Camping Without Boundaries
For the ultimate in RVing freedom, campers can go almost anywhere trucks can, and the latest models offer everything from multiple slideouts to a king-size bed
To many of us, RVing means freedom — the freedom to pull up stakes at the drop of a hat and camp anywhere we choose. But for most RV owners, that idyllic “anywhere” is restricted by a campground’s ability to accommodate our often sizable RVs. That’s where truck campers truly shine. As an RV that mounts in the bed of a pickup, a truck camper adds relatively little length to your truck, and therefore allows more freedom to roam. In fact, it’s highly likely that, if your truck can physically reach an off-the-grid destination, your camper can, too — height and width clearances permitting, and assuming the truck is properly sized and equipped for the additional weight.
Looking back, truck campers have typically been thought of as the cute little brothers of travel trailers and fifth-wheels, adept at imitating characteristics of their larger brethren but ultimately coming up short in terms of comfort and convenience. The main reason, of course, is size. A truck camper must fit into the truck bed, so the living area is restrained somewhat to the truck-bed dimensions, plus some side and end overhang areas, along with the cabover portion, which normally houses the sleeping quarters. Ride and handling are other hurdles. A fully loaded, well-equipped camper can markedly affect a truck’s stability and braking distance.
As manufacturers have become more innovative and the suspension technology, payload and stopping power of trucks have consistently increased, truck campers have evolved perhaps more than any other RV type. Buyers today can find multiple-slideout models with floor lengths of nearly 12 feet that contain dry baths, theater systems and full kitchens. Of course, larger campers necessitate larger vehicles (not to mention deeper pockets), but even the more compact models are a vast improvement over the previous generation.
See for yourself on the pages that follow. We’ve rounded up 20 of the top truck-camper brands — manufacturers of everything from spartan pop-ups to spacious hard-sides that will turn owners of other types of RVs green with envy as you make your way to remote campsites their towable counterparts couldn’t even dream of reaching.
Aptly named Alaskan Camper got its start in 1950 when Don Hall and his wife, Irene, designed a truck camper specifically for traveling the Alaska Highway. Today, Alaskan truck campers continue to utilize four hydraulic pistons to raise (for camping) and lower (for travel) the hardshell top from the hardshell lower half. The company often customizes its standard units based on customers’ needs.
360-748-6494 | www.alaskancamper.com
Adventurer LP (ALP) has been building truck campers since 1969 and is now based in Yakima, Washington. The company’s current Adventurer lineup includes the 80GS, an 8-footer with a slideout, and the 80RB for shortbed trucks. ALP also makes the Eagle Cap brand, high-end slideout campers with some surprising features like a king-bed floorplan.
509-895-7064 | www.amlrv.com
Bigfoot introduced its first truck camper in 1978, emulating fiberglass boats made using a top and bottom fiberglass shell. Fiberglass RVs weren’t new, but back then most had an exposed wood floor. Bigfoot built the first two-piece fiberglass truck camper, and the combination of real fiberglass and laminated construction eliminated the need for a framed structure. Today, the British Columbia manufacturer utilizes its original shell construction on nine floorplans, with models for shortbed, regular and longbed trucks.
250-546-2155 | www.bigfootrv.com
After more than three decades at Northstar Campers, run by his family for four generations, Rory Willett went out on his own to found BundutecUSA in 2014 and build truck campers for export to Australia. Willett now offers the BunduCamp line of off-road campers to North American buyers from his Iowa factory. Various models are available for midsize, half-ton and three-quarter-ton trucks, all with the option of a pop-up-hardtop roof.
319-234-0071 | www.bundutecusa.com
Born and raised in the Lone Star State, Capri Camper builds the entry-level Cowboy, America’s top-selling rodeo truck camper, according to the company. The no-cabover camper is used by a number of professional bronco riders and steer wrestlers to travel the circuit while hauling a comfortable place to sleep. The 47-year-old custom manufacturer also makes the roomier Cowboy XL and a couple of larger cabover models, available for various truck beds. Campers for hunters and anglers are in the works.
