Slide-In Truck Campers


Original Post
Karl Henize · · June Lake, CA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 570

Does anyone have advice to share on buying slide-in truck campers for full-size half-ton pick-up trucks? Recommendations on manufacturers, models, options, and after-market modifications would be appreciated.

I haven't bought a truck yet, but I am currently favoring the Ford F-150 over mid-size trucks (Tacoma) and other half-ton models. However, I don't want to pull the trigger, until I have chosen a camper.

I have already done a bit of research on different companies and models, but it seems like there are very few recent reviews (past year) to be found on the internet. As far as I can tell, it appears that Four Wheel Campers, All-Terrain Campers, Hallmark, and Pheonix are currently the top brands for light-weight off-road capable campers. Just from reading their websites, I don't notice much differentiation.

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 340

Subscribed. Cant wait to see some off the info in this thread...
Ive been looking into this as well, theyre $$$$ for what you get. You can get a towable for the same price. Ive started leaning towards the flippac/habitat tent type campers or just a basic shell. You still have full use of the bed and shell for everyday use, theyre light which is good for mpg but also from what I read hold up better if you actually drive offroad. Theyre more aero than the pop-ups and full size campers. However, you don't get the sink/pisser/oven/heater or some of the other luxuries that require maintenance.
http://adventuretrailers.com/campers/toyota-habitat/

Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35

For what it's worth, my setup is pictured below. I dont have the money for a slide in so I just got a good shell and an air mattress. I splurged on the air mattress, you will notice it conforms to the wheel wells and turns the sleeping area from a twin to a full sized bed.

Pros:
~Its big enough for myself and 2 other dudes to sleep in it sheltered from the weather, note we are in separate sleeping bags.
~it still allows me to use the truck as a truck

Cons:
~Need to clear out truck at campground to set up bed.
~Single cab truck means i'm always rearranging gear and food (our local areas we only need to worry about birds and rodents eating our food).

Do Overs:
~I would get a taller shell to allow for more head room, We can not sit up while on top of the air mattress.
~I think I would like to build storage drawers our of plywood in place of the air mattress and then use a 2-3 inflated sleeping pad vs the air mattress.

I hope this helps, if not let me know and I can take down the post so it doesn't deter the thread.

Truck

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871

I've owned three. And have done a ton of research.

First, decide on how much time you want to setup, fuck around, repair, repair, repair on your vacation. The more moving parts you have the greater chance you will be fixing something. I've done that. I'm over that.

Second, decide pop up or hard side. I did the pop up. It got old, especially when it didn't pop up during a trip. And, a pop up is a glorified tent. The sides flap in the wind. And it is a poor insulator against cold, the heat and wind.

I decided for my next purchase I want a maximum of 30 seconds set up time. That's what I got. I attach the stairs. Done! Time for beer, camp fire, dinner, whatever. Actually, we don't do fires much anymore. And when the weather turns to shit, my tent friends come in and hang out. I went hard side.

The brands you mention are similar. Average quality parts. Turn to junk after 10 to 15 years. Four Wheel is ok. Fairly light, yes. But, really a lot of money for the minimalist approach.

I met the engineer for Camp Craft a few years ago. He worked for some of the other companies and decided to do his own things. All hard side, all have R21 insulation, egyptian roof structure, and surprisingly light weight. Mine is 1700 lbs. I can make it 80 degrees in it in winter easily. Also, I don't hear other people around me because of the sound insulation. We can seat five for dinner and have 8 in there playing cards very cozy. Much bigger that it appears from the outside. Sleeps 3 comfy, 4 cozy.

Check them out.

Comfy at the tower.

Crotch Robbins · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 105

I think it's pretty tough to be under GVW with a 150/1500 and slide in camper. If you go that route you will probably want some suspension upgrades.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053

Daniel, your truck bed should have flat spots on the inside to put boards across then plywood on top of that. Mattress goes on top, gear under. JB

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053
Crotch Robbins wrote:I think it's pretty tough to be under GVW with a 150/1500 and slide in camper. If you go that route you will probably want some suspension upgrades.
Agreed 2500 4wd with a Cummins. It will haul the weight and get you where you want to go. JB
Mick S · · Utah · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 60

Good Advice!

