Over the years we have participated in many conversations with fellow truck campers about the concept and appeal of tiny homes. Eventually someone always says, “What’s the appeal of a tiny home? Truck campers have all the amenities they have, and are more practical, portable and versatile. I don’t get it”.
The answer, I believe, is three things; perception, design, and aesthetic.
First, the public doesn’t perceive truck campers (or any RV type) as house equivalents. Folks would never look at their house and say, “It’s a big RV”. Nor do they look at an camper or RV and say, “It’s a tiny house”. In the mind’s eye of consumers, RVs and houses are apples and oranges.
Second, where RVs are laid out with RV design sensibilities, tiny homes are laid out with residential design sensibilities. This is a bit abstract, but there’s a very clear difference in the way RVs and residences are laid out and designed. Where tiny home designers might read Dwell Magazine or Architectural Digest for design inspiration, RV designers tend to study other RVs.
Third, RVs are generally behind the times in terms of interior design. In stark contrast, tiny homes are often cutting edge in modern design. This may be the most obvious difference, at first blush.
Between the RV versus house perception, the RV versus house layout and design sensibilities, and the stark contrast in RV interiors versus modern tiny homes, it’s no wonder the public perception is night and day between RVs and tiny homes.
Enter the 2019 Rugged Mountain Granite 11RL. The layout sensibility is 100-percent old school RV. The interior design is 100-percent modern tiny home. Never before has there been a more interesting challenge to the truck camper versus tiny home debate.
We took this opportunity to ask a big question. This week’s Question of the Week was, “Can a truck camper be a tiny home?”
When we published this question on Tuesday, I said to Angela, “Readers might take this question in several different directions.” Well, they did, and we learn a lot from the way readers understood and answered.
“Yes, a truck camper can be a tiny home. A tiny home with more experience and versatility. Truck campers have weight limitations, but they’re purposeful. Both are open to adventures and discoveries. Take your pick.” – Serge Ducharme, 2006 GMC 3500, 2001 Lance 930
“Absolutely! With the amount of storage our camper has it lives like a tiny home. That is in an 8’11” camper. We are amazed at how little you can get by with, and feel like you’re living large!” – Brad Lyon, 2015 Ram 3500, 2012 Chalet 85RS
“Actually, we are using our Bigfoot as a home while our new house is being built. But, a truck camper cannot be a tiny home. Tiny homes are a fad while truck campers are here to stay. Truck campers are built to specifications and regulations while tiny homes are not. I love my Bigfoot, but would not own a tiny home.” – Kathy Moore, 2016 Ford F350, 2005 Bigfoot 25c9.4SB
Editor’s Note: Some tiny homes, including Rugged Mountain RV’s parent company, Tiny Idahomes, are built to RVIA specifications and meet all associated regulations.
“It depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.. A truck camper is not a tiny home. While the definition of tiny home is unclear, and consequently un-coded, by implication and practice, it is a residential, and thereby, permanent dwelling. An RV is a temporary dwelling as defined by the codes that govern its certification. Decor does not define a product.” – William Durkee II, 2005 Tundra, Shell
“I am retired at 77 years old and I am now traveling solo around the USA in a roomy Northern Lite 9-6 Q SE camper. Life is great. I have a shower, toilet, sink, stove, refrigerator, kitchen table and bed. They are only a few steps apart. I can clean the entire living area in 20 minutes once a week.
I even have a portable washing machine and spin dryer combination that easily stores in the closet space. I have a laptop, television, and radio at my finger tips.
I removed the Ram 3500’s rear seat and replaced it with a raised platform to support four large storage containers; two are for extra food and two are for off road motorcycle riding gear and motorcycle maintenance needs. Plus, I have three 7-gallon drinking water containers. Under the platform is an 18-inch tall space for lots of easy to reach extra stuff. I love this tiny home – sans yard work.” – Gaston Belanger, 2017 Ram 3500, 2017 Northern Lite 9-6 Q SE
Editor’s Note: Sounds like heaven, Gaston! Love it.
