Our top picks for those who want to maximize their RVing freedom — and the ability to tow a trailer when the need arises
RVers who want the most flexibility and maneuverability on where they can set up camp (and keep their environmental footprint as small as possible) while being safe and comfortable, are focusing on slide-in pickup campers. So, too, are RVers who need a way to be self-contained and have the freedom to tow a boat or a trailer loaded with ATVs, snowmobiles and other toys.
More than two dozen manufacturers build today’s newest pickup campers in North America. Among those manufacturers, you’ll find slide-ins available to fit just about every pickup from midsize to half-ton to one-ton, shortbed, longbed and flatbed models.
Like towables, pickup campers are available in a wide range of sizes and appointments: Some have all the luxuries of a nice hotel room while others provide the bare necessities. That said, be very mindful of the camper’s “dry” and “wet” weights, clearly stated on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT)-required label affixed on the outside of the camper, in relation to the maximum payload capacity of the pickup that’s going to be carrying it.
Also pay close attention to another NHTSA/DOT label affixed to a slide-in camper: “To estimate the total cargo load that will be placed on a truck, add the weight of all passengers in the camper, the weight of supplies, tools and all other cargo, the weight of installed additional or optional camper equipment, and the manufacturer’s camper weight figure. Select a truck that has a cargo weight rating that is equal to or greater than the total cargo load of the camper and whose manufacturer recommends a cargo center of gravity zone that will contain the camper’s center of gravity when it is installed.”
As a general rule for first-time camper buyers, the best slide-in for a pickup is one that has an empty (dry) weight at least 750 pounds less than the payload capacity of the pickup it’s riding on. That leaves room for the weight of passengers, gear, food and water, plus the tongue weight of the trailer if a trailer is being towed.
Overloading a pickup by putting on a slide-in camper that exceeds the truck’s payload capacity, gross axle weight rating (GAWR), or gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), is putting those in the pickup — and everyone sharing the road — at great risk. When you find a pickup camper that “fits,” take the extra precautions to have the appropriate suspension/handling upgrades installed. (See Truck Camper 101: How To Set Up and Go, www.trailerlife.com/lifestyle/truck-and-truck-camper-setup/.) Such aftermarket additions don’t increase any capacity. But they do make the pickup handle better with a camper installed.
Bundutec USA Wild
Innovative engineering and design in the 2021 BunduTec USA Wild place more weight forward in the camper for better center-of-gravity (COG) weight balance, and standard equipment now includes the Truma Combi Eco water heater/furnace typically only found in travel trailers and motorhomes. The Wild’s queen bed is cantilevered rearward 18 inches, creating a compartment directly behind the cab wall in the pop-up-style camper that houses the Truma Combi, batteries, fridge, 20-gallon freshwater tank and 5-gallon LP-gas cylinder. Moving the COG just 24.5 inches from the back of the pickup cab makes the camper more secure during off-pavement outings, according to the manufacturer. The low-profile camper uses wood-frame construction, which is said to improve durability in off-road use, and ¾-inch high-density foam insulation in the side walls and between the floor of the cabover and bed. The 2021 Wild has a two-burner stove in the galley, full wet bath and an exterior shower. The Wild can also be customized with special build requests. It’s a nice all-season slide-in camper for shortbed half-tons.
Exterior Length: 13′
Floor Length: 7′ 1″
Exterior Width: 6′ 11″
Interior Height: 6′ 6″ (open)/4′ 10″ (closed)
Exterior Height: 5′ 11″ (closed)
Freshwater Cap.: 20 gal.
Black-/Gray-Water Cap.: 4 gal./18 gal.
LP-Gas Cap.: 5 gal.
Approx. Wet Weight: 1,807 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $23,125
When it comes to all-out luxury in slide-in pickup campers, Host Campers’ flagship triple-slide Yukon 11.5 sets the standard. The 2021 model has a redesigned nose cap, dimmable LED lighting, tile backsplash, Oxygenics showerhead in the huge dry bath, 25,000-Btu furnace and Laguna multi-adjustable table bases to go with a long list of standard features. Opening the galley, rear and streetside slides makes the floor an impressive 8 feet wide. A queen bed is standard, with a king optional. New options include such items as a 9.7-cubic-foot 12-volt Norcold fridge, 2.5 kW Onan LP genset, Truma on-demand hot-water system, Winegard/Gateway internet booster, SeeLevel tank monitors for the tanks, and three levels of their popular “Off-Grid” packages that include multiple lithium batteries, solar panels and inverter/chargers to maximize stay-away time. The options and extras list is mind-boggling. Oh, and the claimed wet weight is 4,500 pounds, so think big dually when considering a rig to haul this beauty around.
