Truck Cargo Capacity “Confusion”

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    Aspen Winter

    In my opinion, this is the most discussed and least resolved issue on the other forums, so I thought we should get it out there on this one.

    Simply put how does a person that is new to truck campers determine how much truck is needed to haul a NL? Yes, I understand there is no one answer as there are many combinations of trucks and campers. But really, every week there is some poor guy or gal trying to make sense of this, as they step-up to spend big money to purchase a new truck and camper.

    My own situation is a common one. I wanted a NL camper and needed a truck to go with it. I want to use the truck as a daily driver in the winter (don’t want to drive a DRW), and will leave the camper on through the entire camping season. I checked the forums, called NL directly, spoke to anyone that would listen, and came to the conclusion a new F350 SRW with a cargo rating of +-1000lbs of capacity could safely and legally haul a new 9-6. I ordered the 9-6 and then ordered a new F350 Super Cab SRW, carefully selecting options to preserve the cargo weight rating and held my breath. Weeks later I learn I’m getting what I hoped for, a 3800lb capacity F350 SRW Truck.

    But, in those weeks I have encountered many new facts and opinions that have given me pause as to the viability of my new, soon to be delivered setup. These facts and opinions, range from this setup is great, get some airbags to level the rig and you are set, all the way to
    this is a disaster waiting to happen, you are overweight and running an illegal rig.
    Not one to shy from a challenge I set out to figure this out. I have carefully done the math on what the true “wet weight” of the 9-6 is (water, propane, small honda generator, etc. and with two occupants in the truck, fuel, plywood/ bed mat, tie downs, air bags and compressor, and a reasonable amount of gear. I spoke to tire dealers, the camper sales people, SME’s (subject matter experts) at Ford Motor Company, etc, etc, and got clarification on many pieces of the puzzle, but no definitive answer to the question “will my setup be legal, safe and comfortable to drive.

    Here is my observation. Going strictly by the numbers the truck will be over capacity by somewhere around 300lbs with empty grey and black tanks. If for example, I add a bike rack and two ebikes, I’m 440lbs over. If I put on F or G rated tires and higher rated wheels on the truck I’m additionally over, and what if I add another passenger from time to time… It is easy to imagine I could easily be 500lbs plus over the truck’s rated capacity right from the start.

    This would suggest that all of the people saying you absolutely need a dually, are correct. The numbers don’t lie. But here is the obvious question, how are so many people, confidently saying my combination is a good match and or driving a similar setup? Even NL representatives are suggested my setup is a good match, and they frequently showcase both 8-11’s and 10-2’s on F350 SRW trucks (SEMA 2019).

    So, can anyone make sense of this me? And for all of those folks out there trying to make a good decision?


    I feel your pain, for two plus decades I’ve been driving a 1996 Ford F-250 (8800 GVWR) w/ a 1996 N-L8, label claims weight is 1727 w/ standard equipment (water & propane). I too am about to make the jump and have gone with the 8-11LE and an F-350 SRW 11,300 GVWR (where I was careful to keep the options down) … the numbers get close REAL fast. I think it’s important to go to a commercial scale with the truck fully gassed up occupants inside and then again with the camper fully loaded to see how the numbers really pan out. I think this will also reveal front and back axel weights. After I drive it a bit I’ll determine if further upgrades are required. Tires and tire pressure are a huge part of this too.

    I like that the new N-L has almost no internal storage up high, it forces you to keep the weight down low outside of what is mounted on the roof. In decades of camping I NEVER need all the water I can carry, so only take as much as I’ll need, in Alaska water is usually not far away though. If you don’t run the propane heater a single propane bottle will run the fridge and range a long, long time. I will always want two house batteries but they don’t have to be lead, hope to upgrade to something lighter ASAP.

    Bikes and hitches are a whole other issue moving weight way behind the rear axle, might be better off pulling a small trailer for e-bikes, that would keep them safe and covered too. I used to hang my peddle bike from the ladder but just too old and weak for that now so the last few years I carry it up front on an old SUV hatch back bike mount, it’s not ideal as it collects bugs and you don’t need headlights too much in the summer so it works. On the new rig I’ll consider a permanently installed front receiver hitch to do this or a folding bike inside the crew cab.

    Summary: If you’re doing short trips or using hook-ups, you won’t need all that water and gas, if you’re doing long boon-docks in the desert assume you will be parked more than driving load it up as late as possible and put the jacks down once you’re settled. Audit the contents you carry, if you haven’t used an item in two 2-3 trips you probably don’t need it. Don’t count the gray/black tanks, you’re pretty much just transferring water from one tank to the others and if you are careful with what soap you use you can generally dump gray water if required (backpackers don’t carry gray/black tanks with them).

