TCM reviews the half-ton targeted 2016 Travel Lite 625, a short or long bed hard side, non-slide, non-bath truck camper. Can a camper small enough to fit inside a short bed tailgate actually be worth owning?
According to Dustin Johns, President of Travel Lite, the reasons for building the 2016 Travel Lite 625 called him on the phone constantly. When the 625 debuted in Truck Camper Magazine in June of 2015, Dustin explained, “Our customers and dealers have wanted a half-ton short bed camper that would allow the tailgate to be kept up, offer plenty of interior room, and feature basic amenities including a stove, sink, and refrigerator. I was asked to build this camper many, many times.”
Above: The Travel Lite 625 at D&H RV Center in Apex, North Carolina
From the repeated requests, the Travel Lite team designed a hard side truck camper that would fit inside of a 6.5-foot short bed truck with the tailgate closed. Keeping the camper inside the tailgate would allow for towing without an extension hitch and provide the best possible turning radius for the rig. Once lowered, the tailgate could then become a small deck for sitting or gear.
Perhaps the Travel Lite 625’s most impressive trick is its ability to work with short and long bed half-ton trucks. It looks a bit odd mounted on a long bed, but the two feet of bonus truck bed storage is perfect for toys, gear, and water containers.
To keep the weight down, Travel Lite used the materials, construction approach, and design concepts of their best-selling 770 Super Lite model. The 625 features the same overall profile, kiln-dried Banak wood from South America, and cabinetry netting as the 770. Further eliminating weight, the 625 was designed without a bathroom, black tank, or grey tank.
Dustin reported the initial dry weight of the 625 at 1,285 pounds and gave the camper a $10,495 MSRP with standard build options; refrigerator, sink, stove, fresh water tank, converter, and manual Rieco-Titan jacks. Clearly Dustin was looking to put a sizable dent in the half-ton truck camper marketplace.
Of course the path to half-ton truck camper paradise is paved with good intention truck camper designs that never caught on. These campers were usually too heavy, too expensive, or too small to become a consistent seller in the marketplace.
The question is, will the Travel Lite 625 break through where so many others have failed, or end up in the half-ton truck camper bin of history? It’s time to put the 625 under the microscope.
We photographed the 2016 Travel Lite 625 seen in this review at D&H RV Center in Apex, North Carolina.
Floor Plan Evaluation
As seems to be the trend of late, the Travel Lite 625 is infused with the ideas and lessons of the past five decades of truck camper design. This is not a fancy SolidWorks modeled multi-slide with intricate cuts and exotic amenities. You’ll find no CNC-routed curves or luxury appliances here.
What you will find is an firmly old-school, pencil-to-paper, saw-to-wood truck camper design that shoe-horns an impressive amount comfort and utility into a short bed half-ton compatible truck camper. Shut the tailgate and that’s exactly what Travel Lite’s dealers and customers asked for. As the saying goes, give them what they want.
Above: The large 4-foot sliding dinette window brings in a ton of light
Stepping into the 625, the careful design decisions are everywhere. The main living space feels open and spacious with plenty of light from a dual-window entry door, two large windows in the dinette, and a cabover side window. Kitchen and dinette cabinetry and storage are readily available and the overall level of materials feels solid and durable.
While we didn’t take precise measurements, it appears that half of the available kitchen counter top is taken up by the single-basin sink and two-burner cooktop.
The flip-up counter helps by adding about 25-percent more counter space, but it’s still a tight set-up for preparing anything other than the basics.
To put this into perspective, Angela and I are connoisseurs of culinary basics on the road. Our coffee, tea, one-pot-meals, and endless PB&J sandwich preparations would all work fine between this kitchen set-up and dinette table. Now our laptop-to-laptop work requirements would be seriously challenged, but that’s another topic.
