If you own a midsize or smaller truck and want to take it on an adventure, weight can be a huge concern. After all, the camper you haul, the people you put in your cab, and the tongue weight of the trailer you have on back all subtract from your truck’s payload. One way to get an upper hand is by going with a compact, lightweight camper to begin with. Wisconsin-based TCTeardrops has a potential solution with its TCTruckCamper, a wee little guy that weighs just 600 pounds and starts at $10,800. Even better, this camper is custom-built to fit different trucks, so you could haul it in the back of your Toyota Tacoma if you wanted to.
Overland Expo West now seems like a distant memory, but I came home with a pile of photos of campers that impressed me. We’re now nearing the end of all of the cool stuff I saw out there. I think that goes to show just how awesome Overland Expo is if you’re even slightly interested in overlanding or camping. The variety of rigs out there was far grander than an RV show and everyone had a story to tell. If you get the chance to go to an Overland Expo, I’d recommend it!
Anyway, nestled between six-figure vans, vendor displays, and gargantuan two-story expedition trucks sat TCTeardrops. At its display, there was an awesome twin-axle teardrop capable of carrying a heavy motorcycle. Beside it was this, the TCTruckCamper, and I like what I see here.
This Wisconsin-based company is one of the many independents out there trying to make a name for itself. The “TC” in TCTeardrops stands for Todd and Carol, the minds behind the company. The couple says that their inspiration came after being frustrated about setting up and tearing down their pop-up camper. As their site explains, setting up the pop-up was annoying enough, but tearing it down when it was wet from a rainy weekend was also a pain. The pair felt that there had to be a better way.
That’s when Todd and Carol found themselves watching an episode of RV Crazy featuring retro teardrops. Like a lightbulb flickering on, the pair knew exactly what to do, build their own vintage-styled teardrop! TCTeardrops opened its doors in 2008, just in time for the Great Recession. The financial crisis killed off a lot of businesses and was a horrifying time for many. For TCTeardrops, the Recession was a case of unintentionally good timing. People began to downsize. This wasn’t just for homes and cars, but for campers, too. People who couldn’t afford their large coaches downsized to smaller rigs, a perfect opportunity for TCTeardrops.
The company started in a garage and bedroom but has since moved to a real facility. But the campers are still built by hand today.
Since 2008, TCTeardrops’ bread and butter has been capable teardrop trailers. The company offers everything from a basic kammback teardrop to an overland teardrop with two axles and enough carrying capability to haul your Ural with you. I saw the latter at Overland Expo West this year!
A newer addition to the TCTeardrops lineup is the TCTruckCamper. It’s made to be durable like the company’s teardrops, but its trick is being just 600 pounds dry, making it able to be hauled by an expansive number of pickup trucks. The goal behind this truck camper is to offer an off-road camping experience that doesn’t load down your truck or break the bank.
The TCTruckCamper starts with a composite structure with an aluminum skin. No flimsy plywood to be found here! TCTeardrops says that this shell is built-to-order to fit in your specific truck’s bed. Thus, you should be able to get one of these regardless if you’re driving a 20-year-old Ford Ranger or a brand-new Toyota Tacoma. The box sits on a deck system in your truck’s bed and TCTeardrops recommends getting a deck drawer system from Decked. The deck system does add some cost. For example, the Decked system for a Toyota Tacoma costs $1,500.
The company doesn’t provide exact measurements for the camper, but that’s because your camper will vary in size based on the truck you’ll be hauling it with. But to give you an idea of what to expect, the camper is designed to fit snugly in your bed, leaving just enough space for you to close your tailgate. It also doesn’t have a space that hangs over the truck’s cab or walls that hang over the truck’s bedsides. So, basically, the space provided by your bed is the space you get in your TCTruckCamper.
Inside, things are pretty basic.
The base $10,800 model comes with a single bed for one person. For $12,000, you get a bed for two. Standard features include an aluminum insulated roof, a door with a window, passive air vents, and two side windows. That’s it. This camper does not come with a microwave, countertops, or cabinets. What you get is essentially something that’s more substantial than a truck bed topper, but lighter and cheaper than a full-on truck slide-in camper.
That said, there are some options to give the TCTruckCamper a bit more luxury. Options include a 180-degree awning, a shower room, an on-demand water heater, a 5-gallon water tank, a bracket for propane, a port for a diesel heater, and more. In terms of cooking, the camper doesn’t offer anything. However, you can fill up the drawers of the Decked system with cooking equipment.
What I see here is a good starting point for a DIYer. TCTeardrops handled the hard part of building a sturdy camper, now you fill it up and customize it as you please. Go ahead and put an air-conditioner where that vent is and a diesel heater on the back.
That said, if there’s anything I didn’t like, it’s that the camper isn’t tall enough to stand in. It looks really tall, but some of that height is because of the truck deck. I can see why TCTeardrops did it like this. The company just has to build a cube to sit on the bed deck, it doesn’t have to worry about wheel well intrusions.
I love what I saw with the camper at Overland Expo. The price is pretty rock-bottom for anything new in the RV industry, especially something not built out of the thinnest plywood available. I’m all for getting more people camping for less money. However, the camper is extremely bare-bones. For some, that’s probably a non-starter, but for others, it just means fewer things to break and a blank slate to create.
The low 600-pound weight is a good thing, too. If you’re working with a truck that doesn’t have a lot of payload to play with, this camper could translate to being able to camp and tow your trailer, which is great.
If you’re interested in one of these, TCTeardrops is taking orders right now. As I said before, $10,800 gets you the TCTruckCamper with a single bed. Getting room for two will cost you $12,000.
(Images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)