“I think a tiny home is more like a travel trailer. They have wheels under them. They look more residential. Thus, they look more like a park model. On the other hand, ever since the creation of truck campers people have been living in them full-time. So yes, a truck camper is a tiny house.” – Lloyd Thomure, 2000 GMC Sierra 2500, 1994 Lance Squire 8000
“Yes, a truck camper can be a tiny home, and many people are using them as such. Look on YouTube at all the people that are full-time in truck campers and other RVs. That’s my plan for the future!” – Ken McGill, 1989 Ford F-250, 1986 Real Lite 12-foot
“Our camper is a tiny vacation home that goes where we want to go including on rough roads. I think that living in a camper full-time would be too much togetherness for two people and a blue heeler. For that reason we tend to be spring, summer, and fall campers when we can spend much of the time outside.” – Laurel and Howard Wilson, 2018 Ford F350, 2016 Four Wheel Camper Shell
“Why not? I’m building a camper to go anywhere and stay indefinitely or for a long or short stay. My main living area is 8-feet x 14-feet = 112 square feet. A slide-out on each side is 3-feet x 8-feet x 2-feet = 48 square feet. The cabover section is 8-feet x 8-feet = 64 square feet. And a slide on each side of the cabover is 2-feet x 6-feet x 2-feet = 24 square feet. That’s a total area of 248 square feet. That will be my tiny home away from home.” – Randall Johnstun, 1965 GMC 3500, 2018 home built
Editor’s Note: Please contact us when you’ve completed your rig Randall. That sounds incredible.
“Most definitely. We have been living in ours for a year now. We like that we can be mobile, take our house and belongs with us. It has everything a tiny house has.” – David Fosburgh, 2012 Ford F350, 2017 Eagle Cap 1160
“A truck camper can be a tiny home, if it is treated as a shelter with amenities; kitchen, bathroom, etc.. A truck camper provides support for people who like to see what the world has to offer and don’t just stay inside all the time.” – Clifford Cizan, 2010 Ram 3500, 2013 Arctic Fox 1150
“We have recently sold our triple-slide fifth wheel trailer. Our only RV now is our Bigfoot camper. We have been living in our camper for almost two weeks and are comfortable.
We like the amount and placement of windows in our camper, plus the skylight. All of that brings in natural light. We like that we can boondock for a number of days. We like the compactness of our unit. We don’t care for the short backs of our booth dinette. And we are getting used to showering in a compartment a bit bigger than a phone booth!” – Rick Brundrige, 2015 Chevy Silverado 3500HD, 2000 Bigfoot 25C9.6
“Yes, if it is a Granite RL! I love the white wood cabinets and the sink, and all the other home-like touches. Hopefully more truck camper manufacturers will follow Rugged Mountain’s lead.” – Cheryl E. Lane, 2006 Bornfree Motorhome
“Well, maybe. If I were to have a tiny home, it would be at a permanent location. It would be a ‘Room with a View’ and I would want it to be bigger than a truck camper.
As far as interior looks go, you have about 100 to 140 square feet to work with. Make anything you want. It could be like a Gypsy cart with all-natural wood trim, or a Circus. It can be wide open. I like the tiny home look in a camper and was looking around to see what I can do on mine to give it that look.
Maybe with both you could have a hamster tube connecting your truck camper and tiny home. Just joking, of course.
From the pictures I’ve seen of tiny homes, I’d love one. If I am a lottery winner, I could move the tiny home like a snowbird, every six months or so.” – Frank Poole, 2016 Ram 5500 HD, 2016 Arctic Fox 990
“I believe truck campers are tiny homes. I could full-time in my truck camper. I think once you do it for a little while and overcome the learning curves, anyone could make it happen. Truck campers now have everything you need. Plus, with solar technology, inverters and battery systems, hooking up isn’t all that necessary unless you need air conditioning.” – Jacques Bonaparte, 2000 GMC K3500, 2018 Camplite 8.6
“Our truck camper was a home for two adults, a dog, a cat, and a litter box for three weeks while we were between homes. That may have been enough of making a truck camper our home of any size. We survived, but there were no luxuries. Some former necessities were also dropped.” – Philip Tron, 2009 Chevy 3500, 2012 Lance 1050
“Yes, absolutely. We are full-time in ours.” – Bruce Bowens, 2015 Ram 3500, 2017 Eagle Cap 1165
“Yes, a truck camper can be a tiny home, but it might not be something people should do forever. Small RVs are not designed by the manufacturers to sustain human habitation for long periods. I would have concerns about proper air flow and quality. Eventually the camper will start to deteriorate. Just my opinion!” – Bill Gahafer, 2008 Ford F450, 2013 Lance 1181
“No.” – Vince, Ram, Custom
“Yes, they can by tiny homes, and the law reads the castle doctrine is upheld in it even if you are non-resident camping. Most of the tiny homes we see on TV shows have trailer wheels, but I haven’t seen one yet with a slide or built-in generator.
