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Camper Vans vs. Truck Campers: What's the Best Solution?

As long as people have been camping in vehicles the eternal debate has existed: camper vans vs. truck campers? Both offer the allure of nomadic living, but which reigns supreme in the realm of mobile dwellings? Join us as we navigate the winding roads of comparison to determine the ultimate solution for your wanderlust dreams: the ultimate showdown in Arches National Park.

Meet Tom: Our Tenured RV Expert

When we first arrive in Arches National Park, we meet Tom: an expert RV owner with over a decade of experience adventuring. Even with all this experience, Tom had never had a chance to drive a camper van, much less a fully-built out Off Highway Van.

Exploring Arches in an Off Highway Van

Tom is living what many of us would consider to be "the dream." He's reached an age and a point in his life where he no longer has to work and instead has taken up travelling. Since he started this new nomadic life, Tom has been looking for the best camping solution for his lifestyle.

Tom's Current Truck Camper Setup

Tom is currently driving around in a RAM 3500 1 Ton Pickup with an Arctic Fox truck camper.

Truck Camper Setup

This has been a great setup, but Tom has some drawbacks that should be considered.

Loading + Aligning: Not As Easy As It Seems

Tom's first drawback to the truck camper setup is that it can be very difficult to load and align initially.

Truck Camper Alignment

To load the truck camper, you have to be extremely precise. This can be easier with a helper, but is still not ideal for the "load it and go" travel mentality. To get the truck reconnected to the truck camper, Tom makes multiple attempts (with help from his wife) before the alignment is correct and the camper can be reconnected to the truck bed. This, in Tom's opinion is the most difficult part about owning and camping in a truck camper and can take some time and effort to get it right.

Camper Vans vs. Truck Campers

The first benefit that Tom noticed about the van is how it aligned with his needs to "pick up and go" at a moment's notice. He appreciated the "set it and forget it" ethos that does not require setup, alignment, loading, or partner sign language drills.

The Side Door: An Unexpected Accessibility Hero

Tom explains that one of the biggest benefits of the van, that many of us van owners may take for granted, is access to your camping space via a side door.

Camper Van Side Door Accessibility

The benefit, for Tom, is that he has much easier access to his camping vehicle, even with his recent health struggles and injuries. This is not always the case with his truck camper that can be daunting to climb in and out of repeatedly throughout the day.

The Drawbacks of Truck Camper Rear Door Entry

As you can see below, the truck camper does not have a very accessible entrance.

Accessing Truck Camper

The steps fold down, the climb in is awkward and off balance, and the transition into the camper is not as smooth as you'd expect. This can be an especially challenging entry point for seniors and those less physically able and can make getting ready, cooking, and other camping activities more difficult than they need to be.

Accessing Your Gear

This process only gets more complicated and off-balance as you add trailers, bike racks, etc to your truck camper setup. This is one of the major benefits of a van: no matter how much gear you store or how many racks and boxes you have, you'll always have easy, seamless access to your camping space via the side door of your van.

On and Offroad Ride Quality

Tom also had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an Off Highway Van and was immediately surprised by the handling and agility the van maintains, even with an offroad package added.

Van First Impressions


He specifically mentions that the steering is one of the most surprising parts about the van's ride quality. Normally, when you think offroad, you think sluggish, cab-rolling, unwieldy vehicle. With a converted Sprinter from Off Highway Van, he says the steering remains tight and responsive even considering the larger tires and lift kit.

The Surprising Discovery About Offroad Vans

Coming from a truck, you may think that the van would handle worse than a vehicle purpose built for work and offroad. This is not the case.

Offroading in a Van

What surprised Tom most was the van's ability to handle washboard roads without being battered by a weighted down pickup rear suspension. At 30-35MPH, the van made quick work of these Utah desert roads without tossing the passengers inside around.

Tom's Final Thoughts

When we reconvene with Tom after he has had the opportunity to test out the Off Highway Van on multiple surfaces, road types, and applications and he has some thoughts on the truck vs. van argument.

After spending a weekend in the Off Highway Van, Tom is ready to make the leap and get out of his truck camper and into a custom offroad van. If you're ready to build your own custom offroad van, give the experts at Off Highway Van a call and schedule a shop tour!

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