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Essential Truck Camping Advice

The Payload Match Challenge: Part 2

What you’re about to read about our CAT scale experience is so preposterous, so impossible, so absurd that no one, even ourselves, could believe it. Best of all, it happened three times!

payload match calculations

On September 11th, just 24 hours before we were scheduled to debut the 2013 Chevy/Lance rig at the North East Truck Camping Jamboree Rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, we got the call from Ryan Horsey at Parkview RV that our 2013 Lance 855-S would arrive the following day.   The next morning we left Lancaster, Pennsylvania and drove to Parkview RV in Smyrna, Delaware.


When we arrived, Parkview RV got to work like a NASCAR pit crew.  Shop foreman, Dave Norris, and technician, JR Bishop, installed the Torklift tie-down system and Happijac tie-down system.


When Avery Transport driver, Robert Tuminaro, pulled in with the Lance Camper load, Dave Norris broke out a giant forklift and lifted our camper right off the trailer.


Once the Lance had landed, technician, Eddie McClements didn’t waste a moment jumping into action to install two Group 27 batteries, fill the fresh water tank, fill the propane tanks, check the refrigerator, range top, water pump, hot water heater, propane heater, and every other camper system.  Eddie even cranked up the stereo adding to the fun and festive atmosphere.


Before we knew it, the Parkview crew was loading the Lance and giving our newlywed truck and camper a bath.


All we could do is say thank you and take pictures.


When they were done, Parkview RV’s Amy West called a “Code Green” over the Parkview RV intercom.  Before a customer takes possession of a RV from Parkview RV, the entire Parkview RV team comes out to congratulate the new owners and thank them for their business.  It was a really great moment and some of the best customer service we had ever experienced at a RV dealership.


Above: Parkview RV Shop Foreman, Dave Norris, Technician, Eddie McClements, and Technician, JR Bishop

With the countdown clock to the Gettysburg rally running, we said our goodbyes with Parkview RV and hit the road back to Lancaster.  Before we could rally, we needed to weigh the truck and camper three times at the same CAT Scale, loading it full of our cargo for a ten day trip just before the third CAT Scale weigh.  The NASCAR pit crew was done, and now the race was on.

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.  What follows is the tale of three CAT Scale tickets (actually, five) and how we found out if met that challenge.

CAT Scale #1: Truck Empty, No Camper


The first CAT Scale weight we needed was with the truck empty, with full fuel, installed tie-down systems, rubber truck bed mat, and required truck wiring.

Essentially, this CAT Scale weight reflects what the truck weighs including items that are permanently installed for a truck camper.  The rubber truck bed mat is technically not permanently installed, but we believe it’s appropriate to include the rubber bed mat weight with the truck empty weight.

Here are the weights of the installed items:

Happijac tie-down system (minus turnbuckles): 29 pounds
Torklift tie-down system (minus extensions and turnbuckles): 55.5 pounds
Rubber truck bed mat: 49 pounds
Umbilical cord and wiring for truck: 4 pounds


Before going to our local CAT Scale, we removed the tailgate and stored it carefully in our garage.  Since we were not going to tow with our truck camper rig, we also removed the GM factory truck hitch, adapter, and bolts.  Angela also decided we didn’t need rear floor mats and removed those as well.

Here are the weights of the removed items:

Tailgate: 48.5 pounds
GM Factory Hitch, Adapter, and Bolts: 56.5 pounds
Rear Floor Mats: 3 pounds

The total installed item weight is 137.5 pounds.  The total removed item weight is 108 pounds.  The net gain in truck weight is 29.5 pounds.

With the above items installed and removed, we weighed the truck empty, with full fuel.  This CAT Scale weigh actually happened last due to our tie-down installation and camper delivery timeline.  The resulting empty truck CAT Scale ticket read:


Above: This CAT Scale ticket of the truck empty was taken after the removal of the tailgate, factory hitch, and rear floormats.

We subtracted the CAT Scale gross weight of the truck (6,720 pounds) from the GVWR stated on the truck (10,800 pounds) to calculate our payload; 4,080 pounds.  That’s an additional of 67 pounds of payload compared to the payload sticker on the truck.  How the truck increased 29.5 pounds in weight and gained 67 pounds of payload is something we will be asking GM.