Tiny homes need a specialized truck and trailer to move them. Truck campers are designed to move easily with consumer grade trucks. Truck campers, I would hazard a guess, are designed to move from place to place in the thousands of miles range. Tiny homes look like they would start to come apart if moved more than a few times in their lifetime and at anything near a 1,000 mile distance.
Maybe that’s the main difference. Truck campers can move easily thousands of miles by their owners. Tiny homes cost thousands of dollars to move even short distances.” – Richard Noll, 2001 Dodge Ram 3500, 2015 Arctic Fox 11.5
Editor’s Note: Tiny Idahomes, Rugged Mountain’s parent company, builds tiny homes with slide-outs. There’s an example on the Tiny Idahome homepage.
“Sure thing! This past weekend I gave a few tours of my mobile apartment. Folks who aren’t familiar with truck campers are amazed at how much usable space and storage these things can have. Of course not all truck campers are as big as my Lance 1181, but in that size class the space is totally great. So, yes, a truck camper totally is a tiny house. Mine is to me.” – Mark Joslin, 2006 Ram 3500, 2005 Lance 1181
“Yes, we believe a truck camper can be a tiny home. We can do everything in our truck camper that we need to do in a home (or a tiny home). We can cook, sleep, use the toilet, shower, stay warm and cool, and watch television. Plus, we can do these things any place we can park a pickup truck.
We have a 30-foot Airstream trailer, and we can do everything in our Northstar truck camper that we can in our trailer. Of course, the Northstar truck camper is more flexible relative traveling in the backcountry and going into big cities. Our truck camper rig is so flexible that we can get most places we want to go with the camper mounted.
Our assessment of the tiny homes we see on TV is that they are not designed to go 65 miles per hour for thousands of miles, and could have weight and balance issues.” – Firman Schiebout, 2017 Ford F-350, 2013 Northstar 9.5 Igloo U
“Maybe, maybe not. Amy and I spent five months in our previous Lance when our house was remodeled because the house was unlivable at the time.
Having said that, we live in a zoned community and tiny homes are not a permitted use for a number of reasons. This is mainly because tiny homes are not built to BOCA code (Building Officials Code Administrators) which is the accepted standard for residential construction. There are other less important reasons for our community’s prohibition of tiny homes, but that is the main reason.
Secondly, as a property owner and tax payer (real estate taxes), I would not want someone living in a truck camper or tiny home not contributing to the tax base. That is unfair and illegal as well. Truck campers are for camping, not permanent living structures.” – Daryl Davis, 1997 Ford F350, 2014 Palomino SS-1500
“My truck camper is my tiny home. I downsized to it last September from a 37 foot fifth wheel. I am very comfortable living in it and traveling with it. It does not have the stress factor that a fifth wheel has.” – Greg Vickery, 2015 Chevy Silverado 3500 HD, 2016 Eagle Cap 1165
“We have a permanent home in a beautiful wilderness setting. We love it and have no plans of letting it go. But, from our limited experience so far, I would say yes! We’ve only traveled for a month at a time, but it is always the most peaceful and pleasant experience. Beginning this fall, we’ll be traveling for more extended times and be able to get a better feel for this idea.” – Ken Pastorius, 2015 GMC Denali 3500, 2012 Arctic Fox 1150
“Not only can it be, it is. I originally bought my used camper for travel when I retired. But I had to put that off and that means I have to keep working here in Silicon Valley. With the cost of housing sky high, (think of a burned out house selling $100k over asking price at $900k) and rents for a studio in the $2k range, I decided to use my camper to live full time in the parking lot at work.
I am not alone as many others (including local police officers) do the same instead of commuting more than hours one-way to places they can afford. I have shower/locker room facilities available. My friends and co-workers may tease me, but I get the last laugh when I keep my paycheck. When I walk out I am in bed five minutes after I get off work. I love my Four Wheel Camper and have paid it off already.” – L.J., 2013 Toyota Tacoma, 2015 Four Wheel Camper Fleet
“Absolutely – why not? I consider mine an Ultralight Tiny Home.
It has all the features of a tiny home, at about one-third of the weight. If I so desire I can tow a small shed (enclosed trailer) behind it – you know, for all that yard stuff.” – Darryl M, 2017 Ford F-350, 2016 Lance 995