If you’ve been following my journey for the past year or so, you know that I’ve been looking for a truck camper for quite a while. (See this, this, this, this, and this)

I’ve posted about the various truck campers that I’ve seen on eBay, but they just never worked out to my satisfaction. Usually, they were too expensive. Truck campers that fit a small truck are rare. In the past year, I’d estimate that 10-15 have shown up on eBay. There are a LOT of truck campers that fit full size pickups, but ones that will fit a small truck are rare.

A couple of weeks ago, a popup truck camper showed up on eBay. The basic description was:

This is a decent older camper of unknown manufacture. It is a commercially made camper with a seal from a RV camper’s association seal. My guess is it was made in the 80’s or early 90’s. The camper has a fridge, 3 burner cook top, furnace, power converter, small water tank and sink with hand pump. I bought this camper about four years ago intending on using it in my retirement but my plans have changed. The camper has been in a boat storage facility and I have never used it. I did hook it up to an electrical outlet and the lights and fridge worked. The gas tank is the old type and needs replacing. I have never used the gas appliances or water pump. The previous owner told me the fridge (3-way) was new the year I bought it.

The upper bed is about the size of a single and not large enough for two full size adults (unless you like to cuddle.) The lower bench slides out to make a bed. There is a table that is stored under the upper bed.

A few of the screens have small to moderate size holes in them. The clear plastic windows are fine (some slight clouding) as are all the vinyl sides and zippers. No smoke or pet smells.

The bottom section of the camper is 38 inches wide and 86 inches long. The overall width is 78 inches. The distance from the bottom of the camper to the bottom of the cab overhang is 42 inches. Weight unknown. The previous owner carried this on a Dodge Dakota without and suspension modification. I moved it on my wife’s Ford Ranger and although it set level, it was apparent when driving some additional support in the rear springs would be necessary on a long trip.

There were several people who had asked questions:

Can unit be used without raising top, as in opening fridge, laying down on bench, using heater?

Yes. You can get in and just barely sit up without hitting the roof. THe fridge door still opens, no problem with the heater as it is mounted down low. Bench will still pull out to make bed. Can’t use the table as it is stored under upper bed. Would not suggest using stove as burners would not be very far away from ceiling.

Are there any leaks now or evidence of past leaks? Walls or ceiling bowing, discolored……?

There are no signs of water damage or leaks. I washed it down real good when I brought it home and it has since rained several times on it and it is nice and dry. I did forget to mention in my description that a section of the vynl on the ceiling above the bed is loose and should be glued back. It doesn’t hang down but should be taken care of. That was not caused by water damage as there are no signs of staining anywhere – just old age, I think.

Do the stands come with it?

Yes, the stands are bolted on and are a part of the camper.

I put a “watch” on the camper and, on the final day, it was at $841. It’s not uncommon for one of these campers to literally double in bid price in the last couple of hours of an auction. So, I wasn’t holding my breath. I was guessing something like $1,200-$1,500 for this particular camper. If it had been well tested, it would probably have brought a few hundred more. With 20 minutes left, the camper was still at $841. Based on the location of the camper, it would cost me $50 in gas to go pick up the camper. I decided that I would bid up to $900. I started out by bidding $875, and the other guy’s bid was automaticallly higher. I then went to $899, and the other guy’s bid jumped in ahead at $909. Since I’m not addicted to gambling, I stopped. I let the auction end, and the other guy won for $909. This was on Friday, September 29.

Three days later, on Monday, I got an email from the seller.

I am having problems getting any response from the winner of the camper. If this deal falls through in the next few days, would you be interested in the camper? My problem is I am leaving for a trip out west and will be gone for a month. If you are interested, could you pick the camper up before this coming Sunday? Thanks

Well.. This was interesting. I called the guy up (he gave his phone number) and chatted with him for a while. He seemed like a reasonable guy. I asked him several questions. He said that the holes in the screen was smallish. The largest one was probably fist-sized. (In reality, it wasn’t that large. Probably 1.5 inches across) He didn’t have any reason to think that the gas appliances didn’t work, but he hadn’t tried them. He said that the camper came with clamps that hooked under the lip of the truck bed, but he hadn’t actually used them. It would need a new tank for the gas (actually, just a new-style fitting). It would need a new battery. The cushions were in good shape, there wasn’t a place to store a porta-potty, and the original winning bidder was from Georgia. The seller suspected that the bidder saw a state abbreviation of ‘MI’ and thought Mississippi instead of Michigan. I told him that I’d get back with him mid-week if I was interested, and he would get back with me if he ended up hearing from the winning bidder.

I thought about it for a couple of days until Wednesday, and ended up calling him back on Wednesday evening. He still hadn’t heard from the winning bidder, so I told him that I’d be up at 11am on Friday to, at least, look at the camper. If I didn’t end up buying it, he said that he’d put it back into storage and post it for bid again on eBay when he got back into town in a month.

I got up on Friday morning about 5am and headed to Michigan. Other than almost witnessing an accident while going around Chicago, I had an uneventful trip and arrived there about 9:40 central time, or 10:40 local time. The camper had the top popped up and

Truck Camper
looked about like one of the pictures that the seller, Jerry, had taken for the auction. Jerry came out and we had our introductions and I started looking carefully at the camper. To make a long story shorter, I liked what I saw. We ended up trying the gas appliances (the stove and the furnace, at least) and they worked wonderfully.

At some point rather early on, I found out that Jerry was 62, and he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in May. He had been going through chemotherapy since then, and had had his last treatment more than a month ago, and the doctor’s thought that they had “gotten it”. He seemed to be doing pretty well. He does a lot of canoeing, and he was headed to Arkansas to float the Buffalo river, and then to Denver to visit his son and grandchild(ren).

I decided to put the camper on my truck and drive around the neighborhood to see how well my truck handled the weight. I could definitely tell that it was on there. The truck pulled down a little bit, just like one would expect, and it was leaning a bit to the driver’s side. This made sense, though, because I didn’t have the camper perfectly centered between the wheel wells, and all of the appliances are on the driver’s side.

At this point, I had pretty decided that I was getting a reasonable deal,
and was planning to take the camper. I went back to Jerry’s house, and we started figuring out how all of the clamps attached to the truck. This took a while, but we ended up getting everything figured out and the camper managed to get mounted in the truck. He had an air compressor, so I put a little more air in the back tires of the truck.

He invited me inside for a glass of water, and then he showed me a journal that he had made from one of his canoeing trips into Canada. Between 1986 and 2003/4 he had gone to Canada every year to float some of the rivers there. The journal reminded me a lot of my grand canyon journal. Then, I hit the road.

The camper had come with some side mirror extensions that I had put on. I felt like the truck with the camper was a lot wider than normal, but if you do the math, it really isn’t much wider than the previous side mirrors stuck out. Just a couple of inches on each side. But, it felt wider. When I started the trip, I really noticed that driving the truck felt strange. By the time I was nearing Champaign, I felt pretty comfortable in the truck. The additional weight was certainly noticeable, though. The truck with the camper doesn’t handle hills at interstate speeds in fifth gear. I haven’t yet gotten gas, and it wouldn’t be a reasonable measure anyway, because I got stuck in some vicious traffic jams in Chicago on the way back. I know that I used a few more gallons getting back than I used going, but that could be all about the traffic jams. I’m not sure. It took me 3:40 to drive up. The trip back took me 4:50. So, I was driving for an extra 70 minutes due to construction, detours, and stop-and-go traffic.

Pictures Of The Camper

The next morning I took a bunch of pictures of the truck camper. Enjoy!

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