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Lessons Learned Buying My First Truck Camper


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#1 OFFLINE   kevg

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Posted 29 June 2015 - 08:20 AM

Hey there, I thought I'd post some of my lessons learned buying my first truck camper. Maybe one day it'll help someone like me. I'd be interested to hear any thoughts or additions (or disagreements!).

  • Slide-outs are a must. They make everything so spacious.
  • Solar panels are worth it so that you don’t have to always worry about disconnecting the battery when leaving the camper for a while
  • Learn all the weight acronyms and try to take everything into account (solar panels, generators, etc). Most of the additional weight will be on the back axle (although cab+engine is still the majority of the weight in front), so each GAWR is just as important as GVWR.
    • Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) = Everything in Vehicle including passengers and cargo
    • Wet Weight/Curb Weight = GVW – (Passengers + Cargo)
    • Dry Weight = Wet Weight – Fluids
    • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) = Max GVW
    • Gross Combination Weight (GCW) = GVW + GTW
    • Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) = Max on one axle
  • List out all truck components (axles, wheels, rims, springs, etc.) to find your weakest weight rating link, as that’s all that really matters (unless you upgrade those). Manuals can be confusing: some calculate available cargo assuming a 150lb person in every seat. Manuals might also give the rating of something as its weakest link, so for example an axle might have a much higher rating but it may be listed at the rating of the springs (which can be upgraded).
  • Get weighed at a commercial truck scale before and after putting on the camper
  • Wheel airbags with remote control are really nice – 5 PSI without camper and 70 PSI with
  • Get a rechargeable tire inflater and a tire gauge that runs to the tires’ max PSI, which has an end that screws on so that there's a tight connection
  • Make sure the tires are at max PSI before putting the camper on and between trips (gauge when they haven't been used for at least 30 minutes)
  • Use checklists before putting on the camper, taking it off, going somewhere, etc. (e.g. retracting the slide out, moving license plate, etc.)
  • Make sure the center of gravity will go in the right place
  • Measure the total height of truck+camper and put it somewhere on the dash so that you always know if you’re good when an overpass is coming up.
  • When backing the truck under the camper, kneel down under the tailend to see if you’re lined up
  • If you’re financing, as always, get a few quotes before hand to find a good deal on the rate.
  • If you get bigger wheels, make sure the odometer is updated to track correctly.


#2 OFFLINE   Hempomatic

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 08:03 PM

Pretty accurate for the most part. Slide outs are a nice luxury, but add enough weight that you may have have to upgrade the truck you want to match it up to. I've never seen (limited experience here) a camper with a slide out that would work on a 3/4 ton truck. Bigger wheels? I've never had a truck or any other vehicle that tracked mileage accurately and they ALWAYS err in the manufacturers favor. If I put on bigger wheels and tires, and the speedo read in MY favor, I'd give it a big yahoo and call it a day.

One thing I'd add is purchase a quality frame mounted tie downs and spring loaded turnbuckles.

ken

#3 OFFLINE   PigPen

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Posted 01 July 2015 - 10:31 AM

Slide outs are a potential failure spot. I would avoid them if you really don't need one.


2014 Snowriver 234RBS

 

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#4 OFFLINE   KnightEagle

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Posted 01 July 2015 - 01:04 PM

   There are good points and bad points in Slides. How and where they are mounted in the TC they will either allow the dinner table floor to be 2 or 3 inches above the TC floor or almost a foot above. The higher floors the slides mech are under them wile the lower floors most will find the motors in the walls on each end of the slide. On the ones under the floor aligning them can be a chore. The bottom is a fixed point where all adjustments are based off of, the top of the slide is what's being adjusted only. In or out, front to rear. The next is a real pain up and down the bolts that holed the slide to the TC floor and wall. The slides where the motors are in the walls are a lot easyer to align.

   We been looking at the new TC's and not seeing a side door model we really like there are a few like the Host Mammoth its a beauty like it better than the EC 1160 or 1165 then Adventure 116st.

