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How to Make the Best Use of Space in a Truck Camper

I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to make the most of their RV vacations.

Truck campers have very limited living areas, so it pays to learn how best to use them.

Truck campers have very limited living areas, so it pays to learn how best to use them.

Truck campers are wonderful to travel in if you know how to make the best use of the limited amount of living area they provide. If you don’t, vacationing in one can quickly become claustrophobic.

For this reason, it’s a good idea for people who own them to learn some pack and load methods that will keep them balanced as well as comfortable.

Experience Is the Best Teacher

My husband and I learned this lesson the hard way several years ago when we decided to take a cross-country trip in a small slide-in camper.

That first year, due to happenstance rather than clear thinking, we happened to get it right. There seemed to be plenty of room for the two of us and our belongings, and as a result, we had a wonderful vacation.

We enjoyed traveling with our home “on our backs” so that we could have every convenience with us and loved being able to enjoy our separate hobbies as well. It was common for us to park right beside a beautiful river while he fished, and I read books and napped.

However, the second trip did not work out quite as well.

We still don’t know what we did wrong, but it seemed that every time we wanted to do something, we had to move our belongings from one spot to another. We even bought a rooftop carrier so we’d have more room, but it did little to alleviate our situation.

The situation got so bad that it made daily living uncomfortable and was the main reason we decided to dump the camper in favor of a mid-sized motor home as soon as we could feasibly do so.

The small size of truck campers allows them the flexibility to go just about anywhere but it also can make them claustrophobic for travelers.

The small size of truck campers allows them the flexibility to go just about anywhere but it also can make them claustrophobic for travelers.

8 Storage Ideas for Small Campers

Since we had been used to traveling in small quarters for many years both as cross country truckers and RVers, it surprised us that we could not adapt to our beautiful little camper.

How could people who had camped in vans and pop-up campers have such an invasive problem? To this day, we’re still not sure. However, since then, we’ve learned a few tricks that would have made traveling in a slide-in much easier, and these are the ones I’m going to share with you right now.

1. Use Laundry Baskets

All truck campers are configured such that the bed rests over the roof of the pickup truck. Since you only use the bed for napping or sleeping, it’s a great place to store items of clothing, especially since closet space is minimal in a camper.

The best way to do this is with laundry baskets.

Use one for the clothing of each traveler, for jackets and sweatshirts and one for shoes. You can also use them to store bulky items such as hair dryers and tools.

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The nice thing about doing this is that these baskets can be easily moved out of the way when necessary. Another great thing about them is that they stack. So you can carry a few empties with you for the purpose of doing laundry without wasting extra space.

Even a double bed will hold six or seven of these baskets, and this will free up room in other storage areas so that you’re not tripping over your possessions!

2. Add a Rooftop Cargo Box

Adding a cargo box that can be carried on the roof of your camper is another way to maximize space. As stated earlier, my husband and I did this and found that it provided a good deal of extra space for us.

For many people, this would be enough, but for us it wasn't. We simply needed more room. (However, we did find that it added to the resale value of our unit.)

The bottom line is that adding a cargo box is a matter of personal preference. It's not terribly expensive to do and may make enough of a difference to allow people to travel longer in their small units. However, it also adds weight to your coach and makes items awkward to reach.

If you do use a pod, only put items in it that you won't need often and that are not overly heavy, so that you don't overload your truck.

3. Color Match Your Clothes

Another good tip is to color match your clothes. My husband and I took a vacation one time, and to save space we agreed to only pack blue and white clothing.

By doing this, we never had to worry about choosing clothes that matched, and as a result, were able to travel with fewer items and thus saved even more space.

4. Use Travel Bags

Keeping your personal items in a small kit provides more room in your camper. There is usually very little room in the bathroom for items such as shampoo, skin cream and medications, so putting them into a travel bag makes accessing them more convenient and keeps the bathroom from becoming crowded.

We have always traveled with them, even though many of our coaches have been larger because we can either use them in our own bathroom or carry them into campground facilities.

The one I show below is very well made and very handy to use. We each have one for travel use because they are so convenient.

5. Use Paper and Plastic

Dishes, silverware and glasses are heavy. To keep them clean, you need dishrags, a washbasin and towels. If you forego them and only use paper and plastic, you won’t need the extras because you won't have to wash dishes! Also, you’ll have less to store because paper and plastic are lightweight, stackable, unbreakable and store easily.

It may cost a few extra dollars to do this, but you’ll soon realize that getting rid of dishes, glasses and silverware during your camping trips is a great idea.

6. Eat Out or Eat Frozen

If you want to save space, minimize cooking. There is no shame in dining out in restaurants or keeping a supply of frozen dinners on hand. More RVers do this than you may think.

The good news is that when you decide to dine this way, you don’t have to carry tons of space using ingredients with you.

Many people do well by simply eating cereal, toast and coffee in the morning, sandwiches for lunch and frozen dinners in the evenings. There’s no muss, no fuss, only a small amount of cleanup and the food is always good. Not only that, but there’s more variety!

7. Carry Dehydrated Foods

Carrying dehydrated foods such as milk powder and soups saves space while still allowing you to eat some of the things you enjoy.

No longer do you need to keep large jugs of milk in the fridge because with powdered milk, you can create as much as you need simply by adding water!

8. Pack Items That Do Double Duty

Because space in a camper is limited, it’s a good idea to pack items that have more than one use.

For example, you can

  • use towels instead of rugs to dry your feet after showers,
  • hair dryers to quickly dry damp bathing suits or
  • pots instead of mixing bowls.

If you use your imagination, you’ll find that there are many space-wasting items you can eliminate by using this method.

Save Space and Eliminate Problems

Had someone told me those many years ago about things such as these that we could do to make camper travel more comfortable, we would probably still own our little travel unit today.

Owning a truck-camper combination is undoubtedly the most flexible way of RVing because it allows you to go places where more complicated vehicles cannot.

If you can use the tips in this article to make the best use of the space in your own camper, you’ll find you will able to enjoy it for many years to come.

Questions & Answers

Question: What's the camper in the first picture on the smaller Toyota-looking truck?

Answer: I can't remember, but I do know that I had a similar one that was 9.5 feet long which looked similar. I believe 9.5 feet is the smallest one you can buy that has a bathroom.

Question: What kind and size of camper is this article about? I have a small camper and there isn't 1/4 of the space in mine.

Answer: This info applies to any slide in camper. All are quite small, but can be made more livable by doing the things mentioned in this article.

© 2017 Sondra Rochelle

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