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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
7/12/19 7:23 p.m.

I’ve started the search for a slide-in camper for my truck. One problem—I know absolutely nothing about them. 

Budget is as much as necessary and as little as possible, as usual. I’d love to keep this under $5k. 

Truck: 2001 F250 V10 super cab short bed (6.75’) with air springs. 

Wants: Bathroom with a hot shower, doesn’t stick out much (or any) past the bumper. My wife and I are okay with small campers, but the hot shower inside is a must-have.

What should I look for in used truck campers? Anything I haven’t thought of? Brands to avoid or look for? How do I bolt this darn thing down?

spacecadet
spacecadet Dork
7/12/19 7:30 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Hot shower is going to require you to a tankless heater to truly be hot when you want hot. I know that from talking to enough of my buddies with RV's that you'll run out of water faster than you think and without an in line heater, hot water is not guaranteed 

https://www.rvweb.net/best-rv-tankless-water-heaters-reviewed/

The SKi Bum Build might give you some ideas into what you need to be looking for. 

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/ski-bum-truck-v20-f450-rough-road-rv/124133/page1/

 

 

allen_m
allen_m New Reader
7/12/19 8:13 p.m.

Tom give this a look, truckcampermagazine.com 

tooms351
tooms351 Reader
7/12/19 8:13 p.m.

Its not so much taking a hot shower, its the length and frequency of showers. I think my camper had a 20 gal grey tank, but if your at a campground, no worries. I know Lance is a good camper  with a metal roof also artic fox has aluminum studs. Look real close for water damage as it can really affect camper strength. The camper is attached to the truck with a threaded hook arrached to a spring. One hook attaches to a plate bolted to the front of the bed and the bumper on the rear. Good luck, I  really miss coming back from Sebring passing snowbirds on SR64 towing the track car with 10ft camper in the bed.

 

 

Rodan
Rodan Dork
7/12/19 10:35 p.m.

Before you do anything, you need to figure out what your truck can actually carry.

Start with checking the published specs for the truck's GVWR, payload, axle and wheel weight capacities.  It's very easy to exceed the GVWR and payload numbers, and most trucks going down the highway with slide in campers will be over these numbers, especially SRW 2500s.  Remember, payload includes passengers and all cargo.  Weighing the truck will get you a good baseline.

The numbers to be careful of are the axle, wheel and tire weight ratings.  Exceed these, especially tires, at your peril.

Here's a good site for doing the weight calculations once you figure out the ratings and your baseline weight:

Truck camper weight calculator

Once you figure out what you can realistically carry, you can start looking at campers.  Realize that the advertised/brochure weights on campers are almost ALWAYS dry/empty, and with no installed options.  To give you an idea, we have a Lance 981, that is advertised as 3600 lbs dry.  The actual wet weight of our camper is closer to 4500 than 3600, and 40 gallons of water doesn't weigh 900lbs...

Don't forget to factor in tongue weight if you plan to tow while the camper is mounted.  You also may need special hardware for the hitch, depending on the length of the camper and the tongue weight.  IMHO Torklift is the best of the bunch for extensions.

You may find you need override springs and a bigger sway bar to fix sag and sway.  Lots of folks go with airbags, but I like the simplicity of Torklift Stableloads.  Helwig makes big swaybars for most trucks.

Find RV dealers near you and start looking.  Even if you don't buy from a dealer, you'll get to look at setups and features and that can help you decide exactly what you want.  Used campers in good shape go pretty quickly around here. 

If you're looking at $5000 campers, you'll be looking at units that are pretty old.  A PPI by a qualified RV tech is probably a good idea, because they can be expensive to fix.  Most of it is pretty easy to DIY, if you have the time, but packaging can make things a PITA.  The biggest issue with a truck camper is transporting it... as noted above, you'll need to add special equipment to your truck to secure the camper.

