TruckCamper

Car Show and Trucks

You know what would be productive? Go to the Canadian International Auto Show on Family Day weekend and try to take pictures and spend time with specific trucks. That said, when that is the only time you have available you go.

The best picture I could get of a pickup at the auto show

They are relatively new technology but I have never seen so many 360 degree cameras in one place. People are walking around with poles which I can only assume were taking video of the massive crowds and the occasional car being swarmed. If pictures are what you want to do, which it seems almost everyone has decided, then the museum displays of some admittely amazing cars is the place to go. These cars must only live in the back of a transport truck because I have never seen any of these on the road.

 

The main reason I went to the show was to look at different Pick Up trucks for the camper. The research that I have done so far has been overwhelming. For every different model of truck there seems to be ten different but major options that make a huge difference. There are different engines, box sizes, seating arrangements and drive train options and each choice comes with a different set of abilities in gas milage and payload each of which are vitally important.

A few weeks ago I went around to a couple of dealerships and talked with any sales people who would spare the time. While both GMC and Dodge dealerships were willing to sit down and chat. In those conversations at a time when money wasn’t a part of the conversation I came away thinking that the Dodge Ram Powerwagon was the truck to look at. It has the payload for the truck campers I am looking at and 4×4 capabilities that must make it impossible to get stuck ever.

The show gave me the chance to finally see the truck up close and it is astounding. First off, for a person of average size this truck is massive. I tried to look into the box of the pick up and bumped my chin on the top edge! The top of the front hood is at eye level and the wheel wells are above my hips. In the winter many people around me like to put the windscreen wipers up so they don’t freeze to the window. I tried this and found out I just couldn’t reach. The hood was down but I can’t imagine how I would replace the windsheild fluid or close the hood without a step stool. That said, changing the oil must be super easy as there is no reason to use ramps or jack it up to get underneath.

Seeing the truck made me realize that this purchase will mean I need to change my philosophy for my transportation. I currently own the largest car in my life, a Toyota Matrix. All of my cars have been small and nimble. They have been purchased mostly on a concept of minimal cost and ability to mostly satisfy the day to day needs of getting around town. A truck on the other hand will be purchased primarily for the trip. The cost of it though will mean it will have to be owned for longer than that.

Still… the Powerwagon is an amazing truck. As standard it comes with things such as a winch and high clearance that I would at least consider adding / modifying to anything that I may get. It still remains high on the list of possiblities and now I am looking into 4×4 clubs to learn how to use all of its capablities.

As for the Auto Show, next year I will just have to find some time to get there on a quieter day. There were so many amazing vehicles that I wanted to get a chance to spend more time with but I just don’t have the patience to wait for a quiet time which for some trucks never seemed to happen. Somehow I will have to find a way to make that happen.

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Truck Campers… the Short List

In resent months I have come to the idea that a truck camper is probably my best option for the overland vehicle I am looking for. For a while I had considered getting a van and converting it but as this vehicle will become my primary transport as well a van won’t really work. Being able to separate camper from truck will make it more fesable.

The bonus of a truck camper is that all the comforts anyone would want for extended travel. Truck campers have a bed that doesn’t need to be made each day, a kitchen and table and most have a bathroom with shower. Another advantage is that they have heating and cooling systems and can be insulated to combat colder temperatures.

So in general I am looking for a few things. I am hoping that the entire vehicle will be as light / small as possible. While I don’t plan on doing major rock crawling with the camper attached being able to go off road. Being light will also help with some of the other compromises this rig will have to deal with.

First compromise is that of payload. I am amazed at the small weights that pick ups can carry. That said for day to day driving the smaller the rig the better as fuel economy will already be much worse than I am used to. The second compromise is that of shipping. In order to get to some of the places in the world (South America included) it is necessary to ship your vehicle. Lower weight will hopefully provide some advantage to me. One shipping issue still to be overcome will be the height of the rigs below as I am fairly sure they wont fit within a shipping container, something I may have to figure out.

So these are the current short list that research has told me would be good options for what I am thinking of.

