The Truck Camper

In early 2008, we traded the ol’ Suburban (a great 1998 tow-vehicle with over 170,000 miles on it) for a brand new F-150 Ford pickup.  A pickup instead of another suburban?  Our thoughts were that eventually we’d grow tired of “boat camping” and want to upgrade to the relative luxury of a truck camper.  Boat camping is great, but sleeping on the boat meant a daily tear-down/set-up of the bed – literally converting our sleeping space to a boat each morning and back at night.  

By late 2009 we’d decided it was time to start shopping/researching truck campers.  With the pickup being a ultra-short bed (only 5.5′ long) and a low cargo weight limit, our choices were fairly limited.  None of the gorgeous Lance campers that we saw at the RV shows would come close to fitting on the F-150.  And, trying to keep gas mileage in the double digits, we decided we wanted to try a pop-up camper, one that would lower the overall wind resistance when traveling.  Remember, we are still planning to tow a 3500 pound boat!  

This left a few campers, Hallmark – made right here in Colorado, Northstar, Four Wheel, Outfitter (another Colorado company), Lite Craft and a few other rarely seen pop-up campers.  After watching several of the RV resale websites, it seemed that our choices would be Hallmark or Northstar since the others were rarely available for resale.   

We visited the Northstar dealer in Brighton and had the chance to carefully inspect most of their pop-up line. We also visited the Hallmark dealer in Ft. Lupton and learned much from Randy Wass and his team about the newest methods used in the construction of truck campers.  Both manufacturers build a quality product that I can easily recommend.  One feature that caught our eye is known as a “north south” bed on the Northstar.  Instead of the typical configuration of the side to side bed (your head on one side, your feet on the other), the Northstar had a longer cabover extension that allowed you to sleep front to rear, eliminating the need for one person to crawl over the other when entering or exiting the bed.   But even with this perceived benefit, we still continued shopping for either a Northstar or a Hallmark.  

In early 2010 we found a used 2009 Northstar TC650 available near Colorado Springs.  After seeing the camper – it was basically brand new – we purchased it.  The previous owner had kept the camper in excellent condition and it was outfitted with nearly every option we desired:  

  • Extended cab-over for the “north south” bed
  • The optional hot water heater and exterior shower
  • A gray water holding tank
  • Fiberglass sidewalls – beautiful decals and enhanced insulation
  • Square rear window for an add-on air conditioner

Here are some pictures of a TC650.  These are stock dealer images, but nearly every aspect, including the half-wrap rear end and LED tail lights are identical to the 650 that we purchased.  

Exterior rear view

Exterior curb (dining room) side

Kitchen side, 2 burner stove, sink and 3way frig

Dining side, swivel table and underfloor storage

Extended cabover with under and side storage

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5 responses

26 08 2013
Ziggy

Curious if you ever weighed the camper to find out true weight? Any suspension mods to truck needed?

30 08 2013
smallhomebigyard

Hi Ziggy,
Sorry about the delayed response – it’s been a busy summer. 🙂 The Northstar dry “sticker weight” listed base and our options at around 1500lbs. We had it on the scale one time, full of water, propane, gear and food, it weight in around 2500lbs. We rarely traveled this loaded, more often we were under 2000lbs. I added the Air Lift air springs which worked well.

30 08 2013
Ziggy

No problem and thanks! I was wondering how accurate the NorthStar weights are.

30 08 2013
Ziggy

I was thinking about not ordering the wraparound to save a few pounds. Thoughts?

31 08 2013
smallhomebigyard

According to the sticker (which as I recall was on the inside of one of the cabinet doors) the base weight is 1270. Water heater/shower, 34; Gray Water Tank, 18; Half Wrap rear end, 20; Fiberglass Sidewalls, 70; Extended Cabover, 60. So, as you can see the half-wrap didn’t add a lot. However, I suspect it caused some wind drag since on the short bed truck, there’s a gap between the truck box and the wraparound.

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