This week’s question on technology in truck campers triggered an incredible reader response. Every truck camper manufacturer, gear company, and dealer needs to read this clear and vehement community feedback.
After reading all 118 responses, there can be no doubt that the truck camper industry needs to tread carefully as they push forward with technology in their products.
This week’s Question of the Week was, “Do you want more and more technology integrated into truck campers, or should truck campers be a minimal technology zone?”
“We go camping to get away from the city and people. We also want to get away from technology, including television. I wouldn’t mind some basic tech, like battery and tank monitors, but I don’t need the rest. We keep it very old school. We don’t even have a hot water tank.” – Melissa Malejko, 2002 Chevy Silverado 2500HD, 1981 Okanagan
“It would be nice to know the actual levels in all tanks.” – Peter Reynolds, 2007 Silverado 2500, 2005 Arctic Fox 900
“I was reading the question of the week on my phone and then the touch screen locked up! No tech for me. Sometimes programmers can get carried away with the gee whizz stuff and make simple tasks complicated or not intuitive.” – Charles Phy, 2011 Dodge 5500, 2010 Eagle Cap 1160
“Being older, I remember working on my pre-computer cars. Working on today’s cars is not an option. I don’t want to be out in the boonies without the option of possibly fixing a problem. Besides, I don’t have a smartphone.” – Bryce Dillree, 2007 GMC 2500HD, 2013 Wolf Creek 850
“No, no, no! If you read manuals on computers, they all say not to install in areas of high humidity, dust, and vibrations.
After 35 years as a mechanic, I have seen computers invade the auto industry to the point that diagnoses of these systems is almost impossible. Mechanics are becoming a parts changer, rather than a mechanic.
There are some basic computers already in RVs causing trouble such as refrigerators, converter/chargers, and some thermostats. These computers are cheap to make for manufacturers, but they are very costly to diagnose and replace. I say, “No, no, no!” Enough is enough. There is a place for these devices, but not in an RV.” – Clifford DeVine, 2004 Dodge 2500, 1995 Lance Squire 185
“Maximize mechanical technologies with materials and engineering. Computerizing makes it hard for the owner to repair and maintain. I am not totally against computerization because it can provide convenience, but it should have mechanical redundancy on important equipment.
My wife and I are admittedly biased toward dry camping. We have been tent campers for all our lives. Now in our mid 60s, we own or first slide-in, and love it! We have not abandoned our knowledge of living light. Getting home is as important as going out in the countryside. If my camper greeted me, I might have to shoot it.” – Pete Memmer, 2015 Ram 2500, 2016 Northstar 850SC
“I want the most simple equipment possible on my truck and camper. When overlanding or camping remotely, I want to be able to repair things with basic hand tools and logical reasoning, not with a computer that may loose power and diagnostic functions.” – Randy Erwin
“On my Arctic Fox, I have everything; thermostat, solar, tank levels, battery condition, and switches all in one convenient location. I don’t need no stinking flat screen that controls everything. The only thing truck camper manufacturers need to do is make a truck camper less prone to leaks and moisture damage.” – George Visconti, GMC 3500HD, 2016 Arctic Fox 990
“Yes, this is 2016, not the stone age. We can always turn stuff off if we don’t want it.
A major gripe for me is a place to plug in a laptop or tablet at the dinette table. There should be USB charging, 12-volt DC, and inverted AC, all accessible under or at the end of the table. I added these features because I needed them..
It still seems that very few people who design and build RVs actually use them.” – Robert Nelson, 2015 GMC 3500, 2013 Arctic Fox 1140
“I like truck campers more basic. Less technology in them means that less things to go wrong.” – Rodney Tucker, 2016 Chevy Silverado 2500HD, 2005 StarCraft Pine Mountain Roadster II
“I want minimal technology. The more electronics, the more headaches and expense when the equipment starts to fail.” – Mike Moran, 2016 Ford F150, Four Wheel Hawk
“No to more unnecessary electronics. However, do make the switch plate in something other than black and with larger, more easy to read wording. Maybe not placing it almost on the floor would also help!” – Jim M, 2003 Dodge, 2013 Lance 855
“Although I was an early adopter of technology in my professional career (a personal Kaypro computer at the office with WordStar and CalcStar), I am not sure I would want high-tech controls in my truck camper for several reasons.
First, there’s a level of complexity that precludes user modifications, updates, and repairs. Second, cost. And third, reliance on battery power in a situation where it may not always be available.
I also do not believe a touch/display screen and control electronics would work reliably after exposure to the temperature extremes my camper experiences (I live in Texas). So, for me, I will take a simple switch.” – Bill Peters, 2013 Chevy Silverado, 2013 Four Wheel Camper Hawk
“Why computerize holding tank levels? The sensors are a sore point among all campers, because they don’t work. Spend the money on installing monitoring/controlling hardware that actually works. Don’t bother putting lipstick on a pig. Touching rocker switches is no harder than touching a computer screen and a lot more intuitive.” – Philip Tron, 2009 Chevy 3500, 2012 Lance 1050
“We have a truck camper because we like to travel and camp. We do most things outside. We love our truck camper, but we love it for its mobility and basic sheltering. I am a retired Information Technology (IT) engineer and my wife is a retired technology educator. We want to leave that amazing and frustrating stuff at home (and not have to worry about the constant upgrades). We’re for making truck campers a technology-free zone.” – Dave Thalman, 2013 Ram 2500, 2013 Northstar 850SC
“No technology please! I’m tired of everything going digital, electronic, and computerized. I have never in my long life experienced anything more faulty, unreliable, inconsistent, and time wasting, but yet universally accepted as today’s electronic gizmos. I sure don’t want to ruin my camping experience with it. I can see it now…
Wife: “Joel, will you put the awning in, the wind picked up really quickly.”
Me: ”Ok, wait. I have to reboot my phone.”
15 minutes later…
Wife: “I think the awning is going to tear off! What are you doing up in the bed?”
Me: ”Leave me alone! It is saying I have to download the awning app again, and I only have a 3gG connection. I think it’s a better signal up here.”
