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What is a Pickup Camper?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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Sometimes known as a truck camper, the pickup camper is a simple compact camping unit that fits into and over the bed of a pickup truck. Considerably less bulky than a full sized RV, the campers come in sizes that range from a basic shell that encloses the bed to camper shells that hang over the sides of the bed and lap over the top of the truck’s cab section. A pickup camper requires only minor effort to slide into place on the truck bed and can be removed and stored when not in use.

The basic pickup camper is a simple shell that fits over the truck bed and is secured to the sides of the bed with bolts or a series of spring loaded clamps. The body of this simple camper is usually composed of lightweight metal and features small Plexiglas windows on each side of the camper body. The height of the basic pickup camper is normally near the same height as the roof of the truck’s cab.

For many camping enthusiasts, a pickup camper is an excellent alternative to a full-sized camper or even to a camping trailer. Providing a comfortable and safe place to sleep, the campers cost much less than other types of campers. In addition, the pickup camper creates considerably less drag on the open road than towing a trailer, which means that the gasoline mileage is typically superior.

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While the basic camper shell provides a simple metal cover over the truck bed, it is possible to purchase a pickup camper with additional features. One popular option is the truck camper with a pop-out side. Sometimes constructed of heavy-duty canvas or fiberglass, this extension can be set up once the camper reaches its destination, and will add extra room to the interior. A pop-up roof can also enhance the comfort of the camper by creating additional head room. The roof is raised when the campsite is set up and then lowered back into the original position when the time comes to get back on the open road.

Because the truck camper is designed for easy installation and removal, it is possible to detach and store the camper shell in a garage or other storage area when not in use. This option is attractive to many campers who cannot afford a truck especially for camping and rely on one vehicle for all transportation needs.

When cared for with basic maintenance, a truck camper is capable of lasting for a number of years. The body of the camper shell should be periodically checked for scratches or other damage to the paint job, since this could allow rusting to take place. Taking time to wash and wax the exterior of the truck camper will also help maintain a fresh appearance even after years of use. Storing the camper on blocks rather than allowing the body to rest on concrete or bare ground will also help prolong the life of the device.

While smaller than many recreational vehicles, the truck camper offers more comfort and room than the typical camping tent. In addition, setting up the camper for use normally requires nothing more than a few moments, making the setup time shorter than even that of a basic canvas tent.

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