There are trucks, there are campers, and then there are “Truck campers.” As you might have guessed, these recreational vehicles combine the structure of a truck with a trailer.
The benefits? Compact length and improved efficiency, to name a few.
You must have come across one of these either on a freeway or at a camping spot. That’s when many people, intrigued by design, search for “What are the campers called that go in the bed of a truck?” on Google.
Well, they go by multiple names – truck bed campers being one of them.
If you want to learn more about these RVs, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we explain what truck bed campers are and how they differ from other RVs. We also list some of the best truck campers to try in 2022, many of which are available to rent on Outdoorsy.
What are Truck Bed Campers?
The RV is loaded onto the truck bed using vertical jacks. Once it’s attached, the pickup truck carries the RV to the camping spot. At the location, the RV is then demounted, and the truck is parked at a distance.
So truck bed campers are not one but two distinct structures. When you buy or rent one, you only get the camper and not the pickup truck.
The primary difference between a truck bed camper and other types of RV is how they’re transported. While other RVs are either towed or self-propelled, truck bed campers are carried.
There are two types of truck bed campers, which are:
- Slide-in camper
- Pop-up truck camper
Slide-in campers are hard-sided chambers that slide into the bed of the pickup truck. These are self-contained units equipped with all the necessary amenities. Slide-in campers are the most common type of truck bed campers.
In the US, the slide-in campers are also known as pickup campers or cabover campers.
The construction is very much the same as other RVs, except there’s no base frame for slide-in campers. They are supported on four vertical jacks instead of wheels. The walls are made from either aluminum or fiberglass, which reduces the overall weight.
They vary somewhere between 7 feet to 14 feet in length. Usually, the campers over 10 feet overhang a couple of feet in front of the driver cabin of the pickup truck. Such slide-in campers are called cabover campers because they hang over the cab.
What are Pop-up Truck Campers?
Pop-up truck campers are the second type of truck camper. As opposed to slide-in campers, these have collapsible canvas structures.
The loading and unloading process remains the same as in slide-in campers. But during transportation, the pop-up campers remain in a closed position. So the roof drops down onto the truck’s bed. Thus, the pop-up campers tend to have a low profile.
At the camping spot, the roof is raised and erected. The overall space might be more or less than a similar slide-in camper depending on the tent size.
One significant benefit of pop-up campers over their slide-in counterpart is lower weight. Because of the canvas side walls, they’re easier to store and move around.
Can a 1,500 Hold a Truck Camper?
1,500-pound or three-quarter ton vehicles are called heavy duty pickup trucks. They are designed to carry a higher payload.
So, yes, a 1,500 can hold a truck camper, but not every model. You shouldn’t bet on 1,500 for luxurious truck campers that are larger in size with more amenities inside.
To understand load capacity, you must understand how pickup trucks are classified. There are three categories for SUVs and pickup vans: half-ton or 1,000 lbs, three-quarter-ton or 1,500 lbs, and one-ton or 2,000 lbs.
But this way of classification doesn’t say much about the actual payload a pickup van can handle.
A half-ton SUV or pickup van can actually carry three-quarters of a ton or around 1,500 lbs. Similarly, a three-quarter-ton van is capable of handling a payload of a ton and a half or 2,500 lbs or more. One ton van can safely carry two tons or 4,000 lbs.
Some of the popular half-ton vans in the current market are the Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, and GMC Sierra. Ford F-150 has a payload of 3,325 lbs. Similarly, Dodge Ram and GMC Sierra have a payload of 2,300 lbs and 2,280 lbs, respectively.
So a 1,500 can hold a truck camper that weighs around 2,500 lbs. It’s better to refer to the user manual to get the exact payload.
Another thing you should know is that payload is not the same as tow capacity. The tow capacity is the weight a vehicle can drag, while the payload is the weight it can carry on its bed.
How Much Do Truck Bed Campers Cost?
Truck bed campers vary significantly in price. It depends on factors like production year, size, amenities, and model, among other things.
Accounting for all those factors, you should expect truck bed campers to cost between $5,000 to $50,000. The lower-end campers are usually pop-up campers with minimal amenities inside, while high-end campers would have the same amenities as a Class A RV coach.
