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Vintage silver aluminum 1970 Avion C11 truck camper on a blue 2015 Ram 3500 truck parked on CAT scale pad with fall color forest hill in the background.

After “is that an Airstream?” and “What year was that made?” the most common question we get about our 1970 Avion C11 truck camper is “How much does that weight?” It’s an understandable question. Weight in campers is a critical variable. Heavy campers need bigger trucks, consume more gas, and cause more problems on trails. Camper manufacturers list their campers with dry weight and estimated wet weight.

But what about campers with after-market modifications? We gutted our Avion and have been rebuilding it from subfloor to roof. What it weighed in 1970 has very little to do with what it weighs today. Fortunately, there are scales designed for vehicles our size and much larger. While there are some creative solutions that might save a bit of money, we prefer the CAT scales. Most truck stops across the US have a set of CAT scales that you can drive on and get an official weight of your front and back axels as well as trailer weight. These were installed for the trucking industry but anyone can pay to use them. Throughout our build, we have been weighing our camper to keep a gauge on how the weight has changed. And its shift over the years has been expressive of the progress we have made in between each weigh-in.

A note about camper weight: There’s a lot of variables that can change the relative weight of our camper. While we are attempting to measure the difference in weight caused by our modifications, the amount of gas in the truck tank and random items in the truck and camper can change the weight. We do our best to remain consistent across weigh-ins by cleaning out the camper and truck. As the photographer, I am not in the truck when it is being weighed. As the driver, Chris is. Up until 2021, we attempted to reproduce the gas tank fill amount of the original camper weight (about 3/4 full). But in 2021, we switch to filling the tank completely for a more replicable weight.

Spring 2017 Camper Weigh-In (2800 lbs)

No sooner did we acquire our Avion camper than we weighed it. On our drive back from the previous owner, a new camper perilously perched in our truck, we stopped by a truck scale and registered our first weight. This begins our trend of intermittently weighing the camper as we modify it. But it is different from future weigh-ins because the camper weight includes the bedding, clothing, and ancillary gear that came with the camper when we picked it up from the previous owner. In future weigh-ins, we will unload anything that isn’t part of the camper itself. But at this time, we barely managed to record a weight before unloading the camper and getting to work. Regardless, this sets an upper weight limit that we hope not to exceed in the future.

Truck w/ Camper (lbs)Truck w/o Camper (lbs)Camper (lbs)
Steer Axel4180
Drive Axel5620
Gross Weight98007000*2800
5/28/2017 Cat Scale Weight with Camper
Weighing a 1970 Avion C11 truck camper at the truck stop CAT scales.
High on our list of things to do was to get an actual sense of the weight of the camper. Records were one thing, we wanted the actual weight.
Sun shining down on a 1970 Avion C11 truck camper parked outside the entry to Silver Springs State Park, Florida.
We had planned to take a relaxed route back and enjoy a few sites while in Florida. We only managed to see Silver Springs before we fully appreciated the challenges ahead of us and decided to prioritize getting the camper to a place where we could fix it.

Winter 2017 Weigh-In (940 lbs)

By the end of 2017, we have gutted the camper interior and replaced the wings, sidewalls, and subfloor. It’s a pity we couldn’t capture the gutted weight before replacing the wings and subfloor, but we couldn’t safely drive the camper to the weigh station. Unfortunately, this is the one time that I forget to take a picture of the camper. This could also mean that I may have been in the truck during the weigh-in, potentially adding over 100 lbs to the total weight. All the same, this weigh-in represents the lightest the camper has ever and will ever be on the road. Heavy appliances, batteries, water tanks, cabinetry, and even the interior walls are all removed. From here on, it will be a meticulous build attempting to balance weight and utility as we modernize this vintage camper.

Stripping The Avion Ultra Truck Camper
Gutting the Avion
Wings distinguish a camper from most any other kind and when the time comes to replace them, it is a BIG DEAL.
Truck Camper Ring Replacement
Ready to install the new floor!
Subfloor Replacement
RV Trailer Lights: Rewiring Brake, Clearance, and License Plate Lights
Rewiring Trailer Lights

Truck w/ Camper (lbs)Truck w/o Camper (lbs)Camper (lbs)
Steer Axel4200
Drive Axel3740
Gross Weight79407000*940
12/13/2017 CAT Scale weight camper.
A Cotton Candy Sunrise, Overlanding On Movie Road, And Campfire Cooking In The Alabama Hills - Lone Pine, California
Our Avion truck camper’s first sunrise on the Sierras
1970 Avion C11 truck camper parked by the ocean at sunrise.
Sunrise on a roadside pullout.

Fall 2018 Weigh-In (1080 lbs)

One year into our build and the Fall 2018 weigh-in marks significant structural changes in the camper. At this point, every remaining piece of wood has been replaced with slightly lighter weight Coosa but we have also extended the cabover, adding 18-inches to the length of the camper. This is effectively the new frame from which we will be building in the future. This also marks the first time that we make the point of weighing the truck after removing the camper for a better point of comparison.

  • Extend the camper cabover by 18″ to convert the bed from a east-west full-sized bed to a north-south queen sized bed.
  • Replace the rotten wooden bulwark with a Coosa reproduction.
Replacing the Bulwark
Rolling out air bubbles from fiberglass cloth to re-enforcing the truck camper floor.
Reinforcing Subfloor
Extending Truck Camper Cabover
Truck w/ Camper (lbs)Truck w/o Camper (lbs)Camper (lbs)
Steer Axel42804180100
Drive Axel38402860980
Gross Weight812070401080
11/16/2018 CAT Scale weight
Silver 1970 Avion C11 truck camper sitting on a blue 2015 Ram 3500 with yellow CAT Scales sign to the left and colorful fall hillside in background.
Fall 2018 Weigh-In
1970 Avion C11 truck camper overlanding in the Alabama Hills of California's Eastern Sierras.
1970 Avion C11 truck camper overlanding in the Alabama Hills of California’s Eastern Sierras.