10 minutes later…
Wife: “Don’t bother with the awning app. Unless the app can chase our awning across the lake.” – Joel Nystrom, 1993 Ram 3500, 2006 Arctic Fox 1150
“No. Leave it simple so owners might have a chance of repairing things out in the wild. Even if they could get hold of a tech, he might not even be able to fix the fancy stuff.” – Henry Buchanan, 2000 Ford F350, 1998 Lance Squire
“Yes, it would be nice.” – Richard Bowen, 2008 Dodge Ram, 2001 Sun Lite WT SB
“My wife and I like newer technology, but if you are going to use a camper in the outback, I would rather have more basic technology. If basic items do not work, they can often be “MacGyvered” to stay camping. If a central touch screen unit goes south, how do you use any of your main utilities that are basic in your camper? Just my take.” – Eric Devolin, 2007 GMC 3500, 2006 Adventurer 106 DBS
“More tech! I don’t care so much about luxury tech (no remote control for my Fantastic Fan, thanks), but why not catch up with the Europeans and add silent heaters, floor heating, digital thermostats, up to date Bluetooth sound, and (dare I wish) HomeKit enabled control of lights.” – Rob Harris, 2007 Silverado HD, 2015 Hallmark K2
“In the camper portion of my rig, I’m all for simple analog. My almost 60 years of RVing has shown that the simple stuff is more durable. I prefer switches without lights unless the lights mean something (green = on, red = off); an unlighted toggle with up is on and down is off works for me.
I don’t mind lighting the stove with a match or going outside to light the water heater, although it is nice that the furnace and refrigerator ignite themselves when I turn on the switches. I prefer bayonet socket 12-volt outlets; one is needed for my CPAP machine and the others can be used as is, or with small inserts to convert them to USB ports.
As for truck tech, bring it on! My next truck will have GPS, a backup camera, Bluetooth, USB ports, and every imaginable gauge to report on engine condition.” – Karen Smith, 2006 Chevy Silverado, 2006 Tiger CX (it’s a C, not a truck camper)
“My Ford e350 Sportsmobile has the Magnum 2000 Series Pure Sine Wave Inverter Converter. It has a digital remote that shows all batteries volts/amps, enabling more individual control on outlets, solar panels, AC input, etc.
Truck campers need better quality digital power systems, automatic fuse holders, and an RCD/residual current device. Also, a digital display for water services.” – Douglas Packer, 2012 Ram 3500, 2014 Eagle Cap 1160
“It is our society today. You can’t stop it. With that said, for us old timers, switches are fine as standard equipment. For the younger generation, computers are all they know. So make it an option.” – C. Stephen Mobley, 2016 Ram 3500, N/A
“No, I do not. I had enough of tech with my 45-foot DP Tiffin Zephyr. It is just one more thing to break. Sometimes old school is just better. I’m just not one of those people that needs to have an iPad with me every second.” – Brad Zbthirtynine, 2016 Ram 3500, 2000 Arctic Fox 1150
“No computer for me. That is what I am trying to get away from when I go camping. I have more than enough in the truck, thank you. I want some thing I can fix in the boondocks.” – Matt Reinker, 2016 Ford F150, 2007 Northstar TC650
“If tech can help to reduce weight, yes I am for it.” – Mario Thibault, 2003 GMC, 2009 Apache
“As your previous survey has shown, baby boomers make up the largest market share of the truck camper industry. A lot of us out there believe in the K.I.S.S. philosophy (keep it simple stupid). For example, if ever there is a problem with the digital touch panel and it’s impossible to close a black tank valve, a slide room, or raise/lower the jacks, there needs to be manual override mail or some kind of redundancy built in. That way you can continue the journey without the need for a RV service stop. I appreciate technology, but as far as camping goes, keep it simple and safe.” – Jerry LaCouture, 2013 GMC Sierra 3500, 2013 Lance 1191
“No, let’s keep it simple. KISS (keep it simple stupid) comes to mind. There is more to repair. Finding someone to do the job reliably is usually the challenge!” – David Weinstein, 1999 Ram 3500, 2005 Arctic Fox 1150
“Simpler the better. Reliability (and cost to maintain and repair) is inversely proportional to complexity.” – Syd Chipman, 1993 Ford E350, Bus conversion
“Minimal technology zone. I’m old fashion, I guess. Keep the cost down.” – Bruce Erickson, 2006 Dodge Ram 2500, 2016 Adventurer FB
“High tech all the way!” – Ken Southworth, 2016 GMC Sierra 3500HD, Shopping for our new camper!
“It would be nice if they pre-wired for video, network, cell, monitoring, solar, and security. I have gone mostly wireless, but it would be nice to have interior to exterior raceways and sealed exterior access.” – Lynn Van Note, 2016 Ford F-350, 2014 CampLite TC11
“I’m still undecided on the camper to purchase.
Smaller systems that do one or two things only tend to be more reliable over time. The idea behind truck camping in my view is being able to take what time we have after our work lives and go to enjoy time out wherever we want to be without having to spend time fiddling with software.
Integrated systems generally do not lend themselves to additions and customizations quite that easily compared to adding in a relay or switch to perform a customized task. I tend to keep it as simple as possible and no simpler.
The mission is to relax and enjoy the life outside the camper as much as being out of inclement weather.” – Dan Pellerin
“Yes, in fact I plan to build one soon.” – Winston Gotte, 2003 GMC Sierra 1500HD, 2016 FWC Hawk
“No, no, no! I’ve had high-tech Class A motor homes loaded with little green lights blinking in the night. Mother boards fail and you are stranded in the wrong places helpless to fix anything yourself. The beauty of truck campers is the freedom and independence and self-sufficiency of travel. Keep it simple.” – Janet Carter, 2006 Chevy 1500, 2001 Sunlite 6’
“I like knobs and switches that I can field repair as needed. When those fancy screens fail two years after they quit making them, all is lost. Having good quality solar is about as high-tech as I want to get. I wish there was a way to see the level of holding tanks through opaque sides. That would eliminate the displays that you can’t count on. Keep up the great work.” – Dave Miller, 2015 Ford F350, 2003 Bigfoot 10.6E
“No. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). I much prefer to have every system on a separate control, and for each system to have a simple switch; on or off.” – Ken Newton, 2008 Chevy 3500, 2008 Lance 915
“We feel that the way a truck camper is used by most people is off the beaten path. Would all the fancy electronics hold up? For us in northern Minnesota we travel on lots of rough gravel roads to get to our camping areas. It wouldn’t be very good to depend on all electronic controls for you camper while you are in the remote areas. That could end a trip early. It would be fine in a Class A or Class C motorhome.” – Larry and Becky Barnes, 1983 GMC c2500, 1993 Lance 4000
“I think a minimal approach is best. Most people can handle switches and knobs with common sense. Those who want more tech, can add more tech.