We gave things a lot of thought before going with a truck camper, and we've been really happy with our Lance.  It's given us way more versatility than a motorhome or camp trailer, and has already provided some great memories. 

Some gratuitous pics...

grover
grover HalfDork
7/13/19 8:12 a.m.

Can you put a slide in on a short bed? 

Slide ins are cool because in places like montauk they will allow you to camp in the state parks when others cannot. 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
7/13/19 8:34 a.m.
Tom Suddard said:

Truck: 2001 F250 V10 super cab short bed (6.75’) with air springs. 

Wants: Bathroom with a hot shower, doesn’t stick out much (or any) past the bumper.

Is that going to be possible with a short bed?

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
7/13/19 8:49 a.m.

I've said it before... I think GRM is pretty close to being able to justify the ownership of a Toter-home.  

oldopelguy
oldopelguy UberDork
7/13/19 11:34 a.m.

I've never seen a short bed slide in with a bathroom. 

They are kinda formulaic: bed over cab, booth up front for 4 people that converts into a bed for the shorter pair, counter/sink/stove on each side next,  closet/bath/shower at the back.   With 6' to work with the booth for 4 is most of it.

Rodan
Rodan Dork
7/13/19 12:04 p.m.

All the major manufacturers make 'shortbed' campers, but if you want a full bathroom, you're going to have some overhang with a shortbed. 

If you want tailgate flush, there are a number of more 'spartan' lightweight campers out there, but you're probably talking a cassette toilet and outdoor shower.  When we were shopping, my wife took one look and said "NOPE."  cheeky

Here's a bunch of articles to read:  http://www.truckcamperadventure.com/tag/best-truck-camper/

This one specifically for 3/4 tons... their criteria was wet bath+ max wet weight of 3300:  http://www.truckcamperadventure.com/top-8-truck-campers-for-3-4-ton-trucks/

 

 

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
7/13/19 4:30 p.m.

Shortbed and doesn't stick out past the bumper are a bad combo for finding something you'd actually want to spend time in. I did click around that camper magazine site and came away with the same impression.

Also, there is this weird thing in RV'ing where the less someone thinks they will have to change their life to accomodate their first RV, the more they will pay for it. So what ends up happening on the used market is that big Class A's are cheap for what they are, smaller Class Bs are overpriced for what they are, and slide-ins are WAAAAY overpriced for what they are. It's kinda funny because the pricing mostly reflects the opinions of people who dont own RVs.

grover
grover HalfDork
7/14/19 7:42 a.m.

In reply to Vigo :

This is 100% true. The prices are inverted. You can get a pretty nice class A for 15k 

Curtis
Curtis UltimaDork
7/14/19 8:25 a.m.

Slide ins are pretty expensive for what you get, but fortunately there isn't a huge demand for them... which means their value tends to drop pretty quickly on the used market.

Even with an 8' bed and a big camper, full bathroom means a closet with a shower and the toilet is in the corner of the shower.  Not bad by any means, but it's tough to find that in a short bed model.

Keystone and Forrest River are the two brands that come to mind as good.  None of them are great.  They're all made from luan and particle board with cheap hardware, but Keystone and Forrest River are at least put together well.  Mom and Dad are selling one, but it won't work for you.  It's about the biggest one Keystone makes. 8' bed, big overhang, king bed over the cab... monster.  Needs a dually.

On the hot water part, most of them will have a 5 or 6 gallon water heater that works on LP or 120v.  I'm currently sitting in my 5th wheel with a 5 gallon heater and I don't run out of hot water in the shower.  RV showers have a shutoff at the shower head.  Wet down, turn off the water, suds up, turn on the water, rinse.  If you let the water run, you will run out of hot and you'll also rapidly fill the small holding tank.

If your camping is mostly in the summer and not where the bugs are too bad, an outside shower is a possibility.  Many RVs have the option of an outside shower which is more or less a nozzle on the outside of the camper that looks just like the one in an RV bathroom.  Buy a pop-up shower enclosure and just take showers outside.  They sell them made of nylon with the spring steel in the seams.  They unfold a lot like those windshield sun guards and pop up.

