Truck Camper 101

Canyonlands White Rim Trail - Truck Camper AdventureIf you’re reading this article you’re probably either a new truck camper owner or a person who is seriously thinking about buying one. Whatever your situation, the truck camper is a terrific choice for your recreational needs. The truck camper is more versatile, easier to drive, offers better fuel economy, and can be taken further off the beaten path compared to other types of RVs. It’s also easier to store and maintain, and in most states doesn’t require annual registration and title fees. But going with a truck camper also means you’ll need to buy the right pickup truck and the right truck camper equipment to safely haul it. This article addresses these and a host of other truck camper related topics to help make your transition to the truck camper world smoother and less difficult.

I. Choosing the Right Pickup Truck

CAT Scale - Payload - Truck Camper AdventurePayload, payload, payload! When it comes to choosing the right pickup truck to haul a truck camper, nothing is more important than this number. The payload of a pickup truck is simply the amount of weight that the truck can carry and is a product of the truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). The payload, expressed in both pounds and kilograms, can either be found on a driver’s side door pillar placard or in the glove box on a payload certification form. You can also determine the payload by subtracting the curb weight of your truck (you’ll need to take it to the scales to get this figure) from the truck’s GVWR. Basically, everything being carried in your truck, including all passengers, gear, and your “wet,” fully loaded truck camper, should be below your truck’s rated payload. Grossly exceeding the payload and GVWR is neither safe for your passengers nor for others who are sharing the road with you. And if you happen to get in an accident while overloaded, your insurance company can void out your coverage.

Another important rating when it comes to hauling a truck camper is the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR). Each axle has an assigned GAWR, but the most important of the two is the rear since it will be bearing most of your cargo’s weight. You can find these ratings by looking at the aforementioned axle and tire rating sticker or by looking at the truck’s payload certification form. If you closely look at these ratings you should see an increase over the GVWR when totaling them. This increase can vary anywhere between from 100 to 1,000 pounds per axle. Exceeding the payload rating of a truck isn’t advisable, but these ratings can be used to squeeze out extra pounds of cargo carrying capacity. One should never exceed the GAWR of your axles. The same applies to the weight ratings of your tires (more about these later).

Remember when the terms half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and a one-ton accurately represented the payload for each class of pickup truck? Well, those days are long gone with all three classes of truck capable of hauling much more weight. Today’s three-quarter ton trucks have payloads between 2,300 and 3,800 pounds while one-tons can haul anywhere between 3,800 and 6,200 pounds. The large variances in each class are due to bed-size and options so they must be carefully chosen. For example, the 6.7L Ford Powerstroke diesel weighs 1,100 pounds wet compared to their 6.2L V8 gas engine which weighs in nearly half that at 600 pounds. And if you’re considering a four-wheel drive transmission, that’s another 400 pounds. The same applies to other nice-to-have options like steel wheels, a crew-cab, a super hitch and a winch; these add capability, but reduce payload. So choose your options wisely.

When it comes to options perhaps the most often debated is whether to buy a truck with dual rear wheels (DRW) or single rear wheels (SRW). Both certainly have their pros and cons. Dual rear wheels, or “dually’s” as they’re popularly referred to, offer superior stability and handling on roads and usually offer higher payloads, but they are also wider in the “hips” and less adept at off-roading. It’s true that dually’s “float” better over certain surfaces like loose sand, but the big negative with them is that jagged rocks can get wedged between the rear wheels causing flats and other damage. On the other hand, SRW trucks are narrower, lighter, more versatile, and give superior traction and maneuverability on all types of road surfaces. Basically, where you intend on taking your truck camper plays a big role in what type of rear axle to get. If you intend on staying on the asphalt with a heavy, 4,000 pound camper, then the dually is the way to go. If you intend on doing a lot of off-roading with a light camper, then I’d go with the SRW.

Payload Sticker for Ram 3500 - Truck Camper Adventure
The payload for this pickup truck is 3,809 pounds.

The diesel engine is another hotly debated option. With today’s strict EPA standards and the $8,000 up front cost you’d think the diesel would be dead in today’s auto and light truck market, but it hasn’t happened and probably never will. Diesels still provide superior torque, better fuel mileage, and last longer than the typical gas engine (600,000 miles is not uncommon). They also hold their value better and have a “coolness” factor associated with them that a gas engine can’t touch. Yes, it’s true that the new requirement for diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) adds an extra burden for diesel ownership, but there’s also no denying that today’s diesel engine burns cleaner, is much quieter, and doesn’t have the smell associated with them that they had in the past. The big negative, of course, is the payload loss associated with the heavier engine (diesel engines typically weigh 600 pounds more than a gas engine), so this must be carefully weighed against the positives and your own specific needs. Because of this penalty in payload I wouldn’t recommend a diesel for anything less than a one-ton truck.