TCM has had some great stories about some of these “upgrades” and most have been in the ability range of most of us who care to do our own work. I myself am about to install a backup camera as an added safety feature on my Ram. I also installed my own air bags as many others have done.
Keep up the good work TCM. Best to you both and Harley.” – Jim Dailey, 2005 Dodge Ram 2500HD, 1997 Shadow Cruiser 10
“If you’ll notice, my outfit is getting a few years on it. I don’t want more tech, I want more quality. My wife and I talk to so many people at campgrounds that tell us not to get rid of what we have because it’s probably more dependable than the new stuff.” – Tom Glaser, 1999 Ford F350, 2003 Lance 1010
“Other than the obvious energy saving items like LED lighting, I want minimal technology. Camping in a truck camper is supposed to be basic with normal conveniences like a refrigerator and stove and possibly air conditioning. Besides, when complex electronics break down away from a dealer or service center, you’re out of luck.
If a camper has an electronic brain controlling all functions (heat, lighting, refrigeration, air conditioning) and it breaks, that is the end of your camping trip. I prefer manual analog controls. They are simple and not prone to failure. After all, it’s camping, not a video arcade.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but that is how I look at high-tech in truck campers.” – Daryl Davis, 1997 Ford F350, 2015 Palomino SS1500
“High-tech is great when it works. However, if it fails in some remote area and you can’t fix it readily, it’s a real pain. I’ll have to go with less is more on this one.” – Bruce Colby, 2004 Dodge 2500, 2004 Lance 835
“More sensors and indicators are fine, but no computer controls with multiple menus please. I’d like outside air temperature so I know what coat to wear, or none. I’d like camper indicators for multiple things, if possible.
My unit has worked just perfect for me in every way. I’d like other features, but I’m leery about added maintenance or reliability problems. Thanks for Truck Camper Magazine. I learn lots of useful information, creative ideas, and fun places to visit!” – Bill Strickland, 1996 Ford F250, 1999 Lance 845
“I am truly a knobs and switches kind of guy. I also like gauges. We are not technology folks and would be happy to remain that way.” – Frank and Polly Foley, 2016 Ford F350, 2016 Northstar 8.5 Arrow U
“In my opinion, the camper should support, and enhance more tech items such as USB ports, cell antennas (boosters), pre-wire for solar, maybe internal routers, and 12-volt ports that would charge laptops (not just cigarette lighter connections). These are things that enable the easy use of our devices that we want and already have.
For example, if RV manufacturers would have wired for entertainment centers with surround sound, and made the room available, people in general would have been happier getting their own systems. Many of the systems that were installed didn’t fit the bill.” – R Folkerts, 1999 Ford F250, Lance 165S
“Just give us holding tank gauges that work.” – Claudia Lawrence, 2014 Ford F350, 2014 Lance
“No more tech, please.” – Steve Kafka, 2003 Ford F350, 2005 Lance Max 981
“I would like them to fix the technology on campers that doesn’t work now. For example, the tank level sensors or battery sensors that only say high or low.
If the new technology had an accurate measure of exactly how many gallons were in each tank and the exact battery voltage (the number of amp hours were used and how many were left), I would welcome the new technology.
But, a fancy panel with the same information is not required, and would be a waste. What we do need is more 12 and USB outlets in the campers to support all of the electronic devices, like phones, cameras, computers, or CPAPs.
Our camper came with only one 12-volt outlet for the television and I had to install several 12-volt and USB outlets.
Our camper is an off-grid RV. We seldom plug into shore power or use the generator. We need our RV to be battery efficient and solar friendly.” – Russell Berquam, 2014 Ford F350, 2015 Arctic Fox 1140
“Gordon, like you, I prefer the minimal approach to technology in truck campers. We spend most of our truck camping in more remote areas where fixing or bypassing a switch is a simple fix as compared to troubleshooting a computer. The old KISS approach is my preference in truck campers.
However, if I were an RV manufacturer, I would seriously consider offering a higher-tech system as an option. I would assume it would be an easy install during construction. This would enable the manufacturers to make additional profits while offering the consumer the choice of an additional upgrade.” – Cliff Kellogg, 2006 Chevy 2500HD, 1999 Apache pop-up
“While the technology may be convenient at times, I have also had problems with it. My water heater, for example, has an electronic ignition. Since I don’t like the noise of the thing heating in the night, I turn it off. But then in the morning I need to wait about 45 minutes for the water to heat up. With my old pilot-lit water heater, I did have to light the pilot when we arrived at the campground and turn it off when we left, but the pilot kept the water hot all night, so the heater didn’t light until we took our showers in the morning.
In addition, I have replaced the igniter twice and carry a spare. That was never a problem with our former unit. Similarly, I like the capacity of my Norcold 641 refrigerator, but the electronics leave me cold. If it detects a problem, it may fully shut down and won’t start until it is cleared. The manual that came with my camper did not explain this and, if I didn’t have the service manual, I would have been left with no refrigerator many days out in the boonies.
However, on the positive side, I was able to use the electronic diagnostic panel to determine the problem. Still, I never had problems with my old, more simple refrigerator and this one is a drama queen.
