Looking for some inspiration for your next truck camper build? Or looking for ways to improve your current truck camper setup with a higher-rated chassis and a custom truck bed? You’ve come to the right place. Jerry Janeck went through this upgrade process recently, building an impressive rig consisting of a Ram 5500, a StableCamper truck bed, and a Lance 1062 truck camper. But as you will see, Jerry encountered a few bumps along the way. Like many of us first getting into truck camping, his first truck was way overmatched by his dream camper. Jerry explains the process he went through correcting the error and choosing the right truck bed for his spacious, home-on-wheels.
Thanks, Jerry, for talking with us. Can you tell us about yourself and how you got involved with truck camping?
Jerry Janeck: I was born and raised in Southern California and served in the Marine Corps from 1966 through 1969. I married Billie in 1973 (50 years, so far). Graduated from Arizona State University in 1974 with a B.S. in Construction Management-Engineering. We moved to Portland, Oregon in 1974. I’m a retired general contractor in residential construction, owned my own business. We moved to Bend, Oregon in 2015. We have four married sons, four daughter-in-laws, and nine grandkids. Past and current interests include: Mountaineering, rock-climbing, whitewater rafting, hunting, bicycling (three coast to coast trips) fly fishing, and truck camper adventures. I have always loved working with my hands, figuring out how to make things, solving problems, and developing new skills. I have a large shop attached to my garage, where I spend most of my time working on projects, when I am not out working on our property either maintaining it, or making improvements to it. We own a 2021 Lance 1062, it’s our first truck camper.
How long have you owned your Lance 1062?
Jerry Janeck: We ordered our Lance 1062 in the fall of 2020, and it took about six months from order to delivery. At the same time we ordered a Ram 3500 Limited Night addition with HO Diesel. The truck took about seven months to arrive. I have owned several pickup trucks since 1975. When we decided on purchasing a truck camper we had a 2008 Dodge Mega Cab with a 6-foot bed, so we sold it and got a truck with an 8-foot bed to accommodate a larger camper.
Why did you go with Lance and not some other brand of truck camper?
Jerry Janeck: We wanted a camper that would last, and Lance was our first choice. According to Lance, the 1062 is the largest camper that will fit on the Ram 3500 SRW and I had never been a “dually” fan. The double-slide camper is perfect for us. The size, function, style and quality are spot-on.
What mods, if any, have you made to your camper?
Jerry Janeck: I built a full-on lithium battery system using Victron components. The main challenge was that the system is on the dining slide out, with lots of cables to manage sliding in and out. I have two solar panels on top and an onboard generator. We have no problems with power, and I would not change anything. I have changed the shower plumbing to a residential faucet for better control, and I did a simple water heater hack to stop pop-off valve water from destroying the electronics in the unit. My final camper hack is to accurately monitor the fresh, gray and black tanks. I am waiting for Safiery to send me their Ultrasonic Tank Level Bottom Sensor kit.
Can you tell us more about your lithium battery system and how you built it?
Jerry Janeck: My goal in building the battery system was affordability and reliability. The cost was high but a turn-key system that I have would be around $16,000, about three times what I paid. The system is all automatic, the batteries are always charged, and I don’t give it any thought. I am not an expert in this field and if not done correctly lots of bad things could happen. The design and final hookup was done by Bend Battery of Bend, Oregon
I built my own batteries, which saved me lots of money and was very easy. I first tried to get the cells from China, which was a mistake. I got my cells from Electric Car Parts Company. Price and service in my opinion cannot be beat. I got the info I needed and the cell delivery was very fast. I used Fortune 100 amp hour Lithium Battery 3.2v6c, Aluminum Encased. I built two 100 amp hour batteries (16 cells required). High quality and easy to put together
Each battery pack requires a battery management system (BMS). I went with Overkill Solar, if I were to do it over I would get the BMS from Electric Car Parts Company. I used Overkill Solar Battery Management System for four cell LiFePo4 Batteries, 120 amps continuous-rated current.
Can you tell us more about your off-grid electrical system?
Jerry Janeck: I wanted to use Victron energy components and was going to get everything off the Internet. Lucky for me it turned out Bend Battery is a distributor for Victron energy and they were willing to work with me in all phases of the system. Without the help from Bend Battery I might have hurt myself. They do turn-key systems, but went out of their way to help me.
The two main design challenges with the system was a small storage compartment and on the dining slide out, which made cable management a big problem. I built a full-scale mock-up of the compartment and Bend Battery drew all the components and wiring required. I installed all the components and ran the wires and when everything was done they did the final hookup. I could have never done this on my own, thanks to Bend Battery. The system components include:
- Two Newpowa 210 watt monocrystalline solar panels for a total of 420 watts solar power
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT 50 amp Charge Controller
- Victron Multiplus 3,000 watt Inverter
- Victron Cerbo GX and GX Touch 50 Monitoring display
- Victron SmartShunt 500A/50mV Measure current flow
- Victron Orion-Tr Smart 12/12-30 amps (360) Isolated Charging from truck battery
- Micro Air 364 Soft Start Easy start up on air conditioner
- Auto transfer switch for shore power Part of camper electrical system
- Plus all the stuff to connect and protect
This system will automatically charge the batteries from the sun, from the truck’s alternator, or from shore power, and if all else fails, I have an onboard propane generator. The batteries will go down a little when we travel with the refrigerator on battery mode. When the refrigerator is switched to propane mode the batteries recover quickly.
