Itching to go camping? If you have a pickup in your garage, truck campers are one of the best ways to get out there. Camper vans, towable travel trailers, and rooftop tents are all great vehicle-based options, but a truck camper gives you additional versatility that’s hard to find with other setups. Combining the proven off-road capability and durability of a pickup truck with the interior space and amenities of an RV makes a top-tier adventure rig.
There are a few things to consider when selecting a truck camper. First is payload: Your truck’s payload capacity is the total amount of weight the vehicle can support. This differs from towing capacity (although towing does affect payload). We like to think of towing as horizontal weight and payload as vertical weight. Note that while trucks are still often categorized as “half ton” or “one ton” and so on, modern trucks have higher payloads than in the past.
For this guide, we will use the terms midsize, full size, and heavy duty to differentiate trucks. Midsize trucks are shorter and smaller than full-size models, and their payloads can range from around 1,000 pounds all the way up to 2,000 pounds for class leaders. Full-size and heavy-duty trucks are similar in size; but traditional full-size “half tons” now boast payloads in excess of 2,000 pounds and heavy-duty trucks can haul upwards of 7,000 pounds.
Finding a camper that suits your vehicle requires more than simply matching up the payload and camper weight. You’ll also need to consider the weight of passengers, gear, and anything else (fuel, water, pets) that will be loaded on or in your rig. Calculate your total payload by adding the weight of the camper to your other necessaries. Make sure the resulting number is safely below your vehicle’s limit: A good rule of thumb is to aim for 80 percent or less of the listed payload capacity. Not only will this allow your truck to maintain proper braking and handling, but it will also significantly reduce wear and tear on its suspension, tires, and drivetrain components.
Types of Truck Campers
There are two main types of truck campers: hard-sided and pop-up. There are benefits to both types. Pop-ups can be folded down when not in use, which gives your truck better clearance and decreases wind resistance while driving. Hard-sided truck campers have a rigid construction, which means fewer moving parts and better insulation. The best option comes down to your individual needs and how you’ll use the truck camper.
To help you find the perfect topper for your rig, we’ve rounded up 10 awesome truck campers for every type of truck, from midsize to heavy duty. Some feature minimal interiors for the speed camping crowd, while others boast amenities to rival high-end motorhomes. In addition to payload, we looked at factors like durability, innovation, customer support, vehicle compatibility, and more to compile the very best truck campers on the market. Keep in mind that many of these options are not purchasable on an RV lot. These companies often create custom-built products suited to your specific goals, and that means getting one often requires a significant down payment and a long lead time. But when your truck camper does arrive, it’ll be worth it.