Truck Camper vs. Travel Trailer: Which Is The Best For You?
You’ve decided to downsize from your full-time RV and just do weekends. Or maybe you’re looking to upgrade your tent or you are thinking about purchasing a truck camper or travel trailer. Which way do you go? You’ve got the truck, now you need the cover for the elements and for ultimate comfort; a real stove to cook your fresh catch, a real bed for a good night’s sleep and indoor plumbing.
Being a full-time RVer, I am privy to the pros and cons of both the truck campers and travel trailer. I own a fifth wheel and previously owned a travel trailer. I am considering downsizing and eventually getting off the road. Truck campers are built for weekends and shorter trips whereas you can full-time in a travel trailer and take much longer trips.
Two popular manufacturers of truck campers and travel trailers are:
Here I will not try to compare apples and oranges; a Lance truck camper to a Grand Design Reflection travel trailer. Instead, I will compare apples to apples; a Lance truck camper to a Lance travel trailer and a Northwood Toyhauler travel trailer. The two most popular manufacturers I will use are Lance and Northwood. They build truck campers and travel trailers. This way you can get a true comparison.
You can mix and match and you may decide to go large or tiny, but this will give you your best information when comparing the two:
Links to other manufacturers:
Space inside a truck camper is very limited. Two adults with no pets would fit the most comfortably. In a travel trailer, there is much more room and you could fit four adults and a pet comfortably. You may or may not have inside plumbing in truck camper. The holding tanks are bigger in a travel trailer.
There isn’t much as far as storage in the truck camper whereas there is plenty of storage in the travel trailer. Slides are more prevalent and safer in the travel trailer for more space. These things alone lend to longer, more comfortable trips in the travel trailer. Yet, if you want something just for weekend trips into the woods, with two adults, then the truck camper will work nicely.
Wants and Needs
Short or long box/length
Truck Campers fit either a six or eight-foot bed. The longer the bed, the bigger the camper: More options, more slides, more space. Although, the longer and bigger they are the more top heavy they are.
Travel trailers usually range from 19 to 35 foot. Again, the longer the trailer, the more options, the more slides, and more space. Although the longer they are, the heavier they are and harder to maneuver.
Number of slides
On both the truck camper and travel trailer the more slides you have the heavier you are. Slides add a lot of additional weight. On the upside, you’ll have more living space and more options. Basically, it’s about safety and comfort.
There aren’t much you can add to the inside of a truck camper, but you’ll have enough room for the necessities without the options that a travel trailer can have, like more furniture, more inside storage and more kitchen counter space. All depends on what you are using your camper or trailer for.
A couple of very important points I want to make here is that when it comes to the actual towing part. In a “back road driving” situation, a travel trailer will not maneuver very well on a back, rutted dirt road. There is also the strong possibility of “bottoming out.” Whereas a truck camper will run the back roads but you have to remember it’s top-heavy and tipping over is a very good possibility.
Also, you may “white-knuckle” yourself while driving down the highway in a bit of wind with a travel trailer with a tail wagging the dog situation, but with a truck camper the height will be a disadvantage in the wind, and you can be blown over.
When going down a back road or the highway, both types of RVs have their advantages and disadvantages and what you decide to purchase shouldn’t be solely based on “white knuckle” situations. There are good and bad with both, but as the saying goes: It comes with the territory.
This is important, but not a deal breaker as both RVs have their faults when going down the road. Just reading the online forums will show you this. It’s just one part of the equation, but a very important one.
Holding tank sizes
The black (waste), gray water and fresh water tanks will all be larger in your larger campers and trailers. The larger the tanks, the longer the trip/stay.
All-around onboard storage capabilities go to the travel trailer. The more you can store, say canned goods, clothes, and tools, the longer your trip.
Vehicle needed for towing
Camper or trailer, the bigger your unit, the bigger, more powerful your tow vehicle is going to be. A camper will always need a truck, but with trailers, SUV’s can pull the smaller ones. One-ton trucks will be needed for the larger, heavier trailers.
- Minimal modifications to tow the vehicle.
- Easy to drive.
- Can tow an extra trailer for things like boats.
- It can easily be stored in a backyard or garage.
- Can reach campsites on less accessible roads.
- Great for weekend trips.
- Top heavy. Can be an issue on back roads and in the wind.
- Limited living space and storage.
- Large, open living area.
- Low profile roof for extra storage.
- Towed with any vehicle rated for the weight of the trailer.
- Has full bathroom.
- Has comforts of home.
- More onboard storage.
- For longer road trips, snow-birding and full-timing.
- Requires skill for turning and backing up.
- Cannot access the trailer from a tow vehicle.
- Cannot tow extra trailer or vehicle behind it.
- Need off-site storage when not in use.
- Difficult to maneuver in tighter spaces.
- Floor Length 8′ 11″
- Overall Length 18′ 0″
- Exterior Width 96″
- Exterior Height 8′ 11″
- Interior Height 81″
- Cabover Height 3′ 5″
- Dry Weight w/Std. Equipment 2997 Lbs.
- Wet Weight w/Std. Equipment 3331 Lbs.
- Center of Gravity Front 38″
- Center of Gravity Rear 40″
- Convertible Dinette Bed 44″ X 72″
- Sleeping Capacity 5
- Fresh Tank 30 Gallons
- Grey Tank 20 Gallons
- Black Tank 25 Gallons
- Refrigerator 5 Cubic Feet
- Propane 2-5 Gallon Tank
- Furnace 20,000 BTU’s
- Floor Length 22 ‘6″
- Overall Length 27′ 0″
- Exterior Width 96″
- Exterior Height 122″
- Interior Height 78″
- Sleeping Capacity 6
- Gross Dry Weight 4930 Lbs.
