Each May, thousands of outdoor and overland enthusiasts gather in Flagstaff, Arizona for the Overland Expo WEST. The event, which showcases hundreds of overland vehicles and products as well as an impressive schedule of workshops and classes, is designed to inspire and motivate attendees to explore the world. While the Expo highlights all kinds of four-wheel drive overland expedition vehicles, a high percentage of the vehicles on display at this year’s show were truck campers. It’s our contention here at Truck Camper Adventure that the truck camper provides the best value when it comes to capability, size, and comfort.
It’s apparent by the number of truck campers we counted in the show that more and more manufacturers and outfitter shops are participating in the annual event. Most of the companies represented had one or two campers on display, but not the host sponsor, Four Wheel Campers—they had more than a dozen available for public viewing. Other truck camper manufacturers and truck camper outfitters represented at this year’s show included industry giant Lance, BundutecUSA, Alaskan Campers, Hallmark RV, Kodiak Campers (VMI Off-Road), XP Campers, AT Overland, Overland Explorer, and Earthcruiser. Everywhere we turned, we saw a truck camper. Many exhibitors not related to the truck camper industry were even camping in them.
Matt Ward, owner of Hallmark RV, was impressed with the size of this year’s show. “In years past we didn’t even think the show would survive as we use to talk to other venders and look around for our own needs,” he explained. “This year’s show never let me have a minute to myself. Not only is the Overland Expo the premier overland/camping show in North America, there doesn’t appear to be any signs of it slowing down,” Ward said. Rory Willett, the owner of BundutecUSA, agrees, “this year’s show had a fantastic turn out and the interest in our truck campers spiked to record levels. We sold three units at this year’s show.”
It’s a tradition here at Truck Camper Adventure to rank the best truck campers and truck camper rigs at each Overland Expo. The 2016 rankings got a very positive response. So without further adieu, here’s our rankings for 2017.
1. The Earthcruiser GZL-400 Pop-Up
Our number one truck camper from the 2017 Overland Expo WEST is a brand new offering by Earthcruiser, the GZL-400. By all accounts, this aerodynamic, cutting-edge camper was a big hit at the show. Based on a French design purchased by the company, the GZL-400 is constructed of a lightweight, molded fiberglass, and features a pop-top that lifts only in the rear of the camper. Earthcruiser designers were able to get the dry weight of this diminutive camper down to a minuscule 850 pounds, which when fully loaded, still puts it within the payload ratings of most half-ton trucks and the Ram Power Wagon. Key features of this modern-looking camper include an en-suite shower and portable toilet, a large dinette with bench storage, a 1.5 cubic foot Isotherm compressor refrigerator, Dometic Seitz windows, and a folding 80×60-inch queen size bed. Holding tank sizes for the GZL-400 are surprisingly large, with a 27 gallon fresh water tank, and a 7 gallon gray water holding tank. Interested in solar power? Earthcruiser has that covered, too, with a thin-film, 200 watt Zamp solar power system molded into the truck camper’s fiberglass roof. The GZL-400 lists for about $36,000.
2. The Hellwig-Lance 650 “Rule Breaker” Hard-Side
The Hellwig-Lance 650 Rule Breaker was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the entire show. This impressive looking truck camper rig highlights the capabilities of the diesel-powered Nissan XD Titan Pro-4X, Hellwig’s excellent load and sway control suspension products, and the go-anywhere abilities of the Lance 650 truck camper. The day before the show opened, the rig participated in a day-long expedition to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, via Diamond Creek Road, with Nissan’s Project Basecamp and a small group of Nissan XD Titan Pro-4X trucks in tow. The Lance 650 truck camper has been a huge seller for Lance, since its release two years ago. The four-season camper weighs only 1,896 pounds and features an aluminum frame construction, a full wet-bath, a 22 gallon fresh water tank, and a one piece TPO roof. Some don’t like having the refrigerator in the cabover, but, hey, if it creates more living space down below, what’s the big deal? The size and weight of this feature-packed camper make it a perfect match for today’s popular half-ton and three-quarter-ton pick up trucks. The list price for a Lance 650 standard build is $23,738.