   The Mammoth a triple slide side door entry, back end slides out has a 54" couch on the drivers side the dinnet and restroom slides out (all doors into bathroom has to be stored in open position) also the kitchen slides out it's a big monster but weighs less than the EC 1165. The tub location in the center of the truck bed near the cab wall a N-S position has a huge basement. A down side have to run two dump hoses and a tee or y connection to hook up to a stander rv dump spot at a site spot black tank is in the slide under the throne. The EC and Adventure are also as good in there ways. Were leaning towards the Adventure.

   The added room with slides are great. We went out to Huntsville and looked at NorthStar's new TC 12STC it was reall nice for a non slide, side door model but it could used a basement to put the gray and black tanks along with the values. They were attached to the outside wall so every one in the world can see. The cabnets looked as if they were from two defferent TC the one next to the wardrobe was 2" higher than the stove and sink area, the battery location was under the seat near the fridge. It was cramped feeling to it really needed the basement would gave it a little more room and more storage, The black tank was an option?

   In side door models slides are a most rear door models They are a extra some more room but not a most have our AF-990 layout is the very same as our old Weekender the defference in the two is the rear door is pushed to the left 8" smaller bath location of the throne and no slide and no basement.


  :sign0007: I got it fixed!

 

2012 Ram 3500HD DRW. RideRite 5000 Air Bags. Hellwig sway Bar rear. Curt hitch 17000/2550. Engine: 6.7-Liter I6 Cummins® Turbo Diesel Engine Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic 68RFE. 2017 Adventure Alp 116DS 5153+ lb. Reg Cab. Torklift Frame mounts. Ranch Hand Front Bumber, Duel hitch and 4' extension . C.B channel 19 most times. Towing a 16 ft storage trailer with a jon boat inside.

 

ALP116DS2017
ALP116DS10.JPG

 


#5 OFFLINE   languiduck

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Posted 21 July 2015 - 10:47 AM

Nice list.  I have comments with the following:

 

Slideouts are not a must.  Some people don't need or want the room (ok, well maybe no one would turn down extra room), extra cost, weight, or hassle.

Solar panels are not necessary just because you aren't using the camper for a few months.  You should have a battery disconnect; use it.  A deep cycle battery will be fine left disconnected.

Financing an RV is one of the worst financial decisions anyone could make.  They don't hold value well at all, any tax savings is still less than interest paid, and if you've never been in a position in your life where you decided you will never make monthly payments again, then you won't understand I guess.  Best to save up for one.

 

A must that I learned the hard way - Load the camper on your truck before you buy it!  Cab heights and bed lengths vary.  I ended up having to shim the camper up 3" to clear the cab, and back 1" to clear the taillights.  Apparently Ford Superduties have a taller cab than most trucks, and their short bed is 6.75' vs 6.5'.  No biggie but I may have chosen a different camper armed with that knowledge.  



#6 OFFLINE   KnightEagle

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Posted 21 July 2015 - 01:27 PM

So true slide outs are not a must have. It depends a lot on the model and the location of things. Were looking at side door models. Problem not a whole lot out there that don't have a slide. Saw a NorthStar without a slide and a side door model. Nicely built but a mismatch of capnets it seemed. Also it had no basement. But space inside was kind-a tight. If you never had a slide might be a perfect TC for you. With a basement does make a TC taller. But I noticed from the Weekender to the AF and the Lance were the ceiling height Weekender had a 7'6"-8' the Lance/AF closer to 6'6"-7' celing but so nice to kick the table out the side and have the spare room to get around your partner that may have the hot frying pan. When you are trying to get the cold beer out of the fridge. Truck makers have forgotten that TC are still around it seems. My Ram's 3500 rear fenders are less than 2" from the water inlet for connection at the campground's. Not a problem if it was a SRW but a DRW whole defferent line.


  :sign0007: I got it fixed!

 

2012 Ram 3500HD DRW. RideRite 5000 Air Bags. Hellwig sway Bar rear. Curt hitch 17000/2550. Engine: 6.7-Liter I6 Cummins® Turbo Diesel Engine Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic 68RFE. 2017 Adventure Alp 116DS 5153+ lb. Reg Cab. Torklift Frame mounts. Ranch Hand Front Bumber, Duel hitch and 4' extension . C.B channel 19 most times. Towing a 16 ft storage trailer with a jon boat inside.