254-728-3226 | www.capricamper.com
Originally a truck-camper dealer, EZ Lite started designing and selling its own brand of low-profile pop-up and hard-side campers in 1988. Custom models feature name-brand components and are available directly from the company’s El Cajon factory in San Diego County, California.
800-509-4703 | www.ezlitecampers.com
Based in Northern California, 15 miles from Sacramento, Four Wheel builds pop-up truck campers that are significantly more refined than when the company started back in 1972, but the fundamental concepts haven’t changed: simplicity, durability and light weight. Aluminum framing and skin keeps the company’s five lines of campers on the light side, while also giving them the ability to flex for greater strength and durability.
800-242-1442 | www.fourwh.com
In business since 1969, Hallmark sells factory-direct pop-up truck campers from its 30,000-square-foot facility in Fort Lupton, Colorado, north of Denver. The company’s nine models of lightweight, low-profile, four-season campers all feature a molded fiberglass composite frame and a one-piece molded fiberglass roof for durability.
877-659-5753 | www.hallmarkrv.com
Based in Bend, Oregon, Host dates back to 2000 when the company was started by the families that founded luxury motorhome manufacturer Beaver Coach. Although Beaver closed in 2009, Host continues to manufacture fully outfitted, multi-slide luxury truck campers with residential-style amenities and three-year structural warranties. Popular models include the Mammoth, Aspen, Chinook and Everest.
541-330-2328 | www.hostcampers.com
Fresh off celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, Lance continues to be a major player in the truck-camper market and is not content to rest on its laurels. The Southern California manufacturer offers four-season, multi-slide campers designed using 3D CAD and CNC techniques. Azdel polypropylene-and-fiberglass panels do away with mold and rot, and imported Lite Ply lightens the load. At the top of Lance’s nine-model lineup, the spacious 1172 features full-wall and rear-wall slideouts. The smallest Lance, the new 650, was designed for shortbed half-ton trucks (see “What’s Hot for 2016” on page 62).
661-949-3322 | www.lancecamper.com/truck-campers
Since 2002, Little Guy Worldwide has been known for its specialized teardrop trailers. That changed last year when the Ohio company introduced the Cirrus, a truck camper that uses European concepts and wood-free frame construction (see “What’s Hot for 2016”).
877-545-4897 | www.cirrus-truckcamper.com
As its name implies, Indiana-based Livin’ Lite manufactures lighter-weight RVs using all-aluminum construction, which not only keeps the pounds off but also eliminates the possibility of dry rot associated with wood-based frames. A subsidiary of Thor Industries, Livin’ Lite offers six floorplans in its ultralight, hard-side Camplite brand and recently introduced a line of Ford-licensed aluminum truck campers (see “What’s Hot for 2016”).
260-593-3850 | www.livinlite.com
In business since 1989, British Columbia’s Northern Lite Manufacturing knows a thing or two about keeping the cold out of truck campers. Each of its four-season molded-fiberglass campers comes with thermal-pane windows, a solar panel, and a heated basement and holding tanks. The company builds four lines of campers, all backed by an impressive six-year structural warranty. Special editions include Northern Lite’s flagship 10-2 EX, which earned Best Truck Camper of the Year distinction for the 2016 model in Truck Camper Magazine’s latest Readers’ Choice Awards.
800-887-5342 | www.northern-lite.com
With more than 60 years’ experience manufacturing truck campers, Cedar Falls, Iowa-based Northstar Campers now draws on the fourth generation of the R.C. Willett family to manufacture lightweight pop-up and hard-wall campers for midsize and full-size pickups and three-quarter-ton flatbeds. The company keeps abreast of the latest construction techniques and trends, including cabover-less truck campers. New for 2016 is the Vista, a half-ton-ready camper-sans-cabover.