The U-shape dinette in the 625 was designed to accommodate three to four adults (if they’re very good friends) around the table for meals, conversation, and cards. In reality, the dinette seating, table, and available leg area is best for two adults. With just two, there’s plenty of floor space for legs and feet underneath, and ample table room for two plates of food, and drinks.
If this were our camper, we would want a larger table, and a more stable table leg and/or wall attachment system. There’s nothing worse at a restaurant than a table that moves when you put your dinner plate or elbow on it. With a single post, this table is fairly stable, but requires care not to bump it. Naturally, one table leg is less weight than two, and a smaller table weighs less than a bigger one. Compromises, compromises.
Above: The table and table leg are easy to remove for more room, or to make the dinette into a bed
Above: The porta-potti has a convenient storage compartment under the dinette
The dinette quickly makes into a 6-foot bed with the provided cushions. This makes the 625 an ideal choice for the hunter or fisherman who wants to bring a friend for a weekend trip to that remote hunting ground or fish camp.
Above: The dinette makes into a 6-foot long bed
On the rear wall, the 625 features a 110-volt outlet and the thermostat. While I don’t foresee this unit connected to shore power often, this outlet will be vital for charging computers, phones, and cameras while hooked up to AC or a portable generator.
Above: Standard on the 625 is a two-cubic foot refrigerator, which can be upgraded to the three-cubic foot size shown
The three-cubic foot, three-way refrigerator is ample for a camper this size. In the past, campers targeting the short bed half-ton size and weight came primarily with ice boxes if they had cold-food provisions at all. Having an actual three-cubic foot, three-way refrigerator is quite a luxury in this weight category and price.
Just below the refrigerator is a cabinet dedicated to a sealed enclosure for the 625’s single battery. When I opened this cabinet, I was hoping to see storage, and found myself disappointed that this space was almost completely used.
I would look into moving this battery elsewhere. My favorite go-to battery moving product is the Torklift International Hidden Power that places a battery inside a protected and sealed box under your truck. With this modification, you could recapture this valuable storage space without losing the house battery.
Another option is changing to sealed AGM battery in this location. You won’t gain your storage back, but you’ll likely gain more amp hours. Then again, a bigger battery adds cost and weight. When designing a camper for a half-ton short bed, trade-offs abound.
To the right of the refrigerator and battery cabinet is a large two-section cabinet and pull-out drawer. With its immediate proximity to the kitchen and dinette, the drawer will likely be used for silverware, cooking utensils, and other kitchen items.
The large two-section cabinet is open season. Some will use it for dry food, pots, and pans, while others will store clothing and camping gear. We would at least attempt to use the cabinet over the sink for all dry food, cups, and plates, and use this space for a limited number of pots and pans, and then clothing and camping gear. In truck camping, less is more. In truck camping in a small camper, even less is even more.
Below the pull-out drawer is where you’ll find the stereo system, power converter, and fuse panel. Having the stereo system and fuse panel easy to reach mid-ship makes sense.
The opening into the cabover is wide open and inviting with white-color LED lights perfectly placed for general lighting and reading.
Above: The cabover ceiling has a 110-volt outlet and provisions to add a 12-volt television
On the other hand, there’s not a single cabinet for clothing in the cabover. Not one. There is however a main LED area light, two smaller reading lights, a 110-volt outlet, and provisions to add a 12-volt television. No cabover muss. No cabover fuss. That’s it.
Above: The overcab bed on the passenger’s side (left photo) the driver’s side (right photo)
In practice, I expect most folks will bring duffel bags for their clothing and keep the bags in the cabover when they’re not sleeping. Duffel bags (or whatever cloth based luggage you prefer) are light weight and highly portable, especially compared to standard wood cabinetry. Unless you just have to have your clothing folded up and put away, duffel bags make a lot of sense in a small camper like the 625.
|Dry Weight||1,285 pounds|
|Wet Weight*||1,755 pounds|
|Center of Gravity||29″|
|Truck Type||Long or Short Bed|
At 1,285 pounds dry, the Travel Lite 625 is not the lightest weight hard side truck camper on the market, but it’s in the ballpark.
