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Old 08-31-2009, 06:46 AM
 
Location: In the sticks, SC
1,642 posts, read 4,520,859 times
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I was originally looking at buying my father's conversion van to drive cross country; then I came across some truck campers that were pretty reasonably priced (used)
So now I'm thinking about buying one of his pickup trucks and going that route. Opinions please.
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Old 08-31-2009, 12:39 PM
 
Location: Wyoming
9,415 posts, read 17,378,768 times
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They're great! I've had a couple and loved both. Be careful to get a truck large enough to ***SAFELY*** handle your particular camper. Also keep in mind that they're top heavy. I tipped one onto its side on the AlCan Highway years ago. It might have happened without the camper or might not have. I also nearly lost one to a side-wind in Iowa once. Be careful how you tie it down.

The main problem with most of them is that the trucks to carry them don't get great fuel mileage, especially once you put that big wind-grabbing camper on them. If you can live with that and their relatively small size, they're hard to beat.

There's not too much maintenance involved in a pickup camper -- outside of the pickup itself. If buying a used one, the biggest thing to look for is water damage. Water leaks, normally from the roof but also from around windows, can rot the frame and make the camper worthless. Another major expense can be the refrigerator. As small as those things are, they cost $700-$800 to replace. I've only had to replace one, but it was for a camper that only cost $1200, so it was a major repair.

You'll need a set of camper jacks to put the camper onto the pickup or take it off. The best solution is to have jacks that are always mounted to the camper. Some are hydraulic, some are electric, and some are mechanical. The ones on my last camper were mechanical. Compared to hydraulic or electric jacks they were a lot of work, but in reality it only took me about 20 minutes to remove or load the camper -- probably twice what it would have taken with some power jacks.

For most of the cab-over pickup campers, you should have a 1-ton pickup with a hefty engine. My first one was a small camper -- 8 feet with no bathroom, no holding tanks, ice box only (no refrigerator), and I had it on a 1/2-ton pickup with oversized wheels and tires. My next one was a larger 10.5 foot camper that I had on a couple 3/4-ton pickups. I installed overload springs on all the pickups to help with side-sway. A dually would have been better, but most get by with single rear wheels.

My last pickup camper had all the comforts of home. It originally had a bathroom but no shower, but I installed a shower (in the bathroom), along with a hot water heater. It also had a big storage container on the roof, so storage was not a problem. My late wife and I took month-long vacations in it and hated returning home. The only thing ours really lacked was A.C. We normally used the camper in the mountains where the air is cool and there are no hookups anyway, but at times it would have been nice.
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Old 08-31-2009, 01:14 PM
 
Location: In the sticks, SC
1,642 posts, read 4,520,859 times
Reputation: 1080
Quote:
Originally Posted by WyoNewk View Post
They're great! I've had a couple and loved both. Be careful to get a truck large enough to ***SAFELY*** handle your particular camper. Also keep in mind that they're top heavy. I tipped one onto its side on the AlCan Highway years ago. It might have happened without the camper or might not have. I also nearly lost one to a side-wind in Iowa once. Be careful how you tie it down.

The main problem with most of them is that the trucks to carry them don't get great fuel mileage, especially once you put that big wind-grabbing camper on them. If you can live with that and their relatively small size, they're hard to beat.

There's not too much maintenance involved in a pickup camper -- outside of the pickup itself. If buying a used one, the biggest thing to look for is water damage. Water leaks, normally from the roof but also from around windows, can rot the frame and make the camper worthless. Another major expense can be the refrigerator. As small as those things are, they cost $700-$800 to replace. I've only had to replace one, but it was for a camper that only cost $1200, so it was a major repair.

You'll need a set of camper jacks to put the camper onto the pickup or take it off. The best solution is to have jacks that are always mounted to the camper. Some are hydraulic, some are electric, and some are mechanical. The ones on my last camper were mechanical. Compared to hydraulic or electric jacks they were a lot of work, but in reality it only took me about 20 minutes to remove or load the camper -- probably twice what it would have taken with some power jacks.

For most of the cab-over pickup campers, you should have a 1-ton pickup with a hefty engine. My first one was a small camper -- 8 feet with no bathroom, no holding tanks, ice box only (no refrigerator), and I had it on a 1/2-ton pickup with oversized wheels and tires. My next one was a larger 10.5 foot camper that I had on a couple 3/4-ton pickups. I installed overload springs on all the pickups to help with side-sway. A dually would have been better, but most get by with single rear wheels.

