How to Choose the Best Truck Camper: Complete Guide

truck camper in parking lot

Embarking on outdoor adventures and embracing the serenity of nature is a pursuit that resonates deeply with many. For enthusiasts seeking to elevate their camping experience, truck bed campers, also known as slide-in campers, present an excellent option. These versatile and compact camping companions offer the perfect blend of mobility and comfort, allowing you to traverse off-the-beaten paths while still enjoying the conveniences of home.

Used campers

As you set out on your journey to acquire a truck camper, a fundamental decision arises: Should you opt for a brand-new camper or consider the benefits of a used one? When it comes to purchasing a used truck camper, thorough evaluation is the key to ensuring that you're making a wise investment. As you consider your options, keep the following factors in mind to make an informed decision that aligns with your camping aspirations and budget.

Previous maintenance/damage

One of the first things that you should do with any used vehicle or camper is to see if there has been any damage or issues in the past. Request maintenance records and examine whether routine upkeep, repairs, and servicing have been diligently carried out. A well-maintained camper is likely to offer better performance and longevity. Conversely, a history of neglect could result in unexpected issues down the road. Pay close attention to signs of water damage, structural wear, and any noticeable repairs. Engaging the services of a professional mechanic or camper technician can provide invaluable insights into the camper's overall condition.

Where it was stored

The environment in which the truck camper was stored can significantly impact its condition as well. Campers stored in a sheltered space, such as a garage or covered storage, are often better protected from the elements, including UV rays, rain, and extreme temperature fluctuations. On the other hand, campers left exposed to the elements for extended periods might show signs of weathering, faded exteriors, and potential deterioration of seals and materials. By understanding where the camper was stored, you can estimate how well its materials and finishes have held up over time, aiding you in negotiating a fair price or making an informed decision about potential future maintenance and repairs.

How often it was used

The frequency of camper use provides insight into both its wear and its overall condition. Campers that have seen regular use might display signs of interior wear, such as worn-out upholstery, carpets, and appliances. However, regular use isn't necessarily a negative factor — it might indicate that the camper's systems have been regularly exercised, which can contribute to their overall functionality. Balance the frequency of use with the condition of the camper to gauge its overall health.

Exterior checklist

  • Roof - carefully examine roof seams and seals for signs of cracking, peeling, or deterioration, as these vulnerable areas are potential entry points for water.
    • Inspect around roof units and vents to ensure seals are intact and free of gaps, because any compromise could lead to leaks.
  • Walls - thoroughly inspect the walls for visible damage, including tears, holes, cracks, and dents. Such issues can compromise the camper's structural integrity and weather resistance.
    • Also look for signs of delamination, which is the separation of the layers of the camper's exterior. Delamination can lead to further damage and a compromised exterior.
  • Windows & doors - check window and door seals to ensure they're intact and not cracked (damaged seals can allow water to enter the camper).
    • Test all windows and doors to make sure they properly open and close without resistance. This ensures ease of use during camping.
    • Look for signs of leaks around windows and doors, indicated by water stains or damage on the interior surfaces.
    • Examine window and door screens for tears or damage that might compromise insect protection and ventilation.
  • Awnings - inspect the awning material for tears, holes, or significant wear. The awning provides shade and protection from the sun, so its condition is vital.
    • Test the awning's open and close function to ensure it operates smoothly, and check the locking mechanism to confirm the awning can be securely fixed in the open position.
  • Undercarriage - carefully inspect the underside for any signs of damage, such as dents or scrapes. This area is susceptible to impacts from rough terrain, particularly if it’s been overlanding.
    • Look for rust or corrosion, especially in areas exposed to road salt or moisture, because rust can compromise the structural integrity of the camper.
  • Jacks - if possible, demount the camper from the truck and rest it on its jacks, checking for stability and making sure the camper is level.
    • Test the jacks to ensure they can be raised and lowered smoothly. Stable jacks are essential for a safe and comfortable camping experience.
  • Connections - inspect coupling equipment, such as the hitch or gooseneck attachment, to ensure they're in good condition and securely attached to the truck.
    • Also check power connections, including electrical hookups and trailer brake connections, to ensure they're functioning properly.
    • Inspect water tank fill and drain connections for leaks or damage that might affect your water supply and waste disposal.