Can a half-ton pickup truck haul a truck camper? The answer is, yes, but with several caveats. It depends on the truck, it’s rated payload, and the size and weight of the camper you have in mind. The 2015 Ford F-150 short-bed (154 inch wheelbase), crew cab, two-wheel drive, with the heavy duty payload package, has a rated payload of 2,799 pounds. That’s a pretty impressive number even for a three-quarter-ton. Most half-ton pickup trucks out there, however, have much less payload, usually around 1,600 pounds. This reduced payload basically limits you to pop-up truck campers and smaller hard-slide campers like the Lance 650 and the cab-less Northstar Vista. With the exception of the aforementioned Ford F-150, most half-tons will need upgrades to the shock absorbers, spring packs, brakes, and tires, the latter meaning a capacity improvement from the weak passenger tires that came with your truck to a set of good light truck (LT) tires with a Load Range of either D or E.

II. Choosing the Right Truck Camper

If you’re starting from scratch and have neither a pickup truck nor a camper, it’s best to choose your camper first. This will save you angst and money in the long run. Today’s consumer has much to choose from when it comes to buying a truck camper. Truck campers come in various sizes and styles including long bed and short bed, hard-side and pop-up, and slide-out and non slide-out models. Like any RV, you’ll want to buy the camper that meets your requirements as far as size and features are concerned. You’ll also want to buy one that will allow you to go where you want. If you plan on doing a lot of boondocking and doing a lot of off-road exploring then you should look hard at a pop-up truck camper. These are lighter, have a lower profile, and have a lower center of gravity for tackling the most challenging roads and terrain. If your travel plans are less ambitious, however, and you want more security and a more capable four-season camper, then the hard-side truck camper will probably suit you better. That isn’t to say, you can’t do a lot of off-roading in a hard side truck camper. You can. But if you decide to go this route I recommend a non-basement model, with a low center of gravity, and a width of no more than 7.5 feet. If you’re interested in buying a great off-road, expedition-style truck camper, click here.

When it comes to truck campers, weight is a very important consideration, if not the most important. Manufacturers list the unloaded “dry” and the fully loaded “wet” weights of their campers on their websites and brochures, but these figures can be deceiving. These numbers don’t include installed options, like air conditioners, and never include things like food, clothing, cookware, utensils, and camping gear. Never buy a truck camper based upon the manufacturer weights alone. To give you a better idea of what the camper will actually weigh when you use it add 1,000 pounds to the camper’s listed wet weight. This often-used rule of thumb works surprisingly well for truck camper owners and has proven to be pretty accurate when going to scales. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure that the truck you choose has a payload rating higher than this more realistic camper weight figure.

An often overlooked factor when choosing a truck camper is how it’s constructed. Aluminum framing is used by most truck camper manufacturers today, but there are several that still produce wood framed units. Like anything, there are pros and cons to each. Aluminum is lighter, doesn’t rot, and is mold and termite resistant, but it also “sweats” during cold weather (a primary cause of delamination), is more expensive, is subject to more thermal loss, and becomes weak and brittle with time. On the other hand, wood is stronger, cheaper, easier to work with and repair, and insulates better, but is also heavier, and can rot and mold over time if exposed to moisture. The only truck camper manufacturers that I know of that still use wood to build their frames are Northstar Campers, Adventurer, and Alaskan. Arguably, these manufacturers also build the strongest and most durable truck campers in today’s market.

Should you buy a truck camper with one or more slide-outs? There are certainly some big positives with slide-outs, the most important being the extra space and “roominess” they create, but they’re also heavy, tacking on an average of 400 pounds to the weight of the camper. Slide-outs can also leak, create drafts when extended (a major consideration for those who like to camp in the winter), and can breakdown. Like anything it really comes down to what’s important to you. If you think you’ll need the extra space that the slide-out provides and you think you’ll camp mostly on well-maintained roads, then I would get one. But if you are planning on going off-road quite a bit and plan on doing a lot of expedition style exploring , then I would avoid them. The stresses they can create to the frame of the camper can eventually cause problems.

Another popular truck camper feature is the basement. Basement models offer more storage and floorspace by allowing the holding tanks to be placed underneath the floor, but they also add more height to hard-sided campers, not a good thing for those who like to off-road and explore heavy forested mountain roads. Basements can also be a negative for those who enjoy winter boondocking as the tanks can freeze if they’re not adequately heated. All things considered, the positives of having a basement far outweigh the negatives, especially for pop-up campers since camper height really isn’t an issue. Most pop-up truck camper manufacturers like Northstar Campers, Phoenix Campers, and Four Wheel Campers offer non-basement models only; Outfitter Campers is the only company that I know that produces a pop-up truck camper with a basement.

An important term you’ll need to become familiar with when shopping for a truck camper is the truck camper’s center of gravity (COG). Every camper has a COG which identifies where along the length of the camper the weight is centered. Basically, the camper’s COG needs to be in front of your truck’s rear axle. Most campers have a sticker identifying where the COG is located to take some of the guess-work out of it. You never want to have the COG behind your rear axle because this will impair your truck’s handling. Verifying that your COG is good is fairly easy and will need a couple of trips to the scales with and without your camper. If your front axle weighs less with your truck camper on your truck then your COG is “off.” You can usually correct this by reloading your camper, ensuring that most of the weight is in front of your rear axle.

