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Question Of The Week

Big Response To Major Appliances In Truck Campers

Last week we asked TCM readers about their interest in adding major appliances to truck campers.  The response was swift, and about as passionate as anything we have ever asked.  This is one question of the week that everyone will enjoy reading.

Personally, I agree with those who say major appliances would require maintenance and repairs that would – at best – distract from the enjoyment of truck camping.  Over the past decade we have experienced refrigerator, water heater, and battery problems that essentially shut-down our truck camping until they were handled.

Thankfully those frustrating situations are few and far between, but breakdowns and maintenance should be top of mind when considering any additions to a truck camper.  It can be challenging enough keeping up with the camper’s seals and various systems installed at the factory.  A broken wine cooler?  No thanks!

Perhaps the one appliance that seems to make the most sense is the addition of a 12-volt compressor refrigerator-freezer.  We have met a number of truck camper owners who keep a 12-volt refrigerator-freezer in their truck.  One reader suggests putting one under a dinette seat.  That’s a neat idea, especially if that space isn’t well utilized.

Last week’s Question of the Week was, “Would you want a dishwasher, washing machine, chest freezer, or any other major appliance in your truck camper?”

“These might be fine for our friends with a fifth wheel, but most truck campers like to travel light and efficient.  I already have a weight problem (the camper and me).  I can’t imagine add a few hundred more pounds.  We spend about half our time camping with no shore power.  These devices would all require shore power.” – Matt Wiegand, 2014 Ford F150, 2017 Adventurer 80RB

Wonder wash machine in a camper

“Absolutely not.  I have a large two-slide camper.  Even at that, the only additional appliance I have is a Wonderwash machine.  It is only 16″ x 12″ x 12″, weighs 5 ½ pounds, and works off bicep-power.

The laundry detergent, clothesline, and clothespins store inside it, and it easily tucks into our basement storage area.  We wear lightweight, quick dry fabrics so we don’t have to use a laundromat except for sheets and towels on extended trips.

As for a dishwasher, most truck camper folks I know are couples with the occasional grandkid as a guest.  How many dishes does that dirty?  We have truck campers to keep things simple, right?” – Nancy Meiners, 2015 Ford F350, 2016 Adventurer 116DS

“I am the dish washer.  I have no need for any major appliances as we are trying to get away from it all.  Love the magazine.” – Larry Bell, 2003 Dodge Ram 3500, 2017 Northern Lite 9.6 Queen SE

“A microwave would be great.  Other appliances are more at home in a trailer.” – Paul Oulton, 2015 Ford F350, Northstar 850

“I think a freezer could be very handy, especially if it was under one of the dinette benches.  I live in Florida, and we always need ice.  We don’t have an ice maker, and the freezer could allow more food to be stored for longer trips.  I like to pre-cook or assemble meals in the freezer to cook in my Insta-pot.  I’m not sure I need it to be as large as a regular chest freezer though.” – Candy Krewer, 1995 Dodge, 2005 Lance 1181

“We would love to have more freezer space built in.  On our last trip to Alaska (with our fifth wheel) we bought a 3.5 cubic foot freezer, installed it in a closet in the bedroom, and brought home 75 pounds of delicious salmon and halibut.  We plugged it into an inverter and ran it off the truck batteries while moving, and used shore power when available.

We are determined to take the same freezer back to Alaska in our truck camper.  We think we can replace our dinette table with it and use it as a (somewhat uncomfortable) table.  We will use it for pre-cooked meals and meats on the way up and fill it with fish to bring home.  I would choose a freezer over a dishwasher or a washer-dryer any time.” – Audrey Ruccio, 2008 Ford F-450, 2008 Host Everest

“Absolutely not.  That might be the best thing for the Class A folks who camp in cement driveways, plug into shore power, watch TV, take the golf cart to get the 4:00pm special steak dinner and then play bingo all night.

