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Alaskan Camper vs. FWC "Hawk"?

Alaskan Camper FWC Hawk truck camper Ram Truck Full size truck overland travel

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#1 Puma

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 01:19 AM

I am new to overland travel and need an ABC primer on how to chose a truck and camper. I am looking for a rig for domestic and overseas mild to moderate 4x4 terrain use for extended one to two month trips for my wife and myself. I have looked at the 8 foot Alaskan Camper and the 6.5 FW Hawk and a Ram 2500 4x4 Crew Cab long bed gasser 6.4 V8 automatic. 

Two big differences between the Alaskan Camper and the FW Hawk is wood versus aluminum structure and the weight difference. But what are the pros and cons between wood and metal structures and which is more durable for off road use? 

As for the right truck I have plenty of unanswered questions: a. Is a crew cab long bed too big of a truck for overland use (longer turning radius)? b. How important is manual vs automatic transmission for off road travel? c. What kind of custom truck work needs to be considered (lifting, air bags, tires, sway bars, recovery gear etc.) d. Should I consider the Ram Power Wagon options? and e. If the truck needs to be shipped in a container what is the maximized container size? 

What sources are out there with these types of information ( magazine, website, books etc? ) for the beginner?
Thanks
 
 

 


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#2 CougarCouple

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 01:19 PM

These might be good places to start. I'm not a world traveler, but seems like I read some where about shipping and how important the size was, not to mention all the documents needed. Also if I was going to a very cold place I'd want an Alaskan. Any where else light weight FWC or ATC
Best of luck to ya.

https://www.truckcam...s/world-travel/

https://www.truckcam...ewbie-articles/

Russ
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F250 extended cab, Cougar from ATC. You guys rock thank you!

#3 JCatt

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 02:18 PM

If I could start over from scratch it would be with a flatbed. More inside room and storage, more outside storage. Not positive but you may be able to incorporate fresh and grey water storage into the flatbed as well. That could be very useful on extended trips. The FWC is tough to beat for weight, overall size, quality, but an Alaskan cabover would be on my shortlist as well. For thee truck a 1 ton gasser is going to give you the most payload as well as availability of fuel. Not sure ULSD is available everywhere, plus the diesel weight penalty. The power wagon is going to have limited payload but it hasn't stopped more than a few from hosting campers. 


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2014 FWC Hawk


#4 PackRat

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 04:55 PM

Never having owned an ATC or FWC unit just two Alaskans, I can't compare the two, however, you need at least an 8' bed and a 3/4 to one-ton capacity truck. Since they are both able to carry the load you will have once fully loaded, I doubt you will need to "modify" the suspension. It is the trucks that are not suited to the load right from the factory that need bags, springs or other means to address the overloading of the VIN tag maximums.

 

More work is needed to see what a 4x4 addition does to your max load on the front axle and to a lesser degree the rear axle. In none of these scenarios is it advised to start going WAY over those maximums on the rear axle but it seems many guys don't feel a couple hundred lbs. is a problem....I wonder if you might have a problem overseas if for some reason the authorities weigh the vehicle and check the VIN and refuse registration. All those add-ons may not satisfy them as they may still insist you do NOT overload your rig.

 

Therefore the 3/4 or one-ton is mandated here. As far as which camper to go with....you'll have to determine the USE it will get and what it needs on-board, how they can be laid out as well as cost. I would say a cab-over is mandatory, pending the number of people it will carry (or dogs). The cost difference for gaining that big sleeping/storage area is insignificant compared to the cost of the other eight foot of camper!

 

So...3/4 or one-ton (you will find the weight limits may be about the same). Duallys in the rear are not needed either. Off-roading is assisted with 4x4 if that is your intention and going with a service body or a flat-bed unit or using a standard chassis is up to you and your needs will dictate that choice.

 

Good Luck....I'm sure others will chime in on this so you can evaluate each of our experiences and tailor your rig to suit your needs.


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1988 Ford F-250 HD Lariat 4x4 8 Ft. bed

1976 Alaskan 8 Ft. CO camper


#5 JaSAn

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 06:13 PM

I have no experience with Alaskans.  I have a FWC Grandby built in 1977, still structurally sound and watertight.

 

Camper is carried on a 2012 Ram 2500 standard cab 4X4 5.7 gas/automatic.  This combination has worked well doing moderate off-road camping.  Truck and camper fully loaded for 6 - 8 week trips tip the scales at ~7900 lbs. for me and a beagle.