In contrast to these appliances, my stove (an Atwood three-burner range) is simple. It has never needed repair and if it did, anyone who has ever worked on a gas stove would be able to do this. In contrast, some manufacturers are using Webasto Diesel cook tops. While I would like to have one fuel (my truck is a diesel), I would not want one of these high-tech cook tops because, if it needed service, my options would be limited.” – Steve Merrill, 2009 Chevy Silverado 3500, 2007 Lance 992
“Less technology. I enjoy camping and I like being off-the-grid. I like things simple and easy. Most technology requires some kind of Internet connection. I prefer to camp beyond available connections.” – Susan Surateaux, 2016 GMC 3500, 2017 Arctic Fox 811
“I think the electronics will be broken after ten years. It will also make the camper cost go up and they already are too high.” – Tom King
“More tech!” – Chris Clark, 2004 Adventure 90 FWS
“More, of course, to make life easier.” – Robert Mayton, 2014 Ford F450, 2015 Lance 1172
“Keep it minimal. Campers being used or stored in varying environments from hot to cold and humid to wet need to be easy to use and repair. I have experienced some digital boards being ruined due to heat. I like things easy to fix and maybe bypass in an emergency situation.” – Rick Herrington, 2006 F350, 2006 Host DS 10.6
“I think less is better. We have a camper with a slide operated by remote. In emergencies, a crank can be used to operate the slide. I have always wished that Lance would have also installed a switch to operate the slide, in addition to the remote. That way, there is built-in forgiveness if the remote’s battery dies and I have failed to bring along a spare. I am big on forgiveness, having needed a lot of it.
In general, I like to keep it simple, agreeing with you that if just flipping a switch will get me to the goal, why make more off it? Touch screen readouts sound okay but, when it comes to the black tank, it’s always the sensor at the other end that matters.” – John Tully, 2014 Ram 3500, 2015 Lance 855s
“Keep the high-tech out of camping. It costs more and is expensive to replace. If a main computer goes down for any reason, everything is down. Camping is a poor environment for electronics. Old school is easier to repair or replace and you don’t have to worry about firmware or software upgrades.” – Tom Adams, 2001 GMC Sierra 2500HD, 1998 Northern Lite 10-foot
“Any kind of technology that would give me tank gauges that actually worked would be more than welcome. This is our third camping rig and the gauges have never worked for more than a few weeks!
Also, I’m all for technology as long as there is some sort of manual override. The remote control system that runs the slides in our camper has failed twice leaving us out in the cold with no way to access the interior of our camper.” – Joanne Hall, 2015 Chevy Silverado 3500HD, Lance 1172
“I’m very much old school when it comes to technology on the road or in the campground. I guess I’m a minimalist when it comes to campground convenience and entertainment. I don’t feel the need to have a television, microwave, or even a radio in my camper.
The vehicles themselves have also become too complicated with computer-aided/controlled everything. That’s why I searched for and bought an older pre-ECU truck.
While I enjoy the benefits of useful technology, such as GPS, I feel this stuff should remain on our cell phones and laptops. When fancy electronics are built into trucks and campers, it only adds to the cost of purchase and later on when they go bad, they are expensive repairs.” – Alan Keith, 1993 Ford F250, 1997 Lance Squire Lite
“We like to get back to more simple and less hectic times now that we are retired. Whether boondocking or plugged-in at a campground, we get away from the gadgets. I think its up to the individual if they want more high-tech goodies. We are satisfied with switches and buttons.” – Mike Kol, 2012 GMC 2500, 2012 FWC Hawk
“More tech is good by me. Small to medium sized touch screen for a centralized control panel would be a welcome addition. I prefer digital readouts versus the typical status lights. In my opinion, it’s always a guessing game.
I’d like to centralize and upgrade my solar board. Technology would be good for propane, grey, black, and fresh water levels. A weather station for inside and outside temps, humidity, and wind would be great. Battery amp draw, charge amperage from shore power, battery and solar would also be nice as well as hot water and heater switches, LAN, WIFI, bluetooth capabilities, security web cameras, truck satellite radio connection, television satellite setup, and tuner.
So many ideas. I’m going to have to write these down and see what’s possible in my beast.” – Kenny Beal, 2008 Chevy 2500 HD, 2000 Lance 815
“Technology is great and should be as advanced as possible, but please keep all systems separate. I feel that if it’s a central system control and you have a failure, then all systems may become inoperable and that would be disastrous. I feel that most truck campers tend to go further away from repair facilities and further off-road, so they get bounced around more than our trailer friends do.” – Harold Johnson, 2016 Ram 3500, 2015 Adventurer 89SBS
“Stay with a minimal technology zone!” – Gary and Laurii Gadwa, 2012 Ford F350, 2011 Eagle Cap 950
“More technology is good.” – Gerard Pascazio, 2008 Ford F350, 2010 Eagle Cap 1160
“The more the technology the better. Technology is never going to slow down and it makes things easier, quicker, and better.” – Lyle Haas, 2002 Ford F350, 2016 Lance 995
“Before they try and computerize everything, how about coming up with some gauges and monitors that actually work and are accurate? It doesn’t matter how the holding tanks/water tank levels are delivered if they don’t have any relationship with reality.” – Audrey Ruccio, 2008 Ford F450, 2008 Host Everest
“Not really. The only problems we have had in our camper are with the printed circuit boards.” – Russell Erbe, 2013 GMC 3500, 2012 Lance 992
“I am a self admitted old fashioned grump when it comes to tech stuff. I did break down and get a flip cell phone many years ago, but refuse to get a new smartphone.
I’m for the keep it simple approach. I just got back from a 25 night trip that had stops in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho. I did not plug into electricity or go online the whole trip, and I don’t feel that I missed out on anything.
It seems like the younger people demand more and more gadgets and gizmos and I am in the minority, but keep that crap out of my camper.” – Terry Gfeller, 20015 Ram 2500, 2013 Lance 865
“Yes and no. I don’t want to try and learn a new system. I have enough problems with the DVD player, Dish satellite television, and radio. Switches and manual settings are reliable and easy to see to adjust. Some improvements might be:
Tank Sensors. I’m full all the time. I’ve tried, ice and washing the tanks, but that’s no help, so I’d like a better sensor system.
Charging Stations. While I have one in the bed area, it’s hard to reach and I ended up using the step next to sink for charging, and run my USB cords under the mattress.
Also, I would like a USB on the other side as well. It would be really helpful for one in the dining area along with an inverter option. I have an inverter in the cabinets next to sink, but have to run an extension cord under the mattress, around the bottom of refrigerator and under the seat (sing to ‘…Grandmother’s house we go…’) to a power brick to run the laptop and external hard drive.
