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Old 05-29-2015, 04:29 PM   #1
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pulling an Airstream with a slide-in truck camper?

Anyone tow with a slide-in truck camper?

My wife and I are looking to upgrade from our current Fleetwood Arcadia popup which is about as large as can be for a popup camper but still not exactly what she wants. We are looking at airstreams and like many of the 25-27' models which seems about right for the smaller state park and national forest campgrounds we like to frequent. However we also have 3 kids (although one is soon to leave for college).

At the RV shows my wife gravitates towards the big bunkhouse 5th wheels thinking it would be great to have the kids have their separate space. I know airstream has a bunk model but it is still fairly cramped. Then it has occurred to me, the kids won't always be with us and for that matter we won't necessarily always be camping with the kids or always with the wife. So why not split things between two campers?

Get a 3/4 ton truck and put a lightweight slide-in camper on top for the kids. Maybe one of the lightweight aluminum models like this: http://www.fourwh.com/ and then we could tow our nice smaller airstream behind just for the parents.

Anyone else have this thought? Right now our youngest kids are ages 9 and 12 and will soon be teenagers so they really just need their own space when we camp. And I really really don't want to have to constantly convert seating to beds and back and forth. Plus they could bring friends and not be in our hair.

Any pitfalls I'm not aware of with pulling an airstream behind a truck camper? Obviously I'll want to go as light as possible to maintain enough payload for cargo and tongue weight and I'll not want one that extends backwards into the hitch space. But it seems the ideal compromise and would give me a truck camper for solo wilderness trips or with just one kid and the whole setup for bigger family vacations. It also seems to me that one will pretty much have to commit to a 3/4 ton truck in order to do all of this unless one is just using a canopy cap with a mattress.
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Old 05-29-2015, 05:22 PM   #2
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Old 05-29-2015, 08:01 PM   #3
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Screen name Moosetag. Search threads started by him.
Thanks...Moosetags is doing exactly what I was anticipating except I would probably go with a lighter and simpler slide-in. But I do see the necessity of going with a 1-ton truck as the weights can quickly get out of hand.

My wife has been thinking that we really really need a separate bunkhouse to take the kids camping which generally leads one in the direction of a 35'+ 5th wheel and quickly into 40' land which would greatly restrict the kind of camping we like to do and the campgrounds we could get into. I'm thinking separate bunkhouse? Naw....better to bring a completely separate camper for them so they can have their own clubhouse, live in their own mess, and generally just have their privacy from the parental units. And better yet have space to bring a friend. And that will let my wife and I focus on the kind of camper we really want for when the kids are soon departed. It would also give us maximum versatility so one could take the truck camper and tow a boat for fishing, or tow the airstream with a smaller SUV, or go whole hog and bring both campers along for the family vacations. Having the airstream along also greatly reduces what is required in the truck camper and it could probably be perfect with just a small electric fridge and casette toilet and maybe a propane heater and stove.
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Old 05-30-2015, 09:22 AM   #4
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We used to take along a tent for the kids. They enjoyed it. If the weather was too bad We'd stay at a KOA with cabins.
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Old 05-30-2015, 09:42 AM   #5
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I pulled 22ft hallmark race trailer loaded that weighed lots more than AS do w/1ton crew cab w/8ft. chev. pick up and 10.5 ft. coachman slide in, never had a problem of any kind. 5th wheel req. set up in bed of truck so carry cap. is greatly restricted, in my opinion it would be dedicated to only pull 5th wheel, waste of money unless can use for other purposes. If using longer than 8ft. slide in you will have to use longer stinger bar with hitch as I did. Traveled many miles this set up.
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Old 05-30-2015, 01:22 PM   #6
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We did that when I was younger. Except the main rig was a Class A but my brother and I stayed in the truck camper as we were always towing a boat on our trips anyways. It was awesome having our own space. Nowadays I have a Mammoth by Host I occasionally use if I'm taking my boat to a poker run by myself for as much as I wish my AS doesn't have the capability to tow my boat. (Also 36' of MH and 42' of trailer is a frightening thought)
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Old 05-30-2015, 04:47 PM   #7
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If your slide-in is not the big ones, ie 10-12' then you should have no problem providing your powerplant in the tow vehicle is sufficient. I had an 11.5' Coachmen that required an extension for the ball to haul anything behind and get the door open on the camper. My 22' boat behind it was no problem. But I was pulling with a Cummins!

