In the Spotlight: 2018 Phoenix Mini-Max Pop-Up Camper

An Interview with Rob Rowe of Phoenix Pop-Up Campers

2018 has been a terrific year in truck camper development with several new models being released. Among these are two, groundbreaking pop-ups—the Bundutec Wild and the Phoenix Mini-Max. Not only are both campers equipped with a shower and a toilet, but they’re also equipped with a grey water holding tank. While we sang the praises of the new Bundutec Wild in an earlier review, the Phoenix Mini-Max has accomplished something the Wild hasn’t, at least not yet—it fits on a mid-size truck. But that’s not all. The Mini-Max is equipped with several other goodies that would make any truck camper owner drool. To learn more about this revolutionary, little pop-up and how it was designed and built, we spoke with Rob Rowe, the owner of Phoenix Pop-Up Campers.

TCA: Thanks, Rob, for taking the time to talk with us about your new camper, the Mini-Max. But before we do so, can you tell us how your company got its start?

Rob Rowe: Sure! My dad started Four Wheel Campers in 1973 by building a camper to fit the family Scout II. Someone saw that camper, wanted one, and Dad built them one. This happened a few times, and it snowballed into a business. In 1988, the family sold the Four Wheel Camper name, and Rob started Phoenix Pop-up Campers as a new streamlined version of the company focused on custom, and hand made quality.

TCA: Wow, that’s pretty cool. I didn’t know your dad started Four Wheel Campers. Tell us a little about the Mini-Max. How did the concept and design start?

Rob Rowe: We’ve been building custom, one of a kind campers for many years now. Many folks have ordered a certain group of options, in fact, so many that we felt it was time to offer an actual model with that certain set of options. Also, we’ve been wanting to create a really classy camper designed especially for the mid-size and smaller trucks. So the answer is the “Mini-Max,” a nice little camper, with the most popular option package, and made especially to fit smaller trucks, like the Toyota Tacoma.

TCA: What makes the Mini-Max different from other truck campers in the market?

Rob Rowe: There are so many little details that make the Mini-Max special. But I think the wet-bath, the aerodynamic cab-over, the push button electric roof lift, and the unique size are some of the most distinct features.

TCA: We love the wet-bath. Putting a wet-bath in a camper of this size is difficult. How did you do it?

Rob Rowe: We sourced just the right gray tank, created a space for it, under a sub-floor just big enough for feet, then set the compact Thetford cassette toilet on the remaining shelf above. It all tucks in together just right, while using the smallest possible footprint in the corner of the camper.

TCA: Is the Mini Max made for short-bed trucks only?

Rob Rowe: Actually, the Mini-Max has a floor length approximately 71 inches. So, it’s a great size to fit in a long bed Tacoma with the tailgate shut behind. Or it is a nice fit on the short bed Tacoma size trucks, with just a little over-hang in the back.

TCA: What is the dry weight of the camper?

Rob Rowe: It’s approximately 1,180 pounds.

TCA: Which trucks match well with it with regard to payload and size?

Rob Rowe: All small to mid-size trucks, with optional “air bags.” We also build a Mini-Max for full size half ton trucks. Same basic equipment and specs, except the body floor length is adjusted to fit the truck.

TCA: What are the tank capacities of the Mini-Max?

Rob Rowe: Approximate tank sizes are one 20-pound propane tank; fresh water 18 gallons; grey water 8 gallons; black water cassette toilet 5 gallons; and a 6-gallon Suburban water heater.

TCA: How many batteries does the battery compartment hold?

Rob Rowe: One, good size deep cycle battery.

TCA: How durable is the roof on this pop-up?

Rob Rowe: It’s very strong and sturdy. You can actually walk around on the roof.

TCA: How much weight can the roof support?

Rob Rowe: It has a 1,200-pound snow load rating (with the snow props engaged)

TCA: I assume standard solar panels and roof racks can be installed on the roof. Is that correct?

Rob Rowe: Solar panel/system (100 watt with controller and wiring system) is actually standard equipment on the Mini-Max. Racks are optional.

TCA: Do you offer any options in cabinetry like different wood finishes?

Rob Rowe: Absolutely. The show unit in the photos is made with a very popular color option—Beatle Kill Pine faced cabinets and doors. The standard cabinet color birch, with a clear coat finish. We can stain the standard birch just about any color you like, as an option. Upon request, we can even do more exotic cabinet materials, like bamboo.

TCA: What are the most popular options ordered by your customers?

Rob Rowe: Roof racks, ladder, flood lights, Air Conditioner, Rotopax fuel/water containers, and custom cabinet finishes. These options are shown on the photos provided.

TCA: Can customers order an inverter that’s fully integrated with the camper’s 110 volt electrical system?

Rob Rowe: Yes, they sure can.

TCA: What’s the largest solar power option that you offer?

