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Thursday, October 22, 2015

This has got to be the biggest truck camper on the market today

When we bought our first big truck camper, we thought it was really BIG. An 11 and a half foot behemoth, we first lugged it around on a 3/4 ton pickup. While at the time we would have described ourselves as "optimists," looking back I think a better descriptor would have been "idiots." We later wound up with a 1-ton dually, a far more stable platform, and a lot less prone to making passengers seasick when on rolling roads. We eventually had to give up truck campers – the old bones and joints just couldn't handle the climbing into bed.

Well, if we thought that big old truck camper of ours was big, as the saying goes, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Trucking out of a factory in central Washington comes the new Adventurer 1200. Forget 11 feet. Forget 11 and a half. Try on 12 feet of truck camper – a full four-foot of overhang in the standard pickup bed. And a wee bit wide on top of it – eight and a half feet wide. And what do they do with all this space, you ask? Well, we'll get to the amenities in a minute, but we'll mention that the "ground floor" of this new Eagle Cap camper doesn't sit anywhere near the bed of the truck – it's suspended above the bedrails.

While the thought of all this "space" and mass suspended up in the air does make my stomach do a flip-flop, Adventurer's engineers say they did it for the sake of livability. Not only do you not have a lot of toe-kicking on the floor, wherein you'd normally have to take away floor space for wheel wells, the company has added (wait for it) three slide-outs. A galley slide (at the rear) features, not your typical built-it dinette, but free floating table and chairs. On the street-side a smallish slide-out contains a sofa, or as an option – two "theatre" style seats. And that third slide? Occupying the curb-side slide is the galley. Head forward and you'll find access to the shower, dry bath, "dressing room," on the left, and to the right another passage to the bedroom, wherein awaits a California King size bed.

Says the company press release: "The galley includes a standard 30-inch microwave and convection oven standard, a large countertop with pull-out pantry storage, six storage drawers and large under-sink storage below a solid surface Grani-Coat countertop with one-piece molded sinks. The 1200 comes standard with an 8-cubic-foot refrigerator." And on your way to your bedroom suite, should you pass through the dressing room, your garments will await in, "a large wardrobe, four large dresser drawers and a large additional storage area with adjustable shelves."

No other delight has been spared, evidently. You can option in a 32" TV that can be seen from either the dining area at the rear, or from the entertainment seating area. Access to the interior of your new home is via a door on the curb side of the rig. For some of us, this could mean the need to bring an oxygen bottle, as the ascent to the interior means climbing a fold-down set of four steps to reach the threshold, then one more hefty-looking step up onto the main floor. At least bedroom access is a little more accommodating than what we were used to in our rig. Instead of having to set up a short step ladder and then make a leap up to the bed, with the 1200, "you just simply sit down [on the floor] and then crawl into bed."

And what of other storage? Well, with all that space under the main floor, you will indeed find plenty of stowage with outside access. Thirty cubic feet of storage is accessed from the rear of the rig – through the same door you open to access dump levers for the waste holding system. And speaking of holding tanks: Gone are the days of frequent back-and-forths to the dump station. Both black and gray tanks have 34 gallon capacities each; and fresh water to pump into them is at 66 gallons. LP? You'll find the rig uses common, upright standing 20 pound cylinders for "easy exchange everywhere."

Seems like a lot of rig. Here's the specifics: With a "dry weight" of 4,801 pounds, the company decidedly recommends a one-ton dually as a pack animal for this critter. But beware, that's dry weight, and no doubt that's without "options" like the available LP generator, awning, etc. Then don't forget the weight of your own gear, food, and passengers. Then there's that small matter of 528 pounds for a full fresh water tank, and another 40 pounds for propane. Better look to your pickup truck's gross vehicle weight ratings and run the numbers closely.

And while you're running numbers, here are some more important ones. Suggested retail price, base with zero options -- $49,973. Add in the "typical" options and the company tells us the "standard build" runs $57,715 with stuff like a generator, air conditioner, and television. With that kind of loot in play, we can imagine there might be some intrepid souls who become full-timers in their Eagle Cap 1200.

Check out the video, or pay a visit to the web site at

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Weight ratings -- they're not for tires only -- check out your rims

Truck camper owners, you pack a lot of weight in the bed of that pickup truck. With that in mind, there's plenty written about the need for checking tires, knowing your load weight, and never, ever exceeding the load capacity of your tires. But there may be another area of concern that comes from this tale.

