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Van or Truck Camper?


MountainGal
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On 2/19/2018 at 6:43 AM, Chalkie said:

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. 

Exactly! That's what I'm trying to avoid.  :D

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On 2/19/2018 at 12:34 PM, Yarome said:

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.

Yarome, would you say that a 1-ton truck can handle all that weight without stressing the frame?  I've always kinda wondered that, as I've seen several that seem to droop a bit under their top-heavy load.  But I really like all the truck camper advantages that you mentioned here. 

 

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On 2/19/2018 at 6:16 PM, Jaydrvr said:

(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

Thanks Jay.  Yes, I've thought about having to go outside a truck camper to access one's living quarters-- and that makes me slightly nervous.  I'm a true minimalist (everything I own fits in my Suburu), and I've driven a 1-ton extended cab dually with a 5th-wheel trailer, so either a van or truck camper would be easy for me to operate.  I guess it's the self-containment aspect that I'm trying to figure out.  Haha.  So are you voting for the van?

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On 2/19/2018 at 7:34 PM, Pat & Pete said:

Just throwing this out here : 

We recently had a lone female neighbor that had a nice truck camper . When asked how she liked it , she said it's OK , but , if I had to do it over , I'd opt for a small class C . 

She did need help when ever the camper was removed or when being mounted on the truck .

That's a truly helpful consideration, Pat & Pete.  Thank you! 

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On 2/20/2018 at 7:27 PM, rtate said:

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. 

Yes, we should be friends!  :rolleyes:  It sounds like we're quite similar.  And like your friend, I'd probably fit into the category of spartan minimalist (everything I own fits in my Suburu).  You brought up some very good thoughts about the advantages of your truck camper (the ease of having your 1-ton truck worked on without your "home" being in the shop-- that's a huge one!!).  And I do like the 4x4 and high clearance.  (I've always been a pickup truck gal.)  As a single woman, have you experienced anything harrowing while camping that made it frightening to leave your living quarters and go outside to access your truck? 

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4 hours ago, MountainGal said:

Yarome, would you say that a 1-ton truck can handle all that weight without stressing the frame? 

How well, of course, would depend on your rigs configuration (options package, engine, gear ratio, DRW/SRW, etc.), but it's pretty fair to say that a decently equipped 1-ton dually diesel could pretty much handle, if not all, a darn near majority of any truck camper you could throw at it without a great deal of stress.

Since you've already had experience with a DRW 1-ton 5'er tow package... a TC would be a cake walk for you. Being a bit top heavy is much more of a concern in the backwoods than it is on pavement. Not to say that a high winds area might not get you rocking, but it's still going to be more stable than a 5'er or TT. Just like a 5'er or TT though you always have the option to tuck in somewhere for pie and coffee until the worst of it passes.

Given the original option between a van and TC a TC wins for me. Between a TC and TT.... hands down TT. As theeyers said... even a small one will give you more living space, storage, and frees up your truck bed for additional cargo, which can come in quite handy if you're full-timing it. I would also add that hooking up a TT is much easier than loading a TC. You'll also be looking at larger holding tanks, LP, roof top real estate (if solar is of interest), options for a full size dry bath, not having to climb up/down to bed, etc.

You mentioned safety. I don't think I can be a fair judge of that other than to say that I've never felt threatened. Being able to just pull off quickly in a TC is also assuming that your TC is already loaded... correct. ;)

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8 hours ago, MountainGal said:

An Airstream was my original decision. ~~~~~~

  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?

 

To address the Airstream question, if you check you will find that while they do last for a long time they are also the most expensive travel trailer on the market today. The Airstream Sport is only 16' long with no slides and has an MSRP of $46,000! Just one example of what you can get in less prestigious brands is the KZ Sportsman Classic at 18' long for $13,000 or even one of the all fiberglass trailers like the Casita for less than half that amount. To buy Airstream you need really deep pockets!

As to "someone menacing come creeping along" I am wondering where you plan to spend your time? And do you really think that you would somehow be safer in a truck camper that you have to run around to the cab to drive away? Even a van that you could get to the driver's seat isn't a wise thing to plan to stay in dangerous locations with as you may not wake up in time to drive. If you are that fearful I do not believe it wise to even consider the RV lifestyle. In more than 35 years of RV experience, I have never had reason to rear for my well-being. You are at far more risk walking down a city street than when sleeping in an RV park or campground. 

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I have voted for the truck camper given that you wanted an opinion on it vs. a van camper. However, like others have said I think in the long run you would be better off (and maybe happier) in a small travel trailer. A pickup would be my choice of tow vehicle and it would not have to be a big one depending on the size of the TT. We have friends that have a teardrop style trailer (that is about as minimalist as you can get) and still make extended trips in it. They pull it with a Mercedes sedan but often say they wish they had an SUV to go places they don't dare take the car. 

