Author Topic: Camper van or truck camper?  (Read 272 times)

Kingcreek

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Camper van or truck camper?
« on: December 05, 2022, 03:53:58 PM »
As I approach retirement…
Starting to consider some travel options. Plan is to downsize the house and free us up to travel some. We might sell off our current 4BR 2500 sf house and a few acres and build a very efficient and low maintenance 1400-1600 house on remaining land or relocate somewhere.
For travel I can rough it but wife insists on a toilet and shower (even if it’s one of the minimal water closet type) bed and kitchen. All can be had in a camper van. Really want to stay under 25’ for parking and national park limits.
 A DRW 1 ton truck would be great with a truck camper as long as shower available.
and I need to be able to tow with whatever we get, fishing boat or flat tow the Jeep rubicon. Bigger towing possible without camper mounted.
The transit sprinter ram vans with camper conversions are great but run up to $150k and it becomes pretty much travel camper only not so much multi use. She is getting total knee replacement in 2 weeks and entry/exit from a van would likely be easier for her. A ford transit 350 DRW with a camper conversion would be great especially if I can find one affordable and basic. Don’t need the adventure van off grid 4x4 versions.
Wife and I have negotiated her desire to downsize even as far as condo or townhome as long as I can fulfill my wanderlust and outdoor mountain man lifestyle.
I suggested renting a van for 1 trip so we can see what we really need or don’t need.
Used to be camper RV and outdoor shows in late winter and early spring but haven’t heard of those in recent years.
Anybody have any experience or thoughts? Thanks
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Brad Johnson

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2022, 04:11:55 PM »
Easy... Truck Camper. That way you have a truck for hauling haul stuff during that 90% of the year you aren't camping. Hard to plunk down that kind of coin on a dedicated camper van when you can have about the same amenities plus a lot more non-camping utility for less. Plus, camper vans have a nasty habit of being underpowered, unreliable, and difficult to service, not to mention generally lackluster tow ratings.

Recently SWMBO and I went through a bunch of vids from Josh the RV Nerd (https://www.youtube.com/@JoshtheRVNerd). A couple reviews were for truck campers. They have come a long, looong way from the one we had when I was a kid. It wasn't much more than a portable aluminum tent with a built-in Coleman stove. Modern versions have models ranging from plain but still well equipped to nicer than our house. Some even have slideouts.

Don't completely discount a couples-camper pull behind though you're considering a boat. There's some super stuff available within your self-imposed size limits. Heck, even popups are amazingly nice these days. Plus, you don't need a one ton longbed DRW to haul them, a SRW 3/4 ton will do just fine along with being more useful and convenient as general transportation when you get where you're going. More comfortable, too. One ton duallies tend to ride rough when unloaded. They're also stupid wide and freight train long if you opt for supercrew long bed version. You're always dealing with tight squeezes, and the turning circle is measured in acres, not feet. Navigating small rural locales, getting turned around in a camp ground, and finding a spot in pretty much any parking lot is a constant headache.

Brad
« Last Edit: December 05, 2022, 07:09:41 PM by Brad Johnson »
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charby

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2022, 06:04:31 PM »
I'm going to be facing the same decision in 10 years, preparing for part time vagabonding in my retirement. I'm probably going to be leaning towards a 4x4 3/4 ton long box with a mild lift and an Alasksan side in camper.

I'm hoping that I can slide the camper out at the campground for a few days while I go fish during the day if I take a boat on that particular trip. I don't want to have to move my home every time I want to use the boat. Plus backing a boat with a slide in camper in the bed sucks, hard to see around the extra width, especially on smaller boat launches.

I want a 4x4 with a mild lift, because I know I'll be vagabonding on public lands and off the paved road. Also depending how slimy a boat ramp is or if it's a rock ramp, sometimes it's nice to have 4x4 for ease of getting a boat and trailer in and out.
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Kingcreek

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2022, 11:56:40 PM »
I get the advantages of a truck with camper. Can upgrade or replace either one and not both and a lot more ways to use a truck. But my wife is 68 now and about to get a new knee. She’s a tough little Norwegian but only 5’ tall. I don’t know if she would do the climbing for a truck mounted camper with bed over cab.
I’m 65 with a TKR 6 years ago but I still climb and bowhunt deer from tree stands.
Hell I don’t even mind tent camping but she is done with that.
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Brad Johnson

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2022, 09:39:51 AM »
But my wife is 68 now and about to get a new knee. She’s a tough little Norwegian but only 5’ tall. I don’t know if she would do the climbing for a truck mounted camper with bed over cab.