But you can get used truck bed campers for much less cost — sometimes as low as 50%. It’d depend on the condition and inspection results.
Best Truck Bed Campers With Bathroom
Although it may not seem so, truck bed campers have bathrooms. This is an excellent addition for campers who prioritize hygiene and privacy.
Here are the best truck bed campers with bathrooms:
Lance 1172 is a flagship, award-winning camper that redefines luxury campaigns in a truck bed camper. It’s one of the only campers to have a dry bath and slide-out kitchenette.
This truck bed camper has not one but two slide-outs. One of them is what it calls a ‘Power slide-out’ located near the driver’s side. It contains the dinette and the refrigerator. Opposite to it is the kitchen area with cooktops, sink, and storage units.
The other slide out is on the rear end. It contains a large double sofa and enlarges the living space.
The combination of these two slide-outs is what makes 1172 so unique.
The bathroom is well-furnished with the availability of a toilet (foot pedal), shower, ducted heat, storage cabinet, and removable clothes rod. Since it’s a dry bath, the shower is isolated from the rest. A 42-gallon freshwater tank and a 35-gallon black tank are in place for water supply and disposal.
The cabover contains a carpeted bed base along with the Queen Innerspring mattress. The camper can accommodate five to six campers as there are bunk beds too.
It’s relatively bulky and hence would demand a one-ton dual rear wheel truck that can carry a payload of 5,000 lbs.
The 975 is another luxurious truck bed camper from Lance that has a dry bath inside.
It’s basically a redesign of the flagship 1172 with an aim to reduce weight. So instead of two slide-outs, you’re going to find one. It’s the full-wall slide-out that extends the dinette and refrigerator.
Other than that, you’ll find amenities like a stove, microwave, air conditioning, television, fan, and the Ultra Deck Plus bumper that grants 7.8 cubic feet of storage space. The 975 has a dry weight of 3,330 lbs despite all of this. You can easily carry it with F-350s or similar vehicles.
The cabover area contains a queen-size bed and a closet space. The 975 is suited for four to five campers as there are bunk beds too.
The dry bathroom consists of a marine toilet and shower separated by a curtain. There’s a small sink as well, along with vanity.
975 is smart with storage, and you have the Lance Locker exterior storage area in addition to the higher number of compartments inside the camper.
The HA-8801 is a hard-side, wet bath truck bed camper that’s not excessively tall or long or wide.
The truck bed camper has a well-laid-out floor plan. There’s a small alcove from the rear end as you step inside. On either side, you’ll find the dry bath and a refrigerator. As you walk further inside, there’s a 60″ jack knife sofa that can be pulled out and turned into a bed. Opposite to it is the ward pantry equipped with a microwave.
The deepest section, which is the overcab, contains a queen-sized bed, closet, and entertainment system. You have the option of installing a TV, which is optional.
It doesn’t have a slide-out yet looks quite spacious for a truck bed camper. But there’s an upgraded model, Hard Side Max, which comes with a slide-out and fold-down back porch.
The HS-8801 has a fully-welded aluminum framing, which helps to keep the weight down. Furthermore, it has a plywood substrate and high gloss exterior fiberglass decorated with fashionable RV graphics.
With a dry weight of about 2,315 pounds, you’d need a heavy-duty 2,500 series for this.
The 10-2EX KE is designed for full comfort, irrespective of whether you’re at a ski resort or in the middle of the Death Valley desert.
That’s courtesy of the two-piece fiberglass, which offers superior insulation and prevents leaks. It also has a 10,000 BTU air conditioner and remote-controlled fan for temperature regulation. For warmth in snowy conditions, there’s a heated basement as well.
The interior is spacious enough to accommodate features like a dry bath, kitchenette, U-shaped dinette, queen beds, and hardwood cabinetry, among other things.
The exterior of the camper is equally impressive. You’ll find LED tail lights, removable three-step stairs, a bumper patio, a ladder, and basement storage with a tray.
This is a dry truck bed camper, but there’s a wet model available too. All the amenities are more or less the same, except that it has a wet bath.
