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Truck topper or slide in camper?

Original Post
303scott · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 195

So I am looking to outfit my Tundra for long weekends and weeklong adventures. I'm struggling with whether to go with an older slide in camper or just buy a truck topper and build out the back. Clearly cost is an issue, but I don't want to be penny wise.

The primary reason I am considering a slide in is that from November to March the long nights and cold temps make a camper more attractive. I'd like to climb in IC, Shelf etc. when overnight temps are in the low teens and daytime temps are 30+. Also, with 12+ hourws of darkness hanging out in a tent for a week kinda sucks. Having a relatively comfortable retreat would be sweet.

During the other months of the year I would prefer to just throw a sleeping bag on a tarp and call it good. Of course, if weather kicks up then I could retreat to the built-out topper or throw up a tent.

The primary drawbacks I see to the camper are initial cost, gas, storage and having to slide it in and out at the campground to free up the truck to get to the climbs. Half the year it would likely just sit.

Anyone out there struggled with this dilemma? Any adivce?

I suppose a third option is to go with the flip pac, which is a cross between the two.

Any insight is much appreciated.


Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 877

We have preferred this one. Very comfy. Great to cook, sleep, sort gear, play cards, get out of the wind. When the weather went to shit, our friends jumped in with us. We have had up to 4 adults and three dogs comfortably. Sets up in 5 minutes. Its spent many days in the creek. We are not using it anymore, so time to sell. $1000.

If you are by yourself you don't need this. Go with the flipac.


King bed.

Tom Rangitsch · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 1,614

I bought a Four Wheel Camper slide in for my tacoma last year and I really like it. You can go anywhere that you can normally drive your truck. It pops up, so when it's down you get less wind resistance. It has a heater and it states really toasty. Plus there is a fridge, stove, and a fold out queen size bed and another twin bed. Cons are that it was spendy, and you aren't supposed to get in it when it's not on the truck (I think all slide ins are that way). I keep mine on all the time when on a trip.

I have a two year old and it has really made car camping better for my particular situation.

taylorpur · · vancouver, bc · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 5

ive done all three, tent, slide in TC and camp under the canopy. i just sold my slide in TC because i did not have storage. fuel mileage with the TC was terrible, head winds only make it worse. but having said that the comfort was nice. we were on the road for 2 months and doing it under the canopy would not have been as much fun. we are going back to sleeping under the canopy for weekends and short 3-4 night trips. if you can buy one id go for the pop up type truck camper.

Brent Butcher · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 275
Adam Peters · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 670

I have used both the topper and a slide in pop-up's my two cents. The pop-up slide is pretty clutch when you're going to be gone for a considerable amount of time. It's comfortable (i.e., comfortable bed, stove, sink, table/bench area and room to stand up) and better than sleeping on the ground. However, I wouldn't want to slide it in and out of my truck every weekend or for every week long trip, plus you need a parking spot to store it when not in use. The topper can be comfortable as long as you get one that allows you to sit up while in bed.

I bought a Viking pop up camper for $1000 on craigslist and it's been worth it for us. Although we've often thought that a pull behind popup camper and a topper on our truck would be the best scenario, in that it provides us with the most options and we wouldn't have to pop the camper up and down every time we drive to the crag (i.e., Indian Creek, Red River, Tensleep, Red Rocks).

If you can wait a few more months, I'll sell ya the Viking!

Mark Roth · · Boulder · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 13,632

Just get a cap... You'll be able to lock up your stuff in the back, and you won't have to take it off. You will save gas money by not hauling some giant contraption that you don't really need for weekend trips.

I have an extra futon that'll fit if you want.

Peter Stokes · · Them Thar Hills · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 150

I've camped in several pickup toppers (cap, shell, canopy), and usually had trouble with clearance for my head (painful) as well as some difficulty accessing stuff stored under the bed. I know one person with a Tacoma who built a pretty nice cap for it himself out of plywood, and made it a bit higher than cab level to address the headroom issue. He got the windows+screens from an RV supply place, and wired in some lights, etc. I built a rather large plywood topper myself about 20 years ago and lived in it full time, but it wasn't very practical to drive around on a daily basis. I've known other folks who installed slider-shelf contraptions under the bed area to make getting the gear under there much easier. If you go with a topper, Weathergaurd, Adrian Steel and others make those slider things for trucks and vans. One thing to keep in mind with a heavier or taller setup (like a slide-in) is roll stability- adding some extra springs to the rear wouldn't hurt.

303scott · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 195

Thanks everyone! It sounds like the camper option is probably the best way to go. However, this thread got me thinking that maybe the pull behind is the best option. When I think of the places I would most likely go it is clear that I can access them with a pull behind. They are cheaper, and you can dump them at the campground and take the truck up to the climbs. Maybe a pull behind and a topper....damn it, too many options...

303scott · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 195

Just an update for those who care. I bought the slide in, but found it to be too much of a pain. First, it's a pain to get in and out of the bed of the truck. Second, once in, you can't drop it at the campsite, which means you have to put everything away every day and take it back out every night. Third, driving offroad with it in the back is a bit terrifying. Finally, there really isn't much room. So, based on all that, I sold it and bought a tow behind pop up. It seems to solve most of my complaints, with the one problem being that it might be more difficult to get it back in to some of the spots. I'm test driving it next week in the desert, and will post back.

