The RV world is not always the easiest to learn about. Truck campers are right on that RV defined edge, so what is it?
What is a Truck Camper? A truck camper is an RV that rests inside the bed of a truck. This extra space can serve as a little home that often contains, a bathroom, bed, and small kitchen. Truck campers are the smallest RVs out there. So small that 42 states don’t count them as RVs but as cargo instead.
When it comes down to it the Truck camper is the best option if you want to avoid driving annoyances, but often has fewer options due to the limited space of the truck camper. Smaller often means cheaper though, so if you plan on using an RV for personal use or for a limited number of times a year a truck camper is a great option for you.
Advantages of a Truck Camper
Truck campers have a whole load of benefits that come with them the majority of them coming from the unneeded attention they require. If you don’t feel ready to jump into the pool of the RV lifestyle than start off with a truck camper.
Truck campers are designed to not cause any more disruption to your driving, parking, and storing than a normal truck would cause. Additionally, they are cheap, can boondock anywhere, and can separate from their living space.
When looking at RV options there are some great picks, but it is no secret that each one is going to take up extra space. Anything that you attach to a hitch is going to have a whole extra component stick out of its back. You can’t park that in an average parking space.
This means you’re either going to have to pull the trailer off every time you take a rest, use larger parking spaces if they are available, or park at weird angles to get your trailer to rest by the curb. Motorhomes have the luxury of being a single unit, but they are often 25 feet or longer.
A truck camper doesn’t have this problem since it fits in the bed of your truck anywhere that you could park a truck you can park your truck camper. Guess what that’s everywhere!
Boon Dock Almost Anywhere
Speaking of parking if you plan on staying somewhere overnight in an RV most have restrictions on where they can stay for the night. This can lead to extra fees and a general restriction on the freedom of where you can rest, but a truck camper can boondock almost anywhere.
Certain states have restrictions, see the following link for your State Road Laws for RVs, but the majority of them have an “unless a restriction is stated” policy. This means if your plans don’t work out or you are faced with inclement weather issues you’ll have the opportunity to sleep through the night.
One of the biggest concerns I have noticed people asking about when it comes to RVs is: How difficult are they to drive? With a truck camper you are driving a truck. The only extra difficulty that you will be facing is the added weight of the camper and the extra height of the camper, otherwise traveling with them is simple.
There is no concern turning as they are the same length as any other car you have been used to drive, and unlike the class A motorhomes out their the pedals are exactly where you would expect them. A great choice if you are interested in an RV but not interested in learning a new way of driving to accommodate them.
Home and Vehicle Separate
One of the major alternatives to the truck camper is a van camper. Similarly, the motorhome is often compared as a similar option to the truck camper. But one of the major differences between these vehicles is that you must always have your home with you.
That’s a huge deficit on you fuel efficiency and can often lead to an uncomfortable burden in certain interactions. Separating your home from your vehicles gives you the opportunity to leave home behind and take off in your truck.
This save you on the amount of fuel you will need to expend as you travel and allows you to separate yourself from what you are carrying something that sometimes is just nice to have behind you.
When it comes to RV options nothing is cheaper than a truck camper. There are several reasons for this, but the first is that its a smaller space which means it costs less. That’s the standard rule small things cost less than big things. We will go into the price in a later section, but you are not going to have to spend much to get a truck camper probably between $3,000 and $15,000 for a well made new truck camper.
Another reason for the low overall price of a truck camper comes from the low insurance costs and the lack of registration fees. Since a truck camper isn’t poorly maneuverable and is generally the same size as a truck there is not much besides weight that adds to collisions. As such Insurance doesn’t get raised much.
As far as registration goes vehicles must be registered but 42 states still consider truck campers as cargo. Cargo doesn’t need to be registered so unless you live in, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, or Washington. No registration is required.
For more information on the registering of vehicles check out the linked state laws above and this truck camper adventure article.
Easy to Store
Just like parking when you have a large craft they are going to be hard to store, but no so with a truck camper. In fact truck campers are going to be smaller than your truck that means they can be easily stored within a garage or, since they are weatherproofed they can be stored outside and shouldn’t be harmed by the elements.
This helps are well with storing while you are traveling around in a new area. If you separate your travel trailer from your truck you are still going to need to find a truck-sized space for that trailer, but with a truck camper, it’s easy to find a space that will fit it.
Disadvantages of a Truck Camper
Not Equipped to go Off-Road
The big issue here comes from the added weight of the truck camper. If you bought your all-terrain truck and then a camper don’t expect the truck to be able to continue as advertised with the extra weight that you have added.
