Last Updated on March 18, 2021 by Chris and Lindsay
After nearly three years on the road, we can definitely say that there are truck camper pros and cons, especially if you plan to live full-time in your truck camper.
Before we left Florida to set out on our journey to drive from Alaska to Argentina we were torn between building out a van and pursuing van life or matching up a truck and slide-in camper. Ultimately we realized that a truck camper is the perfect RV to handle the rugged roads and unknown adventure that stretched between two continents.
While we made it to Alaska (all the way up the Dalton Highway to the top of the world!) we have so far failed to reach Argentina. But in the process of living full-time in our truck camper the last few years we learned that a truck camper is the perfect RV for those people who enjoy adventure both on and off-road.
But truck campers are not for everyone. In this post we’ll share 13 reasons why you should consider buying a truck camper. But we won’t fail to mention the drawbacks as well.
Ultimately we trust you’ll know whether a truck camper is for you by the time you finish this post. We just want to help guide you along your journey!
Truck Camper Pros and Cons
In many cases, the pros of truck campers will also be the cons (and vice-versa). Truck campers are unique RVs, so much so that most people (and state governments) do not recognize them as campers or recreational vehicles.
But for those of us who own truck campers (and spend a lot of time living out of them), we know the pros far outweigh the cons.
Before we get into the details, let us briefly describe the perfect union between a truck camper and its owner.
A truck camper will suit you perfectly:
- If you want to be able to go places most people do not while having the option to be perfectly content where they do.
- If you want to be able to get up and go, spend most of your time outside exploring and can handle a minimalist lifestyle.
Now on to more details about the pros and cons of truck campers.
|TRUCK CAMPER PROS||TRUCK CAMPER CONS|
|* Compact size||* Time to Detach|
|* Versatility / Detachability||* Limited Storage|
|* Self-Contained||* Separate Vehicle + Camper|
|* Drivability||* Time-Consuming Tasks|
|* Depreciates Well||* Cramped Space|
|* Low Maintenance||* Small Tank Capacity|
|* Mobility||* Cabover Bed|
|* No Vehicle Registration|
|* Fuel Economy|
|* Tow Factor|
Truck Camper Pros
Our truck camper is 24′ long by 11.5′ tall. We took up less than 2 parking spots in most places we parked. Yet we have everything we need in such a compact space.
We could plan to go places larger RVs could not. And only on rare occasions could we not go where smaller vehicles could go.
Versatility / Detachability
You truck camper is a truck + camper. This means that you can use it as such. Remove the camper and drive your truck around town. Or drop your camper in the middle of the woods and use it as an outpost for exploration.
Switch trucks, campers or both. A truck camper is a versatile RV for meeting all sorts of needs.
Despite is compact size, truck campers have a surprising ability to include everything you possible need to live on the road. From bathrooms with toilet, shower and sink to kitchens complete with stove, oven, refrigerator and double sink, truck campers have it all.
Of course, you can opt for more expensive and roomier truck campers with all of the bells and whistles. But most truck campers will include everything you need to be self-contained out of the box.
Unlike larger Class A and Class C motorhomes, driving a truck camper is as simple as driving a truck. Granted, it is a bit top-heavy and you do need to take safety precautions when driving.
But in general, you are simply driving a truck that is carrying cargo. So if you are comfortable driving a 3/4 or full ton pickup truck then it should not be that much more difficult to do so carrying the camper.
Unlike most motorhomes that lose value as soon as you drive them off the lot, truck campers tend to hold their value well. Clearly, price depends on the market supply and demand.
However, truck campers are fairly unique. So there is not a huge market for them and as such, they hold their value. Of course, your truck will depreciate like any vehicle. But packaged together a truck camper holds its value years after use.
All things being equal, maintaining your truck camper should cost less than maintaining other RVs and campers.
For starters, if you have mechanical issues with your truck you can take it to virtually any mechanic. You do not need to search for a truck camper-specific mechanic.
And second, the camper is so compact that there are not a whole lot of things that can go wrong. If they do, it is usually very simple and inexpensive to fix.
Our truck required regular maintenance and threw us a few surprises (due to it’s age and high mileage) but was otherwise inexpensive to maintain with regular fluid changes and tire balance and rotations.
Truck campers are quite possibly the best RV for off-road adventure. Depending on your setup, you can expect to go many places that other people will not dare. Of course they are heavier and less mobile off-road than other overland vehicles like Jeeps and Land Cruisers.
But unlike those vehicles that may have a rooftop tent and outside kitchen, your mobility comes with complete self-containment all in one. We can’t count the number of times we drove for hours off-road and simply pulled up and parked for the night without additional setup or breakdown at camp.
With 4 wheel drive we are able to extend our mobility and leave the tracks of others behind if we want.
Truck campers are built for adventure. And while it is true that with enough time and enough gravel everything will break, truck campers are rugged. Trucks, by default, tend to be built to be dependable in rugged terrain.
And if you aim for more mobility with a smaller camper and truck made for rugged terrains, such as a Toyota Tundra with a popup camper, you can expect to bounce around all day and not lose any sleep at night over what may have broken.
Our truck is a 2002 Ford F250 7.3L Powerstroke Diesel that is known for the durability of its engine and being able to go a million miles.
No Vehicle Registration
This isn’t a huge selling point. But most states in the US consider a truck camper as cargo, not as a plated vehicle with a title and registration.
This saves you a few dollars each year both in registration costs and in insurance. We insured our truck accordingly and then added a rider to cover the camper as cargo.
The larger the RV the worse the fuel economy. Without our camper our truck averaged between 15-16 mpg on diesel fuel. When we added the camper we averaged between 10.5-12 mpg (depending on whether we were climbing hills and mountains or not).
