We both grew up camping in tents and campers. When we married, we started out with a tent and would go tent camping up until after we had kids. Once our boys were a bit older, we purchased our first travel trailer, several years later we moved up to a 5th wheel and have had 2 since. Here we are in our 50s, our kids are grown, and love to travel in our 5th wheel. Just recently we decided that we’d like to go back to something smaller and picked out a truck camper. The reason we decided on a truck camper, which is only 100 square ft., was for getting into smaller places we were not able to go in our 5th wheel. Most state and National parks don’t have campsites large enough for a 42ft RV and we felt like we were missing out on some beautiful parks.
Because this is an RV we never owned before we had to do some research to figure out what we needed for a truck camper. We couldn’t find a list anywhere of all the must-haves and some of the nice add-ons, so we made one. Here are the top 10 items we think are needed when you purchase a truck camper.
1. Tie Downs – To even be able to carry a truck camper on your truck the first thing you need to purchase is tie-downs to your truck. The tie-downs are installed under the truck and attached to your frame. They attach to the front and the rear of your truck. These will stick out of your truck a bit, but they are removable when you’re not using your truck camper. You will need to find custom-fitted ones that will fit your brand of truck.
2. Turnbuckles – Turnbuckles are what attach the truck camper to the tie-downs under the truck and keep the camper on the truck. They are a must-have safety item. They turn so you can tighten them onto the truck and the camper, hence the name turnbuckles.
3. Rubber truck bed mat – A rubber mat for the bed of your truck not only protects your truck, but it keeps the camper from sliding around in the back of the truck. The mat will also keep your camper from bouncing while driving down the road, especially if you are going off the beaten path.
4. Front & Side stabilizers – Here is something that we didn’t know before purchasing our truck camper, most of them are not really meant to sit off the truck without some kind of stabilizer bars on the front of the camper. When you take the camper off the truck, it is front-heavy and could possibly tip over if not stabilized properly. If you purchase front stabilizer bars/stix you will not have any issues. You can even use them while the camper is still on the truck for more stability. The side stabilizers are not a must for a truck camper, but they do make your camper have less of a wobbly feeling, some are even called Wobble Stoppers.
5. Surge Protector - one of the most important items that any camper or RV needs is a surge protector. Never plug your RV into an electric pole without a surge protector. While most campgrounds poles are safe, we don’t want to take any chances with a power surge. We have always connected our surge protector first and it will let us know by lighting up if the pole is safe and have a reliable source for power.
6. Air Suspension Airbags – When you sit a camper on a truck they are heavy and sometimes the truck will sit too low in the back, and you want the truck to be level when you are towing. If you get airbags for your truck this helps raise the truck to normal height. They also help with steering control and will reduce swaying, which is safer for driving.
7. Hitch Extender – Your truck camper will extend past your truck hitch making it impossible to tow anything behind your truck. A hitch extender will allow your hitch to then stick out past your camper. Then you can add a bike rack, or cargo carrier, or pull a boat, trailer, or another vehicle.
8. Water filtration & drinking hose - If you have a water hookup to your truck camper, you will need a drinking RV hose to attach to the camper and the spigot at the campsite. While most water at the campground is clean, we always hook up a water filter. It attaches between the spigot at the campground and then connects to our designated drinking water hose. There are many different brands and types available. This will save you on weight from loading up on water bottles as well.
9. Dehumidifier – If you are traveling to a wet or humid climate you will need a dehumidifier of some kind or moisture absorption packets. Water is your biggest enemy in any RV, and you want to keep moisture out of your camper. The biggest places you can get mold in truck campers are the bathroom and under the beds. We use a dehumidifier while we’re traveling and moisture-absorbent packets when we’re not traveling or not hooked up to a power source.
10. Backup power - Generators, solar, lithium batteries – These are not a must-have when you purchase a truck camper. But they are always great to have just in case of an emergency. If you are camping at a campground, you could lose power at any time, we have had that happen to us several times. Most people that purchase truck campers want to travel and stay off-road or off-grid. Lithium batteries are great to help you at least run your lights and refrigerators overnight. If you plan to stay longer you will need either solar panels or a generator to charge the batteries so you can enjoy your experience off-grid.
We think the first 5 are a must for truck campers. A few of the others would be great for any camper, the backup power, dehumidifier, water filtration, and surge protector are all great to have for an RV. We hope this was helpful and if you are purchasing or thinking of purchasing a truck camper this could help you with what you need to get on the road safely.