Vintage 1970 Avion C11 truck camper exploring the Utah desert on the Rimrocker off-road and OHV trail

If you have been as lucky as us, you have not had the need to remove your spare tire from its storage space. Just this weekend, we realized how incredibly fortunate we really are to be among this group…thus far.

Upsizing Tires

We are in the middle of researching sizing up our tires. Dodgy II: The Truckening is a 2015 Ram 3500 Tradesman and came with 32-inch tires from the factory. While our current set of Goodyear’s Wrangler® UltraTerrain AT™ Tires are still in good shape, we want to improve our offroading capabilities with larger, knobbier tires. We were settled on 37-inch tires when a problem was brought to our attention: where will the spare tire go?

Like many trucks, our spare tire is stored underneath our bed. It’s a handy, out-of-the-way spot. But it shares that area with the exhaust pipe and other truck components. Sizing up the tire to a 37-inch diameter would make the spare too large to fit in this compartment as it currently stands. Fortunately, we were already at Overland Expo East when we encountered this problem. So, we did the round of tire manufacturers to consider our options.

  • Store the Tire in the Truck: The simplest solution is just to use some of the truck’s preexisting storage for the tire. Usually, this means the truck bed. But we have our camper in the truck bed. So that isn’t an option for us. We do, however, have space in the cab. We removed the back seats in our cab to store our bikes and a refrigerator. We have some room left that could accomodate a tire. But that would block the passthrough that we are planning between the truck cab and camper.
  • Create A New Storage Compartment: This is a common upgrade among overlanders. Sizing up tires is a natural modification and many manufacturers offer aftermarket storage solutions. Rear tire mounts are the most common. Fancy custom campers like Earth Roamers have built in recesses to store the spare tire. But this would mean mounting the tire on our vintage camper, which we don’t have the heart to deface in that way. Instead, many truck campers make room for their oversized tubes between the camper and the cab. But that would block the pass-through that we are planning. On the other hand, shorter rigs that aren’t covered in solar can store their tires on the roof. We are neither. Even so, with all these limitations, we even concidered mounting the tire to the front bumper. However, that would mean blocking our winch. And, when we need our winch, we don’t want to have to remove a tire first.
  • Don’t Get A Tire Larger Than The Tire Compartment: It turns out that our campartment can accomodate tires larger than the 32-inch factory tire. We can’t fit a 37-inch tire, but we could fit a 35-inch tire. So maybe we just make due with that.
  • Use An Undersized Spare: This is a messy solution. To run smoothly, vehicles should run on matching sets of tires. But to make it from the point where we must change the tires to a mechanic, could we use an undersized tire? Say, we maxed out the current tire compartment with a 35-inch tire but ran with 37-inch tires on the wheels? There would be a two inch difference in diameter. This would be trouble on our rear wheels or in 4-wheel drive but maybe, just maybe, we could use a 2-inch smaller tire on a front wheel in 2-wheel drive? Opinions are mixed. And, however you slice it, this is sub-optimal.
  • Modify the Storage Compartment: This is where things can get truly complicated. There is some room for a larger tire, but not enough for a 37-inch diameter. To make that room, something will have to give. What that really means, will requre a lot of research that we are still in the process of assesing.
Man walking along a white Jeep along an uneven dirt course at Overland Expo East 2021 in Arrington, Virginia.
The spare tire sits on a rear rack on this Jeep
Touring the interior of an EarthRoamer during the conclusion of the Factory Tour, Dacono, Colorado
Custom tire cutout on this EarthRoamer
This is a fully expanded XP Camper. The section above the truck cab is fabric but everything else has hard siding. You can see a line along the center of the body where the top section slides over the bottom section when the camper is compressed. The side entrance allows a full width table with picture window at the back but means that this camper is not a slide in. The truck bed is converted to allow a full width camper. See the industrial metal base that is substituted for a truck bed.
The spare tire sits between the cab and camper for this XP Camper.

The Other Shoe Drops

It’s as we are contemplating these other tire options that we start looking at our spare and wondering what it would take to make the storage space larger that we make the awful realization. To access the tire as it is stored, we use a crank mechanism at the back of the truck bed. But something else occupies that space: the fiberglass basement that hangs off the rear of our camper. When the camper is mounted on our truck, we cannot access the crank with the jack designed for it.