III. Truck Camper Equipment

Torklift Fastgun and Talon - Truck Camper
Torklift Talon and Fastguns

Keeping your camper anchored to your pickup truck is obviously critical and is accomplished by using a combination of truck camper tie downs and turnbuckles. There are basically two tie down systems from which to choose: Torklift and Happijac. Both are fine systems with each offering several advantages and disadvantages over the other. The big advantage of the Torklift system is that it bolts to the truck’s frame underneath the truck bed and is a stronger more rugged design, while the Happijac system requires drilling into the truck’s bed and rear bumper to install. The Happijac system does prevent side-to-side movement better and is probably better for off-road use, but the Happijac rear bumper tie down mounts have been known to fail under stress. All things considered, I prefer the Torklift system, specifically their new aluminum Torklift Talons, but that’s my personal preference. Check with your truck camper manufacturer to see which system they recommend. Warranties may be voided if you choose the wrong one. Four tie downs, two in the front of the camper and two in the rear, are needed to secure your truck camper to your truck.

Turnbuckles are essential pieces of hardware in truck camper ownership. They act as the “middleman,” securing the truck camper to the tie-down system of your truck. Strong winds, rough roads, and driving at highway speeds will test the ability of your tie downs and turnbuckles to control the forces or stresses working against your camper. Proper tension and installation of your turnbuckles is critically important. Too much tension can over stress and damage your camper; too little tension can allow your camper to shift and slide around in your truck bed while you drive. Make sure you read and understand the installation instructions for your turnbuckles to make sure they work optimally. I use and highly recommend the Torklift FastGuns to secure my camper. For an in-depth review of the Torklift FastGun, check out my review here.

The umbilical connection or “pigtail” provides your truck camper with the running, brake, and turn signal lights needed to be legal on the road. It also provides an important connection to your truck’s alternator to charge your camper’s battery while driving. The 6-pin receptacle for this connection is usually on the driver’s side front of the camper (though many pop-up truck camper manufacturers place the 6-pin receptacle in the back). Due to this placement, truck camper owners will often install a standard 7-pin electrical RV receptacle on the driver’s side, front of the truck bed. But another perfectly acceptable option is to simply run an extra-long umbilical from the front of the camper to the 7-pin receptacle at the rear of the truck. Remember, only six wires are needed for a truck camper since the truck camper doesn’t have its own brakes (the brakes run on the blue wire). For a more detailed look at the pigtail wiring for truck campers, please click here.

The ability to tow is one of the great things about owning a truck camper. An important thing to keep in mind when towing, however, is that the tongue weight of the trailer must be factored in against the truck’s rated payload. A boat, horse, or utility trailer will typically have a tongue weight anywhere between 200 and 500 pounds, depending on the size of the load (tongue weight, of course, will not be a factor when flat-towing or towing a vehicle “four-down”). Moreover, if you want to tow, you’ll probably need a hitch box extension since many truck campers extend anywhere from 18 to 24 inches from the rear of the truck. Available in different lengths, a hitch box extension is simply a metal tube that fits into a standard hitch receiver.

IV. Truck Suspension and Tires

IMG_7381Nothing is more important to the handling and safety of your truck than your tires. Together, they bear the entire weight of your truck and truck camper combo. If you plan on hauling a 2,000 or 3,000 pound truck camper, you’ll generally want light truck (LT) tires with at least a Load Range rating of E. However, not all Load Range E tires are created equal. Sizes and weight ratings differ, so you’ll want to make sure that the tires you’re looking at can handle not only the weight of your truck, but also the weight of your truck camper. And if you’re upgrading your tires, you should also seek additional load capacity over the OEM ratings. Keep in mind that the weight on the rear axle is evenly divided by each tire, so an axle with a GVWR of 6,200 pounds will come with tires rated for 3,100 pounds. The largest inflation value for Load Range E tires is 80 PSI.

Proper inflation of your tires is vital–check them regularly. Refer to your truck’s documentation and the door jamb sticker to determine the correct inflation rating for your tires. For example, the door jamb sticker for a 2013 Ram 3500 truck with LT275/70R18E tires calls for 60 PSI for the front tires and 80 PSI for the rear. These values are for hauling the maximum payload of the truck, so the tire pressure in the rear can be lowered if you’re hauling less that the maximum payload or nothing at all. Make sure you check your tires regularly for abnormal wear and proper inflation, especially before leaving on each trip. As for the size of the tires, that’s a personal choice. Those who haul around long-bed truck campers, the heaviest campers on the market, swear by 19.5 inch tires (Load Range H) because of the stiffer side walls and how well they handle with the extra weight.

