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Old 11-24-2020, 12:10 PM   #1
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Truck Camper Pros and Cons??

Hello, I am thinking about switching from a 5th wheel to a truck camper and would like to hear some of your experiences and would welcome any advice that may help me decide. I currently own a 2016 Ford F250 long bed and a 28' Fifth Wheel. I have no experience at all with truck campers. I am considering a camper because I am currently paying $230.00 a month storing my 5er, which is standard for So. Calif. A camper would stay on my truck and can be parked in the street or small driveway without getting a parking ticket. I got a $60.00 ticket for leaving my 5er in front of my house overnight while not connected to the truck UGH! I would be camping alone and/or occasionally my DW would join me for a local overnighter. I am considering a large camper with a slide out. I would love to boondock more often. I am looking forward to any advice or recommendations you can offer. Thank you in advance.
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Old 11-24-2020, 12:54 PM   #2
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We don't have one, but we've got a single friend who uses his frequently. We see them in parks and the electric legs seem to make them easy load/remove from the truck. He's got a ClassC also, but unless he's traveling with spouse, the truck camper suits his needs.
They do seem a bit affected by wind and the steps into them when mounted on the truck are a bit daunting.
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Old 11-24-2020, 01:51 PM   #3
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Check the weights. Truck campers run heavy- especially if you're considering one with a slide.

Ignoring the 250's GVWR, you need to focus on the weight of the rear axle weight rating (GAWR) and the tire load capacity.
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Old 11-24-2020, 02:17 PM   #4
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Tiny comes to mind when thinking of these little slide-in boxes. And heavy. Something like this top of the line Lance floorplan weighs 4100 pounds empty which is F350 Super Duty (not F250) category. And still tiny compared to my 23SS Roo.


Friends took a smaller Lance from Ohio to Alaska and back and survived the trip but found it very confining. Nice 4x4 "off road" pickup did get them places many towed campers would not be happy going.

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Old 11-25-2020, 01:44 PM   #5
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Had a Northstar TC650 pop top camper on my 2003 Tundra. Great set up and allowed for towing the horse trailer or motorcycle trailer. Well built (so are the Lance units) and light enough to get into camp sites you could not with a TT. Ultimately sold it and bought the Rockwood; the camper was just too confining and my wife did not like climbing up into the cabover bed. Heavy campers can really change the dynamics of how your pick up drives, especially if they are top heavy.
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Old 11-25-2020, 02:18 PM   #6
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We had a cab-over camper for many years in the '80's. Camped all over Alaska with it, and made quite a few trips down and back up the Alaska Hwy. Not much room inside, but both sons were little and we managed. Both sons had a growing spurt and we rapidly outgrew it. Today's cab-overs are vastly improved from those back in the day. They now have better, more stable jacks that allow you to drop the cab-over at a campsite without having to "block" the platform. We enjoyed ours and have no regrets of ever owning one.
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Old 11-25-2020, 02:19 PM   #7
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Been there done that too

We had one at the same time we had our 29.5" Fiver. The fiver was a Citation made in Canada and maxed out at 12500 Lb. Heavy for it's size. I had a cataract and thought maybe I needed something easier to drive so we bought a 10.5" Citation Camper (nose to bumper 17') They only measure what goes in the bed of the truck. The sticker on the door said it weighed 3850 Lb. the day it left the factory (no slide). I put two 6V golf cart batteries on it and two 20lb. propane tanks and 400 Lb. of water plus all our other stuff. We had a 3500 Ram dually because the pin weight on the Fiver was 2300 Lb. I also had Air Bags on the truck and ran them at 80 Lb. pressure. Darn good thing we did. I figure all in with us, the two Goldens and a full tank of fuel I was putting 2 1/2 Tons on a one ton truck. I then bought a small, 4' X 6' cargo trailer for all the stuff we couldn't get in the camper and ran a 3' hitch extension to clear the back of the camper. (I still have that cargo trailer and it's for sale) That summer we went to Georgia which is a five day drive from here besides Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and all the places in between. I figured it out and I had the equivalent of a 17' travel trailer sitting on my truck. It was 'cozy' to say the least for the four of us but we do well in small places so that wasn't much of a problem. It was the worst driving experience of my life however. For ten thousand miles that summer I knew that if I had to swerve quickly to avoid a child or a car or a dog we were going to be laying on our side sliding down the highway. I had the best set up I could get and it still wallowed down the road like a hippo. I got my cataract fixed sold the camper and breathed easy again. YMMV

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Old 11-25-2020, 02:22 PM   #8
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You're coming from a fiver and expecting to cram into a truck-bed camper. That suggests that "size matters." If you go big, as they said in "Jaws," you're gonna need a bigger truck...perhaps a dually.

