Each May thousands of overland enthusiasts gather in Flagstaff, Arizona for the Overland Expo West. The annual event, which showcases hundreds of overland vehicles and products as well as an impressive schedule of workshops and classes, is designed to inspire and motivate attendees to explore the world. While the Expo highlights all kinds of 4×4 overland expedition vehicles, a good portion of the vehicles on display are truck campers. There’s a good reason for that. It’s our contention here at Truck Camper Adventure that the slide-in truck camper provides a great value when it comes to capability, size, comfort, and cost. In this article, we present the 10 Best Truck Campers of the 2018 Overland Expo.
If there was a theme at this year’s Overland Expo West it would have to be the rise of the flatbed truck camper. Three years ago, flatbed campers were pretty rare. At this year’s show, they were pretty prominent. Indeed, at this year’s show two major truck camper companies, Hallmark and Alaskan, revealed new flatbed models. Along with Four Wheel Campers, we’re pretty certain that Hallmark, Alaskan, Bundutec, and other truck camper companies will be producing more and more flatbed campers in the coming years. Not only do they offer larger floorplans, but they also offer more storage. When it comes to storage, you can never have enough.
Bill Ward of Hallmark, who just released the new Nevada 8.5 flatbed, is excited about the new direction, “we’ve built flatbed campers as chassis-mounts since the 60’s, now we’re building them as a tray or flatbed design for off-road use in the form of a pop-up. We’re excited about the new concept here in the United States, we’ve done some of this for different people in different countries like Australia. We’re starting with this one, our new 8.5-foot Nevada flatbed. We’ll be building these as custom orders with individual specs as long as they basically fit within the confines of our molds.”
It’s also apparent that the Overland Expo is growing. Attendance numbers continue to rise each year as the venues improve and the word of mouth about the show continues to spread. The number of exhibitors has also increased with more manufacturers, outfitters, vendors participating in the big event. Truck camper manufacturers and truck camper outfitters that participated in this year’s show included host sponsor Four Wheel Campers, industry giant Lance Campers, EarthCruiser, Bundutec, Alaskan Campers, Hellwig, Hallmark RV, NuCamp, Armorlite, Camper Logic, XP Campers, AT Overland, Juniper Overland, Leentu, and Buckstop Truckware. Everywhere we looked, we saw a truck camper. Many exhibitors unrelated to the truck camper industry were even camping in them.
“This was our second year attending this event,” said Dorrie Benson, Marketing Director of Alaskan Campers. “This year’s show seemed twice as big! In fact, we love the feel of the show so much, that we’ll be attending the Overland Expo East also! It’s a great way to camp, mingle with vendors, get educated, and learn about what’s up and coming in the industry.”
It’s a tradition here at Truck Camper Adventure to rank the best truck campers and expedition rigs at each Overland Expo. In this article, we rank the top campers at the 2018 Overland Expo West. So without further adieu, here’s our top 10:
1. Hallmark Milner and Ford DEFCO Conversion Truck Camper Rig
This eye-popping rig, consisting of a 2018 Hallmark Milner 6.5 mounted on a 2018 Ford F-350 pickup truck, turned more heads than any other rig at the show. As you can see, this isn’t your typical F-350 pickup. This Ford got a complete DEFCO widebody makeover that includes new fiberglass fenders and bedsides with a matching hood, new front and rear bumpers, and a set of custom DEFCO 20×14-inch racing wheels with Continental size-43 MPT81 mud-terrain tires. The truck also got a complete suspension upgrade that includes upgraded axles, King coil-over off-road racing shocks, Lewisbuilt lower radius arms, a ProComp track bar, and a DEFCO sway bar drop bracket. As for the camper, the Milner 6.5 is a winner. Featuring a durable fiberglass composite frame and a one-piece molded fiberglass composite roof, the Milner 6.5 weighs only 1,212 pounds dry, making this low-profile camper a terrific off-road companion. The Milner 6.5 comes standard with a 30-gallon fresh water tank, dual batteries, an east-west 60×80 queen size bed, a Nova Kool R4500 compressor refrigerator, a Progressive Dynamics 45 amp converter with three-stage Charge Wizard for fast charging, exclusive big-view double windows, and a porta potty or cassette toilet. The camper also comes standard with either Oak or Amber Bamboo cabinetry. Optional Cherry, Blond Bamboo, and Coosa finishes are also available for an additional cost. The best truck camper of the 2018 Overland Expo. The base MSRP for the Milner 6.5 is only $26,900.