Curtis
Curtis UltimaDork
7/14/19 8:38 a.m.

There are two main types of tie-downs that are typically used.  One type has a square tube that slides down in your stake pockets and has a flat steel  extension that sticks out.  Turnbuckles and done.

The other style is a square tube that mounts under the frame of the truck.  You slide in "receiver" type inserts and tie down to that.

Image result for truck camper tie downs

Image result for truck camper tie downs

ShawnG
ShawnG PowerDork
7/14/19 10:04 a.m.

Have had several slide-ins over the years. I pull a trailer now.

Everything has already been said but I've used both styles of tie-downs, the stake pocket models and belly bars.

Stake pocket tie downs worry themselves loose and stress the box a lot. Buy belly bars and forget about it.

If you can swallow the cost. Fastgun turnbuckles are great.

 

Jcamper
Jcamper Reader
7/15/19 12:59 a.m.

Tom,

Just finished getting camper loaded, jet skis and kayaks ready for some camping fun. Watch the rear axle weights and capacities, get the biggest grey tank you can since that always ends up being my dry camping limitation, and keep an eye on bed to cab height when shopping camprs. The Fords have tall cabs which can mean cribbing under camper and higher step in height.  Love camping and parking anywhere!

jcamper

porschenut
porschenut Reader
7/15/19 9:39 a.m.

Not gonna work

1. Short bed

2. Hot shower

3. You will end up hating the steps to get in and out.

4. Way too cramped for 2

 

 

iceracer
iceracer UltimaDork
7/15/19 1:25 p.m.

Most campsites have showers.

If you find the need of frequent showers you really aren't into camping.

Jcamper
Jcamper Reader
7/17/19 3:26 p.m.

All 4 of us have showered after a hike with no water issues. As someone said earlier, you take a navy shower- use hot water to get wet, then hit the shutoff on the shower head, lather up, then use the shower head to rinse off. Pros leave the toilet open and when rinsing hair get as much water in there as possible. Saves grey capacity and helps get more water into black tank. 

The propane fired water heater recovers very quickly so 5 gallons is plenty. 

We have owned our same wet bath no slide Elkhorn 9T since buying new for 11k in 1999. Camped and traveled extensively with motorhomes, travel trailers (towed behind our camper sometimes), pop ups, etc.  We still feel like it is the perfect RV.

We found a good old porcelain percolator coffee maker for coffee, and I installed parallel #10 wires through a lift gate plug to charge my dual 6V Odysseys quickly while driving. If we are camping for just a few days and don’t need AC, I don’t even bother plugging in to hookups. No need. 

If the weather is good the kids are in a tent, if not they sleep inside. Works great. The greatest thing when traveling is being able to park in a regular spot, always have toilet, food, and bed with you.

We have found that since we are short we don’t need reservations for camping at national parks. Always a space. 

Did I mention it is great to tow toys and have your RV? A short Class C or A would do many of these things except have the 12 valve Cummins.

Sorry for the long post but if it is not clear I am pro slide in camper. 

Jcamper. 

porschenut
porschenut Reader
7/18/19 10:40 a.m.

He wants something that fits on a short bed with no overhang.  The elkhorn is nice but does both.

xflowgolf
xflowgolf SuperDork
7/18/19 11:23 a.m.
Jcamper said:

All 4 of us have showered after a hike with no water issues. As someone said earlier, you take a navy shower- use hot water to get wet, then hit the shutoff on the shower head, lather up, then use the shower head to rinse off. Pros leave the toilet open and when rinsing hair get as much water in there as possible. Saves grey capacity and helps get more water into black tank. 

The propane fired water heater recovers very quickly so 5 gallons is plenty. 