A truck camper owner got tired of the way his tires handled with his camper on board, so he switched out tires with a good weight rating. He tooled around nearly four years and 10,000 miles with the tires, never had a problem. Then one fine day he came home from a trip and unloaded his camper, and a quick inspection revealed cracks in his rear wheel (rim) spokes. Yep, that spot where the "arms" of the wheel connected to the outer rim of the wheel were decidedly – and dangerously – compromised.

The official language of wheel dealers reads like this: "The load rating of a wheel, as determined by the wheel manufacturer, must never be exceeded. Manufacturers identify a wheel’s maximum load rating and tire diameter by checking the back of the wheel or with the wheel manufacturer. If the load rating is not available the wheel should not be used on the vehicle."

Have you "beefed up" your tires to handle the increased load of your truck camper? When you did, did you also check the weight rating of your wheels? Or maybe you were happy as a clam with your tires, but those OEM rims, "they just looked so lousy." So perhaps you traded out for those fancy spiffed up alloy wheels. When you did, did you check the weight rating?

Well, here's a bit more industry jargon: "Wheel load rating requirements are determined by dividing the vehicles heaviest gross axle weight rating by 2. The axle weight rating for most vehicles is shown on the identification label located on the driver’s side door jamb, gas tank door, truck lid or glove compartment." That's all well and good, but sometimes (and we won't mention any names) some folks just can't quite abide by the "ratings" and may just "push it a little bit." We're not asking for a show of hands, but if that applies to you, you may want to rethink your wheel load ratings.

Think that cracks in wheels are a passing fancy, another ploy of the "weight Nazis"? When he heard about the fellow we mentioned at the outside, another truck camper owner decided to inspect his wheels, too. You know it, he too, found cracks in his rims. Put this one on your checklist – it could save your bacon, your truck camper, or the lives of your loved ones.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lance 975 model narrows "trade off' gap in truck camping

Some of our happiest days in RVing were our truck camper days. The ability to go just about anywhere we wanted – and get back in one piece – made seeking out natural beauty oh, so much easier. But as any truck camper enthusiast will tell you, truck campers are about trade-offs. The more you want to have in the way of features and space, the heavier the rig is going to get.

Lance has rolled out its new 975 model, and from all appearances, are trying to shrink down the trade-off gap. A hard-sided unit, with a dry bath, and a full-wall slideout that promises storage, roominess, and the kicker – keeping the whole thing under 4,000 pounds. Sounds like a tall order.

As to space: The floor length here isn't the largest available, but a pretty comfortable 10 foot 4 inch run; with a queen bed in the cabover, the overall length runs four inches over 19 feet. For a guy like me, interior height was never a big deal, but for you long-in-the-leg folks, you'll probably appreciate an interior ceiling that gives six-foot seven-inches of head space.

Tall also spells out a unique rear compartment, left of the entry door. Got fishing poles? How about a snow-board? This aft outside access storage compartment will handle them all. And while you're there fishing in it, you can step up on the optional "ultaDeckplus" bumper. The entry door to get people inside is also taller than the average in the industry, 80" worth.

There are other "different" sorts of features. You can option in two awnings, a long side-awning, and one over the rear entry door, if you like. Commented on as well, is the winterization compartment, accessed from outside. The compartment is heated to prevent cold weather damage, and you'll find the valves and goodies in one place to set up for winter storage. Similarly, the other service compartment contains dump valves, TV connections, and an outside shower, all in one place.

If you trot over to the Lance 975 page, you can "build your own" by clicking on whatever options you'd like to see in your brand new rig. We tried it, picking out the options we'd have in our dream (yeah, if we could afford it) camper, then compared the "standard equipped" weight to one with all our options. These included adding an LP generator, bumper package, microwave oven, TV set, a side-mounted awning, and some other relatively lightweight stuff. Our options stuck on an additional 613 pounds, but still kept the whole unit under the 4,000 pound promise. Yes, 3,943 pounds is close, but still under.

Part of the way Lance keeps the scales down is for us, as boondockers, a bit on the weird side. While you're still comfortable with 45 gallons of fresh water tankage, OK with 30 gallons of grey water, and a little tight with 26 gallons of black water room, the LP could be shy for some. Instead of twin, 7 gallon cylinders, Lance opts to save some weight by handing over only two 5 gallon cylinders.

Interior appointments could be addressed as comfortable. The oddest thing we saw were the drawers, which don't have flat fronts as you'd imagine most drawers to be. In keeping with the design elements of the galley, they're wider on the left side than the right. Sorry, my high school geometry fails me, but these drawers sure aren't rectangles!

Base price, a little less than $34,000. Check out the website here.

Visit Russ and Tiña De Maris' production, Your RV Podcast each week.

Photos and floorplan: Lance Camper