As for the type of tires to put on your pickup truck, it depends on where you live, the kind of roads on which you travel, and where you like to camp. If you live in an area where winter ice and snow are the norm and you like to winter camp, you’ll want to have a good set of stud-less snow tires to offer the traction you’ll need. For those who plan on doing primarily highway driving and who live in a temperate climate, then a good set of all-season highway tires (HT) will be more than sufficient. My preference is for a quality set of all-terrain (AT) tires. These work well for highway driving in all conditions as well as off-road travel and are an excellent alternative for those who don’t want to bother with a specialized tire. As for my favorite brands, I really don’t have one. Over the years I have purchased AT tires from several manufacturers, including BF Goodrich, Firestone, Nitto, and Michelin, and have liked them all and got excellent service out of each.

Most people know how critical wheels and tires are to truck handling and safety, but the rest of the truck’s suspension system is important, too. In addition to the wheels and tires, the suspension system consists not only of springs and shocks, but also of steering components and linkages. All combined these components directly contribute to a truck’s handling and braking and play a major role in your driving pleasure and comfort.

My philosophy on suspension upgrades is simple. It’s best to drive your truck with your camper mounted first to see how it handles before spending any money on upgrades. Otherwise, you may waste a lot of money on hardware you really don’t need. I see this happen all the time. Based upon the opinion of friends and what they’ve read on Internet forums, new truck owners will immediately shell out big bucks on new shocks, air bags, and Stableloads before even buying or taking a test drive with their truck camper. This is backwards. It’s best to first see how your truck handles under load and treat each symptom that you encounter with the correct suspension modification. Moreover, only one modification should be made at a time to determine its true effectiveness.

If you find that your truck sags too much in the rear with your camper mounted you’ll need to correct this since running nose high can impair how your truck handles. The most common remedies for trucks with leaf spring suspensions include adding either another leaf spring or a set of Torklift Stableloads. If your pickup truck is a half-ton or a three-quarter-ton, adding another leaf spring will probably serve you better as they provide more support, provide a much better ride, and provide much improved spring travel compared to a truck with just a large overload spring. Stableloads, however, are an effective suspension modification, too. By engaging the overload spring sooner, they not only prevent rear sag, but can correct sway and improve control. If you decide on a set of Stableloads, I recommend the quick disconnect version as they can be engaged or disengaged in a matter of seconds.

Timbren SES - Truck Camper Adventure
Timbren SES Severe Service Spring

The Timbren Suspension Enhancement System (SES) and air bags are two more options to correct rear sag. Unlike the Stableloads, however, these can be used on trucks with either coil spring or leaf spring suspensions. Each product is engineered differently. Air bags eliminate rear sag through the use of compressed air while the Timbren SES accomplishes this through the use of progressive rubber springs that work in place of the jounce stops. There are pros and cons with each approach. Timbrens cost less, are more durable, and require zero maintenance and adjustments, while air bags can be manually adjusted based upon the weight of the load (up to 5,000 pounds). Unfortunately, air bags are also prone to leaking, can create too much roll when they’re overfilled, and aren’t particularly suitable for off-road use like the Timbrens. Of the two, I recommend going with the Timbren SES. If you decide to go this route, make sure you get the Severe Service SES kit to haul a truck camper. For a detailed review of the Timbren SES, click here.

The shock absorbers that came with your truck may or may not be up to the task of carrying the extra weight of a truck camper. The dampening effect of your shocks is important in how well your truck and camper rides when going over rough and uneven roads and terrain. Shock absorbers come in two basic forms: self-adjusting or manual. Self-adjusting shocks, like the Bilstein 4600 or KYBs, do exactly that, they adjust based upon the force asserted each time they’re depressed. Manually adjusted shocks, such as the popular Rancho RS9000x, allow you to change how much dampening is applied based upon the weight you are carrying. The pros and cons of each are pretty obvious, it comes down to personal preference and cost.

For those who are experiencing excessive sway or roll on sharp turns you can try the aforementioned Timbrens and Torklift Stableloads or a sway bar like the Hellwig Big Wig. All three are excellent products, but work differently. Timbrens reduce sway through the use of progressive rubber springs which are mounted above the axle, while Stableloads work with the leaf springs to engage the overload springs sooner. The sway bar works with the axle and frame of the truck to keep the truck level. Most of the three-quarter and one-ton trucks rolling off of today’s assembly lines come with a front sway bar only, but many find that a rear sway bar is also needed for added stability and handling when hauling a truck camper. The big negative with the sway bar, of course, is going off-road. They need to be disengaged to allow the axles to freely articulate. For those who like to travel off-road, Timbrens and Stableloads will serve you better. For an in-depth review of the Hellwig Big Wig Sway Bar, click here.