We have seen many RVers with TTs and they have a hard top shell on the truck that gives them a rolling storage locker so to speak. We saw one gentleman that had the most amazing organization in his truck. He had made most of it himself but he had all these different pull out trays to access the things in his truck. 

And I agree with Kirk. We have never felt unsafe in any RV park (including the nasty Tra-Park in Pecos) and for that matter when we have camped in the National Forest or on BLM land. 

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9 hours ago, MountainGal said:

Thanks Jay.  Yes, I've thought about having to go outside a truck camper to access one's living quarters-- and that makes me slightly nervous.  I'm a true minimalist (everything I own fits in my Suburu), and I've driven a 1-ton extended cab dually with a 5th-wheel trailer, so either a van or truck camper would be easy for me to operate.  I guess it's the self-containment aspect that I'm trying to figure out.  Haha.  So are you voting for the van?

Yes Gal, based on your stated parameters I'm voting for the van, but it would great if it were along the lines of Linda Sand's custom van. A minimalist wouldn't need more space and I think there will be times when the inherent security of self-containment is priceless, esp. for a single lady. Plus, the fuel economy difference is likely to be significant. Best wishes, Jay

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4 minutes ago, rm.w/aview said:

These sources of information can be helpful... https://www.truckcampermagazine.com & https://www.hellwigproducts.com & https://www.sdtrucksprings.com Hard wall or hard side truck campers will have more of an affect on being top heavy than pop up truck campers, and this differs between manufacturers as well. Over the road this top heavy characteristic will be felt in curving & twisty roads as this weight also has momentum. The products that are available lessen or eliminate this in normal conditions. During off road use, depending on terrain, this momentum is more noticeable and these products will benefit you here as well. These various suspension modifications are simply bolt-on, like air bags & shock absorbers & the products mentioned in the links above.

Bear in mind that certain trucks may be quite capable in their given configuration, but these products may still be considered improvements though they may not be considered required. The variables include your camper weight, your gear weight, and the other items that effect suspension & handling, as well as what you're looking for in ride characteristics. An example is air bags for the rear suspension and/or the 5th wheel hitch that some folks apply. Another is suspension modifications done to 5th wheels & travel trailers. These improved upon an already capable system, and probably improved ride characteristics and trailer longevity.

Trucks will have a cargo capacity which includes people, dogs, clothes, tools, and whatever else will be in the cab plus whatever your carrying in the bed. The manufacturers brochures will be optimistic on the numbers given to consumers regarding cargo capacity. Know that a vehicle's options plus what you normally carry will carve into this number. The number to start with is found inside the driver's door area, and is specific to each vehicle (the brochures only help focus on a certain category of truck, i.e. 3/4 ton, 1 ton, single rear wheel or dually). Regarding the truck camper, use the GVWR as your top end number. Lacking this you'll do the math on what your camper will have fully loaded plus the dry weight so commonly found in spec sheets. The more you look the more you see & learn, it's a fun & eye-opening process. All the best to you.

Truck campers do look top heavy, but in reality all the real weight is in the bed of the truck, [water and sewage tanks, batteries, chargers, food, generator  etc] Only real weight above the truck is the 80 or 90 lb air conditioner on the roof. The camper in the pic I posted, was a older shadow cruiser, with a toilet but no shower or water heater. and weighted about 2200 lbs ready to go. Within the trucks gvwr, but as I have had heavier campers, truck had the torsion bar adjustment, Rancho shocks, extra leaf springs, timbren overloads, and rear air bags. Full Banks performance kit made it easy to do mountain passes at 60. Most modern campers are unfortunately pretty heavy, and will need a 1 ton dually.

 

 

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35 minutes ago, rm.w/aview said:

The generic term of top heavy refers to the center of gravity being higher, with the associated weight & structure, in a truck/camper combo vs  a truck alone (or with trailer) and its effect on handling. It's nothing that can't be overcome or adapted to as it is simply a loaded truck ride handling circumstance. You mentioned Rancho shocks, what're thoughts on Bilsteins?

The bilsteins have a good reputation, I went with the Rancho 9000's because they are adjustable, so when I took my camper off, I could soften up the ride a little bit.

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15 hours ago, MountainGal said:

As a single woman, have you experienced anything harrowing while camping that made it frightening to leave your living quarters and go outside to access your truck? 

Nope. I exercise common sense but I don't fear the world or other humans. I check my surroundings before I open the door if I'm somewhere unfamiliar. I do have a back-up camera on the camper that has a display that I can bring inside to see/hear around my door and I've done that once or twice when unexpectedly overnighting at a rest stop. But that's all I can think of...

Glad to make a new friend! :D

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I have seen a truck camper where you could enter from the cab.  They had these in New Zealand where I rented one.   I don't think the camper was removable from the truck.