There is nothing wrong with that but, in my opinion, truck campers are for folks who want compact and simple.  You have the things you really need to live on the road or trail, but the real honest truck camping part includes some roughing it.  In my book, campers should be non-slide and less than 20 feet.” – David Wilson, 2016 Ford F150, still looking for the right camper

“I would absolutely want a washing machine in my truck camper, and do!  As my wife and I embarked on our two year cross county trip to see all 49 states, one thing I did not want to do is have wash day.  So, I installed a Haier portable washing machine, mounted to the side of my island, and it has been fantastic!

Haier Washing Machine camper

Every day, when we have water and power in a campground, we do a load of laundry while eating breakfast.  We then hang it up on our expandable clothes drying rack, and off we go to explore.  No wasting precious sightseeing time doing laundry for us.  This was a great mod!” – Charles Coushaine, 2001 Ford F350, 2012 Chalet DS116RB

“As you indicate, add something up front and the devil’s in the details, sorta like dropping a bigger engine in a truck.  You also have to do the power train, transmission, rear end, etc.  So, while a washer/dryer would be nice, it would take up water and electric, room and space.  So, it’s probably not going to happen.  It would be nice to have a fireplace, but there are a few gotchas behind the scenes.

Having said that, I have a 32-inch television in the cabover bedroom area, and I’m looking for a 43-inch 4K TV with Xbox OneX (new Scorpio) for the dinette area.  So go figure.   But they’re thin, so not so bad – right?.  It is my full-time home after all.” – Frank Poole, 2016 Ram 5500, 2016 Arctic Fox 990

“For now, no to all as it would put a dent into our water usage since we mainly boondock.  I could see a washer/dryer if I was a full-timer and used it occasionally when I wasn’t boondocking – or if I was in a bigger rig (may not be a truck camper).  It would have to use space that is otherwise wasted.” – Loren Jones, 2013 Ram 3500, 2013 Lance 850

“No.” – Joe DaSilva, 2013 Ford F350, 2015 Lance 1050S

“I guess I am not the consumer to target.  For me, simple is best.  I even removed the microwave that came standard in the deluxe package on our new Northern Lite.

For the 95 days we have used our camper since we picked it up nine months ago, we have only had electrical hookups for 14 days.  Those are the same 14 days we’ve had water and sewer hookups.

We prefer storage space, minimal electrical draw, and minimal water usage.  With two solar panels and two Group 31 125-amp batteries, we are self sufficient.  With a 6.3 cubic foot refrigerator, why would you need more cold storage?  Doing dishes for two at the end of every meal is not a big deal.

To me, this question comes down to why you buy a truck camper to begin with.  If you buy it for its ease of going anywhere, getting away, and being independent, then simple is best.  Other recreational vehicle choices probably work better for those that want to live in a park setting for longer periods of time with all the comforts of home.  That’s why we have all these great choices to make!” – Mark Harrison, 2005 Dodge 2500, 2017 Northern Lite 10.2 EXCD

“I’m with you.  I don’t even want a microwave because 30+ years of shift work makes me hate nuked food, and I like the extra cupboard.  No slide-outs either.  Look at all the complaints in the forums about slide-outs.

My built-in generator only worked the summer before the warranty expired, so now I carry a portable on the back seat floor of my crew pickup.  Call me a Luddite or a curmudgeon, but I have fewer troubles on the road.” – Philip Tron, 2009 Chevy 3500, 2012 Lance 1050

“Maybe a washer-dryer combo.  But, no to a freezer or dishwasher.  Let’s face it. how much dirty cutlery can two people make?” – Mark Spremulli

“No.  ‘A camper’s got to know its limitations.’  With apologies to Harry Callahan.” – Mark Obert, 1999 Ford  F250 SD, 1999 Lance 920

“No.” – Gilbert Lukkonen, 2011 2500HD, 2018 Northstar 650SC

“I like the chest freezer idea, but I don’t want to give up any storage space!  We travel with a freezer that I’ve modified with handles and rollers.  We use it if we plan on staying more than a few days with full hookups.