Desert

Steve J · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 0

If you're going with any kind of a slide-in, I'd recommend a 3/4 ton truck or bigger. You can add air bags, and suspension upgrades and all that, but you're not actually increasing the payload of the truck. Stopping and other things get harder, especially in a 1/2 ton. Think about how much weight you'll be adding to the camper/truck combo just to go camping. Water, food, aux batteries, climbing equipment, ... etc. Better to play it safe. I know people use 1/2 tons all the time, and YMMV. Look at the forums on expeditionportal.com or wanderthewest.com for tons of other opinions.

Good luck, dude!

Steve

garrettem · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 575

F150 or equivalent is the way to go. I had a Tacoma and they are a little on the small side for a camper. I ended up getting a Tundra which is far nicer with the camper. I'm a fan of our Pop up due to the lower profile and never found set up time to be a big deal (less than 5 minutes). I've taken the pop up lots of places you could never take a hard side due to the height. We have the insulated material instead of thin canvas sides on the pop up part which I would recommend. I would also suggest you look into Torklift tie downs, some type of quick release turnbuckle, and firestone airbags. Worth the cash and all have held up to really well to mild offroad stuff that I've done. If you get a four wheel camper I think they bolt it directly to the bed which is probably even better.

You will probably also want to add a battery isolator in your truck to charge the camper battery.

Scot Hastings · · Las Vegas · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 35

I have a Ram 2500 w/ a Four Wheel Camper Hawk (the full-size version for 6.5' beds).



A few things:

1. Saying that all brands are equal (or even that these 4 are equal) is simply wrong. There is a huge difference from brand to brand. The biggest things to look for are construction and finish. The shitty brands will use "stick and tin" construction (consisting of 2x4s and sheet metal) and skimp on the finish (cheap cabinetry, fittings, inattention to detail, etc.). The better brands will use aluminum frames, one-piece roofs, and spend the time and money to do the interiors right.

You can actually see this by looking at the used market. The cheap campers are essentially disposable. As GregD says, they last 10-15 years and then you junk 'em. Along those lines, you wont see many 15 year old Hallmarks for sale. You will see 15 (or 20, 25, 30, ...) year old FWCs, though, likely at a significant % of retail. That said, I truly think that the it makes sense for some people to go cheaper. It really depends on what you're looking to do and how long you intend to use the thing.

2. Pop-up vs Solid is indeed a tough decision. Solid campers do indeed require less setup and offer much better insulation and more storage. That said, the FWC pops in 30 seconds and we've camped in it down to about 10 degrees with the small propane heater. On the flip side, pop-ups are lighter and provide for a lower CG and clearance. We can still go through most In-N-Out drive thrus :).



3. As GregD said, watch out for complexity. More stuff is more stuff to break. For a pop-up, something like a powered lift sounds great until it goes out on you and you can't get the roof up because it weights 500 lbs. Same with showers, appliances, etc. Decide what you really need and skip the rest. Make sure you understand what you do have and how it works, too, 'cause it will break. Start building out your toolkit now.

Also, go into it expecting to customize a bit. Often you're better off skipping the factory option until you figure out what you really need (especially true of solar).

4. Full-size vs. Compact. I also chose to go full-size (albeit with the shorter bed option) and am glad I did. Between the smaller bed and lower payload, you end up giving up a lot for compact. That said, some companies (again FWC) make viable options for compact. My advice is to go stand in a few different models.

Also, while you generally are going to want 3/4-ton or even 1-ton again it's a function of the camper. Plenty of people run FWCs on 1/2-ton (Tundras included). They'll generally add air springs, but it can work.

Feel free to PM me with any specific questions. Good luck!

