Truck Camper Adventure is proud to present this interview with Matt Kasner. Matt grew up in the Midwest and is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and, of course, truck camping. He works as an Analyst, writing SQL, and developing database tables for a Healthcare company. Matt and his wife, Val, moved to the great state of Utah three years ago and are enjoying all that the state has to offer. They are the current owner of an Arctic Fox 990 truck camper.
TCA: Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to talk with us. How long have you been interested in truck camping?
Matt: For over 10 years now. We’ve owned three truck campers. Our first was a 2001 Lance 845. I loved the weight of that camper, and it had a solar panel installed from the previous owner. However, it was a bit too small for two adults and a full size dog. Its holding tanks were a bit small as well. Our second camper was a 2008 Lance 861. It had huge holding tanks, almost double that of the 845. Unfortunately, it was way too heavy for our Ram 3500 6.4L SRW truck, so it was time for another truck and camper. Our current camper is a 2005 Arctic Fox 990.
TCA: Why did you get an older Arctic Fox?
Matt: It was handed down to us by my father who was the original owner. He used it for trips down to Florida and it spent its entire life in the Midwest. It has bigger holding tanks than the 861, which we love. It’s also longer and is warmer than the Lance. I will say that the Lance quality is leaps and bounds better than this Arctic Fox. That’s not to say the newer Arctic Fox campers are bad, since we haven’t owned a newer one, I can only compare it to what we’ve owned.
TCA: Have you made any modifications to the Arctic Fox yet?
Matt: No, not yet. We’ve been fixing and removing some of the items my father put in the camper when he bought it. We just replaced the bathroom skylight, as the dual pane skylight outer dome was cracked and created what we called a “fish bowl.” We have replaced most of the small plastic items in the camper where UV turned the plastic orange and made it brittle.
TCA: Can you tell us more about your truck? Didn’t you just buy it?
Matt: Yes, we just upgraded from a 2014 RAM 3500 SRW short-bed with the 6.4L Hemi to a 2016 RAM 3500 DRW long-box with the 6.7L Cummins. I highly recommend a diesel when hauling a heavy load like a truck camper.
TCA: This is your first dually. How do you like it?
Matt: We love it. After buying three trucks only to wish we had something extra, we finally bought the right truck. The dually does surprisingly well off-road. Granted, we are not rock crawling with it by any means, but we’ve yet to find its limitation on getting us to some of our favorite boon docking spots. Yes, the dually is wider and longer than our previous short bed SRW, it just takes a little more precision when navigating fire roads, washes, etc. The dually is my daily driver as well, so I’ve gotten used to the extra size the more I drive it.
TCA: Did you need to modify your truck’s suspension in any way to carry your truck camper?
Matt: Just airbags to help level the camper out. Everything else is stock
TCA: What tie-down system do you use?
Matt: Torklift Talons and Torklift FastGuns, of course. We use Torklift for everything. They’ve never let us down.
TCA: Do you have any regrets in your truck and truck camper choices? Anything that you wished that you had done differently?
Matt: No regrets at all. We had those regrets earlier and are finally in the right truck and camper.
TCA: Have you made any mistakes relating to truck camping that would help our readers?
Matt: Just one. When approaching railroad tracks, make sure you stop behind the railroad arms that come down. I had one of those arms come down on top of our last camper, which slowed a passenger train down here in Salt Lake City. I forgot how tall the camper was and the amount of hangover in the cab over section we had.
TCA: Now that you’ve owned both, which engine type do you prefer, diesel or gas?
Matt: Diesel, absolutely! You will find heated debates between folks on the forums about which is better. For us, however, the torque and the added benefits of the dually have made it the right choice for us.
TCA: What kind of mileage are you getting with the truck camper?
Matt: Funny question. If you’re heading west in Kansas, 6 mpg, if you’re heading east in Kansas, 17 mpg. The westerly winds and direction really make a huge difference in mpg’s out west. Typically, we’re happy getting between 11-13 mpg.
TCA: What tires do you have on your truck and what inflation values do you typically run?
Matt: Currently, we are running 255/80R17 Cooper Discoverer ST MAXX tires. With the camper, we typically run between 75 and 80 in the front and 65 in the rear, but it really depends on driving and road conditions and the destination.
TCA: Which states are your favorites to explore?
Matt: We moved to Utah roughly three years ago and have been spending most of our time here exploring the state. Once we exhaust the vast number of places to go in Utah we will explore the surrounding states more. Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado have been our primary focus.
TCA: Utah is a great state to live in for truck camping. How did you end up in Utah?
