By Chuck Woodbury
My first trip as an RVer was in a borrowed truck camper. It was nothing fancy —no bathroom, no shower, no heater. But it had a double bed over the cab and a tiny kitchen with icebox. And, very important, it kept out the cold, the critters and protected me from the rain.
I loved it.
In that basic RV on an old Dodge pickup (old even at that time back in the early ’80s), I traveled up and down California, staying mostly in U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and California State Parks. I was cozy as could be, and in that little home on wheels I became hooked on the RV lifestyle. A few years later I bought my first motorhome.
Truck campers, occasionally called slide-in campers or pickup truck campers, are made for virtually every pickup truck whether big or small. A six-footer will slide onto the smallest truck and an 11-footer (commonly with a slideout to expand the dining area) will fit snugly into the bed of the largest trucks.
The smallest truck campers offer minimal living accommodations, usually a bed, kitchen with small sink and stove, and dinette with no holding tanks or bathroom. The larger units, however, offer pretty much the same amenities as a motorhome or large travel trailer with full baths, elaborate galleys, beds to sleep four to six (six is very tight, but it can be done), air conditioners and built in generators. These days a slideout or two is common. If it’s been awhile since you’ve peeked into a truck camper, stop by an RV dealer and check a few out. You’ll be amazed at how much comfort can be squeezed into one of these modest-sized RVs.
One appeal of a truck camper over a motorhome is that the living unit and the truck can be easily separated. Once set up in a campground, the living part of the RV can be left at the campsite while the truck is used for local transportation. You can’t do this with a motorhome, where the whole unit is one inseparable piece.
Another advantage of a truck camper is price. They typically range from about $6,000 to $55,000 with the most expensive offering virtually every bell and whistle of larger RVs. Oh, there’s the cost of the pickup truck to consider. But for RVers who already own a pickup, a truck camper can be a very affordable way to get into RVing.
And another great thing about a truck camper is that it can be transferred from one vehicle to another. So when it comes time to trade in your truck for a new model, your portable house can remain with you. You can’t say that about a motorhome.