Four Wheel Campers – My Favorite Truck Camper Design For DIY
Of all the RV/camper designs, my favorite is the Pop-Up Slide-In Truck Camper — Particularly the “Four Wheel Camper” style, which you can recognize by their fine-feathered code names like Hawk, Eagle, Raven, Finch, etc.
Here’s why I like ’em:
- Off-Road Capability — By putting a slide-in camper on an off-road truck, you can access more remote areas than you ever could with a traditional small-wheeled vehicle.
- Fuel Efficiency – The low profile saves tons of gas by virtue of its reduced frontal area — which is the largest contributor to wind resistance — and the greatly reduced weight, by virtue of having the top half made of tent material.
- Flexibility – If you occasionally need to use your truck for hauling, you can just remove the camper until you need it.
Off-road readiness is important to me, because my main motivation for the nomadic lifestyle — beyond my monastic drive to “live simply” — is digging for fossils, gold, and gemstones. i.e. I’m a rockhound. I drive a Toyota Tacoma Prerunner, and I want to be able to get to those remote sites, “drop anchor” and spend a few days or weeks exploring the territory and digging.
And though I don’t spend that many days driving, the distance between sites is significant enough that I do find myself on fast country roads and freeways where wind resistance becomes a serious factor.
So the pop-top design is a really clever way to not only keep the frontal area down for the drive, but also keep the center of gravity low for off-road stability. For my purposes, the combination is tough to beat.
I’ve figured out that there are quite a few companies who will custom-build these pop-up slide-in campers. The aluminum frame campers are pretty impressively sturdy for their weight — I’ve seen photos of their pop-up campers with a dozen people standing on the roof.
But the really big variable in my opinion is the interior design. Some companies do a much better job at efficiently fitting the essentials into that little space. The most impressive I've seen is Phoenix Camper's PULSE SC design that incorporates both a toilet and shower into a 6'x5' floor plan. They do it by combining them into one unit, as a sit-down shower.
(I've included a video of the PULSE SC design on another post Phoenix PULSE SC - A Truck Camper With A Bathroom.)
Here's a quote from an interview with the designer:
I had a Tacoma customer who wanted a fully self contained camper. He only had a six-foot bed, did not want the camper to go beyond the tail lights of the truck, but he did want hot water, shower, cassette toilet, kitchen cabinets, and all of the other amenities that people often want including a refrigerator, jacks, converter, stove, and two separate beds. He wanted a camper where three adults could sleep and still have a restroom.
As cool as the newer "cutting edge" designs are, the standard features are plenty nice in their own right. Check out this video from Rollin' On TV.
Collectively, I refer to this style of pop-up as the "Four-Wheel Campers" (4WC) designs, because of the company that popularized this style of slide-in pop-up truck camper in the 1970's. Along with many look-alikes (at least from the outside), there seem to be around a dozen or so (?) companies selling the 4WC brand, which are typically named after birds depending on the size, ex. Finch, Raven, Hawk, Eagle, etc., along with the Grandby for full-size trucks. I love studying photos and videos of them for ideas for my own homemade truck camper, which is modeled after this design.