    Good Luck and enjoy the new rig!

    Thomas Gilg

    Your axle, tire and wheel (rim) ratings are legal safety limits.

    Your gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is mostly a licensing-tax deal, although some countries or locales treat it (or are thinking of treating it) as a safety limit. The assumption is the more you weigh, the more wear and tear you’ll put on the roads, hence the more road tax you should pay. There are mixed stories about getting licensed for a GVWR that exceed the trucks stickered GVWR.

    IN PRACTICE, law enforcement rarely checks, and if they do they’ll go by the axle and GVWR on your door jamb sticker, and your tire ratings. After market upgrades don’t count! Someone in BC said they got pulled over and were overweight, but the officer said tickets wouldn’t be issued until being 10% over (just like speeding tickets).

    I did talk to an insurance agent who refused to say if they would pay out on an overloaded rig, but did say there are people who fish for an excuse to sue or settle out of court, and being overweight can factor into the settlement discussions. “Your client was overweight and had bald tires, so even if I was at fault, your client could have avoided the whole mess if not so overloaded”.

    Many people load to the limit and say “it drives great”, but driving down a nice road with well behaved traffic is NOT the concern. The concern is hitting a bump, or slamming the brakes to dodge another car or deer, or going around a downhill curve in extreme wind, etc. I’d bet a 3500lb rated tire sees regular 10000lb+ smacks.

    With a reasonably loaded F350 SRW and 9.6 NL, I’m basically at the tire, rim and GVWR limits. I endeavor to stay at 92-110% all around. The setup drives great (!), I’m hopeful I’m not in ticket territory, but I don’t have much headroom left.

    There are always a few that will claim their 1/2-ton can carry a nuclear sub. Hopefully most appreciate the numbers relate to reasonable capacity, and try to abide by the limits if for no other reason that respecting the safety of others on the road.



    It is amazing how this issue is the probably the most addressed and least understood topic in the truck camper community. Personally, I traded a 1 year old 2016 F250 with less than 10,000 miles on it for a 2017 F350 because I was concerned about being well over the weight limits with my Northern Lite 8.11.

    I went from 2496 lbs payload capacity to 4226 lbs payload capacity with my F350. At the time, back in 2017, I searched far and wide for a truck that allowed me to maximize my payload while still giving me the amenities I cared about in a truck. The one I finally found was exactly what I was looking for. I am now under the weight limits on my tires, wheels, axles (rear axles especially) and payload when fully wet and loaded to go camping.

    There are some good articles out there but one thing I have found doing my own research is that everyone has different opinions which vary widely on the topic. One thing I do know is that your truck dealer knows very little about this topic so you cannot depend on them and your truck camper dealer, in most cases, are in the business to sell campers and also don’t necessarily have a lot of knowledge to help guide the buyer in this area. As a buyer, you have to know what questions to ask of your dealer when matching a camper to a truck. The biggest problem I believe, is the majority of buyers already have a truck when they go to buy a camper and end up falling in love with a camper that may not be the best match for the truck they already own. Ideally, one would pick a camper they want and match it to the right truck but that’s not always an option.

    So, for me it comes down to educating yourself as a buyer in order to understand this topic as much as you can prior to making the purchase. My risk tolerance for knowingly hauling a camper down the road which I know is over the weight limits for my truck is pretty low. I want to be able to sleep at night knowing I am safe out there on the road so that decision I made to upgrade my truck, while it cost me several thousand dollars to do so, was worth it for me.

    Aspen Winter

    Thomas and Scott Thank you for the thoughtful perspectives. After another couple days of speaking with Ford, Ford truck dealers, and NL camper sales people, I have come to many, if not all of the same conclusions. It is reasuring to receive this kind of confirmation from people like you with real life camper experience. Appreciate it! Aspen


    As Aspen said, good thoughts on here.
    I think a big part of the reason it’s so difficult to get a straight answer is liability. No one wants to give a definitive answer for fear of being pointed to in a court of law “..but they said….”

    And it’s also hard to cut through the macho posturing on those other forums. While I do believe there is quite a bit of under rating when it comes to things like capacity ratings on something like trucks, that only goes so far. Truck makers aren’t stupid. They know exactly who’s driving their product and they know just how dumb many of them can be. Also, it seems to vary wildly, at least in the US, as to how Smokey and/or insurers treat you from state to state.

    I also find it funny that it’s always the tires that are first and rims second when it comes to magically solving carrying capacity issues. Rarely a whiff spoken about how beds are mounted to the frames, brakes, fastener ratings, etc.

    I to did a ton of research when looking at campers and trucks. A new 10.2LE was gonna be the camper. With the listed weight, I added a 1000lbs for “stuff”. So F350, long bed, crew cab it was gonna be. BUT….SRW or DRW?

