In John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” there is a powerful scene with a turtle in the road. It represents the nobility and resilience of the animal as just like the Joad’s truck it carries its home on its back.
In a lot of ways, a modern-day popup truck camper does the same thing. It lets you carry many of the comforts of home with you camping, while riding on the back or cargo box of your pickup truck.
When you consider the comfortable living space they offer, the superior aerodynamics, and the lower center of gravity, it’s no wonder why popup truck campers are so popular year after year.
Though this also means there are a lot of them out there on the road and in RV dealership sales lots. Feeling a little staggered while perusing through a sea of options is understandable.
Just like Steinbeck’s turtle, we decided to pop our head out of the shell and take a closer look at some of the best slide-in or flatbed popup truck campers on the market today.
If you consider slide in and flatbed truck camping as the most thrilling and comfortable way to explore the backcountry, two of the top contenders are the 2021 Palomino – Backpack HS-690 and the Bundutuc Odyssey.
Though this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything that’s out there.
So, we decided to take a closer look at the nuts and bolts details of popup truck campers to try to find the best ones to meet your family’s travel needs.
What Is A Popup Truck Camper?
The roof of a popup truck camper rides just above the roof of the pickup truck’s cab. When you set up camp, you extend the roof up and set the canvas sidewalls in place.
Popup truck campers tend to weigh less, and that weight is lower in the truck’s cargo box when driving down the road.
This lower center of gravity also helps with the handling when you take the truck off to a primate campsite and need to deal with abnormal changes in the pitch of a rough back road.
What Is The Difference Between Hard-Sided & Soft-Sided Truck Campers?
Most popup truck campers have the roof extending up with sidewalls made from heavy-duty canvas.
This saves weight and cost. Though the canvas is prone to cracking and developing leaks over time.
Some RV manufacturer answer this concern by offering popup truck campers with hard-sided walls made out of metal.
They cost a little more and weigh more, but you get semi-rigid walls. Not only are they less likely to leak, and last longer than canvas, but they also do a better job of insulating the interior of the camper, which is handy if your model happens to come with a heater or optional air conditioning.
Some hard-sided popup truck camper enthusiasts also appreciate the additional soundproofing the rigid walls offer.
How Much Does A Popup Truck Camper Cost?
You can expect to pay around $15,000 for an average popup truck camper.
However, there are some barebones light-weight pop-up truck campers that might cost as low as $7,000 to $9,000.
High-end luxury popup truck campers can also run as high as $25,000. It all comes down to the size and creature comforts you prioritize.
What Kind of Truck Do You Need for a Pop Up Truck Camper?
A lot of popup truck campers are light enough to fit in the box of a half-ton pickup truck.
Though there are a few that have a dry weight or potential gross weight high enough that they need to be installed into a three-quarter-ton pickup truck.
In recent years, RV manufacturers have keyed into the popularity of mid-size or “Light Duty” pickup trucks and made a few popup truck campers that can fit in them.
While the relationship between the weight of the pop-up truck camper and the payload capacity of the pickup truck is critical, you also want to be mindful of the wheel configuration.
Most popup truck campers are designed to fit into a standard truck box width.
If you have a truck with dualies on the back axle, the flaired shape of the rear wheel wells might no allow a popup truck camper to be properly installed.
How Much Does A Popup Truck Camper Weigh?
An average popup truck camper weigh around 2,500 pounds. Though there are some stripped-down models that can weigh as little as 1,500 pounds.
A few popup truck campers have power-retractable slide-out sections, which can increase the weight of a unit by as much as 500 to 1,000 pounds.
8 Best Popup Truck Campers on the Market for any Truck Sizes
Our selection process looked at important factors such as material build quality weight, size, and the number of people it can sleep.
The end result is this list of pop-up truck camper models, including flatbed, slide-in, and Project M Topper systems for mid to full-sized trucks.
1. Palomino Backpack Truck Camper Soft Side Ss-1200
The Palomino – Backpack SS-1200 is a slide-out popup truck camper with soft-sided, durable canvas in the expanded section.
This helps make it one of the smallest and lightest of all the floorplans. The soft sides give this slide-in popup camper a dry weight of just 1,591-pounds.
This means that a robust half-ton pickup truck with at least a 6-foot long box can support it.
This makes it a great option for families who already have a full-size truck, but don’t want to invest in a large three-quarter or one-ton diesel pickup truck.
Though just because it is relatively small shouldn’t lead you to think that it’s tiny on the inside.
When it is expanded to make use of the cab over the bed, you can sleep up to four people. This is possible because there are no bathroom facilities whatsoever.
There is a small sink for washing hands and dishes, which is supported by a 15-gallon fresh water storage tank.
If you were to add a shower hose to the faucet fixture it would give you a space to do things like wash your hair or take a sponge bath.
You could even try improvising a water line out the window for times when you want to take an outdoor cold water navy shower.
