In the Top 8 Pop-Up Truck Campers For Half-Ton Trucks article that we published last year, we complained about the fact that none of the campers in the article came with a wet-bath. That’s no longer the case. At the 2018 Overland Expo, BundutecUSA unveiled the Wild, a brand new half-ton capable pop-up that not only comes with a shower and a toilet, but is also equipped with a large grey water holding tank. But that’s not all. This amazing, little camper is equipped with several other goodies that would make any truck camper owner drool. To learn more about this new and revolutionary pop-up, we spoke with Rory Willet, the owner of BundutecUSA.
TCA: Thanks, Rory, for taking the time to talk with us about the Wild, your new pop-up camper. But before we do so, can you tell us how your new company got its start?
Rory Willet: Sure! After I sold my share of RC Willett Co/Northstar Campers, I was going to retire and sell the South African-made Bundutec products with my daughters. But it wasn’t long before I was asked to build a custom camper or two for the Australian market, then a couple more for some U.S. customers, and it has progressed from there. After 40 years of building campers, it’s what I really love to do, so it wasn’t hard to get into the manufacturing of them again. I first incorporated as Freedom Truck Campers, but switched over to BundutecUSA, so that all the products were branded with the same name. It really helps at the Expos and shows. So, I distribute the imported aluminum cased, electric roof top tents and awnings and manufacture the truck campers here in Raymond, Iowa.
TCA: Tell us a little about the Wild. How did the concept and design start?
Rory Willet: When working the Overland Expos, I found that there are lots owners with short-bed half-ton trucks out there wanting a slide-in camper to get off-road. Most of the guys who would stop had their better half with them saying “I’d love to go camping with him, but I MUST have a toilet and shower!” Most guys really don’t want to trade their existing truck in order to carry a camper so, I took the BunduKort, now named the Sable, and designed it for the short-bed truck. With that floorplan, I laid out the most comfortable arrangement I could that included a wet-bath and still have all the features included built to code.
TCA: Aside from the wet-bath, what else makes the Wild different from other half-ton capable truck campers in the market?
Rory Willet: The Wild has the front frig placement, under the bed. That is unique, at least for now! We have always offered the Truma Combi water heater furnace in all our campers and that can be added as an option. All Bundutec campers have the water port center that is one hatch that contains an outside shower port, city water, tank fill and cable hook-up all in one location. I should mention our pop-top roof is also different and makes us stand out from our competitors. It’s a welded, aluminum framed, laminated panel that features a one-piece fiberglass top that sits on an extruded box channel. It’s very strong and lightweight making it easy to maintain.
TCA: How much weight can the roof support?
Rory Willet: The roof is very strong and flexible. It will carry a roof air without any problem. Reico Titan tells me they tested the electric roof jacks with 400 pounds on the roof, going up and down for a couple of days straight without any issues. I offer a roof rack that is mounted to the side box extrusions and that rack will hold 200 pounds. A Maggie Rack or Yakima style rack is rated for 125 pounds. If I know ahead of the build, we place the extra framing in the roof lamination to screw the feet or base rails to.
TCA: So, is the Wild made for short-bed trucks only?
Rory Willet: Yes, that model will stay in the 7-foot version. I have had one customer sit his inside his 8-foot bed and close the tail gate, so he has storage and a little porch behind the camper. That shower and cassette combo is also found in the Free and BunduCamp long-bed models.
TCA: What’s the dry weight of the Wild and which trucks match well with it with regard to payload and size?
Rory Willet: The camper is certified at 1,610 pounds. That is with the basic standard features. The unit at the Expo weighed 1,670 pounds, because we added a glass-topped sink and stove, an overhead cabinet, scissor steps, and an aluminum cargo box mounted to the rear. The heavy-duty half-ton trucks out there are usually rated right around that as the limit. In most cases, it just takes common sense when loading a truck. The Wild is right there at a weight that “most” heavy-duty half-ton trucks will carry it without additional after market load helpers. Jenn’s truck is a 1500 Bighorn with a 5-1/2-foot box. It has the coil springs and we added the internal bags to the springs to help with her truck. Pulling the trailer loaded with the Zamp Solar Panels, she said she had no issues with the handling or the ride. Driving out to Flagstaff, we had 25 mph cross winds and we drove home on Highway 550 out of Durango. The truck handled it very well.
TCA: What are the tank capacities of this camper?
