Obviously we don't have a lot of space in our truck camper, but our kitchen does consist of a three burner stove, small propane oven, sink, and microwave, which we can run on our Battleborn batteries. We're rarely in a sport for more than 4 days at a time, and often we drive everyday, so nothing gets left out on the counters and everything has to be put away. After two years on the road, here's ou...
I’m writing this almost a year late, but at least that way I can include all the modifications we’ve made to the truck and how it’s performed over the last year. Anyway, we got a new truck. It’s 2 years newer and has 28,000 less miles. Okay, Okay. It’s not new, just new to us. It’s a 2003 F350 with 442,000 miles on it. BUT, it has a Ford remanufactured engine with only 58,000 miles (as of May 2020). Its paint is only 5 years old. It’s a crew cab and an automatic, but most importantly, its a flatbed!
We left Utah in May 2020 when we got a few real estate film projects in Colorado, and went to go see family afterwards since we were so close to Denver. Blake and his brother and a couple of their friends are always casually looking on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace for new trucks, and Blake found one that he thought was actually a really good deal and exactly what would improve a lot of problems in our set up. We did not plan to come back to Colorado to buy a truck, but that’s what we ended up doing. With a crew cab, we have more room for our camera gear that totally takes up the entire back seat. With an automatic, I feel like I can drive more, since I hated driving the manual. With a flatbed, we have more room to get truck bed boxes for additional storage of camera rigging items like the speedrail we’ve had strapped to our roof. Plus the low miles on the engine give us a lot of confidence with how much driving we do all the time.
We had to make some improvements to the truck to get it in shape to put the camper on. Here’s everything we did:
- Upgraded the stock front leaf springs to have one additional leaf.
- Upgraded the stock rear leaf springs to add two additional leafs.
- Swapped all Hellwig products from the white truck, including front and rear sway bars, and big wig air bags. These reduce sway on curvy roads and the air bags help support the weight of the camper.
- Swapped headlights from the white truck, since we’d previously upgraded those.
- Installed all our KC Hilites Flex Ditch lights and Flex light bar with rocker switches in the dash.
- Reinstalled our bluetooth radio with CarPlay
- Swapped the stock hitch with our Class 5 20,000 pound hitch which fits our dual motorcycle rail carrier
- Reinstall the Precision Circuits battery isolator to charge our Battle Born lithium batteries.
- Upgraded to a Mishi Moto Transcooler to help increase the life of the automatic transmission, which is the weak point of a 7.3 diesel.
- Added a ported compressor housing on the stock turbo to eliminate turbo surge in 4th gear under heavy load.
- Added 6 foot long, 13 inch deep locking truck bed boxes from Home Depot. We bought a cheaper brand that arrived all dinged up. We ended up having to spray paint the outside to prevent some of the dings from rusting, but we complained and got half our cost back. The annoying part is that they came keyed separately so we have two separate keys for the left and right side.
- Locking diesel cap
The camper fit on the bed pretty perfectly, the only thing we had to adjust was the length of the front turnbuckles that fit into our Torklift fast gun tie downs. Blake cut off about 6 inches so they could lock directly to the frame of the flatbed.
The flatbed itself is a major improvement in rigidity compared to the stock bed. It’s a Temco flatbed, made in Fort Morgan, Colorado.
The one downside we didn’t expect with the flatbed was that it added about 7 inches of height to the back end of the camper, especially with the beefier leaf springs. We’re 13’1″ tall now, which is borderline too tall because a lot of national parks have 13 foot tall bridges. We hope it’s not going to be a problem, but we can always take off the Thule if we don’t want to be so tall. But after having the truck for almost 6 months, we can say we’ve been extremely happy with the purchase. I’ve been able to help drive for multiple hours on long drives, allowing Blake to catch up on sleep or get a lot of work done. That’s been the biggest benefit. The white truck had about 3 inches of slop in the wheel, mixed with trying to learn to drive a manual, it was a nightmare in getting comfortable driving a top heavy camper.
In January 2021, after having the truck for about 7-8 months, we noticed our tires were wearing unevenly in the rear. The flatbed naturally weighs more than the stock bed, plus the nature of our setup with the dual rail carrier puts more weight on the rear axle. We’d never made the effort to weigh ourselves before, so we went to a truck scale for the first time and learned that our entire setup weighs about 14,400 lbs. This is with full gas, full water and half full grey/black tanks, plus two humans. We are weighted 65% on the rear axle. So we made the choice to convert the truck to a dually by installing dually adapters from wheeladapters.com. The adapters are spacers to use dually tires on our current axle. It does not increase our weight rating, just helps with the current weight distribution. They are a good alternative to not having to replace our entire rear axle. In order to make this conversion, we purchased 4 new dually tires for the rear, and found 4 used rims from a junkyard. We decided to keep the front tires the regular wider tires because there is no need to switch them to dually tires. If we get a flat in the rear, we can remove both dually tires on the flat side, and temporarily use the regular spare in the rear.
After driving on the new dually set up for several months, we’ve been very happy with the improved stability and the tires are wearing more evenly in the rear.