Buying a Truck Shell Camper Pros and Cons

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Vs Truck Bed Camping VS Travel Trailers

Living a nomadic lifestyle in a beater might be, in a way, appealing. However, you don't need to quit your job and give up on your entire life to pursue an epic experience. What you need is an adventure vehicle to make the whole experience heavenly. Finding the right truck bed camper can help you find your bliss. Ive seen posts that say best truck camper 2018 or 2019 or 2020 blah blah, It doesn’t matter. Not a lot has changed in truck bed campers in the last few years. Keep in mind that you don’t need the best of 2018 or 2030. You just need to find a camper that fits your needs. If you want the latest and most expensive then feel free, but most likely your not getting anything they didn’t offer last year now selling at a lower price. 

For some people, taking the beat-down hippie vans and turning them into masterpieces with luxury and craftsmanship is perfect for camping. Van campers or pickup camping is less glorious than any of the other options. Others, they buy a toy hauler with pretty much enough room to house their neighborhood pulled by their 6-wheel, 6-figure F350. Some people find it comfortable to camp out of the back of their Subaru with nothing except their dogs and a blanket to keep them warm.

This Post is to Help you understand the buying options, benefits, and choices for camping. This includes truck canopy camping, tent camping, truck camper shells, travel trailers, and RV’s.


Tent Camping Vs Truck Bed Camping

Camping in a tent versus truck shell canopy camping, which is better? One is sleeping on the ground and

truck camping is literally turning the truck canopy area into your sleeping space.

Tent camping

Tent camping as the name implies is all about setting up a waterproof fabric on the ground with poles to form a tent. Here are some pros and cons of tent camping.


  • They are way more affordable to purchase than the truck shells for camping or RV’s
  • They are portable and durable, and you can move them about with ease
  • Its fabrics are waterproof and lightweight making it durable (if you buy a good one)
  • They offer more ventilation


  • Its framework is flexible and can easily bend or break
  • They are lightweight and can easily be ripped apart by heavy wind
  • Most of them leak in heavy rain

Using a Pickup truck for Camping

Truck shell camping is not the same as pick up truck camping. 

Truck bed camping is when you intend on turning your truck into a tent. You could buy an already made truck shell if you're not cut out for the sawing and screwing. Truck shells for camping are preferable except for the fact that they are more expensive. How creative do you want to get. Are you into do it yourself, some will actually do a  homemade truck camper interior and others will just throw a blow up bed down and call it goo.

 Here are some pros and cons of the back of the truck shell camping.


  • The hard-sided campers are more secured.
  • They are waterproof
  • Don’t move much in heavy wind
  • The interior provides more warmth and comfort


  • They are more expensive to purchase
  • Not insulated against hot or cold
  • They are less ventilated

Common Questions

Can I put a long bed camper on a short bed truck?

Yes, probably. You need to leave the tailgate down in the open position. Make sure your suspension can handle the load. The camper will extend beyond the truck bed and over the tailgate.

Customers that purchase a long bed camper and have it installed on a short bed truck will need to leave the tailgate on their truck and in the down (lowered) position. ... For the 3/4 ton and 1 ton trucks, most customers do not need any type of suspension upgrade to put a long bed camper on a short bed truck.

Can I put a long bed camper on a short bed truck?

Yes, it can be done. Its not normally done, but you can put a short bed truck camper in long bed truck.The tailgate will need to be in down. The shell will protrude past the truck bed and over the gate. You need to make sure that your truck suspension can take the load.

What about a Short bed truck camper in long bed truck

Again, this is unusual. Not impossible. We have seen it done. You have to pay attention to the wheel wells of the truck, will they allow you to put the camper all the way forward? It’s probably not a good idea to do it if it has to sit back and pulls the suspension down to far in the back. We would recommend getting professionals help to figure out how to do this right.

What do I use for a Mega Cab truck camper

Its not about the size of your cab, its all about the size of your bed. A mega cab usually has a short bed than your looking for a short bed camper.



Truck Camping Shell Vs RV Travel Trailer

Nowadays, there are different RVs and campers to choose from making a sea of choices to wade through. There are two popular options, the RV travel trailer and truck camper. Each family and individual have their own needs. The choice may come down to how many people will be using it.



