Of all the questions I get, the most commonly asked is can my half-ton pickup truck haul a hard-side truck camper? Most of the time I tell them, no. The reason is that most half-ton pickup trucks lack the requisite payload to haul a hard-side truck camper. “Most” is the key word here. In 2015 Ford released an aluminum bodied, heavy-duty version of their popular F-150 pickup truck. This game changing half-ton, crewcab pickup truck, featuring the coveted 3.5L Ecoboost gas engine, provides an impressive 2,799 pounds of payload. This lofty figure not only rivals the payload of many 3/4-ton pickup trucks, but sometimes exceeds them. Not only that, but the new F-150 comes with the upgraded suspension, tires, and brakes needed to haul a heavy load like a truck camper. The new F-150 design is so exquisite, and the truck is such a big seller, that it’s hard to see it being pushed off its lofty perch anytime soon. Remember, you saw this comprehensive, well-researched list here first, well before Internet copycats with nearly identical lists publish theirs. In this article, we rank the top 6 half-ton truck campers for 2015.
Unfortunately, the pickings are slim if you’re looking for a quality hard-side truck camper that is light enough to haul on your half-ton pickup truck. This is especially true if you’re looking for one with a wet bath and one that will fit on a mini short-bed (5 feet 5 inches long). In fact, not including the new cabless models being built by companies like Northstar and Travel Lite, you can count them all on two hands. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most people interested in buying a truck camper own or are looking to own a heavy-duty pickup truck and the size and weight of the truck campers available in today’s market reflect that. Yet, with the growing number of capable half-ton pickup trucks on today’s streets, it’s great to see more truck camper manufacturers throwing their hat into the half-ton capable truck camper ring.
As you probably know, the process of picking the perfect truck camper can be difficult. Numerous decisions need to be made before purchase. If you’ve already decided on a camper, 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 from which to choose, picking the right truck camper can be extremely difficult. So who makes the best truck camper? That’s a great question. We looked at several factors to determine our truck camper rankings, including quality, features, handling, and holding tank capacities and provided some important specifications and characteristics about each to help you make a better, more informed decision. So without further adieu, here are Truck Camper Adventure’s top 6 half-ton truck campers for 2015:
1. Lance 650
The new Lance 650 isn’t a “new” design, per se, it’s a copy of the classic 6-Pac D650 model of the 1970s, but what Lance offers in the 2016 update is pretty impressive. Not only does the Lance 650 provide a north-south queen bed and a full size wet bath with a sink, but it also features a large kitchen and a dinette long enough to sleep an adult. How is it possible to cram all of these features into such a “small” floorplan? Lance did it by placing the refrigerator in the cabover, an unusual location, but a location that works and works well. With standard equipment, the Lance 650 weighs just 1,700 pounds dry. It has a floor length of 6 feet 10 inches long and offers a spacious 6 feet 9 inches of interior height. The tank sizes are fairly generous, too, with 22 gallons fresh, 15 gallons grey, and 16 gallons black. Lance engineers elected to go with a tankless water heater for this camper. While you lose 6 gallons of fresh water going this route, you also eliminate 48 pounds of weight. The Lance 650 is versatile enough to fit on both regular short-bed (except Ford’s longer 6-foot 7.5-inch-long short-bed) and mini-short bed pickup trucks. A superb truck camper that provides everything you could want except for the excessive weight. The base MSRP is $23,738.
2. Northstar Liberty
Designed to fit on both short-bed and mini short-bed half-ton pickup trucks, and loaded with features, the Northstar Liberty is a real winner. According the company’s president, Rex Willet, the Liberty is basically a whittled down version of Northstar’s popular Arrow 8.5 model, but without the rear overhang. The Liberty floorplan features an L-shaped dinette forward, a large and spacious kitchen, a wet bath with a Thetford cassette toilet, and a north-south queen size bed. This low profile camper, with 6 feet 4 inches of headroom, provides a surprising amount of storage for a half-ton camper, including the capacity for two 5 gallon propane tanks and two AGM batteries. With a 20-gallon fresh water tank, a 13-gallon gray water tank, a 6-gallon water heater, and a removable 5-gallon cassette for the black water, the holding tanks are fairly large, too. In an industry first, the Liberty can now be ordered with a flip-out top bunk that extends partially into the cabover. Even with all that the Liberty offers, the camper still weighs only 1,775 pounds dry and is a consistent top seller for the company. Easily one of the top 6 half-ton truck campers for 2015. Like all Northstar truck campers, the Liberty’s frame and walls are constructed entirely of wood. The extra insulation package and heated gray options are highly recommended. Base price, $24,115.
