Many people ask us how we liked the truck camper we used for our Go North Expedition and if it held up for our trip to Alaska and the Arctic Ocean. The best answer to this question is in the Go North Series itself as everything we did was enabled by it.
There are pros and cons to every RV type, but for a rugged adventure like this we were very happy with how the rig performed. Truck campers have always been a fringe segment of the RV world, blending the line between overland and RVing comfort, which is exactly what we were looking for.
Let’s take a dive into the expedition vehicle that took us to the Arctic Ocean and back:
The Lance 1172
We partnered with Lance Campers for this expedition and they loaned us a truck and camper for the duration of the trip. The model we took was the 2020 Lance 1172. This is Lance’s largest truck camper that has 2 slides and weighs 2 tons!
Driving through Banff & Jasper National Parks Because of its size a beefy dually truck is needed for these which can be both a pro and a con. The large size of the unit made living in it for an extended time more comfortable at the expense of some limited off-road capability with the higher overheight clearance, heavier weight and dually tires. Regardless of these limitations, for this trip we felt it was well suited to take us most places and keep us comfortable. Details and Specs on the 1172 on the Lance Camper website
We chose the Mystic Shores interior with the lighter back cushion and valence theme and a soft brown seat cushion. While arguably probably not as durable long-term as the Roadster interior fabric (though it held up fine to our 6 months of heavy use), we personally preferred the lighter palette in the smaller space.
This is a 2 slide unit. This model has the Schwintek In-Wall Slide-Out drive system for the rear slide and a more conventional electric gear drive for the main slide. We are not typically a fan of the Schwintek system, but on this small slide it seemed to perform okay, although regular lubricating of the rails was necessary or it would squeak terribly.
With the slides in, the camper is completely unusable as you cannot even get in the door, but pushing out the back slide only allows some access for quick roadside stops. We found that partially opening the main slide would allow us to the bathroom and fridge, as long as we could get it out about 18 inches.
Controlling the slides was a bit strange as one slide (the rear) was controlled with a wireless remote while the other (driver’s side) was a conventional wall switch. It took some getting used to but once we figured it out we were able to make quick stops without problem.
One of our favorite things about traveling with an RV is having a functional bathroom everywhere we go, and the 1172 did not disappoint in this department. Amazingly, even in the small space of the truck camper, this unit has a full dry bath, meaning a completely separate shower. This shower was also tall enough to accommodate Tom’s 6-foot height comfortably.
This 1172 model had 42 gallons fresh water, 35 grey and 35 black which allowed us a few conservative showers and plenty of toilet time to last the two of us more than a week off grid.
One of our favorite parts of this unit was the kitchen. It had a large sink, nice Dometic range and oven, a microwave oven, slide-out pantry, and a decent layout for preparing pretty much anything we wanted to cook.
We love to cook and mainly do so inside as we did not even bring a grill along. While storage in a truck camper can be tight we found the kitchen cabinets adequate to hold our appliances and “most” of our food. We purchased food in large quantities for weeks off-grid and would frequently end up with extra food stored in baskets on the bed.
We installed a RV Water Filter Store under-counter water filtration system (and also used pre-tank filters) to ensure our drinking water was safe no matter the source. We really had no idea before heading up if we were going to be so remote that we would have to take water from a lake or something – either way we were going to be ready!
We had a standard dual-fuel RV fridge located opposite of the dry-bath and galley. Because we had anticipated long stretches of time between good groceries (like on the Dempster Highway to Tuktoyaktuk) and bringing home some Alaskan salmon with us (Salmon Fishing, Episode 14), we brought some additional fridge/freezer space in the form of the Dometic CFX 50W and Portable Lithium Battery (PLB40) to keep in the backseat of the truck during our travels.
The bed in this unit was quite comfortable although we had added a 2-inch memory foam topper. The bed is located over the cab of the truck which makes it a bit short and tight to move around in, but we only bumped our head a few times at the beginning as we got used to our new digs. We found that the biggest challenge to this arrangement is making the bed, but like everything else we figured it out. The bedroom also had a closet for hanging clothes and a few storage compartments. We mainly kept our clothes in these as we had to bring 3 seasons worth of different clothing. It was essential to try and keep clothes put away and neat or else in the small space it would end up a huge mess quickly.
During the day most of our time was spent at the dinette and main living space. The second slide in the back of this unit provided lots more floor room, which was great for our 2 dogs and also gave us a couch at the back of the rig. This was great to open the place up and give us another place to relax. As most of our downtime was spent editing the videos for the Go North Series, we found our time mainly spent at the dinette which is designed to seat 4 people and fold down to a bed. While we never folded it, we found the design quite functional.
Both seats under the dinette had rolling storage trays. The couch could also fold out into a bed, and we found this a great spot for naps. We also stored lighter, bulkier items underneath the couch, like fishing poles and empty hiking packs.
With the help of Mobile Must Have, we installed several routers and antennae to improve our connectivity to cell signal while in northern Canada and Alaska. Check out all the details in our extensive post about Connectivity in Alaska & Canada.
The exterior of the camper had 3 storage bays, 2 of which were quite small and one very large one at the back. While we did not feel that it was a good idea to put heavy items in the rear storage bay for weight distribution, we kept a table, chairs and other bulky items in here. Two smaller storage areas on the side of the rig were packed with outdoor things we needed to get at quickly, like leveling blocks, saws, ropes, etc.