Truck Shell Camping


  • Park anywhere
  • Boondocking, Stay in Walmart parking lots, side of the road, any where you can get away with it
  • With the right truck you can haul your truck camper and pull a boat
  • They are waterproof
  • The interior provides more warmth and comfort
  • You can have heating and cooling options
  • Easily removes to give your truck freedom and leave your house in place
  • They are less intimidating to drive than when compared to the sizeable fifth-wheel truck trailer.
  • Truck campers are the most versatile RVs in the market as you can add slide-outs to the truck for more room.
  • You can have all the necessities like decent bed size, kitchen amongst others without having to drag around a large truck.
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  • They are more expensive to purchase
  • Some are not insulated well
  • Space is smaller that a travel trailer
  • Bumpy roads are difficult
  • Height can limit spaces you can go under
  • Small compared to travel trailers and RV’s
  • The price per square foot is a bit expensive compared to other campers
  • Minimal storage space in the truck camper interior than the RV travel trailer


Having seen the pros and cons of tent camping, truck bed camping, and truck-shell camping, it's obvious truck shell camping is more comfortable. However, if you are looking to camp more affordably, then tent camping would be perfect for you.


RV Travel Trailer

An RV travel trailer is bigger and more luxurious than a truck camping shell. But when it comes to picking an RV travel trailer, it comes down to balance and weight. But people like and dislike an RV travel trailer for one reason or the other. Here are some pros and cons of the RV travel trailer compared with the truck camping shell.


  • A travel trailer is cheaper for the size so has a better square foot cost ratio then truck campers.
  • You can easily unhitch and attach the trailer so that you use your towing vehicle to explore and run errands.
  • Travel trailers are not motorized, so there are no mechanical deficiencies and as such, saves you money in the long run.
  • The towing vehicle and the trailer are separate meaning they are not a one and done deal.
  • When it comes to maintenance and repair, they are more convenient as you can drop off the trailer vs a complete RV.
  • RV travel trailer comes in different varieties and diversities meeting the requirements and specific needs of different families, as they come in different shapes and sizes, from full-size long-haul trailer to pop-up trailer.


  • They occupy more space making it harder to maneuver around camp spaces
  • Depending on how complex the setup is, it can take a while to hook up or unhitch the trailer to the towing car and making sure all the wires and chains are in the right places.
  • The trailer would have to be kept away when not in use, thereby occupying space.

After comparing the truck camper and RV travel trailer, we conclude that the truck camper is perfect for people who are after durability and compact, although it's more expensive. The RV travel trailer, on the other hand, is not that expensive but offers more storage space.

There are two types of truck bed camper shells

People either go for the hard side truck camper or the pop-up camper for one reason or the other. When you want to get a truck bed camper, there are some questions that you need to answer first.

Firstly, you need to know if you wish to have a pop-up or a hard side truck camper.

Secondly, you need to know if you want a long bed or a short bed truck camper.

Thirdly, you need to know if you want a camper with slides or pop outs, either single slide, non-slide, double slide or triple slide floor plan

And lastly, you need to know if you want a dry bath, wet bath, or no bath. As soon as you can answer these five questions, you're good to go to pick the best truck bed camper for your needs.


Hard Side Vs Pop-up Truck Camper

Hard side

The hard side campers have solid sidewalls and a fixed roof. They offer many inherent advantages which also includes better overall sound isolation, better total insulation, as well as more interior storage. The hard side truck camper has more floor plan and feature options which also includes slide-outs, sofas and dry baths.

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Pop-up truck camper

On removing a pop-up roof, lowering the camper is said to be in the driving position. When raised up the camper is in the camping position.

Features and benefits of both, why pick one over the other

The pop-up truck camper comes with many advantages of its own. Firstly, they have a much lower profile coupled with its lower center of gravity in the roof-down or driving position. It significantly reduces the drag of the truck and improves fuel economy. Its overall driving dynamics is improved as well as the wind noise is also lower than when compared to hard side truck camper.

The lower center of gravity and weight also makes the pop-up truck campers to be equipped to go off-road. The roof being at the driving position, the pop-up truck camper can drive deep into places with roadway obstacles and low branches. A lot of hard side truck campers would not dare to follow.

About half a ton truck compatibility is one of the significant advantages of the pop-up truck campers, most notably for the soft-side models.These are the syle you will find for  small truck bed campers. There is some pop-up truck camper that even work with mini trucks like Nissan Titan, Chevy Colorado, and Toyota Tacoma.

Soft Campers do better on rough roads and cost less, but in the end they will not last as long as a hard shell truck bed camper.

So, which one is right for your needs;

A hard side or pop-up truck camper?

The pop-up truck camper is appealing to two sets of customers. The first set is tent campers and backpackers who are ready to get off the ground to have more camping comfort. The second sets are the off-grid boon-dockers and off-road drivers who want the option of travelling and camping far from fellow humans.