Adventurer Truck Camper Model 80RB

Click picture for review by Truck Camper Magazine

The Adventurer website states that this camper can fit on Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra trucks and all of the pictures show it on a Ford F150. I am not so certain though as the weights quoted and the suggested amount you need to consider for your own belongings exceed the max payloads of those trucks. The nice thing about the Adventurer Campers is that they advertise 4 season insulation as a standard which is a definate plus.

Northstar Laredo SC

Click the picture above for review by Truck Camper Adventure

The Laredo SC is heavier than the 80RB and would need a bigger truck, which it looks like I will have to do anyways. One nice thing about this rig is how it makes use of a Cassette Toilet. If you are going to have a toilet then you will have to deal with the nasty mess that is left behind. In North America camp grounds have waste disposal areas where the RV’s dump their tanks through a hose you carry with the truck but outside of the USA and Canada these facilities are not common. As gross as it may seem to someone that has not used RV’s or trailers, having a cassette that you can take to an appropriate disposal area (any toilet really) is an important consideration if you have a bathroom on board.

Lance 650 Truck Camper

Click picture for a review by Truck Camper Adventure

This camper has been designed and launched in the last year or two and was designed to fit the Ford 150. It is the lightest as well as the shortest camper I have listed and still retains having a bathroom. Anything smaller and lighter comes with that big compromise and isn’t currently a part of the thought process. A very big thing that I like about this camper is that the floor length is only 6.5 feet long which means that it will not hang over the end of the typical truck. The other campers either need to have an 8 foot truck bed or there will be overhang which doesn’t seem ideal to me even though the manufactures say that isn’t a problem.

Winnebago Revel

Click image for review by Gear Junkie

This rig is not a truck camper but I saw it recently and thought it was cool. It is the most expensive idea on this list and would require me to drive a motorhome to work every day but it is a self contained unit that would easily fit in a shipping container. The Mercedes Sprinter van chassis is also a very capable truck and should be able to get to where ever I would want to go with a camper. The other very cool thing about this RV is how flexable it is to a variety of different applications.

So that is where I am at the moment. Do you or anyone you know have any experience with these or other RV’s / Truck Campers that may be useful? If so I would love to hear about it.

Overlanding Research

Amazingly enough it seems like the idea of Overlanding is not that well known in popular circles where I live. I guess that the type of travel I want to do is the thing that most people will never be able to accomplish due to time or expense. That said, there are many people driving the Pan American Highway or heading to more out of the way places. Many of these travelers have been writting about their adventures and they are where I have been getting much of my information. Here are just some of the websites that I have found useful.

Horizons Unlimited

When I first started traveling by motorbike I found this community. The website and forum on this site are run by Grant and Susan Johnson who have a wealth of round the world tripping experience. They also run meet ups in various places around the world and have a how to series of videos about travel by motorbike.

Life Remotely & IOverlander

This blog is a very interesting one. When the idea of heading south along the Pan American Highway I found a website with the ebook ‘Don’t Go There. It’s Not Safe, You’ll Die’ free to be downloaded. At the time that I downloaded it there blog was talking about how they were in the process of creating a travelers app. I have had the app on my phone for a while now and it is an amazing resource for on the road information such as the locations of campsites, hotels, food, propane and fuel, mechanics, shipping companies. There is not much info for the area around me but in other areas there is a lot.

WikiOverland

This website is your typical Wiki. I am not sure who runs it or why but it seems like an interesting site. The info seems to be well edited and in terms of other sites limited but that also means that it is not as overwhelming. The other nice thing about this site is that it seems to be keeping track of an on again, off again ferry service between Panama and Columbia which would be very helpful for all sorts of travelers between the continents.

Expedition Portal & Overland Journal

The Expedition Portal is a forum and online magazine that supports overlanding. As with all forums there is a series of posts on travel methods and destinations. The Overland Journal is a print magazine that is published 4 times a year, I haven’t recieved my first one yet but I am looking forward to it.

Truck Camper Magazine

Having started to look into truck campers more seriously I have stumbled across this site. The site is an excellent source of info for camping with truck campers. The most interesting articles have been about modifications to the campers that people have made. The website seems to have links with many of the major truck camper manufacturers so it will be a place to help determine what rig to get in the end.