Truck campers offer a versatile way to go camping with your pickup truck while usually still being able to haul a side-by-side, motorcycles, or a racecar behind. If you wished your rig got a little better fuel economy, wasn’t as bulky, or height clearance is a concern, you can get truck campers with a roof that pops up. One name in telescopic truck campers is Alaskan Camper, and it’s been building hard-sided expandable campers since the 1950s.
This month, the Autopian will be going to Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona! That’s happening in just a few weeks and I hope to have a ton of thrilling campers and off-roading fun for you. I’ll have more on this trip later, but I will be hauling an off-road camper behind an SUV slated to compete in the Rebelle Rally. Overland Expo West is expected to have over 400 exhibitors, some motorcycle demos, parties, music, and more. One of those exhibitors popped up on my radar this weekend and caught my attention. Alaskan Camper out of Winlock, Washington will be bringing its truck campers to the event.
Alaskan Camper has been around for decades and its campers try to do what many truck campers don’t. These are pop-ups with hard walls and a cost that doesn’t require you to mortgage your house or live in the camper. Looking at Overland Expo’s lengthy exhibitor list, there will be campers there that cost more than a handful of Midwestern homes, but an Alaskan camper is something that many regular people could afford and probably haul on their existing pickup trucks. Just take a look at the Alaskan 6.5 above. It weighs 1,390 pounds and costs around $37,190.
70 Years Of Telescopic Campers
I love when a company keeps records of its own history. Airstream and Winnebago are both really good about that, but so many camper brands seemingly just sprout up out of nowhere without much explanation. As Alaska Campers writes, the company’s roots go back to 1953 when Californian Don Hall wanted a camper that was far less bulky than the typical truck camper of the day. That year, he designed the first of what would become the Alaskan Campers. Hall designed his camper so he could camp when driving down the Alaskan Highway, a 1,387-mile route that connects the contiguous United States to Alaska through Canada.
To achieve what he wanted, Hall’s first camper was outfitted with a hydraulic system designed to raise and lower the roof from the camper’s lower portion. Here’s a video showing the system lifting an Alaskan’s roof (it’s a fairly slow process):
The idea here is that when you camp, you have more than enough room to stand in the camper. When traveling, the camper would be as slim as possible, saving you a little money at the pump and perhaps some headache in crosswinds.
Alaskan Campers says that there are more benefits from having a telescopic roof and hard walls than just better fuel economy. The company says that not having to deal with canvas means having nice glass windows, better insulation, and a little more protection from the outside world.
Alaskan Campers are not the only campers on the market with hard-sided walls. There are some startups and other companies with the same concept. Cube Series RV is a newer company with a variation of the same concept, but Cube Series truck campers (below) are smaller and more expensive while weighing very close to an Alaskan.
At the heart of an Alaskan Camper is its lift system. At first, the lift system utilized a hand-operated hydraulic pump. In 1990, Alaskan upgraded these pumps to be electric. Later in the 1990s, Alaskan added stainless steel pistons to assist the hydraulic pump in lifting the camper’s roof.
Alaskan Campers sells units that range from 6.5-foot cabovers to 10-foot cabovers with non-cabover versions in-between. The equipment is similar across the line, with exceptions for the 6.5. That camper doesn’t get an oven like its larger siblings, instead getting just a two-burner stove. It also misses out on the 27-gallon fresh water tank of its larger siblings. As of right now, Alaskan’s brochure page is broken (and has been broken for so long that a brochure hasn’t been saved on the Wayback Machine) so it’s unclear how large the 6.5’s tank is.
Anyway, while Alaskan offers slight variations in its floorplans, the company essentially just sells different lengths of the same camper, which add more space for more people to sleep or relax as you get toward the longer models.
In case you were wondering, the numbers represented by Alaskan in its camper sizes is floor length. So the Alaskan 6.5 has a 6.5-foot floor (where it sits in the truck bed) but is 10 feet overall thanks to the cabover portion. The Alaskan 7 is 12 feet, two inches long, the Alaskan 8 is 13 feet-long, the Alaskan 8.5 is 15 feet long, and the Alaskan 10 is also 15 feet long.
What I like about these Alaskan truck slide-ins is that you seem to get a pretty comprehensive camping rig for the money that you pay. All Alaskan truck campers come standard with a 20,000 BTU forced air furnace, running water, a stainless steel sink, a refrigerator, a stove, handcrafted cabinets, and more. If you need more, you can get stuff like an awning, air-conditioner, cassette toilet, an outdoor shower, lithium batteries, and solar panels. Really, you can order your Alaskan to fit the kind of camping you do.
The interior is pretty neat, too! Alaskan Campers says that the interiors get Wilsonart maple laminate, spray foam insulation, handcrafted wood cabinets and drawers, solid maple trim, and linoleum flooring. It looks pretty cozy in there! Alaskan Campers does not say if these are four-season campers, but the 20,000 BTU furnace should have enough firepower to keep you warm on cold nights. You can even get these with jacks for a stable night’s sleep when you park.