That changes the dynamic entirely. Cabover camper is out, then.

Back to the van v. truck thing... I'd go with a camper/truck combo. It gives you more room, more flexibility, less cost, and more room. Also more room. Did I mention more room? Want to know what it's like living in a camper van? Co-habitat in your hall bath for a week, but with sticks that whack you in the head if you stand taller than four feet.

Brad
« Last Edit: December 06, 2022, 10:53:47 AM by Brad Johnson »
It's all about the pancakes, people.
"And he thought cops wouldn't chase... a STOLEN DONUT TRUCK???? That would be like Willie Nelson ignoring a pickup full of weed."
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Ben

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2022, 11:14:17 AM »
I'll throw a completely different idea out there. A combination of camping/cabins/hotels motels.

Would your wife be amenable to an occasional night in a truck camper, or even basic camping van if it was rewarded with more nights in a hotel or cabin with amenities?

I haven't been doing longer road trips for a while, but when I was doing them a lot a few years ago, one of the things I enjoyed were my tactical trout assaults in the Eastern Sierra, where I would arrive at a trailhead in the afternoon, grab a minimalist backpack and gear, hike like 8-10 miles into an alpine lake and fish the evening and next morning, then hike out and head straight to a hotel for a shower and a bed. Then on my remaining days, just do daytime exploring via roads or 4x4 trails, but end up in one hotel or another at the end of the day. You get a little "roughing it", but then get to wash the trail dust off the next day, versus doing grubby camping for a week.

I would do the same thing on multi-state trips, where I would maybe intersperse 2-3 overnights of tent camping between nights in hotels or cabins or airbnbs.

Maybe you could do something like a camper shell on a pickup and see if your wife would be amenable to an occasional night in a developed campground rewarded by more nights in hotels/cabins. Even averaging $100/night, it would probably end up being much cheaper over the long haul than that $150K van conversion.
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Brad Johnson

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2022, 11:52:25 AM »
I'll throw a completely different idea out there. A combination of camping/cabins/hotels motels.

This in spades if it's an option. The well-north-of-$100k you'll have in a camper/truck/campervan will buy thousands of gallons of fuel and lots of nights in really cool places. They do the cleaning, too.

Brad
It's all about the pancakes, people.
"And he thought cops wouldn't chase... a STOLEN DONUT TRUCK???? That would be like Willie Nelson ignoring a pickup full of weed."
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Kingcreek

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2022, 01:54:55 PM »
Yeah she likes a real bed and a bathroom with shower. Maybe hotels for us and tent camping for me if I want to go satisfy my inner mountain man for a few days.
We will need to replace the ford fusion with something anyway, maybe an explorer or similar AWD crossover.
I’m not willing to give up my 4 door wrangler rubicon. I could even add a platform rack and a roof top tent.
I still might look into renting a camper van for one trip just to see how good or bad it is.
I drove various full size pickup trucks for over 30 years. When I retired my last one it was replaced with the Jeep and a good single axle utility trailer.
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Brad Johnson

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2022, 03:02:49 PM »
We will need to replace the ford fusion with something anyway, maybe an explorer or similar AWD crossover.

Explorer Timberline, or up your game with the Bronco Badlands.

Brad
It's all about the pancakes, people.
"And he thought cops wouldn't chase... a STOLEN DONUT TRUCK???? That would be like Willie Nelson ignoring a pickup full of weed."
-HankB

charby

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2022, 03:25:36 PM »
Yeah she likes a real bed and a bathroom with shower. Maybe hotels for us and tent camping for me if I want to go satisfy my inner mountain man for a few days.
We will need to replace the ford fusion with something anyway, maybe an explorer or similar AWD crossover.
I’m not willing to give up my 4 door wrangler rubicon. I could even add a platform rack and a roof top tent.
I still might look into renting a camper van for one trip just to see how good or bad it is.
I drove various full size pickup trucks for over 30 years. When I retired my last one it was replaced with the Jeep and a good single axle utility trailer.