For the TV/DVD screen and Dish, some place to put the receiver so I don’t have to keep the cabinet door ajar for the remote to access it. For the DVD, I can close it. The television might be a flip-up/down from the ceiling that can rotate towards the bed or dining area. Right now if it’s at an angle. It works, but it’s a little far away.
A weather station in the dining area would be helpful.
Yes to electronics, but limited.” – Frank Poole, 2016 Ram 5500 HD, 2016 Arctic Fox 990
“I appreciate the simplicity of switches with lights. One look and you know what’s on or not or what levels the tanks and batteries are. In my opinion, anyone who regularly uses their camper probably has a relatively good idea of tank levels from the simple lights.” – Brian Plourde, 2007 GMC 2500, 2015 Adventurer 80RB
“If you guys want to know a little more about these systems, give me a call or shoot me an email. Over the last ten years I have worked with dozens of Boatbuilders and RV makers using multiplex systems. I don’t own a truck camper, but I am currently shopping for a travel trailer for the three kids and a dog. I would love to switch to a truck camper when the kids get older. I read your website every week.
My own feeling is that I like simple. I own things a long time so electro-mechanical switches and simple gauges get my vote most of the time. I will say that having a decent battery monitor is a must for electronics, but really I prefer stand alone ones that are easy to replace. The integrated systems can be made reliable, but it involves good hardware, good software, good design, and good installation practices to get it right. Any one of these missing can put things off the rails.
If you do go for integration, make sure it makes sense. Do you need to control that with a touch screen? Is there a real advantage? As these systems develop, they get better. There are real cost savings that can be had by installing one screen that controls everything, instead of multiple controls eliminating the thermostat, battery monitor, tank monitor, switch panel, hard wired battery switch, etc for one controller. But, I would be little wary as this works its way into truck campers (from the high-end motorhomes).” – Colin Althen, Currently a Durango, Looking
“To me a central computerized system in a truck camper is not a good idea. From being around computer control boilers and air conditioning systems, when that system goes down, you’re dead in the water.
From my own experience, central control computers have a way of being obsolete in one to two years and good luck in finding a replacement. An upgrade maybe available and in a niche market, but it’s highly unlikely. For me, I keep it simple.” – Alex Blasingame, 2007 Ford F250, 2002 Lance 815
“My Ford is a great truck mechanically. The only problems I’ve had are with the computer and its software. To have my camper devices controlled by a computer would render everything non-functional. That does not make sense, especially for off-grid camping. So no, I do not favor more technology.” – John Kayartz, 2014 Ford F350, 2016 Hallmark Ute
“I think it’s fine. Minimal? You mean like a triple-slide with an electric fireplace? My Northstar 850SC is a pop-up that’s fairly minimal but still has air conditioning, a three-way refrigerator, a full bathroom, etc. Any truck camper that has electricity and modern conveniences is high-tech camping when you think about it.
I still like to occasionally tent camp, but it’s hard to argue with my camper’s queen size bed. Different campers (humans and units) have different needs and I think there’s a place for technology.” – Kevin Jenckes, 1996 Ford F250, 2006 Northstar 850SC
“Absolutely not! I use my camper in very remote places and technology will fail at some point. I love my Hallmark Everest because almost everything has a manual override from the roof lift to the jacks. We use our camper to get away from the technology and drudgery of life. So, please, no more technology.” – Rick Guffey, 2012 Ram 2500, 2013 Hallmark Everest
“With the industry’s use of the least expensive components, I think things should be kept simple and idiot proof. I have done field repairs and had to bypass a micro switch just to put up the top. I can’t imagine having a software issue or a more complicated system fail. Don’t get me wrong, I am techie from way back. But there is a place and time for everything. Instead of more gadgets, the industry should focus on quality.” – Matt Wiegand, 2014 Ford F150, 2015 Palomino SS1251
“Less tech is better! In fact, I’d like to see even less PC boards in campers. Things can and will break. I’d like to be able to still use as many systems as possible, even with a low battery.
Why does the water heater need a PC board? Is water happier when heated by computer control? Same with the air conditioner and furnace. At least with current truck camper systems, they are independent. If one dies, the others will still work (unless the batteries die).
Tying all systems together probably sounds great to the generation that is addicted to their screens, but I’d rather go camping and use a manual igniter for my propane stove, a switch for my water pump, etc.” – Mark Joslin, 2006 Ram 3500, 2005 Lance 1181
“I love the idea of advanced systems in a camper and I feel it would fit in nicely on some premium models, the Cirrus for example. A lot of our trucks use similar technology and many of us are perfectly comfortable with this type of interface.
Ideally, due to the extra cost and potential long term reliability issues, these advancements should remain an option.” – Brandon Apmann
“Leave truck campers as a minimal technology zone. We are so inundated with technology in our everyday lives and one of the reasons I enjoy my truck camper is that it gives me a break from all of that.
I like simple, both to operate and to maintain. If there was a master computer that all of the truck camper functions relied on and something goes wrong, you are probably not going to be able to fix it yourself and it will be expensive to repair or replace.” – Eldon Rhodes, 2008 Chevy 3500, 2011 Lance 1050
“I’ve been building my own computers since 1975, and I’m familiar with the many ways they can fail. Sometimes it’s easy to fix, but often it’s not. And you’re usually out of luck until you fix it. If the computer in my truck camper failed (if there was one), making all the systems inoperable, I’d be most unhappy.
Knobs and switches tend to be single points of failure, letting other sub-systems continue to function. And they’re usually easy and not too costly to repair. From that standpoint, I’m more of a KISS person. I’d rather forego the gee-whiz factor of computer control in favor of something that’s easy to maintain.
But if this idea takes off, before I’d buy it, it would have to be what we call an FRU (Field Replaceable Unit). Unplug the failed one and plug in a new one with a minimum number of cables. The unit would have to be encased in epoxy to protect it from moisture and vibration, and it wouldn’t break the bank (that’s probably the show-stopper).
