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!