CAT Scale #2: Truck Empty and Camper Wet with Options


For the next CAT Scale weigh, we weighed the truck and camper with full fresh water, full hot water heater, full propane tanks, two batteries, and full truck fuel tank.  This CAT Scale ticket would give us the camper wet with options weight once we subtracted the truck empty CAT Scale gross weight.

The resulting truck empty and camper wet with options CAT Scale ticket read:


This CAT Scale weigh happened immediately after leaving Parkview RV.  Unfortunately, we forgot to remove the factory hitch from behind the front seats where we had put it after removal.  This added the hitch weight, 56.5 pounds, to the above gross weight.  Subtracting the 56.5 pound hitch weight brings the truck empty and camper wet with options weight to 10,123.5 pounds.

Cargo Cards, Cargo Weigh, and Cargo Load

Before loading the camper, Angela had created cargo cards titled with the categories of cargo we needed for a truck camping trip.  For example, one cargo card was titled, “Truck and Camper Essentials”.  On the flip side of each cargo card, Angela listed everything that should be included with that cargo category.


Above: The “Truck and Camper Essentials” cargo card listed the GPS, tool box, rubber gloves, sewer hose, portable 12-volt inverter, maps, water hose and pressure regulator, extension cord, 30 amp adapter, RV chemicals, and truck journal.


Above: The “Kitchen Supplies” cargo card listed bowls, plates, can opener, spatula, cooking pot, cooking pan, strainer, salad bowl, kitchen towels, oven mitt, bottle opener, silverware, silverware divider, big spoons, scissors, cups, coffee mugs, detergent, sponges, and chip clips.

Using the cargo category cards and their lists, we then filled a laundry basket or fabric grocery bag for each cargo category.  This actually made packing for the trip a snap as we completed each cargo card by filling a basket or bag.


Next we brought out our bathroom scale so we could weigh each and every cargo basket and bag, cargo category by cargo category, and record the resulting data.  We started by weighing me empty handed on the scale.  Then I picked up each cargo basket and bag, one at a time, and stepped on the scale.  Angela subtracted my weight from each weigh and recorded the weight for every cargo category.

It was great fun.  Not only were we working on this project together, but we were learning a tremendous amount about what the different cargo categories weigh.

Here’s how the cargo categories broke down:

Food and Bottled Water: 97 pounds
Kitchen Supplies: 15 pounds
Towels: 15.5 pounds
Bedding: 15 pounds
Gordon’s Clothing and Shoes: 27.5 pounds
Angela’s Clothing and Shoes: 25.5 pounds
Toiletries: 16.5 pounds
Harley’s Litter, Stroller, and Supplies: 43 pounds
Backpack and Camera: 10.5 pounds
Computer Bag and Computers: 15 pounds
TCM Papers and Supplies: 8.5 pounds
Angela’s Scrapbook: 9.5 pounds
Carpet Runner for Camper: 2 pounds
Truck/Camper Essentials: 21 pounds
Roadside Emergency Supplies: 7 pounds
Turnbuckles: 7.5 pounds
Gordon, Angela, and Harley: 332 pounds

Total Cargo Weight: 668 pounds

Please keep in mind that you may need to add swing out brackets if you’re using a dual rear wheel truck, a platform under your camper if your camper doesn’t clear the truck cab, and suspension enhancement equipment.  Our 2013 Lance/Chevy rig did not require these items.

CAT Scale #3: Truck Full, Camper Wet, with Options, and Cargo


The moment of truth had arrived; the final CAT Scale weigh with truck full of fuel, and camper wet with options and cargo.

After weighing the rig, Angela said, “All we need is a number below 10,800 pounds”.  If we were over by a few pounds, we could remove some of our personal cargo to reduce weight, but it would mean some difficult choices.  With fingers and toes crossed, we approached the CAT Scale counter.

I will never forget what happened next.

The lady handed Angela the CAT Scale ticket.  I didn’t look.  I would know the result from Angela’s reaction.

“That’s impossible,” said Angela.

Immediately I looked at the CAT Scale ticket.  It read:


“No one is going to believe that!” I exclaimed, utterly confounded with what we were looking at.

The truck full of fuel, and camper wet with options and cargo had just come out exactly the same as our GVWR, 10,800 pounds.  We weren’t over GVWR.  We weren’t under GVWR.  We were right on GVWR.  This is like flipping a quarter and having it land perfectly on its edge, and stay.

“Let’s weigh it again,” I said. “It has to be wrong.”