I vote for old-school.” – Edward Gerhard, 2006 Dodge Ram 3500, 2016 Palomino HS-8801
“I’m of two minds on this question. My new truck is kind of like driving a smartphone and I do really enjoy the functionality of that. On the other hand, I camp in some out of the way places. Dirt roads and the bouncing that goes along with them can really do a job on electronics.
Then there is a corollary to Murphy’s Law; the more complex the system, the greater chance for something to not work right. I’ve happily gotten away without added tech for years and spent many wonderful days in my camper. I’m pretty sure I can continue to live without more tech in my camper.” – Al Stebbins, 2016 GMC 2500 HD, Northern Lite 2005 8-11 Queen
“My 1972 camper had absolutely nothing but an icebox when I got it three years ago. Since then I have added solar, batteries, hot and cold water, heat and an entertainment system. And since I live in an apartment in Los Angeles, the camper stays on the street out front ready to go in case of an earthquake or other emergency.
Being an electronics hobbyist and heavily into home automation, I thought why not add camper automation? I built a black box that monitors the camper systems (electrical, water, temperature) and has an alarm that protects both the truck and camper with door/window switches and motion. It will alert me via text on my cell phone if something is not right or it will call my phone continuously with a custom ring if the alarm is triggered. I can also arm and disarm the alarm via text.
The bottom line is yes, camper automation is a good thing!” – Bill Cramer, 2006 GMC 2500HD, 1972 Boswell Tilten Hilton
“Nope, or keep technology an option because I’ll never want one. Switches, wiring, and LED lights seldom go bad. If the do-all screen goes down, everything goes down.
Also, everyone complains about the price of things. Do you really think this will add that much value for the increase in price?
The next thing will be the truck that drives itself. The thing is, for the self-driving vehicles to work, you’ve got to enter where you’re going. That’s not my way of truck camping.” – Steve Cordis, 2000 Ford F250, 1996 Skyline Weekender
“Minimal tech zone. Replacing a switch in northern British Columbia is way easier than troubleshooting sensors, or sourcing and replacing printed circuits. KISS all the way.” – Simpson Chris, 1993 Dodge Ram D250, 1993 Vanguard
“Both. It needs a centralized monitoring system, but manual overrides as well.” – Jason Firmstone
“I’m a computer geek with an electrical engineering degree, so I’m no stranger to technology and its applications. I have to counter that, however, and say that I’m also old-school. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
I’m very concerned with the amount of tech being put in our lives. Sometimes simple is best. For crying out loud, even crock pots are being computerized to be controlled from smartphones.
The next thing you know some hacker will break into your truck camper remotely and do who knows what to harm you or your equipment. Manufacturers should definitely offer low-tech models because I’m sure there’s someone out there who wants to control their camper with their smartphone or be able to monitor it from 20 miles away. My vote is for low to no tech!” – Tony Ledford
“Minimal tech or tech free zone. The novelty of high-tech devices soon fades and when they fail, they are expensive to replace. My smartphone links to my home heating system WIFI thermostat and I don’t use it. Campers are not huge spaces, so it’s easy just to lean over and check the monitors for various levels.
There are only two modern improvements that I like from when I upgraded to an Adventurer 89RB; the auto-select for either LP or electricity on the refrigerator, and the auto switchover for the two bottles of propane.” – Vic Smith, 2015 Ford F350, 2013 Adventurer 89RB
“Minimal technology zone. No computers, please.” – John Sherwood, 2016 Ford F350, No camper yet
“Minimal! We don’t need more stuff to break down. Keep it simple! The last thing we need is a touch screen that will not open the waste valves when the tanks are full. Leave everything manually operated.” – Bob Walsh, 2013 GMC Sierra 3500, 2002 Bigfoot C25 10.6E
“I like the technology level right where it is in my current camper. More technology means higher cost and more to go wrong. KISS (keep it simple stupid).” – Howard Bisco, 2015 Ford F250, 2014 Palomino HS6601
“The KISS principle always wins out for me. The simpler it is to diagnose and fix, the better chance of saving a camping trip. How do you fix a dead touch screen out in the woods?” – Ron Berry, 2005 Dodge 2500, 2016 Arctic Fox 865
“There is already enough to go wrong in our camper with the electronics in the refrigerator and hot water heater. Seems like it’s always the expensive motherboard that goes out. I can just see being in the middle of nowhere Canada or Alaska and have the computer go out. Then nothing works. What do you do then?
I like my simple inexpensive reliable switches. And I’m not a computer-phobe, I’ve just had lots of them crash, just like my smartphone did last week.” – Erwin Greven, 2002 Chevy 2500HD, 2002 Lance 921
“Keep it minimal! Tech creates more complexity that someone else has to fix when it does not work properly. And it will certainly stop working.” – Woody Flickinger, 2003 Dodge 3500, 2012 Arctic Fox 1140
“Minimal technology zone until technology becomes more dependable. Can you imagine having to reboot or update an electronic system from a remote location when you need things to work most?
I want to get away and relax, not have to find some teenager to reset a million settings so I can get my furnace working, refrigerator running, toilet flushing, and lights on. Heck, I have yet to find a camper where the electronic black tank level indicators work accurately even 50-percent of the time. An old school sight glass on the side of the tank will work every time!” – Allen Jedlicki, 2012 GMC 2500HD, 2014 Wolf Creek 850SB
“No, no, no. Consider your audience and our respective ages (in accordance with your recent demographic study). We’re getting a bit more tech savvy, but incidentally, what was the average age of that manufacturer’s research and development team?
I understand this may be a dinosaur opinion, but also consider the environment in which we camp. It may not be within a reasonable distance of someone qualified to diagnose or repair the aforementioned computer driven camper necessities.
I presently have a monitor indicating levels of several tanks and electronic functions. When testing them with accurate methods, they’re invariably at least 20-percent erroneous. Additionally, any increase in factory tech mods will undoubtedly result in a price increase.” – Jeffrey Freeman, 2013 Chevy Silverado, N/A
“More technology please. I want to be able to back my truck to my camper and load it without trying to manually adjust as I backup and have to try multiple times to be successful. I admit I am already one who uses a laser sight system to help backup as well as a camera.