ps "If life gets to riveting, put your AS in the wind"
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Old 05-30-2015, 09:44 PM   #8
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We are the ones that that pull the 25' Airstream with a truck camper rig. Our truck camper is an Outfitter pop-up that fits in our 8' bed one ton without any overhang. All of our research indicated that we did not want to have to use any kind of hitch bar extender as the tongue weight of our 25 footer is around 900#. Our truck camper weighs in at 3200# ready to camp with a full fresh water tank.

This rig has worked very well for us for the past 4 years. We have traveled extensively in it all over the country. Our routine is to leave the Airstream at a campground and strike out into the back country and spend a night or two in the truck camper.

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Old 05-30-2015, 09:48 PM   #9
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Here are a few pictures of our camping entourage.

Brian
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Old 05-30-2015, 11:55 PM   #10
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We pull our 25' Flying Cloud with an 8' Four Wheel Grandby pop up. No issues other than it cuts down on the amount of stuff you can drag along. The camper is close to 2,000 ponds when fully loaded.
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Old 05-31-2015, 09:12 AM   #11
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If you're not familiar with Wander the West, it's a good resource for information about pop up truck campers.

Wander The West

There is a thread for used campers that is refreshed almost daily. The two brands that are most popular, are Four Wheel and All Terrain (ATC). Both are light, well made and comfortable. Outfitter campers, like Moosetags' are very nice, as is Hallmark, but they are typically heavier that Four Wheel and ATC. Another resource is Expedition Portal.

If you're just looking for a bunkhouse, consider one of the shell models. You can add options from the factory, or if you're handy with tools, you can build it out yourself. Look for an ATC build thread by Ski3pin for an example of what can be done.
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Old 05-31-2015, 09:54 AM   #12
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Thanks guys. I am thinking that one of the stripped down popup models is probably the way to go. But not so stripped down that it doesn't make functional stand-alone camper for when I might want to pull a boat. I think it makes a much more viable bunkhouse option than a 40' 5th wheel for use in smaller parks and smaller camp sites. So at a minimum I'd want a heater and at least a cassette toilet as I have only girls who aren't just going to go pee on a tree. Don't care about the stove at all, we do all cooking outside even in the big camper. If there is power and some USB ports they will be happy. I don't mind doing some build-out myself. I'm always doing that sort of thing anyway. But I find it isn't always cost-effective to do it with camper parts.

Moosetags, do you find that your 25' fits into every public campground you want to camp in or are you pushing the size limits? Seems like having a rig like yours has one big advantage in that you can get 2 small campsites and split between them with the truck in one space and the airstream in the other. That would especially make sense if one is hauling a handful of teenagers who want some privacy and space.

No matter how one does the math, it seems like this sort of approach is automatically going to demand a 3/4 ton or 1 ton truck unless all one has is a shell on the back with a mattress inside like how I used to camp when I was 25 and driving all over Alaska between fishing jobs.
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Old 05-31-2015, 11:47 AM   #13
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We have always been able to get our 25 foot Airstreams into campsites at National Forest and State Park campgrounds. Admittedly some have been tight, but we always seem to manage. As far as the truck camper goes, we have always gotten it on the same campsite, sometimes either across or next to the Airstream.

Our Outfitter TC is fully equipped with wet bath, compressor refrigerator, stove top, microwave, solar, and air conditioning. Our TC is full function, but it would also work with less amenities if using it a bedroom only.

One of the features that we really like is the back-up refrigerator in the TC.

As far as the truck is concerned, we really need the one ton as the Outfitter weighs 3200#. A 3/4 ton would probably work if the TC was under 2000#.

We also went with diesel as we are about 19,000# going down the road.

Brian
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Old 06-03-2015, 02:25 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Texasdiver View Post
Anyone tow with a slide-in truck camper?
Not an Airstream and not your standard slide-in, but here are two different set-ups that I used this past April.
The Alaskan slide in with the teardrop was like pulling nothing at all!
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