I have been spending a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what I want. I am getting close but still not fully settled. One thing I have decided on is going with the Tundra.
As Mickey B. said "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."
As I looked into it, I found this to be correct. Sure there are a small few campers that come in below the GVWR of a Tacoma but not by very much and by the time you add options and gear and passengers you are over GVWR by a significant amount.
So I decided to bump up to the Tundra.
However I found something interesting. It seems the Tundra is in the same boat in a way. The issue is When you get a larger truck, you start looking for a camper for that truck. Looking at the manufactures web sites you find they build specific models for the truck and those are a little heavier. Essentially you are close or over on GVWR on the Tundra as well.
There seems to be a disconnect in the concept that you should try to stay at or below the GVWR and what the manufactures build for the trucks. I understand you can make suspension mods etc to beef things up. But there is more to the GVWR thing than suspension and tires. Brakes, frame, transmission etc are all part of that equation. Truck manufacturers do not tell you what the weak link is in the GVWR rating. You can upgrade things and feel you are making the truck able to handle more weight. But you simply don't really know for sure if you addressed the correct weak link.
Rather I choose the Tacoma or Tundra, the camper dealers will have camper models that most times are too heavy for the truck. Lots of people do it and are fine. In the end I will probably have a camper that is technically too heavy for the truck as well. This does not fill me with joy.
I had considered using a camper made for the Tacoma and place it on a Tundra. Two problems with that, they aren't made to fit the truck and, well, who wants to put less camper on a truck than a camper dealer says they can? lol we all want more and if the dealer says its good, then we kind of turn a blind eye to the GVWR thing. Its like a bank saying you can afford a very large mortgage. We want the big thing so we buy into the hype.
I did not want to bump up to the 3/4 ton trucks (although I contemplated doing so). I am a little bit of a Toyota Fan after my last vehicle. So Tundra it is. After hearing the MPG is not too different between a loaded Tacoma and a loaded Tundra I feel the Tundra is better for my needs so I know I have a little more payload wiggle room.
Klahanie thanks for mentioning the increased payload added by placing weight out from the rear axle. Makes sense but I never thought of it. I would also prefer to keep my gear in the truck somewhere if I can (not in my living space and not on the roof though). The rack on the back may make the front end light, add the extra payload by leverage and mess with the departure angle.
Hear is my new question and I may start a new thread on this. Unless you guys have quick solid answers based on experience.
I understand that keeping the center of gravity lower helps with stability. Does anyone have experience with elevating a camper on a platform? I am considering placing a platform with drawers under the camper. With the same camper mounted to the bed compared to the same camper mounted 12 inches higher on a platform, can anyone comment on how big of a change in drivability this would have. Minor or extreme?
I know by doing this I would have the sleeping area significantly over the cab of the truck with a blank space. I will deal with that with storage mods and a wind flare. I know it will create more drag. But my main concern is how will raising the camper up 12 inches effect the drivability on winding roads? if it minor I am ok with that. If it is a major impact I may reconsider.
I am more concerned with highway and paved winding roads. My off road use will be on the mellower side with the occasional moderate obstacle. I am not a hard core off road guy. If its crazy hard I go play elsewhere.
And thanks to everyone for chiming in! it gave me a lot of research time. lol I have been up late many nights working out various options.