I selected a van because of the entry into the quarters without having to get out of the vehicle.   I would need help removing the camper from a truck unless there is a special lift that could do this.   It takes me less than five minutes if I am plugged in to move since I usually run off of tanks for water and sewer and fill/dump once a week or every two weeks.

 

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My vote would be to travel with a pickup camper. It's our favorite way to travel. Mostly I like it because you can fit into most parking spaces. As mentioned you can easily take it off the truck and use the truck to get around, always have a bed made up.  I drive from Alaska to AZ most winters (.down in November and back in March) and found it to be the best Alcan vehicle there is.

There isn't much storage in a camper or a van......so if get get done being a minimalist you can tow a cargo trailer to keep your "crap" in.

 

https://wheeldog.smugmug.com/2017-Alcan-Trip/i-2b4cKrR/A

 

 

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On 2018-02-22 at 10:23 PM, MountainGal said:

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. 

You didn’t mention what type of camping you plan on enjoying, but one huge advantage of a conventional RV trailer is being able to stay in a campground with water, sewer and electricity. 

Theres a lot to be said for creature comforts.   

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Well, you have received a lot of input.  Just taking a quick look it is apparent that most of the comments and advice come from people who have never owned or used either a truck camper or van camper.  My wife and I did a lot of research and then lived full time for 2 years in a TC.

Advantages of a TC are obvious.  We had a comfortable queen sized bed, lots and lots of storage, 3 burner stove, furnace, dual propane tanks, 30 gallons of water, cassette toilet, and a wet bath/shower, midsized refrigerator/freezer, microwave, solar system, vent fans, dinette table sitting up to 4 people (really only 2 comfortably), generator and A/C.  The TC was very comfortable, easily big enough for fulltime camping with 2 people.  With solar and 30 gallons of water, we could easily camp a week or longer in the boondocks. 

A van obviously has much less space and is more Spartan.  The biggest issue is absence of a shower.  You might be able to get by with a sponge bath, but at the end of a day of summer hiking a shower is all but essential.  I can easily do a Navy style shower with under 1 gallon of water and emerge totally clean.

The biggest disadvantages of the TC are size, weight and cost.  Even a small hard sided TC can easily hit 10-12 K pounds.  That means a diesel engine and 12-14 mpg. 

I think I should address a couple of other issues.  You should never camp in an area where you are at risk in going outside to enter the TC.  In years of travel I have only had to avoid a couple of seedy looking rest stops.  Second, do not plan on taking the TC off of the truck on a routine basis.  Many units fits tightly.  Others are not made for use when hanging from the jacks.  I also use the wheel wells for storage (extra boots, dirty laundry, paper/canned goods, etc).  In addition one major advantage is to always travel with your complete unit.  If you stop in the day, you have your kitchen and bathroom facilities with you.  I never use outhouses and even avoid public flush toilets.

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7 hours ago, JimK said:

it is apparent that most of the comments and advice come from people who have never owned or used either a truck camper or van camper.  My wife and I did a lot of research and then lived full time for 2 years in a TC.

Advantages of a TC are obvious.  We had a comfortable queen sized bed, lots and lots of storage, 3 burner stove, furnace, dual propane tanks, 30 gallons of water, cassette toilet, and a wet bath/shower, midsized refrigerator/freezer, microwave, solar system, vent fans, dinette table sitting up to 4 people (really only 2 comfortably), generator and A/C.  The TC was very comfortable, easily big enough for fulltime camping with 2 people.  With solar and 30 gallons of water, we could easily camp a week or longer in the boondocks. 

A van obviously has much less space and is more Spartan.  The biggest issue is absence of a shower.  You might be able to get by with a sponge bath, but at the end of a day of summer hiking a shower is all but essential.  I can easily do a Navy style shower with under 1 gallon of water and emerge totally clean.

The biggest disadvantages of the TC are size, weight and cost.  Even a small hard sided TC can easily hit 10-12 K pounds.  That means a diesel engine and 12-14 mpg. 

I think I should address a couple of other issues.  You should never camp in an area where you are at risk in going outside to enter the TC.  In years of travel I have only had to avoid a couple of seedy looking rest stops.  Second, do not plan on taking the TC off of the truck on a routine basis.  Many units fits tightly.  Others are not made for use when hanging from the jacks.  I also use the wheel wells for storage (extra boots, dirty laundry, paper/canned goods, etc).  In addition one major advantage is to always travel with your complete unit.  If you stop in the day, you have your kitchen and bathroom facilities with you.  I never use outhouses and even avoid public flush toilets.

