Saturday, February 4, 2023



Own a pickup? Want to RV? Get a truck camper


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.

This spacious long bed Lance camper offers every comfort.

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.

Disconnect the camper from your truck for a day trip or errands.

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.



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3 years ago

Chuck you need to relook at the positive of a truck camper. the Pickup is the largest selling vehicle in the US and my 2019 Ram 3500 diesel 4×4 Mega Cab fully optioned Limited model has the technology, safety features, handling and finish of an European luxury car. I plan to travel in safety and comfort going 75-85 MPH on Texas Interstates, boondocking and moochdocking at the beaches, in the mountains,i in national parks, in shopping centers and on the rivers and lakes with no parking problems like the bigger Cs and As. My camper is a Northstar 850 SC popup camper, made by Rex Willett for over 30 years with a simple, solid, yet great design that has held up very well over many years. Needless to say the camper is demountable and stored or used as a guest house while the truck can be used for work, errands or commuting. Yes you need to be careful to match the truck to the camper to avoid overloading, but its nowhere near as fatiguing or unsafe from built in overweight like a motorhome and the cab, drivetrain, electronics, suspension, electronics of a truck is built on an assembly line with quality control and multi year warrantees with recalls enforced by the NHSTA. Do a Spread sheet or T chart and see the difference.

G Perrone
3 years ago

In the same line of thought, there are no lemon laws (hopefully that will change) for RVs, campers, etc. So, if part of your rig is a pickup truck, that part would be easier to get serviced for defects in a shorter amount of time – or it could be replaced completely. I’ve read of brand new rigs having factory defects and it sometimes takes months to get it taken care of, while you are frustrated and left in a holding pattern.

Lois Greene
5 years ago

We absolutely love our new truck camper. We have a full size new dually truck which is the perfect base for the truck camper. It has a queen bed and plenty of storage in the “bedroom”. We have all the bells and whistles in the kitchen and can bake or do pretty much anything you can do in your home kitchen. Our little dinette/second sleeping area is roomy and comfortable with a huge window for scenic dining. This is our first foray into RV’ing of any kind and I love the convenience of the truck camper and the comfortable size which let’s us go anywhere and park anywhere. I thank you, Chuck, for your interesting and informative articles. You have helped us ” newbies” a lot already!

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