Impressive! How well do you like your Lance 1062?
Jerry Janeck: We love everything about our camper. It looks good and it has plenty of room. The truck drives smoothly, our storage problems are solved, thanks to StableCamper, and with the slide-in camper we have the flexibility to go where we want to go, and we can haul toys behind us which is a great benefit of having a truck camper.
We love your StableCamper truck bed. How did you get involved with StableCamper?
Jerry Janeck: StableCamper saved our RV experience by showing us how to put together a safe and comfortable outfit. Here’s how it all went down. My previous truck was Ram 3500 single-wheel Limited with a GVWR of 12,300 pounds. On our first trip out we hit the scales to see how close we were to the GVWR. According to Lance Camper we should’ve been right at the max—WRONG! We tipped the scales at 16,100 pounds: 5,100 on the front axle and 11,000 on the rear axle. I had aftermarket tires that were rated at 4,000 pounds each. We were way overweight. This rig was dangerous. If I got in an accident, I don’t think my insurance would cover an outfit so grossly overweight.
Lucky me, I saw Stoneyboot’s YouTube interview with StableCamper at the Truck Camper Adventure Rally. The interview was spot on—lots of info and no BS. I immediately contacted Jared at StableCamper, and I followed his advice to the tee. Why reinvent the wheel when it has already been invented and tested?
Jared and Candice of StableCamper were just what I needed– informative, polite and professional. Luck was also on my side because the truck market was and still is very hot. I ordered a Ram 5500 Limited cab and chassis with a GVWR of 19,500 pounds. I was able to sell the 3500 a year later for what I had in it. I ordered the CM aluminum-skirted bed from a local dealer in Bend and ordered the rest from StableCamper, which included the StableCamper Bed Kit consisting of aluminum clearance boxes for Lance campers, the BackStop, and Stake Pocket Hanger Mounts, and the StableCamper Stability System.
Did you make any suspension changes to your Ram 5500?
Jerry Janeck: Yes. I also followed Jared’s lead and went with a total suspension change to Liquid Springs. Jared introduced me to Carl Harr who walked me through the entire change out. I did the work myself, and with over 100 pages of instructions and Carl’s help, the change came off without a hitch. I purchased all the components, built a spray booth and taught myself how to paint. Through your recommendation, Mike, I installed a Buckstop bumper and a winch that added weight to the front of the truck to counter balance the camper and give me added insurance if I get in trouble with traction. The build went together without a hitch. Ryan at Truck Toyz of Bend, who races trophy trucks, is building me a custom trophy truck sway bar. When installed, that will complete the truck.
What kind of mileage are you getting with your setup?
Jerry Janeck: We can carry 74 gallons of diesel and we averaged 11.5 mpg on the Fall trip. The fuel mileage should increase with time as we put more miles on the truck.
Do you have any regrets in any of your choices? Anything that you would do different?
Jerry Janeck: It has taken a long time to complete the build, but I’ve had lots of fun and learned a lot in the process. By doing the work myself, I have a better understanding of how things work, and it makes the journey safer and more fun. I can’t think of any regrets or changes.
You’ve got a great rig. What things do you like best about it?
Jerry Janeck: We love the flexibility having a truck and camper. With the StableCamper truck bed, it’s easy to take on and off, easy to set up, safe and secure. We can go most anywhere and anytime of the year. With the Liquid Spring Suspension the truck is comfortable to drive either with or without the camper. We are also able to tow a trailer with toys.
What wheels and tires are you currently running?
Jerry Janeck: Still running the stock Hankook 225/70R19.5 load range H tires. Air pressure in the front is 95 psi and is 102 psi in the rear. When I got the truck I opted out of six aluminum rims, which I did regret because of tire rotation. I have since found out I need the steel inside rim on the back for strength, and the front tires are different from the rear tires, so rotation is not an issue.
What trips have you made in your rig thus far?
Jerry Janeck: We first got on the road with our new rig last August for a 10-day fishing and road trip to the St. Joe River in northern Idaho, then north into Montana along the Clark Fork River and west over to Coeur d’alene, Idaho. Shortly after our return home, we took off for nearly six weeks starting with a trip to the Wallowas in NE Oregon, then headed north easterly to Stanley, Idaho, then southeast through Sun Valley, southeast down to the majestic mountains of Utah, then northeast to the Flaming Gorge, the Dinosaur National Monument, then east to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Then we explored many parts of Colorado to chase the beautiful Fall colors. We were gone almost six weeks and drove almost 6,000 miles. We traveled over numerous high mountain passes in all kinds of weather. We were very comfortable and had a great time together.
What trips do you have planned for the future?
Jerry Janeck: The best trips are ones we go on without specific plans—make it up as we go, i.e. national forests, parks and monuments, fly fishing, hiking, boondocking (gives us flexibility and gets us away from crowded campgrounds), Nebraska for the harvest at the family farm, or maybe follow one of the three bicycle trips I’ve done across the country. And, there is always Florida—never been there and look forward to going there. Anyway, we have endless choices because there is so much to explore!
Thanks, Jerry. We’ve enjoyed talking with you. Do you have any social media accounts where our readers can follow you?
No social media, just old school. I do like to share, and if I could help someone who could benefit from my experiences, I would love to pass on what knowledge I have.