Ford recently equipped their trucks, as an aftermarket option, with a small dial that reacts to your trailer/camper on wheels. This devise lets you direct your camper trailer while backing it up. It is very accurate. As a result I have been trying to figure a way to put sensors on the camper that would tell me precisely what to do as I backup to my camper.
I want a camera system integrated on the truck camper that would communicate with my phone if someone approaches it while I am away. Yes, I know you can do that if you are on an internet system, but most times we truck campers are not connected to the internet.
I want a backup sensor and lower camera at the end of the camper to tell me precisely what is behind me and how far away it is, just like the camera and sensor does on my truck without the camper attached. Most campers that have a camera have it up high so you can see as you drive. That is very good, so we don’t want to give that away.
I would like to have a built-in WIFI extender that would let me park near a Starbucks and be able to get internet service while in my truck or camper and maybe upload a movie to watch later with no hookups available.
Those are just a few thoughts, even though I would agree that truck campers are for getting away from the day-to-day technology we see at work.” – Donald Fox, 2015 Ford F450, 2016 Lance 1172
“Technology is just one more thing to break and needs to be fixed. I’ve used my camper for more than 20 years. I’ve worn out four Ford Rangers hauling it everywhere from Key West, Florida to Fairbanks, Alaska. Just this year I added a 110-volt system alongside my 12-volt system that powered my lights and fan. I really don’t need or want all the technology in my camper.” – Phillip Greer, 2008 Ford Ranger, 1988 Homemade-Glen L
“I do not want more high-tech gadgets in my camper. That would increase the cost, without giving me a wanted benefit. Complicated electronic equipment is the first thing that will give problems.” – Bill Fred, 2011 Ford F250, 2013 Waterfall 865
“I agree with you – keep it minimal, but I also kind of like the idea of being able to have a reliable way to monitor tank levels and battery health.” – Tom Miner, 2004 Dodge Ram 3500, 2005 Host Yukon
“The more technology one puts into something, the easier for it to go down. My 1995 F350 decided to overheat in the middle of Indiana freeway when it was 98 degrees. Three hours later I had the broken idler tension wheel off, a new one on, and we were back on the road. No fancy technology for us. We leave that at home.” – Jerry Bonneau, 1995 Ford F350 SD, 2002 Lance 1061
“Logical technology is what I want to see in future campers. Why can’t there be a meter connected to the fresh water fill inlet indicating exactly how many gallons are going into the tank? And then there could be another meter inside the camper to show how much water is left in the fresh water tank even if its down to the last two pints. The idiot light system is so moronic.
Oh, and something so logical as a meter for the exact amount of waste in the black and gray tanks. Wow, what a concept. And while we’re on the subject of meter reading, how about one for the propane tanks that would be dead accurate down to the last 1/8 of a pound of fuel? That way I can decide when to switch over to the other tank.
Speaking of tanks, when are the manufacturer’s going to switch to Viking fiberglass tanks for a weight savings of close to 50-percent, or at least build the tank compartment large enough to make it an option for a buyer to add the fiberglass tanks?
Yes, more technology to monitor systems needs to be integrated into future truck campers. The sooner the better!” – Roger Odahl, 2008 Dodge Ram 3500, 2004 Eagle Cap 950
“Minimal technology zone. Who would want to enter a password just to use the microwave? Enough said.” – Ben Hansen, 2006 Ford F350, 2005 Lance 981 Max
“I prefer a minimal, but reliable tech zone.” – Ulrich Walter, 2005 Ford F350, 2010 Lance 911
“Definitely not! This year we had the chance to travel three weeks between Seattle, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and back to Seattle in a one-and-a-half year old Born Free Splendor Motorhome. Very well built, but the electronics!
There are touch panels for day and night shades, thousands of lights, a 12-volt breaker panel with several check functions, an inverter panel for the 120-volt electricity, a panel for the heater and air conditioner, and the standard panels for generator, hot water heater, and tank monitoring. Who the heck can check all these functions that you need a university degree in electricity for?
Some of the touch panels sometimes failed to work. Then I switched off the main 12-volt switch and put it back on and everything worked again. Unfortunately, the batteries were dead due to, I think, no maintenance of the first owner. And there was no solar system to help!
So we had very basic boondocking with romantic candle light dinners to save electric power. We are not used to running generators in Germany, so we don’t like it here. Plus, in most campgrounds, generators are prohibited between 8:00pm and 8:00am.
The high intelligence inverter panel showed us 13.7V battery good, but when we stopped at the campground thirty minutes later it said 12.6V battery okay. We only closed some of the night shades. In the morning, after only a few minutes of lights for the vanity, three times flushing the toilet, and no furnace running, it showed 9.8-10.4V battery low. I started the engine (much quieter than the generator) and ten minutes later it read 14.6V battery good. That’s hard to believe.
My opinion is that the more electric devices, panels and switches there are, the more wasted energy and the more possibilities to fail.
I would like one to two batteries, 200W of solar, a battery monitoring panel (like the NASA Clipper BM1 in our Jayco), and a simple charger like the C-tek dual 250S or something like this.
Our truck camper is only plugged on shore power at home. Inside the garage there is no sun to power the solar panels. All lights and devices are switched on directly, so you don’t waste cables, weight, or energy, and there is not more electronic smog than necessary in your camper.” – Viola and Manfred Klement, 2000 Ford F250, 1992 Jayco Sportster 8-foot
“Life is a balance, so keep things in perspective. My camper is my refuge away from home like my tent was when I was a younger man. Keeping things simple and functional brings one closer to the objective of why we hit the road.
Safety and the basics should drive the design team on our truck campers (fire, rain, wind, sun), not space craft technology. If you want that capability in your camper, move to Florida and live in a mobile home park, or buy a condo. Excuse me while I go stir the hydrazine on the oxygen tank booster jets!” – Ross Bradley, 2006 Chevy 2500 HD, Arctic Fox 990
“I appreciate and regularly utilize smartphones and computers. However, having everything connected to one central control source is frightening, especially considering that the current quality levels of components made for the RV industry. RV components are abysmal compared to most other technology supported products.
