Truck Bed Camper Setup Ideas For Smaller Pickups

Pickup campers traveling thrrough the dessert.

Overlanding in a truck mattress camper is usually a blast. 4 Wheel Campers picture/ Matt Alberts

Off-Grid Tenting, Using Truck Mattress Campers Is Rising in Reputation with RVers

Mid-size and 1/2-ton pickups are immensely common with out of doors fanatics. Particularly among the many burgeoning overlanding crowd who love the year-round exploration of much less traveled roads. In case you are studying this, you’re possible a kind of pickup homeowners and understand it’s extra snug sleeping in a truck mattress camper than a tent.

There are dozens of truck mattress camper producers for smaller pickups, various in sort, dimension, form, and weight. Some are hard-sided campers, reminiscent of Lance Campers, NuCamp RV, and Kimbo. In distinction, others are hybrids reminiscent of 4 Wheel Campers, Alu-Cab, and Clothing store Manufacturing. Hybrids function some cool mixtures of a conventional camper and a pop-up tent system.

However much more necessary than the mannequin of truck mattress camper you select is the way you arrange your mid-size or ½-ton pickup to hold the added weight of the camper and all the things that goes with it if you head out on a tenting journey.

Pickup Camper Weight Importance

A camper provides each weight to the mattress and raises the pickup’s center of gravity. Bothof which impacts the pickup’s trip and dealing with. The heavier the camper, the extra the pickup’s rear suspension is compressed and tasked with controlling the added weight.

Alu Cab truck bed camper on a Toyota

That’s why it’s necessary to know each the camper’s weight and the pickup’s manufacturing unit weight limitations for each cargo capability, the pickup’s Gross Automobile Weight Score (GVWR), and axle load capacities (Gross Axle Weight Score) when matching any camper on your explicit pickup.

Manufacturing facility pickup shocks and comes work effectively for the occasional load of wooden or carrying an ATV. However they are often lower than optimum at offering a very good trip and dealing with when carrying the added weight of a camper.

So it’s necessary to know each the empty and loaded weight of the camper you might be contemplating buying and the way that weight compares to the utmost cargo capability of your particular make/mannequin pickup. This is applicable to all pickups.

Pickup Heart of Gravity

Owner's manual showing camper weight.

The identical applies to your suspension dealing with the upper heart of gravity that happens when a pickup camper is put in. The taller and heavier the load, the extra the pickup will lean in corners and off-camber sections of the street. The upper the middle of gravity, the extra the probabilities of a rollover when cornering or making an emergency lane change.

This is a crucial sufficient concern that the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration (NHTSA) requires all pickup producers to offer particular pointers on camper loading. These producer guidelines sometimes present methods to determine the middle of gravity and provides added recommendations on camper set up.

Some Mid-size Pickups are Not Designed For Camper Use

Chevrolet with a popup truck bed camper.

Whereas practically all ½-ton pickups are camper-certified when following the producer’s pointers, a number of common mid-size pickups usually are not. GM’s Chevrolet Canyon and Ford’s Ranger are two such pickups.

Within the 2021 GM Colorado/Canyon mid-size pickup proprietor’s manuals, underneath the heading “Truck-Camper Loading Info” on web page 184, there’s a warning field that states: “Including a slide-in camper or comparable gear to the automobile can injury it, and the automobile guarantee wouldn’t cowl the repairs. Don’t set up a slide-in camper or comparable gear on the automobile.”

In accordance with, Chris Bonelli, Chevy Design, Product and Model Communications, defined on the time the Colorado [and GMC Canyon] had been developed, “Nobody made a slide-in camper that was designed to suit. Due to this, we didn’t design or take a look at the structure for that particular accent situation.” GM nonetheless hasn’t accredited any camper use on their mid-size pickups.

Ford ranger carrying motorcycles.

Ford Rangers Aren’t Designed For TheM Both

GM isn’t alone in that regard. Ford has an identical discover within the Ranger mid-size pickups. Their proprietor’s guide states: “We don’t suggest utilizing your pickup for carrying a slide-in camper.”

Toyota Embraces The truck mattress camper

Then again, Toyota embraces such use and goes into nice element within the company trailer towing information on methods to match a slide-in and different campers to the varied fashions of mid-size Tacomas and full-size Tundras. Nice data that’s properly defined and illustrated.

Mid-size pickups usually have the cargo capability to hold the load of many campers and camper hybrids in the marketplace. However that doesn’t imply your mid-size pickup has been examined and accredited by the automobile’s producer with such a load within the mattress. Equipping a pickup not accredited for such use might end in a voided automobile guarantee and your insurance coverage firm denying associated automobile repairs.

That’s why it’s essential to verify your pickup’s proprietor’s guide earlier than putting in a camper (or camper-like) piece of apparatus.

Suspension Upgrades For Carrying A Pickup Camper

Camper setup parts

If you wish to make your ½-ton or mid-size pickup trip and deal with higher with a camper within the mattress, you may set up a number of objects to make that occur. The heavier the load within the mattress, the extra necessary these suspension upgrades.

