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Essential Truck Camping Advice

The Payload Match Challenge: Part 1

After years of dreaming, months of planning, and a few tense moments, Truck Camper Magazine debuts what could be the most carefully matched truck and camper in history.


“That’s impossible,” said Angela.  “No one is going to believe that,” I exclaimed, utterly confounded with what we were looking at.

We had just weighed our brand new 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500 and 2013 Lance 855-S at a CAT Scale.  “Let’s weigh it again,” I said. “It has to be wrong.”  We would weigh the rig two more times before the day was over.


Above: This photograph was taken moments after our 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 and 2013 Lance 855-S finally met at Parkview RV in Smyrna, Delaware

Four Months Earlier

Moments like this always have a good back story, and this was no exception.  Back in May, Angela and I committed ourselves to finally achieve a vision we had been dreaming about for years; a truck and camper that honestly and accurately accounted for every conceivable weight variable; every camper option, every gallon of water, every person and pet on board, every tie-down and turnbuckle, and all the real-world cargo and personal effects necessary for true go anywhere, camp anywhere adventure.

In the six years we have been publishing Truck Camper Magazine we had never seen a truck and camper matched to that degree.  We wondered, often out loud, “Is it possible?”  Can a truck and camper be properly matched if everything is honestly and accurately accounted for?

As the self appointed Chief of the Weight Police, it was imperative that I find out.  After all, I can’t tell others that they need to be within payload if I can’t do it myself.

The Challenge: A Payload Matched Truck and Camper

Before we proceed with our project, let’s clarify the challenge we set out for ourselves.  Our challenge was to assemble an honest and accurate truck and camper match based on the payload and GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of our truck.

When our final rig is weighed on a certified truck scale, the camper should be wet with full fresh water, full propane, and batteries.  Additionally, our calculation needs to include all camper options, cargo weight, people weight (including pets), tie-down and turnbuckle weight, and any suspension enhancement equipment weight.

  Cargo weight should include food, clothing, kitchen supplies, toiletries, pet supplies, camping supplies, towels, bedding, cameras, computers, books, and everything else we pack into our camper.

For the final certified truck scale weigh, we would load the rig for a typical trip.  The truck fuel, fresh water, and propane tanks should be full, our grey and black tanks empty, and Angela, Harley, and I would be in the truck.

If the resulting certified truck scale weight ticket is on or under the payload and GVWR of our truck, we will have met our challenge.


Above: This rig is ready to go anywhere and camp anywhere, but the first place we took it was a CAT Scale

Step 1: The Truck

As you’re about to read, we threw our own “camper first” advice out the window and designed our rig backwards.   Why do we have to make life so difficult?

The answer is another important vision for our new rig.  Not only did we want to design and assemble a payload matched truck and camper, but we also wanted a rig based on a short bed truck.  Once that decision had been made, I contacted GM corporate to help us design a short bed truck with the most payload possible.

After several weeks of planning with GM, we ended up with a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 3500, gas engine, crew cab, short bed, automatic, four wheel drive, single rear wheel truck with 4,013 pounds of payload.

More payload is possible in a regular cab, two-wheel drive, work truck with no options, but that would compromise not only the comfort we wanted, but also the truck camper capabilities and lifestyle we were aiming for.  We need four wheel drive for off-road travel and beach camping.  We need a back seat for storage and our cat.  And upgraded front seats mean our backs will still nimble when we arrive at the incredible slot canyons in Utah.

Our new truck represents a state-of-the-art balance between comfort, capabilities, and the need for the most payload possible.  For a deep dive into how and why we made each and every decision on our new truck, please read, “TCM Debuts 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500”.

Step 2: The Camper

Lance Camper stepped up to the plate and accepted our challenge to help us perfectly match our new truck.  After a quick review of their models, we agreed on the 2013 Lance 855-S as the right candidate for the task in front of us.  If we could option a 2013 Lance 855-S to payload match our 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500, the Lance would be our official truck camper for the 2012/2013 season.

Gary Conley, National Sales Manager for Lance Campers, was our lead consultant from Lance.  During our first conference call, we outlined everything that needed to be accounted for an honest and accurate truck and camper payload match:

1. Camper wet weight including full fresh water, full hot water heater, full propane, and batteries.

2. Camper option weight.

3. People weight including myself, Angela, and our cat Harley.

4. Tie-down and turnbuckle system weight.

5. Suspension enhancement equipment weight.

6. Cargo weight including food, clothing, kitchen supplies, bedding, towels, toiletries, pet food and supplies, cameras, computers, electronics, and all required truck camper chemicals, cords, hoses, and tools.

There would be no cheating, no hiding, and no unaccounted pound.  Even when I started waking up in a cold sweat screaming like a school girl, “It’s impossible to not be overloaded!”, we stayed the course.

Late in the afternoon of Tuesday, June 26th, the die was finally cast and Gary completed the order for our 2013 Lance 855-S.  It was a thrilling, and terrifying moment.  We had designed a truck camper on paper that would be within the payload of our truck, but it was close, very close.  All we could do is cross our fingers and trust that our information and calculations were accurate and complete.  We would soon find out.

Part 2: The Impossible Happens, Three Times!

In Part 2 our new 2013 Lance 855-S truck camper finally arrives and is loaded onto our 2013 Chevy Silverado 3500 for the first time at Parkview RV.  Click here to read, “The Payload Match Challenge, Part 2“.

The following morning we loaded the camper and drove to a CAT Scale (certified automated truck scale).  What happened next is so preposterous, so impossible, so down right absurd that no one, even ourselves, could believe it.


Above: One week after receiving the camper, we took the rig to a truck wash.  We can’t wait to show you what happened next.


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