V. Truck Camper Loading and Storage

IMG_2535Like hitching a trailer, perfectly backing your truck underneath your camper takes a little practice. When backing in it’s best to align the camper with some reference point in the truck bed. I like to use painter tape placed in the center of the camper and in the center of the truck bed as reference points. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as it works for you. For the process it’s best to have another person spot for you as you back in your truck. This way you can make sure that the yaw of your camper is straight and is perfectly aligned in the middle of your truck bed. Electric jacks make all the difference in the world when raising and lowering your truck camper and makes the process of loading and unloading your camper easier and quicker. If you don’t have them, I strongly recommend that you get them. You won’t regret it.

Another consideration in truck camper loading is whether or not to use a bed mat. Personally, I think they’re a must. The mat not only protects your bed or spray-on bed liner from being scratched, but also prevents your truck camper from sliding around while driving your truck. You can buy specially made mats for the specific make and model of your truck or you can buy a couple of horse stall mats and piece them together to fit your truck bed. Both options work great, but the specially made mats are easier to use and remove when needed. I now use a Dee Zee Heavy Duty Bed Mat in my Ram 3500.

Should the tailgate be left on or removed from your truck? It depends on the length and model of the truck camper, but in most cases, the camper won’t load properly with the tailgate on, so it needs to be removed. Even if your camper does load with the tailgate down, you should still remove it. When it comes to truck campers every pound matters, especially when that weight is behind the rear axle. Why haul an 80-pound tailgate when you don’t need to? It only takes a few minutes to remove and with it off you don’t have to worry about the paint getting damaged by stones being kicked up from underneath.

For more information about the truck camper check out my Truck Camper FAQ page.

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About Mello Mike 305 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure Magazine. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a truck camper and Jeep enthusiast, and has owned and restored several Airstream travel trailers. He enjoys college football, hiking, travel, off-roading, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years and now works as a project manager for a major banking and security firm. He also does some RV consulting and RV inspections on the side.

61 Comments on Truck Camper 101

  1. 2010 hawk 4wc
    Extras furnace 3way fridge freezer hot water heater fan screen door solar 2 batteries
    Dry weight 740
    Manufacturers statement of origin put dry weight shipping order says same
    Question what do u think it weight really is educated guess?
    Thinking of getting Ford F-150 crew 4×4 looks like options I want 2000 pound payload plus
    Can’t get exact option weight from ford mind blowing but not happening as of yet
    Website ford says options listed on customer information sheet but salesman or anybody else can’t access it
    I’m leaving camper in premently truck going to double as daily driver so rather drive 1/2 ton around town
    Willing to toss fridge freezer and back rest on couch is going and off course tail gate of truck to get below payload think it’s going to be close
    I plan on no more than two adults maximum on camping trip I way 150 luckily
    Light to moderate off-roading I am a hunter fisherman so just getting to spots no Iron Man Stewart stuff
    I’m thinking 400 pounds gas and water plus 100 pounds food and about 200 pounds gear and extras for two people passengers 350 pounds all estimates are rounded up and at extreme range
    So u basically got ur 1000 pound number plus true weight of camper so say camper weight is 1300 we got 2300 at most extreme weight
    So if I can build truck equal or under my extrem payload will brakes rear end ect handle weight for 150000 to 200000 miles plan on keeping for 10 years or so ??
    Wonder if truck payload number is real number or do they decrease it 20 to 30 percent so people don’t go way over ?
    Know people driving 1000 pounds over payload with these campers for 50000 plus miles no problem truck even handled fine
    I know a 3/4 ton would be my perfect fit rather stick with 1/2 ton for lots of reasons so ford 1/2 ton my only option for 1/2 ton trucks because of there leading payload in that class
    So last question if u suggest 3/4 ton gas for me witch one or two do u recommend?
    Thanks for time enjoyed ur article

    • Any 3/4-ton by the big three would be fine. It comes down to personal preference. If you go with a 1/2-ton, then you’ll want to get the newer F-150s with the payloads around 2,500 pounds. The more, the better. Good luck!

  2. I have been around campers since the 70s, my dad had a 8 footer and I have had from 8 foot to a 12 and a half footer, and never had more the a f250, 2wd, and with good tie downs. With careful driving you can go almost anywhere. I have been all over the primitive area by Mirror Lake in Utah and everyone saying you need a 1 ton minimum don’t know nothing.

    • Depends on the camper. Lightweight campers from the ’70’s like half a century ago are nothing like the modern luxurious slide out equipped heavy campers offered today that can even overload a 1 ton truck. 1 ton doesn’t even mean 1 ton rating anymore.

      Regardless you need to pick a camper and pickup combo that works. If everyone is saying “You need a 1 ton”, well, maybe your camper is heavy enough that you do. Only by looking at the ratings can you know for sure. 1 ton and 3/4 ton sometimes is only a state licensing cost difference as sometimes there isn’t a pound difference on the trucks actual rating per the sticker.

