Are Truck Campers Top Heavy Or Unstable?
Truck campers are heavy and they ride high in the bed. This combination makes the truck/camper combo top-heavy and potentially unstable. The camper manufacturers integrate design features into truck campers which help to minimize the effect of the camper weight on the truck’s stability.
There are also things you can do when loading the camper up for a trip to keep weight issues to a minimum. Let’s take a look at some of the factors surrounding weight issues with truck campers.
Can A Dually Make The Camper More Stable?
A dually can help to alleviate the instability in truck campers, and usually will, make a truck camper more stable. There are several reasons for this. The first one is the obvious reason, dually’s are wider where it counts. The dual rear wheels sit basically under the midsection of a truck camper.
This provides a wider base to counter the forces that the top-heavy truck camper will exert on your truck. Dually’s also tend to be heavier duty than single rear wheel trucks. They’ll have heavier springs, heavier torsion bars, heavier axles, and better shocks.
This usually adds up to a higher gross vehicle weight rating (GVRW). The higher the weight rating, the better equipped the truck is to handle a heavy truck camper.
The differences between single-rear-wheel ( SRW) and dual rear wheel (DRW) trucks are not limited to traveling on the road. If you plan to buy or use a truck camper with slideouts then a dually should be high on your list. Slideouts on a truck camper act like a giant lever, twisting the weight out over the side of the truck.
With SRW trucks that slideout can extend well beyond the width of the rear axle. This can allow the truck camper to lean toward the slide side and can also allow it to rock more side to side as you move about the camper. The wider stance of dually will do a better job keeping the camper upright and stable while you are in camp.
Can GVWR Affect The Stability Of The Truck?
The gross vehicle weight rating (GVRW) of your truck will play a major role in stability while carrying a truck camper. The GVRW is the maximum weight the total vehicle can be while still being safe to operate. This includes everything in or on the vehicle including fuel, passengers, cargo, campers, etc.
Pulling your truck onto a CAT scale at your local truck stop will give you your current gross weight. That weight of course can change. All things being the same, the truck will get lighter as you drive and burn fuel, or heavier if you stop and fill up.
As your truck gets closer to the GVWR, the closer you’ll get to the maximum stress your truck frame, springs, axles, and suspension components can safely handle. The closer you get to those limits the more unstable the truck will feel as you drive.
There’s a rule in the RV world, always buy as many vehicles as you can. The accepted rule of thumb is to buy a truck capable of carrying at least 1/3 more than the weight of your camper.
What Causes Truck Campers To Be Top Heavy Or Unstable?
Truck campers make a truck/camper combination top-heavy or unstable because they are heavy and ride high on the truck. The top of a truck camper can be as high as 12 feet or more from the ground when installed on a standard modern pickup truck.
With most campers tipping the scales in the 3000 – 5000 lb range, there is a lot of weight riding above the bed of your truck and those numbers only grow larger as you load your camper up for a trip.
Your truck is essentially a lever, with the pivot point at the height of the axels. The further above the axels you go, the longer the lever is and the more influence weight will have on the truck pivoting about the axles.
The camper manufacturers do design the campers to keep the camper center of gravity as low as possible. For example, the water tanks are usually built into the very base of the camper centered between the bed wheel arches. Keeping the heavy stuff low helps stabilize the truck.
You can also do your part to keep the camper’s center of gravity low. When you load it up for trips, try to store any heavy items in lower cabinets or storage areas. Conversely, don’t store or travel with heavy items in the cab-over a section or mount heavy cargo on the roof.
Are Bigger Trucks Better For Truck Campers?
Bigger trucks are almost always better for truck campers. Larger trucks will have higher GVRWs and will be better able to accommodate the heavyweight of a truck camper. They will be more stable, safer and won’t suffer the wear and tear that a lesser truck would encounter with the same camper installed.
However, there are some downsides to larger trucks that you may want to consider. The major benefit of a truck camper is that it is easy to travel with. Simply put, trucks with a truck camper are more mobile and agile than a larger motor home or a truck/trailer combination.
As the truck gets larger, it can start to lose some of that mobility and agility. Larger trucks will have wider turning radii and they may not fit in all the convenient parking spaces you are used to using. Larger trucks also weigh more in general and that extra weight may limit you in where you can go safely.
As a general rule, you’ll want to get a truck bigger than you need, but you’ll also want to make sure that it’s not bigger than you can use. Buying an F650 when an F450 would do the job and then some may end up holding you back while not providing any significant benefits.
Can The Size Of Your Tires Affect The Stability Of A Mounted Truck Camper?
Tire size is an important factor in the stability of any truck and that is especially true if the truck is carrying a heavy load like a truck camper. The biggest factor in tire sizing that will affect stability is the height of the tire sidewall. The taller the sidewall, the more side-to-side flex the tire will have between the rim and the ground.
That flex will translate to the driver in the form of an unstable or mushy feel when turning, particularly in hard turns or emergency maneuvers. From the vehicle’s perspective, excessive sidewall flex can lead to sway of top-heavy cargo like a truck camper. In a turn, the outside tires will flex. The flexed tires become shorter, which lowers that side of the vehicle.
That drop will combine with the compression of the suspension that occurs on that side as well. All of this motion is near the ground so the top of the truck camper will swing significantly to that side. Coming back out of the turn, everything swings back to the center. All of that mass and momentum can get out of control quickly.
To minimize the effects of tire size on your truck/camper stability you’ll want to choose tire sizes recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer for your specific GVWR and application. Maintaining the proper size and going up in load rating can also be beneficial.
Higher load-rated tires will have stiffer sidewalls and provide better support for your vehicle. They can also provide better blow-out protection which can make them significantly safer for traveling with a heavy load like a truck camper.