 

To your questions:

     a. Issues with turning radius depends on where you go.  It would be problematic in some of the places I go.  A crew cab long bed will not fit

          in my 24' garage.

     b. I prefer a stick but a used gasser with a manual transmission is about as common as hen's teeth.   If buying new get what you are

          comfortable with. If automatic, make sure it has a transmission oil cooler.

     c. The only modification to the stock truck was switching to Cooper AT3 load range E tires.  I carry a lot of recovery gear: shovel, axe, bow saw,

          tow strap, tire chains, high lift jack, come-along, recovery mats, bottle jack, air compressor; probably forgot some stuff.  Takes up a lot

          of space and weight.

     d. IMO, no.

     e. no knowledge.

 

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Sköldpaddan, a 1977 FWC Grandby
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#6 DanoT

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 10:12 PM

When i first started looking for a popup camper I rejected Alaska Popups because imo they are too heavy and too expensive.

 

I ended up with a 8.5 foot custom Phoenix Camper from Coyote RV. It is designed for staying in ski area parking lots. The walls are 1" aluminum frame with 1" wood framing attached to create a 2 " thick wall to accommodate 2" of insulation just about everywhere.The soft sides have 2 layers of a Thinsulate knock off sandwiched between 2 layers of fabric. With a Honda generator, 2 20lb propane tanks, 2 pair of skis and all of my winter gear it weighs 8,800lbs with me in it. It exceeds the GVW rating of the truck by just under 300lbs but does not exceed the individual axle or load range E tire ratings.

 

The truck is a 1991 Dodge 3/4 ton Cummins turbo diesel, 5 speed manual Getrag transmission, and a Kelderman Air-Ride suspension featuring air bags front and rear axles, extra leaf spring added to the front spring pack. The truck handles the load with ease and the lower centre of gravity of a popup is evident in high winds, highway speeds, and mountain switchback access roads and mountain passes.


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1991 Dodge CTD, owned since new. 2011 Coyote RV Phoenix pop-up camper, custom made for the Canadian winter.

#7 PackRat

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 11:05 PM

Here is my factory weight tag, still attached to my 1976 Alaskan 8 Foot Cabover camper...

 

R.D. Hall 1976 Weight Tag 8 Ft. CO.jpg  

 

That is 1450 lbs with 20 gallons of water and 25 lbs of ice on board.

Plain Icebox, no heater, no toilet. Stove but no oven.

 

My1988 F-250 Lariat HD 4x4 (extended cab, two doors) clocks in with me and both tanks full at:

 

GAWR (Front) = 3520

GAWR (Rear) = 2860

GVWR (Both) = 6400

 

My VIN tag says:

GAWR (Front) = 3920

GAWR (Rear) = 6084

GVWR (Both) = 8800

 

So it appears I can SAFELY....accommodate 400 lbs more on the FRONT axle and 3224 lbs more on the REAR axle.

 

Basically I can just about carry TWO Alaskans with this truck without my camping gear in it, at least on the rear axle!

 

The reason for the disparity in what my truck can handle on the front compared to the rear is due to the 460 cu. in. motor, the C6 auto trans and the 4X4 on board.

 

When I went to pick up this Alaskan, I couldn't really tell any difference in performance or braking issues but I would expect when it is loaded for bear (so to speak) to go to the Sierras, it will not be flying UP those grades! However, it never did even with just a camper shell of about 200 lbs or so mounted on it.

 

Do your weight estimates for each camper before purchasing, but get "enough truck" by all means.

The standard rap on the Alaskans is "but they are too HEAVY!" which is true when you ain't got enough truck in the first place!

 

However, modern units from all three mfgers can carry about the same stuff in them as they are custom built. I like having some aluminum and plywood between me and the Great Outdoors, especially in "Bear Country" as vinyl isn't much of a deterrent to a hungry one. Personal style issues and costs may influence you also...

 

"It's YOUR wallet!"