      When the body parts and bodies get bagged and tagged after an accident the lawyer fishing expedition that follows will be looking at the camper weight and truck rating. If you avoid manslaughter charges on a overloaded pickup the lawsuits can take your home and bankrupt you. Don’t give the lawyers an easy win like that. It doesn’t matter what the accident cause was when overloaded. It’s the paperwork showing the negligent overloading of the pickup that will do you in.

      So pay attention to the weight ratings and weight of the camper. Don’t drive a rig overloaded no matter what. It’s the driver’s responsibility to verify the pickup is not overloaded even if it’s a friends rig. Sure there is such a thing as “too much truck”. But that is better than “not enough truck” and excuses as to why you think you won’t kill or hurt innocent people with it overloaded because you added X upgrade to it. Let me be clear: if the camper is overloading your truck by the weight stickers you need a different truck that can handle the camper or get a lighter camper period.

      You get more Redneck points for “more truck” anyway.

  3. Hi Mike: Regarding the use of a rubber bed mat: I have a 2015 RAM 3500 dually w/8′ bed with a factory sprayed-in bed liner. My Eagle Cap 1165 seems to hold its place over the most jarring touraine. Do you still advise that I use a rubber bed mat? As it is I’m technically over payload and if I don’t need to add another 40lb bed liner I’d rather not – but I do place safety as the paramount priority. What do you think? Thanx … .Dan

    • Yes, Dan, I would. Besides preventing the camper from sliding, it protects both the liner and the camper and provides just a little extra cushion for the camper. Having the mat provides a little extra protection for your very expensive investments.

  4. I just bought a 2006 Lance 851 TC. I have read all of the previous post and im afraid i have made a mistake. I have a 2015 GMC 2500 hd. 4WD crew cab. The GVWR rating is 9,900. My truck weighs in at 7430. The camper weighs 3600 for total combined wt. of 11. 030 ibs. The GAWR frt is 4800 lbs and rear is 6200 lbs. I plan to also pull a 20′ nitro bass boat also. Am I over loaded and asking for trouble?

    • Hi Keith, yes, you’re overloaded. For a camper that heavy you really should have a one-ton truck like the GMC 3500. Short of getting a smaller camper or bigger truck, you can do one thing to increase your cargo carrying capacity, get larger tires with a higher load range. Your OEM tires are limiting your rear GAWR. If you research your axle’s actual GAWR you’ll probably have thousands of extra pounds of cargo carrying capacity. A popular choice is the 19.5 inch load range H tire, but you don’t have to go that large if you don’t want to. Check out my “Raise Your Truck’s Payload?” article for more info.

      • Thanks Mike for the quick response. I have already upgraded my tires to some LT 285/70 R17. The load range is 3195. Also I had some air bags installed witch is supposed to give me and extra 5000 LBS load capacity.Does this sound sufficient to you are do think im still chancing it? Don’t want to put family are anybody else in danger. What are your thoughts. Thanks again

        • What are the axle weights when you went to the CAT scale? If they’re below your tire weight ratings you should be ok. Your tires are the key. You NEVER want to go above their weight ratings.

  5. What a GREAT read on this subject. I just bought a 2016 Ford F-350 XLT long bed diesel. I’m going to store ithe truck camper that I get on my mother’s driveway. What are my options for security so it’s not stolen? Are there any products out there. Thanks for your time.

    • Thanks, Gary. I’m glad you found the article informative and useful. In response to your question, truck campers are very difficult to steal, if you do the following: keep your camper fully downloaded and close to ground, and keep the electric jack remotes and the pigtail separate from the camper like at your home. Doing this will ensure that your truck camper will be very difficult to steal if not impossible.

  6. What a GREAT read on this subject. I just bought a 2016 Ford F-350 XLT long bed diesel. I’m going to store it on my mother’s driveway. What are my options for security so it’s not stolen? Are there any products out there. Thanks for your time.

  7. Well….I appear to have still screwed up even though I chose the TC before the truck. I bought an F150 long bed, heavy duty payload (2600# +) because I wanted an Camplite 8.6, which has a weight a few hundred pounds less than the stated payload on my truck. The truck now has 2000 miles on it and buying a different truck is out of the question financially. Buying different brand of camper is also out of the question, because I have severe allergy problems with materials and already know the Camplite is my best bet (I live in a Camplite TT.) So….what do you advise? It sounds as though even though I travel light I will go over my payload capacity.

    • If you have to keep the 1/2 ton truck, I would add another leaf spring, add beefier shocks, and get load range E tires. That truck will need all the help it can get.