Rory Willet: The Wild comes standard with a 21-gallon fresh water tank and a 4-gallon water heater. The bench style cassette has a 5.1-gallon black tank and the sink and shower drains into a 17-gallon grey tank built into the floor, draining out the rear, like your Northstar Laredo.
TCA: How many batteries does the battery compartment hold?
Rory Willet: The camper comes standard with a group 27 deep cycle battery. It is located up front, on the floor, next to the water tank. I know customers have stacked two AGM batteries in that space and others that have added a battery to the truck box, in front of the wheel well too. To get twin deep cycle batteries in there, the water tank would need to be smaller. There’s always that trade-off when it comes to the smaller campers.
TCA: I assume standard solar panels and roof racks can be installed on the roof. Is that correct?
Rory Willet: Yes, we offer the roof mounted solar panels as an option or the pre-wire for solar panels, but they can be added aftermarket anytime.
TCA: What’s the largest solar power system that you offer?
Rory Willet: We sell the Zamp Solar products and the standard solar controller will handle up to 510 watts. I’ve installed three 160 watt panels on the roof for a customer. If there’s a person who would want more, I could upgrade the controller to the 60-watt controller that will take up to 1,000 watts on panels. Arranging the panels on the roof around the vent, you could get that done!
TCA: Do you offer any options in cabinetry like different wood finishes?
Rory Willet: Yes. After 40 years of building campers with fake oak paper and vinyl coatings, I’m not stocking any colors other than my light and dark gray panels. I’ve had customers send me their own paneling that they hand stained themselves or specified a panel from Lowe’s or Home Depot before. That’s the type of customer service I like to provide. I offer my opinion, but listen to what they like and build it that way.
TCA: We really like what the Truma Combi offers to truck camper owners and appreciate the fact that you were the first company to offer it on this side of the Atlantic. With the size constraints of the Wild, will the Truma Combi fit?
Rory Willet: Yes! I’ve not built one with a Combi yet, but I took an order at the Expo for a Wild with that option.
TCA: What are the most popular options ordered by your customers?
Rory Willet: The number one option is the Truma Combi, followed by the glass-topped sink and stove. Then the Seitz windows and a Heki roof vent in the cabover, Jerry can holder and aluminum storage box on the rear, and electric camper jacks.
TCA: DC compressor refrigerators are becoming very popular with the truck camper overland crowd. What choices in compressor refrigerators do you offer for the Wild and where is it mounted?
Rory Willet: The compressor refrigerator in the Wild is located in the front wall, under the bed intrusion. This limits the depth of the cabinet to 18 inches, so the NovaKool R3000 is the largest standup door type of fridge that I have found that will fit there and be installed to code. I’ve installed the chest style units like the Dometic CFX65 in its place. Some people think they are more efficient and give them the ability to use it outside the camper.
TCA: Do you have an electrical, off-the-grid option that integrates an inverter with the Wild’s 110 volt AC system?
Rory Willet: With that 480-watt solar power system I mentioned earlier, we used a ZP-2000 PS, 2,000-watt Pure Sine Wave inverter that we installed on the back wall of the dual battery compartment. Instead of installing a relay, we ran dual outlets for him. The inverter has a remote switch to turn it on and off and the black outlets were the 110 volt outlets that the inverter powered and the white outlets were for when he was hooked up to shore power, which was hardly ever! He like to hunt and fish for a month at a time and had us install the NovaKool side by side fridge/freezer unit in his camper. He would live off the fish and meat he would harvest as he explored the northern Rockies. His setup was very easy to understand and use.
TCA: We really like the Bundutec awnings. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Rory Willet: The wrap around awning is the product that is made in Johannesburg, South Africa. The BunduAwn is a zippered, bag style awning that has a 9-inch extruded aluminum backing plate that mounts to brackets that attach to the lower part of the pop top camper. There are two different awnings that will fit a truck camper. The half wrap, which has one pivot point in the rear and the awning wraps around the side and back. The other is the “L” that has a pivot point on each end for the arms to swing out. The front has two arms. One fits straight out and the other goes up against the side of the camper while the rear wraps around the back. There are tensioning straps that hook to points on the front of the camper and the driver’s side to keep the fabric tight. The awnings give great coverage and can stand up to 15-20 mph winds. While the full wrap awnings that fit the trailers and roof racks of the off-road vehicles do not need and support poles, the “L” requires one on the front arm that sticks straight out from the vehicle and is included with the Bundu”L” model.