- Hitch Dry Weight 635 Lbs.
- Axle Weight 4295 Lbs.
- Cargo Carrying Capacity 1470 Lbs.
- GVWR 6400 Lbs.
- Tire Size ST205/75R14
- Fresh Tank 45 Gallons
- Grey Tank 90 Gallons
- Black Tank 45 Gallons
- Refrigerator 6 Cubic Feet
- Propane 2-5 Gallon Tanks
- Furnace 25,000 BTU’s
- Dry Axle Weight (approx. Lbs.): 6770
- Dry Hitch Weight (approx. Lbs.): 1533
- Net Carrying Capacity: 3697
- Gross Dry Weight – Lbs.: 8303
- Gross Vehicle Weight (GVWR) – Lbs.: 12000
- Length (Exterior) (approx. w / hitch): 30’2″
- Height (Exterior) (approx. w/AC): 13’0″
- Width (Exterior) (approx.): 8’6″
- Tire Size: ST235/80R16
- Load Range: E
- Fresh Water Capacity (w/water heater, approx. gal.): 100
- Gray Water Tank (approx. gallons): 47
- Black Water Tank (approx. gallons): 50
- LPG Capacity (approx. lbs): 60
- Sleeping Capacity: 6
- CSA – Canadian Dealers Only: Yes
- Auto Ignition Furnace (1,000 BTUs): 30
These specifications are the heart of the truck camper and travel trailers. This tells you what you’re getting when you are out camping. The bigger the holding tanks, the bigger the rig, the longer and more remote your trip can be.
As far as the floor plans, that is up to the individual and their wants and needs. Everything from how/where the bathroom is laid out to which way the bed is pointing, i.e., north to south, do you want a couch or recliners and what size fridge you need.
A lot has to do with the actual space size, what you’re using it for and how many people/pets you want to accommodate. Plus if you have any toys like quads or dirt bikes and how you want to haul them. You can even choose between color schemes. Also, slides add floor space. All this should be taken into consideration when purchasing a truck camper or travel trailer.
Three alternatives to the truck camper and travel trailer are the Expandable, Teardrop and Conqueror trailers.
Sleeps up to four adults. Has collapsible top and sides for a compact towing. Can be towed with a car or SUV.
Three alternatives to the truck camper and travel trailer are the Expandable, Teardrop and Conqueror trailers. Sleeps up to four adults. Has collapsible top and sides for a compact towing. Can be towed with a car or SUV.
- Hitch Weight 178 lb.
- UVW 1722 lb.
- CCC 656 lb.
- Box Size 8
- Exterior Open Length 17’ 1”
- Closed Length Exterior 12’ 1”
- Closed Height Exterior 5’ 11”
- Exterior Width 84”
Sleeps two adults and can be pulled by a car. The kitchen is in the rear. I’ve seen a lot of these at RV parks.
- Exterior Length (Box): 116-inch
- Exterior Length (Coupler): 163-inch
- (Fender to Fender) Exterior Width: 80-inch
- (Sidewall to Sidewall) Exterior Width: 60-inch
- Exterior Height: 72-inch
- Bed Area: 58-inch x 78-inch (Queen)
- Interior Height: 47-inch
- Interior Width: 58-inch
- Fresh Water: 11 gallons
The Conqueror(Australia) is now available in the USA and is a gem of a travel trailer. It is of military grade and can go anywhere and stand up to the elements. It is, dare I say, awesome! Take a look, there are several options. I am seriously considering purchasing one.
- 2x Heavy Duty Support Legs fitted at Rear
- 3x 16″ Alloy Rims with 285/75/16 AT Tyres
- 50mm ALKO Coupler & Safety Chain
- AL-KO Mechanical Override Brakes
- High-lift Jacking Points
- Hot Dipped Galvanised Chassis
- Leaf Spring Suspension
- LED Tail Lights
- Mud Flaps
- Removable Jockey Wheel
- Spare Wheel Carrier
- Standard C Channel Draw-bar chassis rails
- 1x 4kg Gas Bottle Fitted on Draw-bar
- Electric Water Pump
- Gravity Fed Water Tap
- Water Tanks – 150L Total
It has everything from a kitchen to Bluetooth entertainment.
RV forums are great places to get advice when deciding between a truck camper and a travel trailer. Reading through the threads will help you learn what to expect through others’ experiences. You will have fans of both units so you have to take everything with a grain of salt. You will learn pro’s and con’s of both units, things you may have never thought of. It’s a great place to ask for advice. Here are a few forums worth checking out:
Just type in truck camper vs. travel trailer and you should find what you’re looking for.
Deciding on whether to purchase a truck camper or travel trailer depends on your wants and needs at the time. Truck campers are more for shorter trips on remote roads, and they ultimately maneuver easier through town. Travel trailers are for longer trips down smoother roads and ultimately are harder to maneuver in town and in tighter spaces.
Travel trailers sleep up to six adults comfortably whereas truck campers comfortably can sleep up to two adults. The floor plans are similar, but truck camper space is limited, and everything is on a smaller scale. In a travel trailer, there is more storage, and the holding tanks are bigger for longer trips, including full-timing in the 30+ foot trailers. There are also the toy haulers that can haul motorcycles, quads, and kayaks; the living space and garage are just about 50-50.
When the need arises, you can go smaller as in a Teardrop trailer or larger as in a fifth wheel. Truck campers and travel trailers fall right in between size wise. Where you want to go, how long you want to stay and how comfortable and at home you want to feel will lead you into making the right purchase.
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