319-233-3461 | www.northstarcampers.com
La Grande, Oregon, RV manufacturer Northwood was founded in 1993 by Ron Nash with the goal of building rugged four-season RVs. The 2016 Arctic Fox lineup has eight floorplans and full-wall slideouts, and is a top seller in the industry. The likewise popular but lighter weight Wolf Creek brand, with two floorplans, complements the Arctic Fox as a non-slide option for light-duty trucks. All Arctic Fox and Wolf Creek models feature an aluminum superstructure, heated and enclosed tanks, high-efficiency LED utility lighting, residential-style cabinets utilizing solid-wood components, and a one-piece, roof-to-truck-bed construction with a fiberglass cabover nose.
800-766-6274 | www.northwoodmfg.com/tuck-campers
A smaller niche builder of about 150 truck campers per year, Outfitter RV Manufacturing sells factory-direct from its location in Longmont, Colorado. Outfitter campers are built to order and offer features like composite materials, a low profile and a pop-up “basement,” where the holding tanks are located in an insulated compartment for four-season use. A side-door model is also available.
970-535-9421 | www.outfittermfg.com
Palomino RV got its start back in 1978 and is now a division of Forest River offering two lines of truck campers, each with a dozen floorplans. Backpack Edition campers feature well-appointed interiors and plenty of room to stand up (see “What’s Hot for 2016”), and Real-Lite models offer a bit more in terms of luxury and convenience. Both lines come in soft-side pop-up models and two hard-side options.
269-432-3271 | www.palominorv.com/truckcampers
Phoenix Campers is a Colorado-based factory-direct manufacturer that draws on more than 40 years of family-owned experience. In 2007, Phoenix began offering what it calls the first fully interactive custom-ordering process. Today, the company specializes in custom-built off-roading campers for a wide range of vehicles, including the Honda Ridgeline, and three base models are available — slide-in, flatbed and chassis-mount.
303-286-3921 | www.phoenixpopup.com
Located in New Paris, Indiana, and family-owned and operated since 1998, Travel Lite builds more than 30 truck-camper floorplans, including the trendsetting cabover-less Rayzr (see “What’s Hot for 2016”). Models include hard-wall, pop-up and slideout versions for midsize, half-ton and three-quarter-ton trucks.
855-831-3525 | www.travellitecampers.com
The brainchild of a chef of 20 years and his graphic-designer wife, the XPCamper is in its fourth year of production. The aerodynamic pop-up raises hydraulically in less than a minute and offers a galley, queen bed, dinette, toilet and shower, and lots of storage. From the two-burner cooktop to the 40-gallon freshwater tank, heating and hot water are diesel-powered. Three models are available, and a fourth is on the way.
530-274-1957 | www.xpcamper.com
What’s Hot for 2016
Lance Camper 650
Named one of the Top Debuts for 2016 by RVBusiness magazine, Lance’s new 650 shortbed truck camper is designed for half-ton pickups with 5- and 6-foot beds, but that doesn’t mean it feels that way inside. With a standard wet weight of 1,842 pounds, a floor length of 6 feet 10 inches and an interior height of 6 feet 9 inches, the surprisingly spacious 650 sleeps three and can accommodate even more for meals or entertainment, all from the bed of the most commonly owned class of trucks. Appointments include a tankless water heater, ducted heat, a one-piece TPO roof and radius, dual-pane tinted-acrylic windows. Lite Ply framed cabinets and a Bluetooth-enabled audio system are standard equipment. MSRP starts at $19,857.
To drive home the go-anywhere capabilities of its latest truck camper, Lance built a project camper, the 650 Overland Edition. The beefed-up Overland starts with the 650 but adds off-road equipment from some of the top companies in the industry, including a Hellwig sway bar, Thule rack, T-Rex grille and Rigid LED lighting, all of which add up to an impressive, souped-up package that, although not currently available to the public, may be down the road.
