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Van or Truck Camper?


MountainGal
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While we have a 5th wheel, a truck camper would be my choice to answer your question. Theeyres had it right. I can't tell you how many times I have seen folks with smaller class B or C campers that are not pulling a toad that have to disconnect all their utilities just to go to the store. 

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10 hours ago, theeyres said:

The camper would win hands down. With the van you will have to break camp every time you want a loaf of bread. You can off load the camper when you will be staying in one place for awhile. I'd get a small trailer...but that's not your question.

2

I would strongly agree with this thought. Is there some reason to not consider a small travel trailer?

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I guess I'm the lone voter for a van. I liked having everything inside. I could camp in forests and deserts even with my limited ground clearance. I had my van custom converted so my tank capacities and refrigerator were larger than most vans. I liked to move a lot so doing errands was something to do on the way to my next destination. I had a lot of solar panels so unplugging to move wasn't something I needed to do when not in an RV park and even then it meant just pulling and storing an electrical cord and TRYING to remember to bring in my door mat. And I loved seldom having to worry about low tree branches.

If you are interested, my van's buyer has put it up for sale again at https://sportsmobile.com/preowned-sportsmobile-texas-inc/. It's the 2012 Sprinter that is the top listing today.

Linda Sand

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I would go truck camper, hands down, over a van also for all reasons previously stated. Also, full inside height throughout, slides are an option that expand your living space and depending on your rig, have a slight increase in cargo capacity. Not to mention larger engine options, massive flexibility "marrying" a rig to your "home", more robust drivetrain and braking systems... likely better insulation, easier levelling... better towing characteristics and capacity.

Can't think of much in the con category. Overall height is a trade-off for ground clearance and 4x4 option. Not really sacrificing much there, IMHO.

Initial cost will likely be higher but you also gain a great deal in overall capability.

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(Disclaimer) Not being an expert in either area (of campers), I have to wonder if gender might enter into this choice. OP did say she was a minimalist.. Ease of operation and self containment may well be higher priorities. Is there a safety concern connected with the truck camper by having to go outside to access your living quarters? I would think it's at least a consideration.. Jay

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When I did the AlCan a couple of years ago....there were a bunch of truck campers that were mounted on a trailer bed. One guy had a "deck" out back complete with lawn furniture as he went down the road!!

I think a small trailer is probably the best idea as mentioned by several folks. However, a truck camper on a trailer bed looks like the best of both worlds. When you need a truck camper....put it on the truck. Otherwise use it as a trailer.

I wonder if folks are afraid of a small trailer due to backing up and towing?? I would rather tow a trailer than have a heavy camper on a truck.

Edited by Vladimir
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15 hours ago, Yarome said:

I believe they call a non-removable truck camper a "Class C". ;)

No. It is a truck camper but it is not easily removable. Even the pros had trouble getting the camper centered in the bed when they put it back in. So the idea that you can just take it off and put it back on whenever you want to do so is not always true so should not be presented as an always option.

Linda Sand

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2 hours ago, sandsys said:

So the idea that you can just take it off and put it back on whenever you want to do so is not always true so should not be presented as an always option.

That's pretty much what they are built for and, in his case, is very likely an isolated situation. Possibly a bad build, improperly installed hold down or gear drive equipment, attempting to load on overly uneven ground, has an insert liner or overly thick/rough bed application applied... or simply "professionals"... but of what? 

I've seen some that may be a little tighter fit than others, but truck campers come in fairly standard sizes to fit between very standardized wheelwell clearances. It's not rocket science... and it IS what they are built to do so it's kind of akin to saying a 5er can't just be detached/reattached at will... "even the pros had difficultly with it."

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I'm a solo female traveler. I'm a minimalist. I prefer to hang out in the woods. We should be friends!

I LOVE my truck camper! I've never had a van so I can't speak to that but my Cirrus 920 + F350 dually is perfect for me. Pros for me were that I've got a comfy bed that always stays a bed, great kitchen with plenty of food storage and cooking space, self-contained for winter camping, 4x4 (used it just today when Garmin suggested a crazy routing out of a state park & I gave it a go because why not? I've got a 4x4!). Oh, and it's easy to load/unload the camper. I do it frequently. I have had obnoxious men set up lawn chairs to spectate (really, multiple times) and heckle the little woman driving the big truck but they shut up pretty fast when I load first try. Another pro - the camper and the engine are separate. Very easy to get a F350 worked on & I can keep my tiny house at the same time. 

Truck campers are less common than Class B or C's so there aren't as many people with experience with them but I encourage you to take a look. Lots of options. I'm pretty top-of-the-line in my Cirrus. I have a friend who loves his Four Wheel camper and is downright spartan. 

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20 hours ago, rm.w/aview said:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the picture of Doug's truck camper that's contained in the link that Linda provided explains why there's difficulty in readily removing the camper from the pick up. Go to the link and on the right side is "Travelin' Man" in Categories. There are pictures of his red truck & camper in action that may be helpful in coming to a conclusion.

