My RAM/Lance 650 Adventure(s)

Hello all. I'm new to the forum. Like many on here, I use forums to learn from others. But of course, learning through personal experience and the school of hard knocks is best. I thought I would report on my experiences with my truck and camper to hopefully reduce the school of hard knocks for some!

In 2016 I decided to purchase a Lance 650 truck camper. I wanted a small, light and fully equipped hard sided camper for off grid travel. Like all of you, I considered every permutation of off road vehicle and camper/tent combination, and in the end one feature in particular stood out as non-negotiable. The bathroom. My wife didn’t need to make it non-negotiable because I put it at the top of the list myself.

You see all sorts of really cool rigs, and then there it is…the porta potty in a cabinet. I knew that would not work for me, my wife, and my kids. Maybe if I was traveling alone, but not with a family. Humans are the only creatures on the planet who do not relieve themselves wherever they wish (at least most of the time), which really complicates matters. So in the end, I wanted a ready to use, enclosed head with a good sized holding tank.

The 650 is quite small, but ingeniously packaged. It technically sleeps three, but we squeeze four of us in when both kids come with us—with one off at college now, that relieves things. The idea is that our rig will serve my wife and me into the future, so some short term discomfort is tolerable. I wanted a camper that would fit a short bed truck and not hang off the back or the sides very much for “nimbleness” and the ability to park the thing in a standard parking space. And it has everything. In addition to the real head with a sink and a shower, it has a small galley, fridge, microwave, air conditioning, three tanks (fresh, grey and black), heat, hot water, LED lighting, even a TV/DVD.

The interior is very nice and comfortable. So far, so good.lance-truck-camper-650-hero-2018-big.jpg
 
The Truck

Since the Lance 650 is designed for a ½ ton truck, I thought I would do better than that and I went with a 2016 RAM 2500 4x4, crew cab, Tradesman, 5.7 liter Hemi. I had the front end leveled for looks when not loaded. The 2500 is coil sprung in the rear, and sagged a good bit with the camper loaded in, so I added Airlift 5000 bags. The bags popped the rear end back up, and helped with the tippy/sway of a truck camper…

The truck handled everything fine-ish… After a few trips, I started thinking (maybe I should have done that before). I had never purchased a full sized truck before, so I just paid attention to the number on the side of the truck, when I should have looked at payload. The 2500 has a payload of about 2,200 pounds. And then I realized that Lance is fibbing a bit. Sure, at about 2,000 pounds wet, the camper is fairly light. But add people, gear, food, water for drinking, etc etc, I realized I was running at about 3,000 pounds. I don’t think even the F150’s have that capacity. Sure, you can stick the camper on a variety of trucks, but you can’t put people in it and use it without being over the load limit.

I was also finding that the 5.7 liter, while ok, got winded sometimes. I realized that the tool I had bought was not the right tool. I did not like being technically overloaded, and I wanted more power. So, I did the thing I should have done from the start, and went for the bigger gun.

I traded the 2016 2500 (with only 9500 miles on it!) in on a 2018 RAM 3500 4x4 crew cab Tradesman, 6.7 liter Cummins, Aisin transmission. I was able to reuse the TorkLift tie downs in the rear, but the fronts were different. I also had it leveled. Since I had experience with air bags, I added a set of Airlift 7500XL bags.

Now we were getting somewhere!IMG_3158.jpgIMG_3162.jpg
 
I bought the truck, installed the tie downs, air bags, and my ham radio all in the week before we headed off for a trip to Maine. Man, does this truck perform! With almost 4,000 pounds of payload, I am underloaded, which I like. And the engine is nothing short of amazing. We wandered our way to and from Maine over 11 days on mostly back roads, up and down mountains, and the truck handled it all effortlessly. I even average 16 mpg the entire 2000 miles. The combination of the chassis, powerful engine, and exhaust brake created a total package of complete and confident control. I have the correct tool for the job.

I know some might say I over did it, but in my opinion it is critical to make sure you are running under the stated capacity of your truck. Pay attention to the numbers when you are planning your rig. I did not initially and it cost me some money and a dope slap from my wife. But a small price to pay to get it dialed in.

