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Lightweight Pop-Up Truck Campers: Hub-and-Spoke RVing with Boundless Adventures

Published on March 7th, 2024 by Rene Agredano
This post was updated on March 24th, 2024

While shopping for our first RV, one salesman told us, “Go big! Nobody ever comes back to buy a smaller one.” Upsizing into a motorhome or trailer is a common rite of passage for many former tent campers. Not many will downsize to a smaller rig later on, but for some like us, lightweight pop-up truck campers possess an irresistible appeal that takes us back to our camping roots. And when you can tow one behind your RV, you get the best of both worlds. Here’s why it pays to give “hub-and-spoke” RVing a go.

Less weight, smaller price, bigger adventures.

That’s why after sixteen years of full-timing in a fifth wheel, my husband and I switched to an all-new truck camper lifestyle. We’ve never been happier with our decision to join the Four Wheel Campers community of adventure travelers, like our friend Larry, whose rig is pictured below.

Many years ago, he coined his rig the ultimate “geezer backpacking” setup:

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Full-time RVing motorhome with a pop-up truck camper tow vehicle. . (Image: Larri Chiuppi)
Full-timing Class A with a pop-up truck camper toad. (Image: Larri Chiuppi)

He had a Ford F150 with a slide-in Hawk truck camper by Four Wheel Campers, towed behind the Class A motorcoach he called home. For years we drooled over our friend’s go-anywhere adventure tow vehicle. Larry explained how his motorhome basecamp worked with the camper. “It allowed us to go camping in the backcountry (aka ‘Geezer Backpacking’) after parking the motorhome somewhere.” The pop-up truck camper often takes him off-roading to faraway places, like Big Bend Ranch State Park in Texas, filled with backroads where no motorhome could ever go. Everything he needed for comfort was inside, and he didn’t even need to pop the top if he was just overnight parking.

RV-style amenities with freedom to roam

When viewed from the outside, the low key camper appeared to be a one-person, bare bones rig. But once he raised the roof, we couldn’t believe how much room the Hawk had inside. There was an interior height of 6’7”, a queen pull-out bed, two-burner stove, sink, and refrigerator, and outside accessories like an awning, outdoor shower, and rails on the aluminum siding to mount his fly fishing gear.

What a surprise to see that his overlanding camper had all the comforts of our full-size fifth wheel. But it had a much lighter dry weight (just over 1,000 lbs) – and a shockingly low MSRP of $26,665.

Man fly fishing with lightweight pop-up truck camper (Image: Four Wheel Campers)
Another RVer, fishing with a lightweight pop-up truck camper (Image: Four Wheel Campers)

That introduction to “geezer backpacking” was an intriguing idea that fell to the bottom of our “someday” list. But several years later when we started planning a year-long trip to Alaska, the idea of “hub-and-spoke” RVing rose back to the top. That’s because we knew the best rig for our second Alaska journey would not be a fifth wheel like ours.

Hub-and-Spoke RVing with Four Wheel Campers

We have seen the damage the Alaska Highway can do to big RVs. That’s why for our second North Country trip. we decided that downsizing from a fifth wheel to a truck camper mounted to our four-wheel drive Dodge was the best way to go.

Camping in Alaska with the Project M (Image: @liveworkdream)
Camping in Alaska with the Project M (Image: @liveworkdream)

We started dreaming about full-timing in a “hub-and-spoke” RV setup like our friend Larry’s. Or the Hawk and toy hauler combo used the Two Happy Campers couple, Mark and Michelle. Only we pictured towing a feature-rich travel trailer once our our Alaska adventure ended.

For our Alaska adventure, we decided to only take the truck and a pop-up truck camper. It would be a more nimble combo that would allow us to explore more terrain. The setup would also be our year-round transportation vehicle (a much safer choice than driving a top-heavy fiberglass truck camper on icy winter roads). Without an RV in tow for this trip, we wouldn’t have to worry about winterizing the RV either.

The Project M fit perfectly into our RV downsizing plan.

Our ideal RV to kick off our new hub-and-spoke RV life turned out to be the Project M truck “topper” made by Four Wheel Campers. It features the same durable shell as the company’s other lightweight pop-up truck campers, but in a much more affordable and customizable package.

The totally customizable Project M (Image: Four Wheel Campers)
The totally customizable Project M (Image: Four Wheel Campers)
  • The cost starts at just $11,495
  • Inside is a blank slate for total customization. Other than the king-sized pull-out bed platform, the interior components are yours to design and build when you want, how you want.
  • The 400-pound dry weight puts the Project M squarely within the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of nearly any mid to full-size pickup truck – or even a Jeep Gladiator!
  • Since the topper is mounted to truck bed rails, the truck tailgate stays on. You’ll keep using your truck just as before, instead of watching your expensive RV sit in the driveway.

