Selecting a truck camper for my wife and I was a bit controversial. Did we really need it? When would we use it? Can we afford it? …and plenty of others.
Our situation was that we had a one ton truck whose primary purpose was to haul a goose neck horse trailer for fun and more importantly for emergencies. We also have a 25 foot bumper pull airstream travel trailer that we actually lived in for four months and still like for longer duration trips. However, during our travels we were enamored with the van life due to size, simplicity, and versatility. But a van would also mean having another vehicle and all that goes with it adds some complications. Not a big deal but we decided to go with the truck camper as it would provide many of those same benefits but with even more capability in most cases (true 4x4 capability, able to tow with camper on, able to detach while camping or at home when the truck would be used for other purposes.)
As a full time photographer, I was wanting something that would allow me to easily get into remote locations on short notice and able to keep equipment charged and work comfortably when deadlines were tight while on location.
So the next step was finding the right camper. I was looking for something that would be simple to use and would be comfortable in colder climates. We live in Utah between the Wasatch and Uinta mountains where it’s quite common to experience 40 degree temp swings with highs in the 70s and lows below freezing. Also when camping in the mountains, snow can happen just about any month of the year, so these were factors to consider. I wanted to be self sufficient enough to spend three or four plus days in one location, knowing one or two would be more likely. This meant having efficient appliances and ability to keep batteries charged, both the camper, my camera and laptop. I also wanted something that would be good with condensation management as that can be a nasty problem when the dew point drops and warm breathe meets cold surfaces.
Hallmark and Bike carriers that allows camper access with bike locked in place
After looking at a variety of campers hardsided and popups, I decided the Hallmark Milner pop up would be the best for our purposes. I narrowed it down to a popup due to its compact nature and lighter weight and then evaluated a few manufactures where Hallmark stoodout for what I wanted in this overlanding capable camper. Here’s why:
1. Hallmark is family owned and been in business for decades, so I felt comfortable with their track record of quality builds even if somethings were going to be rather innovative.
2. Hallmark builds each camper to order and were open to including some important custom features. I had researched the Truma Combi Heater / Hot Water unit, used in some adventure vans. I liked that it was an integrated system that saved space, saves battery, propane, and was ducted so it would provide even heating through the camper. This keeps the camper comfortable and helps to control condensation with the air circulation. I do do keep a few of the soft side corners cracked for added venting The Truma has worked perfectly so far between camping at 5000ft to 9200ft. I haven’t used it outside of those ranges yet. Not a functional thing, but I was able to select from a wide range of colors and fabrics for the interior, so it really feels unique and tailored to my preferences.
3. Hallmark uses a composite fiberglass construction process. I have a little experience with sailboats and appreciate what this type of build offers. While strong, durable and easy to repair, it reduces heat transfer and helps to reduce condensation as a result. While helpful in cold weather camping, the soft sided thermal pack does well in the summer by reflecting the sun and by providing a thermal barrier. Insulation is necessary in extreme heat and cold, the climates I'm in mostly.
4. Hallmark uses a proprietary system for raising and lowering the roof with a common battery powered drill or hand crank. This allows storage on the roof, ability to sit on the roof for photography, wild life viewing, or just enjoying an adult beverage with a penthouse view. It's easy up easy down in inclement situations, particularly wind or snow. It will support solar panels, paddle boards among other gear. Hallmark has a video with Bill and an ATV on the roof as it's being lifted!