2. The Four Wheel Campers Raven
One of the great things about the Raven is that it is one of the rare slide out popup truck campers that will fit in the short box of a half-ton pickup truck.
Four Wheel Campers is a fast-growing popup camper manufacturer that offers a wide range of customizable models for different sizes and classes of pickup trucks. So, you can trust that it will well-built and worth the investment.
The Four Wheel Campers Raven was originally designed to be a soft-sided popup truck camper. Though the manufacturer embraces customization on many levels. To that point, one of their optional extras includes the ability to add siding.
This gives you the ability to transform what was once a soft-sided model into a durable hard-sided popup truck camper. When you set up camp the roof expands to allow up to 6’6” of headroom, which is great for tall family members. The cab-over bed is roughly the size of a queen and is large enough to sleep, two adults.
The roll-over couch can then be used for a child. In a pinch, you could even put a single-size air mattress on the available floor space. For such a tidy, compact popup truck camper, you also get a 20-gallon fresh water storage tank.
It’s enough to feed the sink for washing dishes and hands. There’s also an optional furnace available in case you want to stay in the mountains or you want to use the Raven as your base camp for a fall hunting trip.
3. Hallmark Ute Pop-Up Truck Camper
The Hallmark Ute is one of the few popup truck campers that features a bathroom and is still light enough to fit in most half-ton truck’s cargo beds.
Just make sure to do your math when it comes to pairing your half-ton truck to the Ute, as the dry weight of 1,643-pounds, with the 30-gallon fresh water storage tank full, can push it up to 1,893-pounds. Not to mention the weight of your camping gear and food.
It is meant to fit in a standard or long cargo box of a half-ton or a three-quarter ton pickup truck.So, if you are the type of family that likes to pack heavy, you might want to pair the Hallmark Ute with a three-quarter-ton pickup truck.
This is another slide-out truck camper with a soft side wall. It has a north-south optional cabover for long or standard bed full-size trucks. It is considered to be “Optional” but it is an option that you should select. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to customizable options. While there isn’t a hard-side conversion available for the Hallmark Ute, it does have the option of upgrading to large, rigid Arctic Tern acrylic windows.
The living space inside the Hallmark Ute is impressive, with sleeping space for three to four people. Of course, the bathroom is one of the most attractive features. It includes a toilet and a sink that can be used for washing hands, or you can attach a shower hose to use the bathroom as a converted wet bath.
Though this is the sort of setup that is meant more for giving you a place to wash your hair and take a sponge bath, rather than a full-body shower.
4. Palomino BackPack SS-1500 Truck Camper
Palomino uses the Backpack in a staggering array of floorplans, offering models that fit different family needs and preferences. So, it’s no wonder why it showed up on our list for the second time in the Palomino – Backpack SS-1500. It is light enough and long enough to fit in most 3/4 ton pickup trucks with at least a 8-foot long cargo box.
This slide-out soft sided popup truck camper differs from a lot of other lightweight models in that it a wet bath combo which is pretty rare in this class of truck camper. The end result is a relatively lightweight model that still lets you enjoy the convienece of a toilet and a sink that can be used as a shower for washing your hair.
On the inside of the Palomino – Backpack SS-1500, you also get a queen-size over-cab bed, as well as a convertible dinette with the kind of wrap-around seating a family enjoys.
The toilet and shower wet batch combo lets you wash your hair and take a spray off the shower, or sponge bath. The 15-gallon fresh water tank is big enough to support a family of two adults and a child for two to three days of frugal water usage.
5. Overland Explorer Camp-M Slide-in Popup Truck Camper
The Overland Explorer Camp-M is another great lightweight soft-sided popup truck camper that is engineered as a slide-in model. This means it can fit in the cargo box of most half-ton pickup trucks.
Though it might be a little too long for a short bed pickup truck. Though it is a better fit for a standard or long box model. When it comes to material construction, there is a lot to like. It starts with the lightweight aluminum construction that helps it have a 975-pound dry weight.
Much of the lower portions are clad with durable powder coating to help them last whether this popup camper is installed in the box of your truck or sitting in storage out in the elements.
The Overland Explorer Camp-M doesn’t have any sort of bathroom facility, which is what helps it save weight. Though it does come with a 20-gallon fresh waters storage tank, which is one of the largest you will find in a popup truck camper.
This gives you plenty of water for washing your camping dishes and keeping your hands clean without having to resupply. You might be tempted to think that since it is so light and compact that the interior of the Overland Explorer Camp-M would be small.
Though the use of thoughtful storage compartments and built-in cooler space really helps give it an open feel when the top is set up.
6. NorthStar Campers 600SS
The NorthStar Campers 600SS is one of the rare popup truck campers that can truly fit in the cargo box of light-duty pickup trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, the Chevrolet Canyon, and the Ford Ranger.