We have owned our same wet bath no slide Elkhorn 9T since buying new for 11k in 1999. Camped and traveled extensively with motorhomes, travel trailers (towed behind our camper sometimes), pop ups, etc.  We still feel like it is the perfect RV.

We found a good old porcelain percolator coffee maker for coffee, and I installed parallel #10 wires through a lift gate plug to charge my dual 6V Odysseys quickly while driving. If we are camping for just a few days and don’t need AC, I don’t even bother plugging in to hookups. No need. 

If the weather is good the kids are in a tent, if not they sleep inside. Works great. The greatest thing when traveling is being able to park in a regular spot, always have toilet, food, and bed with you.

We have found that since we are short we don’t need reservations for camping at national parks. Always a space. 

Did I mention it is great to tow toys and have your RV? A short Class C or A would do many of these things except have the 12 valve Cummins.

Sorry for the long post but if it is not clear I am pro slide in camper. 

You're making me want a slide in camper.  That sounds ideal for what our family of four would like to do.  ...and I'd rather have a truck around the rest of the time when we're not camping vs. a class C or A.  Less to register/insure/maintain/etc.   

redstack
redstack Reader
7/18/19 12:12 p.m.

I've lusted after a Bigfoot fiberglass camper for years. Great quality, least amount of leaks, only around roof hatches. Only downside is you don't find many outside of the NW. I just missed one last week after years of searching. 

Next choice Arctic fox. 

ShawnG
ShawnG PowerDork
7/18/19 12:50 p.m.

Caveman campers were really good but nobody wants to part with them.

They're aluminum framed, not stick framed.

NoBrakesRacing
NoBrakesRacing Reader
7/18/19 2:59 p.m.

Cruise America rents truck and lance slide in to your specs. 

Cruise America camper

I've rented it twice with my wife and son. Note with two kids we rent a 25" class b.

It's a small bathroom but it's workable. 

Would recommend renting for as few days if available in your area. Not a bad price in the off season. 

 

Good luck

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
7/18/19 4:23 p.m.
Jcamper said:

All 4 of us have showered after a hike with no water issues. As someone said earlier, you take a navy shower- use hot water to get wet, then hit the shutoff on the shower head, lather up, then use the shower head to rinse off. Pros leave the toilet open and when rinsing hair get as much water in there as possible. Saves grey capacity and helps get more water into black tank. 

The propane fired water heater recovers very quickly so 5 gallons is plenty. 

We have owned our same wet bath no slide Elkhorn 9T since buying new for 11k in 1999. Camped and traveled extensively with motorhomes, travel trailers (towed behind our camper sometimes), pop ups, etc.  We still feel like it is the perfect RV.

We found a good old porcelain percolator coffee maker for coffee, and I installed parallel #10 wires through a lift gate plug to charge my dual 6V Odysseys quickly while driving. If we are camping for just a few days and don’t need AC, I don’t even bother plugging in to hookups. No need. 

If the weather is good the kids are in a tent, if not they sleep inside. Works great. The greatest thing when traveling is being able to park in a regular spot, always have toilet, food, and bed with you.

We have found that since we are short we don’t need reservations for camping at national parks. Always a space. 

Did I mention it is great to tow toys and have your RV? A short Class C or A would do many of these things except have the 12 valve Cummins.

Sorry for the long post but if it is not clear I am pro slide in camper. 

Jcamper. 

 

I’m going to go off topic a bit.  Hope nobody minds.

This is Grassroots right here.  And I mean that in the most positive and respectful way.  Those skis remind me of my old ‘90’s Seadoos with their splashy graphics. Everybody chuckles at mine but they run great and I picked them up with trailer for next to nothing.  Neither were running but all they needed were minor TLC.

Like me you’ve got a 20 year old truck.  But show me a better one.  There aren’t any.  You’ve got a 20 year old slide in camper and it works great.

I’ve got the best toys money could buy in 1999.  They all work great.  They’re all repairable.  And best of all I don’t owe a dime.  This is Grassroots.

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