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Monday, February 5, 2018

Light Duty Truck & Light Weight Camper

I didn’t jump into a light-weight camper for my light duty Tacoma without a lot of research.

Most significantly, I went to the FWC manufacturing site near Sacramento, CA a few years ago.  There, I knew that I wanted a shell to build my camper the way I want.  I got this opinion since the dry weight of a well appointed Fleet Model (designed for Tacoma and like trucks) can exceed 1200 lbs.  The base Fleet model is 975 lbs dry.  If you add anything including water this is your starting weight.

FWC makes a nice pop up camper with a sturdy welded aluminum frame.  I did find some things didn’t want and some things I didn’t care for.  For example they would not use Lithium battery technology when I visited.  Lead acid batteries they were using  just added to the weight of the camper.  They only use a 20 gallon water tank and no waste water.  I can live easily on 6 gallons for 6 days.  Yes a gallon of water per person a day is minimal, but at 8 lbs a gallon 20 gallons is 160 lbs.  I asked about getting a 10 gallon tank and they said they only use 20 gallon fresh water tanks.

My camper build is with 4 gallons of fresh water with a collapsible 4 gallon portable container for longer days off grid.  I also have a 4 gallon waste (gray) water tank and FWC does not have any gray water holding.

I have many more factory items I didn’t care for that drove me to look for a shell model. I wanted my camper my way.  I was told when I visited FWC that no one would want a camper with my design ideas.  I just don’t agree.

The biggest reason for a shell model is that I was putting this on a light duty truck.

My Tacoma is highlighted in yellow marker above.

That’s right 905 lbs for the truck bed weight with two people.  If you travel solo it’s higher, but how much?

My FWC Fleet Shell camper weighed in with a weight of 585 lbs, not the FWC base camper of 975 lbs.

Above is from FWC’s website information.

The above is the sticker from my Tacoma’s door.  It says the combined weight of passengers and cargo should never exceed 1205 lbs!

Lastly, above is from my Tacoma’s manual about the weight distribution of the camper you put on the truck.

FWC had a number of options to address exceeding the Tacoma’s weight specifications when I visited them.  They had heavier rear leaf springs, wider rims and tires, and airbags for the rear suspension.  These things help but increase your cost above the sticker price and you may be exceeding the weight capacity of your truck.

I did meet a guy with a newer Tacoma as newer Fleet camper.  He opted for the larger tires, and I believe heavier springs and added airbags.  These help carry the heavier weight, but does not address Toyota’s capacity rating.

I have not put my truck on scales to see the weight, but I figure I’m about the acceptable limits of my truck.  Yes I say that including my weight.  I came across country with my wife in the front seat. The camper was dry, as there was no reason to carry what I could get in California when I visited my son and waste fuel carrying this stuff.

When building out my camper I took out the 4” foam cushions and replace with 2” for space and weight reasons.  The Space issue was That with 4” of foam on the upper bed there wasn’t room for the bedding to be left there when roof was down.

I removed the heavy lead acid AGM battery that came with my camper and weighted about 80 lbs.  I replaced it with my light weight LiFePo4 battery.  I did add a solar panel that added back 30 lbs on the roof of the camper.

I used 1/2” plywood for my lower bed in place of heavier 3/4” material.  My compressor fridge is the heaviest item in my camper.

I have a true light weight camper on my Tacoma.

I do have airbags on my rear axle that I had put on a few years ago when hauling items in my truck.  I do recommend the Firestone airbags as they keep the riding weight off the rear springs.  When I go over speed bumps the weight of the camper doesn’t compress the trucks springs.

I met a man here in a Tucson parking lot and I was telling him about light weight trucks and campers and told him I was going to write about my designing a lightweight camper.  He was interested in having the same setup as me.


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