Exterior Length: 19′ 3″
Floor Length: 11′ 8″
Exterior Width: 8′ (with slides closed)
Interior Height: 6′ 6″
Exterior Height: 9′ 10″ (with A/C)
Freshwater Cap.: 65 gal.
Black-/Gray-Water Cap.: 32 gal./51 gal.
LP-Gas Cap.: 15 gal.
Approx. Wet Weight: 4,500 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $58,561
Northwood Arctic Fox 990 LE
The Northwood Arctic Fox 990 Legacy Edition (LE) entered the premium slide-in camper market last year as the middle-size option of the Arctic Fox offerings. The 2021 model gets a 45-watt solar panel, frameless windows, one-piece countertop and dinette table, LED lighting on the rear awning, a “Phatt” exterior ladder for easier access to the roof and a cold-weather kit on the fridge to improve efficiency. The 990’s list of standard features and amenities is long. The layout and equipment list are first-class, featuring a dinette slideout, 7-cubic-foot two-way fridge, three-burner range, heater and air conditioner. It has a full wet bath, large black- and gray tanks, and a lot of storage. It’s also heavy, with a dry weight north of 3,000 pounds (3,450 pounds with the 53-gallon freshwater tank full), so this is a camper best suited for use with a dually or Ford F-450.
Exterior Length: 17′ 6″
Floor Length: 9′ 10″
Exterior Width: 8′ 1″
Interior Height: 6′ 7″
Exterior Height: 10′ with A/C
Freshwater Cap.: 53 gal.
Black-/Gray-Water Cap.: 43 gal./39 gal.
LP-Gas Cap.: 5 gal.
Approx. Wet Weight: 3,450 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $33,108
MORE HOT-IN-2021 TRUCK CAMPERS
Shopping for a slide-in camper is a lot like shopping for a new car or pickup; the choices are many, and narrowing down the prospects is time-consuming. Here are some more great prospects to consider.
The 2021 Adventurer 80RB, a self-contained camper with a wet bath, is the shortest and lightest of five models in the Adventure Campers line and is designed for half-ton super-shortbeds. It is four-season ready with features such as a 16,000-Btu furnace; heated, insulated and enclosed tanks; a dry bath; and 1-inch thick, foam-block-insulated walls. Other amenities include a queen bed, two-burner cooktop, 4-cubic-foot Dometic fridge, 45-amp battery charger and 12-volt DC/120-volt AC wired for A/C, microwave and sound-system options.
Floor Length: 8′
Approx. Wet Weight: 1,943 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $21,245
Eagle Cap 1200
The roomiest camper in the industry, according to the company, is the 2021 Eagle Cap 1200, with a 100-square-foot floorplan. The 21-foot, 5,477-pound (wet) slide-in camper comes with a California king bed, a large bath amidships, an 8-cubic-foot fridge/freezer, dual sofas with the option of theater-style recliners, a big galley with three-burner cooktop, and an abundance of storage inside and out. The 9-foot, 4-inch-tall camper has 6 feet, 4 inches of headroom and carries 66 gallons of freshwater to go along with the 34-gallon black-/gray tanks. A Ford F-450 would be a suitable candidate to haul this big boy.
Floor Length: 11′ 11″
Approx. Wet Weight: 5,477 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $53,060
Forest River Palomino Rogue
The 2021 Palomino Rogue is a pop-up-roof camper that provides the basic off-grid camping needs in a compact package. It comes in two styles, EB-1 and EB-2, with floor lengths of 6 feet, 11 inches and 6 feet, 6 inches, respectively. The larger EB-1 (with a 60-by-76-inch mattress) needs 45 inches of space between the wheel wells, while the smaller EB-2 (with a 60-by-72-inch mattress) requires just 39 inches. Both models have a two-burner stove, 3-cubic-foot fridge, 16-gallon freshwater tank, and a 5-gallon LP-gas. Neither has black-/gray tanks.
Floor Length: 6′ 11″ (EB-1) / 6′ 6″ (EB-2)
Wet Weight: 1,515 lbs. (EB-1) / 1,356 lbs. (EB-2)
MSRP, Base: $13,500 (EB-1) / $13,000 (EB-2)
Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers Hawk
Another new camper well-suited for half-tons is the 2021 Hawk Flat Bed Model from Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers. This is a fully self-contained, lightweight pop-up truck camper loaded with all the appliances and creature comforts budget-minded RVers seek such as a sink, stove, refrigerator, furnace, hot water, inside/outside showers, built-in cassette toilet, front dinette seating with swivel table and queen-sized cabover bed. The company offers models for flatbeds and midsize pickups.