 

 


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1988 Ford F-250 HD Lariat 4x4 8 Ft. bed

1976 Alaskan 8 Ft. CO camper


#8 DoGMAtix

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 02:14 AM

I would have to go on record recommending the 3/4 ton or 1 ton gasser, although we are very happy with our Ram 2500 diesel. The Diesel engine weight penalty (pushing you up to max payload with less weight on back) is at least theoretically a problem. However, it seems to me that the engine weight in front and camper weight in back gives us a nice balance. We routinely travel with 2 adults and 2 kids, with enough water/supplies for a week in the desert, and our standard suspension with air bags, adjustable shocks and compressor to adjust air in tires works just fine. There are lots of posts arguing the necessity of staying within GVWR, suffice it to say we're plenty satisfied with our decision to go diesel. Gas mileage and horse power are excellent, and the truck handles well in all conditions loaded down. By the way, AT tires are a must if you plan to drive rough/rocky roads.
I’d check on what type of fuel is available where you’re heading outside of the US before deciding on gasser vs diesel. Turbo-diesel trucks (Toyota Hi-Lux) are standard over a lot of the world outside the US.
I would choose Alaskan over 4WC simply for the comfort factor. Our usual camping buddy has an 8 foot Alaskan (mid-90s vintage) and it’s got a very spacious dinette as well as lots of room in the kitchen and queen cabover bed.
However, I’d personally go with neither, and get a Hallmark instead. After a lot of research it’s what we settled on. Post- 2008 models have carbon-impregnated shells that are very strong, essentially weatherproof forever and light weight. 30 gallon water tanks are standard, and the 3-burner stove, 3-way fridge, and other appliances have worked really well. Also, Hallmarks have more windows/ better views and a wider side-dinette configuration than 4wc’s (If you do get a 4WC, the front dinette Grandby has the only lower-level bed sizeable enough to sleep 2 adults, FYI, although no good window views from the dinette).
I would recommend a short bed crew cab with an 8 foot camper. The camper sticks out the back a little but they’re well designed to do so, and the shorter turning radius on a short bed has made a big difference for us on multiple occasions.
If you want to spend a lot on a custom rig and don’t plan to ever take the camper off to use the pickup truck as a pickup truck, I’d second JCatt's motion to go with a flat bed/ camper setup.
We beefed up our truck substantially for off-pavement travel. Skid pads, rock sliders, and various self-rescue devices short of a winch (which seems to me to be unnecessary if you have other self rescue strategies and keep to reasonable limits on where you go) - sounds like our list is very similar to JaSAn's (above). We've actually done some damage to our rig by testing its limits, and have over-engineered it to be worthy of really rugged terrain now. Search my previous posts for some detailed descriptions of modifications/reinforcements we’ve done.

Another thing I'd highly recommend is solar. We went with a portable panel (Zamp 160 watt suitcase-type) along with a good monitor (trimetric) that keeps us informed of our power usage and our residual battery stores. The battery "meters" that come on most campers only give a ballpark estimate of residual charge and don't allow you to figure out with confidence how much more electricity you can drain without damaging the batteries. It only takes a few hours of direct sunshine to get our batteries topped up, and the portable panel is nice because it can be placed in the sun while the camper is in the shade, plus it provides the ability to charge the truck's starter battery in case it were to die in the middle of nowhere.

Anyhow, as you can see there is a lot to learn here, and half the fun is getting out there and learning it. Just make sure you log a good amount of time in your rig here in the U.S. before venturing overseas.
Welcome to the world of truck camping, great adventures await!


Edited by DoGMAtix, 26 April 2018 - 08:43 PM.

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2006 Dodge Ram 2500 5.9L CTD short bed quad cab, 2008 Hallmark Guanella


#9 smlobx

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Posted 28 April 2018 - 06:12 PM

I'll add another option for your consideration...Hallmark. Yes they are more expensive than FWC's but when you start adding items to the FWC and see that it comes standard with Hallmark you'll find the difference is not that much. Plus I like some of the features that are offered by Hallmark and they are easy to work with as far as customizing your rig.

I will also agree that if I were to do it again I would consider a flatbed model as well and could probably get a shorter unit (think Hawk size vs. Grandby).

As far as the truck is concerned let me reccomend a 1 ton SRW. Your gvwr will be significantly higher. The truck will be tha exact same size as a 3/4 ton so why not?
As far as bed length is concerned there are pluses and minuses to both. A long bed will drive better but will require a bit more room to turn as was said before. You can park a cc lwb truck in a 24' garage. My truck measures right at 21' bumper to bumper. The lwb also typically has a larger fuel tank which brings me to...
Gas v. Diesel. Once again this is a personal decision. Mileage will be better with the diesel but you want to make sure that low sulphur diesel is available. Currently parts of Mexico do have it but not all. I have about a 500 mile range with my camper on my lwb so I never need to carry additional fuel.

The beauty of buying a truck camper is that there is no one size fits all. The search and purchase is part of the fun!
I hope you enjoy your journey...

Edited by smlobx, 28 April 2018 - 06:15 PM.

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