Interior checklist

  • Electronics - check circuit breakers or fuses to ensure they are not tripped or blown. This affects the functionality of various appliances and systems.
    • Test all appliances, including the refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave, and any entertainment systems, to ensure they work properly.
    • Verify that all lights and outlets are functioning, as these are essential for both functionality and comfort.
    • Check the batteries to ensure they hold a charge and provide sufficient power for interior lighting and other electrical needs.
  • Water damage & mold - inspect the ceilings, walls, and corners for signs of water damage, such as discoloration, bubbling, or warping. Water damage can indicate leaks that compromise the camper's integrity.
    • Look for any signs of mold or mildew, particularly in areas prone to moisture buildup, such as around the toilet and shower.
  • Windows & doors - test the latching functionality of all windows and doors to ensure they can be securely closed from the inside and provide proper insulation.
    • Inspect for any damage or cracks in the windows that might compromise their integrity or allow moisture to enter.
  • Heating & cooling systems - test the heating system to ensure it functions properly and provides adequate warmth, and do the same with the air conditioning system.
    • Be sure to also check the filters for cleanliness and proper function.
  • Plumbing - assess plumbing fixtures, including sinks, faucets, and toilets, for leaks or damage.
    • Inspect water tanks for any signs of leaks, corrosion, or damage. Tanks should be clean and well-maintained.
    • Test the water heater to ensure it heats water effectively.
    • Operate the water pump to confirm proper water pressure, and check for any unusual noises.
  • Safety alarms - test carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors to ensure they are functioning correctly. These alarms are vital for your safety while camping.

Features to look for when buying a new truck camper

From innovative storage solutions to environmentally friendly features, the world of truck bed campers is brimming with possibilities. These are some essential elements that buyers should keep in mind while considering different available options:

Space to live inside

Truck campers are ingeniously compact to fit in a truck bed, but their interior space can significantly vary. Models often feature slide-out sections that expand living areas when parked. This feature benefits families, couples, or individuals seeking extended comfort during camping. Those who value a cozy yet spacious living environment will appreciate having enough room to relax and unwind after a day of outdoor activities.

Plenty of storage (inside & outside)

Storage solutions in truck campers range from overhead compartments to under-seat storage and exterior cargo areas. This setup benefits campers engaged in diverse outdoor activities or who prefer an organized living space. With ample storage, you can easily stow away personal belongings, outdoor gear, and equipment, ensuring a clutter-free and convenient camping experience that results in more spacious interior areas.

Reach Your Roof

The addition of a truck bed camper adds considerable height to your overall rig. The camper itself may come with a built-on ladder to climb the back and access the roof. However, it’s also a good idea to invest in a sturdy set of running boards on your truck, allowing you a quick step-up to reach higher areas on the sides of the camper.

Lightweight for MPG savings

Designed with fuel efficiency in mind, there are especially lightweight truck campers that provide the opportunity for extended travel without frequent fuel stops. This feature appeals to road trip enthusiasts, eco-conscious campers, and anyone who aims to explore vast distances while minimizing their carbon footprint. By choosing a lightweight model, you can maximize your mileage and minimize environmental impact.

Multiple backup power sources

Equipped with various power sources such as solar panels, propane tanks, and auxiliary batteries, many modern truck campers offer off-grid capabilities with reliable backups. This appeals to adventurers who relish remote camping experiences, allowing them to tap into power even in locations far from electrical hookups. Those seeking the freedom to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations will find this feature indispensable.

Standalone capabilities

Certain truck camper models allow for easy detachment, leaving the camper behind while your truck is used for exploration. This feature caters to off-road enthusiasts and outdoor lovers who want to engage in activities requiring a more agile vehicle. The ability to park the camper and freely venture into rugged terrains offers versatility for a wider range of adventures.

Additional amenities

Luxury features in truck campers encompass entertainment systems, gourmet kitchens, and more, transforming your camper into a home on wheels. Families, couples, and individuals seeking the comforts of home while immersed in nature will greatly benefit from these amenities. Whether it's enjoying movie nights or preparing meals with ease, these features enhance the overall camping experience.

Make sure it actually fits

Before falling in love with a truck camper, ensure it's actually compatible with your truck's bed length (short bed, long bed, etc.). It is important to get exact measurements of your truck bed. Avoiding this oversight guarantees a safe and stable setup for your camper, and this consideration is universally important for all buyers to prevent any unexpected issues related to size and fit.

The best truck camper is yet to come

As our exploration of truck campers comes to a close, you've gained the insights needed to steer your camping adventure in the right direction. The roadmap to your perfect camper involves careful consideration of factors like space, storage, power sources, and versatility. Each element caters to specific preferences and styles, ensuring a tailor-made experience.

But the journey doesn't end here. We have exciting developments on the horizon, poised to enhance your outdoor escapades with innovation, comfort, and sustainability. Keep an eye out for upcoming announcements from TAXA, and learn more about our current lineup of habitats today!