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Generally, some people get swayed away by the overall efficiency of pop-up truck campers, especially the lower cost, half-ton, mini truck compatibility, improved fuel economy, and simplicity. If any of the above sounds like you, then the pop-up truck camper is worth consideration.

The hard side truck camper typically appeals more on RVs. The makers of the hard side truck camper have surveyed the different types of RV types, including motorhomes, fifth wheels, and travel trailers. The capability and versatility of a truck camper is perfect for your RVing lifestyle.

So, if you see yourself as an RVer, backpacker or tent camper, then the versatility and capability of a truck camper which allows you to camp anywhere, tow anything and go anywhere is perfect for you. The hard slide truck camper is the best choice for you.


What to Look for in a Truck Camper

When you're ready to buy a truck camper, there are some specific things to look out for apart from the cost. Here are some things to keep an eye out for that ensures you get a truck camper that best suits your needs.


The shell of a truck camper is the canopy on top of the truck. It is sometimes called the truck topper, truck cap, box cap or bed cap. The shell is that small house or rigid canopy that is used as a pickup truck and sometimes a coupe utility accessory. So, you'd have to decide if you want this added to your truck camper or not.


There are also some other features to keep an eye out for when buying a truck camper. You can look out for features like showers, bathrooms, microwaves, ovens, furnaces, stoves, refrigerators, etc.


If you're going to be camping out in a place that's going to be cold, you might need to consider getting an insulated truck camper. An insulated truck camper has padding around the interior. It is this padding that keeps the truck warm when outside is frigid.


Windows are optional. Some people prefer to have a view of what's going on outside when they are in their truck. Others prefer to seal everything up. So, it all depends on what you prefer in your truck camper windows or no windows. It all works perfectly fine.

Headroom is Adequate for your height

The headroom is another thing to keep an eye out for when purchasing a truck camper. There are truck campers with high headroom height, but the shortcoming is that the truck would be massive. But if you want a smaller vehicle, then you'd have to manage with the low headroom height.


Those pop-out trucks provide more rooms for the interior. However, the overall design of the vehicle might not stand out. So, it's left to you to decide if you're alright with a pop-out or not.

Pop outs, which slide options is right for your needs; A Single Slide truck camper, multi-slide, or Non-slide, Truck Camper

You can pick between a single slide, non-slide, or multi-slide truck camper. To some people, a triple-slide is the best choice. After all, who wouldn’t not want to have a dry bath, sofa, and floor space in their truck camper. All that sounds great right?

Well, no and yes. The more the complexity of a truck camper, the more the truck camper would need service and maintenance. And nothing adds complexity to a truck camper like slide-outs. Slide-outs also adds more weight to the overall weight of the truck camper. That's why you'd see more slide-out truck campers have double back wheels.

On the other hand, the non-slide trucks lack the floor space you might need, but you'd be forgoing the additional cost of slide-out designs, service, maintenance, and weight. The bottom line is that a non-slide truck camper is never as troublesome as a slide-out truck camper.

Toilet-only, Wet Bath, Dry Bath, or No Bath?

When talking about bathrooms, there are three types of bathrooms toilet-only rooms, dry baths and wet baths. A wet bath is virtually a shower stall with a toilet and sink. The advantage of having wet toilets is that it takes less interior space. Also, wet bathrooms provide more room for toilet use and shower. The only disadvantage of a wet bath is that when used for showering, everything gets wet. So, you might have to go through the hassle of using a towel to mop the water.

Dry bath, on the other hand, has its shower separate from the sink area and toilet. It doesn't get wet like the wet bath. A few truck manufacturers also offer truck campers with toilet rooms only. These toilet rooms do not have a shower or sinks, but they provide a private bathroom. And lastly, there are truck campers with no toilet. You may wonder why anyone would go for a truck camper with no toilets? Well, they do for space, cost and weight.

Cassette Toilet, RV Flush Toilet, or Porta-Potti?

Many pop-up truck campers offer bathrooms featuring cassette toilets. So, if you're going for a pop-up camper, the chances are that you'd find a Porta-Potti or a cassette. But when you're going for hard side truck camper, your options get more varied. There are lots of models without bathrooms, with cassette toilets and with RV flush toilets. If you'd be camping when you can't assess dump stations especially during the weekend or the winter, then a cassette toilet will suffice.

truck camper on a flatbed

Yep, it can be done. You no longer have to build out a custom flatbed camper.  A truck camper on a flatbed is not something you see all the time, but here’s a video to check out.  Alaskan actually makes a camper just for this.