bathroom are a bit cramped.
One of the major issues we found lacking in other campers of similar size was the lack of storage space. I hunt, and wanted enough space in the camper to store my hunting pack and rifles, and this camper has plenty. Over the dinette, there is a long storage cabinet, which folds out as another bunk (for smaller people or children). It’s an ideal place to store clothing and other items. There is also a hanging closet with a light that will carry several jackets or nicer clothes.
The dinette is a comfortable place to sit and read, play games, write letters, and of course, eat. We have had four adults sit there for dinner and while it’s not roomy, it’s not uncomfortable. For two people, it’s more than adequate. Of course, the dinette can be converted into another bunk.
The bathroom is small, but complete. The toilet is a flush toilet that works very well, but the space between the commode and the wall facing it is minimal. If you’re a large person, your legs will be hard up against the wall. The sink is very small. The shower curtain is pretty delicate and you’ll probably want to replace it with something a bit more rugged.
The small kitchenette is very workable for simple meals for two people. There is enough counter space, the stove/oven is excellent (we’ve cooked pizza in it!), and the sink is quite large. The Norcold refrigerator works great on both AC and propane and is silent. Although the manufacturer says the refrigerator may not work at altitude we have had ours over 9,000 feet without issue. Our only complaint with the kitchen is that the faucet and handles are the cheapest plastic imaginable. Ours broke on our first trip and we plan to have a plumber look at it to see if it can be replaced with something more rugged.
The monitoring system for the battery, fresh water, black water, and gray water seems to be up to the task. Of course, since this is a small camper, the capacities for your fresh water (30 gallons) and waste tanks (14 gallons gray, 13 gallons black) are small. When dry camping, we use baby wipes for “washing our hands,” try to bring along mostly pre-cooked meals, use paper plates and plastic utensils, and all of the other tricks employed by those who enjoy spending time in the wilderness.
The Atwood propane heater has always started immediately and it warms the camper up quickly for such a small unit. On warm days camping if we’re out hiking, we open the ceiling vent in the dining area and run the Fantastic Fan over the bunk, while keeping the door locked. The fan moves an incredible amount of air and really keeps the interior cool. We have a 160 watt solar panel on the roof and we have never had the battery drop below full. When we’re in the camper, we keep the screen door open, too, if it is warm. Our unit also came with an air conditioner that works well, even if we have only used it in our driveway, since almost all of our camping has been in the wilderness.
The cabover has a lot of room, with space on either side of the queen size mattress to store books, duffle bags, and other items. There is also an overhead shelf on the right side for additional storage by the bunk. There are two high intensity LED reading lights in the bunk, and additional LED lights throughout the camper.
The Atwood electric jacks used for loading and unloading the camper work very well and make it simple to elevate or lower the unit. The motors on these have stuck occasionally so you do have to pay attention when you’re operating the remote for the jacks.
The external lighting works great and there is plenty of it. The camper really shows up well on a dark road. Overall handling for the camper on our pickup is excellent (we do have airbags installed on our truck, which may be overkill) and even my wife finds the rig easy to drive.
Our camper came with a complete entertainment system, including DVD player, MP3 connections, CD, and radio. The TV monitor was not included. Although I love music and movies, they’re not something I want to entertain myself with in the back country.
Small but Annoying Disappointments
If I had to give Lance a grade for this camper I would probably give them a 90 percent. So much about this camper is done well, but their lack of attention to some small but important details really stands out and is truly annoying. To date, we’ve taken the camper up to Montana for a hunt last October, to Arizona in the middle of a snow storm this past January for four days, and to multiple locations in Dixie National Forest here in Utah.
On our first trip to Montana the main door lock jammed and could not be opened during sub-freezing weather. Fortunately, we were staying in a cabin on a ranch, but there were items in the camper we needed and we had planned to stay in it during our return to Utah. This happened on a Saturday night and we had to wait until Monday to take the camper into Malta (population 1,967) to find a locksmith who could open the lock without breaking the door. Although he would take no money for this task, which took him all of five minutes, we bought him a case of beer. He warned us not to lock the door again and that we should have the lock replaced (which the dealer took care of under warranty, with another trip to Las Vegas).
The camper came with insulation pads designed to fit over the two roof vents, the bathroom vent, and one window in the sleeping area (we did not count the pads before delivery). We assumed that all of the windows would have insulating pads, or at least both of the ones in the bunk area. When we went on our first cold weather trip we discovered that there was no pad for the right window in the cabover and that the pad designed to cover the Fantastic Fan did not fit. The dealer told us that Lance did not and would not supply a cover for the window but that they would ship another pad for the fan. When the second pad for the fan was supplied, it didn’t fit either. The only conclusion we could reach was that the snap tabs on the fan used to secure the pad were installed in the wrong location. I took the pad to a local canvas shop and had them modify it (cheaper than driving to Vegas yet again).
On the side of the dinette there is an edge strip of wood veneer that was glued down to the wood here. After a year of use, this veneer started to come off the edge because there was no protective molding like that used on all of the other corners in the camper. I fixed this by attaching a piece of angled aluminum to the edge. It’s not pretty but it is functional.
Although the decorative window treatments surrounding each of the windows are attractive, they take up a lot of space and must add some unnecessary weight. These could have been cut down and could be much simpler. The Venetian blinds on the windows are poor quality and will undoubtedly need to be replaced in the future.
The storage compartment for the black water drainage hose will only fit the puny hose supplied by Lance, which is truly a bad joke. If you want to use a RhinoFlex hose, like most people do, you’ll have to store it in a box in the outside storage compartment, which takes up space many people would probably use for a generator. The hoses supplied for winterizing and for draining the fresh water are also ridiculously short.
The outer door can be latched open and a separate screen door helps to provide great ventilation. A sliding plastic pane can be moved away from the latch to expose the handle so the screen door can be opened. On our camper, the plastic pane was not notched to clear a fastener so that the pane could not be completely closed, allowing flies and mosquitoes inside. I took a tin snips to cut the track for the plastic panel away so I could get a Dremmel tool in to carve a notch in the panel to allow it close completely.
The TFO protective coating on the top and front edge seems a bit thin. When we picked up the camper for the first time, the dealer directed me in the process of loading and securing the camper on the truck. Unfortunately, they did not notice that the radio antenna on the truck was resting against the front edge of the cabover and by the time we made it back to Utah, a small area on the front had worn through the outer coating of the TFO finish.
Subsequent to our purchase, I received two identical letters from Lance thanking us for our purchase, and informing us that we would be receiving a satisfaction survey, which never arrived. I took the time to write a polite letter to the president of Lance, detailing our experiences with the camper and never received the courtesy of a reply. Although none of the issues we have experienced with this camper are what I would call deal breakers, in today’s competitive environment Lance’s apparent lack of customer support is surprising.
The Bottom Line
We like this camper a lot. It works very well for our application and has been generally reliable to date. If you are in the market for a smaller camper without a slide-out, the Lance 865 is definitely worth your consideration.