Taking the CAT Scale Truck Camper Challenge

The New Bundutec Roadrunner Gets Weighed

After spending over a week thoroughly testing every system in our brand-new Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper, it was time to finally take the CAT Scale challenge. Getting your rig weighed tells you a lot. The three figures, consisting of the two axle weights plus the total weight of the rig, not only will tell you how much your camper weighs, but also your truck. The figures will also tell you how much gear and other stuff you are hauling. Most people are shocked the first time they get their rig weighed because of half-truths perpetuated by salesmen and official sales literature. This is why it’s best to do business with a knowledgeable dealership or manufacturer that you can trust.

We prefer using a Certified Automated Truck (CAT) Scale when weighing our rig, but any certified truck scale will do. CAT Scales can be found in over 1,900 locations throughout the United States and Canada, primarily at Interstate truck stops. Getting your rig weighed is easy. All you have to do is pull up to the scale, push the button to talk to the operator, get weighed, pay, then receive your official weight slip in the scale office. The entire process takes just a few minutes and costs only $12. Owners should take their truck to the scale first then have their truck and camper weighed together later to determine the actual weight of the camper. Be mindful to duplicate important fluid levels like fresh water and diesel/gas when obtaining these numbers.

We’ve gone through this process several times with travel trailers and truck campers, but we were still a little surprised at the initial weigh-in numbers for the Roadrunner. Our rig, consisting of a 2013 Ram 3500 SRW 4×4 with a 6.7L Cummins diesel and our brand-new Roadrunner, weighed a hefty 12,180 pounds (front axle 5,460 pounds, rear axle 6,720 pounds). The total weight included a full, 30-gallon diesel tank, lots of gear, and two passengers. Subtracting the truck’s fully loaded weight puts the fully loaded weight of the camper at about 3,300 pounds (the official dry weight of the camper is 2,450 pounds). For us, the fully loaded camper weight consisted not only of several options like two 170-watt solar panels and a roof top air conditioner, but also things like food, camping gear, clothing, batteries, and a full fresh water holding tank.

As for the fully-loaded total weight of the rig, we are slightly over the 11,700-pound GVWR of our truck at 12,180 pounds (later models of Ram 3500’s have a 12,300-pound GVWR), yet we are still under the GAWRs of the axles (6,000 pounds front; 7,000 pounds rear) and the weight ratings of the wheels and tires. How did we go over our 11,700-pound GVWR and 3,809-pound payload rating? Obviously, the camper is the big one, but truck camper options and how we loaded-up the truck is another. We decided to weigh our rig under a worse-case scenario with a fully-loaded camper. This included a full water tank, which we rarely do, and tons of canned goods. We also had the truck loaded with all kinds of gear for the cross-country trip to pickup the new camper.

So what’s the moral of the story? Be mindful of weight when building-out your truck. Most of us focus on just the truck camper and truck camper options, but aftermarket truck options can add up just as quick when it comes to the total weight of your rig. Things like winch bumpers, spring packs, and towing assemblies can put a serious dent in the payload rating of your truck. For instance, here are the weights of the aftermarket upgrades made to our truck:

  • Buckstop Front Bumper with Warn 16.5ti Winch: 350 pounds
  • Hellwig Big Wig Rear Sway Bar: 40 pounds
  • Rebel SumoSprings: 30 pounds
  • Easy Step Hitch: 28 pounds
  • Torklift 32-inch SuperTruss: 60 pounds

That’s a total of 508 pounds of additional weight! Subtracting this weight from the 12,180-pound CAT Scale total puts us 33 pounds under the 11,700-pound GVWR of our truck. This provides yet another example of how important it is to buy the right truck from the start. Putting some of these options on a 3/4-ton or a half-ton would hammer the already wanting payload ratings of these trucks. Of course, traveling with less gear and less potable water also helps reduce the total weight. Our 35-gallon water tank alone weighs a whopping 290.5 pounds when full.

When shopping for a truck, we recommend taking a hard look at factory options as well. Yes, having a shiny, new diesel engine underneath that hood is great, but consider how much more weight that engine will place on your truck’s frame and how much having it will reduce your truck’s payload. For instance, the 6.7L Ford Powerstroke diesel weighs 1,100 pounds wet compared to Ford’s 6.2L V8 gas engine, which weighs nearly half that at 600 pounds. The same applies to 4WD. That feature, while great for driving in deep sand and snow, will add another 400 pounds to the weight to your truck, reducing your payload even more. Oh, and don’t forget to subtract 55 pounds for the weight of your tailgate. That’s a plus you won’t want to forget when calculating the overall weight of your rig.