Continuing to dial it all in will be the subject of my next posts.

IMG_3219.jpg
 
Welcome to the forum and the TC learning curve!!

We just went to a truck/lance combo this year. Bigger camper though. We bought an older 880 which is a 10’9” model. Been through some trial and error upgrades to the truck but almost there. Baja later this month will be the test.


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Thanks for the suggestions, Regcabguy. I was wondering if I should add Stableloads or a rear sway bar to further improve stability. Both? I already have airbags. On my 2500 I replaced the stock shocks with Bilstein 5100's. Made a small difference...I think.
 

adam88

Explorer
I love the lance 650. I considered it heavily but what turned me off was the fairly low capacity of fresh water and grey water. How do you find that you and your wife manage with such low amounts of tank size?
 
Adam88, one thing we never intended was to use the on-board shower, since the fresh and gray tanks are not huge. We use campsite showers or an outdoor Helios (also because the shower room is very small in the 650!). We also do some dish washing up outside. We have also all learned to use the amount of water we really need, and not letting the faucet run. The black tank is plenty big. So far, we have never run out of resources, and we are strategic about using dump facilities when we can. I also have the ability to carry jerry cans with extra water on my cargo carrier on the back, which I discuss below.
 
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Storage

The Lance 650 is fully equipped, but very small. Inside storage is actually very good, with plenty of room for everything we need to live in it. Outside, however, there is only one small storage cubby on the side. There is no room at all for bulky stuff, and for things you would never want to carry inside, like fuel.

After looking at seemingly every rear cargo carrier, I went with the Let’s Go Aero BossHog cargo carrier. It is 5 ½ feet by 2 feet, and 7 inches deep, with a solid floor and walls. It is also a slide out. It weighs 100 pounds, and is rated to hold 300 pounds.

Because the 650 has a rear door, I made a simple wooden platform that mounts in the center of the carrier to allow access to the door. This works well, and acts as a small back porch. I added a mount for the steps on the rear of the carrier. On either side of the platform (and under it) I am able to carry quite a bit of junk: Generator, jerry can(s), camp chairs, tent, camp stove, grill, shovel, folding camp tables, and the camper waste hose in a plastic bin. It is amazing I can put all that stuff in and on it. When you get to camp, throw a couple of bundles of firewood on the platform on your way in. I have gotten pretty good at packing it and tarping everything off. The slide out feature comes in handy to easily slide it back to access the waste connections on the rear of the camper.

It is the thing that has made the small camper truly usable. It is a great solution.Rear Cargo carrier.jpg
 
More storage

The rear cargo carrier is great…but it is still limited. And packing and unpacking it is a bit of a pain. No doubt, for short trips, it is perfect. But I also want the ability to carry more. For some very long trips I have planned, I want room for a good amount of fuel and water. I’d like to carry a canoe. I’d like to use a roof top tent instead of a ground tent when all four of us are camping. So, I need another toy…uh, tool.

The latest project is a Dinoot J-Series Extended off road trailer. Here is the rolling chassis, ready for the floor. More to come as this project progresses.
Dinoot Frame.jpg
 
Definitely Big Wig sway bars. The rear one helps a ton and the front just as much more!!

I really like the Stableloads too. They allow my truck to ride ok empty but also carry the weight of the camper. They made a big difference in overall driveability.


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zb39

Adventurer
Your going to love that engine and the aisin tranny as well as the exhaust brake when you hit the mountains. Great choice!!
 

Bayou Boy

Adventurer
The Stableloads work fantastic on the Ram 3500 4th gen. With them engaged my stock at the time 3500 SRW sat level with the big, heavy Lance 855 loaded down for a family trip.
 

jonathon

Member
Nice setup! Was the 6.4 Hemi ever a consideration?

We are looking at a 2500 CCSB Tradesman with the 6.4 to eventually put a slide in on. On paper it has a 3600lb payload looks good, I wonder if reality is the Cummins does that much better?
 
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