Little Guy Cirrus 800
Little Guy Worldwide designed the all-new hard-side Cirrus as a higher-end shortbed truck camper with a unique approach to detail and amenities. Making use of European concepts, materials and appliances, the Cirrus 800 has features not normally seen on this side of the pond, including a front window that opens, a fold-down bathroom sink,a sub-floor “convector” heating system and Euro-inspired LEDlighting throughout the interior.
The remaining list of innovative features reads like an IKEA catalog, including Horrex shade-and-screen systems, Alde hot water and central heat, and an Alde radiant-heat panel in the bathroom. There’s a queen bed with a Froli Sleep System and a convertible dinette perched atop a Fawo table base. These well-constructed, top-notch appointments meld nicely with the wood-free construction (save for imported Lite Ply cabinets), Fiamma awning, Fan-Tastic Vent fans, Norcold refrigerator, microwave convection oven and kitchen sink with a foldaway faucet.
The Cirrus won the 2015 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Truck Camper Innovation of the Year in Truck Camper Magazine. Base MSRP is $33,900.
Livin’ Lite Ford Truck Campers
The Ford F-150 has been the top-selling truck brand overall for the past three decades, so it was only a matter of time before the venerable automaker teamed up with a trusted RV manufacturer. The all-new Ford-branded, aluminum-constructed truck campers from Livin’ Lite are clearly designed with Ford F-150 enthusiasts in mind, featuring numerous design cues taken from the truck’s aluminum-clad body.
Ford truck owners will admire things like the familiar oval logo on embroidered seat cushions and exterior graphics, F-Series-style wheels and an automotive-inspired window in the front fiberglass cap. What they might not immediately notice but are sure to appreciate are the solid-surface countertops, high-end entertainment system, aluminum-framed cabinets, extruded aluminum floor and electric camper jacks.
Livin’ Lite’s Ford-licensed truck campers are available in six models with floor lengths ranging from 6 feet 7 inches to 11 feet 6 inches. Highlights include the 9.2 floorplan, which offers a built-in step/bumper, and the 11S floorplan, which comes in a split-bath configuration. MSRP ranges from $22,393 to $32,193.
Palomino Backpack Body Armor Edition
At first glance, the Palomino Backpack SS-550 Body Armor Edition for half-ton trucks represents a lightweight truck camper with a decent amount of storage and sleeping space, not to mention a refrigerator, a two-burner stove and a 55-inch one-piece door.
The “Body Armor” part of the package takes things a step further with a liberal coating of Line-X spray-on bedliner material, giving the exterior and undercarriage an added layer of protection. The Body Armor deal is available only on the SS-550 floorplan and will set you back a few bucks, but the extra $3,493 pays for the protective coating and the standout olive-green “camo” color.
Intended to appeal to off-road enthusiasts, Body Armor Edition Backpack campers have a standard electric roof-lift system with an optional remote control, a queen bed and a battery-charger port. Included as part of the mandatory Backpack SS package are a furnace, fridge and LED interior lighting. Options include an 11,000-Btu air conditioner and electric jacks. Base MSRP is $9,759.
Travel Lite Rayzr
What do you get when you cross a camper shell with a truck camper? The answer is something like the affordable new Travel Lite Rayzr, a truck camper that forsakes the cabover and rear overhang associated with this type of RV but still offers sleeping and storage space. Called a “canaper” — half canopy, half camper — by some industry insiders, the Rayzr fits in almost any half-ton pickup bed, including 5½-footers, making it an option for truck owners who aren’t interested in upsizing their vehicle. They can even close the tailgate after the Rayzr has been installed.
One of RVBusiness’ Top Debuts for 2016, the Rayzr features a one-piece fiberglass wrap on the roof and front, LED lighting, a corrugated vinyl bottom board and LP-gas cylinder, with options including a CD stereo, hand-hung fiberglass gelcoat exterior and a side-mounted air conditioner. Of the four configurations — SS (Super Sleeper), FK (Full Kitchen), FB (Front Bed) and FB-M (Front Bed Midsize) — all but the SS offer kitchen amenities. Wet weights range from 885 pounds to 1,075 pounds. Base MSRP is $5,595.