This is quite a bit different than comparable Class C motorhomes that average 8-10 mpg or Class A motorhomes that average even less. And yes, after years and tens of thousands of miles of driving our truck camper this fuel economy adds up!
A truck camper is as maneuverable as a truck. And as long as you keep in mind the height of your camper, you can plan to go pretty much anywhere a truck can go. Think about the routine places you will visit – such as gas stations, small towns and grocery store parking lots.
Do you want to be carrying/driving a massive RV that doesn’t take corners well and requires multiple parking spots? Or would you rather be able to pull into a friend’s driveway or visit small villages and towns without worrying about whether you’ll have enough room to maneuver?
Many truck camper owners opt for truck campers because they want to tow something behind the truck. We’ve seen truck campers towing boats, ATVs, horses, trailers and even other trucks!
While we didn’t have this in mind when we purchased our truck camper, if you want all of the above pros of a truck camper with the ability to tow your favorite toy, then you can’t go wrong in choosing a truck camper.
OUR TOP TRUCK CAMPER RESOURCES
Truck Camper Cons
OK, so we definitely glorified to pros of truck campers. Which means now we need to address the cons. Don’t worry, they aren’t as bad as you think.
In fact, we learned to turn each one into a pro (or at least neutral) after years of living in our truck camper.
Time to Detach
If you want a quick drop-and-go camper a truck camper is not it. While we can load and unload our truck camper in around 10-15 minutes, it took some practice and adaptation to get to this point.
But we have never felt in a rush to have to drop our camper. Using quick release turnbuckles, several leveling blocks and electric jacks we could make quick work of unloading and loading our camper. But again, be considerate of the time it will take (especially at first) in learning to load and unload your camper.
The first pro of truck campers is that they are compact. This is also a con because there is very little room to store things – especially if there is more than one of you living in the truck camper and/or you plan to spend lots of time in the truck camper.
We had a “his and her” setup where we split our storage for personal items. But coming up with additional pantry space was difficult. And our wet-bath shower also doubled as extra closet space.
Fortunately we custom-built our flatbed truck camper with additional storage space built on the bed of the truck. Again, we looked to turn a disadvantage into an advantage with our truck camper.
Separate Vehicle + Camper
The versatility of a truck camper is great… until it’s raining, snowing or there’s a knock on the door in the middle of the night. Because the truck and camper are separate this makes getting from one to the other require going outside.
Most truck campers have “pass-through” windows where you can slide between the camper and the back window of the truck. But we’ve found these incredibly impractical for the most part.
So if you can fit through that space (and don’t clutter the backseat of your truck!) then power to you. This was something we just had to learn to live with.
A side effect of the compact nature of the truck camper is that often times small tasks take much longer than they should.
When you have to move a cutting board to get to your freshwater or have to move a pile of clothes from the bathroom in order to take a shower you’ll find less interest in doing the thing you set out to do in the first place.
Sometimes it is nice for tasks to intentionally take a little longer, especially if you are pursuing the minimalist approach to life. But when it comes to routine tasks, get ready for a little frustration as you learn to live with a few extra steps.
Obviously being compact leads to all sorts of space-related issues. Being cramped is about as bad as it comes because I (Chris) am a big guy.
So when I take a shower in our truck camper I squat (or sit on the toilet). When I walk out the door I cover my head (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve hit my head on the wall on my way out).
Our refrigerator is barely larger than a portable 12v cooler. Our pantry space is tiny. And we’ve learned we don’t need more than a few handfuls of clothing because it’s all we can fit anyway.
But the silver lining is that learning to live with less has completely revolutionized the way we look at things and the value we place on experience over things in life.
Small Tank Capacity
One of our most annoying elements of owning a truck camper is keeping up with the tanks. Either having too much grey water or not enough fresh water.
Having to calculate how long we could go between dumping our tanks and whether it would be warm enough (and private enough) to take an outside shower to save space in the grey tank.
A larger RV would be nice from the standpoint of storing more water and waste. But again, we’d lose most of the pros of truck campers if we did that. So we just keep an eye on our water and waste consumption.
Climbing into bed gets old – especially if you are old(er)! While we are in our 30s, we’ve already ruled out sleeping on the hard ground in a tent when we have a great cabover truck camper.
But we’ve also transitioned away from the idea that a cabover bed is a great idea. Sure it is a brilliant use of space. But climbing into the cabover every night is definitely a truck camper con.
And don’t even think about making the bed every morning!
We’re pretty sure by now that you are confident whether you are interested in making the leap into owning a truck camper. We don’t regret our decision at all – even though our initial plans changed.
And as a bonus to all of these truck camper pros and cons, we found three reasons why we absolutely love being truck camper owners.
The community we found and built in our truck camper on the road is phenomenal. We’ve found no strangers in truck campers, only friends.
After a short while, we found ourselves waving to other truck campers as they passed, receiving waves back. We’ve always stopped to help fellow truck campers and have always received help from them when we’ve needed it.
It really is a tight-knit community that looks out for its kind and we appreciate that.
Built into all of the pros of truck camper ownership is the undeniable fact that every day in our truck camper is an adventure.
Whether we’re miles off-road looking for rugged adventure or are waking up in a campground to sip our coffee to the smell of a smoldering campfire, every day is new.
But adventure is built into every truck camper and we think that you’ll appreciate that.
Having nothing more or less than what you need puts perspective to the things you think you want in life. Our truck camper has everything in it that we can possibly want or need.
And after making some great updates and modifications to our truck camper we really made it feel like home.
When you look at life in terms of having the things you need we think you’ll really enjoy the fact that you selected a truck camper to be your adventure-mobile.
We hope that you have enjoyed this post and that it has helped you make the decision to join an awesome community of truck camper owners! Please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have or any other ways that we can help you pursue the abundant life on the road!