Complete guide to select a best truck bed camper
Camping has always been one of the world’s favorite pastimes. In a recent 2018 report by Kampgrounds of America (KOA), it is estimated that 77 million households across the U.S have a member who camps at least occasionally.
It’s easy to see why camping is so popular. After all, what could be better than reconnecting with nature, taking in the fresh air and peaceful serenity of the great outdoors?
Now more than ever, disconnecting from the digital world is a tough task. Technology has become an indispensable part of our lives, changing our habits as we stay connected 24/7.
Being in the outdoors allows us to get away from the virtual world’s distractions and encourages us to rediscover the human instincts that we’ve lost over generations living in hyper-connected societies all over the world.
One of the most popular forms of camping in the U.S is the classic RV – which has been many a family’s summertime activities through the decades.
But what if you don’t feel like investing in a huge RV that will just end up being used once or twice a year?
This is where a truck bed camper comes in handy.
What is a truck bed camper called?
Simply put, a truck bed camper is an RV-style extension that can be attached to the back of a pickup truck. This provides a convenient way to go camping.
How do truck campers work?
The RV-style extension is a mobile living quarter, equipped with all the creature comforts you may desire – with price points made to match. From the basic to the bourgeois, there’s an option for anyone to choose.
But how do I turn my truck into a mobile home?
Firstly, you’ll need to find a truck. Second, choose your truck bed camper. Third, Slide the truck camper into place on the truck, and voila! You’re ready to have an RV holiday wherever you choose to go.
Best Truck Bed Camper in 2021
There are two types of truck bed campers available on the market. These extensions can turn humble pickup into pickup truck campers. Let’s explore the two options to compare the pros and cons of each.
Pop-up truck camper
A pop-up truck camper does as its name suggests. It expands – or rather pops up when you need to utilize the living areas available in the camper.
The hood of the pop-up camper folds a third of the way down when it is not being used, thus lowering the center of gravity for the truck that is carrying it, making it a slightly safer option.
|Better fuel economy||Less space|
|Capable of more off-roading||Items in the pop-up quarters need to be packed away when not in use|
|Collapsible, can fit almost any size of a pickup truck||More work overall to set up camp and to pack up.|
|Less weight to carry||Because of non-solid walls, insulation quality is not as good.|
|Lower initial investment cost|
Slide-in pickup truck camper
This is a hard-sided and solid, fixed-size RV extension that is attached to the truck bed as is. It’s worth noting that as this is not collapsible, it will always take up more vertical space than the pop-up camper at all times.
|Bigger living space||Significantly heavier than a pop-up camper|
|More choices for floor plans||Centre of gravity is higher|
|Solid walls provide better sound and weather insulation||The initial cost of investment is higher|
|More storage space available|
|Easy to set up and secure when packing up to move off|
Both options give you the freedom to choose the features and layout of the camper according to your own preferences. There are many different models with various features available in the market today, so you must do your research to find one that is best suited for your camping needs.
Next, we will look at the different camping styles that exist today so you can choose the kind of truck campers that can provide the best outdoor experience.
Different Ways to Experience the Outdoors
There are three main styles of camping that are commonly used by outdoor aficionados. Let’s take a closer look at them.
These are designated campsites that are set aside by the local authorities for public use. Such places may or may not have full amenities close by, but would generally be close to establishments that provide bathrooms and shops.
In these cases, it is advisable to have a camper with basic amenities built in such as a kitchen and a bathroom. Park rangers regularly patrol such campsites, so safety is relatively assured, although it always pays to have a sturdy camper that can keep out unwanted wildlife.
Off-road camping is the ultimate test of the outdoor warrior. You are going off-grid, away from the safety of the park ranger’s regular beat. Don’t expect to find any basic amenities here.
The camper you choose in this case must-have amenities like a kitchen and bathroom if you want to have your creature comforts close by. There is also no available electricity source, so alternative energy sources such as solar energy or external batteries are an important necessity to power your camper as you set up camp for the night.
The level of security that the camper can provide rests on your choice of walls. Hard walls will offer maximum security against any wildlife, while soft walls’ safety can be easily jeopardized.
It also pays to have emergency technology that can be used to send an SOS to the authorities in the worst-case scenario that your truck and camper become unusable when you are off the grid.
3- RV camping park
Where camping is concerned, this is the ultimate 5-star experience. Most RV park sites have full amenities housed in a centralized building. Clean bathrooms with hot water, Laundry services, and staff assistance are available on-site. Electricity and clean running water are in abundance and easily accessible.
