Life in the back of a truck (part 3)

March 14th, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

We still haven’t got the shiny pictures from Carlsbad uploaded, so I’ll go back to an old standby and bore you all with life in the back of a truck… again!

It’s a truck, you can carry anything, right?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Weight is a big concern for most fulltimers, but I think it is a much higher priority for truck campers. At first glance, you might think a class C would be heavier than a truck camper, and you’d probably be right… at least until you add the truck. They’re on similar sized chassis, so why would you worry about weight so much more in a truck camper? If you stop and think about the construction differences, I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of what causes the problem.

Class C’s are built on a bare chassis as a stand alone unit. A truck camper is separate from the truck and still needs to maintain structural integrity. Additionally, it’s sitting on a truck that hasn’t been gutted by the manufacturer to remove unneccessary (for camping) features. A truck camper and truck combo has a fair bit of redundant construction compared to a class A/B/C RV. The camper has to hold itself together both on and off the truck, which is more than you would ask of a standalone RV.

But, it’s still way smaller than the giant 5th wheels and trailers you see people towing, right? Sure, but there’s a big difference in the way the weight is carried. Trailers put the bulk of the weight on their own axles, which is why trucks can tow so much more than they can haul. Trucks have all sorts of weight ratings including GVWR, GCWR, GAWR, and tire load ranges.

Confused yet? Ok, let’s see if we can make some sense of these ratings and which ones will matter to you.

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Life in the back of a truck (part 2)

January 25th, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

Why a truck camper when you could have something much larger?

True, a bus conversion or a 5th wheel would give quite a bit more space than a truck camper, but if you can deal with the smaller size, a truck camper has a lot going for it. For starters, you can take it places that just aren’t practical in most rigs that are suitable for fulltiming. Sure, a popup trailer or an especially small travel trailer might make it down a particular nasty stretch of dirt road, but even those are going to have issues if it turns out backing out is required. A smallish Class C is as manueverable as a truck camper, but they’re awfully hard to find in 4 wheel drive models with the kind of clearance you get from a full size truck.

Another bonus to truck campers is that you don’t really need to tow along a second vehicle for running around. Many Class A owners tow a dinghy vehicle for sightseeing in order to avoid moving their RV once its parked. While, we also haul around a scooter for short trips, we often just move the entire truck and camper if the trip requires it. Better yet, if we’re going to be somewhere more than a few days and know we’ll need to run around in the truck a lot, we can just drop the camper and have a separate vehicle to drive. It takes a bit more effort than dropping or loading a trailer, but the truck can easily be loaded or unloaded in around 30 minutes.

A final reason we really like the truck camper option is that the camper and drivetrain are not married as they are in Class A’s or C’s. If you decide you’d prefer a different floorplan or the truck experiences catastrophic failure, you can always change truck or camper with a minimum of hassle and keep the one you’re still happy with. For that matter, you can dump the camping lifestyle altogether and keep the truck. Not having the RV and truck married is what allows you to have a 4wd, diesel RV with good clearance at a reasonable price. It’s also an excellent choice for anyone that would like to pull a boat. Many states prohibit double towing, and I can’t imagine it being particularly fun even in those that allow it.

But, isn’t a truck camper way too small to live in fulltime?

I guess that depends on your lifestyle and what you want and need out of life. There are probably more people living in vans than truck campers by an order of magnitude. I can stand up fully, stretch out fully and have considerably more room to move around than any van I’ve ever seen except perhaps the shuttle buses, which I imagine would make a nice little rolling house with some work.

Personally, I find there is plenty of living space, but I’ve always liked living in smaller spaces. They prevent me from accumulating too much junk and I can usually find things I’ve mislaid without much trouble. Jenn and I as well as two cats have been living in the camper for 12 of the last 14 months and I feel much more comfortable to be back in our camper than I felt while we had the run of her parent’s place the past couple of months.

The one real constriction I feel about living in something the size of a truck camper is making a concious effort not to accumulate too much junk and finding a place to store the things we need. Anytime you consider picking up a new item, you have to think about just how often you’re going to use it, whether or not you can get along without it and where you’re going to store it. On top of that, you should consider whether it will be able to replace something you already have or if you already have something that can do the same thing. This problem actually helps me to save money by not buying things just because they’re shiny!

The best laid plans…

July 30th, 2007

Well, another weekend pretty well shot. People just don’t understand how to take care of RV’s. Everything we’ve looked at has had water damage due to not being regularly resealed. I’d like to believe that people tell us there is no water damage out of ignorance rather than actually lying, but it’s getting hard to believe in a lot of cases.

We’ve pretty well decided to consider anything we come across at this point. We’ve looked at class a’s, class c’s and 5th wheels. We’re pretty open to the 5th wheel idea as it will let us get a 4×4 diesel truck for gas mileage and accessibility. The hard part is finding one that isn’t ginormous! We’re having a hard time finding anything nearby that’s 26 feet or less.

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