Fall 2021 Weigh-In (1360 lbs)

By 2021, we have pretty much completed any exterior work on the camper and are in the early stages of the interior build. Between patches and upgrades, we have gained 280 lbs. The increase is a bit of a shock until we tally up all the work we have done since the last weight in:

  • We have a fully operating battery system with solar panels and alternator charging.
  • I replaced the cardboard interior of the camper door with coosa and foam.
  • Most of the old windows have been replaced including the curved side windows transitioning from plexi to glass.
  • Installing a roof hatch.
  • Removed the window awnings and replace them with modular rails
Test fitting solar panels on a 1970 Avion C11 truck camper roof.
Mounting Flexible Solar Panels
We make a custom battery box for our DIY lithium batteries featuring buck riveted aluminum, high impact rubber, and a plexiglass viewing window.
DIY LiFePO4 Battery
RV windows can always be a headache. But a DIY window replacement in a curved aluminum vintage truck camper poses special challenges. Check out these custom curved windows!
Installing Curved Windows
Keep the cold out and cut back on condensation with a DIY demonstration: applying closed cell spray foam in an aluminum 1970 Avion C11 truck camper.
Spray Foam Insulation
Step-by-step DIY replacing of a leaky vintage truck camper cabover window by installing a new, double paned, aerodynamic, and modern RV window.
Replacing Cabover Window
Man applying white paint inside a camper with a spray gun attached to an air compressor.
Insulating RV Ribs
Installing a roof hatch into an Avion truck camper may be more complicated than expected but it's totally worth it!
Roof Hatch Install
Clecos holding new brackets in place while renovating a vintage 1970 Avion C11 truck camper.
Reinforcing Camper Roof
All ready to go! So I guess I had better stop taking pictures and get to my job of holding the bucking bar while renovating a vintage 1970 Avion C11 truck camper.
Modular Side Rail
The new fan blends in well with the anodized aluminum for a DIY MaxxAir Fan installation.
Installing MaxxAir Fan
Avion emblem ready to cure the chrome powder coat in a toaster oven.
Powder Coating Emblems
Truck w/ Camper (lbs)Truck w/o Camper (lbs)Camper (lbs)
Steer Axel4500444060
Drive Axel426029601300
Gross Weight876074001360
2021 weight chart
Vintage silver aluminum 1970 Avion C11 truck camper on a blue 2015 Ram 3500 truck parked on CAT scale pad with fall color forest hill in the background.
Weighing in the truck and camper in fall 2021.
Hand holding up yellow paper with CAT Scale print out results.
2021 CAT Scale results

2021 Truck Weight

In a diversion from past renovations, however, we also see a change in the weight of the truck itself. Some of this is because we are switching from weighing the truck with a tank 3/4 full to completely full. But that roughly 24 lbs doesn’t account for the 360 lbs weight gain. But there is plenty of work that we completed that does explain the change:

We complete our latest 2015 Ram 3500 mod by installing a Warn Zeon 12-S Winch on our new Ascent Front Bumper. Our latest adventure as auto mechanics.
Warn Zeon Winch Install
After removing our 2015 Ram 3500's grille and front bumper, it's time to finally install our new Warn Ascent Front Bumper for our overland adventures.
Warn Ascent Front Bumper Install
We upgrade our truck camper security with this DIY install of the HappiJac Frame Mount Camper Tiedown System in our 2015 Ram 3500 Tradesman truck.
Happijac Tie-Down System
Upgrading our overland rig with "do it yourself" installation of Bushwacker Fender Flares on a 2015 Ram 3500.
Bushwacker Fender Flares

2018 Truck (lbs)2021 Truck (lbs)Difference (lbs)
Steer Axel4180444060
Drive Axel286029601300
Gross Weight70407400360
2021 weight chart
Blue 2015 Ram 3500 blue truck on a CAT Scale with sunset in the background.
Fall 2021 truck weigh-in without the camper.
Blue truck camper on a CAT Scale.
Fall 2021 truck weigh-in without the camper.

A Work In Progress

The passage of time may. be a bit of a shock. There are a lot of camper builds out there that are turned around in a matter of months. Of course, we are not the kinds to sacrifice quality in the interest of speed. And given our interest in experimentation and research, building decisions take time at the Roam Lab. Not to mention, we have been traveling in the truck camper throughout the years. So, yes, it’s been years, and will take more before we might come close to considering this build finished. In the meantime, we will continue to update this page new additions warrant weigh-ins.

Join the conversation: Do you have any questions about RV weight? Let us know in the comments!

* Based on 6,963 lbs weight reported by the factory for a 2015 Ram 3500 crew cab long box, 4X4, SRW, 6.4L V8 HEMI 3.73 axle ration truck.

Lexi lives in a truck camper down by the river.

Comments:

  • Michael

    October 21, 2021

    It is very interesting following you throughout your adventures. Interesting take on the camper weight. Thanks 😊

    reply...
    • Lexi

      October 21, 2021

      Thank you, Michael! It’s an interesting metric to track.

      reply...

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