It is designed to sit on the sidewalls of the cargo boxy with confidence with the floor of the truck camper sitting deep in the truck’s cargo box. While this soft-sided truck camper was ideally designed to fit in a long box truck, they did engineer it to be able to fit in the short box, light-duty pickup truck.
NorthStar also made it a point to design the 600SS with a lot of innovative storage. So, even though your truck might be smaller than a traditional half-ton, you will still be able to keep a lot of gear stored inside the thoughtfully placed storage compartments and the his and hers hampers that run alongside the queen size master bed.
There are a few optional upgrades to consider when you work directly with the manufacturer. Though the one you might like the most is the electric roof lift, which makes the set up a breeze.
It’s especially handy if you are traveling solo. There’s also an optional screen door, which increases the natural airflow created by the screened windows in the expanded canvas section.
7. Bundutuc Odyssey Flatbed Popup Truck Camper
The Bundutuc Odyssey is technically a soft-sided popup truck camper. However, it has very high side walls that are skinned in durable aluminum. When you look at the dry weight of this flatbed model, you’ll see it steps up to rub shoulders with the big boys.
It was unapologetically designed to fit a three-quarter-ton pickup truck cargo box. You see this reflected in the larger dimensions as well as a stripped-down dry weight of 1,900-pounds.
This also means you have more than enough payload capacity available to pack a ton of camping gear.
The Bundutuc Odyssey comes with a cassette toilet as standard. This lets you empty the tank when you need to, while also helping you to make the most out of the large 23-gallon fresh waters storage tank.
It might not seem like a big deal on paper, but this makes it easier for you to take your truck camper off the grid for several days at a time and still have the water and bathroom resources for the whole family.
When you work directly with the manufacturer the Bundutuc Odyssey offers a lot of optional upgrades. Some of the most popular options for you to consider include a rooftop air conditioner, a lithium charging converter, and expanded house batteries.
There is even an optional rear awning that can act like a vestibule for your dirty boots and wet clothing or just a comfortable place to sit on a nice summer evening.
Of course, if you choose these options, it will add to the gross weight of the Bundutuc Odyssey, though with an initial dry weight of 1,900-pounds, a three-quarter-ton truck’s suspension system should have some weight to spare.
8. Outfitter Caribou Lite 6.5 Pop-Up Truck Camper
The Outfitter Caribou Lite 6.5 lives up to its name with a base dry weight of just 950-pounds. It gives this slide-in soft-sided popup truck camper the ability to fit into the cargo box of a mid-size pickup truck in the standard package. Though the manufacturer does offer a lot of optional extras that are tantalizing.
Though many can dry the base dry weight and the gross weight more into the range of what a half-ton or three-quarter-ton pickup truck can handle. Without any of the upgrades selected, you still get a very large 24-gallon fresh water storage tank and a queen-size bed.
The interior converts into more sleeping space for a single teenager or perhaps two small children. It’s when you start playing with the optional extras that you get to enjoy the opportunity to customize the Outfitter Caribou Lite 6.5 to your travel style.
This starts with two optional air conditioning systems, as well as a bevy of solar power options.
You can even upgrade the battery bay for more storage capacity. These options will add 100 to 150-pounds to the base dry weight of the popup camper, but they will give you a unit that is capable of supporting a family of three for several days of boondocking off the grid.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Popup Truck Campers Have A Good Resale Value?
You can expect a popup truck camper to lose around 25 to 40% of its value in the first five years.
While it might seem simple, the canvas on the expandable section of a popup camper will strongly influence its resale value.
Taking proper care of it, and storing your popup camper indoors when not in use will go a long way toward preserving the resale value if you choose to upgrade later on.
Do Popup Truck Campers Have Full Bathrooms?
A full bathroom or “Dry Bath” with a separate shower and toilet is very rare in popup campers.
They tend to be limited to hard-sided truck campers that fit on a three-quarter ton or a larger pickup truck.
Though there are a few popup truck campers that have a toilet with a sink that can connect a shower hose.
This will give you the ability to wash your hair and sponge bath. If you are a bit of a do-it-yourselfer you could get a longer hose line, run it out the window for an outdoor shower.
Popup truck campers offer a lot of conveniences as they let you take your living accommodations with you, without the hassle of towing a traditional travel trailer.
The one that is right for you will be strongly influenced by the size of your pickup truck, your camping style, and the optional extras you prioritize.
If you have a mid-size or light-duty pickup truck, then the Outfitter Caribou Lite 6.5 might be the best lightweight popup truck camper for you.
It weighs less than 1,000-pounds empty and has a lot of great optional extras that you can customize to meet your family’s camping preferences.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Bundutuc Odyssey might be the best popup truck camper for a three-quarter-ton pickup truck.
While it is the heaviest model on this list, it is still light enough to let you select from a set of optional extras without having to worry about it overloading the three-quarter-ton truck’s suspension system and payload capacity.