Truck Camper Magazine reviews a 2016 Palomino SS-550, a pop-up, north-south cabover truck camper targeting super short bed, four-door, half-ton trucks. Debuted as an all-new design with Palomino’s sweeping pop-up update, does the SS-550 measure up?
Palomino debuted the SS-550 in Truck Camper Magazine on January 3rd, 2014. The SS-550 was the first all-new Palomino pop-up to incorporate the sweeping build quality and feature upgrades the manufacturer introduced for that year. The significant construction improvements included a lower-profile one-piece vacuum bonded roof, one-piece seamless vacuum bonded sidewalls, and a 55-inch one-piece entry door.
Another significant advancement was made with the all-new Rieco-Titan electric remote roof lift system, a revolutionary new product designed and tested in concert with the development of the Palomino SS-550. In fact, the Rieco-Titan electric roof lift system was featured in Truck Camper Magazine on the very same day as the SS-550 debut.
Finally, Palomino produced a list of further enhancements to complete their 2014 pop-up transformation including Line-X coating the camper’s underbody, an improved heavy duty vinyl soft-wall with tighter tolerances, a new power port for battery trickle charging, a new power cord with LED indicator, standard battery disconnect, and all-LED lighting. In essence, Palomino reinvented its already popular line of pop-up truck campers for the 2014 model year.
These upgrades alone would have made the SS-550 a compelling new addition to the Palomino pop-up line, but the design team didn’t stop there. Starting with a clean slate, the team developed Palomino’s first north-south pop-up cabover and the first small Palomino pop-up model with a water heater and an outside shower.
When we interviewed Pat Hines, Truck Camper Product Manager for Palomino RV, about the SS-550, he was particularly excited and proud of the new SS-550. As Pat explained, “The SS-550 isn’t really like anything else in our line. From layout, to design, to the round versus rectangular table, the 2014 Palomino SS-550 is unique.”
For this review we poured over a 2016 Palomino SS-550 at D&H RV Center in Apex, North Carolina. Review hats affixed, we closely inspected the unit and thought carefully about how this floor plan and its feature set would work in real life truck camping situations. If it doesn’t add up to a great truck camping product, all the inspired changes and upgrades don’t matter. Let’s get started.
The Palomino SS-550: Type One, or Type Two?
For our personal truck camping, we prefer a non-slide hard side truck camper. That stated, we have enjoyed many adventures in pop-up truck campers and fully understand the inherent advantages of a pop-up design; lower wind-resistance, lower weight, lower center of gravity, better fuel economy, better off-road performance, and more overall versatility. If we could have a Jay Leno style truck camper garage, there would be at least a half dozen pop-up truck camper rigs on tap and ready to rock. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Above: 2016 Palomino pop-up truck campers in lower-profile travel position (left) and ready to camp (right)
To get a grip on the SS-550 design and purpose, it’s important to understand the two types of pop-up truck campers. Type one, the more traditional pop-up, features a basic dinette, simple kitchenette, propane heat, and an east-west cabover bed. Type one pop-up campers generally appeal to folks looking to step-up from tenting on the ground, have a minimum of camping luxuries (propane heat, fresh water tank, inside seating, and privacy), and travel further off-road.
Type two, a more modern invention, starts with the type one concept and adds a separate bathroom and toilet and increases the size and feature set to be more in line with non-slide hard side truck campers. When you see a pop-up truck camper with a bathroom or a north-south cabover, you’re generally looking at a modern type two design.
Without a bathroom and featuring a north-south cabover, the 2016 Palomino SS-550 is a compelling hybrid of these two pop-up truck camper types. Not having a bathroom will still be a deal breaker for most type two pop-up camper customers, but the traditional type one pop-up buyer will likely be tempted by the type two-style extended cabover, luxury materials, and generous standard feature set of the SS-550.
Floor Plan Evaluation
For the floor plan evaluation, we will start at the rear entry door and work our way forward.
Immediately inside the entry door and underneath the dinette is the standard battery disconnect, Rieco-Titan roof lift system switches, the Rieco-Titan jack activation switch, and two large under seat storage compartments. Having the battery disconnect and the Rieco-Titan switches right at the back door is absolutely perfect.
Above: Rieco-Titan electric jacks are an option on the Palomino SS-550
Stepping into the camper and turning to the passenger’s side, the U-shape dinette and round table presents an attractive seating opportunity with just enough leg and feet room for three adults. The placement and position of the table makes entering and exiting the dinette relatively easy, and the wall-mounted back cushions make the seating fairly comfortable.
