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Truck Camper Terminology

31st May 2018

Different words to describe the same item is, at best, bloody confusing. So it is with Campers and it gets worse when trying to understand the articles about campers that have been written in a foreign language, like American!  It is even harder if you need replacement parts especially if they are not available locally. Good luck trying to explain to a manufacturer that the part you want is  "the doovalacky that connects the thingamebob to the dunny"

I have compiled the following blog to assist people to understand some of the differences between USA and Australian terms relating to Slide On Campers.

Now there is a good place to start - Slide on Campers known as Truck Campers in the US.  Now I have to agree with them on this one. Basically they do not 'slide' on and if you use Torklift turnbuckles or are lucky, they don't slide off either.  It is even worse in Australia as they are also referred to as Slide In Campers and sometimes they add a hyphenation and make them Slide-On Campers which may be grammatically correct but still wrong. Occasionally referred to as Ute Campers and also Trayback Campers. In reality they are truck campers - they go on the back of your truck. Many of the vehicles in Australia that carry campers go by other names but they are still basically trucks, either little trucks or big trucks.

The trucks in Australia are referred to as a Ute which is a short form of Utility. This, by definition, is a vehicle that can carry both passengers and cargo.  In the US they are referred to as a Pickup. Basically they are the same with a passenger cabin up front and a 'tub' on the back for cargo. When I looked up 'Pickup' in the dictionary I found a substantial number of definitions, some of which were quite hilarious when applied to a truck. A pickup line in Australia may be along the lines of "Have we met or is this just my most amazing dream come true" while in the US it would be "Wanna see me truck".  Whatever.

In Australia a Ute can have either a tub or a tray. A Ute tub is shaped, unsurprisingly, like a tub. A Pickup bed is also shaped like a tub. A bed with sides, like a pickup bed,  is called a cot in Australia (USA crib?). A ute tray is shaped like tray and while a Pickup flat bed is shaped like a tray it is also similar in shape to a flat bed although far less comfortable than the word bed suggests. Still it begs the question, what is a non flat bed? Perhaps we should call our trays a flat tray. I digress.

Now trucks in both Australia and USA are built around a chassis—they add wheels and engines and gearboxes and cabins and tubs etc. However in the US they must also refer to chassis as frames. In Truck camper parlance they talk about “Frame mounted tie downs” which refers to a bracket attached to the chassis to secure your truck camper to the truck. In Australia we don’t have a simplified description of such a unit, so we talk about a slide on camper chassis mounted anchor bracket. A bit of a mouthful but a basically accurate description. If you asked an Australian truck camper owner about tie downs, most would think you were talking about the various chains and turnbuckles attaching the camper to the bracket below (for those without Torklift FastGuns).

In the USA they also talk about bed mounted tie downs. In Australia this conjures up images of handcuffs and ankle restraints but we won’t go there. Suffice to say in Australia we connect our camper anchor point to our chassis or tray anchor point using various systems of turnbuckles and chain etc.

Then there are hitches or tow bars. In Australia we attach a tow bar to the chassis so that we can tow a trailer. In USA a hitch is attached to the frame, but the term hitched is also used pertaining to getting married. I guess once hitched they intend to drag their new spouse around in the back of their truck which helps explain why they are called pickup trucks. Torklift call their tow bar a superhitch - kind of like a Royal Wedding!

In Australia we call them camper legs, in USA camper jacks. Well technically they are jacks, but they are legs also. Irrespective of the name we all agree on the reliability of these!

In Australia we have Reversing lights on the back of our vehicles. In USA they are called backup lights. This one is a no brainer. When I get in my truck and select R for Reverse, the Reversing Lights come on. In USA they don’t even have a B for Backup to select so they have to go to R for Reverse to make the lights come on. I argued this point with a friend of mine in USA and he seemed to get most upset. You might say he got his back up, probably selected Aaaghh.

In the  USA they call the drivers side of the truck the passenger side. The same friend above argued that there are many more left hand drive vehicles in the world but I said that still does not make it right. A lot of people making the same mistake does not mean it is not a mistake. We buy top quality Torklift built “frame mounted tie downs” and fit them as chassis mounted slide on camper anchor brackets and on top of that we have to remember to fit the ones marked passenger front to the drivers side front. It is a lot to remember on a Saturday afternoon after a 6 pack of beer. We don’t change the label on the tie downs though as it really confuses criminals intent on stealing the truck. They read the label then break into the wrong side and find no steering wheel etc. and are left wondering what to do next.

Then there is the term Blog!  Who thought that name up?  It sounds similar to reading tea leaves only in a toilet bowl!