What Is a Truck Camper?


Trailers and RVs come in all shapes and sizes, and that includes the truck camper, which goes by such names as a cab-over or slide-in. You might have seen them on the road before or you could even be considering buying one. What exactly is a truck camper?

A truck camper is a style of RV that slots over a pickup truck bed. The camper slides right in and may include pop-ups to maximize the amount of space the camper affords. 

If you want to learn even more about truck campers, you’ve come to the right place. Ahead, we’ll talk about truck campers in a lot more detail, including the different types and how much these RVs cost. We’ll also delve into the pros and cons so you can decide if a truck camper is right for you! 

What Is a Truck Camper?

Technically classed as an RV, a truck camper is a type of vehicle designed to fit onto the bed of most pickup trucks. That explains nicknames such as slide-ins. The cab-over is another popular term to describe this style of camper, but only in North America. 

First created in the 1950s, truck campers appeal to a more athletic subset of people today, including hunters, anglers, horseback riders, and other outdoor sports enthusiasts. RVers who like to travel light also find truck campers appealing.

Most pickup trucks that tow a truck camper will utilize rear suspension inflatable airbags, overload springs, or a sway bar to increase the stability of the setup. Long-bed pickup trucks are the most compatible with truck campers, as this style of truck sends the camper’s center of gravity nearer to the rear axle. This too is crucial for stability. 

That said, some truck campers are made for short-bed trucks, but this is less common.  

Features

Although looking at a truck camper would make you assume that this vehicle must be bereft of many of the amenities that RVers enjoy on the road, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

You’re likely to find a comfortable living area in a truck camper as well as a kitchenette with appliances like a microwave, oven, stove, and refrigerator. Some truck campers even have bathrooms with a shower and toilet. Built-in furnaces are useful for staying toasty. 

There’s room for up to four people to sleep in most truck camper models. Of course, not everyone will have a bed. Slide-outs will allow for creative sleeping quarters so everyone can get some quality shut-eye. 

The Types of Truck Campers 

Now that you’re clearer on those truck camper basics, let’s get into an explanation of the two types of truck campers you can select from. 

Pop-up Truck Campers

A pop-up truck camper features a soft, collapsible roof and walls that can expand to create more space within the camper. The soft materials are often canvas with mesh or plastic windows. 

Besides the benefit of more space, a pop-up truck camper weighs even less than other truck campers (more on the average weight of these RVs in the next section).

A pop-up truck camper looks great both with the soft sides and walls pulled up and when they’re collapsed. You won’t drive with the walls up, of course.

The canvas walls though do not insulate very well, FYI. Your camper could get rather cold at night with the soft sides. Water might be able to enter your camper more easily than with a hard-sided truck camper. 

When the canvas does inevitably get wet, you must allow it to fully dry before collapsing it. Otherwise, you’re creating an environment for mold and mildew that will ruin the canvas quickly. 

Slide-in Truck Campers

The second type of truck camper is the slide-in camper. This is the more traditional of the two truck campers, as it fits the definition we outlined earlier. All surfaces of the camper are made of hard materials. The camper slides onto your pickup truck’s bed and then you’re ready to roll.

You’ll have more space in a slide-in truck camper than a pop-up one, but you cannot expand the space like a pop-up camper allows you to do. These hard-sided vehicles are insulated, usually with fiberglass batts or foam sheets.

The walls are quite durable with aluminum skinning or fiberglass construction. Inside the walls beyond the shell are wood studs and/or aluminum for reinforcement. 

How Much Do Truck Campers Weigh?

As the smallest type of RV, truck campers are not going to be in the same weight class as larger motorhomes, but they’re not featherweight either. Anything but, really!

The average weight of a truck camper is 2,690 pounds, but the weight will vary based on type. For instance, all those hard-walled slide-outs can contribute at least 1,000 pounds to your truck camper, so expect those RVs to be heavier.

A pop-up truck camper will shave that much weight off your camper if not more so.

How Much Do Truck Campers Cost?

If you’re thinking that your next RV will be a truck camper, then you’ll undoubtedly be curious about how much these vehicles cost. 

As a caveat, the cost of a truck camper–as is the case with any other RV–is dictated by size, amenities, floorplan, manufacturer, and quality. A new versus used truck camper will also have significant differences in price.

Keeping that in mind, the average you’ll pay for a truck camper is between $8,000 to $80,000. Yes, that’s quite a discrepancy, but that’s true of any RV. A little later, we’ll review some truck campers and include prices so you can see how they vary. 

How to Choose a Pickup Truck for a Truck Camper

A truck camper is nothing without a pickup truck to tow it, but that doesn’t mean any and every pickup truck is appropriate for the job. Before you select a truck, you must ensure it meets the criteria according to the following information.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR

The GVWR only accounts for your pickup truck’s weight when it’s fully loaded.

Gross Axle Weight Rating or GAWR

The GAWR is how much weight your pickup truck can carry per axle system. Your rear axles and front axles should have different GAWRs, so don’t be surprised to see that.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR

The GVWR is your pickup truck’s loaded weight. 

Combined Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or CGVWR

The CGVWR as determined by your pickup truck manufacture will include the weight of your truck when it’s fully loaded and the additional weight of the towed vehicle. The CGVWR accounts for the GAWR and GVWR as well. 

All this information should be available in the owner guide that was included with your truck. If not there, then look for the information online. Should you still not be able to track down these numbers, be sure to reach out to your manufacturer.

At any time, the weight of your pickup truck in combination with the truck camper cannot exceed these weight requirements. If it does, then your load is no longer considered stable. 

Our 3 Favorite Truck Campers 

As we said we would, let’s look at 3 of the premier truck campers on the market (including prices). If you’re interested in a new truck camper, one of these vehicles might be just what you’re looking for. 