-Scot

Crotch Robbins · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 105

If you end up getting air bags, take a look at the load lifter 5000 ultimate bags. They have a jounce bumper built in so you can run them under 20psi (if you are unloaded or forgot to air them up for a while) without damaging the bags.

https://www.airliftcompany.com/products/air-springs/loadlifter-5000-ultimate/

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871
Scot Hastings wrote:I have a Ram 2500 w/ a Four Wheel Camper Hawk (the full-size version for 6.5' beds). A few things: 1. Saying that all brands are equal (or even that these 4 are equal) is simply wrong. There is a huge difference from brand to brand. The biggest things to look for are construction and finish. The shitty brands will use "stick and tin" construction (consisting of 2x4s and sheet metal) and skimp on the finish (cheap cabinetry, fittings, inattention to detail, etc.). The better brands will use aluminum frames, one-piece roofs, and spend the time and money to do the interiors right. You can actually see this by looking at the used market. The cheap campers are essentially disposable. As GregD says, they last 10-15 years and then you junk 'em. Along those lines, you wont see many 15 year old Hallmarks for sale. You will see 15 (or 20, 25, 30, ...) year old FWCs, though, likely at a significant % of retail. That said, I truly think that the it makes sense for some people to go cheaper. It really depends on what you're looking to do and how long you intend to use the thing. 2. Pop-up vs Solid is indeed a tough decision. Solid campers do indeed require less setup and offer much better insulation and more storage. That said, the FWC pops in 30 seconds and we've camped in it down to about 10 degrees with the small propane heater. On the flip side, pop-ups are lighter and provide for a lower CG and clearance. We can still go through most In-N-Out drive thrus :). 3. As GregD said, watch out for complexity. More stuff is more stuff to break. For a pop-up, something like a powered lift sounds great until it goes out on you and you can't get the roof up because it weights 500 lbs. Same with showers, appliances, etc. Decide what you really need and skip the rest. Make sure you understand what you do have and how it works, too, 'cause it will break. Start building out your toolkit now. Also, go into it expecting to customize a bit. Often you're better off skipping the factory option until you figure out what you really need (especially true of solar). 4. Full-size vs. Compact. I also chose to go full-size (albeit with the shorter bed option) and am glad I did. Between the smaller bed and lower payload, you end up giving up a lot for compact. That said, some companies (again FWC) make viable options for compact. My advice is to go stand in a few different models. Also, while you generally are going to want 3/4-ton or even 1-ton again it's a function of the camper. Plenty of people run FWCs on 1/2-ton (Tundras included). They'll generally add air springs, but it can work. Feel free to PM me with any specific questions. Good luck! -Scot
I agree with most of what Scott has to say. First, my apologies for lumping Four Wheel into the "all brands are the same". Four Wheel definitely has higher quality construction and components. I looked at them closely and almost bought one. Once I was willing to spend the money for a Four Wheel, I entered a new price range. That's when I discovered Camp Craft. For a similar budget, I could get more in terms of quality and components and at a similar weight. Also, I wanted an easily removable camper. Four Wheel wants to make a semi permanent attachment, which is probably more solid than the tie downs that I have. But, I wanted something easily removable. I upgraded to motorized jacks. So, I can remove the camper in about 5 minutes. 15 to reinstall. I like this versatility since I use my truck for other things. I can easily drop it at camp if I wish. Or lower the jacks when parked to fine tune leveling and make a solid connection to the ground.

It really depends on your needs. I'm curious to hear what the op decides to get.
Skibo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 5

I've had both a rigid and a popup on my small trucks for over twenty years. I originally had an Ultralite wood framed rigid, and currently have a Phoenix popup. Started out with the Ultralite (700#) on a short bed Nissan 4cyl. It slowly died after my girlfriend hit a tree limb with it, and I didn't fix the damage until too late (just started to rot the wood frame). I'm currently drive a 6 cyl Tacoma extra cab with the Phoenix. The Phoenix is heavy--probably 1300#. I have 250# extra rear springs, and Firestone air bags. I've actually weighed my rig with a years worth of stuff (rock/ice/ski gear, two bikes,photography gear, food etc.) and I was 1000# OVER GVWR. It is extremely easy to surpass GVWR with any slide in camper. I was crushing the brackets for my airbags, and had to have them reinforced and welded to the frame.

