Truck Camper Fail: Don’t Travel Like This! EVER!

Have you ever seen a truck and camper combination that made you cringe or shake your head in disbelief? I think we all have at one time or another. Check out this recent photo of a Ford F-150 hauling a Northern Lite truck camper. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it. Clearly, there are several violations and safety hazards with this combo. It’s hard to know where to begin, but we have to start somewhere.

The driver is obviously a newbie who just bought this camper, a Northern Lite 10-2. It’s a terrific truck camper, one of the best full-size campers you can buy. What isn’t so great the driver’s choice of truck. By all appearances, it looks like the driver is hauling it home on a Ford F-150 mini short-bed truck. Not only does this heavy, long-bed camper require a one-ton truck with an 8-foot bed, but the camper is sitting on a half-ton truck with a payload of perhaps 1,700 pounds. The dry weight of the Northern Lite 10-2 is about 3,300 pounds, which is probably 800 to 1,000 pounds below the actual loaded weight of the camper. The camper, as-is, probably weighs a good 4,300 pounds at the very least, and possibly more.

“I actually own that exact same camper,” one Instagram reader said. “I haul it on my Ford F-450. I know how heavy this combo is. If this picture is for real, then the driver needs to get a brain, not only to protect himself, but also every other person on the road.”

Of course, the weak link in any payload calculation are the truck’s wheels and tires. The stock tires that Ford uses for the F-150 are 245/70 R17 BSW all-season tires. The weight rating of these tires are typically load range C, which offer a weight rating of 2,300 pounds each. These tires are fine for the truck by itself, but not for the truck AND a full-size truck camper. If anything were to fail on the trip home, it would probably be the tires. For full-size trucks, we recommend at a minimum load range E, which offers a weight rating of 3,640 pounds each.

Staying below the truck’s payload rating is vital, but having a “good” center of gravity is just as important. Clearly, this camper’s center of gravity extends past the rear axle of the truck by a good foot maybe two, creating a saggy bottom and a view out the front window like “an astronaut preparing for a moonshot,” as another Instagram follower said. Not only can this negatively impact driving and braking, but can also crack or damage the frame of the truck over time. Not only that, but because of the saggy bottom the rear jacks look like they’re inches from dragging on the ground. One bump or railroad track crossing can rip one or both jacks from the camper causing major damage to the camper.

As egregious as these infractions are, that isn’t the worst of it. The driver opted to use ratchet straps instead of an approved truck camper tie-down system with turnbuckles. This half-baked, illegal approach is not only fraught with danger, but can also damage the delicate fiberglass of the camper to say nothing about the components on the roof. A frame-mounted tie-down system like Torklift International’s tie-down system, coupled with spring-loaded turnbuckles, is the best way to secure a camper to a truck without causing damage.

We all love adventure—that’s why we all bought a truck camper—but safety must always be followed. One of the most popular articles we’ve ever published is our Top 10 Truck Camper Mistakes and Pitfalls. In it we highlight the common mistakes made by truck camper owners. It’s worth reviewing any time you take a trip in your rig. Unfortunately, this driver not only broke one cardinal truck camper rule, but three: exceeding the payload rating of the truck, failing to use a proper tie-down system, and ignoring the center of gravity of the truck.

Hey, we get it. We’ve all scored on a truck camper and need to get it home, but this still doesn’t mean you can throw caution to the wind and devise a half-baked approach that puts you and others at risk. Even if it’s only once. While we seriously doubt this truck will be the one that this driver finally settles on to haul this fine camper, hauling it home this way is a truck camper misadventure. Hauling a 10-foot, 9-inch camper on a half-ton truck with a 5-foot bed is dangerous and is a serious liability to anyone who shares the road with this driver. Would you like to be behind or next to this rig on the interstate doing 65 mph? We wouldn’t.

Northern Lite 10-2 camper on a Ford F-350 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed.
About Mello Mike 907 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. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.

5 Comments

  1. I have a 1 Ton f350 same model as above with Northern Lite camper. Yes, I can boost suspension to level it out “BUT” it would still exceed my GVW rating without the overhang. Further back from axle will increase weight on axle. That is why Semi truck and trailer have sliding 5th wheel’s and sliding trailer axles.
    If you are going to publish photos as the overload at top of page then advocate for all owners to read their labels, vehicle book’s, ask questions.
    Maybe you should show GVW with the picture of the vehicle and the dry weight of the camper pictured. Estimating custom boxes is not hard er on the light side.

  2. Looks perfect to me, that is if you are out to kill someone, yourself, destroy your TC or truck pr all of the above.Absolutely insane. Sure hope you are right that another truck will be in the picture, but from what one sees at times that is not even certain.

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