As someone interested in adventure, I have looked at all the options for campers. I have settled on a camper van but a truck camper has a lot to offer and can also make a great choice.
You can’t go wrong with either option and it comes down to a personal choice about what will fit your needs the best.
Truck campers haven’t gotten the credit they deserve since van lifers have overwhelmed social media with look-at-me pictures of themselves living in a fantasy world.
Camper vans have become the ultimate home on wheels and have left other types of campers without as much attention.
Although I do own a camper van, I am not the social media show-off type and chose my current configuration because it made the most sense for my needs. It serves a purpose and fits well with my lifestyle.
However, truck campers have always been high on my list and I could see myself having one in the future. One could make arguments for the good and bad of both. That is what this article is about.
I have taken the knowledge of what I learned during my research and the process of buying a camper. This isn’t a list that puts one above the other. Instead, this pro and con list attempts to point out various good features as well as the bad ones of both.
It is subjective so keep that in mind as you read through the list.
A camper van is a solid solution for those who are looking for a camper to travel in that doesn’t take up as much room as larger motorhomes. The minimalistic design of a camper van is great for those who need something that will take them from point A to point B and provide an excellent living area.
I love owning one and it provides me with a home away from home when I am ready to go out on the road. Even though I love it, there are some cons to owning one. This is especially true if you are a weekender like me and don’t live in it.
There have been times when I have wondered if a truck camper would be a better solution for the part-time user like myself.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons below.
1. All-in-one solution – A camper van provides a solution that is a living space and a drivable vehicle all in one. Similar to larger RVs but in a much smaller package. It’s the best of both worlds. When you buy a van, you don’t need anything else as everything is self-contained.
2. Pass through from front to back – One of the main reasons I ended up with a camper van is because you can move from the driving cabin to the living space without getting out of the van. This is beneficial to me and makes it easier to stop and care for my dog, brew some coffee, use the toilet, etc. without ever going outside.
3. Good fuel economy – Many camper vans get excellent fuel economy. Mine averages around 20 mpg which I think is pretty good. I’m happy with that kind of fuel mileage when you compare it to other types of RVs that get less than that. Of course, this will depend on the model of van you have and the load you are carrying.
4. Less hassle – There isn’t much of a hassle to a camper van; you just get in it, start it up and take off. In comparison, truck campers need to be loaded onto your truck and this can often be a difficult process, especially if you are doing it alone.
5. Easy storage – Storing a van when not in use or during the winter is easy as long as you have space for it. Mine stays parked in my driveway and is ready to go whenever I am ready to use it. There is no need to break anything down when I am done using it or set anything up when I am ready to get going. Other than winterization, the van stays put and stores easily when not in use.
6. Easy to park – Most vans can be parked nearly anywhere and can fit into standard parking spaces in most public parking lots. Unlike the larger width of truck campers, vans are typically no wider than a full-size pickup truck and have no issues with pulling into a parking spot with vehicles on both sides.
7. Storage capacity – Camper vans are generally set up in a way that utilizes all the space within them. With cabinets, cupboards, overhead storage, drawers, and other storage areas, you are usually covered to pack more into a van than you might imagine from looking from the outside. My van has ample storage for all of my stuff including bikes that store neatly under the bed.
8. It can be stealthy – If you are looking to go unnoticed, you probably can’t do it in a truck camper. A van is your best bet and if your camper van resembles a cargo van, you will find it easy to blend into an environment and not be noticed or asked to leave in the middle of the night.
1. Not as versatile – A camper van can only be used as one thing; a camper van. Unlike a truck camper, you can’t take the living area off and then use the rest of the vehicle as your personal vehicle. Although some vans do have modular areas that come out or fold away to open up the space, this still isn’t the same as having a dedicated vehicle.
2. Not well suited for off-road excursions – You probably won’t be taking a van off the main roads very much unless you have a four-wheel-drive van. Even then, a van will never be as well suited for off-roading the way a pick-up truck will be.
3. Can be more expensive – Vans can be quite expensive with some of them reaching amounts over $100,000. The pricing can get out of hand and is ultimately the reason I decided to convert my own van. If you choose a DIY option, the price can come down considerably but can still be a large expenditure.
4. Living space is dependent on vehicle – Unlike a truck camper, the camper van is one unit. If something tears up mechanically in your van, your whole living area is gone while the van is in the shop. In contrast, if you have a truck camper and something happens to your truck, you can remove the camper and continue using it.
5. Poor towing capacity – Don’t expect to tow much with a camper van. Of course, I can’t imagine what one would want to tow anyways since you have all you need enclosed in the van, to begin with. Many people like to tow trailers with motorcycles or other toys to use while out on the road. Most camper vans max out around 5000 pounds of towing weight.
6. Requires registration – When you own a camper van, it needs to be registered which means you will have to pay yearly taxes and fees on it. This adds to costs and if you have other vehicles, the fees can begin to get out of hand.
7. More to insure – You’ll need insurance on your van and that can be another expensive cost. This cost will differ from person to person and from company to company but it’s important to remember costs like this as you set on a search for a camper van.
8. Requires regular maintenance – Just like any vehicle, a camper van will require regular maintenance such as oil changes, tire replacements, and other regular services. You could also have mechanical issues that add even more costs and make it a headache to deal with.