As a single post table, the table top could be more stable, and some may wish for more surface area for cups, plates, food, laptops, etc. We would also love the option of a more traditional rectangular table that would attach to the side wall for increased stability and offer more eating and working space. Most folks using this camper will be singles and couples anyway, so why not offer a booth-style table option?
Turning the dinette into a bed requires removing the table top, removing the table leg, installing the included plywood bed piece, and arranging the cushions as a bed.
The first time we did this, the process took less than a minute. The table top and leg can be stored under the cabover bed – if you haven’t already filled that space with your stuff. Otherwise, the table top and leg could be placed on the floor for the night.
If the person sleeping in the dinette bed is tall, they will likely need to lie towards the rear wall and stretch their lower leg and feet into the narrow strip next to the central wardrobe (see above photo). Anyone who will be using this lower bed for tall adults may want to audition this sleeping position prior to purchase.
Above the dinette is a two-door storage cabinet, AM/FM CD stereo system with speakers, and a LED light.
Having the stereo and LED light within reach of the dinette and kitchen area makes sense.
The forward dinette also features the thermostat, 12-volt outlet, coax connection, and a 110-volt outlet. Having the outlets in a mid-camper location is excellent for charging cell phones and devices and plugging in laptops while on shore power. The only thing missing here is a USB outlet.
These outlets are installed into a passenger’s side lower cabinet. This cabinet has two storage areas and offers a table top.
Not only does the SS-550 have an impressive amount of storage areas, but the storage areas come in a multitude of sizes and shapes.
Across from the dinette is a straight kitchen with a single bowl porcelain sink, two-burner propane cooktop, three cubic foot three-way refrigerator, and a surprising amount of upper and lower cabinet storage opportunities.
At first blush the counter space is minimal, but the space to the left and right of the sink is just right for washing a small amount of dishes or preparing simple meals. One can also use the elevated table top space over the refrigerator.
Unless you plan to host parties of eight, or insist on complex gourmet meal preparations on the road, the countertop, sink, and cooktop are well proportioned for a short bed pop-up truck camper.
The lower kitchen cabinetry includes six shallow cabinet areas for pantry-style food storage, and one deeper cabinet for larger items. The shallow pantry shelves are a smart and an efficient use of space. I wish we had these in our camper.
The face of the lower cabinetry contains the water pump, water heater switch, a 110-volt outlet, and the heater. Having the water pump and water heater switch in this location is excellent for meal prep and washing dishes. An owner will need to be careful not to allow water to drip down to the 110-volt outlet (from the sink above), or food to spill into the heater heater (from the cooktop above).
Above: The bright LED light under the upper kitchen cabinet is perfectly located.
The upper kitchen cabinetry offers to medium-sized cabinets and – just to the right – a smaller netted storage cabinet. The front of the medium-sized upper cabinets is one third door, one third blocked, and one third door. It would benefit the customer to have either one more door in the center, or two wider doors to give better access and visibility to the middle storage area.
The central location of the standard three cubic foot three-way Dometic refrigerator could not be more convenient when preparing meals or sitting in the dinette.
The size of the refrigerator is generous for a short bed pop-up camper and plenty for two people getting away for a long weekend.
The north-south cabover bedroom in the 2016 Palomino SS-550 is all about comfort, storage, and simplicity. The north-south bed means you don’t have to climb over your spouse to get out of bed. It’s bad enough that she puts up with your snoring, grumpy behavior, and belief that not showering for three days doesn’t make you stink. With the north-south bed, you can at least let her sleep.
On either side of the 60 by 80-inch queen-size bed are large two-door hampers; excellent for day-to-day clothing storage. In our camper, storage equality – having the same amount of storage opportunities on both sides of the bed – is very important. By putting exactly the same large hampers on both sides of the bed, Palomino has avoided this potential marital disharmony.
Looking closer, I would prefer the hamper openings and doors to be significantly larger, especially since the available storage area is exceptionally deep and wide. Speaking from experience, it’s good to open a cabover hamper and quickly see that you have ample socks, underpants, and T-shirts ready to go. With the SS-550 set-up, some of these items could hide under the cabinet face.
But wait… there’s more! The queen size bed lifts up with the help of a gas strut to reveal a huge under bed storage area. This is when hard side truck camper owners say, “Hey, that’s not fair! We want that too!”
The under bed storage is begging for more clothing items, camping gear, and even food items. Unless you might need it when someone is in the bed, why not store it in this location? The single gas strut makes lifting and lowering the bed a cinch. Love it!
