(Aug 25, 2011: This page is under construction; check back for updates)
Once we had decided to go the truck camper route, we looked at our selection criteria again and added a few things:
- Prefer Toyota for the service network
- Prefer new, as opposed to used, to reduce risks or break-downs and repairs
- Single rear wheels. We saw numerous warnings that dual rear wheels are more susceptible to damage due to rocks being lodged between the wheels. Plus, dualies make the truck wider, which works against our “keep it as small as possible” philosophy.
- Minimum 6.4″ interior height; I’m 6.2″.
- 40+ gallons of water so we can camp for a week self-contained.
- Minimum overall height, again along the “keep it as small as possible”.
- North-South Queen size bed, so we don’t have to climb over each other getting in or out.
- Maximize the height in the bed area so we can get in and out, minimize claustrophobia, and read comfortably
- Cassette toilet; haven’t used one before, but they get rave reviews from everyone, and in South America, we don’t expect to find too many RV dumps.
- 12V compressor fridge as opposed to propane. (Get a better fridge, plus minimize propane usage…).
As time permits, we’ll flesh out the following sections:
We really, really wanted to buy a Toyota pickup. There is little doubt that Toyota has the best service and support network on any company in South America (and Africa). However, the payload of the Toyota made this impossible. The maximum payload for any Toyota 4×4 is 1,720 lbs, and after exploring truck campers, we didn’t see any way we could get any lower than a payload of 2,800 lbs.
Regular / Extended / Crew Cabs
Our plan includes having our kids come visit, and ride along with us, during different portions of the Adventure. Plus we were concerned about having enough storage space inside the camper itself. So, at minimum we wanted an Extended Cab pickup.
At the same time as we wanted some extra room in the cab, we wanted to minimize the size of the truck, minimize the turning radius, and maximize the payload. For comparison, an extended cab, standard box, GMC Sierra has a wheel base of 144.2″ and a turning radius of 47.9, whereas the monster version, a crew cab and long bed, has a wheel base of 167.7″ and a turning radius of 54.8. Serious difference in the turning radius, and in the overall length of the vehicle.
So, our choice was at minimum an Extended Cab, standard 6.6″ bed (as opposed a long 8″ bed).
New vs Used
Buying a new pickup for use just in the US is probably not a wise financial decision. There are a large number of high quality used pickups for sale, and in the US repair and maintenance is not a problem. However taking the truck to South America changes the equation. Neither Karen nor I know much about cars/trucks, and we felt much more comfortable buying a new truck and minimizing the risk of having anything go wrong.
Gas vs Diesel
We really wanted a diesel truck for the torque, fuel economy and availability of fuel. However, the advent of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, ULSD, has made this a real challenge. After researching this issue on the web – Mr Hackney wrote a very detailed investigation of the issue, http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/25516-World-Travel-The-Fuel-Challenge – we arrived at the following:
- South America (and Africa) have very limited availability of ULSD
- Only US trucks, model year 2007 and older, can run on non-ULSD diesel
- US trucks, 2008 and later, can get plugged up from dirty diesel, and there is no easy way around this
- We did not want an “old” truck, typically 2007 diesel pickups have 100k++ miles on them
- Hence, we bought a new 2011 gas pickup
Ford / Dodge / Chevy
We have never owned a pickup, and had no real preference on which one to buy; rather astounding given the very strong brand feelings out there. We had made some preliminary calculations on payload though, and wanted a truck with a 3,000 lb payload.
Looking at the available trucks, we came up with the following list of payloads for 4×4, extended cab, single rear wheel, pickups:
Ford F250 2,690
Ford F350 3,270
Ram 2500 2,550
Ram 3500 3,050, but only available in a diesel, hence off the list
Chevy/GMC 2500 3,222
Chevy/GMC 3500 4,227, but can only get a crew cab with the standard box. turn radius goes to 50.5′
We looked around at prices. Ford F350s on the dealers lot tend to be loaded with prices in the $55k+ area, whereas there were numerous Chevy/GMC 2500s available in the $35k – $40k range. So we bought a 2011 Sierra 2500 extended cab.