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One of the best reasons to go RVing is to explore the wilderness in ways that you can’t do with regular camping gear. However, if you’re buying a motorhome, most models are a bit too large and cumbersome to go off-grid or “overlanding.”
Fortunately, if you have a pickup truck, you can get the full RV experience without buying a separate vehicle. Instead, you can choose one of the best pop-up truck campers. These lightweight truck campers allow you to live comfortably while traveling as lean as possible. So, let’s dive in and see what the best pop-up truck campers have to offer.
Table of Contents
What is a Pop-Up Truck Camper?
First, let’s start with truck campers. These units are designed to fit in the flatbed of a pickup truck. As we’ll discuss later on, one crucial detail about these campers is the size of your vehicle. Some models fit well in midsize trucks, while others only work for short-bed trucks.
The camper is often a fully contained unit with a sleeping area, kitchenette, and sometimes a wet bath. However, smaller models will have a dry bath, or they might not have a toilet at all.
The best pop-up truck campers make staying comfortable on the road easier since the top extends. Usually, a pop-up truck camper has the bed in the top section so that you can utilize more of the bottom for storage and amenities.
Another point to consider when choosing the best pop-up truck campers is whether they slide in or bolt to a flatbed. Depending on the truck you have, you might not get a choice.
Top 10 Best Pop Up Truck Campers
- Bed Length: 6.5′
- Interior Height: 6′ 3 1/4″
- Wet or Dry Bath: Optional Thetford Cassette Toilet
- Dry Weight: 1,390 lbs
Typically, most pop-up campers use canvas sides to extend the roof. However, Alaskan uses solid walls, ensuring that you get better protection from the elements. Better yet, Alaskan camper jacks are hydraulic, so you can set up your RV in less time with less hassle.
One central selling point of the Alaskan Cabover is the gorgeous interior decoration. The counters are scratch-resistant laminate with maple trim, and the entire truck camper feels like a luxury hotel room, just a bit on the smaller side. The camper also is well insulated, just in case you want to camp in the winter.
If you want a bathroom inside the pop-up truck camper, you can have Alaskan install a Thetford Cassette Toilet. This piece comes with a five-gallon removable waste tank for easier cleaning.
Finally, this camper is available in an 8′ model if you have a full-size truck.
- Bed Length: 5.5′ to 8′ models available
- Interior Height: 6′ 3 1/4″
- Wet or Dry Bath: Wet bath with cassette toilet
- Dry Weight: 1,180 lbs
Another advantage of buying a pop-up truck camper is that most manufacturers allow you to order a custom-built model. The Phoenix Mini-Max is the perfect example, as you get to put a wide array of add-ons and interior design elements when ordering your rig. Choose from several faux wood cabinet colors and faux stone countertops.
While the base model is pretty bare-bones, the Level 2 version has many more amenities. In this case, you get a full wet bath with a shower and a cassette toilet. However, if these elements are unnecessary for your travels, you can cut them and put the money toward extra storage bins or exterior lighting.
Another feature we like of the Level 2 truck camper is that the dinette converts into another bed. So, if you decide to travel with two extra people, you have space for everyone to get a good night’s sleep. The cabover portion holds a queen-size bed.
- Bed Length: 5′ to 8′ lengths available
- Interior Height: 6′ 3″
- Wet or Dry Bath: Optional Clean Waste Toilet or Porta Potti Available
- Dry Weight: Varies Based on Build. Base Weight is Between 350 to 465 lbs.
While most pop-up truck campers either slide in or attach to a flatbed truck, the Project M from Four Wheel Campers bolts into your truck bed. Although you can’t remove the unit once it’s installed, the company makes up for that by offering custom-built accessories.
The range of sizes and amenities for this camper is incredible. Basically, no matter what kind of camping or exploring you want to do, you can make it happen with the Project M. This camper can come with one of many roof racks to accommodate your toys and outdoor gear. So whether you’re skiing, hiking, or mountain biking, you can bring it all along.
The durability and longevity of the Project M are also excellent. You can choose your color scheme for the exterior, including smooth red, diamond black, silver, and white. The pop-up section also uses insulated vinyl to help you stay warm during cold nights.