I found gas mileage with the lighter rigid camper was the same as the heavier popup. Obviously I could go more places with the popup. I've used it to 10 below F, with no problems (don't heat at night--just 5-10 minutes to warm it up). That's without adding insulation, but without onboard water (which will freeze unless you really have things dialed--a couple of friends used there popup for ice climbing in Alberta, and worked things out). It takes about 2 minutes to pop it up--flip toggles on corners, lift up and push out internal supports and you're set--not much to it.

Four Wheel Campers are probably the lightest out there, and weight is critical--better mileage, less wear and tear, less need to get a beefier truck. My Phoenix is a 2004 or so (bought used), and I wouldn't buy a new one unless they've radically changed their methods and materials--expensive, heavy, and mediocre quality. They do have an aluminum frame though, so it should last longer than my wood Ultralite (which I bought used for $1000 in 1994, and used until about 2009).

An advantage to a rigid camper over a popup is the ability to put stuff on top (canoes, rocket boxes, etc.). My popup is spring assisted, but I had to add additional struts (a la Four Wheel Camper) to allow me to carry two canoes on top. Of course that will depend on the system on the camper--electric assist might work without modification--something to check on when you do your research.

Think about what all stuff you want inside the camper. I have a water heater and an external shower on mine, and I've never used either (and will remove them once the weather warms up). Don't have a toilet, and use a folding camp toilet. The less you have, the less you have to worry about, and the less weight you're carrying (weight really shows its ugly head when you're on rough roads).

Other things to consider: heavier tires for the added weight e.g. load range E, perhaps a higher-output alternator to charge the camper battery (I have stock), suspension air bags, perhaps other suspension mods, such as adjustable shocks, stiff shocks, lifts, etc. Many people set up solar systems--not necessary if you live simply, even without a battery charging/isolating system. I can get about two weeks off grid off a single deep cell battery. I have an isolator that I have yet to install, which would probably let me go forever.

Good luck.

garrett vinoski · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 25

Number one piece of advice is research, research, and when you get tired of research do more research. Peep around on Craigslist and other sites and be patient. I recently purchased a ram 2500 with a hard side Lance as a package deal at an extremely reasonable price. It is by far the best investment I've made to date.

The pop ups I've been around are finicky and typically allow more weak points in the system for failure (leaks, tears, ect.) That being said, you get a lower clearance and a marginal difference in mpg.

If you are dead set on a smaller F150 or 1500, look into camplite slide ins. They are constructed with aluminum frames and a composite material. Lightweight and will fight the elements better IMO. You could also look at a truck with a topper and a pull behind scamp. All options for the light duty truck.

Like I said, be patient and research thoroughly. If possible bring someone with camper experience to come look at whatever you plan on purchasing. That helped me out big time.

Dave Bn · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 10

+1 to awesome thread.

I'm also planning to make a truck + camper purchase in the next year and have been doing a good amount of research.

I'm pretty set on a pop-up due to the lower profile and center of gravity for potential future off-roading/overland travel. When I was still living in CO, I went and toured the Hallmark factory - which you should do if you are in the Front Range. The guys were awesome, their construction is top notch, and they're open to just about any kind of customization. I've gathered from several other forums that Hallmark is the apex of pop up camper quality and construction and they stand by their product 100%. They have heavily insulated walls, dual pane windows and insulated tent materials, I was assured that they are good (i.e. keeping on board water unfrozen) down to at least ten below F. The unfortunate downside is that you have to pay for it. A tricked out new pop-up from them can close in on $40K, also they are quite a bit heavier than 4WC, necessitating a 3/4- or one-ton truck.

Now, I'm pretty well focused on the Northstar pop ups (specifically the 850sc) with the Sub-Zero addition which includes similar insulation to the Hallmarks, but you can get a new camper for much less.

I imagine a time in the future where I may go hardside as Greg has, especially if cold weather camping becomes the primary use. In fact, when I was living in CO, this is what got me interested in the first place as I saw it as a possible work around to having to deal with ski traffic on the weekends. However, now that I live in Idaho, and can ski lifts in the morning and be home by noon, I'm more interested in a camper with some cold weather potential but mostly agile and mobile for shoulder-season and summer camping.