The lady behind the counter then explained that a CAT Scale re-weigh is only $1 (a CAT Scale re-weigh is now $2 as of September 21, 2012).  With that news we went back to the rig and drove up on the scale.  Angela opened her door and reached up to the yellow button to start the re-weigh.

Over the intercom in the CAT Scale the lady inside the building said, “Ready for your re-weigh?”  Angela replied, “Yes!” and then quickly sat back in the driver’s seat.  “Okay, come on inside for the weigh ticket.

Again we parked the rig and walked inside.  The new ticket read:


No change.  We were dizzy.  We had to be dreaming.  It couldn’t be.  How could it be exactly the GVWR?  This was impossible!  There was no way our readers would believe this was true.  We have to keep weighing the rig until we get something believable.

For the third time, we drove the rig onto the CAT Scale, pressed the yellow button, drove around, parked the rig, and walked into the building.

This time the numbers were different:


We must have stopped the rig on the scale in a slightly different position as the steer axle and drive axle weights had each shifted twenty pounds, but the gross weight number remained the same; 10,800 pounds.

As we drove home, we didn’t know whether to cry or celebrate.  Eventually Angela broke the mood, “We did it!”.  She was right.  We had challenged ourselves to design and assemble a payload and GVWR matched truck and camper, and we had done exactly that.

The Final Tally: Truck Empty and Payload

When the proverbial dust settled, we broke down the data for a final tally of our truck and camper match.  This is the same equation we used when designing the rig and should be a useful way to design and verify your own truck and camper match.

First we broke down the truck weight and actual payload by subtracting the stated GVWR on the truck (10,800 pounds) from the CAT Scale weight of the truck full with fuel, installed tie-down systems, rubber truck bed mat, required truck wiring, and removed tailgate, factory hitch, and rear floor mats (6,720 pounds).

Truck GVWR: 10,800 pounds (minus)
Truck weight: 6,720 pounds (equals)
Payload of truck: 4,080 pounds

The Final Tally: Camper Dry with Options

Second, we calculated the camper dry with options weight by subtracting the truck, fresh water, full propane, and battery weight from the CAT Scale weight of the truck and camper rig wet and with options.

CAT Scale truck empty, camper wet, with options: 10,123.5 pounds (minus)
CAT Scale truck empty: 6,720 pounds (minus)
30 gallons fresh water: 250.2 pounds (minus)
6 gallons hot water heater: 50 pounds (minus)
2 full 20-pound propane tanks: 40 pounds (minus)
2 batteries (53 pounds each): 106 pounds (equals)
Camper dry weight with options: 2,957.3 pounds

The Final Tally: Camper Wet with Options and Cargo

Next we totaled up the camper weight; wet, with options, and loaded with cargo.

2013 Lance 855-S dry with options: 2,957.3 pounds (plus)
30 gallons fresh water: 250.2 pounds (plus)
6 gallons hot water heater: 50 pounds (plus)
2 full 20-pound propane tanks: 40 pounds (plus)
2 batteries (53 pounds each): 106 pounds (plus)
Cargo weight (including people and pets): 668 pounds (plus)
Turnbuckle weight: 7.5 pounds (equals)
Camper wet, with options, and cargo: 4,079 pounds

4,079 pounds!  That’s just one pound from our 4,080 pound payload.

CAT Scale Obsession

Now that we have a truck and camper that’s within payload and GVWR, Angela is completely obsessed with crossing as many CAT Scales as we can find.  So far we have weighed the rig seven times at three different CAT Scales in three states.  We may have to start CAT Scale Anonymous.  Even Harley is starting to think we’re nuts.

What we’re learning from our multi-state CAT Scale spree is that our rig weight fluctuates in direct relation to the status of our holding tanks and truck fuel tank.  Our personal cargo doesn’t change too much, but things like groceries can be 75 pounds plus or minus if we’re full or empty.  The good news is that we have not yet been over 10,800 pounds.  The closest we came was the first wet and loaded weigh; but that was close enough!

Now, if I find a Macintosh tube amp or a box of LPs at a thrift store, that would certainly increase our cargo weight, but no such luck yet.  As of right now, we are running lean and mean with our personal cargo, as experienced truck campers should be.

We have actually enjoyed the process of designing a rig that’s within payload and GVWR and continue to challenge ourselves to find opportunities to lose truck, camper, and cargo weight here and there.  We also have some really compelling ideas to debut in TCM on how to remove weight from our rigs.  Now that we’ve had this experience, we’re hooked.


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