3. Camplite 6.8 by Livin Lite
I didn’t think we’d really ever see another aluminum truck camper after Avion and Silver Streak quit making them over 45 years ago. Yet, Indiana-based Livin Lite has filled that void nicely with their lineup of non-riveted, aluminum truck campers. The Camplite 6.8 is the company’s lightest and smallest offering. It weighs only 2,026 pounds dry, has a floor length of 6 feet 6 inches, and provides 6 feet 8 inches of headroom. The Camplite 6.8 floor plan is similar to the Lance 650 except with the Camplite 6.8 you get a large wardrobe on the passenger side rear. While the fresh water capacity of the Camplite 6.8 is a bit meager with only a 19-gallon water tank and a 6-gallon water heater, the dual gray and black water waste tank is surprisingly large at 27 gallons. One feature that I really like is the massive exterior storage compartment on the driver’s side. It’s simply the largest I’ve ever seen in a truck camper. The aluminum exterior of the Camplite 6.8 is spray painted in attractive colors with contrasting “swoosh” accents that match and compliment the colors of many trucks found in today’s market. Easily one of the top 6 half-ton truck campers for 2015. Of course, the big positive buying an aluminum truck camper is how durable it will be–a good portion of the aluminum Avion and Airstream travel trailers are still going strong after 60 years. Editor’s note: Even though Livin Lite has gone out of business, it will remain in our ranking system due to its long-lasting aluminum construction.
4. Capri Retreat
Based out of Bluff Dale, Texas, Capri makes an excellent, lightweight, no-frills style of truck camper that’s ideal for today’s half-ton pickup. Built entirely of wood and wrapped in aluminum, Capri campers can be ordered as either a lightweight shell with a bed, or completely decked out. One of the Capri’s most popular options is what the company calls “The Works,” which includes a Polar Cub 9,200 air conditioner, a shower, a 30-gallon fresh water holding tank, a two-way Dometic 3-cubic foot refrigerator, 4-gallon DSI water heater, a microwave, a cooktop, a sink and faucet, an audio/video package, a 12 volt electrical system, a dinette table, manual jacks, and blackout shades. Single options can also be ordered, including a Fantastic Vent Fan, a furnace, porta pottie, remote operated electric jacks, and a large dinette window. All Capri campers feature an attractive, diamond pattern aluminum exterior that can be ordered in 10 different base colors with different colored accents and stripes. The company also offers four different interior wood paneling options—Cypress, Weathered Cedar, Ridge Pine, and Pecan—and can be ordered in different bed lengths, including 8-foot, 6.5-foot, and 5.5-foot truck bed lengths. Easily one of the top 6 half-ton truck campers for 2015. A Capri Retreat with the options listed above, including “The Works,” retails for $21,845 and weighs 1,750 pounds dry.
5. Adventurer 80RB by ALP
The Adventurer 80RB is unique in that it’s the only camper on this list that fits on both short-bed and long-bed half-ton pickup trucks. While the holding tanks in the 80RB are fairly small with 15 gallons fresh, 6 gallons gray, and 6 gallons black, this low-profile, wood-framed camper has everything else you need to boondock comfortably, including a nicely equipped wet bath and a kitchen with a 4-cubic foot refrigerator. Perhaps the most striking aspect about this 1,808 pound camper is its attractive and roomy interior. The cherry cabinets with the fully radiused corners and the stainless steel appliances and accents give the interior a modern, residential feel. We’re also fans of the Adventurer 80RB’s dinette, which features a flip-out sofa that can be converted into a full-length bed. However, there are some issues with the camper’s design and 8-foot floor length, the biggest being the ugly rear overhang when mounted on a short-bed truck. A rear wrap with side storage boxes would solve the problem with the looks and increase the storage capacity of the camper, but unfortunately, the company doesn’t offer side storage boxes as an option. One of the top 6 half-ton truck campers for 2015. Obviously, the 8-foot floor length and center of gravity of the Adventurer 80RB precludes it from being mounted on a 5-foot 5-inch mini short-bed truck. The MSRP for the Adventurer 80RB is only $19,208.
6. Travel Lite 770R Super Lite
Based out of New Paris, Indiana, Travel Lite is a relatively new company that has been producing truck campers since 1998. Travel Lite makes campers the old fashioned way using 2×2-inch and 2×4-inch solid wood with R7 insulated walls, .024-inch thick aluminum siding, and double plywood insulated flooring. With a dry weight of 1,385 pounds, the Travel Lite 770RSL fits well on most half-ton trucks. The 7-foot 7-inch floorplan features a 48×82-inch east-west bed, attractive cherry cabinets, lots of overhead cabinets, a small kitchen, a porta pottie, and a face-to-face dinette in the front. The camper is equipped with a three-way 3-cubic foot refrigerator, one 20-pound propane tank, a 12,000 btu propane-fired furnace, a two-burner cooktop, a 6-gallon DSI water heater, and a single group-27 battery. Popular options include a gelcoat exterior, an indoor shower, an 80 watt portable solar panel, a fiberglass front nose cap, and a 5-foot rear awning. Unfortunately, the tank sizes in the Travel Lite 770RSL are very substandard for a half-ton hard-side with only 9 gallons fresh and 5 gallons grey. Travel Lite’s quality has also been called into question over the years with leaks being the most common complaint. Unfortunately, this makes the company’s basic, one-year structural warranty even more problematic, though there are signs lately of improvement. The MSRP for the Travel Lite 770RSL is $12,580.
Interested in a pop-up truck camper for your half-ton truck instead? Then you’ll want to check out our top eight pop-up truck campers here.