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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

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A new truck camper with a funny name may challenge "camper" perceptions

If you'd had opportunity to take in the big RV show in Louisville, Kentucky back in January, you had the opportunity to get a glimpse of a new entrant into the truck camper fraternity. A curvaceous camper, with some interesting design and engineering schemes may shake up the existing truck camper world when it comes to the marketplace.

The new camper is dubbed Cirrus, and it's a product of Little Guy Worldwide. Both the names of the model and the maker surely run contrary to the run-of-the-mill offerings of industry in general, and maybe that says something for this new camper. When I think of "cirrus" I think, "Yeah, those thin, wispy clouds." And "Little Guy"? Yep. But Little Guy has broken the mold here. The company produces an cute but practical line of modern tear-drop trailers called T@G and T@B. Now Little Guy enters the truck camper field.



Cirrus is anything but thin and wispy. Lightweight, yes, the new product is projected to scale in at a modest 2,000 pounds. A lot of that is due to the construction technique, including all-around aluminum framing. And to come up with a 'new and unique' design, the company flew in a few of their trailer dealers, sat 'em down and asked, "If you were building a "new" truck camper, what would you put in?" The results are intriguing. We'll touch on a few of the features.

Don't know about you, but one of the great things about getting away in the rig is being able to lay back and get some serious Zs. Truck camper beds don't always lend themselves well to that function, so imagine being able to "set" your bed for your particular comfort level. No, forget about 'sleep by number' air mattresses. Instead, under the mattress you'll find a supporting network of gizmos that you can twist around and set to your comfort for firmness, or less firmness. And if your RVing takes you out in cooler weather, imagine the mattress actually being heated from underneath.

Where's the heat come from? Another one of those decidedly "un-truck-camper-like" features. A radiant heat system provides heat through the floor and the deck space under the bed. Fired either by LP gas, or electricity, the system also provides hot water on demand for the shower and sinks.

Speaking of the shower, the wet bath has an interesting feature of its own. The sink isn't the tiny, barely big enough to spit in variety, it's good sized, but to allow plenty of space for the bigger folk to shower, folds up to the wall when not in use.

Outfitted in more European design, don't expect a lot of walnut cabinetry. The design is sleek and clean. The galley sink sports a fold-down glass top, as does the gas range. Ach, here's where we get off. Our RV has a four-burner stove, and we at times, use all of them at once. Our last truck camper had three burners, which was tolerable. But the Cirrus, count them, just two burners. Perhaps the company tries to make up for this by providing a convection-microwave oven. And easing the pain also means a five and a half cubic foot Norcold, 3-way refrigerator.

Other interesting features? How about, "no more swinging screen door." The screen door to the radius arched doorway comes out of a recess and cleverly slides over the door opening. Keeps the bugs out, while allowing in plenty of light.

Yes, there are curves everywhere in this new Cirrus camper. Take a look for yourself in the company video. It's a rather lengthy 16-minute presentation with a couple of goofy talking heads, but if you can wade through some of the inane commentary, you'll find out what the future holds for Little Guy – and maybe your next truck camper.

Listen to Russ and Tiña's new Internet program, Your RV Podcast. Click here to go to their Program Notes page.