I have lots of questions these days about what the next phase of life will look like for my wife and I when our nest is officially empty. This should be in about a year or so, maybe less.
But the biggest question at this moment is: Could we actually live in a truck camper full time?
The short answer, if you’re really short on time, is a resounding YES. We could do it, and you could also. Plenty of people have…including a family of THREE we met that pulled off full-time truck camper living for years with a teenager!
Now, whether either of us should do this? Well, that’s a completely different discussion.
We have very little doubt that full-time RVing of some sort is in our near future. Since we left behind our full-time family RV life in our 26-foot travel trailer back in 2018, it’s really never left our minds. (We do run and write for this site, after all, and still clearly have a passion for it.)
We still have days where we don’t feel 100% sure that it’s the right next move for us…but then the sun comes up the next day and that uncertainty seems to fade every time. It’s replaced once again by the undying dream of the open road, wider open spaces and wild places our continent has to offer and the wonder and fulfillment of exploration itself.
But the question remains: Is a truck camper the perfect option for us as a full-time couple?
It’s time we dig in and try to answer that question for ourselves through research and a bit of personal analysis. If you’re struggling to answer the same question, I hope you will find the information and insight useful in your journey toward the full-time RV life.
Can YOU Live In a Truck Camper Full Time?
Considering a massive shift in your lifestyle can absolutely be daunting and overwhelming. It can easily paralyze you if you’re not careful. (Ask me how I know.)
The best way to move yourself forward, toward a helpful answer, is to try answering some initial questions to gauge your true interest in the lifestyle and your willingness to make some sacrifices.
Make no mistake: Whatever lifestyle you choose, on the road or otherwise, you WILL make sacrifices. You’re already making them.
When those sacrifices you make are more in line with societal norms (free time, family time, ability to pursue your passions, physical health, mental health, etc.), it’s all too easy to not actually see them nor feel them.
You’re the fish in a fishbowl who doesn’t have a clue what ‘water’ is.
Start With Some Basic Questions
But now, it’s time to ask some tough questions and become more aware and more informed. Put on your big boy (or girl) pants.
Which living situations have made me/us the happiest?
If you’re like the average American or Canadian, you’ve likely lived in a pretty wide range of properties and circumstances. Some you probably enjoyed more than others.
Look back on those experiences and honestly answer this question:
Which homes have made me/us the happiest over the years?
Start making a list of specific properties you have lived in, and then under each property list its size, amenities (beds, baths, etc.), costs, and the specifics of what you did or did not like about the living situation.
If you go through this exercise for even a handful of properties (4-6 at least), you will start to see some patterns emerging. You’ll likely see some similarities in the properties you liked and the ones you disliked.
If larger property size seems to be a consistent factor that led to your enjoyment and satisfaction, you should probably move on from the idea of full-timing in a truck camper.
Trust me, you have plenty of other full-time RV options of all shapes and sizes out there to explore. (You can start by checking out our post on the pros and cons of living in a travel trailer, based on our 17 months off full-timing in a 26-foot trailer. Or this one about small 5th wheel trailers that may be a better fit for your lifestyle.)
For us, our time in that 200 square feet with our family (always at least four of us, sometimes five of us) holds some of the best memories of our lives. It was challenging, at times gut wrenching, but it still satisfied us and thrilled us and left us wanting more.
So when we are down to just the two of us, that truck camper size feels like it might be just right.
How much do I/we value simplicity?
The older I get, the more I value simplicity. The fewer moving parts in my life, the fewer complicating factors, the fewer things to worry about, the better.
The only caveat there is that I will suffer the loss of some simplicity for the sake of an adventure that makes me feel alive.
For example, our move to Hawaii in 2020 wasn’t necessarily simple, but we did make the move with just two suitcases per person…so it was as simplified as it could possibly be. And it’s been a great adventure so far!
The bottom line is that since 2016, at the age of 41, I’ve been moving strongly in this direction. I know that simplicity works for me and I pursue it and choose it whenever possible. And that becomes more and more true for my wife everyday.
So that’s me in a nutshell. But the question is: How much do YOU value simplicity?
Looking back at your life, and at your current situation, if you were to pick a point on a line that ranges from “Simplicity” on one end to “Comfort and Convenience” on the other, where would you honestly land?
I think if you give it an honest few minutes of reflection, it won’t be too hard to answer that question. And it’s an important answer.
It’s safe to say a truck camper will offer you probably the simplest possible full-time RVing experience with the least moving parts and potential failure points.
If you’re anything like me, that statement above really gets your juices flowing! Simple and lightweight are both winners in my book, and the truck camper offers both (although some models can get pretty heavy…so do your homework and be sure your truck matches your camper properly).
What excites you most when you think about life on the road?