While we discourage exceeding the GVWR/payload rating of your truck, there is one little-known trick employed by more knowledgeable pickup truck owner’s to squeeze out even more cargo hauling capability out of their trucks. This involves the Gross Axle Weight Ratings (GAWRs) of each truck. The GAWRs listed on each truck’s payload sticker are greatly limited by the OEM tires. If you research the actual GAWRs with the axle manufacturer you’ll probably be surprised to learn that you have several hundreds, if not thousands, of additional pounds of cargo carrying capacity (this is especially true with the AAM 11.5 rear axle found on our truck, which has a 10,000-pound GAWR rating, 3,000 pounds more than the GAWR given by FCA). You can tap into this additional cargo carrying capacity by simply buying better wheels and tires with higher load ratings. For example, the 275/70R18E Cooper Discoverer AT-XLT tires we bought for our truck have a 3,640 pound load rating; the Ion rims, 4,000 pounds each. Wheels and tires rated even higher than these can be purchased.

What else can you do to avoid an unpleasant surprise at the CAT Scale? When shopping for a camper, Truck Camper Adventure recommends that you add 1,000 pounds to the dry weight of your hard-side camper; 500 pounds to the dry weight of your pop-up. Why? Because the unloaded “dry” weight provided by Truck camper manufacturers doesn’t tell the entire story. This is because the dry weight reflects the weight of the camper with standard features only. It doesn’t include installed options, like air conditioners and solar panels, and never includes things like batteries, a full fresh water holding tank, full propane tanks, food, clothing, cookware, utensils, and camping gear. Never buy a truck camper based upon the manufacturer’s listed dry weights alone. This often-used rule of thumb works surprisingly well for truck camper owners and has proven to be a pretty accurate barometer when going to scales. It did for us.

Have you had your truck camper rig weighed at a certified scale yet? If you have, let us know if your weights met or exceeded your expectations. We’d love to hear from you.

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About Mello Mike 536 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. He currently rolls in a 2013 Ram 3500 with a 2021 Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper mounted on top. 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.

3 Comments

  1. I have weighed my rig on the cat scales. Before I get to that, I have a comment on the benefit of a diesel vs gas that I don’t often see mentioned. That is with respect to fuel range. For us using our trucks for truck camping, stock fuel tanks are woefully small. My loaded diesel rig gets 10-11 mpg, and with a 32 gallon tank I have a “comfortable range” of about 275 miles. With a gas engine, assuming I am lucky enough to get 8 mpg my “comfortable range” is cut down to 220 miles. One of the clear disadvantages of the diesel powertrain is the consumption of available payload.

    So my rig is a ’16 Ram 3500 dually with a Cummins diesel and a ’18 Arctic Fox 990 well optioned. I also tow a 21′ bass boat during some trips with a GTWR of 5000 lbs. I opted for a lightweight 34″ extender hitch by Reese with a capacity of 4500 lbs. The tongue weight on the trailer measured with a tongue weight scale is 250 lbs. The sticker on my Ram shows max allowable payload of 5606 lbs. and a GVWR of 14000 lbs.

    In addition to my extender hitch I have added DZ steps, lower torklift stabilizers and rear airbags. I have been conscious to minimize added weight.

    I ran my truck, camper and trailer across the CAT scales on the way out to a week of camping with 40 gallons of fresh water and 1/2 tank of truck fuel and 50 gal of boat fuel. The results were:
    5280 lbs. front axle
    8520 lbs. rear axle
    4500 lbs. trailer axles

    My truck weight total was 13800 lbs., so within the max payload specification, though very close. My trailer weight is at the limit of the extender hitch. GCW of measured rig was 18300 lbs. with a max limit of 25300 lbs. specified for the 68RFE trans and 3.42 rear diff.

    Weights met my expected values as I researched both truck and camper before purchasing and getting detailed specifications on each. I had planned to buy a used GM gas dually but at time of purchase in spring 2018 I only found two candidates nationwide and neither was at a price I could accept. The used RAM diesels were priced reasonably and I found a clean one that was dealer certified, and had it delivered to my house sight unseen. I have thus far been happy with the purchase and have put over 20000 miles on the truck. Maintenance is more work than the gas truck, but the interval is longer, every 12-15000 miles. DEF is pain in butt. Truck performance is awesome.

  2. Each time I see one of these “weigh-offs” I am even more convinced than ever that buying a hardside truck camper and staying within the manufacturer’s GVWR is impossible for most owners.

    We have a Ford F350 SRW LB gasser with an extended cab. With my wife and I along with a full tank of fuel we weigh 7,640 pounds. Our GVWR is 11,000 (5,000 front, 6,000 rear) our axle ratings are 6,000 front, 7,000 rear per door sticker.

    Fully loaded which includes a heavy swing-out bike rack and a full 40 gallon water tank we weigh 10,940 pounds, so 60 pounds shy of our GVWR with 4,820 front and 6,120 rear. Thus, even though we squeak in under our overall GVWR, we are still 120 pounds over on our rear axle. This is with a Northstar Laredo SC with a dry weight of 2,090 pounds without options. Probably one of the lighter hard walls around.

    Obviously I am hardly concerned about this as we are almost 1,000 pounds under our rear axle rating as well as our tire rating, but again this truck is a gasser, not a diesel. Make out of your numbers what you will, but one thing is certain. If you add up all the stuff that normally goes with truck camping, buying a truck with a camper package does not mean you truck is capable of carrying most truck campers, according to the manufacturer’s GVWR rating! What a conundrum!

    Ardvark

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