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The Best Overland Campers and Camper Shells

Dec 04, 2023

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The best of both worlds: the luxury of an overlanding trailer, combined with the maneuverability of a truck with a rooftop tent.

Over the past decade, we've seen a boom in the overlanding industry. And with that have come all sorts of creative ways to build out trucks and SUVs for camping. Some people opt for the rooftop tent; some shoot for the more low-key car camping method; and some go for the tricked-out overlanding trailer approach. But the overland camper option is the best of both worlds — it takes the luxury of the trailer and the dynamics of a rooftop tent.

Now, a traditional bed camper you picture sitting in your grandparent's driveway might be the first thing to come to mind when you think of a truck bed residence. But today's options are built to be more maneuverable for the trails.

An overland camper is not a one-size-fits-all-situation. Each manufacturer is very clear about what trucks are compatible with each option. Different truck models may insinuate nuances in the installation process, and different truck bed lengths will allow or restrict additional features.

Your truck's payload capacity should be the first thing you think about when considering buying one of these campers. Remember that this limit differs from towing capacity, since all the weight is put on your truck's frame and axles, not a trailer's. Most overlanding trucks are typically more midsize options such as Toyota Tacomas and Jeep Gladiators, but full-sized pick-ups are running the trails too, and those tend to handle a bit more weight.

Manufacturers often make a few different camper options to serve different truck sizes and bed lengths. Ensuring your truck can handle the weight is necessary for your safety and those around you. If you exceed the payload, you can do some serious damage to your truck and make it more susceptible to rolling over.

Once the payload is determined, you will want to consider your tires and suspension. Both of these components may need to be upgraded, especially when considering the weight of all your gear and passengers and the camper. And while they might work fine on paved roads, the second you hit the trails, you may encounter some problems.

Because these campers are designed with off-roading in mind, they are built lighter than a traditional truck bed camper. Depending on your truck make and model and the camper itself, they are often mounted to your truck bed rails or drilled into the floor of our bed. Because of the complex nature of a few of these campers, some companies will install them for you at a dealer or factory location.

This is an excellent all-around camper. It's secured with locking doors for all of your gear stored in the bed, and the sleeping area gives a couple of people plenty of room for a good night's rest. You might ask how this differs from a bed rack with a rooftop tent; well, the floor can come out of the tent and turn into a standing desk.

Keep in mind that while the roof can handle up to 500 pounds, it can only open with 75 pounds loaded up there. All that means is that extra planning will be needed when deciding what items must be taken off the roof when you arrive at camp.

So you like the idea of sleeping in the bed of your truck, but maybe you can't quite justify the price and storage requirements of the other options. While not exactly a true camper shell, this truck bed tent is a fantastic way to get out on the trail without sleeping on the ground. Toss in your favorite air mattress, and you will be good to go.

You might argue that this is the same as tossing your classic tent on the ground, but think about how the side of your truck bed will help block the wind and elements. Being off the ground keeps you away from unwelcome critters and a soggy campsite.

The pop-up tent makes the camper feel extra spacious and comfortable by providing 36 inches of extra headspace. Make sure to plan ahead for this one, as lead times vary, but it might just be worth the wait.

To utilize the roof's impressive weight limit, the brand offers various add-ons, such as solar panels, roof racks and fans. There are several other luxurious accessories that you can get built into your camper as well. But to get your hands on one, you'll have to get yourself over to one of the dealers across the country.

Scout Campers has some very cool builds in their lineup, but the newest and (lightest) addition is the Tuktut. The Tuktut's interior will look most like a traditional truck bed camper, as opposed to some of the toppers we have on this list. It was designed with mid-size trucks in mind, as they can handle the smaller, lighter construction. As far as full campers go, this one starts pretty bare bones, with ample opportunity for modular additions.

You can have a nice truck bed topper that doubles as a camper when used with the Flated Air Deck. This mattress/topper combo is particularly useful when overlanding, as you can store your gear beneath the mattress. Made with a PVC-coated material, the drop stitch construction is extremely firm. If you have any experience on an inflatable paddle board, it is very similar to that.

Because it is inflatable, it is easy to set up and take down, and there are no tools required for installation, although having an electric pump would probably be helpful. In addition to camping, the Flated Air-Topper can serve its purpose as a typical soft topper as well.

Read our full review of the Flated Air Topper.

It looks like a traditional bed cap but does a whole lot more for your overlanding gear. This extremely modular build is equipped with MOLLE panels, but you can add bins, drawers, camp kitchen setups, and various other accessories. While initial assembly takes about an hour and requires some basic tools, it can be removed in about 15 minutes when it is not in use.

You can opt to sleep in here with the windows slid open, but the roof is rated for a ton of weight, so adding a rooftop tent should be no issue as long as your truck can handle the load.

As far as overlanding gear goes, you won't have an issue finding a spot to store it here. The back flips open above the tailgate so that you can have full access to the bed of your truck and all your gear inside. You can get your model with gear tracks that allow you to mount road recovery essentials, and if that is not enough space, you can throw a roof rack on top as well.

Popping the top up is a one-person job and takes a minute or so to open up. And once the top is up, there's over six feet of standing room, depending on how deep your truck bed is. There are a couple of fans and lights mounted on the roof, which can run on a variety of different power options that the brand offers. Once it is time to go to bed, the bed slides out, and you fold out the mattress.

You might be curious as to what makes this so affordable; well, it's fairly bare bones by the standards of truck bed campers. This makes it easier to customize to your needs. You won't be spending money on anything you don't necessarily want.

The tent on the Lone Peak has a rain guard that is great for shedding water. It lets you keep the windows open for airflow while keeping bad weather out. Also, there are huge windows that give you a fantastic view of your campsite. There is nothing better than waking up and immediately seeing a beautiful sunrise.

Packing a full camper build, this unit is heavier than the topper-style options on this list, and it is pretty beefy. This heavy-duty construction will last years, and because it is a slide-on, you can keep it packed up and ready to go at all times.

It's already equipped with flip-up storage bins that can be locked, so all your gear is secure. When the tent is popped up, you have up to eight feet of head space, so even your tallest friends can make this one work. This camper is also available in a configuration that can sleep four. Although, it does look like the extra two people need to be more ... child-sized.

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