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Tacoma or Tundra for pop up camper

Tacoma Tundra pop up camper

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#1 Gnome



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Posted 28 September 2017 - 12:46 AM


I car camp a lot for weekends to enjoy conyoneering.  I am looking to upgrade my camping by going with a truck and pop up camper.  I have been heavily considering the Tacoma but have recently questioned if a Tundra may be a better idea with the load of a camper.  Some of the questions I have are inter-linked.


This truck will not be a daily driver.  It's typical use will be highway miles (between 500 and 900 miles round trip) to an area to play in.  Once in the area of play we will set camp on dirt roads and also drive the camper 15 to 20 miles in on the dirt roads each day to get to the canyons we will descend.  The roads are typically in good shape but do get rough in a few places.


I know a Tacoma can handle the weight of a pop up camper since many people do this.  But is this the best idea?  Obviously I would like to keep costs down so the Tacoma seems the better choice up front.  I am ok to spend the extra cash on the Tundra if logic warrants it.  Can some of you offer insights, opinions and tales of experience to help with this?


Oh and I would go with the larger engine in either the Tacoma or Tundra.  I will be buying a new truck and have not opened my search to used vehicles.  I understand I can keep costs down by going used, but for the sake of this post consider I am talking about a new Tacoma vs a new Tundra.


I have looked at a few pop ups and am considering mostly FWC or NorthStar.  I am leaning toward NorthStar for the additional creature comfort.  Since I will not be getting into super rough 4WD driving, I feel the Northstar will also hold up to what I plan to put it through.


1.  Pay load.  While the Tacoma can handle the payload of the camper, I fear it may be at the upper limit.  Will this effect how quickly I drive those long highway miles due to less stability on curves or faint acceleration?  We typically go out for 2 to 4 days by taking time off work.  Getting to and from camp in a timely manner is important.  I do not need a speeding rocket and totally understand a large vehicle will be driven more slowly.  But between the two options will I notice a difference in how well the truck is suited to drive the highways at a timely pace or will they be pretty much the same.


2.  Suspension mods.  To handle the load of the camper and other things added, it is common for people to beef up the suspension of the Tacoma.  Will the suspension of a Tundra need to be modified for a pop up camper?  If not, this would help off set the upfront costs.  I also like the idea of not needing to mod everything.


3.  MPG.  I can compare the MPG of the two vehicles and get an idea of additional costs.  However I have heard people say that a large truck will be less effected by a heavy load.  By contrast I have heard a smaller truck will be more effected with the heavy load.  The MPG figures supplied by Toyota are based on an empty truck.  How does the reality factor work in this situation?  The camper will live permanently on the truck.  Can anyone offer experience or advice on how to think about MPG between these two vehicles when a camper is living on the back?


4.  Add ons.  I plan to add a carrier on the back (like the large Stowaway2 box) to haul gear etc.  On rare occasion I will haul a kayak or other goodies on the top.  This will not be common so is not a major concern but thought I would mention it.  Not sure it either of these is worth noting for additional weight other than the camper.  The camper will have the standard comforts like propane system, water storage, extra battery(s), etc.  So consider the medium to heavy loaded pop up scenario.


If I have missed a major point I should be considering, feel free to mention that too.  I am new to this and would like to feel I made the appropriate decision.


Thanks for your time and let the comments fly!





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#2 Mickey Bitsko

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 03:05 AM

Pretty much any Pop up you put on a Tacoma, ranger, frontier etc. will be at gvw with just the camper, no gear, no people.
A tundra, F-150,1/2 tons in general with a small Pop up will allow you to carry a little more payload.
A good start would be to find the size,type camper (weight), and a basic payload ( food, camping gear, clothing etc, then find the vehicle that will be most suited for the task.
You will always carry more weight than you think.
Good luck,
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#3 Beach


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Posted 28 September 2017 - 03:35 AM

Depending on the camper size and build out you choose, either can work. But I would go with the full size truck, either truck will require suspension and tire up grades. You'll find the Tundra with a small V8 will get about the same MPG as the Tacoma with the 6 cyl., because the 6 will be working  harder. I started with my Hawk on a 1st gen. Tundra with a 4.0 V6. It was adequate on flat land but lacked power in the hills and mtns. Camper is now on a 3/4 ton (no mods needed). 

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#4 CougarCouple


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Posted 28 September 2017 - 03:48 AM

Hello Gnome
Welcome to WtW. I think you are asking the right questions, and this will most assuredly result in a positive experience later on.
My opinion to you is to get the larger vehicle.
I would suggest that you start adding up all that you will take on your camping trips. Camper data tag weights are dry. There are only pluses in going with the larger vehicle, as I'm sure you will realize when you add up your gear, food, people, water, gas, and on and on.
Ride will be much better also.
Good luck

ps you might also pick out a camper and call the manufacturer and ask them what is the best size vehicle for the camper.
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#5 kmcintyre


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Posted 28 September 2017 - 05:37 AM

I had my eagle on a v8 Dakota. It handled the weight just fine BUT if I needed power to pass or accelerate I had to plan ahead about 10 mins. 😀
I went through the same process as you. Got a diesel. Great mileage, power, comfort, etc. Compared to the mid size Dakota. Ram1500 ED and everything is great (except it's a Fiat-Chrydler product).

Edited by kmcintyre, 28 September 2017 - 05:37 AM.

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#6 nikonron


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Posted 28 September 2017 - 12:27 PM

Tacoma here and for me it works fine. I like the smaller truck size for tight trails. 15 to 18 mpg.  If I were to move to a full size truck it would be a 3/4 ton. I wish that Toyota would produce one.  Ron

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#7 Stalking Light

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 02:05 PM

I like my Eagle/Tacoma combo but I did upgrade my suspension and tires. 

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#8 moveinon


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Posted 28 September 2017 - 11:55 PM

I like my Tacoma, Fleet a lot.  Also upgraded suspension and tires as others have.  Handling and power is fine.  Like the turning radius and size for city parking.  Braking is OK but will be upgrading when current brakes wear.

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#9 ottorogers


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Posted 29 September 2017 - 04:20 PM

I like my Tacoma, Fleet a lot.  Also upgraded suspension and tires as others have.  Handling and power is fine.  Like the turning radius and size for city parking.  Braking is OK but will be upgrading when current brakes wear.

when you say "Upgrading brakes", what do you mean?? Slotted and drilled rotors on the front disk brakes?? What can you do for the rear of a Tacoma, it has drum brakes???

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#10 ottorogers


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Posted 29 September 2017 - 04:28 PM

I'll chime in here, personally I feel the Tundra is at the bear minimum for a popup camper, by the time you add water, propane, 2 people, all your gear, dual batteries, solar panels, you're going to be way over the allowable weight ratings for a Tacoma, unless you order a shell popup, and are a minimalist (which most of us are NOT).


I just bought a 2014 Tundra Limited double cab with a 6.6 box, I am buying a FWC Hawk, and after all the calculations I will be right at my legal limit or possibly over slightly depending on a full tank of fuel, propane and water, and if we have a full load of supplies. 


I love the Tacoma, but it is just too small for me to fit in, I am 6'1" and the seats are very uncomfortable, the Tundra is very comfortable, and the seat actually goes back further than I need, this is the first vehicle I have ever owned where the seat went back far enough


Of course the Tundra will burn more gas, no way around that.


Go with the Tundra and a Hawk model of Four Wheel Camper

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