With a dry weight of 3,317 lb, it’s compatible with most one-ton vans.
The Scout Kenai is an impressive truck bed camper designed for three to four campers.
The interior of this truck bed camper is very compact. You have the queen-sized bed in the overcab area. Then there’s a dinette which converts into bunk beds for two. Rest in the floorplan are the storage compartments. Other things that you can add like a fridge or two-burner cooktop are offered as add-ons.
There’s a cassette toilet inside the camper, which swivels in and out for use. It’s placed under a hinged shelf to conserve space. Kenai doesn’t have an in-built shower. But you can get a portable RinseKit as an option. It’s heated and pressurized, and intended for outdoor use.
The camper is built with an aluminum framework, and it reflects in its low weight of 1,231 lbs. Thus, it is compatible with one-ton trucks as well.
There’s also a convertible rooftop tent, and it creates more headroom and aids ventilation. It’s accessible through the camper’s hatch.
As you might have guessed, Scout Kenai is designed for ruggedness rather than plush comfort. But with the high number of add-ons and customization options available, you can certainly turn into a sumptuous camper.
Best Pop-up Truck Campers
At 785 lbs, it is one of the most lightweight truck bed campers. With the height down, it measures 54″. Thus, it can be easily carried by any SUV or pickup truck.
The interior is quite minimalistic, and you’ll find only a handful of things. There’s a queen bed and a couple of couches that turn into bunk beds. But the couches have underbed cabinets for storage.
The Shell allows you to select your siding preference, and there are eight options to choose from. On top of that, you can include a few more add-ons to make the truck camper a bit more comfortable.
The Phoenix Mini Max is one of its kind. It’s a fully self-contained pop-up truck camper with all the amenities of a trailer camper.
Besides the usual queen-sized bed and dinette that converts into a bed, it has a restroom with a cassette toilet and a small kitchen. Also included are a 1.9 cu. ft. refrigerator and an 18-gallon water tank. As add-ons, you can have things like air conditioning, roof racks, and solar panels.
With an aluminum framework and one-piece fiberglass, it is designed for structural integrity and for being lightweight.
Mini Max is a fully custom truck camper. This means you get to decide the actual floor plan and amenities. Because of such a high level of customization, 14 months of production time is required.
Are Truck Bed Campers Worth It?
Truck bed campers aren’t vehicles on their own. So given the cost that’s on par with travel trailers, it’s fair to ask if they’re really worth it.
While truck bed campers are not suited for every occasion, they surely hold some advantages over other types of RVs.
- Better maneuverability
With the camper sitting in the truck’s bed, you’ll have better driving control. Whether it be taking sharp turns or crossing a narrow bridge, truck bed campers give you better maneuverability.
The only concern you’ll have is the added height and weight of the camper. But most drivers adjust to the changes pretty quickly.
- Easy to park
Finding a parking spot for the travel trailer feels like a chore. But truck bed campers do not require a parking spot. You can park it anywhere the truck can be parked. Or, you arrange a dedicated parking spot at the campground.
You can park the camper in a residential driveway when not in use. You don’t have to find additional parking spaces on the street like travel trailers or RV coaches.
- Great for dry camping
Since you can park the truck bed camper almost anywhere, it’s best for dry camping or boondocking. So you can avoid the crowded campsites and drive down to secluded spots.
Many states, including California, do not count truck bed campers as RVs and instead classify them as cargo. So you won’t have restrictions on where you can and cannot set up the camp.
- Low insurance cost
Truck bed campers enjoy the lowest insurance fees and registration costs among all the RVs. That’s because they’re classified as cargo and not RV in most states.
Also, since the campers are the same size as the pickup van, there isn’t much that leads to a collision, except the added weight and height. This reflects lower insurance costs.
- Better resale value
Compared to other RVs, there are fewer models of truck bed campers available in the marketplace. Similarly, fewer models are released every year.
So the truck bed camper will likely hold its value in the future and will be in demand. This would mean better resale value down the line.
If you value these attributes, truck bed campers are well worth the cost for you. You’re going to enjoy camping in such a camper.