In this case, the camper that you choose can be as bare bones or as high-end as you want. At the minimum, all you require is a simple bed and some storage space. If you’d like a personal kitchen and bathroom of your own, you can choose to have the smaller versions instead, if the cost is a factor for you. Safety is assured with round-the-clock surveillance for the duration of your stay.
Right size of truck bed camper
The size of your truck bed (the space in your pickup) is also an important factor in choosing the right pickup camper for you.
There are generally three sizing options that manufacturers offer.
- The Super Short Truck Bed fits pickups sized 5’5” to 5’7”
- A Short Truck Bed can fit pickups sized 6’4” to 6’10”
- The Long Truck Bed fits pickups sized 5’5” to 5’7”
Check to see which one fits your truck before considering the available options.
What if I need more space?
Advances in design and technology have allowed manufacturers to provide modular options for their pickup campers.
If more space is needed for your camping adventure, you can install a slide. It is an addition to the pickup camper that extends and gives more floor space.
It can also be easily disassembled and packed up when it’s time to move on to the next campsite.
Cabover / Caboverless Options
A cabover truck bed camper contains a sleeping area that is located over the cab of your pickup truck.
This frees up more space in the camper for amenities that can allow for bigger lounging quarters, kitchen, or bathroom area.
Caboverless truck campers have the benefit of weighing notably less, but are typically bare-bones setups of a kitchen, living space and bathroom (if included) in a tiny space.
When Nature Calls
There are various combinations of toilets and bathroom options you can choose from.
Wet Bath truck campers have the toilet and the bathroom in a single compartment. This means that only one person can use the washing up amenities at one time.
This option requires more cleaning and maintenance to prevent mold as it will constantly get wet.
Dry Bath campers have separate toilets, sinks, and showers and contain storage spaces in the bathroom that stays dry.
Cassette toilets have a removable waste tank that has a capacity of around 4 to 5 gallons.
The tank can be easily cleaned by taking it to a dump station, and it is a fairly simple installation process for it to be reused again.
Flush toilets are the most common toilet type in motorhomes. They work best at full-hookup RV campsites and are very similar to a modern toilet found in most homes.
Flush toilets draw fresh water from a source, subsequently pumping the waste to a waste tank that needs to be emptied regularly.
The capacity of these waste tanks varies between 6 to 40 gallons.
An average person’s daily water use for toilets alone is about 20 gallons, so choose one that best suits you.
If you don’t want the hassle of drawing and dumping water, Porta potties are portable toilets that you can bring along with you during camping, and you can empty them when you return.
What Is a Pickup Camper Made Of?
There are two types of materials used in the construction of truck bed campers.
1. Wood Framed Camper
A classic method used since 1940. The frame of the camper is made of solid-woods like Oak, Mahogany, or Walnut. Aluminum sheets are then used to cover the frame.
The sealing and construction method used in this type of camper is important to prevent the risk of water damage. Make sure to check for any potential leakage issues before making your purchase.
2. Aluminum and Fibreglass Camper
This type of camper is made of a fully aluminum frame that is then covered by fiberglass sheets and plywood.
It has the benefit of being much lighter and still as robust as its wooden counterpart.
However, it is much harder to do small repairs on this type of camper as it is not as flexible as the wood-constructed version.
It also runs the risk of being de-laminated. This process happens when there is a seepage of water in the camper walls that causes the separation of the plywood and glue from the fiberglass exterior.
Unsightly blistering may occur on the exterior walls of the camper at this point.
Top 3 Pickup Camper Brands In 2021
1- Alaskan Campers
Based out of Winlock, Washington, Alaskan Campers manufacture both wood and aluminum pickup campers that fit both short and long beds.
All products come with a standard one-year warranty and a separate lifetime warranty for the hydraulic motor pump in their campers.
2- Capri Campers
Capri campers are manufactured in Bluff Dale, Texas.
They have both cabover and cabover fewer camp options that fit short and long beds.
Their campers are made with solid wood frames with an aluminum exterior. All products come with a limited one-year workmanship warranty
3- Lance Campers
Lance Campers is a company hailing from the sunny side of Lancaster, California.
Aluminum and fiberglass are used in the manufacture of all their campers. They cater to both short and long beds with an even ratio between both options.
Their products come with a one year limited and two-year structural warranty.
A truck bed camper is not a small investment. The average price of a truck bed camper ranges from $2500 to a whopping $15,000.
However, with the ease of use, portability, and its many benefits over a traditional RV, truck bed campers have proven to be a great way to enjoy a camping holiday with your friends and family, or if you choose to live a mobile lifestyle off the grid.