2. Aaron Wirth’s Lance 825 Overland Adventure Rig
If you’re interested in building a great overland expedition truck camper rig using a hard-side, Aaron Wirth showed everyone how with this very impressive rig built around the very capable Lance 825 truck camper. Every great rig starts with a great truck and in this all-important decision, Aaron chose well by going with a 2016 Ram 3500 4×4 chassis powered by the Cummins 6.7L turbo diesel and the AISIN 6-speed transmission. The key component that makes this build work so well is the custom aluminum flatbed by Highway Products that features nine storage compartments, a custom tie-down system designed by Sherp-Tek, and a very accessible size 37 spare tire mount located behind the cab of the truck. Functionality aside, the heart and soul of this rig is the Lance 825, a short-bed truck camper that weighs a svelte 1,837 pounds dry. The floor plan of the Lance 825 includes a north-south queen size bed, a full-size dinette, a well-equipped kitchenette, a large wardrobe, and a small wet-bath with a shower. The camper comes with 36 gallons of fresh water (including the 6-gallon water heater), a 13-gallon grey water tank, and a 14-gallon black water holding tank. In order to extend his time off-grid, Aaron ripped out the OEM battery enclosure and built a special vented battery box large enough to house two large group-31 batteries, and had the factory install a 300 watt Zamp solar power system. The Base MSRP for the Lance 825 is only $23,838.
3. Alaskan Camper 8.5 Flatbed Truck Camper Rig
Coming in at number three is another terrific overland adventure rig—a 2018 Alaskan 8.5 Flatbed mounted on a 2016 GMC 3500 4×4 chassis using a Pro Tech 84×103 aluminum flatbed body. Even though Alaskan Campers has been making flatbed campers since 1992, this is the company’s first flatbed model with a side entry. The advantage of going this route, according to Bryan Wheat, the CEO of Alaskan Campers, is that it not only frees up the back of the camper to haul things like motorcycles, bicycles, and luggage racks, but also makes a nice floorplan inside because it separates the bedroom from the dinette. Featuring Alaskan’s unique and patented hard-top pop-up and the company’s gorgeous, Wilsonart all-wood interior, the Alaskan 8.5 flatbed comes with everything you’d expect to find in a great overland rig, yet weighs only 1,940 pounds dry. This well-insulated, well-equipped camper comes with a 27-gallon fresh water tank, a Thetford C220 swivel cassette toilet, a 5-gallon propane tank, a 2.4 cubic foot Nova Kool R2600 DC compressor refrigerator, and two group-31 batteries. It also features the Truma Combi, the revolutionary combination water heater and furnace that not only saves on weight and space, but is also quieter and uses less power. Key options for the camper include a 160 watt or 320 watt Zamp solar power system, another 27-gallon fresh water tank, and a larger 3.5 cubic foot Nova Kool R3800 compressor refrigerator. According to Bryan Wheat, an optional wetbath with a shower can even be ordered. The base price for the Alaskan 8.5 Flatbed is $33,769.
4. Camper Logic Voyageurs Truck Camper Rig
Another great overland expedition truck camper rig from a brand new company. Based out of St. Paul, Minnesota, Camper Logic offers a variety of products including turtleback trailers, truck campers, and aluminum service trays. Shown here is the company’s Voyageurs model and new aluminum “Tray-Pak” mounted on a Ram 5500 4×4 chassis. The Voyageurs model features an angular shape quite unlike any other truck camper, yet is strong enough and durable enough to explore off-road. The camper is 12 feet long, 86 inches wide and features a welded aluminum frame overlaid with laser cut aluminum sidewalls and a full walkon aluminum roof. Moreover, the 2-inch thick walls and ceiling of this flatbed camper are fully insulated with R8 polystyrene foam, making it a true four-season camper. The stunning interior features bamboo flooring, aluminum frame cabinets overlaid with maple and birch, loads of storage, a large kitchen, a spacious wet-bath, a large booth dinette that can convert into a queen size bed, and a full-size east-west sleeping area in the cabover. The camper is also equipped with a massive 800 watt solar power system, an Espar D2 diesel heater, an Isotherm Cruiser 4.6 cubic foot compressor refrigerator, a 40-gallon fresh water holding tank, a Thetford cassette toilet, a Xantrex 3012 inverter with charger, and two MaxTank 155 amp hour batteries. Other options include a 100-gallon fresh water tank mounted in the floor, a roof window, and a truck camper pass-through. Pricing for the rig, including the Ram 5500 chassis, starts at $170,000.