After confirming that our Dodge 2500 Gross Vehicle Weight Rating was more than adequate forthe pop-up and towing a small trailer at some point, we sold our beloved Arctic Fox. Then we drove west to launch a partnership with Four Wheel Campers and pick up our Project M.

Then we saw another RVer living the dream

While we were traveling to the company’s Woodland, California factory, a like-minded nomad pulled in next to us at an Interstate 5 boondocking spot. We chatted, and he raved about the ease of towing his Lance trailer behind the 1200 pound Hawk slide-in truck camper. We knew immediately that we were on the right track.

Hub and Spoke RVing with Four Wheel Campers Hawk and Lance Travel Trailer (Image: LiveWorkDream)
Hub-and-Spoke RVing with Four Wheel Campers Hawk and Lance Trailer
(Image: @LiveWorkDream)

Lightweight Pop-up Truck Campers Take You Back to Your Roots in Comfort

Three months later with our new custom cabinetry and cargo area complete, we embarked on the Alaska Highway and into a whole new way of life with our pop-up truck camper. Gone were the crowded RV parks, full hookup hassles, and sky high fuel costs from our fifth wheel travels.

Now, we had the ability to drive all day on a single tank, and get into remote campsites without fear.

It felt like time-traveling back to the era when we carried all our camping gear on our backs. Only this time, we had RV-style amenities, and a Dodge RAM 2500 to carry it for us.

Models and amenities go up from there

The Project M isn’t the only model by Four Wheel Campers that breathes new life into camping. They make five different lightweight pop-up truck campers, available as slide-in or flatbed style.

Four Wheel Campers’ Fleet, Swift, Raven, Hawk, and Grandby models have a wide range of floor plans. Many of their high-end features come standard in typical bulky fiberglass truck campers. However, the options from Four Wheel Campers have a far lower MSRP and drastically lighter weight.

Features common to all Four Wheel Campers “all options” slide-in models:

  • 6’4” – 6’7” interior height
  • One piece welded aluminum frame and siding
  • Light weight, one panel aluminum waterproof roof built for decades of use
  • 120v Electrical Shore Power System w/ 30 amp Converter
  • Single Lithium Battery — Standard (135Ah) with ability to add more.
  • Pre-wired for solar
  • Seating
  • 2.5 gallon propane capacity
  • Compressor 65 Liter Refrigerator/Freezer (AC/DC)
  • Interior LED lighting, exterior porch light
  • Queen-size cabover bed with king-size mattress option in almost all models
  • Flush mount sink and stove
  • Aluminum jack brackets
  • Screen door.

All five of the lightweight pop-up models are sold in a “base model” configuration, at a low starting price of just $17,995.

This stripped-down option gives the inside a much roomier feel because it omits the refrigerator, sink, shower, and freshwater storage. However, you can still enjoy comfortable amenities like roomy gear storage, rooftop A/C, and a propane furnace.

A more robust RV-like experience in Four Wheel Campers models starts at just $26,625 – nearly half the cost of the smallest fiberglass truck camper!

Pop-up camper features and benefits overview.

More customization for more comfort in a lightweight package

Whether you buy a base model or a fully-equipped Four Wheel Camper, almost all of them can accommodate up to 500 watts of rooftop solar. Buyers also have the option to:

  • Line the interior with a quilted thermal pack for better insulation while camping in winter.
  • Install brilliant low-power outdoor LED lighting
  • Attach a 360-degree Bat Wing awning for protection from the elements
  • Mount exterior tracks to carry off-road necessities, extra fuel, and sports gear.
  • Or carry an outdoor shower and privacy curtain for backcountry luxury.
  • Add a 12V interior roof lift actuator to help you lift your camper roof.

Lightweight pop-up truck campers aren’t for everyone. But for a certain subset of nomads, RVing in these cozy rigs puts a whole new spin on adventures.

No more worrying about tight roads, short campsites, or low hanging tree branches.
Campground full? No problem! There’s always room somewhere for a pop-up truck camper.
The big bonus? You save so much money on maintenance, fuel, and campsite costs.

After Alaska is done, we will haul a small travel trailer to enjoy more hub-and-spoke adventure travel. We also might upgrade to a fully-loaded Four Wheel Campers slide-in model. For now, we love keeping camping simple with our Project M.

Breaking out from behind the fiberglass walls of a heavy fifth wheel brought us closer to nature than anything else in our sixteen years of full-time RVing. We are more excited than ever to see what our Four Wheel Campers rig can do for us in the next sixteen, and beyond!

This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy here.

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