It comes in real handy when headed to the coast for tuna or crabbing trips.  It is the last thing loaded before the camper goes onto the truck and the first thing unloaded when the camper comes down at a campsite.  It holds reusable ice blocks, crab bait, and food.” – Diane Larsen, 2012 Ford F350, 2007 S&S Montana

“No thanks.  All these appliances only appeal to folks who’ve never camped.  Anyone with any camping experience of any kind understands that keeping things simple is the key to enjoying the experience.

The more electrical stuff you add, the more time and money you’ll spend keeping it all working.  Very soon you start avoiding trips because it just becomes too much hassle.” – Harry Woodworth, 2001 Dodge 3500, 2000 Snowbird

“I like the idea of a washing machine if there were a way to do so without losing too much space.  It would be great not to have to spend a half day at a laundry mat during a long trip.

I am considering a camp washing machine I saw advertised for tent camping.  I just have to create storage.  I once saw a Chalet cabover with a washing machine in the center island.  I thought that was the one with the fireplace also?  Cool idea, but I preferred the space of the Lance 1172.  No washing machine – yet.” – Todd Kiddee, 2011 Chevy 3500 HD, 2015 Lance 1172

“I don’t think so.  I’m guessing appliances would tether me to hookups, and that isn’t the kind of camping I want to do.  That said, if someone is living full-time with kids and dogs in a triple-slide camper with plenty of space, I say go for it.” – Anne Stauffer, 2017 Ford F350, 2017 Alaskan 8.5 (due in July)

“We spend our winters in Yuma, Arizona.  You are talking about appliances that are not found in many of the larger RVs we find there.

We have a chest freezer when we winter camp in Yuma.  To put this in perspective, my wife does all the dish washing, uses an automatic dishwasher at home and, when we look at new fifth-wheel rigs, refuses to consider one with a dishwasher.  I don’t even take my beloved Breville cappuccino machine when we go truck camping.

We respect that all sorts of people use truck campers for all sorts of camping needs.  However, our needs are too varied to waste space with these appliances.

Our first camper back in the seventies did not have an air conditioner, microwave, or generator.  Now we have determined that we want these things and are quite happy with that extra weight.

For winter camping, cross-country skiing, hunting, mountain bicycling, and hiking among our activities, we are quite content with what we have.  We cannot imagine a washing machine, chest freezer, or countertop ice maker in a truck camper.

When we started out, we had no cell phones, GPS, or computers.  Yet somehow we managed.  What we got tired of was spending weekends huddled in a backpacking tent high in the mountains with two boys while it rained 24 hours a day.  One time it was just a bit above freezing and everything we had was wet.

To us, a truck camper was a dry warm base camp for our outdoor activities.  We still feel that way.” – Michael Turner, 2007 Ram 3500, Stripped and rebuilt 1988 Lance

Bismi RV washer dryer

“We already use a washer/spin-dryer in the truck camper.  I have been using the Bismi washer-spin dryer for almost a year now and it works wonderfully.  It washes around nine pounds and spin dries better than our household washing machine.

I use cold water to do the laundry.  The large end of the washers flexible hose pushes over the end kitchen faucet and the used water drains into the sink.

Bismi portable washer-spin dryer

I start by attaching the small end of the flexible hose to the wash side of the machine.  I add the items, two or three tablespoons of laundry detergent and fill with water to about two inches​ below the overflow opening.  Then, I set the timer, sit back and relax.  When the machine stops washing, I turn on the drain timer and pump out the dirty water.  Then, I transfer the wet clothes and the flexible hose to spin side.

Washer and dryer in truck camper

I start the spin timer, and once the clothing starts spinning​, I turn the water on and count to 20, and then shut off water.  When the spinning stops, I put the clothes and flexible hose back to the washer side and add two to three tablespoons of fabric softener and repeat the process.  It sounds like a lot of work,  but it really only takes about a half an hour and you don’t have to hang out in a smelly laundromat. We only use it at campgrounds with full hookups.

Drying clothes outside camper

Jerry made a pole with a hook to hang the clothes outside.  When we are traveling, the pole is pulled out of the base and put in the camper.  The blue drying rack shown in the attached photo could be used anywhere, in or out.  All you need is a little imagination.