Izza · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 0

I know this thread is old but what was the verdict on the tow behind getting into some of the more inaccessible places? Are you still using the tow behind?

303scott · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 195

I've been using the pull behind since that post. I mostly use it in the Creek between December and February, or if I am going somewhere for a longer trip. At the Creek I typically park it in the Superbowl. Take it slow, and it is no problem. While I have taken it on worse roads, there is a serious potential for damage so now that's about as aggressive as I get with it.

Since I bought mine I have seen a few newer ones with higher clearance, bigger axles, and bigger tires. I think Coleman makes one. They look pretty burly and would likely have no problem getting in harder spots.

Overall, I have found it really extends the season. Temps in the single digits overnight are not a problem with the heater (we leave it off at night, but can reach out of bed to turn it on before getting up in the morning), and the lights make the long nights pretty reasonable. One downside is it has made us a bit softer- there's something satisfying about suffering in the cold and huddling around a campfire....

Finally, if it is just me and a buddy (as opposed to girlfriend), then the topper on the back of the truck pretty much rules. Sleep on a tarp if it's nice enough, jump in the back when rain rolls through.

mustardtiger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 20

I had a cap on my ranger for the four years I owned it. I never took it out in real cold weather but I wouldn't hesitate to with a good sleeping bag. Most of the time I just slept on my crash pad and stored almost everything in the cab. The sliding window made it real easy to get to stuff in the cab.

Also as mentioned, it stays on all year and you can throw anything you want back there and lock it up and it will stay dry.

Ray Lovestead · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 109

Anyone else think it is remarkable that this post went stagnant for 3 years and then when a question pops up the author answers within the hour?

Anyways, I've done the topper for years and so do all my buds. It is pretty darn hard to beat for functionality. I freaking love it. But I'm getting long in the tooth and have 2 kids now (and dog). So I imagine it won't be soon before I'm in a popup trailer. An end of an era.

I'll know when its time to hang up my rack when I buy my first class A motorhome. I'd be thankful if you ever see me in one, years from now, to just end it for me.


mucci · · sf ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 655
High Topper ARE shell

07 Tacoma build

Slide over deck for double bed with custom cushion.
Fold up Table
Tons of under deck storage.
12V electrical system (2-10amp batteries wired in parallel)
Blue Sea Fuse box
12V squirrel cage fan
12V LED lighting
400watt Inverter
Solar panel/regulator Pulls out when parked
6 GAL water tank under deck
12V water pump
Marine access door panel

Plenty of room for 2 to sit up with the bed panel stowed. The options are endless. This cost about $400 to rig up, and the shell was $1400. Not dragging 700lbs around is nice on the gas mileage.
Andy Novak · · Bailey, CO · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 370

^^^^ That is one sweet build. Thanks for sharing.

Peter Stokes wrote: adding some extra springs to the rear wouldn't hurt.
So, so true.

Great thread revival. Lots of good info when it comes time to trade in for a pop up, flip top or land yacht. Here's what I'm currently working with. '11 Frontier, Century high-top shell. Very little head-room with this design, but fits the biggest bins Wal-mart offers below the platform, which is huge for extended trips. Here he is in the Ruby Mountains, NV, mid-way between the Front Range and the Valley. Pm for the best road-side bivy around...

I call it "Julio Esperanza"

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 877
Izza wrote:I know this thread is old but what was the verdict on the tow behind getting into some of the more inaccessible places? Are you still using the tow behind?
Sold the pull behind. It was basically a fancy tent that limited where we went, rattled in the wind, was poorly insulated and took more time than I desired for set up and breakdown. For my next rig requirements I wanted to be able to go most anywhere, be comfortable even in cold rainy or snowy weather and have less than one minute setup time.


Slide in truck camper! Blows away everything I've ever had including tents, toppers and pop up trailers.
kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 520
Andy Novak wrote:^^^^ That is one sweet build....
It sure looks pretty comfortable every time I throw my bivy sack on the ground next to it. #carpoolingtothecragsux
Cayuse · · Spokane · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 20

Had a topper with a slide in and then an FWC Grandby pop-up slide in came up for sale about twenty minutes from me. No more acting like a contortionist to get in and dressed in the morning and having a heater that I can turn on from the bed and a fridge that makes ice is nice as well.

Adding solar panels in the next couple weeks. Here it is on the backside of Lookout Pass somewhere along the Idaho-Montana border.

nate post · · Silverthorne · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,408
mi casa
This setup has treated my wife and I very well for the past year. We camp most weekends in the summer and we spent three weeks last fall camping and driving the Baja. I bought the topper used for $300 and spent about $75 in lumber building the bed and storage. We don't have much headroom but we are able to camp very discretely when necessary like in a hotel parking lot or a gated community in Baja, that came in handy. I have been considering doubling my living room space and getting the flippac but every time I see a good used one for sale it's about 3 grand and then I think to myself, for 3 grand I could do two trips to Cuba this winter and climb.
Craig Childre · · Lubbock, Texas · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 4,930

Depending on how handy you are, and your construction skills. You can build your own slide in with plain lumber. They don't look all slick and tricked out, but you get to configure it how you like. Foam insulation, paint, an RV door and windows. Home builts can be lighter than the manufactured ones. One guy posted his build on the cheap, got most of his screws at garage sales. Lots of good designs online. Just another option.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
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