3. The Alaskan Camper 8.5 Cabover Pop-Up
Alaskan Campers has been making expedition-style truck campers since 1953, longer than anybody else, so it was great to see them represented at the show. If you’ve never seen an Alaskan camper up close, you’re in for a treat. The interior woodwork is simply exquisite, with a charming, “log cabin” feel quite unlike any other truck camper I’ve ever seen. Not only that, but the Alaskan pop-up design is patented. Unlike the traditional pop-up truck camper, which features canvas sides, the pop-up on an Alaskan camper is hard-sided with a hydraulic mechanism that lifts the entire top of the camper. For the show, the company had two camper models on display: the 6.5-foot cabover for half-ton trucks, and the 8.5-foot cabover for three-quarter-ton trucks. We were particularly impressed with the roomy 8.5 model, which features a 27 gallon fresh water tank, a 2.5 cubic foot 3-way Dometic refrigerator, a Thetford cassette toilet, and a gorgeous leather dinette. An optional Zamp 160 amp solar power sytem can also be ordered for a nominal fee. The list price for the Alaskan 6.5-foot cabover model is $27,539, while the Alaskan 8.5-foot cabover model goes for $30,069.
4. The BunduCamp Short-Bed Pop-Up
If you’re looking for a custom-made, well-built truck camper, BundutecUSA, is the place to get it. The BunduCamp short-bed is one of the company’s best sellers and its easy to see why. The camper is skinned with an attractive gray .040-inch aluminum that’s much better looking and more durable than the regular white fiberglass found on most RV’s. This 1,700-pound camper features a north-south 56×80-inch bed, a 15 gallon fresh water tank, a DC compressor refrigerator, a C-200 Thetford swivel cassette toilet, and an optional 160 watt Zamp solar power system. Another great thing about this well-equipped camper, is that it comes with the Truma Combi, the revolutionary water heater furnace that saves not only on weight and space, but is also whisper quiet when in operation. BundutecUSA provides a plethora of options from which to choose. If the option you want isn’t listed on the company’s website or if you want to tweak on the floor plan, just ask the owner, Rory Willett, that’s what they do. The list price for this BunduCamp camper is only $22,690.
5. The Four Wheel Camper Fleet Flatbed Pop-Up
You can always count on AT Overland of Prescott, Arizona to make a big splash at the Overland Expo and 2017 was no different. This year, the company showcased an impressive-looking truck camper rig consisting of a Four Wheel Camper Fleet Flatbed model mounted on a 2016 Toyota Tacoma Crewcab. For the truck, AT Overland added an ICON Vehicle Dynamics 3-inch suspension system with custom shock valving, Tacoma flatbed camper springs, an Alum-line 80×72.5-inch aluminum flatbed, a custom rear bumper, and a custom rear rack. The Four Wheel Camper features an extended cabover bed with under mattress storage, a rear dinette with a swivel table, an 85 liter 2-way refrigerator and freezer, a 20 gallon fresh water tank, and a Yakima roof rack system. To complete the build, AT Overland installed two 6 volt, 225 amp hour batteries and a 320 watt Zamp solar power system to extend the camper’s range off-grid. The base model of the Fleet Flatbed lists for a very affordable $24,995. If such a build interests you, expect to spend an additional $7,000 and $12,000 for a custom-built aluminum tray.
6. The Hallmark Milner 6.5 Pop-Up
Hallmark RV had another strong showing at the 2017 Overland Expo with several rigs on display, including the Ute, the K2, and the one shown in this photograph, the Milner 6.5, mounted on a 2007 Dodge 1500 Mega Cab. Hallmark RV is known for their quality. All of their pop-up campers are constructed of a molded fiberglass composite frame and a one-piece molded fiberglass composite roof. With a length of 6 feet, 6 inches and a dry weight of 1,212 pounds, the Milner 6.5 is perfect for half-ton trucks. This particular camper was outfitted with a standard 60×80-inch bed, a standard 30 gallon fresh water tank, a hide-a-bed bunk bed, side awning, Yakima roof rack, dual AGM 6 volt batteries, a 3-way refrigerator, and a Zamp 160 watt solar suitcase. As configured, the camper easily sleeps five, somewhat surprising, considering its small size. All Hallmark campers come standard with Oak or Amber Bamboo cabinetry. Cherry, Blond Bamboo, Maple, and Hickory cabinetry are also available for an additional $1,200. Coosa composite cabinetry is available for an additional $2,000 if its wanted. The Milner 6.5 lists for $30,995.