  8. Mike, with the new lighter Ford F150 with 3,300 lbs payload capacity, Eco-boost engine and assuming 4wd why would this not be a suitable fit for the Wolf Creek 840? We are planning to use the truck the other 300 days for principal vehicle and the size and mpg is a concern of the larger trucks.
    Long Ride (planning to tour the great USA with one wife and two dogs)

  9. What a great site, Mike, thanks so much! New to all of this… Bought a '96 Northland Polar 10.5, but it had no manual. Online I read they are approximately 3k pounds. Am considering a 2000 Silverado 3500 crew cab 4×4 auto, BUT it's lifted 6" and I don't know if that would make it too tipsy, or if the lift would compact down to a regular height due to the weight of the camper. Hope that isn't a silly question. The tires are wide and stick out a bit from the sides. Will be on graveling dirt roads for final destinations. Also, the camper appears to have had a leak in the roof (in the front part over the cab). How can one check for and/or repair dry rot? Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Is that camper a hard side or pop top style of camper? If it's a hard side that lift could pose a problem, but the nice thing about lifts is that they can be removed. If that camper is a pop top then that life should be an issue. As for the rot, check the flooring and walls for soft spots and check for mold. The presence of either would be a no go for me.

      Good luck!

    • Thanks, Mike, it's a hard side (looks like a Lance) and I'm glad to hear lift can be removed. Does that damage the truck's integrity in any way? I have a 1995 Silverado 2500 2WD, but it sounds like you advise a 4WD. Right? Otherwise I'd keep the one I have and not deal with losing the lift and buying the 3500. Thanks again, your knowledge is impressive!

  10. Hi Mike, you have allot of good advise and hope people listen to you. I have sold truck campers for 30 years. Last year we carried nine lines of campers. There are allot of good campers out there. In my opinion the Arctic Fox and Wolf creek are two of the best. I had never bought a camper for personal use. In late 2013 decided to buy a camper. It came down to the Arctic fox 8'11 0r the Bigfoot 2500 series 9'4 short box both new. The Arctic fox with the slide is an excellent unit, has more room and less money. We ended up buying the Bigfoot, because it is lighter, more aero dynamic , and super well built. We decided on those factors and that we didn't need the slide. We mounted the Camper on our 2013 GMC Denali 3500 crew cab, short box, 4×4, duramax. We studied everything and added Timbrens instead of air bags. We have a sprayed in box liner and put in a GM rubber mat,3/8 inch I think. When we loaded the camper needed a bit more height to clear box rails so rather than ply wood we installed another 3/4 inch rubber mat. Having a fully loaded camper and truck, went with in our opinion the very best tie down set up. We installed Torklift frame mount tie downs front and rear, also installed stainless steel fast guns and locks by Torklift. We are also going to pull a 12×7 cargo trailer, so also installed a Super Hitch and 48" Super truss extension by Torklift. After all of this said and with my experience, listen to Mello Mike he is giving very honest and accurate advice.

  11. We found your blog thru TC magazine. Thank you for all the great info you share. After months of looking & research we just bought our 1st TC-a 2013 Wolf Creek 850-yipee!!. Now we have to get a truck for it 🙂 We'd like your opinion-we're leaning towards a Chevy 2500 crew cab 4×2 short bed because of incentives & other things- it's payload says 3401 & our TC dealer says the 850 wet weight is 2903. From your info we know it's important to get the right truck/tc match. May we ask your opinion if you think this is a good pick for the 850. Thank you so much-our 1st trip this spring is going to be to your "neck of the woods"- amazing, beautiful country. Tony & Linda Perez

    • Welcome, Tony. You're going to love that Wolf Creek 850! I recommend that you bypass a 2500 and go straight to a 3500 with more payload. You won't regret it. Get a 4×4 tranny, too.

  12. Great information. Thank you. The wife and I are purchasing a used 2003 Lance1161 truck camper from Tom's Camperland in Tempe, AZ next month. The mats you purchased from Home Depot, do you have the part number and how many mats will I need for an 8ft pick up on a 2006 Ford F-350. The one's I am looking at are the Buffalo Tools 3 'x5'x1/2" Model # RMAT35 Internet #100648174. Thank you

    • Sorry, bens, I don't. I honestly think you'd be better off buying a bed mat specially make for your F350. Oh, and the folks at Tom's are great. Nice place to go to look at the latest models.

  13. Great article. After 15 years of Four Wheel pop up campers, we've begun taking longer trips and upgraded to an outfitter. I'd like to support the front overhang with an inflatable bag (between the truck roof and underside of camper) but can't seem to find a vendor. Any suggestions?

  14. Hello Mike I have a 2006 Silverado extended cab Z71. Just bought a lance 825. What tires do you reccomend?

  15. Hi Mike, Nice website,, I have a f250 super duty short bed.. the whole truck camper thing is new to me! I bought a Palamino bronco 1200 today.. the guy had it on a dodge short bed.. his tie downs wouldn't work for my ford.. he had a belly system made,, I took it but don't thing it will work,, what should I buy to tie it down? Have read up on a couple things,, no drilling would be nice…Thanks so much Jana