5. Bundutec Wild Pop-Up Truck Camper
Coming in at number five is a new and exciting design from Rory Willet called the Wild. Built specifically with the half-ton truck in mind, the Bundutec Wild weighs only 1,630 pounds dry, yet comes with a complete wet-bath that includes both a cassette toilet and shower—a rarity for a half-ton capable pop-up. The Bundutec Wild is shown here mounted on a 2011 Ram 1500. Framed entirely of wood, like all Bundutec truck campers, the Wild features a durable aluminum exterior and a laminated aluminum/fiberglass roof with an electric lift. Highlights include a 4-gallon water heater, a Nova Kool 3.1 cubic foot DC compressor refrigerator, a full-size memory foam mattress, loads of storage, and a 16,000 BTU furnace. The camper is also equipped with several USB and 12 volt outlets, LED lighting, a MaxxAir Fan, and a Zamp exterior solar charge port. Tank capacities are key for any overland adventure rig, and the Wild has this covered too with a 21-gallon fresh water tank, a 7-gallon grey water tank, a 4.75-gallon cassette for black water, and a single 5-gallon propane tank. A battery tray large enough to hold a group-27 battery comes standard, but a dual battery tray can be added as an option. The response that the Wild got at the Expo was very positive. So much so, that plans are now in the works to build a slightly smaller version of the Wild for mid-size trucks like the Toyota Tacoma. Easily, one of the 10 Best Truck Campers of the 2018 Overland Expo. Pricing for the BundutecUSA Wild starts at a very affordable $18,600.
6. Four Wheel Camper Flatbed Hawk Truck Camper Rig
Two years ago we wrote an in-depth article on the Four Wheel Camper Flatbed Hawk and how the flatbed truck camper market was about to get bigger. By all accounts, this surge is already in progress with more and more flatbed truck campers being designed and sold. Large outfitting shops like AT Overland and Juniper Overland are even getting into the act. Shown here is one of Juniper Overland’s latest builds—a Four Wheel Camper Flatbed Hawk mounted on a 2015 Ram 3500 4×4 crewcab chassis. Juniper Overland went all-out with this impressive truck camper build by installing a Norweld 8-foot deluxe aluminum tray with a spare tire carrier mounted between the cab and camper, Goodyear size 37 M/T tires, an American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) dual sport suspension, an AEV front bumper, an AEV snorkel, custom Deaver rear springs, ARB lockers, and a Warn 16.5ti winch. As for the Flatbed Hawk, it makes a great expedition camper. Even though the camper weighs only 1,325 pounds dry, it still offers a surprising amount of space inside for long-term adventure. Not only that, but with its low profile and rounded back end, it handles better off-road than a traditional camper. Highlights of the Flatbed Hawk include an east-west 72×78 bed, a 20-gallon fresh water tank, a small kitchette, an Isotherm 1.7 cubic foot three-way refrigerator, a large dinette in the rear, and an optional cassette toilet. Popular options include a dual battery box, an indoor shower, an Isotherm 65, 85, or 130 liter DC compressor refrigerator, and three excellent solar power packages, including a 240 watt option. Easily, one of the 10 Best Truck Campers of the 2018 Overland Expo. Pricing starts at $25,995.
7. Armorlite EXP-1 Hard-Side Truck Camper
The EXP-1, with its revolutionary construction and modern-looking interior, was a big hit at the Expo. Built by Canadian-based Armorlite Technologies, the EXP-1 features new technology and design elements throughout, including an “exobody” method of construction that allows the camper to flex in off-road conditions quite unlike any other camper ever built. The company is so confident in the new design that they back up the structure with a lifetime warranty. Highlights of this fully insulated camper include moisture proof cabinetry, proprietary dual pane acrylic windows, an east-west full-size bed, a Thetford Porta Pottie, a 14.5 gallon fresh water tank, a 12.5 gallon grey water holding tank, a custom heat recovery ventilator, an on-demand water heater, and an Espar D2 diesel heater. Other cutting-edge features include a 320 watt solar power system with tilting roof-top solar panels, a Redarc MPPT DC-DC battery charger, a Unique 3.2 cubic foot DC compressor refrigerator, a built-in 55 amp battery charger with an auto transfer switch, a Victron BMC Battery Monitor, a proprietary hold-down system, and a 2,000 watt Xantrex pure-sine wave inverter. One of the 10 Best Truck Campers of the 2018 Overland Expo. In spite of all that the EXP-1 offers, the camper weighs only 1,483 pounds dry, making it one of the better equipped truck campers in this weight class. Pricing of the EXP-1 starts at $45,000.