You have most likely talked about and thought about a number of things that get your heart pumping when you picture yourself living the RV life. Maybe it’s the beautiful sights you will see, maybe it’s the people you will meet, maybe it’s all the places you can visit.
No doubt, you can experience thousands of locations in any type of RV, but many locations will be off limits to you if you’re towing a large trailer behind you or driving a larger Class A or Class C motorhome.
A truck camper is uniquely suited to allow you the opportunity to explore the wildest places our world has to offer. It’s no surprise that the wildest places are also some of the most secluded places, where you may not see another living soul for days if you wish.
If you just got really sad or a bit freaked out reading that last paragraph, it’s possible that a truck camper may not be the perfect adventure vehicle for you. Going off-road and boondocking in remote locations is not for everybody, and if you don’t see yourself pursuing those types of opportunities, it’s possible that a travel trailer (also smaller and simpler) may be a better fit.
Bottom line: If you like to be in the middle of the action and surrounded by fellow RVers in a park or campground, and if this is how you picture your RV life, you may not be fully prepared to experience all that the truck camper lifestyle has to offer.
But…the great thing about a truck camper is that it does offer flexibility, so you can live both lives (the social one and the recluse one) in the same vehicle if you choose. And if small spaces and simplicity are absolutely your thing regardless of what you’re up to, then keep reading! You may just end up in a truck camper after all.
Truck Camper FAQs
Okay, now that we’ve covered those three most important personal questions, you should be starting to get a better idea of whether you should continue exploring this truck camper path.
If you’ve weathered those questions and feel that your love affair with truck campers is still going strong, I think a few of these most commonly asked questions about truck campers will provide some more valuable insight and keep moving you forward.
What is the cost of living in a truck camper?
Ah yes, the ever-present and impossible-to-accurately-answer question that keeps buzzing around in your head and refuses to let you sleep at night. I remember it well from my early days of exploration.
Here’s the short answer: It can literally cost you as much or as little as you want!
But the truth is that the cost of living in a truck camper (or any RV) will be different for every single person. For instance, this full-time truck camper couple lives on $800-$1,000 per month! (No, I am not sure how and I am almost certain I couldn’t pull that off.) They headed out of the rat race and toward this lifestyle with an attitude that said:
“I’ll eat beans and rice into my sixties if it means I can do what I want with my life!”~ Dave Gilbert
I’m pretty sure the Gilberts are not eating beans and rice for every meal, but they are certainly capable of pinching some pennies and managing their money well.
But in my case, when we hit the road in our travel trailer with a family of five for our full-time RV adventure, let’s just say it ended up being a bit more expensive than I had anticipated. (And it was totally worth it, because we created experiences and memories for our family that I wouldn’t sell for a million bucks!)
Look, if you go in with a mindset like Dave Gilbert above and you are fully prepared (equipment-wise and mentally) to do some serious boondocking in some wild places, staying under $1,000 is definitely possible for a couple. I don’t have any doubt.
But if you are more interested in “living the good life”, not pinching your pennies and staying in parks and campgrounds with full hookups every night, you should be more prepared for a budget of $2,000-$2,500 per month for a couple instead. And you could easily spend more than that, trust me! (We averaged about $600 per month just in site fees…even with a campground network membership to help reduce costs. It adds up fast, especially when you are not set up properly for boondocking opportunities.)
These financial decisions on the road are really not much different than the financial decisions you have made all of your life. On the road, if you can find ways to control “the big three” expenses of fuel, food and nightly site fees, you can make the truck camper lifestyle happen on a very reasonable budget.
Be sure to check out our 21 essential tips for living in an RV without going broke for more ideas on how to find some financial peace of mind while on the road.
Are truck campers safe?
Safety. Yeah, this one’s a biggie. If you’re asking this question, there could be several potential meanings of your question. I’ll try to address a couple of the most likely meanings.
Structural and Component Quality/Integrity
If you’re wondering whether a truck camper has adequate structural and component integrity to stand up to your lifestyle long-term, the short answer is: It depends.
As with any vehicle of any type, and especially for RVs, build and component quality can range a great deal, and this mostly depends on sticker price. For the most part, your higher-priced truck campers (Lance, Cirrus, etc.) are going to provide you with a superior quality that you will certainly feel after some time on the road. But many of the truck campers on the market will be adequate for a full-time adventure if they are cared for properly and will keep you safe from the elements. The importance of regular care and maintenance cannot be overstated when it comes to truck campers of any price or quality.
Many types of truck campers have served full-time adventurers well when they are properly cared for and maintained, from pop-up truck campers to hard-sided truck campers. So, my advice is to do your homework, understand the quality offered by each brand, and buy the best that your budget will comfortably allow. By buying more quality up front, you are giving yourself a far better chance of not “losing your shirt” when it’s time to sell or trade in your first truck camper.
If you’re more concerned about safety and security while your truck camper is parked at a campsite or off-grid somewhere, that is an extremely tough one to address.