In transit the washer is secured with a bungee cord, and the flexible hose and the laundry bottles are stored inside it.  We put a small floor mat under the machine to prevent sliding.  Even when we had to hit the brakes the washer didn’t budge.  If ever I decide to use the oven, the washer is light enough to move out of the way.  During the winter I bring the washer into the house and store it in the laundry room.  It’s small enough it could even be stored in a closet.

I read a lot of reviews before I bought the Bismi washer.  I purchased everything on Amazon.com and it was delivered for free.  I like free!” – Jerry Bonneau, 1995 Ford F350 SD, 2002 Lance 1061

“A dishwasher would be great.  It would save time and do a better job on the dishes.  Which would you rather do?  Sit by the camp fire or wash and dry the dinner dishes?  Get an early start on the day’s first activity while the machine is washing the dishes back at the camper or wash and dry the breakfast dishes?  It may open up more menu options.  Instead of grilling to minimize pots and pans you might make something more exotic.  You can always choose to eat off of paper plates, but you can’t cook with them.” – Gregory Himes, 2017 Ford F350, None yet

“I could do without any of the above.  As we travel or boondock, we have lots of time to keep the place clean since it is our home.  The modern six cubic foot refrigerators with freezers hold enough food while boondocking.  When we get back to civilization, we stock up with more food, top up our fresh water, and dump our holding tanks.” – Ron Burbee, 2013 Adventurer 980

“Well, there is an old saying that says, “You can’t take it with you.”  Cinda has been talking about washing machines and dishwashers for some time now.

And, here we are, they are all being made for truck campers.  I can see this is going to cost me money.  If I can’t take it with me, then we may as well spend it here before we have to go.  The short answer is yes, we would want the aforementioned products.” – Cinda and Gary Whistler, 2013 Chevy 3500, 2017 Lance 1172

“None of the above pretty much for the same reasons you have shared; space and water.  But, I would like a portable ice maker.” – Geoff Ross, 2010 Ford F150, 2010 Travel Lite SBX

“I don’t think these appliances would be something I would want.  The space they would take up wouldn’t be worth the luxury.” – Dena Goss, 1995 Chevy 2500, 1999 S&S 9.5

Dometic 12-volt refrigerator in camper

“None of the above for us.  I’m the designated dish washer, so I like disposable plates and cups the most.  I already have a chest freezer; a Dometic Danfoss Compressor refrigerator-freezer that resides in the backseat of the truck.

We certainly don’t have a wine cooler.  It’s camping, not a social gathering.  In our case off-grid, and usually on two-track roads.  I don’t even have a wine cooler at home.

There is no room for a washer-dryer in our camper but I have washed clothes in a pinch using a five gallon plastic bucket with a tight fitting snap lid.  I strapped it on the back of the quad and then took a nice bumpy trail ride.  It does an excellent job.  Short bumpy ride to wash, short bumpy ride to rinse and the bucket does double duty storing clean towels.” – Daryl Davis, 1997 Ford F350, 2014 Palomino SS1500

“A thousand times no!” – Greg Hall, 2004 Dodge 3500, 2005 Northern Lite 10-2

“I would not want any of those appliances.  I see no need.  I camp either by myself or with my girlfriend, so I seldom use many dishes.

I do not full-time RV, so I don’t need many clothes.  A six cubic-foot refrigerator-freezer is super big for a truck camper.  The only appliance I carry in my camper is an electric toaster.  Our truck camper came with everything else.” – William Steger, 2005 GMC 2500HD, 2016 Palomino HS-2902

“No – and for all the reasons mentioned.  I do have a slide and built-in generator with an air conditioner.  The problem I see is that truck campers are becoming so heavy that you need to move up from one ton 3500/350 trucks to 4500/450 or even 5500/550 series trucks just to haul them.  Now we are getting well into motorhome pricing territory.” – Erwin Greven, 2002 Chevrolet 2500HD, 2002 Lance 921