  16. Greetings, Mike. Hope all is well.

    I have a dilemma.First, let me admit, this is not the ideal set-up, but we do what we can, right?
    I am jumping the tracks-at age 45, single, and petite female :)..bought a short-bed Ram 1500 and a Generac 5ooow generator in prep of purchasing a 23' TT…however, I decided that a truck camper was more economical (no additional tag or insurance premium), How much space do I need goal was to simplify after all, right? So, I bought an older Starcraft. It needs some work (weather stripping and such), but for $1500…can deal with it 🙂 and it fits with tailgate down, no problem.
    Here's dilemma..now have generator that I have no permanent place for (had planned truck bed). 5000w is far more than needed, but only paid $200 for it…
    Is it feasable to mount a boat winch somewhere on or in camper (since I have no be or rails available) and lift the gen to camper height then swing it into door just before hitting road?
    I wanted to go solar, but cost and, being alone in woods, boondocking most of time, lack of dependable sun hours this winter in Smokey mountains, made me lean towards gen for safety and ability to run the 4-5 hrs. a day I need for almost a week on 5-8 gal. of gas.
    Where, if doable, can I mount a way to lift/lower this gen???
    THANK YOU for your time and attention, it is appreciated and you opinion respected 🙂
    Christi

    • Hi Christi! Congrats on the new camper and the world of RVing. You'll love it. To answer your question, I wouldn't use your 5000 watt generator for camping. It's simply too large for what you need. If you don't plan on running an A/C or Microwave, a 1000 watt generator will be more than sufficient to recharge your batteries. So I'd either sell your existing genny or keep it for home use as an emergency backup. However, if you still want to keep to use it for camping, I'd look into installing a front hitch rather than a rear one.

      Good luck!

  17. I have a 2010 Chevy 1 ton with a bedliner. Do I have to take the liner out for my 9.5 Lance to fit

  18. Hi Mike: Not sure if you help with issues – our 811 artic fox truck camper slide out was fine – on last trip after shut down as we drive it keeps coming out bit by bit – doesn't seem to lock in – any ideas? Signed Alberta

    • I don't know much about slideouts, so I can't offer much advice. I recommend calling the Northwood Manufacturing Service Dept and ask them for ideas. Good luck!

  19. Hey Mike,

    Thanks for writing me back! My wife and I bit the bullet and bought an Arctic Fox 811 for a short box. Then we got crazier and bought a 2013 F250 from Berge. We kinda freaked at the cost, but whatever, we did it. Matt at Tom's camperland says the 811 will be fine with the F250, we'll see. We were all set on the Wolf Creek until we checked out the Arctic Fox's 811 with the slide-out and booth dinette. Heck we can always sell and go to a fifth wheel. We both still work, so we thought a fifth wheel would be too much hassle for weekend trips, so we got the Fox. Had a tiny Phoenix pop-up in which we loved at first, but like everything we wanted to upgrade for more room. Bought that in Denver from Coyote RV. Nice pop-up, but too small. So there you have it. Your site is very informative. I stumbled on it by accident looking for info on campers and trucks. Are you familiar with TC Magazine? The owners just bought a Lance sitting on a Chevy 3500. They rave about Fox, but bought the Lance. Wonder if they got a big discount for going with Lance. Seems their magazine carries a lot of influence in the TC world…..We are at 60 and Higley. Just moved here from Denver, tired of the cold…lol Doug

    • Hi again, Doug. So you got the AF811? Cool, that's a great camper. It's pretty much a Wolf Creek 850 layout wise with the slide-out. What is the payload for your F250?

      We live in North Mesa off the 202 and Gilbert Rd.

    • This is not very timely,…….but my wife and I just got ourselves a 2013 AF811. Finding it is overloading everything, on our 2011 F350 Diesel, 4×4, crew cab shortbox. I also have Rancho 9000's, Timbren severe .loads, Big wig sway bar, front springs from an F550.
      Heavy roll is driving me crazy. Going to Stable loads next I guess but am stuck on whether to get lowers or uppers. Focusing on the uppers as the helper springs are already making contact with the stock stoppers.

  20. Hi Doug,
    It depends on what kind of F-150 you have in mind. A regular cab, long-bed F-150 could handle the long bed style of WC 850 with no problem. A short-bed F-150, on the other hand, no way. Their payload ratings are too low. A good rule of thumb is to add 1,000 lbs to the weight of the camper when calculating total weight. Where in Mesa are you? I live in Mesa, too.

  21. Lance specifically recommends against use of any type of stand or support but to use the camper jacks and lower the camper to within 2" of the ground or as far as possible without having the holding tanks or bumper affected.

    • Interesting. Thanks for sharing that. Northwood Manufacturing recommends the opposite. Are the structural differences between makes that significant?

    • Thanks for the informative website. I am also looking at purchasing a Wolf Creek 850, but cannot find the center of gravity spec anywhere….where does yours measure? Also, does Wolf Creek recommend against removing the camper from the truck and living in it unsupported?

      Thanks, Mike V.

    • Did you see the pic in this article with the center of gravity sticker? That's from my Wolf Creek 850. Yes, you can camp in the camper with it off the truck. Check out my Review of the Wolf Creek 850. There's a pic in the review with it off the truck and one of our campsites.

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