For this article, we we talk about how to choose a truck camper. We will guess that you have decided to select your truck camper first, and then buy a truck to match. If you prefer to choose your truck first, we need to refer you another Truck Camper Magazine article titled, “How to Choose a Truck”.
Pop-Up Camper or Hard-Side Camper
There are several compelling advantages to a pop-up truck camper. They are often hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds lighter than hard-side campers. When collapsed, their low profile allows for a lower rig height and superior driving aerodynamics compared to hard-side campers. Their lower weight allows you to use a lighter duty truck. And the result of the superior aerodynamics and a lighter duty truck is improved gas mileage compared to hard-side campers. And best of all, they’re often less expensive than hard-side truck campers.
Hard-side campers answer these advantages with a laundry list of their own advantages. They offer significantly more storage and significantly more insulation from the weather. They’re always set up and ready to go (although slide-outs need to be extended). And in general, hard-side campers also have a more domestic full-sized RV feel.
Our recommendation is to take a good look at both pop-up and hard-side models. Carefully consider what you will be using the camper for. If you’re going off-road a lot, the lower clearance and lighter weight of a pop-up might be a better choice. If you want a more domestic feel, like to camp in colder environments, or are considering living full-time in your camper, the qualities of a hard-side model is likely to be a better option.
Slide-Out Camper or Non Slide-Out Camper
No doubt about it, slide-outs in a truck camper have a huge “wow” factor. The first time I walked into a truck camper with a slide-out, I was blown away by the difference. When just a single slide goes out, it can completely transform the interior feel of a truck camper. When a truck camper features a full-wall slide-out or multiple slide-outs, you can easily forget you’re even in a camper. The answer seems obvious, “Yes, please”.
On the other hand, non-slide campers are usually several thousand dollars less than slide-out models and are often several hundred pounds lighter as well. The reduced weight can mean that you can use a less expensive, lighter-duty, and more fuel-efficient truck. And then there is something about the simplicity of a non-slide camper that is often very appealing.
If you can’t live without a slide-out camper, you won’t be the first. Just keep in mind the added weight, costs, and other considerations. And then enjoy your extra room.
Mid-Bath Camper or Rear-Bath Camper
Truck camper bathrooms are either located in a rear corner or mid-camper on the left or right side. The advantage to a mid-bath is that it leaves the back open for a panoramic window layout for the dinette and kitchen areas. A mid-bath also divides a camper into two distinct areas, the dinette kitchen area and the cab-over sleeping area. This can be a real plus if you like to be in a separate ‘room’ from your camping party every once in a while.
The main disadvantage of a mid-bath is also this separation. You may find the ‘hall’ separating the two ‘rooms’ to feel confining or closed in. In some of the full-wall slide-out models this effect is avoided entirely then the slide-out is out.
Rear-bath layouts are more common and leave the camper more open, especially in non slide-out models. Of course you give up the panoramic view in the back.
In the end, it’s often a feel thing. Get into campers with both types of bath locations and see what feels right.
Wet-Bath Camper or Dry-Bath Camper
It’s a bit difficult to explain what a wet bath is until you’ve seen one. Basically, a wet bath is one where the whole bathroom is the shower stall with your toilet and sink getting wet when you shower. This may sound terrible, but often it allows for a larger shower area in a smaller bathroom.
A dry bath is what we all have in our homes. Dry baths have a separate shower area from the rest of the bathroom. While this gives the bathroom a more residential feel, it can also mean that the shower area is smaller. Of course this is not always true in the larger camper models.
When looking at camper bathrooms, think about how much time you will be spending in there. Bathrooms can take up a lot of floor space for a room that you might only be in 5% of the time.
Naturally, it’s important that you can fit in the shower and that you can sit comfortably on the toilet. Enough said.
Dinette, Bench, Sofa, or Lounge Chairs
When you’re inside your truck camper, there’s only so many places to go. Unless you’re in the bathroom, sleeping or relaxing in bed, or standing around the kitchen, you’re probably in the ‘dinette’ area. I call it the dinette area because that’s what’s generally there.
It’s a good idea to be thinking about what you want to do in your camper when considering dinette area options. If you want a traditional dining table and seating area, go for the dinette. If you don’t need that, a sofa or lounge chair option might work better.
We found it was very handy to have a dinette for reading maps, working on our laptops, and day-to-day stuff. There were many times where the more comfortable sofa or lounge chairs would have been nice as well.
Truck Camper Layout Options
Although many of the truck camper layouts are very similar from manufacturer to manufacturer, there are many important differences.
The quantity and quality of storage is a big thing to look for. The interior height of the camper and cab over may important if you’re tall or like to fully sit up in bed. The location of controls and displays is often different.
Overall, layout is completely a question of personal preference. You will like the way one layout feels over another.
Research and Experience Truck Campers
Nothing beats equal parts research and experience. Learn about the above choices and make some informed decisions about what you want and need in a truck camper. Then go out and experience different truck campers in person.
This may mean several months of research, visiting dealerships, and attending RV shows. In the end, the balance of research and experience should allow you to choose a truck camper with confidence. Good luck!