Here’s the inside of the Alaskan 6.5:
In terms of trucks, all of Alaskan’s campers can technically be hauled by a half-ton pickup. However, as I have explained before, pickups come in a bunch of different configurations and those variations impact your payload. If you do not happen to have your payload number on hand, one thing you can do is take your truck to a scale. Be sure to arrive with your truck loaded down how you would have it for a road trip. Subtract your scale weight from your gross vehicle weight rating from the sticker on your driver-side doorsill. The resulting number is what you have left to carry the camper, any extra gear, water, and the tongue weight of a trailer that you want to tow.
Here’s what you get with the Alaskan 10 Cabover. You can see what I mean with the interiors being basically the same, just in different sizes:
Alaskan Campers says that the smallest Alaskan 6.5 Cabover weighs 1,390 pounds dry and costs $37,190 before options. The largest camper available is the Alaskan 10 Cabover, which weighs 1,985 pounds and costs $42,090 before options. Indeed, these aren’t the cheapest campers out there; those Soaring Eagle truck campers are half of the cost. But if you’re a person looking for a little more luxury in your truck camper, the price seems fair.
I hope to take a look at these campers and more in a few weeks at Overland Expo West. You bet you’ll read all about it!
(Images: Alaskan Camper, unless otherwise noted)
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It looks nice, functional, and easy to care for–particularly the interior. But this article doesn’t seem to answer the most important question for me: does this thing actually improve your MPGs and make driving much better? My biggest issue with truck campers is the instability they create. I assume this thing helps with that a little, but does it very much? And same with MPGs, maybe a bit, but probably 1-2 MPGs. With all that said, something starting at $38K is hella money for a camper without a proper shower. I honestly think a HiLo trailer would be a better option if you wanted to save gas mileage.
As an Alaskan, I have to correct you on the name of the highway. It’s called the Alaska Highway.
These have been around forever. I bought one from my father just about 50 years ago. Yes, I’m getting old. It was too small and it really lacked storage space. It was bigger than the VW Westy I had though.
Ive got a 1990 Alaskan hard side pop-up on my 1990 F250. It doesnt look like they have made any changes to it since then. From the paint scheme to the interior look just like an older one
They look neat, clean, basic–and easy to care for. I actually think the interior works. I have mixed feelings about the exterior, but the interior seems decent, IMO.
My grandpa had an Alaskan on the back of an early 70’s K20 Scottsdale with a 400. I used it a few times. It was definitely old, and smelled old but the hydraulics still worked and it was still well insulated and comfortable. He would use it to hunt or to pull a boat down to Baja to fish. It was a great little adventure camper and these Alaskan’s clearly hold up to abuse and time.
These are like the Northern Canadian Airstreams – very long lasting and well built and probably more than most people actually need.
Good for National Park camping. Some don’t allow soft side campers thanks to idiots training the bears that tent = meal.
Seriously!?!?! $37K and hydraulics require you to stand there and manually shut it off when the proper height has been reached? This is the 21st century. It would take about $10 worth of sensors and an MCU controller to make this an automated system with a single button press.
And “luxury”? Are your interior pics from a refurbished 1970’s model? Nothing about that implied luxury to me.
I simply cannot see where the money is going in just about any modern RV/camping trailer these days. If they are making that much profit, then I can certainly see why there seems to be a new player in the mix every other week.
This. 100% this.
You could do it simply with a pressure sensing valve. Once the cylinder tops outs, pressure builds and the valve switches.
No electronics needed.
How does the door at the back work? Is it actually 2 doors, bottom and top?
I believe so which is kinda nice most pop-up truck campers use a single door that’s only about 4′ tall
Yes, they overlap. When raised to simply latch the top to the bottom. Works well.
Why do these cost more than my 6200lb 31′ camper? It’s ridiculous.
Alaskan uses far less structural cardboard compared to most towables.
Because Alaskan uses wood in the construction of their campers.
Holy cow the interior of that camper looks like it’s from 1973, not 2023. Brown on brown is a statement.
Those Alaskan campers are very impressive. They make an excellent use of space.
They remind me of The “Pop – Up” trailers popular in the late 1970”s.
My Dad had one, an 1977 Apache Mesa “Solid State” , (hard sided panels)
Ah – the old Apache sweat boxes. My friend’s family had one of those for awhile and went back to a normal pup. Without AC they were brutal in hot temps!
Having camped in both tents and Pop Up campers, they are BOTH hot in the Summer.
Nice evolution for those who use campers as hard sided tents.
Not a fan of the sh*tcase though.
I would put the money towards a used Class C with some towing ability if it were me.
Money no object – Super C. 🙂