The overland marketplace is hot. Without a doubt, the hottest trend in the overland world is the lightweight, pop-up truck camper. We’ve highlighted several of these smaller campers lately like the Outfitter Caribou Lite and the EarthCruiser Adventure MOD. These traditional slide-ins provide most of the amenities that you would expect to find in a truck camper. However, a new breed of pop-up has recently exploded on to the overland scene—the pop-up truck topper. These pop-up campers are even lighter in weight than a traditional, slide-in pop-up, yet they still provide lots of interior standing room, a comfortable bed, lockable storage, and a place on the roof to store things like kayaks and bicycles. At the latest Overland Expo, we counted six companies producing this new, lightweight style of pop-up. One of the best ones we saw at the show was the AT Overland Summit. To learn more about this exciting new pop-up, we spoke with Mario Donovan, the owner of AT Overland.
TCA: Thanks, Mario, for taking the time to talk with us about the Summit. But before we do so, can you first tell us about AT Overland and how the company got its start?
Mario: We started AT Overland in 2001 as importers of trailers from South Africa. We soon discovered that it was better for us to design our own trailers to address shortcomings of the imported product, most specifically we created our own trailing arm air suspension to improve off-road handling characteristics. Over time we expanded our product line to include storage systems for vehicles and accessories, which then evolved into performing complete vehicle builds that include suspension, armor, recovery equipment and fulfilling all manner of custom requests. In 2008, we released our first Habitat top for the Jeep Wrangler JKU and then in 2015 the pickup truck version of the Habitat. This year we have released the new Summit topper for pickup trucks.
TCA: What inspired you to build a pop-up like the Summit?
Mario: The Summit was inspired by requests from our customers. They wanted a topper that is as durable as our Habitat with the ability to deploy it while keeping their outdoor toys on top without the weight of a conventional slide-in truck camper. Because our clients like to use our products in all types of weather, we focused on making sure that the Summit would be a comfortable shelter. We achieved this by insulating the roof and walls with honeycomb composites and the tent with an insulative, fire retardant specialty fabric.
TCA: Which trucks are compatible with the Summit?
Mario: We have sizes of the Summit for 5- and 6-foot midsize trucks like the Tacoma and Colorado, 5.5- and 6.5-foot full-size trucks like the Ford F-150 and Ford Raptor, Tundra, Silverado and RAM 1500-3500, the Ram Power Wagon, and the 6.75-foot Ford F-250.
TCA: Is the Summit built completely in your shop?
Mario: Yes, it’s entirely built in Prescott, Arizona, USA!
TCA: How much does the topper weigh? How is it constructed?
Mario: The base Summit weighs 300 to 340 pounds depending upon truck model, well within the GVWR and payload ratings of all trucks. It is built from CNC cut and formed aluminum with honeycomb composite bonded in to provide strength and insulation. The interior walls are then covered with a tight weave indoor outdoor carpeting to keep condensation at a minimum. Our proprietary box beam construction gives the cab over section incredible rigidity.
TCA: What is the fabric in the pop-top made of?
Mario: The fabric is a wax impregnated cotton poly fire-retardant fabric that is both breathable and waterproof. The optional insulating liner which provides a 39 degree F barrier is made with fire-retardant Thinsulate.
TCA: Is there an enclosed floor in the Summit or do you walk directly on the bed of the truck?
Mario: You walk directly on the bed of the truck.
TCA: Why did you decide to go with a wedge style pop-up like those used in the EarthCruiser GZL/Adventure MOD rather than a traditional “flat-top” pop-up?
Mario: We decided on the wedge style as its roof angle is better at shedding snow than a flat-top pop-up camper.
TCA: Can you tell us about the sleep platform and how it works?
Mario: The Summit has an upper sleep platform and mattress that raises up and out-of-the-way when moving around in the bed of the truck, simply pull it down and your bed is revealed. Two great features of this system are that you can leave your bedding in place in the Summit is closed up and when the sleep platform is deployed there is still 3 feet of room for someone to stand in the rear of the truck bed. The platform can support up to 500 pounds.
TCA: What are the dimensions of the bed and how thick is the mattress?
Mario: The bed measures 48×80 inches. The mattress is 2.5 inches thick.
TCA: Does the Summit come with a kitchen sink, cabinets, a refrigerator, and storage, things that you would normally find in a regular slide-in pop-up truck camper?
Mario: The Summit is a basic topper and does not come with any of those things. However, there are options available from us to configure the truck bed with those types of features.
TCA: How are the cabinets, refrigerator, and storage mounted? Do they mount directly to the bed of the truck?