Travel Lite offers a range of options for the 625 including a solar panel system, electric remote-controlled Rieco-Titan jacks, roof rack, ladder, and an awning.
Above: Rieco-Titan manual jacks, cable television connection, shower power connection, and 110-volt outlet
Unfortunately, you could quickly defeat the concept of the light weight 625 if you add a lot of options. Just the above mentioned list could add 150 pounds, or more. In a camper where the design team opted for cabinet netting instead of cabinet doors, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Above: The Travel Lite 625 is 78-inches wide and 7-feet, 4-inches tall on the exterior
The 78-inch width of the Travel Lite 625 is 14-inches narrower than Travel Lite’s mid-size truck campers and 17-inches narrower than their largest models. Obviously, every additional inch in length, width, and height on a truck camper adds weight. For a camper targeting short-bed half-ton trucks, the 78-inch width strikes a good balance between interior space, and weight.
Above: The ceiling in the 625 is full height at 6.5 feet
One aspect of the 625 design that’s full-size is the interior height. At 6.5 feet, standing in the Travel Lite is like standing in a much larger truck camper. There’s plenty of headroom, even for tall folks like me. That headroom helps give the 625 its roomy feel.
Above: The Travel Lite 625 on a long bed truck, photo courtesy of Travel Lite Campers
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the 625 is its long bed compatibility. Mounted on a long bed truck, the 625 looks fairly ridiculous as it locates the unit two-feet inside of the truck bed. To say this is an unusual rig aesthetic would be an understatement. For many – us included – the immediate reaction was, “What the heck is Travel Lite thinking?”
Above: The Travel Lite 625 on a long bed truck, photo courtesy of Travel Lite Campers
Well, Travel Lite was thinking that the 625 is compatible with the widest possible number of truck bed lengths and payload capacities. In short (no pun intended) the 625 is compatible with many half-ton trucks, all three-quarter and one-ton trucks, and works equally well with short bed or long beds. Does it look funny on a long bed? Absolutely! But very few hard side truck campers have this kind of truck compatibility.
Above: The 625 on a short bed truck with the tail gate closed, photo courtesy of Travel Lite Campers
And we must recognize the point that mounting the 625 on a long bed allows for the remaining two-feet of bed space to be available for whatever the owner wants it for; bikes, water, gear, you name it.
|Water Heater||6 gallons|
|Propane Tanks||20 pounds|
With nine gallons of fresh water, no grey tank, no black tank, and no inside bathroom, there’s not much to talk on the subject of the 625’s holding tanks. Since you’ll likely only be using the fresh tank to wash hands, wash dishes, and brush teeth, the nine gallons could last upwards of a week, or more.
If you plan to scare the bears and use the outside shower, the nine gallons may only last you a couple days.
Speaking of bears, I can hardly believe Travel Lite included a city water connection for the 650, but they did. Without an inside shower, I can barely find a reason for this. Maybe so those who enjoy flashing the wildlife take extended outside showers? Hide your eyes Mother Nature. Nothing to see here.
The single vertical 20-pound propane tank is absolutely perfect for the 625. Not only are vertical tanks exchangeable at nearly every Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and gas station from coast-to-coast, but a 20-pound capacity should last a long time in a camper this size, unless you’re camping in the seriously cold.
When camping with a single tank you always need to keep tabs on your usage. When that tank runs out, there’s no second tank to change to. If we had one tank, I would fill it long before empty, just like putting fuel in the truck.
Travel Lite lists the battery as optional on the 625. You could connect the 625 to your truck’s battery and gain the space we talked about earlier, but that would not be our recommendation. All it takes is one night of running the furnace in cold weather and you could be stranded with a dead truck battery. Whether you get the built-in battery Travel Lite provides, or another battery storage solution, we definitely recommend a house camper battery.
Wet Weight Calculation
Using the standardized Truck Camper Magazine wet weight calculation, let’s run the numbers on the Travel Lite 625.
