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Is a Truck Camper the Best RV for You?

Updated on April 26, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

Slide-in campers are just one of many RV types that meet the needs of travelers. Like the others, they have both good and bad points.

Thus, before you decide to buy one, it’s a good idea to learn all you can about them.

This is important to do because once you buy one, it’s yours. If it doesn’t work out, you could take a serious financial loss.

My husband and I owned one awhile back, and we also have inspected numerous models in recent years just to learn about the changes manufacturers have made in them.

What we found is that although they have added some nice features, the bottom line is that the issues, both good and bad, have not basically changed.

The pros and cons of buying a slide-in camper.
The pros and cons of buying a slide-in camper. | Source

Why People Buy Truck Campers

Many who purchase these RVs do so because they like the idea of having something to travel in that

  1. can go many places larger vehicles cannot,
  2. are easier to keep clean due to their small size,
  3. takes up less space when being stored,
  4. has some of the same benefits as motor homes,
  5. does not require a tow vehicle,
  6. are easier to maneuver,
  7. costs less and
  8. is easier to load than larger coaches.

Since I have owned one of these units, I can assure you that not all of these things are true.

A Few Facts

Items one, two three and five are basically true because many larger coaches are too big to be able to stay in many government or older private camping facilities, require more effort when it comes to cleaning and maintenance tasks, generally require the use of a tow vehicle and take up more room when being stored..

The other items on this list, however, require some clarification.

Campers Are Not the Same as Motor Homes

While campers appear to have some similarities to motor homes due to the fact that they become a sort of “all in one” unit when joined, they differ in a number of ways.

First, they are not one unit, but two.

This means that in order for a traveler to move from the cab of the truck to the inside of the camper, he or she must exit the truck, walk to the rear of the camper and enter.

Second, while motor homes remain intact while parked, campers must be separated from their trucks when set up in a park if travelers which to use the truck to shop, sightsee, etc.

This is because, unlike motor homes that generally tow a vehicle, the towing vehicle actually supports the camper.

Third, campers do not provide the same conveniences as motor homes. For example, a passenger can use the bathroom, grab a cold drink or lie down while on the move in a motor home, but cannot do so in a camper.

A well insulated truck camper is great for off season winter camping.
A well insulated truck camper is great for off season winter camping. | Source

Driving

While it may seem that these coaches would be easier to drive than other types of RVs, this is not necessarily the case.

The reason is that they are not permanently attached to the truck and are also top heavy.

Thus, drivers must take great care when changing lanes, turning corners and driving on uneven roads because slide-ins are prone to tipping over.

Motor homes have similar problems but are more balanced, and pull trailers, especially fifth wheelers, are much easier to drive.

Costs Vary

There was a time when slide-ins were inexpensive to buy, but these days that is no longer true.

They can cost every bit as much as any other type of RV and sometimes more, especially if they are new.

Furthermore, the type of truck needed to carry them can also be costly.

A friend of mine just purchased a new Arctic Fox truck camper and a new Dodge Ram and paid around $80,000 for the pair.

Even buying the same brands used could cost upwards of $40,000.

The point is that it is a mistake to assume that camper combinations cost less because it isn’t necessarily the case.

Loading Can Be Tricky

Assuming that packing a truck camper for a vacation is easier because it is smaller is a faulty assumption.

The fact that it has very limited space means that travelers have to do a lot of planning and juggling in order to organize such that they have what they need without feeling closed in by their belongings.

How to Make the Best Use of Space in a Truck Camper provides some good advice about this issue.

I have talked to numerous owners who have complained that while traveling in a slide-in they find they constantly have to move things from one place to another in order to be able to function.

Be Careful About Making Assumptions

As you can see, some of the items on the above list are based on faulty assumptions, while others are not.

Being able to determine the truth about these vehicles is very important in helping people to decide whether buying them is a good idea.

In addition to what has been mentioned here, there are also a few other things buyers need to consider.

Weight and Balance Are Important

Matching a truck camper to the vehicle that carries it is extremely important because a mistake in this area can cause real problems for travelers.

How to Make Sure a Truck Can Safely Carry a Camper explains this issue in great detail, and I strongly advise you to read it.

Basically, the center of gravity on any camper must be accurate based on the size, dimensions and weight ratings of the truck that is hauling it.

Wheels and tires must also be able to handle the heavy load.

Campers can weigh 5,000 pounds or more and are top heavy. So, if they are not properly balanced on a vehicle geared to hold them, rollovers and other types of accidents can happen easily.

What to Do If You Plan to Buy a Slide-In

If you feel that a truck camper will be the best RV for you, do yourself a favor and purchase the truck first and then find a camper that will match it.

Also, understand that the heavier the truck, the safer you will be, especially if it has dual rear wheels.

Buying a slide-in requires a good deal of research and planning, but if doing so will provide the types of RV vacations you want to have, then go for it!

As long as you keep safety your first priority, you’ll do fine.

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© 2017 TIMETRAVELER2

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