A truck camper is an outstanding option for those who want more versatility in their travels. If you are looking to get off the beaten path and travel the roads unknown, a truck camper could be a great option for you.
Since a truck camper is just a shell and is independent of a vehicle, it can be fitted onto any truck designed to carry the load. Many people prefer to use a four-wheel-drive truck that allows them to have an off-road adventure truck with living space on the back of it.
It’s a great solution for those who want to travel and don’t require a lot of space. Similar to camper vans, they are not as spacious as other types of RVs but you already know this.
It’s not the function of a truck camper to provide a ton of living space. The point is to get you to where you want to go while also providing a comfortable living area.
1. Can be used only when needed – The cool thing about a truck camper is that you only load it up and use it when you need it. When you aren’t using it, you have your truck to use in any way that you wish without having a loaded camper on the back of it.
2. Stores away when not in use – As long as you have a place to store your camper when not in use, it can be tucked away nicely out of the way. This allows you to free up your truck to use as a personal vehicle or to use to haul items the way a truck is designed to be used.
3. Versatile and able to go offroad – If you have a truck capable of getting off the beaten path, you can do it with your home attached. Most campers are limited to where they can go but a truck camper allows you to drive to places you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
4. Cheaper than a camper van – Assuming you already have a truck or don’t spend an arm and a leg for a fancy truck, this type of camper may be cheaper than a camper van. However, they can get very pricey depending on the model and features you choose.
5. Some can be very spacious – They are surprisingly spacious inside and provide ample room for moving around and offer a comfortable area to live. Looking from the outside, you may think that they are tiny and limiting. However, one look inside and you may be surprised by the amount of space you have.
6. No need for registration in most states – Your truck will need to be registered but the camper itself will not in most states. You will need to check with your state for the final verdict on this. All states are different so the requirements may be different depending on where you live.
7. Low insurance costs – You may be able to add your truck camper onto your regular car insurance depending on your insurer. If not, you’ll want to get specific truck camper insurance. Either way, the cost is minimal unlike insuring an entire vehicle. Insurance can protect your camper from damage as well as theft, fire or vandalism.
8. Low maintenance – Unlike a camper van, a truck camper doesn’t require much ongoing maintenance. Other than the normal wear and tear maintenance that all campers require such as caulking and winterization, the camper itself is independent of a vehicle. This means there is nothing to fix or replace regularly. Of course, you will need to maintain the vehicle that the camper rides upon.
1. Heavy – Truck campers can get quite heavy and can require a heavy-duty truck to haul them. I have a Nissan Frontier and the options available for a small truck like mine are hard to find. The ones I have found are near the maximum amount of my truck’s payload. Of course, a larger truck will be able to haul one with no problems but just know that a fairly heavy-duty truck is required to safely haul one.
2. Expensive for what you get – Some truck campers can go upwards of $50,000 or more. That’s expensive for a box with a living area in it. This price doesn’t even include the truck that is needed to carry it. You may end up paying $20,000 – $30,000 or more for a truck that is powerful enough to haul something like this.
3. You Need a truck to carry it – As mentioned above, a truck is needed to haul a truck camper. You have to figure this cost into your total price when doing your shopping. Unless you already have a truck, this could be a big added expense.
4. Inconvenient to load and unload – Although you can remove and replace the camper whenever you want, it isn’t the easiest thing to do. It can be difficult and an annoying part of the process.
5. Poor fuel economy – With a few thousand pounds of a camper on your truck’s bed, you can expect the fuel mileage to go out the window. Depending on the truck and camper configuration, people have reported getting 10 – 12 miles per gallon which is considerably less than the 20 I get with my loaded camper van.
6. Wider than a camper van – Some truck campers can be wider than most camper vans. This makes it a little bulkier in the rear of the vehicle, making it a bit more tricky to park in some locations. Some may be difficult to park in parking spots with vehicles on both sides.
7. Separate from the truck – You have to get out of your truck to access the rear living space. If you are in bad weather or need to get out of a sketchy area, this can be a negative. This is unlike the camper van that allows you to access the living area without leaving the vehicle.
8. It can be more difficult to get in and out of – Sometimes, the entrances are not well suited for people who may have a difficult time with it. The entrance is usually up higher and requires steps or a built-in ladder that one can climb up. Even the inside living area generally requires some climbing to get up into the cab-over bed.
9. Greater height than a van – This may not be a big deal but it was something that turned me away a bit during my search. Truck campers have a generous amount of headroom and when combined with the height of sitting in the bed of your truck, the overall height can be much more than what a high roof van is. My Ram Promaster is 8.9 feet tall at its highest point. Many truck campers rise to over 12 feet. My concern would be driving in high winds and areas with low clearance.
Whether you choose to go with a camper van or a truck camper, you will probably be pleased with either one. Both are nimble and will take you to places that you may not be able to go with larger motorhomes or RVs.
Though both are limited in space, they each provide a living area that is big enough for comfortable living. Both have pros and cons so it’s up to you to decide which one suits your needs the best.
If you already own a large truck that can handle a camper, it may be a good idea to go this route. On the other hand, if you will need to buy a truck plus a camper to go on it, you may be approaching an expensive undertaking.
Whichever you choose, the idea is to get out into Mother Nature and explore and both of these options allow you to do just that.