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- Bed Length: 6′
- Interior Height: 6′ 4″
- Wet or Dry Bath: Porta Potti or Clean Waste Toilet Available
- Dry Weight: 935 lbs Base Weight
If you’re looking for a simple and affordable pop-up truck camper, the Swift model from Four Wheel Campers is an excellent choice. As we’ve seen with the Project M model, this company knows how to make the best pop-up truck campers by maximizing every square inch of space.
Comfort is the name of the game with the Swift, as it comes with a queen-size bed and a couch on one side. However, if you choose to install a toilet, you’ll have to sacrifice some of your seating area.
This pop-up truck camper is designed for a smaller truck bed, so it can feel a bit cramped if you’re traveling with a partner (or two). However, the Swift comes with lots of storage, a sink/stove combo, and a compact refrigerator. You can also upgrade your model with add-ons like roof racks, awnings, or solar panels.
- Bed Length: 5.5 to 6.75′ models available
- Interior Height: 6′ 5″
- Wet or Dry Bath: Wet Bath
- Dry Weight: 1,630 lbs
BunduTec is another company that specializes in pop-up campers. We like the Wild model because it packs a lot in a little bit of space. On the large end, this pop-up truck camper only fits 6.5-foot truck beds. However, you get a wet bath, sink and stove combo, a comfortable bed, and tons of storage inside.
This model also includes an outdoor shower so that you can stay clean during your journey. Even better, this pop-up truck camper has an 11-gallon gray water tank so that you can stay out longer before dumping.
As with other slide-in truck camper models, you can customize the Wild to suit your specific needs. Some optional add-ons include:
- Glass sink
- Wall air conditioner
- 12,000 BTU furnace
- Insulated windows and skylight
- 3,000-watt inverter and a 340-watt solar power system
Overall, you can feel like you’re living in luxury without buying a full-size motorhome.
- Bed Length: 6.5″
- Interior Height: 6′ 9″
- Wet or Dry Bath: Optional porta potti
- Dry Weight: 1,345 lbs
As the name suggests, Overland Explorer Vehicles specializes in off-grid truck campers for a wide array of uses. The Camp-X is one of the most rugged options, with powder-coated aluminum siding, durable vinyl flooring that won’t wear down, and marine-grade fabrics. Basically, you can take this truck camper wherever you like, and it will hold its own.
At 82 inches, this is one of the tallest pop-up campers on this list. So, if you’re over six feet, you’ll appreciate the ability to move around comfortably inside. As far as amenities, the Camp-X is pretty basic, but you can add a porta-potty, and it does come with an outside shower in case you need to clean up during your travels.
Another highlight of the Camp-X is the convertible dinette. Although this model can feel pretty cramped with three or more people inside, you can sleep three to four individuals, depending on everyone’s size and comfort level.
- Bed Length: 5.5 to 8′ models available
- Interior Height: 6′ 3″
- Wet or Dry Bath: N/A
- Dry Weight: 1,050 lbs
Although most trucks can handle pop-up campers, some vehicles are less capable than others when talking about weight. With smaller trucks, you may run into an overweight issue, particularly when you and any camping partners are inside. One way to alleviate this problem is with pop-up truck camper jacks, or you can buy something lightweight like the Caribou Lite.
At just over 1,000 pounds, this is one of the lightest pop-up truck camper models we’ve seen. So, if you like the idea of lean camping and don’t need many accommodations, this rig might be right for you. Also, the weight and height of this camper are pretty incredible, given that it’s meant for eight-foot truck beds. When the camper is in the down position, it adds only 10 inches to the truck cab.
According to Outfitter, this rig can sleep up to four people. The full-size bed pulls out to a queen, and you can convert the large dinette into a bed as well. There is no bathroom in this rig, so you’ll have to plan accordingly.
Otherwise, this truck camper comes with a stainless steel sink, three-burner stove, faux stone countertops, and enough storage to ensure that you and your travel companions can bring all their gear along for the ride.