“Refrigerator-freezer capacity in a standard camper way too small.  I purchased a Unique 80L unit that will act as refrigerator-freezer, freezer or refrigerator.  It has two compartments and runs off 12V, 24V or 120.  One solar panel and battery keeps it running without other power.  It uses approximately 33-amp hours over 24 hours.  You are able to use either compartment as a refrigerator or freezer.  I got mine at Costco.ca.” – Ray Mostowy, 2006 GMC Sierra 3500, 2001 Adventurer

“As someone who has both a generator and a microwave in my camper, I would love to have a dishwasher.  The question is, what would I sacrifice to get it?  With that as a parameter I can’t think of anything that I would be willing to give up for a dishwasher, so no dishwasher, washing machine, or chest freezer for me.” – Scott Randolph, 2017 Ram 3500, 2017 Wolf Creek 850

“I personally don’t need any of those appliances.  The wine cooler might be kinda neat, but I have to draw the line somewhere.  Camping is supposed to be back to basics.

As I say that, I have one of the largest truck campers on the market.  I am currently looking to replace my camper.  After a year of research of all RVs, and I have decided to purchase another truck camper.

I have seen all of the luxuries one could have in an RV.  If I were going full-time, I would consider some of them.  For now, I am part-time and I enjoy outside activities like hiking, cycling, fishing, eating outside, sitting outside, and cleaning up outside.  I just don’t want to sleep outside.  I did enough of that in the military.

Some people ask if I have satellite TV in my camper.  I tell them that I’m not interested in watching main stream TV while I’m camping.  I may watch a movie, but that’s about it.  I camp to escape main stream.  In the end, it’s all about preference.” – Dennis De Ville, 2008 Ford F-350, 2008 Lance 1191

“No, not enough room.” – Rhonda Saul, 2004 Ford F-350, 2008 Arctic Fox 990

“Big no!” – John Rand, 1999 Ford F-250, 2014 Northern Lite 9-6SQ

“For our use (Jeeping in the boondocks of the western states), neither dishwashers nor washing machines have much appeal.  We do have a compact chest freezer/refrigerator in the back of our Jeep.  And there are multi-slide truck campers with washing machines available.

We don’t know about the right coast but, in California, an electric fireplace is really useful in a camper – especially if you are hooked up to shore power or have a large solar system.  Even in cold weather (here, that means below 32 degrees), we use our fireplace to heat the camper to save on propane.  It works great!

Like Gordon, when we first saw a truck camper with a fireplace, it was “Wow, that’s awesome,” followed by “looks great, but not practical.”  Nonetheless, we ordered our first Host with that option, and continued with a fireplace in the new model.  We absolutely love it.” – Gene and Linda Yale, 2016 Dodge Ram 5500, 2017 Host Mammoth

“We want the industry to keep the propane oven.  We heard they are getting away from all propane!  We like our seven cubic foot three-way refrigerator-freezer.  That way we don’t have to use a generator!” – Vickie Welch, 2016 Dodge 2500, 2016 Lance 860

“Never ever no.  I personally love simplicity and no stress fun travel/camping.  My SS550 is perfect for me.” – Shellie Barnes, 2014 Ford F150, 2017 Palomino SS550

“No thanks.” – Christopher Smith, 2008 Ford Ranger, 2006 Adventurer 76R

“Not in a truck slide-in.  The only way I would consider any of the items is if you put them in a pull behind enclosed trailer that you have converted into another room if you were full-timing.  Oh wait, they already have them.  They are called Class As, fifth-wheels, and travel trailers!” – RJ Bickford, 2007 Dodge 2500, 2003 Palomino Maverick 1000

“Home dishwashers use less water than washing dishes by hand.  If that could be duplicated in a truck camper’s dishwasher, the water savings would be beneficial.