My last pickup camper had all the comforts of home. It originally had a bathroom but no shower, but I installed a shower (in the bathroom), along with a hot water heater. It also had a big storage container on the roof, so storage was not a problem. My late wife and I took month-long vacations in it and hated returning home. The only thing ours really lacked was A.C. We normally used the camper in the mountains where the air is cool and there are no hookups anyway, but at times it would have been nice.
Thanks The truck would probably (depending on if I can make a deal with my father) a 2004 Toyota Tundra.
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Old 08-31-2009, 01:40 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
22,527 posts, read 39,903,732 times
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I prefer the conversion van to the pickup camper (If traveling is the main event and Hauling is lesser use) I do have a few trucks anyway if I need to haul.

For a Tundra, I would only recommend a small overhead, or a pop-up camper. I'm not sure how stiff they are in the springs. I like leafs x4 to avoid sway (solid front axle) which usually means a 1T 4x4.

I get 18 mpg w/ my dodge Cummins 1T. Probably the camper van will get 15-18mpg if it is a '90 or newer. The ease of walking, rather than climbing back for a nap or food is very nice in a van, and they are ez to maneuver and fairly quiet. I use a 1T capacity 'snowbear' tilt trailer for minor hauling, and it will fit behind my camper van (18mpg), VW pickup (46mpg), or VW Passat (52 mpg). The camper is fine if you need a multi-use vehicle.
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Old 08-31-2009, 05:22 PM
 
Location: Wyoming
9,415 posts, read 17,378,768 times
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As S-Rabbit said, you'd want to keep the camper pretty small and light for a Tundra.

One way to do that is with a shell (topper). That's what I used on my first 1/2-ton until I got the smallish slide-in cab-over for it. I got a taller one, probably had 5' of clearance inside. It was insulated and had side windows with screens and an overhead vent, so it was fairly comfortable in the summer. I just cut down a 3/4" sheet of plywood to fit sideways (with center supports) and put a 6" piece of foam on it for a mattress. If we were carrying a lot of "stuff" in the back, I could slide the bed to the back of the camper, and if it was really full, I could store stuff on top of the bed while driving and move it to the front while sleeping. I carpeted the floor and my wife made curtains for some privacy. It was a little better than a tent -- warmer, drier, no set-up required, and a little more secure.

You'd be much happier with a light-weight, slide-in camper, maybe a popup like S-Rabbit suggested.
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Old 09-07-2009, 12:07 PM
 
Location: NW MT
309 posts, read 868,300 times
Reputation: 130
They are great and have their place right alongside class c's.

The one I inherited is built on a Unimog frame and Mercedes engine, tranny etc. As others have said, they are bulky and top-heavy. The angle of departure is steeper allowing for more use ability in off-road situations. I can take mine where a class c wouldn't dream.
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Old 10-17-2009, 04:05 PM
 
Location: Northern Maine
9,775 posts, read 14,942,038 times
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A very important factor to check is the under side of a truck camper. It is common for water and ice to get under there and destroy the floor. Then they often end up as ice fishing shacks with plastic runners underneath. Be sure to examine the under side with the camper off the truck. Bring an ice pick and a very bright light.

If the floor is bad you can add a layer on the underside made of pressure treated marine plywood. A bad floor should cut the price down a whole lot.
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Old 11-07-2009, 03:24 PM
 
3,764 posts, read 7,468,356 times
Reputation: 4028
Because of the low payload of our Toyota Tundra, we had a custom-build cabover camper built for it:
Cache Camper Manufacturing & Repairing Campers for Alaska

You can see pics of Tundra custom-builts above.

Plus we ran it without ever putting water in the water tank and we kept our camping gear load low. We also had airbags installed. We ran the rig without jacks attached to cut down on weight. We simply rented heavy duty hydraulic jacks to put it on at the beginning of the summer & take it off at the end.
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Old 11-10-2009, 09:18 PM
 
Location: Talmadge, San Diego, CA
13,323 posts, read 25,273,463 times
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I lived in a Class B conversion van for 1 1/2 years. I loved it, but not the person I was living with who owned the van......

If I could afford it, I would buy my own, but I'm limited to my minivan.
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Old 11-15-2009, 04:09 PM
 
Location: Stuck in NE GA right now
4,585 posts, read 10,838,809 times
Reputation: 6616
Go to truckcampermagazine.com they have tons of info on truck campers.
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