One of the largest exterior cabinet doors accessed the propane bottles of which this rig had two 30lb tanks. It was great to have so much propane on board for extended stays off-grid or in cold weather. The only downside, which we expect is true for most truck campers, was reaching these bottles was a bit of a challenge especially when replacing full bottles. With the rig off they are at a manageable height, but with it on the tall truck lifting the bottles was sometimes a two-person task. At one filling station they had a long hose and were able to fill them in place, but that was the rare exception.
Power (Generator, Batteries)
The 1172 is designed to come with a built in propane generator and two standard lead-acid batteries, but for numerous reasons we did not want this. Instead, we decided to mainly power our trip with a little solar (two 100watt panels that came on the roof as part of the factory solar package), lots of alternator charging, and a huge Battle Born lithium battery bank in place of the generator. You can read more about the details on this custom electrical system over here — Lance Truck Camper Lithium + Alternator Charging.
Water Heater & Furnace
Another extensive mod we made to this RV, for test purposes was replacing both the water heater and furnace with Truma units. We had the on-demand Truma AquaGo Water Heater and their high efficiency VarioHeat furnace installed in our expedition vehicle.
These retrofits were done mainly as a test to see how they performed in a Lance truck camper, and we can say they work great! To see these modifications being installed check out Go North Episode 2: The Build.
This rig was equipped with 4 electric-remote HappiJac camper jacks with swing-out brackets so you can get the dually wheels out from underneath the camper. We found these jacks very slow to deploy, but straightforward and reliable. They made it easy to remove, mount, and level front-back and side-to-side.
After removing the truck camper, we would lower the jacks down as far as possible to reduce the amount of sway, especially on the taller front legs.
Check out this step-by-step video on How to Load and Unload a Truck Camper.
The Truck – Ford F350 DRW
We had the camper on a 2019 Ford F350 dually truck with their 6.7L Turbo Diesel engine.
For this expedition we were set up with a Ford, but any of the Big 3 in a dually configuration can carry this camper. The truck had a GVWR of 14000 lbs and with the truck camper came very close to that number. Because of this a few modifications shared below were made to the truck to better handle the weight. An alternative to this could have been to put it on a bigger truck like a 450 or 550 model.
Tie-Downs and Turnbuckles
For a truck to be able to carry a truck camper it is required to install hard points to tie it down to. For this build Torklift Fastguns and Tie-Downs were added to the truck. The rear hitch was also upgraded to the Supertruss Hitch System that includes tie downs for the camper. The Fastguns are what Torklift calls its tie-downs, as they are very quick to install.
These work by using a traditional turnbuckle style latch combined with a spring-loaded adjustable length solid stainless steel rod with a hook on it to connect to the camper. While these are super convenient, the internal spring inside the units squeak as the stretch and contract during camper movement and can be annoying. Maybe some grease would quiet them down but we never tried.
Hellwig Big Wig Airbags were added under the rear axle to provide additional lift support for the weight of the camper and to keep the truck riding level.
While these do not add weight carrying capacity or shift the weight, they keep the truck’s ride height correct so you do not ride nose high or bottom out the springs. In addition to the airbags, we had Hellwig rear and front sway bars that helped keep the truck level in turns and when going over bumps. These over-sized sway bars are essential for high center-of-gravity vehicles and Hellwig manufacturers bars for many RVs and box trucks. With the weight of the truck camper so high, the truck became top heavy and these sway bars did a ton to stiffen up the ride.
Lastly, the truck was modified to provide the charging for the Battle Born Battery bank we installed in the RV. A 1/0 cable run from the engine to the back of the truck was put in with a big plug to connect to the camper. This was connected directly to the battery system of the truck with a battery isolator in between.
Read more here: Truck Camper Lithium + Alternator Charging.
While this worked well, the load of the truck was so great that we had to limit charging time to prevent alternator overheating. A DC-DC converter in line would have allowed much better control and prevented this.
Overall, we really liked this camper & truck combination. Everything worked exactly as we had hoped and it enabled the exact adventure we wanted to have. Truthfully, we were expecting to have some challenges as we were traversing such rough terrain, but the rig and all our modifications fared well. The handful of issues we had were minor, like when a dog collar bumped the “Extend” button on the awning control while we were driving down the road (Episode 6 at minute ~21), and when muddy gravel got caught in the steps after driving on wet dirt roads (this could easily be fixed with a set of rear mud flaps.)
We may have been able to get away with a smaller one slide truck camper unit as the rear couch was not completely necessary for our travels, but it did help a lot with floor space which we and our dogs appreciated, especially over 6 months and when the colder weather set in.
We have traveled in fifth wheels and in motorhomes and still feel that after this experience a truck camper is one of the most versatile type rigs on the market and can go just about anywhere you want. if we did it again would choose a truck camper again.
While this particular vehicle was a loaned vehicle from Lance Campers for this expedition and we have since returned it, we think that there will most likely be a truck camper of our own in our future!
Love truck campers? Check out our truck camper trip to Alaska and the Arctic Ocean that we documented in a 20-episode web docu-series called GO NORTH. Also check out more Explore More videos on truck campers and traveling in Northern Canada & Alaska.
The Go North Expedition was made possible by Lance Camper Manufacturing, Battle Born Batteries, Truma North America, Dometic, LivinLite.net, Hellwig Suspension Products, and viewers like you through Patreon. Thank you!
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