First truck camper - Slide-on setup vs fixed body

Spoony

Member
I'm looking to buy/setup/build my first 4x4 truck based camper (single cab). The plan is to rent the house, use equity for purchase and travel Australia without an end date, just me and my 4 legged best mate.
While a truck setup seems overkill for so many travellers ;) haha, given it will be 'home' indefinitely I figure it makes things much easier to have a larger more comfortable living space, carry more gear, and also provide a better option to leave my dog in for periods (which his fine with) if visiting some non dog friendly places or when getting work. As such the camper part needs to be fairly well insulated and will be setup with good powered ventilation etc. NPS or Canter doesn't really worry me, but Super Singles and improved/raised suspension will be part of the build. As I don't want to burn all my equity, the budget is limited (sub $40k AUD + some extra for setup), so older truck options are OK.

I'm curious as to peoples thoughts on doing the larger slide-on type setup for a fixed body.
Pros and Cons I've come up with.

FIXED BODY PROS
More interior space
Likely stay cooler due to larger area etc?
Through cab access :)
If a poptop version usage with the roof left down can still be good

FIXED BODY CONS
Existing older setups (ie Winnebago etc) seem to be rigid mounted (is this an issue?)
House is locked to the vehicle, so loose house if vehicle need repairs
Can't detach home at a campsite for a period

Slide-one would maybe use US Puma or Northstar, as they are large (usually for F250's etc I guess) + seem to offer decent value in Aus for appointments/age

SLIDE-ON PROS
Home can be removed from vehicle
Additional external storage under over cab section
Using the same base truck model/spend, seems one can get a far newer Slide-on unit vs the fixed body build, better appointed too

SLIDE-ON CONS
Smaller internal space
Usage limited without popping the top
Possible heat issues without the top popped? (ie leaving dog, though could always just open top)

I was leaning toward the fixed body option but given what one can get for the $'s for a slide on (ie $18k asking aud 3-4yrs old, internal show/toilet, air-con, the works really) on I'm having a re-think.

Keen to hear others ideas on this. I understand many do builds for proper outdoor camping and this is quite inside living focused, but I've gone this way as while I'll aim to stay remote, my travels and income needs will take me urban and rural, so being self contained within is a high priority.

Cheers
Dan.
 

SkiFreak

Expedition Leader
If I am perfectly honest, a budget of $40K for a permanent living environment would be a tough challenge, even if you were building everything yourself.
Using an older truck is not an issue (FG649 etc.) and in fact could be beneficial in some ways, as they have less emissions crap, but they are slower on the road and will likely require a bit more money down the track with maintenance.
Finding a good truck at a decent price is also an issue, but they are definitely out there for the taking, if you're lucky. With trucks it often comes down to timing... is one on the market when you are looking to buy?

If, as you say, you plan on living in the camper, the amount of usable space inside the camper should be your focus.
As practical as slide-ons and pop-tops can be, the functionality may not match. You will arguably get more living and usable space in a fixed size camper, as you can utilise all of the wall space and height. Things like overhead cupboards, shower and toilet areas and general space are all easier. Another thing that will give you more "living space" is a bed lift, which only really works in a fixed size camper. Insulation is normally better too.
The other big plus for a fixed size camper is that it is by far the simplest to build and there are way less things to go wrong. Basically... it's just a box with a door and some windows.
The main disadvantage of a fixed size camper is its height, as that has the potential to limit access to some areas, but route planning can help with that to some degree. Some may also argue worse fuel efficiency, but from what I have seen, that is not really an issue.

Every design is a personal choice, so it is what works for you, not what others believe is the best layout. You need to remember that.
I am still in the process of building a hard sided poptop, but I would not recommend that design to anyone that did not want a lot of technical challenges.
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
All good points SkiFreak

FYI, as cool as cab-chassis (fixed camper) vehicles are, Ill always stick to truck+ camper combo.
'Cause once you find a camper you love and would like to keep forever, you can simply swap out trucks as age and mileage demand.
Yes, you can completely rebuild an old truck. But at the end all that, its still an old truck.

The ability to keep your camper, custom of not, and swap out trucks as needed should be a consideration.
Im in that process right now, replacing the old truck with a new one, all the while keeping the camper that I designed and built exclusively to fit our needs.
 

Spoony

Member
Awesome feed back guys, interesting takes on each view point too. The reality is either option is a compromise, part of this plan is heavily compromised by taking my dog, but his my best mate so it wont' happen any other way.
The 2000 NPS 300 fixed Winnebago build I've been looking at (2000km away so communication and pics at this point) I'm now shying away from............decisions decisions.

How restrictive do people find an extra 300mm odd of height? I like to push into isolation and remote areas, some that have been tight even for my 4x4 so it certainly is a consideration (yet another balance point haha).