Matt: We grew up in the Midwest, rock climbing, mountain biking and camping and wanted to explore the western half of the country. I was working at home 100 percent of the time back in the Midwest, so we took a few trips out to Salt Lake City and Denver to visit and explore. One night we were pitching around ideas and our apartment lease was going to be up in a few months. So we tossed the idea around moving out west, and within a few days we knew where we would move to—-Salt Lake City. We picked Salt Lake City due to its proximity to the mountains (Wasatch Range). We sold a lot of things at a garage sale before leaving and packed up a U-Haul trailer and hauled it with my 2013 Ram 1500 (that was three trucks ago). Fast forward to today, and we have lived in Salt Lake City now for three years. However, we count our time spent here by the ski season, and we are on our fourth season.
TCA: What has been the most difficult and challenging road or trail that you’ve tackled in your truck and camper?
Matt: The Gemini Bridges Trail near Moab. The hardest part was the descent. For those that know the trail in Moab, you can either enter from the west or you can enter via Highway 191. We chose to enter from the west because of the mountain bike trails we wanted to ride were closer to the west. We descended back to Highway 191 taking the trail east and I am not sure which one would have been more difficult, going up or going down. We went down and the amount of sway and the narrow, busy trail made for a very interesting drive. It was very nerve-racking. Nonetheless, we made it down. By the way, there are some amazing boondocking spots just past there, if you’re going up the hill.
TCA: What are your thoughts about Moab?
Matt: The town is fun, but it’s definitely not a single day destination spot. The surrounding areas of Moab are the destination spots, which make the town a convenient pit stop for refueling and getting a cup of coffee or a beer. Moab is the epicenter of all things off-road. Our first visit to Moab was during Easter Jeep Safari and was tons of fun. Our favorite place in Moab, without giving away the location, is actually found just north of Arches National Park and is all BLM land. For those who are familiar with the area, you can look on the map and find some amazing boondocking spots with great rock climbing and still be close enough to the action. Moab is becoming more and more popular each season, so if you are venturing out, please pick up after yourselves and your puppies.
TCA: What advice would you offer those who are considering buying a truck camper for the first time?
Matt: Do the research first and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think it’s best to shop for your truck camper first, fall in love with the layout, space and amenities, etc., then match the loaded weight of your camper with your dream truck. Don’t try to make one work with the other, as you’ll want to upgrade/downgrade in the future.
TCA: If you were to buy a brand new truck camper or overland rig, and price wasn’t an issue, what would it be?
Matt: You know, that’s a really great question. The industry for overland rigs is really funny. You either get a great camper and a not so great overland rig or a great rig and a ‘truck shell.’ The only thing lately that I have seen, that is overland ready from top to bottom are the EarthRoamers, but I’ve only seen a few videos of them off-road. For Overlanding, you need balance, meaning a capable truck along with a suitable camper that can withstand and hold-up to all of the stresses. So to answer the question, I would have to say the EarthRoamer.
TCA: What’s the most worrisome or scariest moment you’ve experienced during your travels?
Matt: Scariest moment would have to be the huge hailstorm we hit coming back from a rock-climbing trip in Red Rocks, Las Vegas. The hail was big enough that a few of the vents broke and required us to pull off and wait out the storm.
TCA: What foods do you like to eat when you’re out in your camper?
Matt: We try to eat light and not pack our fridge full of junk food. However, we do enjoy frozen pizza, which cooks nicely in our camper’s oven!
TCA: Do you have any other hobbies as they relate to the great outdoors?
Matt: Absolutely. We moved to Salt Lake City for its proximity to world-class snow skiing, rock climbing and mountain biking. We ski at Snowbird up in Little Cottonwood Canyon. My wife works there and tries to get at least a 100 days of skiing in during the season. I’m not as motivated as she is, but on a powder day, you know where we’ll be.
TCA: You do a lot of winter camping. Do you have any tips?
Matt: Sure! Lots of pizza, propane and good batteries. I know most folks don’t want an oven in their camper, however, we’ve found more uses for the oven than we have the microwave! Batteries are huge when winter camping. We have two group-27 batteries in the Arctic Fox and are going to be upgrading them to group-31s by removing the battery tray. They are just old flooded batteries. We will be replacing them this summer.
TCA: Speaking if batteries, how do you keep yours topped off?
Matt: We like to use both solar and a generator. We don’t have solar installed in the Arctic Fox yet. But in the camper we just sold; we had a single 100-watt Renogy panel along with an Onan 2500 built-in generator. The generator is a must during the summer when we’re unable to head up into the mountains.
TCA: This has been great talking to you. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us.
Matt: Thanks, Mike.