Lance 855S – $54,000

The Lance 855S is a sizable truck camper with convertible features. It’s 18 feet long, 96 inches wide, and 81 inches tall inside. The camper weighs 2,997 pounds dry and includes a 30-gallon freshwater tank, a 20-gallon graywater tank, and a 25-gallon blackwater tank.

Prepare to live in luxury in the 855S. The bathroom has ducted heating for staying warm when you need to get up and go in the middle of the night. A medicine cabinet with a mirror door creates space and ambiance while a marine toilet and sliding bath door are great amenities. There’s even a skylight!

The cab-over has a queen-sized spring mattress with a headboard, a privacy curtain, and LED reading lights. 

The kitchen is regaled with a rectangular double-sink, a three-way fridge, a silverware organizer, and a stainless-steel three-burner range. 

Travel Lite Trailers 2021 Super Lite – $17,999

The wood construction of the Super Lite from Travel Lite RV with glue composite walls adds durability without extra weight. The 626XSL model weighs 1,421 pounds dry.

That model features an exterior length of 140 inches, an exterior width of 87 inches, and an interior height of 78 inches. The freshwater tank has a 13-gallon capacity. 

Included with any model of the 2021 Super Lite are aluminum exterior framing, white oak interior features, a tankless water heater, a water pump, and solar panel prep.

You get an outdoor shower but nothing indoors. The kitchen is nice enough that you won’t mind. It features a fridge, a two-burner stovetop made of appealing stainless steel, and a high-rise faucet.

Northern Lite 2022 10-2EX LE Dry – $64,995

The Northern Lite 2022 102EX LE Dry is a truck camper with a dry bath. It’s heavier than some of the other campers we’ve discussed, as it weighs 3,285 pounds when dry. The RV is 106 inches tall, 98 inches wide, and 218 inches long. 

Air conditioning in a truck camper? That’s right. This Northern Lite camper features a 10,000-BTU air conditioner sure to keep you warm on those sweltering summer days. The remote-controlled Fantastic Fan is awesome for ventilation, and there’s even an included TV antenna!

Solar panel setups and a power side awning round out the great exterior features.

Inside the 10-2EX LE Dry is a 60×80 queen-sized bed. The truck camper has room for up to four passengers total. 

Outside of the sleeping quarters, you have your pick of a U-shaped dinette for more room or a face-to-face dinette for making lasting family memories.

The dry bath utilizes a divider between the shower and toilet for privacy. Inside, the shower has a seat! 

Is a Truck Camper Worth It? Pros and Cons

If you’re on the verge of purchasing a truck camper, it would behoove you to read over this section before making up your mind. We’ll outline the pros and cons of this style of RV. 

Pros

Easier to Drive and Maneuver 

Have you ever tried driving a motorhome? It’s such a vastly different experience than anything you’re used to, and that’s true even if your driving experience lies in larger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs.

A truck camper isn’t quite the same as driving your truck like you normally would, but it’s not altogether different either. You’ll still want to practice for a couple of hours in an empty parking lot, but you’ll feel comfortable driving on the open road sooner than you would when transitioning to a larger RV such as a class A or a class C. 

Convenient Parking

Speaking of large motorhomes, parking one of those bad boys is a nightmare. You need several parking spaces adjacent to one another, which is a miracle to find in a busy shopping center. Plus, you’re usually too afraid to park close to the other cars because you don’t want to scratch or hit them.

Parking a truck camper eliminates a lot of that anxiety. You can’t park exactly as you would without the camper, but pretty much the same, maybe with just a bit more leeway. You certainly don’t need more than one parking spot, that’s for sure! 

Handier Route Planning 

Most RVs are too tall to pass narrow bridges and overpasses, which requires you to recalibrate your route. Now, some truck campers are taller too, especially pop-up campers even with the roof compressed. That said, these RVs aren’t so tall that you should be prohibited from passing a bridge unless that bridge has a very narrow opening. 

Great Amenities 

The quality and quantity of amenities afforded to you in a truck camper are sure to astound. You gain access to far more creature comforts than it looks like from the outside, including a kitchenette, shower, and multiple beds. 

Cons

Expensive 

Do we think truck campers are expensive overall? Not really. For what you’re getting though, which is an attachment for your pickup truck, some people might take umbrage with paying $15,000 or $50,000 for one.

At that price, you can buy a small trailer or begin saving up for a large motorhome. You’ll have to think carefully about what you want to put your money towards. 

Not Great for Large Groups

If you’re camping with a few members of your immediate family or your best friends, then a truck camper is fine. Between pop-ups and slide-outs, you should get a decent amount of privacy.

For bigger groups though, a truck camper is going to feel positively cramped. There won’t be enough space to sleep everyone, and especially not comfortably. 

Might Require You to Buy a New Truck

Many pickup trucks are compatible with truck campers, but not every single one. If yours isn’t, then you’d have to buy a new truck in addition to the camper. Now you’re doubling your expenses. It might not be worth it at that point! 

Must Be Detached and Reattached for Your Trips

Mounting a truck camper to the bed of your pickup truck isn’t difficult, per se, but it’s not the fastest and most effortless process either. Some RVers decide that even when they’re not camping that they’ll keep the truck camper attached.

This is not the best idea. You’re tanking your fuel economy with the extra weight. Plus, each time you drive, you’re putting your truck camper at risk. You’ll have to get into the habit of detaching the camper when your adventures come to an end. 

Final Thoughts  

A truck camper is an RV that fits on the bed of a pickup truck. Small yet mighty, these campers are more than what they seem, as they often house lavish amenities that some trailers couldn’t hold a candle to.

That said, like every type of RV, a truck camper has its pros and cons. If you’re seriously thinking of buying one, we hope this guide helps in your decision-making! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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