8. James Langan’s Hallmark Nevada 8.5 Truck Camper Rig
Coming in at number eight is another impressive flatbed build. James Langan owns this particular rig that features the Nevada 8.5 Flatbed, a brand new truck camper from Hallmark. Constructed of a rugged fiberglass composite exterior framed entirely with wood, the Nevada 8.5 was designed with long-term, off-road excursions in mind. It features an east-west 60×80 queen size bed, a large wet-bath with a Thetford cassette toilet, a massive dinette, and a large kitchen with plentiful amounts of storage. It’s also equipped with two 27 gallon fresh water tanks, a 12 gallon and a 14 gallon grey water tank, two 20-pound propane tanks, and a battery compartment large enough to house two or three group-27 batteries. We were particularly impressed with the high quality cabinets, the molded countertops, and the fiberglass storage area underneath the bed. With our military background, we also liked the desert tan military style soft wall fabric used in the pop-up. To haul this 2,400-pound beast, James opted to go with a diesel-powered Ram 2500 single cab with a Hillsboro 2000 series aluminum truck bed mounted on back. Upgrades for the truck include a set of Air Lift air springs, Rancho 9000 XL shocks, a Buckstop front bumper with a Warn 16.5ti heavy-duty winch, and a set of White Knuckle rock sliders. Easily, one of the 10 Best Truck Campers of the 2018 Overland Expo. The base MSRP for the Hallmark Nevada 8.5 is $62,000.
9. Four Wheel Camper Hawk Pop-Up Truck Camper
Four Wheel Campers showcased a new red edition of its popular Hawk model at the Expo, and by all accounts, the new camper was a big hit. There’s no doubt about it, white can get pretty tiresome when it comes to the exterior color of truck campers, which is why we were glad to see the release of this new camper (imagine how sweet this camper would look mounted on a red Power Wagon or on a red Ford Raptor). According to Dan Welty, the vice president of Four Wheel Campers, red is only the first color to be offered by the company, more choices in colors will be rolled out in the coming months. With a floor length of 6.5 feet and a dry weight of only 1,075 pounds, the Four Wheel Camper Hawk was designed with today’s half-ton, short-bed pickup truck in mind. Standard features include an east-west queen-size bed, a 20-gallon fresh water tank, a small kitchenette, a group-27 battery, two 10-pound propane tanks, and a three-piece portable dinette. The Hawk features a very low profile with a cabover thickness of only 10 inches in the down position and offers a spacious 6 feet 6 inches of interior headroom with the top popped up. Like all Four Wheel Campers, the Hawk features an aluminum flex-frame for extreme off-roading, fully insulated walls and roof, a one-piece aluminum roof, and an excellent proprietary tie-down system to keep the camper firmly in place. The Hawk is priced at a very affordable $17,995 for the base model.
10. EarthCruiser MOD Pop-Up Truck Camper
EarthCruiser unveiled its latest prototype, the MOD, at the Expo and got an enthusiastic response from the overlanding crowd. On the outside, the MOD closely resembles EarthCruiser’s GZL, but don’t let that fool you. Unlike the GZL, the MOD features not only custom exterior colors to match many of today’s pickup trucks, but also custom interiors that can be built out in any way that the customer desires. What makes the MOD truly unique is that it features modular, pre-built kits that are used to outfit the interior of the camper. These kits can be assembled easily by any person handy with hand-tools and are designed in such a way that they quickly plug and play into existing mounting points already built into the shell of the camper. “We’re super excited about the response we got at the Expo,” explained EarthCruiser’s director of marketing, Brent Baker. “With the MOD you’re getting more of a utilitarian version of the GZL, a version that weighs only 800 pounds, costs less, and provides a number of build out options for the customer.” The base floorplan of the MOD includes a cabover bed, dinette seating with a table that converts into a small bed, a corner storage unit, and a 12 volt electrical system used to power two ceiling lights and 12 volt accessories. Easily, one of the 10 Best Truck Campers of the 2018 Overland Expo. Pricing for the Toyota Tacoma MOD starts out at a very affordable $22,000. The starting price for a slightly larger version for a full-size truck like the Ford F-150 or Toyota Tundra is only $23,500. EarthCruiser plans to make the MOD available for purchase later this year.