We can use a wrench to access the spare crank in a bind. But it only serves to impress upon us how lucky we have been up to now. In the past we didn’t have a dedicated truck tool kit for traveling and that is a very tight space.

That means all those times we were exploring remote rough trails in Big Bend, Anza Borrego, or the Rimrocker Trail between Montrose and Moab, we might not have been able to replace our tire if we had punctured it. We are fortunate that we haven’t needed the tire up to this point. But now that we know that our emergency backup is inaccessible while traveling, we need to find a better solution immediately.

But what that means, we’re still researching.

What about you? Have you sized up your tires? Did you need to find a new storage solution? Let us know about it in the comments below!

1970 Avion C11 truck camper on a 2015 Ram 2500 tradesman truck camper driving through the alpine tundra on Old River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Driving down Old River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Man stepping out of a 1970 Avion C11 truck camper at Houchin Ferry Campground in Mammoth Cave National Park.
Snugly in place among the trees.
Muley Point is a mecca for boondockers, overlanders, and outdoor adventurers, hovering over the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Southern Utah.
A glimpse of Monument Valley from Muley Point.

Lexi lives in a truck camper down by the river.


  • Mark Tomsche

    October 31, 2021

    It’s probably going to be difficult to make the current spare tire storage area large enough to fit the 37 inch but if you can enlarge it just a little you might be able to squeeze a very lightly inflated 37 inch in there. You want just enough air in the spare that it keeps the beads seated and of course you would want a way to inflate the tire to a useable air pressure when you need it. Notice I didn’t add a “when” to that because someday it will happen.
    I had a car that didn’t have room for a spare and I had a flat about 75 miles from home late on a Sunday night when nothing was open. My only option was to drive on the flat tire which wasn’t all that bad although I arrived home with nothing left of the tire except for two strips still on the bead. I assumed the rim would be ruined but the next day I had a new tire mounted on it and it was fine. I got lucky with that one and I don’t recommend doing what I did that night! Part of the point of telling this is my way of saying if you could put on a 35 inch spare and drive it I think you would be just fine if you drove slower and got a replacement tire at the next town and that would certainly be the easiest solution. Good luck!

    • Lexi

      December 1, 2021

      Thanks, Mark!
      That’s an interesting point on deflating the 37-inch tire. I’ve gotten conflicting messages from manufacturers about whether I can deflate the tires enough to fit in a smaller well. At the very least, we have settled on a wheel that is overrated for our weight. So, worst-case scenario, we have some extra support. Hopefully, we won’t have too far of a drive to cover when the inevitable happens

  • Bob Davidson

    December 1, 2021

    Hmm. Well, mounting the tire on the front bumper would be in keeping with your Avion’s 70’s vibe. Every third truck camper at the KOA had one mounted there back in the day. And while a hassle to dismount for winching, my guess is that will be a hell of a lot easier than using the now hidden factory tire winch to drop the spare from the OEM position. You could even make (or have made) a spare mount for the front bumper that swings or slides out of the way for winching duties.

    But if you INSIST on mounting a 37″ under the bed where Dodge had it, you could try this trick. Fully deflate the spare. If necessary, wrap a ratchet strap around the tire and compress it to get it up in there. Just make sure to use something like this:

    Lastly, if you ever need a spare C11, I have one in storage I would love to find a good home for.

    • Lexi

      December 1, 2021

      You have a fair point with the 70’s vibe of a front bumper mount. I may have too quickly dismissed that option. Though it would hide our bumper and I’m very fond of it, after all the work we did mounting it. On the other hand, while this would be more accessible than the OEM position, there’s also the function of the frequency of use. We’ve never had to access the tire before but we have used the winch many times. So I still think that blocking the winch would be more inconvenient than accessing the OEM tire storage.

      I’m intrigued by your idea of ratcheting a 37″ tire to make it fit in the 35″ well. I’ll have to keep an eye out for a used tire to test that out. I wouldn’t want to buy a set and discover that I can’t quite make it work.

      A few years ago, we would have lept at the opportunity for a second C11, but I’m not sure we’re up for another project any time soon. What kind of condition is it in?


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