    SRW: I’d be over the GVWR for sure. (But less then I’m over with the old 98 GMC 2500 and 10.5′ Okanagan). So, tires would be the lowest rated ‘link’ in the capacity chain, so swap those out. Next, what are the rims rated at? Good luck finding that number…. Then there’s suspending the load. Probably gonna need at least lower and likely upper Stableload’s. And maybe something to level it, like bags….Needless to say, things were starting to look more expensive and rather experimental. Not to mention mod’ing a truck under warranty.

    DWR: 14,000 lb GVWR. Four tires to share the load instead of two. A built in save-a$$ in the even of a blow-out. Less likely a need for extensive mod’s. No second guessing if the truck can ‘handle it’.

    Would I 100% prefer a SRW. 110% yes. Do I prefer to enjoy my driving vacations where the idea is to be relaxing, not engaging in stressful activities, yep. Do I eat the kind of junk one needs to go through a drive-thru to get, nope. Can I wash my own truck or go to a hand wash place, sure.

    Do I think a F350 SRW can take a 10.2, yep. But, a DRW is going to be cheaper and less to worry about no matter your State or Province.

    I will report back as to how it goes driving this beast. Picking it up tomorrow. 1000km break-in, then off to pick-up the 10.2LE dry bath.

    And if you really want to kick the hornets nest ‘over there’, bring up diesel vs gas………

    I went for Godzilla…… 😛

    Darcy C

    When I was deciding between a single and dual rear wheel truck for our 10-2, unless I went to a single cab, gas engine, nothing SRW would legally carry my camper.

    I went DRW, and even with what I considered a huge amount of wiggle room, we scaled the truck last week and were still within 30kgs of the GVW.

    A bit of a silly reason we felt better going with DRW is that every single new northern lite model was slightly wider (<1″) than the fender flares on a dually, so the extra width was a non issue when the camper is on.


    We have a 2017 NL9.6 on a 2017 F350 SRW. I have put it on the scales. To avoid being over-weight we travel with empty waste tanks, ~ 1/3 fresh water, one empty propane tank, I do not fill the 48 gallon fuel tank, and limit cargo. On our last trip we had a blow-out on the right rear tire. It was a good day to not be over-weight.

    Craig & Kim

    Great information.

    We have a 2005 F350 DRW Diesel crew cab with a NL 10-2 loaded LE. We are looking to upgrade to a F550 7.3 Godzilla, chassis cab with the CW flat bed and Stable Camper truck camper package. This is a new combination. We are excited to see if this will work for us.

    Brian Medley

    I have also been looking at the Stable Camper/CM truck bed combination. The big issue for me (other than buying a bunch of new stuff) is that there is really no place to keep a spare tire. Not really a problem in the lower 48 but if I go up to Alaska or down to Mexico I won’t run without one. Stable Camper puts their spare on the trailer draw bar under the camper overhang. It does not look good and it affects departure angle. Still working on this problem.

    Craig & Kim

    Thank you, We agree with the spare tire problem. Hoping that by the time we would be able to do it there will be a better way. Time will tell.

    Brian Medley

    The spare is so important it may cause us (in the future) to spend quite a bit more and get a Douglas service body. When we get our new 10-2 LE in March our current dually will handle the weight with capacity to spare. But when we add our Jeep and enclosed Jeep trailer that 8K will take us up to the limit. Hence the reason to think about a larger capacity truck.

    Shawn G

    I ran across this thread after I took a trip in my new 9-6 LE camper this weekend. I did the research and like everyone has stated, there isn’t a definitive answer to this question. My concern is safety and like Thomas said with a reasonably loaded camper I’m close to my axle limits. I did the math, but you just don’t know how heavy things are going to be until you get it in there and weigh it.

    I have airbags on my 2018 6.7 F350, I upgraded my hitch to the Supermax hitch and will also have a supertruss to pull my drift boat or another small trailer. This will be more weight once that supertruss gets inserted. I had some truck sway which wasn’t the end of the world coming down the pass, but I was going slower that I usually do. Straightaways and long curves are fine but I do slow down on the tighter curves, I’m assuming I’ll feel more comfortable in time?

    I guess I’m safe being at the limit or near the axle limit but it depends on who you ask. When we got home from our trip I was second guessing everything I installed to be safe thinking now it’s wrong or not enough – including truck purchase and camper purchase.


    I’m on my 3rd F350….always avoiding the dreaded 6 wheel monsters.
    Now that I have a 2020 DRW I wonder why I did not go to a dually in the first place. Such a pleasure to have room, everywhere, space in the 8′ box, lots of torque from the dually 4:10 setup and lots of load and tow capacity.

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