I'm on my second camper, camper bathrooms and beds are nothing like home or a motel room. Actually my second camper doesn't have a bathroom because I'd rather use the shower house at the campgrounds.
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Bogie

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2022, 09:57:43 PM »
Why not a nice Diesel F350 (or larger...) with a 20' trailer? Or do you gotta have that boat?
 
The "van" campers are pretty cramped. The larger RVs are maintenance pigs.
 
If I was going to go on the road now, and finances would permit, I'd likely go with a Freightliner (their "pickup" version) or a big truck Volvo, and a 20' Airstream.
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tokugawa

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2022, 12:49:51 AM »

The thing that gives me the willies about truck bed campers and trailers is you can't beat feet without getting out and around to the driver door.

dogmush

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2022, 10:00:12 AM »
So some thoughts, worth what you pay.

Wife and I have been doing a lot of traveling and overlanding the last couple years, and while my rig is definitely NOT what you are looking for there may be some lessons learned you can use.

My current rig is a four-door 6.5' bed F150, and unless you are planning on sticking solely to RV centric campgrounds, I wouldn't get any longer than that.  It's already a kind of pain in the butt in some spots.  I've had to do like 15pt turns to get turned around on jeep trails while offroading.  That's always fun.  There's also the height. When thinking of Truck v. Van, height is often overlooked.  Not height of the vehicle, but height of what you will end up doing on the vehicle. Everything about my truck involves climbing up into it.  We off road a lot so we need to, but if I didn't need it, it would be annoying.  Also truck suspension on highways is not as nice as van/RV suspension on highways.  Again, I need it, but if you don't, there's no reason to put up with it.

Think about camping vs. traveling.  Or rather staying vs. traveling.  We can pretty comfortably do about 500mi a day.  That's get up, breakfast, break camp, drive (stop to let dogs pee), get to new camp, set camp, dinner, sleep.  Not much exploring.  It very quickly became apparent that a more enjoyable trip is to get somewhere, set up a camp and stay there for a while, and explore that area (Hikes, scenic spots, winery/brewery/distillery tours, scenic/historic drives etc.)  Which means you either need a vehicle that is reasonably economical and easy to drive/park (1 dually w/ camper might not be) or a secondary vehicle.  My F150 is fine, if kinda gas hungry, but I wouldn't want to lock myself into exploring with a dually/camper.  Not to mention having to pull power/water fittings every time you leave.  An RV with smaller vehicle might be better for this.  If, on the other hand, you are sure you are going to be the "on the road, new place every night" type of traveler, a truck/camper is less hassle to drive on highways (not towing anything) and probably a tic more economical.  Pick an emphasis.

As Charby mentioned, most RV type campgrounds have decent to nice bathhouses that don't require you to dump blackwater.  I wouldn't stress about trying to get a really nice head in your camper.

Trucks, and truck based stuff will invariably involve more climbing up into stuff.  Even if they have steps, there will be more steps.

For what you describe, it seems like a Class B van with a lower floor and comfortable on highway ride, combined with your towed Jeep might work really well.  You could get some place, throw out the awning, porch, power cord and water hose, then explore around in the Jeep until you are ready to move on.  Something like this may work out pretty well: https://www.rvtrader.com/listing/2017-Thor-Motor-Coach-COMPASS-23TR-5022905088

TL:DR:  Think hard about traveling vs. base camping, and build your rig around that decision.  You don't want to have to break camp and drag everything down to the store for some firewood.  Unless you need truck stuff (Higher vehicle, Ground clearance for off-roading, non RV truck vehicle) trucks are not as good as van based chassis for comfort, driving, and livability.

Gratuitous photos of my rig out and about:


Kingcreek

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Re: Camper van or truck camper?
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2022, 03:43:09 PM »
Dogmush, what you say makes a lot of sense.
I probably don’t need to tow my fishing boat. My Jeep handles it fine and my wife couldn’t care less about fishing.
It’s probably more about US traveling and ME camping (and fishing) and I can do that with what I have now.
If I rent a camper van and she decides to like it or at least accept it, a couple e-bikes might be better than towing another vehicle behind it.
What we have here is failure to communicate.