Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

My First Truck Camper

military van resizedI have owned and camped in nearly every type of RV there is. When asked my favorite type RV my response is a motorhome, based on convenience, but a truck camper is my favorite for camping in general. I relate my passion for truck campers back to my days in the military. In 1984, as a young Maintenance Warrant Officer, I was stationed with the 3/36th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, 3rd Armored Division in West Germany.  This assignment would turn out to be one of the most challenging during my military career. The Cold War was still going strong, and we spent months out of the year deployed on field training exercises. My primary job was to keep all our assigned wheeled and tracked vehicles operational during this rigorous training schedule, and to oversee vehicle recovery operations.

To help make our maintenance operations more efficient when deployed I took an old M35A2 6X6 deuce-and-a-half truck and a run-down shop van and turned them into my maintenance operations center. This was my first truck camper.

We did not use tents because a mechanized infantry battalion was always on the move and the maintenance operation had to be mobile. On one side of the shop van we built shelving and small compartments to house hard to find parts. These parts could be used for barter, and to help keep our fleet of vehicles operational during field training exercises. On the opposite side of the van we built a counter top for our radio and communications equipment, and displayed maps on the wall above it to plot and track vehicle recovery missions. In the front section of the shop van we built some crude bunk beds for me and the Battalion Maintenance Supervisor.  The shop van was very sparse in amenities, but it had heat, lights and an inverter to operate the essentials like a coffee pot.

Over the course of the next three years I would spent countless days and nights running the battalion maintenance operations from that old shop van mounted on a 2 ½ ton truck. Those field training exercises were hard times, and you would get very little sleep, but the memories of that military truck and shop van would evolve into the passion I have for truck campers today.

Truck campers are equipped with all the amenities you could want but somehow, at least for me, bring back the basics of camping.  When we travel in our motorhome it is similar to being at home, but in a truck camper it seems more utilitarian. It is smaller and more compact, but fully functional. And as opposed to having everything packed that you could possibly need or want on a camping trip you only have room for the essentials. To me this is what makes camping fun.

We had a nice used Lance truck camper, but sold it and now I regret it. One of the most enjoyable RV trips in recent memory was a cross-country trip Dawn and I took in the truck camper. Two adults and three dogs were challenging at times, but fun and memorable. Like towable trailers it is important you have a truck that can handle the weight of a truck camper. We just purchased a new Ram 2500 with a 6.7L Cummins turbo-diesel and still need to be cautious of weights, especially with truck campers. This year we are planning a trip from North Carolina to Las Vegas to attend the SEMA and RVDA shows and from there to Louisville, Kentucky for the National RV Trade Show and then back home. If I have my way it will be in another truck camper on the back of the Ram pick-up!

Happy Camping

Mark J. Polk

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