Base Dry Weight, plus single battery option
Travel Lite 625: dry weight, 1,285 pounds + 9 gallons fresh, 75.1 pounds + one battery, 65 pounds + 20-pound full propane tank, 20 pounds + stuff, 500 pounds = 1,945.1 pounds
Since we don’t foresee or recommend many options being added to the 625, we’re not going to run an optioned wet weight calculation. As it is, the final wet weight of 1,945.1 pounds may shock some folks.
500 pounds of that weight is the standardized “stuff weight” that we add to each and every wet weight calculation in Truck Camper Magazine. In a small camper with limited storage like the 625, 500 pounds of stuff weight is likely more than required. If we subtract half of this stuff weight, we get a more realistic 1,695.1 pounds.
To remain conservative, we are going to match the 625 with a 1,695.1 pound wet weight (250 pounds of stuff). This may still be high, but we always play it safe when it comes to truck and camper matching.
For those who haven’t looked at too many payload stickers, it may come as a surprise to learn that many half-ton trucks don’t have 1,695.1 pounds of payload. Many older half-ton trucks, or trucks with fancy packages and long option lists, have considerably less. Do not assume that any half-ton truck has this kind of payload. It might, but it might not.
That said, it would be a cinch to either locate or order a half-ton truck with 1,695.1 pounds of payload, or better. If you approached your preferred local dealer and said, “I need no less than 1,700 pounds of payload in a half-ton truck” they should be able to work out the specifications you require, and locate or order the right truck without trouble.
You could also take those same specifications and find a used half-ton with enough payload. New or used, always check the actual payload sticker (the yellow sticker inside the driver’s side door) on the actual truck before making a purchase.
If you are purchasing a new or new-to-you truck, it’s also worth considering buying even more truck. Two years from now you may want a bigger camper. Why not buy the right truck for that bigger camper now? In trucks, you often don’t pay that much more to get a lot more payload.
Some truck campers are designed to wow the senses. You walk in and they have a dance floor of interior space, a dinette ready for six, a refrigerator that could swallow a beer keg, and storage that could empty your attic. You know you’re in one of these campers when the HDTV is almost as big as the one you have at home, and there’s a fireplace underneath it (almost kidding).
Where these campers “wow the senses”, the Travel Lite 625 “wows with common sense”. From the very concept of the unit, to the way the camper was designed and built, everything about the 625 is a carefully considered compromise to create a hard-side unit that’s truly half-ton compatible.
Judged from this perspective, the 2016 Travel Lite 625 is a roaring success. Yes, it’s chock full of compromises compared to the “wow the senses” models, but these compromises were the right ones to make the half-ton targeted size and weight. The form, function, and comfort this camper offers half-ton truck owners – especially for the price – is very impressive.
In short, Travel Lite has built a truly half-ton compatible truck camper that’s worth owning. Yes, you will still have to run the numbers to make sure the 625 will match your half-ton truck, but the chances are very high that it will.
If you’re in the half-ton truck camper market, and can live with the 625 list of compromises (tight kitchen, no bathroom, no grey tank, no cabover storage, etc.), this camper deserves to be on your list. With the 625, Travel Lite has a serious half-ton ready contender.
Low weight and forward COG maximizes half-ton potential
Short and long bed truck ready
Tailgate closes on a 6.5-foot short bed truck
Excellent sense of interior space for a small camper
Good amount of kitchen and dinette area storage
Dinette makes into a 6-foot bed
Very tight kitchen area
Very limited 9-gallon fresh tank, no grey, no black
No bathroom, but features a porta-potti cabinet
Extremely tight kitchen counter space, but extension helps
Optional single battery takes up valuable interior storage
No storage in the cabover – pack your duffels
2016 Travel Lite 625
Warranty: 1 year from time of purchase
Travel Lite, Inc.
71913 Country Road 23
New Paris, IN 46553