Saturday, April 9, 2016

Why a Truck Camper or The Swiss Army Camper Alternative

So the question becomes, "Why buy a slide-in instead of a much larger trailer that has more room?" That is a valid question. Let me attempt to explain the thought processes of a very feeble brain that has been damaged by years of loud music and poor diet.

First of all, almost all RV's are compromises between cost and construction -- this is similar to boats. There are really no important generic construction quality differences between the types of RV's. Instead, quality is a characteristic of a particular manufacturer or brand. The majority of RV's are built cheaply on assembly lines by people that appear to be recruited daily from urban street corners and put to work with a minimum of training. "Here, stick some staples into that until it doesn't come apart. Drive the screws in deep until the wood splits." An exaggeration, but not by much!

This is a brand new camper on a dealer lot! NOT the one we bought...

Good, reputable RV brands are typically family owned businesses that actually place a premium on quality workmanship and reliability. All one needs to do is look "under the hood" at wiring harnesses, cabinet construction and plumbing details to see the differences. I have seen brand new campers on dealer lots that have literally been coming apart at the seams. Most camper brands are pretty predictable concerning quality control, whether good or bad. Price is always a reliable predictor of how much attention has been paid to construction, so you generally get what you pay for. Truck campers have been built for decades and have been around since the truck was invented. The brands associated with them have often been around for many years too. In fact, some brand names have been bought and sold several times -- be sure the quality has stayed up to snuff if you are considering one of those.

Second, we needed a solution for our camping wants that included flexibility. A trailer limits where you can travel by determining how far off paved roads you can go. We actually see ourselves "boon docking" on forest roads once in a while in order to get away from the herds of humans attempting to do the RV thing. A truck camper (TC) also has the ability to enable the truck to tow a trailer with other toys on it, whether it be an ATV, boat, or simply more camping stuff. After all, one can never have too much stuff.

The TC enables carefree traveling. Reservations become a thing of the past as you travel according to personal whims. To stop for the night the TC owner can simply find the nearest Wal-Mart, Flying J, rest area, or other public access to pull over and park. There is no set-up, nothing to do but exit the truck cab and disappear into the TC. Since ours will have no slide out section it will won't take up more than a typical parking lot space.

The TC can be unloaded anywhere that is relatively flat. That means the truck becomes serviceable as a tour vehicle while the camper remains at the camping spot. Electric jacks, one on each corner of the camper make this an easily accomplished five minute load or unload. The jacks even come with a wireless remote! No more having to tow a "toad" vehicle behind the motorhome or having to tow a chain of trailers down the road like a traveling circus.

Most national parks and state parks have rather limited capacity for trucks with trailers, and fees are higher for those few spots. TC's are often not regulated like trailers and can slip in under the radar. TC's are also more compact and have virtually no footprint, which kind of helps with the wilderness ethic. They are self-contained, most having their own water, grey water, and black water tanks. Virtually all TC's have DC battery systems to power themselves for days, if not weeks away from electrical hookups. These systems are also charged by the truck when it is in operation.

TC's come in various sizes and configurations ranging from ultra light off road adventure models to giant, Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe behemoths that weigh in at over 5000 lbs. In all of these TC's the owners have made the choice to live a more spartan camping lifestyle than those that require the weight, size and space required by a typical travel trailer. It is a decision that is not made lightly. Many try the TC and find it too cramped. It is not a good choice for a large family with pets. However, there are some who make the switch to trailers only to find they miss the simplicity and freedom of the TC, only to make the move back. This buying and selling of campers is something that we did not have the capacity to afford, so we hope we have made the right choice.

Third, TC's are COOL! They have all the amenities of a trailer albeit compressed into an area the size of a postage stamp. The brochures for these campers often have captions under the photos that say "actual size." They are the true swiss army knives of campers. Ours has an impressive list of options including; microwave, air conditioning, hot water, flush toilet, power outlets, USB charging plugs, queen size bed, dinette with table, refrigerator with freezer compartment, screen door and windows, a wet bath with shower, and an outside shower for when you want to really experience the raw outdoors. The camper is ready to go to places that have no facilities or hook ups because it has; two propane bottles, two deep cycle batteries, and almost 40 gallons of fresh water storage.

Fourth, TC's are often cold weather compatible. They have less area inside to heat and can be built to withstand the cold. Ours is four season rated, which means not only does it have a good heater but it has insulated walls and compartments. The containment tanks are heated and are located in a basement that has heat ducts specifically located to prevent freezing.

So that is why we feel the truck camper is the best solution for us.

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