Floor Length: 6′ 8″
Approx. Wet Weight: 1,616 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $24,395
Lance Camper 1172
Slide-ins don’t get much bigger or more spacious than the Lance Camper 1172. Nothing is left out when it comes to features and maximizing occupant comfort. Giant windows and skylights make it light and airy, the “Super Slide” dinette opposite the dry bath opens up the center, and the rear wall slides out with a sofa recliner. It has a fully insulated shell and 20,000-Btu furnace for four-season use, and the ability to sleep up to six. It’s prewired for optional generator, satellite dish and solar panels.
Floor Length: 11′ 11″
Wet Weight: 4,628 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $51,849
Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition
One of the lightest four-season campers is the 2021 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition. This 2,900-pound camper is the smallest of five models in Northern Lite’s EX line and is designed for shortbed pickups. The 2021 model comes equipped with dual 100-watt solar panels, a 60-by-80-inch queen mattress, a dry bath, front/rear awnings, basement storage, electric jacks, a heated base– ment, a 6.3-cubic-foot three-way fridge and 18,000-Btu furnace among the long list of standard features. It’s a good match for three-quarter-ton pickups.
Floor Length: 9′
Approx. Wet Weight: 2,924 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $45,345
Northwood Wolf Creek 850
A smaller hard-side slide-in camper from Northwood Manufacturing is the Wolf Creek 850. It’s a full-featured, four-season, fiberglass-and-aluminum-framed camper with 20,000-Btu furnace, 45-watt solar panel, three-burner range, 5-cubic-foot fridge, 33-gallon freshwater tank, black-/gray-water tanks and a 58-by-80-inch queen bed. With a claimed wet weight of less than 2,300 pounds, it’d be a good match for today’s three-quarter and one-ton trucks.
Floor Length: 8′ 8″
Approx. Wet Weight: 2,280 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $24,540
NüCamp Cirrus 720
The nüCamp Cirrus 720 has a distinctive look. Residential-style Amish-built cabinetry blended with modern interior design, innovative Coosa composites, Azdel laminates, aluminum frame, and Alde hydronic heating and hot-water system are the hallmarks of the 2021 Cirrus 720, the newest model in the nüCamp pickup camper line. The slide-in’s fully optioned dry weight of just 1,875 pounds is well within the cargo capacity of today’s heavy-duty pickups. The unit is four-season ready with full water/electric hookups and power for off-grid camping.
Floor Length: 8′ 3″
Approx. Wet Weight: 2,645 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $35,110
NüCamp Cirrus 820
The 720’s big brother, the nüCamp Cirrus 820, has also been redesigned for 2021 with a larger and upgraded galley, new lighting, a step-up to the cabover, redesigned basement storage, a 33-gallon Nautilus water-management system, Bluetooth-controlled air conditioner, a new interior color palette, new entertainment system, and more storage space and standard features than before. It’s a nice match for duallies and Ford F-450s.
Floor Length: 8′ 6″
Wet Weight: 3,253 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $45,519
Phoenix Pop Up Campers
The Full Short Custom is a light, low-profile slide-in pop-up camper for shortbed pickups. These built-to-order units are triple-insulated, and include a 60-by-73-inch queen bed over the cab, a dinette/couch that transforms into a 28-by-68-inch bed, a cassette toilet and shower, 10,000-Btu propane furnace, two-burner stove with 12-volt DC/120-volt AC fridge under the Corian countertop, and 6 feet, 4 inches of headroom with the top extended. Phoenix also offers pop-ups for midsize pickups and flatbeds.
Floor Length: 6′ 4″
Approx. Wet Weight: 1,380 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $33,995
Scout Campers Olympic 2021
Scout Campers’ eco-friendly lightweight Olympic 2021 is a small, solid-wall camper built with compo-sites instead of wood, and is the first slide-in to offer custom options such as the Roost rooftop tent with access from inside the camper, a 4,500-Btu real-flame fireplace and easily removable camper jacks. It uses a 4.9-gallon water container (with filtration) for the “gravity-fed” water system and has 160-watt solar panels as well as a lithium battery.
Floor Length: 5′ 11″
Approx. Wet Weight: 1,175 lbs.
MSRP, Base: $19,980
A respected automotive and RV journalist and longtime Trailer Life contributor, Bruce W. Smith has held numerous editorial titles at automotive and boating magazines, and authored more than 1,000 articles, from tech to trailering. He considers his home state of Oregon a paradise for RVing and outdoor adventure.