Regarding trucks, you're going to be pretty limited to smaller pop-ups or minimal hard side campers if you don't go 3/4 or full ton. Some of those smaller campers would be fine for a solo, but throw a wife into the picture and space and storage becomes a little bit more valuable.

Steve Murphy · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 20
John Barritt wrote: Agreed 2500 4wd with a Cummins. It will haul the weight and get you where you want to go. JB
The heavier diesel cuts the hauling capacity by a significant amount. For a Ram 2500 4x4, for example, the smaller gas engine matches the diesel in payload capacity, while the bigger gas engine gives a 900 lb increase; it's a payload difference between 2,200 lbs and 3,130 lbs. If you're about towing, then diesel; if you're about max hauling, then gas. Of course, this is for a new truck...if you're looking at an older truck, the differences may be less or even favor the diesel as John notes. Too many variables in the truck world!

See here for detailed specs on 2016 models.

Greg D, that's a nice setup, I like the no overhang. It must be awesome in the backcountry! Never come across Camp Craft, have to add it to my list.

Edit to add, the Camp Craft website seems to be non-functional, so you can't even get floor plans.
ColinM · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 50

I've had a Four Wheel camper for two years now. It's an early 90's Grandby 8' model and I have it in my 1997 Ram 2500HD diesel 4x4. Sure it looks a little dated inside and weathered on the outside but everything still works and there's no leaks. I've camped in all seasons in it and even lived in it daily for over two months straight when I moved to Colorado. It has no shower (I bathe outside with a Nemo pressure shower) and no toilet. It has fridge, stove, sink, 10 gal water, and furnace. They come up on the used market occasionally but less so than other RVs it seems like, probably because they are easier to store. It is a pain to take on and off (especially getting the bolt holes to line up putting it on) so I leave it on most of the time. It doesn't affect my fuel mileage much; I still get 20mpg on the highway. Its light weight doesn't affect the handling much either and I've taken it on many gnarly roads. Just to ditto what others are saying, unless you're going to modify suspension, get a 3/4 or 1 ton truck.

lead king loop
escalante canyon

ColinM · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 50

Their website doesn't seem to work in either Firefox or Chrome browsers.
And agreed popups are glorified tents but not nearly as ridiculous as those rooftop tents that are becoming popular for whatever reason. I would prefer a hardtop for the sound and heat insulation but I don't think I could live with the height as a daily driver or for 4x4 roads. I wouldn't want to take it on and off every weekend. I've seen several local Four Wheel owners that leave theirs on nearly year-round like me.

Greg D wrote:I've owned three. And have done a ton of research. First, decide on how much time you want to setup, fuck around, repair, repair, repair on your vacation. The more moving parts you have the greater chance you will be fixing something. I've done that. I'm over that. Second, decide pop up or hard side. I did the pop up. It got old, especially when it didn't pop up during a trip. And, a pop up is a glorified tent. The sides flap in the wind. And it is a poor insulator against cold, the heat and wind. I decided for my next purchase I want a maximum of 30 seconds set up time. That's what I got. I attach the stairs. Done! Time for beer, camp fire, dinner, whatever. Actually, we don't do fires much anymore. And when the weather turns to shit, my tent friends come in and hang out. I went hard side. The brands you mention are similar. Average quality parts. Turn to junk after 10 to 15 years. Four Wheel is ok. Fairly light, yes. But, really a lot of money for the minimalist approach. I met the engineer for Camp Craft a few years ago. He worked for some of the other companies and decided to do his own things. All hard side, all have R21 insulation, egyptian roof structure, and surprisingly light weight. Mine is 1700 lbs. I can make it 80 degrees in it in winter easily. Also, I don't hear other people around me because of the sound insulation. We can seat five for dinner and have 8 in there playing cards very cozy. Much bigger that it appears from the outside. Sleeps 3 comfy, 4 cozy. Check them out.
Hobo Greg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 115

Don't know their name but I met a guy who had a sweet slide in made in ocean grove, CA. Was a frame that comes empty inside so you can do your own thing. $2500 ish range.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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