- Bed Length: 5′ 6″ or 6′ 10″ models available
- Interior Height: 6′ 7″
- Wet or Dry Bath: N/A
- Dry Weight: 1,405 lbs
If you have a smaller vehicle, you want a truck camper that can fit your bed. The Northstar TC650 is designed for ultra-short or short-bed trucks, making it the perfect option for these rigs. As with other short models, the camper itself is light on the amenities, such as lacking a bathroom.
That said, the pop-up feature is simple and easy to use, thanks to the motorized roof lift. Although this camper doesn’t have a hard wall, it works well for most weather conditions. If you prefer hard-sided campers, Northstar also offers hardwall versions.
Inside, you’ll find a 3.7 cubic foot three-way fridge with a removable freezer. When it’s time to cook your food, you can use the two-burner glass stovetop. If you prefer something a bit more durable and easier to clean, you can upgrade to an iron stove instead.
One feature we appreciate about the TC650 is the memory foam queen-size mattress. Even though this rig is smaller than most, it offers an excellent night’s sleep for you and any travel companion you may have with you.
- Bed Length: 5′ to 8′ lengths available
- Interior Height: 6′ 3 1/4″
- Wet or Dry Bath: N/A
- Dry Weight: Base Weight 340 lbs
So far, we’ve seen pop-up truck campers that offer all the amenities of a motorhome, including a kitchenette, dinette, and sometimes a bathroom. However, the AT Overland Summit is an excellent choice for those who really want to explore the great outdoors. This model is basically an insulated tent that attaches to your truck bed. Instead of expanding vertically to give you more room inside, the top tilts up like a lean-to.
Other than a bed, there’s not much to this best pop-up truck camper, which is why the base model only weighs 340 pounds. Also, you can buy short versions to fit in a small truck, or you can buy a full-sized eight-foot model to accommodate more gear.
Overall, this pop-up camper is designed to work well for off-road adventures. In fact, AT stands for Adventure Travel. Just install the camper to your 4×4 truck, hit the trail, and camp underneath the stars. In addition to interior storage, this camper can also be fitted with a roof rack so that you can tie down extra equipment or toys as necessary.
How to Choose a Pop-Up Truck Camper
Now that we’ve seen the best pop-up truck campers, how can you choose the right one for your needs? Here are a few factors to consider when comparing different models.
If you have a pickup truck already, you need to know the length of your truck bed. Full-size trucks offer more flexibility since you can install any-sized camper. For example, just because you have an eight-foot bed doesn’t mean you need an eight-foot RV. You can opt for a six-foot model and use the extra space for storage.
As a rule, longer truck bed campers will accommodate more amenities. So, if you like having more of the trappings of home while you’re on the road, you should choose a longer camper.
Slide-In vs. Flatbed
One issue with using a standard pickup truck is that the side walls can cut into your interior space. However, it’s often much easier to buy a pickup truck than a flatbed model. Plus, slide-in truck campers can be removable so that you can use your vehicle for other purposes as well.
Overall, flatbed truck campers are excellent if you want to maximize your interior space. As long as you’re okay with a permanent installation, there are no other downsides to buying a flatbed model.
That said, some manufacturers specialize in slide-in truck campers, so if you prefer one company over another, you might not have much of a choice.
As we mentioned, the most significant disadvantage of a lightweight pop-up truck camper is the lack of a full bathroom. While you can add a portable toilet to most models, showers are pretty rare, especially for smaller models.
Now, if you’re a weekend warrior and don’t plan to be on the road for more than a couple of days, this issue probably won’t matter too much. Plus, if you camp at a furnished campsite, you’ll have all the plumbing you need.
Another point to consider is that emptying a portable toilet is much different than dumping waste from a motorhome. If you haven’t had to empty a five-gallon black water bucket before, the experience can be pretty intense.
As you probably noticed, we listed the dry weight for each pop-up camper model. The reason for this is that you have to consider the weight rating for your truck. Also, there may be a significant difference between the base and final weights if you add any extras.
Overall, you should have a buffer between the total weight of your pop-up camper and the max weight of your truck bed. For example, if your pickup is only rated for 2,000 and the camper itself weighs 1,500, you might cause problems.
Remember, water weighs a lot (about eight pounds per gallon), and you have to add yourself and any other travelers. Ideally, you should leave a buffer of at least 200 pounds or more if possible.