Rob Rowe: There is enough room on the Mini-Max’s roof for about 500 watts.

TCA: Which entry step system do you recommend?

Rob Rowe: Funny you should ask that.  I actually prefer a simple plastic two step stool.  Simple, light weight, cheap, dependable, available at most home improvement stores and on-line.  But many of our customers order folding aluminum scissor steps.

TCA: How many 12 volt/USB charging outlets come standard?

Rob Rowe: One comes standard, but some folks request more as an option

TCA: Which options do you offer for awnings?

Rob Rowe: The Mini-Max includes a Carefree Freedom III 8-foot crank out awning.  Some customers ask for a rear awing option, Carefree Truck-in’ awn.

TCA: Can you tell us a little bit about how the Mini-Max is constructed?

Rob Rowe: The Mini-Max is built with all the same high quality materials and processes we use to build all Phoenix Custom Campers.  It is an all aluminum double welded tube cage frame, stuffed with high density polystyrene extruded foam board insulation, covered on the interior with Azdel composite fiber panels, and protected by a tough outer shell of pre-laminated thick one piece CRANE fiberglass.

TCA: What is the fabric portion of the pop-up made of?

Rob Rowe: The triple-layer, insulated liner has taken us many years to develop.  The outer layer is a nylon weave coated with heavy duty vinyl. The center core is a reflective “Mylar” style air bubble gapped insulation. The third “inside” layer is a heavy duty coated nylon pack cloth.

TCA: Is the Mini-Max a true four-season truck camper?

Rob Rowe: Oh, yes.  It has great insulation throughout, even in the pop-up section. It has a high output propane heater for winter use. And it includes a fantastic vent for cooling in the summer.

TCA: Does that mean the camper can be used off the truck?

Rob Rowe: It’s definitely usable off of the truck. It has its own onboard battery, and solar charging system too.

TCA: Why should customers go with a Phoenix Camper?

Rob Rowe: There are many nice campers out on the market today. What other camper builders have going for them, is availability.  Most of the other guys build hundreds of campers per year, and have dealers all over the place.  We are a small, family custom builder. So what we offer, and what makes a Phoenix camper right for some folks is the fact that we take the extra time on each camper to create the camper design that FITS YOU, AND YOUR TRUCK, just the way you like. Even when you choose a “model” like The Mini-Max, we still offer a multitude of customizations that make YOUR Mini-Max just the way you want it! With just our little family, plus a couple of well trained craftsmen, we really do strive to provide you with a high quality, hand-made product.

TCA: Do you still offer different choices in exterior colors?

Rob Rowe: Yes, we do offer a full automotive paint job option.

TCA: What is the MSRP of the Mini Max?

Rob Rowe: $37,000

TCA: The Mini Max is a terrific, little truck camper and a great value for the money. If readers wanted to order one how would they do it, factory direct or through a dealership?

Rob Rowe: We are factory direct sales only. It’s the only way to effectively do what we do. Here’s how the process works:.

  1. You send us a simple “wish list” by e-mail
  2. We will send you back a custom camper BUILD QUOTE
  3. You send us back any additions or changes you would like.
  4. We make whatever changes you request, then turn the Build Quote into a PURCHASE ORDER, and send that back to you, along with an easy to pay invoice for your down payment.
  5. If you need changes at this point, please feel free to request those, and we’ll make those adjustments. We will make the adjustments and get that back to you.
  6. Once you’re happy with your camper (on paper), sign and send back your P.O., apply your down payment to the invoice, and you’ll receive an order confirmation right away

That’s it, YOUR new Phoenix home away from home will be on its way!

TCA: What is the wait time if somebody wanted to order one now?

Rob Rowe: It’s been pretty busy lately, so we have about 11 months’ worth of projects on the books right now. Each new order received pushes the schedule back about two more weeks.  So as of right this minute the next order received will have a build date about 11 months from right now.

Phoenix Mini-Max Specifications
Dry Weight1,180 pounds
Width7 feet
Interior Height (Top Down)54 inches
Interior Height (Top Up)76 inches
Floor Length5 feet 8 inches
Battery CompartmentOne Battery
Fresh Water Tank18 gallons
Black Water Tank (cassette toilet)4.75 gallons
Propane TankOne 20-Pound

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About Mello Mike 465 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a Jeep and truck camper enthusiast, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently drives a 2013 Ram 3500 4x4 pickup truck with a 2016 Northstar Laredo solar powered truck camper mounted on top. He enjoys football, music, hiking, travel, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management until 2017, and now runs this website full-time. He also does some consulting and RV inspections on the side.

1 Comment

  1. Beautiful camper and nicely made. Unfortunately what so many camper manufacturers are pricing their products at you would have to live in it full time for it to ever pay for its self. At $37k I could stay in some beautiful places and still not get close to that price tag.

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