If you’re looking for a way to explore and hit the road with your trusty truck, then consider getting a truck camper.
These nifty, removable compartments are sometimes called slide in campers because they slide into the bed of your truck. They are a cheaper alternative to RVs and still offer a lot of space and functionality.
Truck campers offer you the chance to get out there and travel without the need for backpacks, hotels, hostels, or fussing with tents.
The only difficulty you’ll face is picking a truck camper. There are lots of different designs and brands offering a variety of amenities and options. This can make choosing your next truck camper quite overwhelming.
Luckily, we’re here to help you choose the best truck camper for you. We have 10 great tips to make the choice simpler and easier.
1. Is a truck camper right for you?
The first thing to consider is whether a truck camper is the best choice for you. I mean, they might be cheaper than RVs but they’re not a small investment.
Where possible test out truck campers. Ask around friends and family to see if anyone has a camper and is willing to take you along for a weekend. This will give you time to get the feel for truck camping life and see whether the size and layouts work for you.
If you already own a truck camper and you’re looking to upgrade, checking out other campers is still a good idea. It can help you identify any features or layouts that you might want in your next camper.
2. Consider buying used.
If you’re just getting into the truck camper world, you might want to consider buying a used camper. These can be half the price of new campers and are often in great working order.
Of course, unless you buy from a used dealer with a warranty, you’re buying ‘as is.’ This means that you take the good with the bad. Any problems or faults are your responsibility.
3. Slide in or pop up?
There are two different kinds of truck campers. Both fit onto your truck bed and on the roof of your truck and both are excellent alternatives to traditional RVs. However, there are a few differences to be aware of.
Slides in campers tend to be hard sided. They usually have aluminum frames and fiberglass siding. Some may have aluminum sidings.
These campers are usually ‘L’ shaped with part of the frame resting on the cab of the truck. This extended section is usually used as sleeping quarters while the main area contains the kitchen and living areas.
Pop up campers can sit in the bed of the truck and are usually ‘L’ shaped like slide ins. The main difference is that the extended bed section is slimmer until it is expanded.
The expanded sides are soft which can make them a bit breezier than slide ins, but they do reduce the height and weight on your truck.
Pop up truck campers are probably the cheapest recreational vehicle. They are a great choice for people who want to keep the truck weight low and balanced.
4. Figure out your truck’s payload rating.
Trucks come with a payload capacity. This is essentially the amount of weight you can add to your truck bed before it causes damage to the truck or the road.
You don’t want to drop thousands of dollars on a truck camper to find out your truck can’t carry it. Remember to factor in the weight of your belongings as well as the weight of the camper. Common practice is to add 500 lbs. to a pop-up camper and 1000 lbs. to a slide in.
5. Verify the price before you go to view.
When you see a camper you like, whether its online or in an ad check that the listed price is fair. You can use websites like NADA to see the recommended price for your camper. For campers, use the low retail or wholesale price recommendations to get an average ballpark figure.
6. Thoroughly inspect prospective campers.
Just like when you look for a new car, take someone who knows what they’re looking for. If you have a certified RV mechanic friend, take them. If not, take someone who has experience with campers.
It’s a good idea to take a PDI checklist with you. This will remind you what exactly you should be looking out for.
PDIs can be found online. The one here is created by community members.
7. Pay attention to water intrusion.
Water might be the source of life, but it can cause a lot of problems if it gets into a camper.
When you’re looking at campers, particularly secondhand campers, make sure the seams and seals are tight. Enquire about the last time caulking and waterproofing was replenished and pay attention to any areas showing signs of rot.
8. Check the electricals.
You don’t want to buy a camper until you’ve seen the electrics in action. Get the dealer or seller to plug in the camper and check all systems including the refrigerator, signals, A/C, heating, lights, and pretty much any appliance being sold with the camper.
If the camper has some sort of solar power system, make sure to check the power collector and the charge controllers. This needs to be done in the daytime of course.
9. Check other systems.
Depending on the camper you may need to check propane and water systems.
When checking propane systems like cookers and heater, first of all do a sniff test to detect any gas leaks. If you can’t smell rotten eggs, you’re good to continue.
Turn the stove on and anything else that runs on propane like the water tank or boiler system. Make sure these appliances get a steady supply and work as they should.
With the water systems, you need to make sure all taps draw water and that they receive adequate pressure. Check for evidence of leaking particularly under the sinks and inside cabinets.
10. Check the bed length.
We’re not talking about the cozy bed you’re going to snuggle up in at night. No, the bed length refers to the kind of flat bed truck the camper fits.
Pick ups can be long bed, short bed, or super short beds. You need to figure out what your truck is before looking at campers.
Most campers can be fitted to long or short campers. Slide in campers are mostly sold for long bed trucks but they are becoming more widely available for short beds.
Pop-up campers are available in equal numbers for long and short beds. They are also becoming more widely available in super short beds.
Getting a truck camper can give you lots of freedom. With the camper fitted to the truck there’s nothing between you and adventure except the open road.
Use our top tips to make sure that you’re buying the right camper for you and your needs!