5. Hallmark was willing to install a combination several other cool features. One was a Lewmar sky light. This allows clear viewing of the night sky and an easy pass through from the living quarters to the roof. It does have a screen but I keep that stowed as it interferes with viewing and there is plenty of ventilations from all of the other windows. Next, a 100aH Battleborn Lithium battery with a Sterling DC to DC charger and Victron Battery Monitor that allows a bluetooth connection to my phone. I could have opted for two batteries but so far, I can get over 3 days from one using the Truma all night, interior LED lights, charging phones, and water pump. The battery is installed at the forward bulkhead of the camper with a short to wiring run to connection on my truck which also has a relatively short run to the truck's battery. The battery has an exterior access hatch and also has an open vent to the living area so it stays at a pretty constant optimal temperature by receives heat when the truma is running. This configuration is possible since lithium batteries don't off gas when either charging or discharging. Like all batteries they perform best when not too hot nor too cold. While some criticize lithiums for not being ablle to charge in below freezing temperatures, this configuration mitigates the issue. Lithiums do perform down to zero, so as along as you can get the heat going, it will warm up the battery so you it can then take a charge. I would argue that other types of batteries suffer even more in this scenario. The Sterling DC to DC charger can charge a depleted battery in three hours of driving. My version the BB1239 sends 30 amps to the batteries while driving, much more than a standard 4 pin or 7 pin. There is relay to protect the trucks batteries and the tuck's batteries are isolated from the camper when the ignition is turned off. Lithium batteries allow a nearly full usage of their rated 100 amp hours. They don't degrade with repeated partial charging, and don’t require a trickle charge when in storage. However, I did install a Blue Sea isolation switch so there would be no parasitic draws on the battery when I know it won't be used for a while. While wired for solar, I have decided to wait and see if this is even necessary as the Sterling charger is doing a great job for our style use. If I decided to add a refrigerator I would likely consider a portable solar set up so I could park in the shade and put the panels in the sun. Charging while driving is not really needed which is when permanent panels thrive. Besides, If I really got into a bind and as a last resort, I can idle the truck for a bit.
7. Hallmark includes numerous other niceties: several USB outlets throughout the camper, general LED and LED task lighting (all individually controlled), outdoor Bora shower, a flush two burner stove top, sink, 20 gallon fresh water tank, 20 LBS horizontal propane tank, queen size east west bed, windows on all sides in the insulated pop up panels, large windows in the hardsides, convertible dinette/bed, and nice cabinetry for storage as well as very generous underbed storage.
Horizontal sliding window, with hatches for shore power, i/o shower, 20lb propane tank.
Popup raised. Velcroed 3 layer Windows (clear, screen and solid) on all sides for viewing, ventilation, and warmth when needed..
Lewmar skylight and roof access hatch that is designed for ocean going sailboats.
Large sliding windows on passenger side, one is an escape, too. Ladder to roof and nice for entering the camper too. Power Tank brackets for 10lbs propane tanks for outdoor stove or campfire. Could use for a CO2 tank to air up tires.
Action shot: Plenty of room for everyone. You can see the socket (center) and vertical white bar (left) that lift the roof via worm gear. Above the pup, is the Lewmar skylight.
An interior shot to see the windows and dinnette / bed. The Truma is located in the panel next to the extinguisher.
I chose not to get a refrigerator, indoor shower, or toilet with our initial build. These are nice amenities which we have in our travel trailer, but thought they were tradeoffs we could live without for our planned usage. Of course not having these keeps the cost down, but also it keeps moisture in the living area for condensation management purposes and are simply fewer things to maintain. That said, I may add a refrigerator later, and I do have a privacy tent for outdoor shower / toilet usage when needed.
I’m considering a compressor style refrigerator and evaluating them with 12V current usage as an important consideration. My 12V system should be able to handle this additional draw with out modifications. I would lean towards an absorption style that uses propane like in our TT if longer stays were our goal, but for our application, I think the compressor has some notable advantages such as being faster to cool, and doesn't’t have to run on propane while driving (illegal at gas stations, ferries, tunnels and some states.) And it would be more portable with uses beyond just the truck camper.
The roof can support a lot of weight and easy to raise and lower with a proprietary lifting system. The Lewmar hatch allows access and when closed, clear viewing of the night sky.
While there are other quality truck campers out there, we're very happy with the Hallmark Milner. The quality of build and the systems to suit my intended use makes it even more of a joy for getting outdoors for fun and for work. My one battery supports LED lighting, water pump, heating at night, and hot outdoor showers for several days without needing a charge! The Truma is so efficient and effective in conserving battery and propane. It has performed exceptionally between 5000 and 9200ft. I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to test it at wider ranges of altitude and conditions, but this is the sweet spot for our kind of camping. Since we can go anywhere our truck can go, thanks to the Hallmark Milner, we have lots of flexibility and can count on being comfortable when we get there. I'll be adding my Thule rocket box to roof and storing the happijax in there which will make traversing forest roads safer while proving a more stream lined aesthetic.
I hope this was helpful. Please contact me with any questions and be sure to check back for to see more pictures!