Planning/Construction

Want to purchase or build you own truck camper? What questions should you ask yourself before you start?

Traveling with a camper is a lot of fun. The freedom of being able to stop wherever you feel to spend the night, or just to have a meal in total comfort, rain or shine, is unique. Now, either purchasing or building a truck camper is a major project and expense. If you make mistakes in planning you will have to live with the consequences for a long time. They might even ruin your pleasure and discourage you from traveling. So, before you look at what options are even available, let’s find out what you need to decide before you go shopping. In this post I will only list some of the questions you should ask yourself, with a brief explanation of each. I will revisit each point in future posts in more detail.

How far from home will you travel? Staying in your own country or shipping your truck overseas have different requirements. Should your truck for example fit inside a shipping container?

Where in the world will you spend the most time? Each country and culture has its own way of doing things. Electrical power/current/plugs are different in some country than what you might have at home. So are natural gas/couplings, etc. Some brands of vehicles are not sold in some parts of the world, so getting service and replacement parts while traveling can be a major problem.

How much comfort do you really need? It’s easy to dream big and spend a fortune on things that later cost you extra in fuel while on the road. These extras are extra potential problems if they fail, etc. Getting them repaired can be impossible away from home. This is very personal, but in some countries it’s worth keeping as low a profile as you can. There is no need to cause more envy than necessary. You will probably already have more in your truck while on vacation, than some of the locals have at home for their every day life. In 2018 we spent almost 2 months traveling in our pickup truck camper and not even once did we go to a hotel. Of course if you will spend a year or more on the road your needs will be different.

Should your vehicle double as a daily driver as well? A large vehicle will make it more difficult to drive and park in cities. A smaller vehicle is more convenient to go grocery shopping, or to park in a parkade if street parking is risky. We find that here in Argentina and Chile campground entrance gates are often much smaller than we are used to in North America. So most large vehicle can’t get in. That reduces your options. In South America streets and even some roads are narrower as well.

How will the camper affect the vehicle? Weight is the enemy when driving. You will spend fuel to move the weight, it will increase your stopping distance, compress your suspension, etc. Will the vehicle have enough payload for the kind of camper you are considering? Will you need to modify the suspension, the engine, the brakes? A light vehicle can travel faster and cheaper than a bulky heavy one.

These are already many questions and there are many more as we dive into the details. If you have never done any vehicle camping I would advise you to rent a camper van for a week and go camping. Stay in campgrounds and also in the wild a couple of nights. You will quickly find out for yourself what you need and what is useless. We are always amazed at how little it takes to live happily when on the road. The simpler it is the more you can just enjoy being where you are at the time. You do not leave home to have more problems but less, so carry only the basics. You will probably find that there is still stuff you didn’t use! My advice is generally to start simple and add later with experience. So, do some thinking while I write the next instalment, and click Like if you found this article useful. Also do not hesitate to post your questions. Thank you for reading.

Truck sizes
Our truck parked on a street in Argentina Vs a much larger expedition truck.

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