Yes, there are half-ton truck campers. They are tiny with few amenities. Many are "pop-up" style. There are 3/4 ton truck campers, and they are a bit bigger and more lux. By and large, these 3/4 ton bed campers are still in the weekend hunting trip category. But anything that even begins to compete with your fiver for size and amenities is going to be a beast.

Your risks are not just weight but also stability. That's a LOT of weight way up high, so going around corners can become a white-knuckle adventure. You need a beast of a truck to handle this sky-high load.

A recent article in Trailer Life on truck campers made the point by repeatedly suggesting an F-450 Dually for the particular rig they were "reviewing." https://www.trailerlife.com/tag/truck-campers/

Yes, your 250/2500 can do a modest truck-bed camper. But right now, the only thing your truck is "carrying" is the pin weight of your fiver, a little junk in the bed, and passengers. And that pin weight has a far lower center of gravity than a truck bed camper. The fiver's CG in your truck is at the fifth wheel. With a truck bed camper, EVERYTHING you are carrying is on that rear axle of your 3/4 ton truck...everything. And a good portion of it is ABOVE the bed rails...and some of it is above the CAB!!

Truck bed campers are awesome...but you need the right truck to carry the camper you feel you need.
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Old 11-25-2020, 02:22 PM   #9
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The kind of truck camper you have in mind is very expensive and requires a much heavier duty truck. If all new it will come in north of $100K. We got our first Lance in '94 and hauled it on an F350 dually until 2003 when we got a newer heavier Lance. Neither one had a slide-out. Driving home from the dealer with the new Lance showed me that we needed a heavier duty truck. Remember that your truck's brakes are all you have. No electric trailer brakes because your RV is in the bed. I designed a hauler using an F450 cab&chassis plus a dually F350 bed and a storage box to go between the cab and truck bed. It was a crew cab with 8' cab to axle chassis.
This was a great rig with stopping power I couldn't believe. Class 4 & 5 trucks use 19.5" rims because all that space is occupied by brake calipers.
We really enjoyed the Lances. Drove from our home to Alaska and back twice and spent all our summers in the mountains out west instead of broiling sun here. We did tow our Jeep because taking the camper off in unlevel terrain is a pain and a big dually does not make for good off road exploring.
The only reason we got rid of the tc was because we were going to build a house on our land so a 34' motorhome made it a lot more comfortable and truthfully we were ready for something more expansive. Now we have a 27' class B+ and I think that is better for us.
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Old 11-25-2020, 02:43 PM   #10
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I don't know your circumstances for driveway, HOA, and so on.
If you could install a dedicated driveway on your property...perhaps behind a fence to satisfy an HOA, you'd spend FAR less to solve your storage problem than you would trading your fiver for a truck bed camper.

I've lived where the HOA would not allow outdoor parking for an RV...a PUP in the garage was the way to go, and still we stored it off-site for the winter so we had the garage when it snowed and the PUP was idle.

Before I permanently saddled my pickup with a heavy truck-bed camper, I'd suggest looking into a pop-up. I had a Rockwood HW-277 that was absolutely terrific. Or a garage friendly PUP would not be a HW (high wall) but could still have essentially all the amenities of the HW. Put it in your garage and park your truck - unladen and ready to use for a Home Depot trip - in the driveway or on the street. You can load and prep one of these while parked in the garage.

Almost all truck bed campers have power corner jacks to enable removing the camper from the bed. But it seems as if you'd get a ticket for leaving the rig in your driveway...disconnected from the truck. (I never heard of a municipality issuing such tickets, so I presume this is HOA terrorism.) At any rate, if you can't store your fiver at home, you can't store your truck bed RV at home when you need to use the truck for its intended purpose.