7. The Kodiak “Trailhead” Pop-Up
If you’re looking for a permanently mounted pop-up truck camper with extended off-the-grid capabilities, then the Kodiak “Trailhead” by VMI Off-Road is one option you should definitely check out. Built on a factory 2015 RAM 3500 Chassis Cab 4X4 with the 6.7-Liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine, this camper has a unique floor plan that offers two twin-size beds, one of which converts into a four-person dining area with a premium cherry wood removable table. The modern, cutting-edge galley is equipped with a diesel stove, stainless steel sink with hot and cold faucets, a refrigerator with separate freezer door, and a microwave with a convection pizza oven. What’s really impressive about this solar-powered rig, is that its equipped with not one but two stainless steel 40-gallon fresh water tanks, and four deep cycle AGM batteries powering a “smart” 2,000-watt inverter/charger. VMI Off-Road can also build a Kodiak conversion truck camper with a customer’s truck. Company president, Mike Harbick, tells us that a smaller model will soon be coming out for the smaller Toyota Tacoma’s, Nissan Frontiers, and GM trucks. We can’t wait to see it.
8. The Overland Explorer X10 Hard-Side
Overland Explorer’s X10 debuted at last year’s Overland Expo and was a big hit with the truck camper crowd. This X10, however, features a completely different, but better, floor plan than last year’s model with the dinette in the back of the camper. The X10 is an impressive looking camper both inside and out. It boasts not only ample floor space, but also a very low center of gravity. The camper is ruggedly built using a composite panel system reinforced with steel edging for extra strength and durability. Like many of the overland rigs we viewed at the show, the auxiliary systems in the X10 run on diesel instead of propane, including the Espar hydronic heating system, the on-demand hot water system, and the Wallace duo cooktop. The tank capacities of the X10 are pretty decent, with a 35 gallon fresh water tank, a 25 gallon gray tank, and a 2.5 gallon tank for diesel. Unfortunately, the company’s catalog only offers a long-bed model, though that might change in the future. The $65,000 price includes the flatbed camper tray and outfitting.
9. The Four Wheel Camper Fleet Pop-Up
Four Wheel Camper’s best-selling truck camper, the Fleet model is built specifically for small pickup trucks with 5-foot and 6-foot truck beds. The Fleet base model weighs only 975 pounds and, like all Four Wheel Campers, is constructed using a lightweight, aluminum frame and aluminum siding, though a fiberglass siding option is also available. While the camper features only an 8-inch thick cabover when the pop-top is in the down position, it still provides 6 feet, 4 inches of head room when the pop-top is in the up position. Customers have three floor plans from which to choose: the rollover couch option, the side dinette option, and the front dinette option. The latter provides the customer with another option that includes a cassette toilet and both inside and outside showers. Standard features include a 20 gallon fresh water tank, a 3-way 1.7 cubic foot refrigerator, and attractive interior woodwork. For those who like to overland and spend extended time off-the-grid, the company offers a 160 watt roof-mounted solar system, a dual battery setup, and two 10-pound propane tanks. The base model lists for an affordable $17,395.
10. The Lance 1172 Double Slide-Out Hard-Side
Industry giant Lance Camper had a very good showing at the 2017 Overland Expo. This was Lance’s fourth year attending Overland Expo, and according to Bob Rogers, Lance Camper’s Director of Marketing, this was the company’s most rewarding show to date. “We displayed our flagship 1172 Truck Camper model along with the Hellwig-Lance 650 Rule Breaker, our smallest model so Expo attendees could see how any Lance Truck Camper model makes an excellent overlanding vehicle,” explained Rogers. The Lance 1172 was the largest slide-in truck camper at the show. With a wet weight of 4,528 pounds, you’ll need a one-ton dually to haul this beast around, but you’ll be able to camp off-the-grid with comfort and style. The camper features two-slide outs, a large north-south 80×60-inch bed, a dry bath, and a large galley. As you’d expect for such a large camper, the capacities are pretty impressive in the 1172 with a dual battery compartment hidden under the step, a large propane compartment that can hold two 7-gallon propane tanks, and a 42 gallon fresh water tank. The MSRP for the Lance 1172 is about $54,000.