The top third of Doug's camper in that picture is a canvas sided pop-up. You, obviously, lower that before dismounting  the camper.

Linda

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Linda, just from the photos, the problem appears to be that his pop-up camper was made for an older style straight sided truck bed. He has a newer flare sided bed so there would be, without serious modification, no way for the jacks to attach to the camper in order to lift or load it in/out of his truck bed. That's likely why the "pros" had so much trouble trying to support and guide the camper (likely with a forklift) and fit it into the truck.

Normally, you simply raise the camper up on it's lifts, back under it then let'r drop (reversing the process when off loading). Easy Peasy! Some systems incorporate a gear or electric driven winch system that makes it even easier to load. You only have to get part way under it and then it self guides itself into place like butta'.

If so, his setup is not typical, and by design, not intended for off/on loading. When talking truck campers, in general, that is not at all the case.

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On 2/19/2018 at 7:51 AM, Kirk Wood said:

I would strongly agree with this thought. Is there some reason to not consider a small travel trailer?

Actually, I had long planned on buying an Airstream due to their durability and longevity.  Then somewhere along the line I changed gears, deciding that a van or truck camper would be simpler-- and easier for me, as a single woman, to get away quickly if a sketchy situation presented itself.  Do you guys think I'm heading the wrong direction with this line of thinking, though?  Trailers definitely have some advantages. 

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On 2/18/2018 at 9:35 PM, theeyres said:

The camper would win hands down. With the van you will have to break camp every time you want a loaf of bread. You can off load the camper when you will be staying in one place for awhile. I'd get a small trailer...but that's not your question.

 

An Airstream was my original decision.  I changed my mind along the way, opting for the simplicity and fast get-away ability that vans and campers offer.  Back in my 20s I full-timed with my parents in a 5th wheel for 13-1/2 months.  We were relocating to another state and camped along the way while leisurely searching for our new home.  But during the ensuing 20 years of "stick and brick" living, I've been itching to return to RV living.  I loved it.  I was the family driver and the one who set up and broke down camp.  There was a lot that I liked about our trailer.  My parents are now gone, and this time I'm hitting the road alone.  I guess I'm a little spooked about being in a trailer, unhitched and all, should someone menacing come creeping along.  That may be an illogical concern, however.  Do you feel that a trailer's pros outweigh its cons?

 

 

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On 2/19/2018 at 8:14 AM, rm.w/aview said:

Van pros: Driver seat to home access, interior storage options, & cargo/passenger van can be built as a home to your desires. Van cons: Ground clearance, 4X4?, and when compared to pick up options there is less power and a smaller GVWR.

Truck Camper pros: Ground clearance, 4X4, power and higher capabilities re GVWR. Truck Camper cons: Height clearance depending on model, top heavy (noticeable off road... aftermarket items for controlling this), storage limitations (creative carry can compensate, especially with the larger cabs)

The areas that you like to frequent may dictate which vehicle would be best to choose. The further from pavement, the deeper into the woods, & the farther into some areas require more vehicle capabilities. At this point I'll add another pro for the pick up/truck camper with the addition of a proper winch that's rated accordingly.  I'd favor 4X4 done by the factory or licensed by the manufacturer over some aftermarket shop build. 

You had some really helpful thoughts here.  Thank you!  The winch is a terrific idea!  I'm glad you mentioned that.  What kind of after-market items would control the top-heaviness of a truck camper?  It's good to know that these exist.  I hadn't even been aware of that.  What are they called?

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On 2/19/2018 at 12:03 PM, sandsys said:

I guess I'm the lone voter for a van. I liked having everything inside. I could camp in forests and deserts even with my limited ground clearance. I had my van custom converted so my tank capacities and refrigerator were larger than most vans. I liked to move a lot so doing errands was something to do on the way to my next destination. I had a lot of solar panels so unplugging to move wasn't something I needed to do when not in an RV park and even then it meant just pulling and storing an electrical cord and TRYING to remember to bring in my door mat. And I loved seldom having to worry about low tree branches.

If you are interested, my van's buyer has put it up for sale again at https://sportsmobile.com/preowned-sportsmobile-texas-inc/. It's the 2012 Sprinter that is the top listing today.

Linda Sand

Hi Linda.  Your previous van, which you linked above, is beautiful!!  And such low mileage!  I'm not in the position to be able to afford such a lovely, new rig at this time. But I'm glad I got to see it.  Very nice!  You said some things here that I found helpful.  It's inspiring that you were able to camp in forests and deserts even with the limited ground clearance.  I like the way that you moved around a lot (that is my style, too), and how you did errands on the way to your next destination.  This is a sound mindset to adopt.  The solar panels make a world of difference, don't they?  I liked, too, your mention of seldom having to worry about low tree branches.  That's a benefit of van life that hadn't even crossed my mind.

 

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