It's obvious to me that you never had a conversion van. Being solo I did not need a queen-size bed and neither does the OP. I had more storage than I need including a hanging closet and two pantries. I also had a desk with a real office chair that was very comfortable. I prefer an induction burner to a propane stove; in  fact everything in my van ran off either solar or diesel so I never had to worry about empty propane tanks and I had a 7 cf refrigerator/freezer and a microwave/convection oven. I had 40 gallons of fresh water and 20 gallons each gray and black water with a flush toilet I didn't have to haul outside to empty. And a shower in my wet bath with a 2 1/2 gallon water heater so I never ran out of hot water while showering. And my diesel engine averaged 18 mpg. I not only had my kitchen and bathroom facilities with me when traveling I never had to go out in the rain to use them. A truck camper might still be the choice of the OP but it's not because your truck camper was a better rig than my van.

And I'm quite certain the current seller would accept less than her asking price because she offered me less than I was asking since that is typical of the seller/buyer relationship.

Linda Sand

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Seems like there is a lot of discussion based on "what's possible"'s and "rare case" examples to argue when it's really of no benefit to the OP. Presenting observations and experiences is probably more beneficial speaking in general terms when comparing rig styles.

Facts are... most conversion van's won't have 60gal's worth of holding tanks. Most conversions also won't have showers or flush toilets. A wet shower isn't entirely uncommon, but a flusher is going to be rare. Not that there are van's that don't, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Just like the TC that is, by design, not readily off/on loadable. The general "rule" is that they do.

JimK and noteven brought up a couple of good points.

You can speed up on/off loading your bay/s along with your TC by using bins, but you'll also lose a little space to the bins. I don't think anyone is actually arguing the "ease of use" of a van when it comes to on/offing a TC or hooking up a trailer hitch. The benefits of a TC (generally speaking... for many) often outweight the inconvenience when only looking between van's and TC's.

I don't think there would be too many that could argue that hitching a trailer is much easier and convenient than a off/on loading a TC... but that's a whole 'nother topic outside of the Van vs. TC discussion.

I "do" know folks that are perfectly happy with their van conversions. I would say though... most of them don't full time. They may go for several months at a time but have a "home base" to switch out gear for the changing seasons and/or activities. Of them... not many  use their van's for much more a place to eat and sleep. Personally, I don't know how they handle it when they have to "shut in" for a couple days at a time during exceptionally poor weather... or "have" to deal with exhausted tanks during intervals like that. To each their own.

IMO, it all comes down to personal comfort levels and RV lifestyle. Personally, I would never want a van. Too many limiting factors for how I like to RV. Not an all inclusive list but to touch on a cuople. I'm fairly tall so being able to stand upright and walk about the cabin without having to contort myself is important to me. I like a dry shower, larger water heater and holding tanks. A "spit" shower is fine... most of the time... but let's face it... when your a bit under the weather or especially achy it's nice to have the option to just enjoy a full on hot shower and climb into bed without having to wipe everything down first or cut your trip short and go into town because your tanks are exhausted. Besides... when your pushing the flu... who wants to be out driving or dumping waste tanks? Not to mention that battling condensation in such a small space for anything more than a spit shower would be a massive pain.

I keep a clean house, but to be entirely honest... even on a good day... having to wipe down my entire bathroom after a shower is not my idea of "fun".

I also like to cook. Eating simple one pot meals every day get's old quick, but cooking takes space. Juggling doll sized cutting boards and a single burner makes it enough of a chore, to me, that I wouldn't do it nearly as often as I like. 

I also don't like being dependent on "support services" every few days. Be it the grocery, dump station, taking on fuel or a cord. As a solo in a 25' trailer my typical limiting factor is fresh produce. ;) Fuel, tanks, reefer/dry food... I'm good for 30+ days, but man can only survive so long on canned and frozen veggies/fruits. :D That doesn't necessarily mean I only hit civilization once a month, but I have plenty of "wiggle" room and rarely have to travel out of necessity or go out of my way to find services... because I "must".

Then again, I prefer to spend my time in the "outskirts". Going in for grocery for me can be quite a drive. If I can avoid it, I prefer to not have to take my house with me just to do a grocery/mail run. If you spend all of your time in CG's near city/town centers it's not really such an ordeal.

All that said was simply to "qualify" my personal perspective on the van/TC/TT issue. Others perspectives "will" vary. However, it's easy to see where a van would never work for me. A TC would be a massive upgrade and much better fit, but for me, a TT is far and wide more condusive to my lifestyle.

Where the OP falls in there? Dunno! A van might be a perfect fit. It's often the not often discussed "little things" and personal lifestyle that really determine what "works" and what doesn't. Focusing in on only 1 or 2... deemed "critical" points (which may have little to no practical bearing on typical day-to-day living)... at the expense of all else (like having to get out of your truck to enter your TC or TT) can obfuscate some of those other factors that may change your RV experience from simply being "bearable" to truly "liveable".

I'll shut up now.  ;)

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