We love the Overland Expo. New truck campers and expedition rigs are rolled out for this big show every year, and for the 2022 Overland Expo West, Bear Adventure Vehicles rolled out an impressive rig featuring a Toyota Tacoma and a 7-foot Total Composites DIY shell. We were happy to see this pairing because as you know mid-size hard-side truck campers are rare with the most prevalent models being the popular Kimbo 6 and the relatively new Scout Yoho. Better yet, the Total Composites Shell is sold at a price-point that most of us can afford. Bear Adventure Vehicles in Santa Paula, California has partnered with Total Composites to make this exciting new option available here in the United States. But Bear Adventure Vehicles offers more than just simple camper shells. The company also offers interior build out services at all price points. To learn more about the Overland Expo West demo build, Orlando Mistrettra, Founder and CEO of Bear Adventure Vehicles, was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Hi, Orlando. It was great meeting you and getting a tour of the Black Bear demo build at the Overland Expo. Can you tell us more about it?
Orlando Mistrettra: This Black Bear build (smallest of the bears using the 7-foot model), was our first iteration of our mid-size weekender camper. Our goal was to see how much function and comfort we could pack into these smaller campers. We used beautiful Brazilian rosewood high pressure laminate veneer and radiused cabinet edges to achieve a very spacious and luxurious feel inside the camper. We’ve attempted to keep the mechanical systems as simple and user friendly as possible using a portable power system and a quick release 5-gallon Jerry can water system, while still maintaining creature comforts like dimmable LED lighting, alarge top-loading Dometic CFX refrigerator, and USB and 120 volt convenience outlets at the kitchen area. Being on a mid-size truck, everything was installed with weight distribution in mind, without sacrificing any element of practicality and modern design. We also used four Tern Overland Arctic Tern windows, placing them at precise locations to enhance natural light and viewpoints inside.
How well was the Black Bear demo camper received at the show?
Orlando Mistrettra: Incredibly well! We admit we were a little intimidated to debut at the Overland Expo West among so many manufactures that we have admired over the years, and we could not be more grateful to the warm and encouraging responses we received from some of the industry leaders. Most importantly, the responses we received from the overland community at large were outstanding. The overland crowd is a very knowledgeable group of people with very specific needs they are looking for in this particular marketplace. Many of the folks we met are well skilled DIY and professional tradespeople who know what they’re looking at, so to receive so many positive responses from this community was further confirmation that we are heading in the right direction with our product.
How long has Bear Adventure Vehicles been in business?
Orlando Mistrettra: Bear Adventure Vehicles is new to the marketplace just within this last year. With nearly 20 years in custom home construction, the transition into camper construction has come quite natural, as we are taking existing skill sets from the luxury home market and adapting it to these “tiny home” spaces.
Why align yourself with a DIY company like Total Composites Technologies rather than building your own truck campers?
Orlando Mistrettra: As passionate enthusiasts of overlanding, our team has been involved in a number of different truck and van builds over the last decade. As we explored the idea of starting a truck camper design from scratch, pouring years and hundreds of thousands of dollars into molds and research and development while balancing our professional careers, managing multi million dollar projects, and raising families, the reality of this was ultimately not going to be practical. We certainly were not going to produce prototype shells and pass them on to customers at expensive price points, as our knowledge of home building taught us there is no substitute for a properly engineered structure. So when the opportunity arose to partner with Total Composites, it was a no-brainer. They have an amazing turn key product that was tested and proven. We found natural alignment with the owner of Total Composites, Andreas Schwall, and his desire to provide a superior product to the public at a more affordable price. Now our team at Bear has been able to pour extra focus into the custom interiors and mechanical systems and the combination between our partnership is proving to be incredibly potent as a result.
What are the prices for the basic Total Composite shells?
Orlando Mistrettra: We offer shells for virtually any standard truck, as well as flatbed and chassis mounted options. All of our shells include a set of Rieco-Titan camper jacks and choice of Tern Overland Wildlands or Euro door. The sizes and prices are:
- Black Bear (mid-size trucks): 5-foot – $17,200, 7-foot – $17,600
- Brown Bear (full-size trucks): 6.5-foot – $18,500, 8-foot – $19,500
- Polar Bear (flatbed trucks square back): 6.5-foot – $25,000, 8-foot – $26,000
- Kodiak Bear (flatbed truck with 2-foot departure angle): 6.5-foot – $26,000, 8-foot – $27,000
What interior build-out services do you offer for the Total Composite Camper lineup?
Orlando Mistrettra: We can start with a blank shell and take the final product to any level the customer desires. We can even design our interiors working backwards from a target weight if requested by the customer. We are primarily focusing on building the campers at this time, but we will move into truck modification with time as our desire is to create adventure vehicles that integrate our campers into the best performing overland vehicles possible.
How much does the Black Bear 7-foot demo build weigh?
Orlando Mistrettra: Our demonstration unit at the show was fully-loaded with a full height closet, kitchen galley and a queen size bed that came in at 1,100 pounds. We have plans to offer a more simplified interior for the customer that desires more off road capability and less creature comforts. We are working on incorporating new high-tech building materials and are striving to be the best-in-class for our weight-to-amenities ratio.
Can you tell us about the electrical system in the Black Bear demo build?
Orlando Mistrettra: For our demo unit at the Overland Expo we incorporated a Yeti Goal Zero Portable Power Station to supply power fed with a 175 watt Renogy solar panel. It does a great job of running the fridge, sink and lighting systems. The built-in AC inverter also allows us to run some simple 120 volt accessories. Being that these are plug and play units provides a great simple setup for this little weekender camper.
What provisions do you offer for fixed solar and lithium systems if a customer wanted to go that route?
Orlando Mistrettra: Being that we provide custom interiors we have the opportunity to run just about any system the customer desires. From incorporating simple portable power stations to large Battle Born lithium battery systems using Victron components we can configure any where in between and appropriately design the battery and solar system to the specific needs of the customers power demands.
What options does Bear Adventure Vehicles offer for heating and DC air conditioning?
Orlando Mistrettra: We have a lot of requests for Truma and Espar Airtonic portable diesel heaters right now. Customers are really appreciating their simplicity and performance for the small package. We like the ability to take these out of the camper and externally mount them when needed and allows us to clear out room inside the camper and make room for more storage and accessories. We are also excited to incorporate some of the Dickerson propane marine heaters for the great ambiance they can create inside the space if the customer desires. We will be incorporating Dometic’s RTX-2000 Air Conditioner for some of our larger camper models and we are also looking at how we can incorporate Ecoflow’s new Wave portable AC as possibly a great plug and play solution for folks that require a little more modularity.
What other shows and events will Bear Adventure Vehicles be attending this year?
Orlando Mistrettra: Bear Adventure Vehicles is currently not scheduled for any other shows this year but for another chance to see Total Composites technology in person they will be at the Overland Expo in Bend, Oregon, July 8-10 where Total Composites and our sister vendor Overland Adventure Trucks will be making a presence.