The RV industry is in the 1970s of automotive quality and technology. I am afraid that unless the component manufacturers leap suddenly into the 21st century, any attempt to adapt better technology beyond an on/off switch is bound to be a painful transition. Most of us who own RVs have already experienced this with our less than dependable refrigerators, heaters, jacks, slide-out systems, etc.” – Greg Chambers, 2015 GMC 3500, 2015 Lance 855S
“I think technolgy defeats the truck camper draw, at least for us. We like being off-grid and in the backcountry. We spent nine weeks in Alaska this summer and only stayed in paid campgrounds seven nights, and that was by choice to be with family and friends. We were able to do the whole trip on solar and battery. We carried a 2000-watt Honda the whole way just in case. I am afraid that the more technology a camper gets, the more the way we camp will change. Just one opinion.” – Tom Elliott, 2007 Ram 2500, 1999 Lance 835
“No. A simple switch will do fine, thank you. What if there is no internet in a certain area or your server is down? I can see me chasing after my wife to use her smartphone to open the door! Say ‘Simple switches, please’, three times in a row.” – Warren Cox, 2012 Ford F350, 2008 Okanagan slide
“Yes, but with a limit. I don’t want it to become like our trucks where one failed or dirty sensor shuts down the whole thing. But being able to read the sensors and appliances remotely would be nice. We use a wireless thermometer in our refrigerator while traveling. When we leave the pets in the camper at the park, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to check on them with a camera, and check the temperature?” – Jon Scott, 2015 Ford F350
“For me, minimal tech. I bought my truck camper used. If I ordered one new it wouldn’t have a television, microwave, or oven. For me, camping is cooking over a fire outside where you hike, bike, kayak, and fish! I’ll have to admit everyone has different ways to unwind. So the tech stuff could be a option package.” – J. Tseka, 2004 Silverado 2500 HD, 2012 Lance 850
“The opening paragraph was very intriguing, particularly regarding monitoring of battery and electrical functions. However, I then think of all the times I want to throw my iPhone across the room or tear my hair out while at the desktop.
Computers and I don’t have the best of relationships. Manufacturers should also consider why many of us buy truck campers in the first place; to get into the back country where larger RVs and trailers can’t go. That often means very rough roads, dust, mud etc. This would necessitate systems at least as bulletproof as those of your truck. I’m an analog sort of guy of a certain age, so I would tend toward old school displays.
I also understand that the manufacturers are running businesses that need to attract new customers (probably younger) to stay in business. These new buyers are likely more comfortable in a tech dominated environment than I am. So some hybrid of old and new, at the least, is probably inevitable.” – Gary Freedman, 2007 Chevrolet 2500, 2015 Palomino SS-1225
“I vote absolutely not, except for the small group of manufacturers all the way at the top of the RV chain (million dollar rigs). I do not believe the RV industry has the ability to design, supply, and install computer related stuff into RVs.
Plus the life expectancy of any computer related system is around four to five years. This idea does not fit into the RV industry’s design ideals where you design something once, and sell it at a profit for the next 20 to 30 years.
This system would need to continuously be developed, not just designed once on antique circuity to be left alone. Ultimately this system needs an interface like a cell phone app, but that takes a third party to continue to develop the application as well as the infrastructure on the web to allow this communications. But, what if you are out of cell phone service range?
You also need to think about all the people who are very happy with pushing that button that tells them three red lights on fresh water, four red lights on black water, turning the thermostat to air conditioner and picking a temperature, or throwing a switch to turn on the hot water heater.
Who will design this system? Let’s look at other attempts to modernize electronics in a camper. Search Google for any of the following:
RV automatic leveling system problems
RV slide out stuck
RV refrigerator control board problems
I work in the tech industry and, yes, high-tech can do some neat things, but I don’t feel today’s RV industry is the correct group to offer this.
Yes, I add high-tech to my own campers like trimeters, solar, digital HVAC controls, etc. I even have Roku streaming TV in my pickup camper, but I got to pick what parts I install, all at a cost that I want to afford. I don’t need to pay a premium on my next RV so I can have a color monitor or voice tell me that my black tank is two-thirds full (with paper hanging on that forty year old probe design) when I know I just emptied the tank.” – Will Rosenberry, 2015 Ram 3500, 2016 Arctic Fox 990
“I would rather things be kept most simple.” – Gary Seckel, 2006 Dodge 3500, 2008 Northern Lite Ten2000RR
“Some people are all tech and are willing to pay for it. Make it an option! I just wish Four Wheel would have better battery and water gauges then a light panel.” – Ed Osborn, 2007 Chevy Silverado 1500, 2012 Four Wheel Camper Raven
“I’ve recently bought this new to me camper and have been adding technology little by little. Next summer I’ll add lithium ion battery banks, solar panels, and tire pressure sensors. I plan to be able to monitor these items on an iPad which will be mounted on the wall with velcro (portable). I’m already using a couple Accu-Rite items with remote monitors and expect those technologies to grow in popularity. I’m all for a central control and monitor for all functions.” – Greg Harlow, 2006 Dodge Ram 2500, 2005 Northern Lite Ten-2000RD
“Cut the tech bit to a minimum. I do not need to be bugged. As it is, most of the monitors now installed have their faults; fresh water, grey water, black water, and battery. None of these seem to register right. I really would like the old visual approach.” – Lewis E Turner, 2003 GMC 2500HD, 2008 Northern Lite Special Edition
“More computers competing for my finite availability? Not while I’m recreating, please! Granted, I read books on Kindle and magazines on Nook, but I don’t need a computer between me and my camper’s basic functions. If nothing else, it’s just one more thing that can break down in the middle of nowhere (my preferred weekend destination) on Saturday night when all I wanted was a respite from the digital world. Please let me control my equipment directly, rather than limiting me to making suggestions to a computer (like Star Trek or the F-35).
The more complex a machine is, the more likely it is to break down. That’s my direct observation as a 20 year Air Force veteran and 20 years experience as a rancher/farmer!” – Walt Currier, 1999 Ram 2500, 2015 Palomino 1609
“I do a lot of dry camping. I do not want any high tech equipment or controls for appliances that can not be fixed or bypassed in the field. I do not want to have to special order a $400 control board. Keep campers to a minimal technology zone!” – Lloyd White, 2011 Ford F350, 2007 Lance 1010