What Is a Truck Camper?

A truck camper cruised along a highway next to green mountain forests.

When people start mentioning what type of RV they have, you’ll likely hear talk of motorhomes, fifth wheels, travel trailers, pop-ups, and toy haulers. At some point, someone will speak up, saying they travel in a truck camper. Unless you are familiar with them, you might find yourself scratching your head, thinking, “What is a truck camper?” Today we will take a look at these mysterious compact campers and learn more about them.

What Is a Truck Camper?

A truck camper is a camper small enough to fit on the bed of a truck. These small campers can have substantial weight and great functionality. Some truck campers even feature slide-outs, giving you living space that expands beyond the bed of the truck. 

It may surprise you to learn that some truck campers compare to standard travel trailers you often see in campgrounds and on the road. Most come equipped with a kitchen, bed, dining space, and bathroom. Some of the largest truck campers even come with a dry bath. We think these campers provide some impressive features. 

Truck camper driving through the desert in Arizona.

How Much Does a Truck Camper Weigh?

You need to know the weight of anything you haul or tow. Knowing the weight of your load helps you ensure you fall within the responsible and even legal weight limitations. The lightest of the campers in the truck camper category will weigh around 1,000 lbs. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the heaviest of the group will come in just shy of 5,000 lbs. That’s a lot of weight to sit in the back of your truck! 

What Kind of Truck Do You Need for a Truck Camper?

Because the entire weight of the camper is resting in your truck bed, you need a rather substantial truck to carry a truck camper safely. Before choosing one, you’ll need to consider the available payload. The camper’s weight cannot exceed this. Keep in mind that the available payload is the stated payload minus the weight of passengers and cargo in the truck. 

You will likely need a one-ton diesel with dual rear wheels to haul one safely. Trucks of this caliber can carry heavier loads directly on top of the bed. If you choose a lighter-weight camper, you may get by with a single rear wheel truck, but you’ll lose the added stability a dually brings. 

Types of Truck Campers

Like other RVs on the market, you can find a vast array of options for truck campers. Beyond deciding on brand and size, you’ll need to decide on the style you prefer. Let’s look at a few types of truck campers you can consider

Slide-in Truck Campers

Slide-in truck campers do as you’d expect — slide into the bed of the truck for transport. Once you’ve arrived at the campground, they can unmount. You may enjoy the ability to remove it when you’d like to leave the camper at the campground and go exploring in the truck. 

These truck campers work great for those who want to set up at the campground one time versus having to pack everything up each time they want to drive around in search of adventure. 

Slide-in truck campers can stand independently using metal jacks that hold the camper’s weight until you need to reattach it to the truck for transport. 

Pop-Up Truck Campers

Like a camper with slides, a pop-up truck camper gives you extra space vertically. When traveling, the pop-up secures in the down position making it more compact. Once you get to the campsite, simply raise the pop-up top, and you quickly have plenty of room for standing and maneuvering in your unit. 

This style weighs less because the pop-up portion has a canvas construction. You get the extra space without needing to get a bigger truck. 

Truck Camper Pros

Why would someone choose a truck camper over a more traditional pull-behind? Many benefits come with calling a truck camper home while traveling. Let’s take a look at what makes these an attractive choice for many people.

Truck camper parked at a view point overlooking mountains.

Can Park Anywhere You Park a Truck

Typically, a truck camper can fit anywhere a standard-sized vehicle can go. This mobility enables it to work virtually anywhere. Overnighting in a parking lot is a breeze. You may find height limits your only real limitation.

Versatile for Camping

Truck campers work great for almost any camping situation. If you like full hook-up campers, you’ll fit right in amongst the other RVers. If you want to boondock off-grid, you’ll fare well there too. You can add solar and efficient battery banks to allow for off-road camping with no facilities. 

Because many of them are entirely self-contained, you can make use of programs such as Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome, giving you even more camping options.

Has Everything You Need

At first glance, you may look at a truck camper and think you’ll be “roughing it.” The reality is, these amazing campers have everything you can hope for when it comes to features. Standard features include a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area, and dining space. Though they come more compact, you can find it all. 

Truck Camper Cons

Truck campers won’t work for everyone. Though they have great features, they have their downsides. Keep reading to find out if you should cross out truck campers from your list of possibilities. 

Need an Expensive Truck

Unless you already have a heavy-duty truck equipped to handle the heavy payload of a truck camper, you’ll spend a small fortune upgrading. Trucks do not come cheap and can quickly add up to more monthly payments than the camper itself. Higher payments mean less money available for adventuring. If you don’t have access to a fully capable truck, this won’t be an option. 

Can Be Top Heavy

The weight of a truck camper does not distribute over 30-40 feet like many RVs. The weight localizes in one small spot, and their height makes them top-heavy. This can make having a dual rear wheel truck crucial. You will need to be mindful of this as you drive, especially on narrow and curvy roads. You don’t want to tip over, especially as you round a cliff corner. 

Small Space

Even with the massive models that truck camper manufacturers have come out with, they are still compact. Traveling in a truck camper with more than two people can pose a challenge, especially full-time or on longer trips. 

This compact size means that many families automatically rule them out. There isn’t much personal space available in these units, so you’ll share close quarters with your travel companions. Additionally, storage space fills up quickly, leaving little room for extras. 

Is a Truck Camper Worth It? 

Truck campers do have their cons, but many find them a great way to travel. They take you places you could never go with a giant 40 foot RV yet still offer many incredible comforts of home. They may not work for every traveler’s situation, but if it does, you can head off on an incredible journey that will give you a lifetime of memories. 

Can you see yourself traveling in a truck camper? Would you prefer to keep it small and more lightweight, or would you choose one of the larger models that mimic a larger trailer?

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