Immediately under the lift handle for the bed is a two door drop-down storage nook. The central location of the cabinets makes them extremely versatile. In fact, I couldn’t help but be impressed and impressed again with the quantity and quality of the storage in the SS-550.
|Dry Weight||1,580 pounds|
|Wet Weight*||2,348 pounds|
|Interior Height||6’9″ top up|
|Exterior Height||6’0″ down|
|Center of Gravity||22″|
|Truck Type||Small Domestic|
Palomino RV weighs units at the factory, but does not weight each truck camper as it leaves the production line. That said, they do have scales at the factory and a team that pulls and weighs units on a semi-regular basis. As a magazine, we encourage Palomino RV to weigh and mark every truck camper with its exact weight and center of gravity.
Palomino reports the dry weight of the 2016 Palomino SS-550 at 1,580 pounds. This represents a base camper without options. If you want a Palomino SS-550 at this dry weight, you may need to special order the unit from a Palomino dealer.
Above: The floor length of the SS-550 is 6’9″
The 6’9” floor length of the SS-550 is shortest pop-up floor length Palomino offers. Only the east-west Palomino SS-800 has the same floor length and a slightly lower weight. The short floor length and lower weight formula is what makes the SS-550 and SS-800 potentially well suited for short bed half-ton trucks.
Above: The width of the SS-550 is 7’2”
The 7’2” width of the SS-550 is the same as Palomino’s larger pop-up floor plans helping it look and feel like a full-size truck camper inside. At 6’9”, the SS-550 interior height with the pop-up in the raised position is also the same as Palomino’s larger pop-up campers, and full-size.
The low weight of the unit, shorter floor length, and extended north-south cabover put the center of gravity at 22-inches. This is a dream for matching the SS-550 to a truck and, if properly payload matched, having the resulting rig handle well.
|Water Heater||6 gallons|
|Propane Tanks||20 pounds|
The Palomino SS-550 has a 16 gallon fresh tank and a 6-gallon water heater. As the camper does not have a toilet, shower, or bathroom, the only draw on this fresh water supply will be the kitchen sink, and the exterior shower.
Above: The exterior amenities are mainly on the driver’s side; water heater, power port, cable television connection, 110-volt outlet, city water, and exterior shower.
From that perspective, 16 gallons of fresh water with a 6-gallon water heater is more than enough fresh water unless you take extended outside showers, or have some other need for fresh water (watering horses, washing surf boards, etc.). Someone who wanted to travel and camp off-the-grid for extended periods of time might also appreciate this ample water supply.
Above: The cabinet under the dinette seating that may fit a small porta-potti
The SS-550 does not have a toilet so there’s no black tank. If you’re considering this camper, you will either need to bring a porta-potti, use campground toilets, or water the trees. The under dinette storage cabinets are designed to fit a porta-potti but I would try fitting your preferred porta-potti model in this location before purchasing the unit.
It should be no surprise that a short bed pop-up truck camper targeting half-ton trucks has provisions for a single battery and a single vertical 20-pound propane tank. When you’re designing a camper to a low weight target, adding another 50-plus pound battery and a 37 pound propane tank (tank weight plus 20 pounds of propane) is not on the menu.
With all-LED lighting, the single battery (located under the front cabover step in a sealed box) is certainly sufficient for the SS-550. The only caveat would be if you regularly camp in cold weather and need to run the furnace over night, or have other power requirements (inverter use for coffee makers, hair dryers, etc.).
In that case, you may want to consider a 100-watt solar panel (or more), and/or a second battery with a Torklift International Hidden Power under your truck, and/or a portable generator. No matter what, I’d recommend adding the 100-watt solar panel.
The single 20-pound vertical propane tank is excellent for exchanging at WalMart, Home Depot, or any number of box stores, gas stations, and grocery stores coast-to-coast. This single tank feeds the propane heater, refrigerator, cook top, and water heater and presents the chance to unexpectedly run out of propane in the middle of a camping trip. To avoid this, pay attention to your propane level, and fill or exchange the single tank before it runs dry.
Wet Weight Calculation
Using the standardized Truck Camper Magazine wet weight calculation, let’s run the wet weight on the 2016 Palomino SS-550.
Base Dry Weight – special factory order only
Palomino SS-550: dry weight, 1,580 pounds + 16 gallons fresh, 133.4 pounds + 6 gallon water heater, 50 pounds + 20 pound full propane tank, 20 pounds + battery, 65 pounds + stuff, 500 pounds = 2,348.4 pounds
Standard Build Options – most dealer orders
The only available options for the 2016 Palomino SS-550 are an air conditioner, high-gloss exterior fiberglass, entry step system, microwave, and a wireless key fob remote for the Rieco-Titan roof lift. That’s it.