Mario: We use a special plate made for us by Goose Gear that has a pattern of threaded inserts in it and that plate is mounted to the truck bed. All accessories attach to threaded inserts in the plate. This eliminates the unevenness of the truck bed floor and makes installation and removal of accessories simpler.
TCA: Does the Summit have any provisions for a fresh water holding tank and a porta pottie?
Mario: Yes, you can get both as an option.
TCA: What about 12 volt power and solar?
Mario: Yep, each rear corner section has a wiring raceway designed for 12 volt and USB sockets. Solar panels can be mounted to the roof, we recommend semi-flexible panels for the lowest profile.
TCA: What other options can you get with the Summit?
Mario: There are many common options such as, but not limited to:
- Cab slider window
- Roof Rack (three bars)
- Side slider windows, glass
- Seitz “Euro-style” side windows, 17×43 inches
- Side hatch doors 17×43 inches
- Roof Window Hatch, 19.5×27.5 inches, double pane acrylic with blind and screen, LED lighting
- Rear liftgate insert window, glass
- Interior lighting (two LEDs: white, red or amber)
- Interior lighting (single switched 9 LED, white)
- A 12 volt power system (one 12 volt power port, one double USB, two LED lights)
- Habitat side awning
- 270 degree Eeziawn Batwing side awning
- Insulated tent liner
- Interior cabinetry
- Forced air heating
- Color match to vehicle
TCA: Can you equip the Summit with some kind of pull-out stove?
Mario: Yes, we recommend our combo slide, which not only holds our special Partner Steel high-output two-burner stove, but also a 50L or 60L top-loading fridge such as a National Luna, ARB or Dometic.
TCA: How durable is the roof? How much weight can it support?
Mario: Our roof is insanely durable! You can walk all over the top of it without any fear of damage when it is closed. It will carry up to 100 pounds of toys on the rack and you can still easily deploy the roof. With the roof closed, the roof rack option will easily carry lumber for your home DIY projects.
TCA: How much standing room does the Summit provide inside with the top up?
Mario: It has 8 feet of standing room in the rear and 6 feet in the front.
TCA: What are the advantages of going with a camper like the Summit compared to just getting a basic Four Wheel Camper shell?
Mario: We are really comparing apples and oranges here. We are also a Four Wheel Camper dealer and fan of that product, so it’s better to cite the differences as people have different needs:
- Weight. A Summit is only 300 to 340 pounds depending upon truck model, a Four Wheel Camper shell is 781 to 931 pounds depending upon the truck model.
- The Summit has a narrower profile and follows the line of the truck body giving it better aerodynamic drag performance and better clearance in heavily treed driving conditions.
- You can walk on the roof without any fear of damage. The static load rating for the Summit is 350 pounds in the dynamic load is 100 pounds. This means you can still easily open the roof while carrying a canoe, kayak or a couple of bikes.
- The thick 0.60-inch aluminum skin and 3/4-inch thick composite panels make the exterior extremely durable to the extent that you don’t have to worry about denting the Summit if you accidentally hit a tree branch.
- The Summit with its liftgate and retention of the truck’s tailgate makes it much easier to take cargo in and out of the bed of the truck. For example if you wish to travel with your bikes protected inside of the Summit, it is easier compared to getting through the narrow door of a Four Wheel Camper.
- The Summit is ideally suited for the person who will use the truck as a daily driver and needs the truck bed assessable for cargo.
TCA: How was the Summit received at the recent Overland Expo West? What kind of feedback did you receive?
Mario: It was very well received considering that we did not announce its release, we simply showed up with it. Both attendees and the media were surprised and delighted to see it in our booth and we started taking orders right away.
TCA: We saw five other truck toppers at the Overland Expo West? Do you see this type of camper becoming more popular in the coming years?
Mario: Yes we do. As mid-size trucks become more popular and fuel mileage more important, toppers such as our Summit make a lot more sense. The modularity of our available options also makes it much easier for the DIY inclined client to use a Summit as their canvas to paint their vision of utility without the constraints of forced options. We like to think of it as our own “tiny house” offering, but with a four-wheel drivetrain.
TCA: Any plans to make a Summit for the new Jeep Wrangler Scrambler pickup?
Mario: Yes, we will make a Summit as well as a Habitat for the new Jeep Wrangler Scrambler pickup when it is released, turning a capable off-road rig into a robust off-road camper system.
TCA: What is the base price of the Summit?
Mario: $8,900 with carpeting and insulation standard.
TCA: The Summit is pretty cool. If somebody wanted to order one from AT Overland today, how long would it take to construct it?
Mario: The Current lead time is about 12 weeks.