How To Pick the Right Truck Camper

Derrek Sigler
by Derrek Sigler
(Philip Lange/

If you own pickup truck and want to explore the great unknown, a truck camper is a great option. But how to pick the right truck camper? That’s where we come in.

It all started with my in-laws. They recently bought a new Chevy Silverado pickup and after the “oohs” and “aahs” of looking over their fancy new truck, they casually mentioned that they decided to get a bigger truck because they have plans to buy a truck camper so they can do some specialized camping trips next spring and summer. I asked them what type of camper they were going to get, and the response was, “I don’t know yet. What should we get?”

There are many types of truck campers out there, so picking the right one for your needs is a matter of knowing the features you want and, of course, your budget.

Truck campers are nothing new. They’ve been around for decades. These are small campers that slide into the bed of a pickup truck and allow you to travel anywhere the road takes you and well beyond. What they lack in space, they make up for in mobility. Many allow you to still tow a trailer as well, letting you haul your ATV or boat with you on whatever adventure you’re headed out for.

Rigid or Expandable?

Truck campers come in two basic types, each with its own qualities. Rigid campers have exactly what you’d expect – solid walls and a set height. These campers offer rigidity and in most cases, far better insulation, both from cold weather and from sound. Alaska is a state where you’ll find many truck campers, and the vast majority of them are hard-sided rigid campers, due mostly to the extremes of the weather conditions. Rigid campers also allow for more layout options, as the basics don’t have to fold down to make way for the camper to be folded up. You can also find hard-sided campers with slide-out options, which make for a more comfortable environment and even more options.

So why consider an expandable? They have definite advantages, too. For one, the height is definitely lower, so if you travel in areas with clearance issues, an expandable is more for you. Along with that, the lower height offers less resistance to air, and therefore an advantage in fuel economy for your truck. Another thing to consider, if you don’t have a full-size truck, and instead drive a mid-sized pickup like a Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier or Chevy Colorado, there are expandable truck campers available to fit your smaller platform truck. This opens a whole new world for exploration for these truck owners.

Expandable Options

Expandable truck campers come in two different styles – hard sided and soft sided. In this respect, they are much like expandable tow-behind RVs. So which option works best for you? The hard-sided expandables offer the same benefits of a rigid truck camper, so they have the additional insulation and protection in a more compact package than a standard hard-sided truck camper. The trade-off is weight, as they tend to be heavier than a rigid camper due to the mechanisms needed to raise and lover the roof.

Bed Length

Most trucks come with one of three different bed lengths. A long-bed truck usually means one with an eight-foot box. A standard-length box for full-size trucks is 6.5 feet. Some trucks labeled as short-box trucks have a five-foot bed. This is also pretty common for modern crew-cab trucks. The longer the bed length of your truck, the more options you have for using that space with a truck camper. You’ll see some with hang-down extensions in the back. These will give you some more camper space, but may limit your ability to tow anything behind the truck.

Mid-size trucks usually have a five-foot bed, or a six-foot bed, which is often referred to as a long bed option. Again, if you’re buying a new truck with getting a truck camper in mind, be mindful of the bed length when planning out your purchases.

Other Considerations

Truck campers have a pile of options for you to pick from, including bathrooms and even shower setups. For rigid campers, there are several options depending on the model and manufacturer, for slide outs to expand the size of the living space. One of the biggest considerations involves the cab-over area. Most common truck campers have a cab-over sleeping area, but you can get one without the additional space.

Like most RVs, truck campers offer a freedom to explore the great outdoors, in a highly-mobile platform. If you’re like me, and the wild places call to you, a truck camper is a great option. For more information, you will always find more on this website.