Of all the questions I get, the most commonly asked is can my half-ton pickup truck haul a hard-side truck camper with a bathroom. Most of the time I tell them, “no.” The reason is that most half-ton pickup trucks lack the requisite payload to haul a hard-side truck camper. “Most” is the key word here. In 2015 Ford released an aluminum bodied, heavy-duty version of their popular F-150 pickup truck. This game changing half-ton pickup truck, featuring the coveted 3.5L Ecoboost gas engine, provides an impressive 2,799 pounds of payload. This lofty figure not only rivals the payload of many three-quarter-ton heavy-duty pickup trucks, but sometimes exceeds them. Not only that, but the new F-150 comes with the upgraded suspension, tires, and brakes needed to haul a heavy load like a truck camper. The new F-150 design is so exquisite, and the truck is such a big seller, that it’s hard to see it being pushed off its lofty perch anytime soon.
Unfortunately, the pickings are slim if you’re looking for a quality hard-side truck camper that is light enough to haul on your half-ton pickup truck. This is especially true if you’re looking for one with a wet bath and one that will fit on a mini short-bed (5 feet, 5 inches long). In fact, not including the new cab-less models being built by companies like Northstar and Travel Lite, you can count them all on two hands. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most people interested in buying a truck camper own or are looking to own a heavy-duty pickup truck and the size and weight of the truck campers available in today’s market reflect that. Yet, with the growing number of capable half-ton pickup trucks out there, it’s great to see more truck camper manufacturers throwing their hat into the half-ton capable truck camper ring. So without further adieu, and ranked in order, let’s take a look at the top five hard-side truck campers made for the half-ton pickup truck:
1. Lance 650
The new Lance 650 isn’t a “new” design, per se, it’s a copy of the classic 6-Pac D650 model of the 1970s, but what Lance offers in the 2016 update is pretty impressive. Not only does the Lance 650 provide a north-south queen bed and a full size wet bath with a sink, but it also features a large kitchen and a dinette long enough to sleep an adult. How is it possible to cram all of these features into such a “small” floorplan? Lance did it by placing the refrigerator in the cabover, an unusual location, but a location that works and works well. With standard equipment, the Lance 650 weighs just 1,639 pounds dry and 1,842 pounds wet. It has a floor length of 6 feet, 10 inches long and offers a spacious 6 feet, 9 inches of interior height. The tank sizes are fairly generous, too, with 22 gallons fresh, 15 gallons grey, and 16 gallons black. Lance engineers elected to go with a tankless water heater for this camper. While you lose 6 gallons of fresh water going this route, you also eliminate 48 pounds of weight. The Lance 650 is versatile enough to fit on both regular short-bed (sans Ford’s longer 6 foot, 7.5 inch-long short-bed) and mini-short bed pickup trucks. The base MSRP is $19,857.
2. Northstar Liberty
Designed to fit on both short-bed and mini short-bed half-ton pickup trucks, and loaded with features, the Northstar Liberty is a real winner. According the company’s president, Rex Willet, the Liberty is basically a whittled down version of Northstar’s popular Arrow 8.5 model, but without the rear overhang. The Liberty floorplan features an L-shaped dinette forward, a large and spacious kitchen, a wet bath with a cassette toilet, and a north-south queen bed. This low profile camper, with 6 feet, 4 inches of headroom, provides a surprising amount of storage for a half-ton camper, including the capacity for two 5 gallon propane tanks and two AGM batteries. With a 20 gallon fresh water tank, a 13 gallon gray water tank, a 6 gallon water heater, and a removable 5 gallon cassette for the black water, the holding tanks are fairly large, too. In an industry first, the Liberty can now be ordered with a flip-out top bunk that extends partially into the cabover. Even with all that the Liberty offers, the camper still weighs only 1,775 pounds dry and is a consistent top seller for the company. Like all Northstar truck campers, the Liberty’s frame and walls are constructed entirely of wood. The extra insulation package and heated gray options are highly recommended. Base price, $21,575.
3. Camplite 6.8 by Livin Lite
I didn’t think we’d really ever see another aluminum truck camper after Avion and Silver Streak quit making them over 45 years ago. Yet, Indiana based Livin Lite has filled that void nicely with their lineup of non-riveted aluminum truck campers. The Camplite 6.8 is the company’s lightest and smallest offering. It weighs only 1,780 pounds dry, has a floor length of 6 feet, 6 inches, and provides 6 feet, 8 inches of headroom. The Camplite 6.8 floor plan is similar to the Lance 650 except with the Camplite 6.8 you get a large wardrobe on the passenger side rear. While the fresh water capacity of the Camplite 6.8 is a bit meager with only a 13 gallon water tank and a 6 gallon water heater, the dual gray and black water waste tank is surprisingly large at 32 gallons. One feature that I really like is the massive exterior storage compartment on the driver’s side. It’s simply the largest I’ve ever seen in a truck camper. The aluminum exterior of the Camplite 6.8 is spray painted in attractive colors with contrasting “swoosh” accents that match and compliment the colors of many trucks found in today’s market. Of course, the big positive buying an aluminum truck camper is how durable it will be–a good portion of the aluminum Avion and Airstream travel trailers are still going strong after 60 years.
4. Adventurer 80RB by ALP
The Adventurer 80RB is unique in that it’s the only camper on this list that fits on both short-bed and long-bed half-ton pickup trucks. While the holding tanks in the 80RB are fairly small with 15 gallons fresh, 6 gallons gray, and 6 gallons black, this low-profile camper has everything else you need to boondock comfortably, including a nicely equipped bathroom and a kitchen with a 4 cubic foot refrigerator. Perhaps the most striking aspect about this 1,757 pound camper is its attractive and roomy interior. The cherry cabinets with the fully radiused corners and the stainless steel appliances and accents reminds me of some of the Airstream travel trailers I’ve seen. The Adventurer 80RB dinette, which features a flip-out sofa that can be converted into a bed, is also very functional and modern. Like some of the other campers featured here, the standard battery box can only hold one battery, but a larger battery box that can hold two batteries can be ordered special from the factory. Obviously, the 8-foot floor length and center of gravity of the Adventurer 80RB precludes it from being mounted on a 5 feet, 5 inch mini short-bed truck.
5. Palomino HS-650 Backpack Edition
Coming in at number five is a brand new offering, the Palomino HS-650. You won’t get a lot of “foo foo” with this 1,547-pound camper. Instead, what you’ll get are the basics with some very nice features thrown in. The HS-650 floor plan offers a 60×80 queen size bed and a two-person dinette in the front with a large closet and refrigerator on the driver’s side and a kitchen on the passenger side. There’s neither a bathroom nor a gray water tank in the Palomino HS-650, just a porta pottie. Fortunately, the 15 gallon fresh water tank and 6 gallon water heater give the HS-650 respectable fresh water tank capacities for a half-ton capable camper. The floor length is a diminutive 6 feet, 5 inches long with the cabover bed oriented east-west to keep the center of gravity back. While this camper provides only one 12 volt battery and a single 5 gallon propane tank, it does offer a rather large 5 cubic foot refrigerator and other goodies not typically found in a truck camper like an exterior battery charge center and an exterior solar charge port. Fits on both regular short-bed and mini-short bed trucks. Because of its light weight and lack of a rear overhang, the Palomino HS-650 makes a terrific off-road truck camper.
To learn more about truck campers and how to determine your half-ton pickup truck’s payload, click here.