 

ALP116DS2017
ALP116DS10.JPG

 


#7 OFFLINE   Hempomatic

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 07:45 AM

In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time here first and paid greater attention to negative reviews. So many negative reviews are based on the wrong criteria, i.e., it arrived in the mail damaged, the color wasn't exactly what I ordered, stuff like that.

In the case of MY camper, the universal opinion is that it's basically a grossly overpriced piece of garbage and is prone to catastrophic water leaks.

I had it up for sale locally hoping that I could recoup most of the money I played out, but the best offer I got was 12K which would be a little more than a 10K loss.

I wish at the very LEAST I could get the dealer and the manufacturer to give me a straight answer. The web site shows a roof warranty of 15 years, my dealer says ONE year. I haven't been able to contact the manufacturer regarding that warranty.

SIGH ........... This was one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. I'm probably going to sell my Harley so I can pay this thing off so at LEAST I have the title in hand. If and when I can sell it, I'll by another bike.

I feel like such a knucklehead.

ken

#8 OFFLINE   KnightEagle

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Posted 22 July 2015 - 03:17 PM

Don't beat your self up to badly we all do dumb things. We traded off our old Weekender some say at the right time. Had to rebuild the front wall of the TC due to rot. the repair job was ok just looked like hell. Due to all I did was build it out 1 1/2 and re covered it. The rot was confined to the screws that held the jack on the front corner. We got a Lance 1191 that was a pain in the xxx quality is not a word Lance knows very well these days. At the time it was 2 years old. Every time we took it out there was something new to fix. Even when we found a deal where we could walk away even and 500$ in our pockets, on the way over to Arizona the slide started to slide out on its own. A fast fix and away we went. Now we have the AF-990 its nice be fine for a few more years. Out of these three the Weekender was the worse mistake of all in buying, but yet I learned the most on.


  :sign0007: I got it fixed!

 

2012 Ram 3500HD DRW. RideRite 5000 Air Bags. Hellwig sway Bar rear. Curt hitch 17000/2550. Engine: 6.7-Liter I6 Cummins® Turbo Diesel Engine Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic 68RFE. 2017 Adventure Alp 116DS 5153+ lb. Reg Cab. Torklift Frame mounts. Ranch Hand Front Bumber, Duel hitch and 4' extension . C.B channel 19 most times. Towing a 16 ft storage trailer with a jon boat inside.

 

ALP116DS2017
ALP116DS10.JPG

 


#9 OFFLINE   Kpatrick

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Posted 17 August 2015 - 09:08 PM

I just bought my first truck camper after years of thinking about it. I bought a 2015 RAM 2500 with the 6.7L diesel from my local dealership and didn't really pay much attention to GVWR thinking that I would be fine and that I "had enough truck". My mistake! I ruled out buying a dually due to day to day driving/commuting, but I should have bought the 3500 with the rear leaf springs instead of the coils. I met a guy the other day at a local campground and peaked at his door sticker and he has another 2300lbs of GVWR with the same truck just the 3500 model with the leafs and possibly one notch higher for the rear axle.

 

I initially bought an Arctic Fox 990 with slide and the built in generator option and quickly found out that I was WAY over my GVWR and GAWR for my rear axle. My truck with a full tank of fuel weighed 8040lbs without me or anyone else in it. Just the truck with fuel. My GVWR is rated at 10,000lbs and my rear axle rating is 6000lbs. When I weighed the 990 with a full tank of fuel and an empty camper at the same scale, it came in at 12,400lbs with 7500lbs at the rear axle. Fortunately, my local RV dealer let me unwind the deal and basically trade down to the "Wolf Creek" brand that Northwood sells (model 840) and I saved close to 1600lbs. I have no slide and no built in generator, but that is fine with me because the truck handles easier and the wife feels comfortable to drive it. 

 

The slide really made no difference to us due to we don't have kids and really wouldn't use the dinette as much as we would use the couch on the Wolf Creek 840. True, the slide out gives the perception that there is more room and there certainly is more floor space, but I feel now that I have something more simple and can hop in the camper anytime without moving the slide out. I also now feel more comfortable knowing that I am not close to 3000lbs over my GVWR and possibly 2000lbs over my rear GAWR of 6000lbs. I am still over my GVWR, but am currently under my rear GAWR by a few hundred pounds.