If you’re able to wash clothes in a washing machine, you wouldn’t need to pack as much clothing.  If it’s a high efficiency unit as well, that could save you water and closet space, so it would be worth it.” – Kevin Harris, 2014 Ram 3500, 2007 Lance 1191

“We consider ourselves campers, not RVers.  We wouldn’t even consider any of these things!” – Lane Noyes, 2012 Silverado, 1997 Jayco Sportster 8

Kegerator in camper

“Please put me down for a kegerator.  No more beer runs!” – Gary Usher, 2015 F350 Lariat, 2015 Lance 1172

“I would rather not have any major appliances while truck camping.  I like to go truck camping to get away from all of the daily rush, rush activities.  I don’t want to take it with me.  I want to get away from it.” – Rag, 2003 Chevrolet Silverado, 1980 Sportman 8FSD

“None of the above.  I downsized from 37-foot fifth wheel with the above amenities and was very limited to camping.  We are presently camping beside a slow flowing river in upstate New York and are enjoying what we have.  The weight and lack of storage for more needed items is the main drawback.  And who really needs a dish washer, or a washer/dryer, or a wine cooler?” – Eric Devolin, 2007 GMC 3500, 2006 Adventurer 106DBS

“I am curious about the dishwasher’s size, etc.  Plumb it out of sight.  I hate dishes in the sink or piled on the counter.” – John Court, 2017 Ford F350, 1997 Timberline

“Since space is of the utmost importance, I say the standard appliances are good to go!  Also, I have my wife’s permission to say this!” – Denver Woods, 1997 Ford F350, 2001 Lance 1121

“I wouldn’t want all those things in a truck camper.  I like simple camping and sight seeing in different places.  That said, I have no problem with anyone who wants anything in a truck camper, motorhome, or pull trailer.  The main thing is to be happy, enjoy nature, be friendly and love everybody.  I also enjoy reading TCM and other reading materials.” – Ralph Tindell, 1997 Chevrolet 3500, 1997 Lance 840

“A wine cooler in a camper would be ludicrous.  But a beer cooler?  Now we’re talking.” – Michael Scott, 2011 Chevy K3500, 2014 Lance 1191

“Where would it go in a truck camper?  Never.  We’re camping and exploring the wilds, not Disneyland!” – David Kiel, 2007 Tundra, 2012 Phoenix Camper

“Not in a million years.  Seriously we’re camping.  Paper plates people.  Most campgrounds have laundromat and there is a Walmart around every corner.  Our freezer has a lot of room, so some food makes the whole trip!” – Sue Mathison, 1997 Dodge 3500, 2000 Lance 1030

“Nope.  Not a chance.  I believe in the KISS acronym – Keep It Simple, Stupid.  I go camping to get away from everything that makes noise, runs on power, or calls to tell me about a problem with work.

I do have a compressor refrigerator, stove, furnace, and a solar set up that runs everything nicely.  If you add more power requirements, then you need more solar.  Then you need more batteries.  Then you need extra equipment to lift the roof up.  Then the camper is too heavy for the truck.

If you give a mouse a cookie, he will ask for a glass of milk.  Just say no, and keep it simple.” – Neal Haymore, 1990 Ford F250, 1997 FWC Grandby

“I would consider a washing machine.  Maybe a freezer.” – Shellia Sargent, 2012 Ram 3500, 2009 Lance 971

“No.” – Ron Pucul, 2016 Ford F-350, 2006 Lance 1055

“No.  There are more important things like a sine wave inverter, surge protector, and such.” – Ken Dawson, 2017 Ford F350, 2017 Eagle Cap 1165

“Interesting question.  I actually have two appliances in the camper now; a small refrigerator/freezer, and a furnace.  I never thought I would have them.

Back in the good (bad?) old days of the early 1970s when I built my second camper, I upgraded to an ice chest and a gas catalytic heater.  I thought that was living large!  In my first camper I carried non-perishable food and an extra blanket.

So while I can’t see ever wanting a dishwasher or laundry set, life has taught me to never say never.” – Richard Mount, 2013 Ford F150, 2013 Four Wheel Camper Grandby

“A dishwasher would end a lot of fights even while camping.  A chest freezer would be more useful than a refrigerator.  Good meat is hard to find camping.” – David LaVine, 1994 Ford F350, old S&S

 

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