A PUP might be a good compromise to accommodate your solo trips and occasional visits from your wife. Mine had a king-sized bed in front, queen in the back, toilet with black and grey tank, shower, furnace, microwave, 20 gallons of freshwater, U-shaped dinette SLIDE that would sleep two more, AC, 2-way fridge, double-basin stainless sink, adequate storage, and more. Fully opened, my PUP was about 29' long and it had the very large U-dinette slide that could sleep "normal" sized adults (I'm 6'6" and most definitely ABnormal.) And when folded, it was 19' from ball to bumper.
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Old 11-25-2020, 02:47 PM   #11
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Iíve owned a series of pickup campers. They are very enjoyable when hunting or when camping in the boondocks. A pickup camperís smaller size allows you to camp in most campgrounds and they are usually well built. You can remove the camper at the campsite and drive around with just the truck, which is a big plus compared to a motor home where you have to stow everything just to go into town or sightsee. You can pull a boat or a trailer behind a pickup camper by installing an extension tube into the truckís 2-1/2Ē receiver. A pickup camper doesnít have the maintenance requirements of a trailer, i.e., no tires or axels to give you a problem, which also makes insurance cheap. My previous Lance camper had a one-piece aluminum roof that kept it watertight.

The biggest downfall of a pickup camper for me is that they donít have much room. Sitting at the dining table is uncomfortable when the weather turns bad and youíre stuck inside. They are expensive and they weigh a tonÖ make that 2 tons. A heavy pickup camper requires a large-capacity truck and that weight has a high center of gravity that affects the truckís handling much more than pulling a 5th wheel. Even a one-ton pickup can benefit from airbags to keep the headlights from shining into oncoming drivers' eyes.

It was a tough choice for me to switch to a 5th wheel camper but I don't hunt or fish "with the guys" like I once did and my wife and I decided that traveling around sightseeing, etc., would be more enjoyable in a 5th wheel.
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Old 11-25-2020, 03:11 PM   #12
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Pro --- Camper goes with you everywhere.

Con --- Camper goes with you everywhere.
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Old 11-25-2020, 03:23 PM   #13
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Camper

We have a Class A FR3 Motorhome for long trips. We also have a 2021 Wolf Creek 850 camper. Its lite weight and its on a Dodge Short Box 2500. You may want to look at it, its made by Northwood who also makes Artic Fox campers. We love it for short trips and i use it for hunting season.
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Old 11-25-2020, 03:28 PM   #14
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We hated having to pick up camp and pack it for travel every time we wanted to go sight seeing. We site see a lot while camping so that didn't work for us. Plus have you seen the prices for new campers, almost the same as a TT.
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Old 11-25-2020, 04:14 PM   #15
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Thank you everyone for your excellent comments. You have given me much food for thought. I really appreciate it.
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Old 11-25-2020, 11:20 PM   #16
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We use one Eagle Cap 950. Check out truck camper magazine and truck camper adventure.
We go camping for the outdoors not the indoors.
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Old 11-26-2020, 02:10 AM   #17
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When we were shopping for our trailer last year we went to one of the RV shows, and I was *shocked* at the prices of the truck campers. Some of them were definitely nice, but decent ones were $70k+! We saw a couple that were over 100K!

I asked several of the sales weasels how they could be so expensive, and each of them told me basically the same story - that people don't generally buy a pickup camper because they *want* a pickup camper, they buy it because they *need* a pickup camper - usually because they need a place to sleep AND to tow something else at the same time - boat, horse trailer, race car, motorcycles, etc. (note that these are all luxuries/toys)

Essentially, they charge so much for them because they can.
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Old 11-26-2020, 08:28 AM   #18
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Truck manufacturers place different limitations on truck bed campers. On my Chevy 2500 the manufacturer limitations on bed campers are not found on the door stickers. There is a different bed camper weigh limit sticker inside the glove box.
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Old 11-26-2020, 09:00 AM   #19
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When my wife refused to tent camp anymore, I bought a slide in pop up camper with a bathroom. I liked it a lot. Ideal for one person, or even two I built a stair that mounted on the outside over the door, and swung down to reach the ground from my jacked up truck. On a trip to Yellowstone, we spent two weeks in it with my 8 year old granddaughter. It seemed crowded. We purchased a hybrid, and a Superduty. The slide in on the F250 seemed unstable to me, and loading it was a nightmare trying to get straight with the camper. I was more comfortable pulling the trailer than driving with the camper. Maybe you should move. I hate HOAs.
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Old 11-26-2020, 10:19 AM   #20
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As much as the truck campers cost I'd by a TT or 5er and have the room and flexibility to come and go with no issues. Later RJD
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