Truck Camper Adventure is proud to present this update to one of our most popular articles, the Top 8 Pop-Up Truck Campers for Half-Ton Trucks. Those who remember the original July 2017 article will recall that several campers have been added to and deleted from the list and that the final rankings have been reshuffled to reflect new entries.
If you’re thinking about buying a pop-up truck camper, you probably fall into one of two groups. Either you’re looking to upgrade after camping in tents or you’re looking to downsize after owning something larger. Whatever the reason, buying a pop-up truck camper is a great move. Not only is it cheaper, more aerodynamic, and more fuel-efficient than a hard-side truck camper, but it also weighs less, handles better off-road, and is easier to store. What’s more, the pop-up’s compact size and low center of gravity means that you can take it to places where most hard-side truck campers can’t. Sure there are negatives associated with a small pop-up—its compact size, lack of amenities, and the need to raise the roof to effectively use it immediately come to mind—but the pros of having a small pop-up truck camper far outweigh the cons.
Several companies make truck campers light enough and small enough to fit in the bed of a half-ton short-bed pickup truck. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the constraints associated with fitting on a half-ton also means that getting a camper with a full wet-bath won’t be easy. You might be able to get either a cassette toilet or an indoor shower, but the pickings are slim if you want to get both—in fact, only two exist. The same applies to having a gray water holding tank. Some pop-ups have them, some pop-ups don’t. In general, amenities are lacking in a small pop-up. That might work for some truck camper aficionados looking for a more minimalist approach to camping and overlanding, but it won’t work for all, which is why some decide to buy a larger truck so that a larger pop-up or hard-side can be purchased instead.
As you probably know, the process of picking a perfect truck camper can be difficult. Numerous decisions need to be made before purchase. If you’ve already decided on a pop-up, good for you. You’ve made it past the first hurdle. The biggest hurdle is deciding on which camper to get. With so many great companies and truck camper models, picking the right truck camper can be extremely difficult. That’s the purpose of this article. We’ve ranked the best pop-up truck campers for the half-ton, short-bed pickup truck and provided some important specifications and characteristics about each to help you make a better, more informed decision. Remember, you saw this comprehensive, well-researched list here first, well before Internet copycats with nearly identical lists publish theirs. So without further adieu, here are our top 8 pop-up truck campers for half-ton pickup trucks.
1. Bundutec Wild
The hands-down winner and a brand-new design by Rory Willet, the Bundutec Wild pushes the truck camper envelope in a big way. The Wild not only comes with a complete wet-bath, but also a large, grey water holding tank that makes using that wet-bath practical. The standard color of the Wild is an attractive gray—not your standard, everyday white—and features contrasting black trim and black accents on the exterior. The camper is skinned with a smooth .040-inch aluminum that not only looks great, but also holds up better than standard fiberglass siding. The 7-foot floorplan of this 1,610-pound camper features a kitchen and wet-bath on the driver side, a refrigerator with loads of storage on the front wall, and a full-length dinette on the passenger side. Standard features include a north-south 56×74-inch mattress with lift up under bed storage, a 21-gallon fresh water tank, a 17-gallon grey water holding tank, a NovaKool R3000 compressor refrigerator, a stainless steel sink, and window and door screens fine enough to keep out annoying “no-see-ums” bugs. A plethora of options are offered by Bundutec. Three worth noting are a Zamp 160 watt solar power system, the BunduAwn wrap-around awning, and the revolutionary Truma Combi water heater furnace that not only saves on weight and space, but is also whisper quiet when in operation. The list price for the Wild is only $18,600, a real bargain when you consider all that you get for the money.
2. Phoenix Mini-Max
Interested in a semi-custom pop-up to haul on your half-ton truck? Well, the good folks at Phoenix Campers build perhaps the coolest looking truck campers in the industry. Customers start with a base model like the Mini-Max and add only the options that they want. The 7-foot floorplan features an east-west 60×80-inch bed, a large dinette forward, a wet-bath on the driver side, and a small kitchenette on the passenger side. With a dry weight of only 1,180 pounds, construction consists an all-aluminum double welded tube cage frame, stuffed with high density foam, and protected by a tough outer shell of pre-laminated thick, one piece Crane fiberglass. Mini-Max highlights include an 18-gallon fresh water tank, a Thetford cassette toilet, an 8-gallon grey water holding tank, and Dometic 1.9 cubic foot compressor refrigerator. The standard cabinet color is birch with a clear coat finish, but more exotic cabinet materials like bamboo can be ordered. Popular options include integrated power inverters with a built-in transfer relay, solar power systems of various sizes, roof racks, a rear ladder, flood lights, a low profile air conditioner, and Rotopax fuel-water containers. They’re also one of the few companies that can paint your camper a custom color to match your truck. Easily one of the top 8 pop-up truck campers for half-ton trucks. Works well on mid-size trucks too albeit with smaller holding tanks. Pricing for the Phoenix Pop Up Camper Mini-Max starts at $37,000.