Custom vs. Pre-Built Truck Campers
As we mentioned, many truck camper manufacturers allow you to customize your rig to accommodate your specific needs. Typically, there’s a base model with four walls, a roof, and some fixtures (i.e., the bed or dining table). From there, you can add various amenities as you see fit.
Obviously, the size of the pop-up camper will affect how much you can put inside. Realistically, you should have a list of essential elements to include, such as:
- Shower – If you choose an external shower, you may have to figure out how to provide privacy.
- Solar Power Systems – If you’re off-roading, you need a way to recharge your batteries since you can’t plug into an outlet.
- Extra Power Inverters – These inverters allow you to plug in various appliances or electronics to improve your trip.
As a rule, customizing your rig will cost more, and it will take longer to receive the final product. Some of these models are in high demand, so manufacturers are slow to roll them out. If you want to start traveling ASAP, you might have to get a pre-built model and then upgrade later.
Benefits of Pop Up Truck Campers
If you’re interested in buying the best lightweight pop-up truck camper, you should be aware of the benefits and downsides. Here are our top reasons for getting one of these models.
Cost-Effective – Even if you buy a used motorhome, you’ll wind up spending more than you would on a brand-new car. Pop-up truck campers are much more affordable, particularly if you have a pickup truck already.
Ideal for Off-Roading – Although massive motorhomes have lots of amenities and luxuries, they take away from the idea of “roughing it.” If you want to experience all that nature has to offer, truck campers are the way to go. Plus, if your rig already has four-wheel drive, you can go practically anywhere.
Easy to Maintain – Less space means fewer items to clean and manage. With a full-size RV or motorhome, you have to spend a lot of time fixing wear and tear. That’s not as much of an issue with a pop-up camper.
Dismount When Not in Use – Unless you get a bolt-in model, you can remove your pop-up truck camper when you’re not RVing. This versatility allows you to get the best of both worlds – having a pickup truck and an RV.
Shorter Height – Height clearance is one issue you might run into with a hard body truck camper. With the A/C unit, most models can be at least 10 or 11 feet high, making it harder to go off-roading. Pop-up truck campers allow you to avoid most obstacles since the unit only adds a foot or two to the top.
Low profile to reduce wind and drag – Pop-up truck campers are easier to drive than their truck camper counterparts. They fit low over your pickup bed, giving you less wind resistance.
Not so Great Things about Lightweight Pop Up Truck Campers
Although these benefits are enough for most buyers, there are some disadvantages to know about before making a final purchase.
- Lack of a Full Bathroom – If you’re planning on long-term camping in a pop-up truck camper, be aware that you likely won’t have a shower. Even if the unit comes with a wet bath, it’ll likely have a limited water supply.
- Not Ideal for Families – The best pop-up truck campers work well for individuals or couples. The accommodations will be pretty tight if you’re bringing kids or other guests along.
What type of pickup do you need for a pop-up truck camper?
Pop-up truck campers fit snugly on a variety of pickup trucks. You can add a truck bed pop up camper to a full-sized pickup like an F-250, or a mid-sized truck like a Toyota Tacoma. There are even truck bed campers for flat-bed pickup trucks.
Truck campers can be fit to short, standard and long pickup truck beds. You can even fit a pop-up truck camper from Four Wheel Campers on a truck with a bed as short as 5′!
Here are a few of the trucks that can carry a pop up truck camper:
- Fullsize trucks: F150/250, Ram, Chevy/GMC 1500, Tundra, etc with short, standard or long beds
- Midsize trucks: Tacoma, Frontier, Ranger, Colorado, Canyon, etc with short or long beds
- Flatbed trucks: 6.5′ and 8′
Conclusion on pop-up truck campers
A pop-up truck camper is a great way to go if you like to be truly alone in the great outdoors. With these low-profile, stealthy, and streamlined campers, you can sleep in comfort wherever your truck can go.
Many love truck bed pop up campers over traditional RVs because they’re easy to take off-roading and boondocking. Plus, pickup trucks are easier to fix than giant motorhomes if something goes wrong on the road.
Pop-up truck campers, in particular, have better wind resistance than their bulkier counterparts, which means your truck gets better gas mileage.
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