Just like it would be in your normal home, if someone wants into your home badly enough and comes equipped to breach it, there’s not much you are going to be able to do to stop it. Windows are windows, and they all break the same, so gaining access to the truck camper would not be overly complicated. (I certainly don’t think there are many folks out there who would try this, however, and the statistics would bear that out.)
Since this is the case, physical safety really becomes a matter of your choices related to personal safety. Each person has to decide if they want to travel the country armed with a weapon and deal with each state’s regulations related to firearms. That is a very personal decision and not one I choose to address here.
Can you park a truck camper anywhere?
Honestly, I think one of the biggest pros of traveling in a truck camper is simply the ease of travel and overall flexibility it offers.
I can’t tell you how many times I had to pass up small gas stations while traveling with my long bed truck and 26-foot travel trailer behind it. Many stations will not accommodate a setup that size and this can certainly complicate your travels and make them a bit more stressful.
But with a truck camper? Well, I don’t think there are any gas stations in the country that don’t have 10+ feet of vertical clearance to allow your rig to access the gas pumps. If gas is available, you should be able to get it. Trust me, that can be a big relief and give you a definite reduction in stress level.
And if you need to do some shopping at a rather crowded grocery store with a full parking lot? Your chances of finding somewhere to park with your truck camper are 10x better than if you are towing something behind you, which always complicates the situation and adds to the stress level.
Can you sleep in a truck camper off the truck?
And speaking of flexibility, here is another feature of the truck camper that I feel would work really well for me and my preferences.
Because yes, you can sleep in a truck camper when it is off of your truck! This gives you the versatility to drop the camper at your site (normally if you are going to be staying put for several days at least) and then explore much more freely in just your truck. This will save wear and tear on the truck, will improve your fuel efficiency and will keep you from having to avoid any low clearance routes as you explore.
I can’t talk about this topic without recommending a product that was released in 2018 which helps to keep your truck camper stable while it is off the truck and avoid unnecessary wear and tear on the camper supports/jacks and on the body of the camper as well. The StableCamper product is a high quality product that you need to take a look at.
As an additional benefit, it should also help you sleep better if you are sharing the camper with others, as it is supposed to significantly reduce shaking and shifting caused from moving around in the camper.
Are truck campers allowed off the truck in RV parks?
Let me just start off by saying this: When you’re dealing with private RV parks, and especially the higher end options, you’re bound to run into some strange and inexplicable rules about the types of RVs allowed.
Generally speaking, truck campers in good condition are allowed in the vast majority of RV parks. You might find 5% or so that have rules against them, but most of the time it will not be a problem. Some might restrict campers (or any type of RV) older than 10 years, or simply require that you send pictures of your rig for approval before arriving.
As we discussed above, there is no problem from a safety standpoint with sleeping in your truck camper when it’s off the truck. Having said that, the more likely issue you are going to run into with a truck camper is a rule that doesn’t allow you to remove the truck camper from the truck in the RV park.
Some folks claim that they ran into this issue so often that they ended up getting rid of their truck camper because it was just too much hassle and kept them from exploring freely, without the camper, as they originally planned to do.
Bottom line is to consider where you plan on spending most of your time: In nicer RV parks likely to have more rules, or in more rustic campgrounds and boondocking locations where you should be more free to do what you need. If RV parks are more your style, a truck camper could end up cramping your style as you navigate some of these inconvenient RV park rules. It’s something to think about…
How many different truck camper options are on the market?
If you think you’ve only got a handful of choices to consider as you dive into the wild world of truck campers, you are wrong. Very wrong.
According to this list of truck camper manufacturers (last updated in Dec 2020), there were at least 36 different truck camper manufacturing companies operating in the United States and Canada. And it sounds like there are new options coming to market every year as well.
With such a strong surge in the RV industry as whole in 2020, I can only imagine we will continue to see the list of truck camper options expand over the next couple of years at least.
Is a Truck Camper the Right Full-Time Vehicle for You?
We’ve covered quite a bit of information here to get you more up to speed on what full-time life in a truck camper might look like. You understand, of course, that you have to consider and navigate far more variables than we were able to discuss here. It’s not an easy decision, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Start off with some honest answers to the questions above about your history and your preferences. Follow it up by considering the answers to these common truck camper questions. Look at your own financial situation and decide what’s feasible. Trust your intuition as you go.
But if a full-time adventure on the road is where you’re supposed to end up, don’t let anything stop you. I am confident it will be the best experience of your life.
Todd Bonner is the slightly quieter half of the dynamic TREKKN duo. He spends most of his time sharing information about RV travel and safety, RV accessories and tips, and the National Parks he has visited and still desperately craves. When he’s not busy working on TREKKN, you will often find him staring at breathtaking pictures of Glacier National Park, probably his favorite spot on earth.