3. Four Wheel Camper Hawk
With a floor length of 6.5 feet and a dry weight of only 1,075 pounds, the Four Wheel Camper Hawk is a perfect match for today’s half-ton pickup. The Hawk features a 20-gallon fresh water tank, a fully equipped kitchenette, an east-west queen bed, a three-way 1.7-cubic foot reefer, and attractive yet durable interior woodwork. Customers can choose from one of three floorplans when ordering a Hawk—a rollover side couch, side dinette, or a front dinette. For those want a more amenities, a cassette toilet and an outside shower can both be added as options. Interested in extending your time off-grid? Four Wheel Campers has that covered, too, by offering a 160 watt roof-mounted solar system, a dual battery setup, an 85-liter DC compressor refrigerator, and two 10-pound propane tanks. Four Wheel Campers uses a proprietary tie-down system consisting of four, zinc-coated eye bolts reinforced with steel backing plates that are mounted to the bed of the pickup. The advantage of having a hidden system like this is that it not only presents a clean look on the outside of the camper, but it also works great for driving off-road. Without a doubt, one of the top 8 pop-up truck campers for half-ton trucks. The Hawk lists for only $18,995, but don’t let the price fool you. This rugged, well-made camper can take you almost anywhere you want, and with its welded aluminum frame and aluminum exterior, will last for decades.
4. Outfitter Caribou Lite 6.5
At 850 pounds, the Caribou Lite 6.5 is the lightest, lowest profile camper in the Outfitter Manufacturing catalog. The construction of this well-equipped camper consists of vacuum bonded composite walls, a full walk-on roof, and a fully welded, boxed aluminum frame. The Caribou Lite is insulated to the hilt with Owen Corning block foam insulation in the hard walls, and Weblon three-layer insulation in the soft walls. One feature that really stands out is the full-size cabover bed that pulls out into a full-size queen. Highlights of the Caribou Lite include a 24-gallon fresh water tank, 5-gallon propane tank, a 1.9-cubic foot three-way refrigerator, a Progressive Dynamics 45-amp converter-charger with the three-stage Charge Wizard, a torsion assisted lift system, a 16,000 BTU furnace, a three-burner cooktop, attractive birch interior doors and cabinets, and solar reflective windows. Notable options of the Caribou Lite 6.5 include a 5-gallon cassette toilet, an outside shower, a 3.8-cubic foot Tundra DC compressor fridge, a 95 watt solar power system, a King Dome satellite dish, a Yakima roof rack, and an air conditioner. Easily one of the top 8 pop-up truck campers for half-ton trucks that can be fully used off the truck. Comes with a LIFETIME structural warranty, the best warranty in the entire industry. The Caribou Lite 6.5 sells for only $16,720, one of the lowest priced campers in this list.
5. Hallmark Milner 6.5
Introduced in 1969, the Hallmark Milner 6.5 has stood the test of time as an enduring classic. Like all Hallmark campers, the Milner is constructed of a durable yet attractive molded fiberglass composite exterior topped with a low-maintenance, one-piece molded composite roof. In spite of its stout construction, the camper still only weighs 1,212 pounds dry. Standard features include a 60×80-inch east-west bed with under bed storage; a large, 30-gallon fresh water tank; molded one-piece counter tops; exclusive big view double windows; a three-way 3.8-cubic foot refrigerator; a 5-gallon propane tank; attractive overhead cabinets with Tambour doors; and a battery compartment large enough to hold two 6 volt golf cart batteries. The list of options Hallmark offers is just as impressive and includes a 12 gallon gray tank, a 5-gallon black tank, a cubby large enough to store a portable toilet, a north-south bed, a shower pan for indoor showers, a 4.2-cubic foot compressor refrigerator, and a Zamp 160-watt solar suitcase. Hallmark even gives you options on the look of the interior cabinetry. All of their campers come standard with Oak or Amber Bamboo cabinets. Cherry, Blond Bamboo, Maple, and Hickory cabinetry are also available for an additional $1,200. Coosa composite cabinetry is available for an additional $2,000 if it’s wanted. Better yet, Hallmark campers come with a 5-year structural warranty, one of the best in the entire industry. A venerable classic, one of the top 8 pop-up truck campers for half-ton trucks, the Milner 6.5 lists for $26,900.
