Choosing the camper and the truck are tightly linked: the weight and size of the camper determined what truck we needed, and the truck determined how large of a camper we could choose.
Re-iterating, here are the criteria we had for a camper:
- Minimum 6.4″ interior height; I’m 6.2″
- North-South Queen size bed, so we don’t have to climb over each other getting in or out.
- Indoor shower and toilet
- 40+ gallons of water so we can camp for a week self-contained.
- Minimum overall height and length, again along the “keep it as small as possible”.
- Maximize the height in the bed area so we can get in and out, minimize claustrophobia, and read comfortably
- Cassette toilet; haven’t used one before, but they get rave reviews from everyone, and in South America, we don’t expect to find too many RV dumps.
- 12V compressor fridge as opposed to propane. (Get a better fridge, plus minimize propane usage…).
As always, there is too much data on the internet, and it’s easy to drown. The websites that we used the most on reading up on truck campers were:
http://www.rv.net in particular the truck camper forum
http://www.truckcamperforum.com/ another forum, this one dedicated to truck campers
http://www.adventurouspirits.com/ Tom and Janet have an excellent blog, and discuss their truck and camper in detail
http://www.expeditionportal.com a plethora of information on overlanding, and numerous threads on truck campers
After doing a fair amount of reading, we decided that we were going with a pop-up truck camper. The two big reasons were:
1) To minimize the travel height. We had bad visions of getting stuck under bridges, arches, trees, and/or snagging power lines.
2) Weight. While this may not totally hold true, it certainly appears that pop-up campers are significantly lighter that rigid campers of the same size.
There are a handful, may be even a dozen, manufacturers of pop-up campers. As it happens, three of them are in Colorado, and all close to Boulder. They are Coyote, Hallmark, and Outfitter. We decided to go with one of the local manufacturers as it make life much easier to specify the camper when you can see an actual camper, talk to someone face to face, and have someone close in case of repairs.
We looked at the Hallmark camper, but we chose to go with Outfitter. They provided a North-South bed as a standard, the height over the bed was higher, the weight was lower, and a few other things. Bob Ward at Outfiitter was very helpful and provided good information / tips / knowledge during a few visits to their facility. The only downside was that the leadtime was much longer than we had hoped for. We ordered the camper in end of March, but we couldn’t take delivery until July.
The camper is an Apex 8.
A nice video of what the inside looks like is available here: http://outfittermfg.com/campers/new-campers/virtual-tours.
In terms of options, we went with:
- Extended cab-over bed with pull-out bed over the dinette
- 200 W of solar
- Tundra compressor fridge
- Additional fantastic fan, we now have one over the bed and one between the stove and dinette
- Emergency escape skylight / vent over the bed
- No ladder up to the roof
- Cassette toilet
- Replaced black water tank, which is not needed with the cassette, with additional fresh water. We now carry 60 gallons
- Four 6V AGM batteries
- Additional overhead cabinet over the dinette
- Cherry cabinets
- Built-in safe
- No decals
We added the emergency exit skylight as a just in case someone goes really, really wrong. At the same time, from a security perspective, we didn’t want anyone to be able to climb up on top of the camper and thereby be able to, perhaps, break in though the emergency exit skylight. Thus we removed the rear ladder. As we are not carrying anything on the top of the camper anyway, this shouldn’t be a problem. And if something does go wrong with the solar system or one of the fans, we can still get to the roof via the emergency exit.
We had heard great things about the Tundra fridge, and we wanted to minimize our usage of propane, so we went with the compressor fridge powered by the solar / batteries.
Finally, we wanted a clean look, and minimize as much as possible the rich American perception, so we do not have any Outfitter decals on the camper.
A few pics below. For more on how it works, see the page Commissioning