As such, many SS-550 models will be ordered by dealers fully-loaded adding approximately 120 pounds to the unit. Adding 120 pounds to the 1,580 dry weight of the SS-550 puts the weight of the SS-550 at 1,700 pounds. Using this weight, let’s run the numbers again.
Palomino SS-550: dry weight, 1,700 pounds + 16 gallons fresh, 133.4 pounds + 6 gallon water heater, 50 pounds + 20 pound full propane tank, 20 pounds + battery, 65 pounds + stuff, 500 pounds = 2,468.4
The wet weight calculations above include 500 pounds of stuff weight from Truck Camper Magazine’s standard weight weight calculation. This weight represents the gear, food, and clothing cargo we all bring to go camping – minimalist starving nudist campers excluded.
The 500 pounds of stuff weight is likely to be too high for short bed pop-up like the SS-550. To be fair, and yet still conservative, we are going to limit the stuff weight to 250 pounds for the following truck recommendations. This puts the base wet weight of the SS-550 at 2,098.4 pounds and the standard build wet weight (fully loaded) at 2,218.4 pounds.
Most typical half-ton trucks – the ones that you find on dealer lots and in most driveways – have less than 1,500 pounds of payload. Even the aluminum-bodied 2016 Ford F150 usually tops out around 1,800 pounds of payload if it’s not properly ordered to maximize payload. Many aluminum-bodied F150s actually hover around 1,500 pounds of payload. We have seen dozens of these trucks on Ford lots and not one has exceeded 1,800 pounds of payload on the door.
As the industry throws more darts at my already hole-y portrait (I felt that) there is a way forward. 2016 half-ton trucks with 2,500 pounds of payload are available, but you have to special order them. This is as simple as going to your local truck dealer and asking them to spec-out a half-ton with the most possible payload. A few minutes later you’ll be on your way to honest-to-goodness payload match making. Best of all, special ordering lets you pick the color along with every other facet of your soon to be perfect truck camping truck.
For our most serious recommendation, we suggest you purchase a three-quarter or one-ton truck so you can upgrade to an even bigger truck camper down the road, or have the option to safely tow horses, boats, snow machines, sail planes, or whatever your heart desires. Save your future self a lot of money and buy the biggest most payload capable truck you can.
Often viewed strictly as an entry-level and value-oriented brand, Palomino pop-ups have struggled over the years to get traction and respect from the core truck camper marketplace. In short, Palomino was the brand that people turned to for cheap truck campers, used for weekend hunting and fishing trips, and with minimal expectation for product quality or longevity.
Well, that tired old stigma needs to be thrown out, right now. In concert with their vacuum bonded sidewalls and roof construction, Palomino made a remarkably competitive advance with their 2014 pop-up redesign. For the past two years, Palomino pop-up truck campers have no longer just been entry-level units, but campers ready to compare feature-for-feature, quality-for-quality, with any RV manufacturer on the market. To be clear, we found no significant quality control issues on the SS-550 under review. Not one.
That doesn’t mean the Palomino SS-550 is perfect. The unit under review had a few signs of a camper that was built by a production line eager to move units out the door. Specifically, there were a handful of seams that didn’t quite line up and materials that could have been more carefully handled and placed. Maybe had the production line slowed just a little, these items could be given a touch more attention sending Palomino campers into an even higher quality category. Then again, slowing down may also increase their prices. Always trade offs.
For the pop-up truck camper buyer who doesn’t need a bathroom and wants to match his camper with a half-ton, short bed, four door truck, the Palomino SS-550 should be on his must-see list. There are more luxurious, more refined, and lighter weight pop-up models on the market, but few offer a better value than the SS-550.
Half-ton compatible if carefully matched
One-piece vacuum bonded side walls and roof
North-South cabover for storage and easy entry/exit
Push-button electric roof lift by Rieco-Titan
Dinette easily converts into a nearly 7-foot bed
Excellent number and variety of storage opportunities
No bathroom, toilet, or shower – porta-potti is optional
Single post dinette table could be more stable
110 outlet and heater could get splashed under countertop
Cabover hamper openings and doors could be bigger
Single battery and propane tank require conservation
Some seams and materials could be lined up better
2016 Palomino SS-550
Warranty: One year bumper-to-bumper. Individual appliances have their own warranties.