6. Alaskan 6.5 Cabover
Can’t decide between a hard-side or a pop-up? Well, look no further. The good folks at Alaskan Campers make a hybrid camper that’s a little of both. Unlike the traditional pop-up truck camper, which has canvas sides, the patented pop-top on an Alaskan camper features a “solid wall” design with a hydraulic mechanism that raises and lowers the entire top of the camper with a simple flip of the switch. The benefits of this telescoping design are obvious. Not only does it provide full standing room in the interior when camping, but also less wind resistance and better gas mileage. It also makes the camper more capable off-road. Inside you’ll find a gorgeous leather dinette, a wood-paneled ceiling, and attractive maple cabinets throughout. In the Alaskan 6.5 Cabover, you’ll find a generous amount of counter space and copious amounts of overhead storage as well. Standard features in this wood-framed, 1,390-pound camper include a 15-gallon fresh water holding tank, a three-way 2.5-cubic foot refrigerator, a 5-gallon propane tank, Hehr windows, and a full-length door that requires no stooping when entering or exiting. One group-24 battery comes standard, but as many as two can be added as an option. Other options include a Thetford C-200 swivel cassette toilet, a Zamp 160 watt solar power system, a 4-gallon water heater, a Suburban 20,000 BTU furnace, and LED lighting. Without a doubt, one of the top 8 pop-up truck campers for half-ton trucks with numerous benefits. The list price for the Alaskan 6.5 Cabover is $29,039.
7. EarthCruiser Adventure Mod 400
Based on a French design called the Gazelle, the Adventure Mod 400 is a brand-new offering from the good folks at EarthCruiser. This modern, aerodynamic camper is constructed of a lightweight, molded fiberglass, and features a wedge-shaped pop-top that lifts only in the rear of the camper. The Adventure Mod features a unique, modular interior that can be customized by simply adding and subtracting pre-built, plug-and-play kits, called PAKs (Personal Accessory Kits). Every Adventure Mod features a base floor plan that includes a 80×60-inch cab-over bed, a corner storage unit, a large dinette with bench storage, and an electrical system to power two ceiling lights and 12 volt accessories. EarthCruiser designers were able to get the dry weight of this diminutive camper down to a very manageable 800 pounds, but the final figure will depend on the final PAK build-out. Adventure Mod PAKs and options include Seitz windows, an en-suite shower, a portable toilet, a 1.5 cubic foot Isotherm compressor refrigerator, a 2.6-gallon water heater, a kitchen sink and cooktop, a 22-gallon fresh water holding tank, and a 200 watt solar power system. One of the top 8 pop-up truck campers for half-ton trucks. Can be ordered in different colors to match your truck. The only real knock against the Adventure Mod is the smallish interior—the floor length is only 5.3 feet—but putting the shower pan in the entryway is an exceptionally clever way to maximize floor space. The base unit of the Adventure Mod 400 lists for $23,500.
8. Northstar 650
The Northstar 650 is a terrific, little camper. It fits perfectly on standard short-bed and mini-short-bed trucks and features attractive half-wraps in the rear. In spite of its compact size, this rugged, 1,405-pound camper is still loaded with an impressive list of standard features, including a large, 30-gallon fresh water tank, an east-west 60×80-inch queen size bed with under bed storage, a 3.7-cubic foot three-way refrigerator, a 5 gallon horizontal propane tank, a comfortable 6-inch “Suresleep” memory foam mattress, and one of my favorite truck camper options, the Lagun swing-away table system. The long list of options for the Northstar 650, includes a 7.5-gallon gray water tank, a Thetford cassette toilet, a north-south bed, an outdoor shower, a Girard tankless water heater, a Dometic DC compressor refrigerator, and a Zamp 160-watt solar power system. If you like to camp in the winter, we highly recommend ordering Northstar’s optional “Sub Zero Package,” which includes an “insulated tent,” an insulated dinette window, and foil-faced wall insulation. Overall, a great little camper that can take a beating. The only real negative is the dated Oak interior—an interior facelift is badly needed in all Northstar campers. The list price for the Northstar 650 is a very affordable $18,890.
Read This Before You Buy!
Before purchasing a pop-up camper, make sure you have the right truck to haul it. When it comes to hauling a truck camper, the payload rating of your truck is the most important number you need to know. For half-ton trucks like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevy 1500, and Toyota Tundra, this rating can be less than 1,000 pounds or as high as 3,200. This means your camper, plus passengers and gear, must be below this number. Determining your truck’s payload rating is easy. It can be found either on a driver side door pillar sticker or can be determined by taking the truck to the scales and subtracting the weight of the truck from the truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). The payload certification form in the truck’s glovebox will have this information, too, but it will also say something to the effect that hauling a slide-in truck camper is NOT recommended. You can ignore that recommendation, especially if you’re planning on getting a lightweight pop-up. As long as you stay within the payload rating and GVWR of your truck, you’ll be safe, but you’ll probably need to upgrade your tires to get the weight-bearing capacity that you need. For a half-ton, that usually means upgrading the OEM passenger-rated tires that came with your truck to a good light truck tire with a load range D minimum.
Interested in a hard-side truck camper for your half-ton truck instead? Then you’ll want to check out our top eight ranked here.