 

I definitely like the fact that with a truck camper, I can park anywhere and turn around just like I was driving the truck without anything on it. It's a little bit of a pain to hop into it and I have to lift my two older labs to get them in, but I think I will appreciate it in the end and I am looking forward to using it a lot. It's completely different hauling 3000lbs as opposed to towing 3000lbs though. My new truck squeaks in the rear suspension so I need to figure out what is happening there. I am just wondering how much wear and tear this will have in the end.



#10 OFFLINE   Hempomatic

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Posted 21 August 2015 - 06:30 AM

I initially bought an Arctic Fox 990 with slide and the built in generator option and quickly found out that I was WAY over my GVWR and GAWR for my rear axle. My truck with a full tank of fuel weighed 8040lbs without me or anyone else in it. Just the truck with fuel. My GVWR is rated at 10,000lbs and my rear axle rating is 6000lbs. When I weighed the 990 with a full tank of fuel and an empty camper at the same scale, it came in at 12,400lbs with 7500lbs at the rear axle. Fortunately, my local RV dealer let me unwind the deal and basically trade down to the "Wolf Creek" brand that Northwood sells (model 840) and I saved close to 1600lbs.


WOW ! I did a similar thing, getting the truck first, but not on as grand a scale. I didn't want a truck I couldn't uses as a 2nd vehicle, and the duallys were just a little too bulky as well as significantly more expensive, and the only 1 ton trucks I could find were nearly 7 grand more expensive, shooting my budget to s#$t. I was a little more careful with the weight, but still over by a few hundred lbs. In YOUR case though, the dealer should have TOLD you that you were going WAY over your GVWR.

ken

Edited by Hempomatic, 21 August 2015 - 06:31 AM.


#11 OFFLINE   KnightEagle

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Posted 21 August 2015 - 10:10 AM

I don't put the blame on the Truck Dealer its on the TC dealer, Way I see it the AF-990 weigh's in at 3010lbs and the fox package you have to get no choice weigh's app 650lbs then you start adding options and gear you can easy get up to 4785lbs and that's way into 1 ton territory. But the Some dealers and few manufactures use the base weight a lot not the final weight as a few due. Yes 3010lbs(AF-990) falls into a 3/4 ton range but the wet and final will make them a terrifying ride. Then you have the Truck makers each trying to out due the other in carrying and towing. Really have to know your weight limits BEFORE you get the TC If your limits are 4200lbs find a TC at 3000lbs. We are looking into getting a new TC after the first of the year the Adventure 116DS its weight with all options is 5055lbs and my trailer I be running at or near my limits because of the tongue weight and onboard gear. Should I have a 450 class a 550 yes on the side of safety/wear and tear yes. But still need the DRW. If you can afford a 1 ton get a DRW a bare truck don't get all the bells and whistles, diesel more for pulling and heavy loads just as efficient as their gas counter parts down side there heaver than gas. Then 4 door vs 2 door about 600lbs more for the 4-door which you lose in the payload. We use the TC as we travel sometimes one is sleeping wile the other is driving getting drinks and snack food. But with someone in the back we tend to lower our max speed to  55-60 than 65-70  or 15 under posted speeds. They market the 990 as a 3/4 ton camper when in all fareness its clearly a 1 ton SRW almost a DRW model.


  :sign0007: I got it fixed!

 

2012 Ram 3500HD DRW. RideRite 5000 Air Bags. Hellwig sway Bar rear. Curt hitch 17000/2550. Engine: 6.7-Liter I6 Cummins® Turbo Diesel Engine Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic 68RFE. 2017 Adventure Alp 116DS 5153+ lb. Reg Cab. Torklift Frame mounts. Ranch Hand Front Bumber, Duel hitch and 4' extension . C.B channel 19 most times. Towing a 16 ft storage trailer with a jon boat inside.

 

ALP116DS2017
ALP116DS10.JPG

 





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