Truck campers: Getting more in RV travels

Farm Forum

RVers who want to get off the beaten path, yet stay on the road to comfort, should consider the slide-in truck camper as an ideal Recreation Vehicle. The truck camper is a portable unit that is easily loaded and unloaded from the bed of a pickup truck, leaving the truck free to also tow an ATV, boat or horse trailer.

Once at a destination, the camper can be detached and the pickup truck used independently. Because they are ideal for narrow dirt roads and remote wilderness camping, avid outdoor enthusiasts have long been fans of truck campers.

Truck campers are also popular with young families, like the Bains of Colbert, Wash. ( They purchased their 2010 ALP Adventurer 810ws because of its amenities. For their truck they selected a 1999 Chevy 3500 dually with a 12-foot flatbed.

“A big thing I like is the interior height,” said Bain. “I am 6-foot-4, so that’s a big deal to me.”

“We wanted to use a flatbed so we could store all our camping goodies in the sides,” said Bain. “We also liked the longer bed so that there is a small porch out of the back of the camper.”

“Don’t think that just because it’s a truck camper that you have to give up a lot. In fact you gain more. The ability to go almost anywhere is such a big advantage,” said Bain.

One of the family’s favorite winter destinations is snow skiing in North Idaho. “We parked right next to a ski run and really did ski in and ski out,” said Bain.

Manufacturers offer a range of floor plans that maximize living area. Many models also have slide-outs, which move the RV wall outward up to 3 feet to create larger living areas.

“Actually go inside a camper and look around,” suggested Bain. “Don’t just judge them by a quick look outside. You would be amazed at how much living space there is in a truck camper.”

John Bach of Sacramento, Calif., selected his truck camper with its off-road capacity in mind. Currently he lives full-time in his 2006 Northern Lite, Classic 9.6-foot slide-in camper that sits nicely in his 2005 Ram 2500 4×4. Bach, who has been RVing for more than two decades, frequently takes his rig, outfitted with an 80-watt solar panel, into the Southern California desert and Sierra Nevada Mountains.

While he was camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert, “a coyote came right up to my rig and put his nose against my door window,” Bach said. “I always think of the national parks as places to experience wildlife, but there in the desert I experienced it up close and personal.”

Jim and Laura Monti of Great Falls, Mont., favor the truck and camper combination because of its ease of driving and maneuverability. They first met in 2007 at a Montana music festival. They were both single, enjoyed music and traveling.

Jim had been RVing since 1980. Laura had owned everything from travel trailers to motor homes. Soon they were making music together in a 2007 Bigfoot camper. Their 11-1/2 foot model has a full kitchen, bathroom with shower, and over-cab queen bed. It sits easily in their Ram 3500 one-ton, dually pickup with a Cummins Turbo Diesel engine.

“We’ve lived in it full-time for five years and have all the room we need,” said Jim Monti. “With our slide-out dinette area, both of us have plenty of space to play our guitars.”

Laura said there are real advantages to having a small RV. “We can go anywhere our truck can go and have everything you need with us all the time.”

According to, a recreation vehicle industry group, sizes of pickup campers range from 8 to 20 feet, with selling prices for new units running from $6,000 to $55,000.

“Talk to a few truck camper owners,” advised Rich Bain, a member of the North America Truck Camper Owners Association ( “Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. I never met a truck camper owner who did not want to talk about their camper.”