The 2015 Arctic Fox was still an excellent match for the Ram. With the Arctic Fox, we were 640 pounds under payload and getting respectable fuel mileage for a gas dually truck, even in the mountains. The handling and performance was not quite as rock-solid as it is with our 4,685 pound camper, but it was still very good. Had we not experienced the Ram 3500 with our 500 pound lighter camper, we would have been extremely satisfied with the Ram/Fox combination.
The power was also more than sufficient with the Arctic Fox. We got up the mountains with confidence, but we were passed by several diesel trucks blasting up at 75 miles per hour. If you need to blast up mountain sides with your loaded camper, get a diesel.
The Bigger Picture
What I’m most concerned about is the habit of truck camper owners to max out the payload of their trucks. With the 6.4L HEMI, the rig performs incredibly well 1,140 pounds under payload with our 4,685 wet and loaded camper. It performed nearly as well in terms of handling and fuel economy with the 5,185 pound 2015 Arctic Fox 990, but there was a difference.
While we have not yet loaded an even heavier camper on this truck, I believe these changes would be progressive. The heavier the camper, the less confident the handling and performance will become, and the less fuel economy benefits will be realized.
At the 5,851 pound payload (13,300 pound GVWR), I believe this truck would likely need more aftermarket suspension equipment to stay level and handle well.
At payload, I also believe the 6.4L HEMI could cease to be a relatively fuel-efficient gas rig. If I had to guess, I’d say the Fuelly data would put the truck in the 9-10 mpg range with a truck camper that maxed out its 13,300 pound GVWR.
Going to the 4.10 axle ratio with its 14,000 pound GVWR takes us further down this path. If you then max out the truck at 14,000 GVWR, expect to purchase even more aftermarket suspension equipment to keep the rig level and handling well, and be prepared to accept another potentially significant reduction in fuel economy.
Wrap It Up: We’ll Still Take It
With our 4,685 pound truck camper (loaded and wet), the Ram 3500 with the 6.4L HEMI is a dream. With only a set of Torklift Upper StableLoads, the Ram handles the camper brilliantly. We have almost zero sway and body roll. We might upgrade the shocks and add a rear sway bar to tighten up the handling a little, but we would be just fine-tuning an already fantastic truck and camper match.
6,610 miles in, we’re still very happy with the truck, despite the 11.5% lower fuel numbers. Our current fuelly.com average is exactly 11.0 mpg, taken from the last ten fill-ups. That’s no longer directly competitive with diesel, but it’s still good for a long bed dually gas truck loaded with an eleven-foot hard sided truck camper.
Yes, diesel power and torque would be more fun, but – for us – it’s not worth the significantly higher upfront diesel engine cost, significantly higher diesel fuel costs, and significantly lower diesel truck payload numbers. Never mind diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) and diesel engine oil changes. Besides, we don’t drive our truck camper rig like a sports car or race up mountain passes.
The 6.4L HEMI represents the state-of-the-art for heavy duty gas truck engines. When matched to a camper that’s 1,000-plus pounds under payload, it’s still the most economical and efficient alternative to diesel available.
When you consider that our truck has a 5,851 pound payload capacity, there’s a lot of campers available in the 4,850 range (wet and loaded) including every pop-up truck camper, all non-slide hard-side truck campers, and a good number of single-slide truck campers. If you own or are interested in a camper that fits one of these descriptions, keep the Ram 3500 with the 6.4L HEMI on your short list.