A year and a half ago we decided to buy our first truck camper, a NuCamp Cirrus 800. It took us a while to make that decision after looking at various types of RV’s. Suffice it to say, none of the RV’s we looked at met our needs. They were either too big, too wide, too small, or too narrow. After looking at several, we began to realize that a lot of our reasons for being turned-off by them had to do with our image of who we were and what we wanted to do with our lives.
The truck camper seemed liked the best fit. I wanted a four-wheel drive and envisioned us spending time off pavement and wanted a pop-up truck camper that I could easily load our two kayaks on. My wife, Nancy, wanted a hard-side with one or two slide-outs, a microwave, and an air conditioner. We both wanted a toilet and a shower, a refrigerator, a sink, an eating area, and a large bed. I liked the idea of being able to use the truck for farm and construction work. Nancy liked the idea of using the camper for babysitting.
And speaking of babysitting. We were anticipating the birth of our first grandchild, an event that helped Nancy make the tough decision to retire. I was already retired, and had fully rehabilitated from a life-threatening stroke. No one could see that I was any different from before. But inside, I had changed. “Life is too short,” had become my modus operandi.
About that time our family minivan died leaving me with an old Toyota truck, which was on its last legs. We looked at three truck campers: a Wolf Creek, a Northstar and a Lance and started to compromise. I gave up pop-ups, she gave up slide-outs. Then we saw and found a truck camper that was very different from the other truck campers we had been looking at. The Cirrus was definitely not our grandpa’s camper! Its smooth curves, large windows, and Euro design and craftsmanship made it really stand out in a parking lot and its inside features were innovative.
After another month of deliberation, we bought a RAM one-ton 4×4 with an extended cab and then the Cirrus 800 to go with it. Immediately we began taking trips to do wine tasting and wildflower viewing. As part of my rehab from the stroke, I had written a couple of books, (In the Company of Redwoods and Take Me to the Tide Pools) and had done Campfire talks and Nature walks based on them for a few summers in a dozen state parks in Northern California. It turned out that the Cirrus truck camper was great for that. I could pull into a campsite, slip on a backpack with the materials I needed, and be ready to make a presentation in a matter of minutes. Afterwards I could fix a late dinner, take a shower, and sleep on a super comfortable mattress.
The only thing I missed from back home was watching the stars from our hot tub, but lying beneath a warm down quilt and looking up through the large skylight is a pretty great alternative. If the bugs and weather cooperate, I can open the skylight to a full vertical (and even climb out onto the camper roof!) but if not, the combination bug screen and block-out shade and the noise-silencing double-pane thermal windows provide a good combination of options.
Another thing that we really like about our Cirrus camper is that it uses the Alde hydronic heating system. This space-saving heating system efficiently provides both heated air and hot water. It is used in many European caravans and camper vans. American RV manufacturers are starting to use it, too, including Roadtech and Winnebago. We are big fans of the system and love the silent radiant heat and hot water that it provides.
But the skylight and innovative heating system are just a couple of things that make the Cirrus stand out. We also like the pocket-like sliding screen door; the folding bathroom sink, the acrylic thermal-pane windows with built-in slide bug screen and light block-out screen (another European import); the dual batteries; the multiple USB charging stations; all LED lighting; the large, 5-cubic foot refrigerator; the airline style cabinet latches; the oversized aluminum bumper/platform with built-in steps; and the comfortable Froli mattress.
Still, as with all campers, there are several things I added. So far, my mods have included a new medicine cabinet, a composting toilet (we now can go a week or more on the 26 gallons of fresh water the Cirrus holds), a spice rack, a magazine rack, an 80-watt fixed solar power system with a 100-watt portable solar panel, and a rack to haul bikes and kayaks.
The Cirrus has proved to be a good compromise for our first RV. By the time you read this we will be off on our longest truck camper outing, a seven-week trip from California to Alaska and back. It was Nancy who came up with the idea of spending a night at a Walmart when I was planning out the first couple of days. Day one and we will already have checked that item off our “must do” list!
Since we bought our Cirrus 800, the folks at nuCamp have incorporated many user comments into the Cirrus 820, which came out last year. They have also just announced that they will be releasing the Cirrus 920 for long-bed trucks. Their camper factory is in Ohio and the skill of their (largely Amish) assembly crew is excellent.
If you see our rig on the road this summer, give us a Truck Camper wave!