The ability to swap out trucks is not something I considered either.
Your IDA camper build looks pretty cool.

The $'s are tight, which doesn't help, though does seem doable, even if it just covers the initial base rig (truck and body) and not including wheels/tyres suspension. All that work, approvals and additional mods/build would happen over many months, where I'll still be working full time and saving for it. My plan involves keeping a chunk of equity available so I don't have to stress about getting lots of work etc.
 

dietert

New member
Another consideration not previously mentioned is that a dedicated camper would probably be registered as a 'motorhome' and as such attracts a significant saving on rego fees. With the slide on, the truck remains a truck and will attract 'truck' sized rego fees. But I might be wrong.
 

Spoony

Member
I didn't think of that one but you're correct, checking rego prices it certainly costs more for a truck/commercial vs motorhome.
I haven't looked into it either but insurance may also be easier on a motor vs insuring a truck but including a slide on.
 

Bris31

Adventurer
In Queensland, if the truck weight is under 4500kg (de-rated, driven with car license) and with a fixed camper then it is registered as 'Çamper Van' (less rego). But with the same setup if the truck is above 4500kg, then it is registered as 'Camper Truck' with TMR (Transport and Mains Roads).
And with slide-on camper can't have pass through.
 

JohnRogers

Observer
https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/cherryville/campervans-motorhomes/isuzu-nps-300-4wd-motorhome/1166857184
My neighbour is selling this one its a good honest camper thats just recently had new brakes wheel bearings all round as they were heading off on a longer trip but they came across a newer unit with Super singles and such so decided to trade up. The new one isn't pop top and its considerably taller which i think will be a limiting factor down the track. It wouldn't take much to get the super singles to fit it just a small trimming of the rear wheel arches and the same step modification required on all NPS trucks for the front. Its non turbo and gets along at 90-95kmh but with the bigger wheels it would comfortably cruise at 100+.
 

Spoony

Member
Small world, I've actually been chatting to Steve about that truck. I had him take some pics an try measure up the rear wheel section, as I figured some trimming and re-sheeting required there, I think only the inner section. I don't think a swap to 37" super singles sees the outer edge of the tyre push past the original rear tyres, I think the front does a little (hence the need for arches) but am I correct that the rear normally doesn't?
The setup/layout/height/size certainly appeal. As it was a camper from day one (1 month old re complied as 5 seat 4490kg by Winnebago) I've been trying to work out what sort of construction they used during that era. At 18 years old one does have to consider how the wall panelling etc is/will hold up, especially with offroad use.
 

JohnRogers

Observer
granted its an older unit but its solid and reliable Even dropping back to 35" tyres would still give a great improvement to highway speeds and rpm requiring less trimmage. Steve has ATW SS on the new truck I have 37" trackmasters and they are alot bigger than ATW's so I reckon they are closer to 34-35"
 

Spoony

Member
I did consider 35's, though 37's really do have that 'cool' factor haha. A decision made at the time really, no trimming and 35's, maybe, trimming needed then 37's it is haha. How do you find the trackmasters, If going with something no more than 5000kg I planned on using the Hankook MT's, I run them on my fourby and can't speak more highly off them, awesome on road wet/dry grip, not loud, great off road and tough as nails.

But yes the ATW option seems way smaller than 37's and visually at least seem a far less capable off road option.
 

SkiFreak

Expedition Leader
Something that I think is overlooked sometimes with an expedition camper is that it is not a rock crawler.
These trucks are definitely off road capable, there's no doubt about that, but if you whack a house on the back of one of them then you need to be mindful of what will happen to all the stuff in that house if you do any serious four wheel driving.
Just saying....
 

Spoony

Member
Yes very good point, so sell off 'the good China' and drink my Jameson only from plastic cups..... ;)
 

BradK

New member
Hi Dan

Your first paragraph could have been written by me. I'm also looking around but am finding that the asking price for trucks up to 10 years old is still in the high $40k range. I'm starting to wonder if a budget increase and a new truck might not be better value. We tow a van so I'm looking for a crewcab with an enclosed camper setup that has storage and basic accommodation for all the places the van won't go. (Realistically it doesn't go off the tar).

I've also though about slide-on vs fixed. I was concerned that a slide on might be heavier and taller as you have the tray with its chassis and then some sort of floor and chassis under the slide-on. I've spoken to slide on owners and have received polar opposite opinions about how often you would remove it and leave it behind.

The piece of advise I get pretty consistently is to carefully check the trucks history. Some of the mine sites have ground water that has 4 times the salt concentration of the ocean. Being covered in this kind of mud not only means chassis rust but also seized bolts and electrical problems. At one of the sites my brother works at, new crewcab utes have holes through the bodywork after only 6 months. A coat of paint covers many problems - but not permanently :)
 
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