Observe, nonetheless, no addition of any suspension-related elements will increase the pickup’s payload capability, GVWR (Gross Automobile Weight Score), GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Score), trailer tow score, or another factory-set capability of the pickup.

Sway Bars Enhance Camper-Carrying Pickup Dealing with

Sway bar for a Ford

The primary merchandise you may improve to assist cut back the consequences of the upper heart of gravity is changing the OEM rear sway (anti-roll) bar with a extra strong aftermarket model. Hellwig, Roadmaster, Stage 3 Motorsports, and different aftermarket producers provide a wide range of such merchandise.

A sway bar is a particular spherical bar-type spring that mounts side-to-side to the pickup body behind the rear axle housing. On some pickups, there’s additionally one mounted up entrance in a lot the identical method.

“Sway bars are among the many most cost-effective and dramatic enhancements you can also make to your automobile,” says Hellwig’s Kevin Parriera. “Sway bars are simple to put in, making them a terrific first improve for anybody who desires somewhat extra management out of their trip.”

Two sway bars side by side.

A sway bar resists the downward push/upward pull of the suspension and chassis because the pickup leans round a nook or by way of an off-camber dip within the street or path. The bigger the diameter of the sway bar, the better its potential to maintain the pickup stage when cornering and cut back swaying. Aftermarket sway bars are bigger in diameter than the OEM ones they exchange.

Air-Baggage For Smaller Camper-Laden Pickups

Airlift set on a truck

One other improve that helps enhance pickup dealing with by higher distributing the load of a slide-in camper, or heavier mattress topper with roof-top-tent, is the addition of air-helper springs (air baggage.) Air helper springs assist stage the pickup’s rear by sharing a few of the load on the rear springs.

These air springs, mounted inside rear coils or externally atop the axle housing, use compressed air to regulate them individually (facet to facet), collectively, or robotically relying on the producer and setup. They require a extra elaborate set up than the everyday DIYer is keen to deal with, so a supplier or specialty store often installs the kits.

Producers reminiscent of Firestone Ride-Rite, Hellwig, and Air Lift Company provide all kinds of ½-ton and mid-size pickup programs. Such kits are available from retailers reminiscent of Tenting World,,, and even Walmart and Amazon.

Overload Springs For Camper-laden Pickups

Another choice to assist elevate and stage the rear of a pickup with leaf springs is putting in a set of overload springs. These are generally recognized, as “add-a-leafs,” relying on the place they’re put in.

These are spring leafs that you simply both connect to the highest of the present rear leaf spring pack (helper springs) or insert into the leaf spring pack (add-a-leaf) to offer further load help.

Overload spring kit.

There are various variations of those helper-type springs in the marketplace. I favor these from Hellwig Merchandise. They’ve nice adjustability as to once they kick in to help the load. This design permits for a decently easy trip whereas unloaded, particularly on Toyotas.

Overload springs are a sensible choice if the camper shall be within the mattress more often than not. Add-a-leaf variations are most likely not one of the best for smaller (1/2-ton and mid-size) pickups as a result of they have a tendency to make the trip stiff when unloaded. For those who’ll use the pickup for each each day commuting and overlanding, air-helper springs are a more sensible choice.

Shocks For Smaller Camper-Carrying Pickups

fox shock upgrade

When the pickup’s suspension strikes, the shocks gradual that speedy rebound/compression cycle when the spring is loaded or unloaded. The upper the standard and design of the shock, the better the sleek management of the spring’s pure tendency to rebound to its resting state.

Shocks play a giant half in a automobile’s trip and dealing with. The extra weight within the pickup mattress, the softer and mushier the trip with the manufacturing unit shocks. Upgrading a ½-ton or mid-size pickup’s shocks to the next high quality, monotube, high-pressure gasoline shocks reminiscent of Fox 2.0, Bilstein, Skyjacker, Monroe, and others, can assist easy out the trip and dealing with with a camper within the mattress.

(There’s no have to expend the cash on “remote-reservoir” shocks until you might be critical about trekking off-road at pace. A high-quality, well-designed monotube shock is all you want.)

Upgraded monotube gas shock.

New shocks will even considerably enhance the dealing with on pickups which have greater than 60,000 miles on the OEM shocks. All shocks, like tires, put on out and have to be changed over time. A shock improve is a should in case your pickup is older with increased (60K-plus) mileage and nonetheless working manufacturing unit shocks.

Prepared To Hit The Highway/Path?

With upgrades just like the addition of a rear anti-sway bar, airbags or overload springs, and new shocks, a ½-ton or mid-size pickup with a truck mattress camper will trip and deal with very similar to it does with out the load within the mattress. That sense of driving consolation and safety is what you need when headed out on a tenting journey.

Bruce W. Smith

RV and automotive journalist Bruce W. Smith has held quite a few editorial titles at automotive and boating magazines, and authored greater than 1,000 articles, from tech to trailering. He considers his dwelling state of Oregon a paradise for RVing and out of doors journey.

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