Every bump that you experience on the trail will be amplified by the extra weight on the truck. Furthermore you can get yourself stuck faster in a heavier vehicle as it will sink into snow or mud faster. Stick to the paved road it’s built for your use. The further that you stray from the paved path the greater your struggles will be, so play it safe and travel on the road.
To Tall to be Casual
I find that some people like to think that they can leave their truck camper on their trucks all the time. Don’t. First of all your fuel economy is going to be significantly worse if you are carrying extra weight around will you all the time. Second Truck campers can get pretty tall and that is not something that is comfortable in many casual environments.
For instance you will reach heights of 11 to 15 feet or so with truck campers. While this may not seem that bad at first face a strong gust of wind and you will feel the steering wheel react to how you are being pushed. This isn’t likely to be dangerous, but your over correction after the fact can often lead to accident or collision.
If you are travelling around town than you are gonna want to watch out there a plenty of buildings whose low landing roofs overhang quite a bit. Scuff your roof on these and you are going to have to patch the hole you made in either your RV or their roof. Either way not a fun or cheap experience to have to deal with.
Finally, this is another reason to stay on the paved road as off-road may have low hanging branches that strike the top of the camper’s roof. Once again this may lead to damaging your roof or even get you stuck in the middle of a low hanging tree branch roadway. Avoid this by sticking to the main road and taking off your truck camper when it isn’t needed.
Truck campers are small which means you have less space to use for yourself. This effects sleeping space a lot, and bathroom space as well, generally those are the two largest, factors of having such a small space.
If you plan on using this for more than just yourself, or maybe yourself and one other, it’s not going to work very well. Not comfortably at least. For better sleeping options you want to look at class C motorhomes and fifth wheels. They have the most effective sleeping spaces.
On top of the small sleeping space, you don’t have a lot of storage. This means that if you use this frequently you’ll be done to the bare necessities. However, truck campers are perfect for fishing or hunting trips where you can take everythign you need and have a place to stay the night in comfort.
Needs the Right Truck
Finally, you need to get the right combination of truck camper to truck. If you don’t have this you are either going to damage the camper or the truck. This seems to be one of the leading complaints about getting a truck camper as if you don’t have a truck yet you may want to look into getting a vehicle that has a built-in engine, otherwise you can often get a motorhome for the cost of a truck camper.
Most RVs require a truck, but not everyone is a fan of driving a truck around. If that’s you than the truck camper probably isn’t the right fit as a truck is definitely required for this RV.
For another opinion about the pros and cons from someone who lives in their Truck camper check out Taylor Dzaman’s video on the topic.
Cost of a Truck Camper
If you are interested in getting a truck camper you’ll want to know how much it costs. Luckily, they aren’t the most expensive RVs out there, but they are still a high expense. expect to pay between $5,000 to $60,000 at the high-end of things on a truck camper for a new truck camper. For a used truck camper expect about $2,500 to $30,000.
On top of the truck camper its self you will generally need a 3/4 ton truck to cart around a truck camper easily. So, calculate the cost of the truck into the equation and you could easily be spending near $150,000.
For more details about the cost of truck campers check out this Camper Report article, How Much Does a Truck Camper Cost? and Taylor Dzaman’s video about expenses of living in a Truck Camper.
How to Attach a Truck Camper
To get full access to the capabilities of your truck you need to be comfortable taking the truck camper off. This is not something that you are probably used to so take your time and stay focused. There are a couple steps.
- find level ground.
- find a spotter
- clear the truck bed
- crank the camper jacks to the appropriate height
- center your truck and begin backing up
Make sure your truck camper is centered properly above the wheel wells, sides of the truck, and that the camper’s power cord isn’t hanging out to get caught by anything. Take it slow and check with your spotter for progress. Eventually, you’ll get use to it and there are a few tools that you can use to ease the process.
For more tips and tricks check out Taylor Dzaman’s video on it, and the following article. The secret to loading a truck camper and avoiding truck and camper damage.
Are pickup campers and Truck campers the same thing? Truck campers and pickup campers are the same thing. This can get pretty confusing at first but there is no difference between a pickup camper and a truck camper. So anywhere where a pickup camper is allowed a truck camper is allowed too and visa versa.
Can you ride in a Truck Camper? Passenger restrictions within a truck camper are based on state laws. See the state laws link above for more details on RV restrictions in certain states. Generally, passengers within a truck camper are allowed. There are a couple of states like Maine that restrict it but they are far and few between.