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Why We Went from Van Life to Living in a Truck Camper

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(This post is sponsored by Four Wheel Campers)

Joe and Kait Russo of We’re The Russos are no strangers to nomad life. Several years ago, they were both working 9-5 jobs, had good health insurance and lived a “normal” life.

But something was missing. The couple wanted to pursue their passion for travel, and not just on weekends and vacations.

In 2015, the Russos made a huge move: they ditched their stuff and started living in a Class A RV.

In the years since, they also lived in a Class B RV, and now finally, are living in a truck camper by Four Wheel Campers.

I caught up with the Russos to learn more about their decision to start living in a truck camper over a different type of RV.

What vehicles did you look at before you ended up living in a truck camper?

Black Class B RV with motorcycle in the back crossing a stream
This is the Class B RV the Russos test-drove before settling on the truck camper

Joe and Kait: We knew we wanted to stay small, so we primarily looked at 4×4 Class B RVs with the ability to carry our dual-sport motorcycle.

A vehicle with four-wheel drive was an important consideration for us because we want to explore the backcountry and finally drive down some of the forest roads we were hesitant to explore in a 2wd camper.

One of the standout 4×4 vans we tested was the Storyteller Overland. We got to take the Transit MODE4x4 Prototype to Toquerville Falls in Utah and get a better understanding of the ride and capability of four-wheel drive RVs.

What went into your decision to choose a truck camper?

Four Wheel pop up camper with the top popped and ladder going inside
The Russos truck camper with top popped

Joe and Kait: Timing, budget and availability were some of the factors that started us down the path of living in a truck camper.

We initially planned to get a 4×4 camper van, but when we started looking at used camper vans, we either didn’t like the chassis they were built on or we didn’t like the interior build.

The pop up truck camper appealed to us because we could get the 4×4 truck we wanted with the camper we wanted and have the option to change either one in the future.

We published a video that explains in more detail why we picked a truck camper over a camper van.

Why did you choose a pop up truck camper by Four Wheel campers?

Four Wheel truck camper driving down the road

Joe and Kait: We tested living in a truck camper in the Hawk flatbed model and fell in love with the pop-up truck camper setup. 

The flatbed model offers an open floor plan with a small footprint, plenty of storage and is a lightweight truck camper.

We ordered our Four Wheel Camper with many of the options available and the dry weight came out to 1,640 lbs.

Since we live out of the truck camper full-time, we prefer the amount of interior storage compared to the slide-in model and the fact that we can both move around without having to squeeze by each other.

The truck camper is mounted on a Norweld aluminum tray which provides additional storage boxes and a slide-out tray, all of which are lockable.

For readers who are interested in all the specifics, we wrote an article that lists all the options in our FWC Hawk Flatbed.

How does living in a truck camper differ from your Class A and Class B?

Joe and Kait: It’s hard to compare the truck camper to the Class A because they are very different RVs and our lifestyle has changed quite a bit.

When we started in the Class A towing a Jeep Wrangler, we had two big dogs traveling in the RV with us.

After our first dog passed away and we spent more time on the road in our Class A, we realized that it was just too big for us. In our book, Tales From the Open Road, we documented this journey and the reasons we ended up moving to a Class B.

The Class B was a much better size for us and we loved the freedom and flexibility of having one vehicle.

Now we are dogless and have explored 46 states in the U.S. and several Canadian provinces. We are ready for more off-road adventures and want explore beyond North America while living in a truck camper.

Which truck did you choose and what are pros and cons of living in a truck camper?

The Russos bought a used 2000 Ford F350 4×4 crew cab for their truck camper

Joe and Kait: The truck we choose is a 2000 Ford F350 4×4 crew cab with the 7.3l diesel, which is very robust, reliable and having the older diesel engine means we don’t have to worry about finding a specific type of diesel.

The truck also has the ability to tow up to 10k pounds if we ever want to add a trailer or boat into the mix.

The Hawk model pop-up camper is lightweight and lower profile which means we are less top-heavy and don’t get blown around as much driving through windy conditions.

While the truck camper footprint is about the same as a camper van, we have more room inside because the camper is wider and offers more headroom when the top is up.

There is additional storage in the back seat of the truck and in the storage boxes on the tray.

One thing we do miss about a Class B van is being able to go from the living quarters directly into the cab without having to go outside.

Our truck camper does not have a pass-through which means we have to get out of the truck and walk outside to get into the camper similar to those who tow a travel trailer.

What is your favorite thing about living in a truck camper?

The spacious interior of Joe and Kait’s truck camper

Joe and Kait: The spacious and comfortable bed!

In all the camper vans we lived out of, the beds were designed to go from side to side. We are 5’11” and 5’8″ which meant our feet would touch the wall due to the width of the van.

Our truck camper bed is also configured side to side, but the extra width of the Four Wheel Camper allows us to stretch out without touching the walls.

We forgot what a luxury that was the three years we spent living out of Class B vans.

For taller people, Four Wheel Campers offers a king size bed option for our camper which means they can sleep front to back. Getting a good night sleep is essential especially when you live out of a tiny space with your spouse 24/7.

A bonus thing we love is since there is no pass-through from the cab of the truck to the camper, we don’t have to listen to all the items rattling around in the camper when we’re driving down the road, especially when we are off-road.

We also love that if/when Kait and I need our own space, the cab of the truck is quite large and one of us can hang out in there when the weather keeps us inside.

Need gear for truck camping? Check out The Best Truck Camper Accessories For Life On The Road.

Where did you buy your truck camper?

Joe and Kait bought the truck camper new from Four Wheel Campers

Joe and Kait: We bought the camper new, directly from Four Wheel Campers. Since there are so many options to choose from, we found it beneficial to go to their factory in California and see all the options on display in the showroom.

Stan Kennedy and Mike Olds were also a huge help by answering all our questions and providing guidance on options to consider for our camper.

What is your advice for people who want to live on the road?

Joe and Kait: Do your research and best honest with yourself. Think about how you want to travel, where you want to go and what you want to do when you get there.

This will give you a much clearer idea on the mode of transportation you need and what your budget will look like.

Your needs and the way you travel will evolve so be flexible and open to change. We share tips and resources on our website for those who are looking to get on the road or already on the road.

Check out more truck camping posts below:

2 thoughts on “Why We Went from Van Life to Living in a Truck Camper”

  1. Please remove me from your email list. I do not want your emails. I stumbled across your site looking for a granny flat. Campervan etc totally inappropriate. No more emails please.

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    • Hello. I just checked and you are not on my email list. You most likely signed up for browser notifications, which is something you have to disable in your own browser. A browser notification is when you see a little window pop up with an article to click.

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