2017 Northern Lite 10.2 EXCDSE
This is our third truck camper. We have also owned a Class A and a Class B for another 15 years. So when we planned our retirement rig, we wanted quality, reliability, simplicity, livability, four-season capability, and independence as our primary goals. As a former sailboater who lived aboard 4.5 years and owned an ocean going boat for 21 years, the idea of a fiberglass camper, with no slides, no roof seams, and relatively light weight interested me. After visiting the factory, I was sold on Northern Lite. The wife chose the 10.2 EXCDSE as the camper that had what she wanted in a camper that we could spend winters away from Wyoming, our home at the time.
The Northern Lite Special Addition had most of the options that we wanted. We add a gas electric water heater. At the time, Northern Lite only offered a single solar panel. I called Keith, the owner, and asked why he only offered one for North America and yet put three on for export to Australia. He finally agreed to put an additional solar panel on for us. Now two solar panels are a standard option.
Battery capacity was a specific problem for me because I am stuck with a CPAP machine for sleeping. The battery compartments were listed as designed for series 27 100 amp hour batteries. Lifeline made a group 31 battery that was rated at 125 amp hours. To check the fit, the factory sent me a battery case with terminals installed. They just fit. I ordered two and they have worked great to power the camper. We boondock 85 percent of the time that we use the camper. The only items that are not 12 volt or gas are the microwave and the AC. The ventilation with the roof skylight, roof fantastic fan, and the German awning windows make for great ventilation when you don’t have power.
One issue that we recognized as a challenge was mounting the camper. We researched and talked to lots of NL owners. None of their systems seemed to work well with us. They all were worried about the center line of the camper, but the challenge with a NL is the tailgate area. NL has used as much room as they could to give us storage and a great bathroom. So aligning the rear of the camper is much more critical than the front. I built a laser aligning system that sits on the side of the front of the truck bed and aligns with a mark on the front of the camper as well as a mark on the forward facing portion of the bathroom extension. Line up the green vertical laser with both marks and drive straight back. Much easier on the marriage as well as having the ability to do it alone.
We have added a new high-end foam mattress and a support for the mattress to allow the area below the mattress to ventilate. This we found was a must in cold weather. Living in Wyoming means if you want to leave or come home from your home near Grand Teton at 7,000 feet, you actually need a real four-season camper. We have been in the camper at 0 F many times. We got stuck with highways being closed for three days at -10F. As long as you have winterized and shutdown the water heater, all the rest of the water systems remained operational during cold weather. The challenge is to find a dump station that is open.
In checking with my CPAP manufacturer, I found that they strongly suggest that we run an independent fused line directly from the battery to a 12 volt plug to run the CPAP. Their comment was that would use the least amount of battery power to run the CPAP. They also suggested running it without the humidifier if I could. This has allowed us to go a couple days without sun and still keep the batteries above the 50 percent charge level to extend the battery life. At the same time we added the 12 volt CPAP line, I added additional USB ports.
Repair work on the NL has been minimal. The smoke alarm and CO2 detectors were replaced at five years. The water pump was replaced this year. The one factory supplied fire extinguisher was replaced with one at the main entrance door and one in the over cab sleeping area. Both are element E50s. So they are set and leave type fire extinguishers.
We added an ARP refrigerator defender to protect the refrigerator from off level damage and improve efficiency of the cooling system.
One item important for cold weather camping is definitely knowing how full your LP tanks are. We added the Mopeka pro tank monitoring system to both tanks as well as an inside monitor. It has been a real relief to know when you need to refill instead of running out at night!
2005 Dodge Ram 2500 4X4 Cummins 6-spd G56 w/~150,000 miles
We bought our truck when we lived in Illinois and had already bought our new home out by Grand Teton National Park. I immediately had the truck fully rustproofed by Ziebart. I had an over bed LineX bed liner put on. At the same time I had them LineX the edges of the wheel wells, leading edge of the bed and below the lower belt line on the truck. These investments have paid off very well as the body and underside of the truck are rust free. The rustproofing has been reapplied when ever we are in New England. We lived in Wyoming for 14 years and only put about 50,000 miles on it in the summer months. We also had a Chevy S10 4×4 that was our commuter mountain truck for the winter. We put 300,000 miles on it during the same time frame.
There is storage for a tool box, stabilizer jacks, wheel covers, and ground blocks in back truck seat.
When we decided to go back to a truck camper from our Class B van, I started researching payload capacity. Found that we needed a lot more payload for any camper that my wife would be happy with. When Dodge puts the Cummins engine in any of their pickups, they automatically go to the one-ton axle. It took a lot of searching to find that the one-ton axle had the same 10,700 pound capacity whether it was a 3/4-ton or one-ton single or dually. That surprised me. Then we checked with the Wyoming State Police as to what we could legally do to the truck to increase the effective load capacity. They informed me that if we were commercial, we had to stay under the GVW that Dodge posted on the door. Non-commercial, we had to be sure that what we did to the truck was safe.
Then we went to my insurance company to talk about both the modifications to the truck and insuring the camper. The agent went over wheel ratings, tire ratings, spring ratings, air bag ratings, and sway control. Then he told me to keep a record of all the upgrades so that if we were in an accident, then the insurance company would have to reimburse for all the upgrades. The camper was then added as a named upgrade to the policy so it would be insured on or off the truck.
When we moved to Florida, I was surprised at the DMV when I registered the truck. They asked me how heavy we loaded the truck. We told them about 12,500 pounds. They questioned me about how I made that truck do that. We went over all the modifications with the agent. After some thoughts and calculations, the agent asked me if we would be OK with a GVW non-commercial rating of 14,999 pounds. That is what it is currently registered for in Florida.
We upgraded to Rickson steel wheels with the correct Dodge offset in 19.5 rated for 5,000 pounds per wheel.
Tires were upgrade to Michelin X Multi Z G rated at 5,500 pounds each. Front tires run at 65 psi and rear tires 85 to 90 psi depending on load.
Airlift 7,500 pound airbags with internal bumpstops were added. This allowed for individual inflation and lower pressures to level out the truck. The NL is heavier on the passenger side because of batteries, refrigerator, propane, furnace and kitchen are all on the passenger side. I run them at 30 psi on the drivers side and 60 psi on the passenger side.
Hellwig Big Wig sway bar was added for sway control. With the commercial tires, this combination makes for very good mountain driving for a truck camper.
Torklift frame mounted anchors were added to compliment the stainless steel Torklift FastGun tie-downs.
ATS installed a new intake, new exhaust manifold, and the ATS Aurora turbo. These were all done to improve efficiency in the mountains and are not necessarily HP increasing. Fuel injection and computers all remain stock.
Pacbrake exhaust brake and onboard air were added.
Torklift SuperHitch 20,000 pound hitch added to allow for pulling a trailer with a Torklift truss extension. We only pulled an open motorcycle trailer with our sidecar motorcycle. But even with this light trailer, you need an equalizer hitch to load the frame and axles properly.
EGT and Boost gauges were added to run the diesel correctly. It is the way to protect your diesel for the long term.
Well over $16,000 worth of truck and camper upgrades.
This is a “pre-significant emissions requirement” truck so it doesn’t have the DEF system and all the complexity of the post 2007 truck.
This is a well maintained truck and camper. We have records of all maintenance for both truck and camper. The only reason that these great units are for sale is my personal health. We are asking $39,000 for 2017 Northern Lite EXCDSE wet bath and $18,000 for 2005 Dodge 2500 4×4 6 speed G56. We are willing to sell each separately. Both are ready for immediate sale in the Ft. Collins, Colorado area. Contact Mark at email@example.com or by phone at 307-699-0940.