TCA: How difficult is it to deploy and fold away the BunduAwn?
Rory Willet: I really like the toughness and unique design, but they do take some practice to fold them up. I found out that I need to carry a folding ladder to reach the zippered bag and hold down straps when it comes to opening and closing the awning. Either awning can be installed after-market or ordered to be installed when the camper is built. I’ve sold many to Palomino and Northstar customers this past year.
TCA: How many 12 volt/USB charging outlets come standard in the Wild?
Rory Willet: There are ports on each side of the cabover bed at the front and in the face of the kitchen cabinet. A fourth is added if you request a TV connection
TCA: Can you tell us a little bit about how the Wild is constructed?
Rory Willet: The Wild is a wood-framed camper that utilizes 1×4-inch and 3/4-inch plywood in the sidewalls in the same manner as I built the Northstar campers. I eliminated the solid plywood nose piece with a ladder style framing and use a laminated bed board in place of solid plywood to save weight. The added feature of the fabric on the under-bed storage is always appreciated. The floor is an insulated, 1×6-inch box framed construction to accept the in-floor holding tank. With all the heavy equipment carried up front against the bulkhead of the box, the center of gravity is far enough ahead so that trucks with 5-1/2-foot beds can easily carry the camper. I build every camper like it was going to be mine, so the attention to detail is part of every build. From the location of the lights and switches to the running of the water and gas lines, you can tell the difference.
TCA: The floor seems pretty sturdy. Does that mean the camper can be used off the truck?
Rory Willet: Yes, the Wild is designed to be used off the truck. Many people like to drop the camper as a base camp and explore with the truck empty. The way I travel, I rarely remove my camper, but many people like that feature.
TCA: What kind of products do you use for the siding of your campers?
Rory Willet: The exterior of the camper is .030 aluminum that is laid over the wood frame of the camper. The front nose is fiberglass wrapped around the front radius. Sikaflex is used to bond the metal to the body and ultra high-bond (UHB) double-sided adhesive tape is used on the vertical seams to bond the pieces together. This allows the aluminum to stay somewhat flexible and move with the expansion and contractions of the temperatures. We do have the option of the all fiberglass exterior for the seamless look as an option. I leave that choice up to each customer.
TCA: What choices in colors do you offer for your exteriors?
Rory Willet: The aluminum and fiberglass we use comes in both gray and white. Gray is standard.
TCA: We’re big fans of the gray color. Why should customers go with a Bundutec truck camper?
Rory Willet: The customers who’ve ordered from us have always complemented our customer service and the one-on-one attention we give. I’m not the typical “cookie cutter” camper manufacturer that just pushes a huge volume out the door every day. I’m amazed at the amount of research each customer puts into before ordering a camper. The information on the internet is a great resource that can both help and confuse at the same time. We built our website ourselves and try to give as much information as we can and are always looking for tips and suggestions from the customers on how it can be better!
TCA: Can customers customize their camper?
Rory Willet: Yes. Almost every camper we build is customized to each customer. That’s what we specialize in! I love to hear the plans each customer has for their camper and try to figure out how their thoughts can be brought to reality. The process starts with an existing floorplan as far as size for their truck and it goes on from there. The Free model that was picked up at the Expo was one such camper. He started with the standard floor plan and wanted to remove the cassette toilet to have exterior storage for his Honda generator. He uses the new Thetford Curve porta potti that can be used inside at night and outside during the day. He moved his tie-down points inside to use his truck’s cargo loops to eliminate the under mount brackets. Then we designed our first fold down bunk over the dinette as part of the pop top design. With three growing boys, they needed that extra bed!
TCA: Is it true that you’re designing a Bundutec Wild to fit on mid-size trucks like the Toyota Tacoma?
Rory Willet: Yes, that’s the next model that I am going to introduce. The Tacoma is a great little truck and I find it is very popular on both coasts. Here in the Midwest, not so much but in South Carolina and Oregon they are all over the place. I have the box dimensions of the Tacoma and now it’s time to get out the ole’ graph paper and see if everything can be crunched down to fit inside the smaller box! The camper will be narrower and a little shorter and the entrance door may need to be shrunk but I’m sure I can do it and keep the weight down there, under 1,600 pounds
TCA: What is the MSRP of the Bundutec Wild?
Rory Willet: The Wild starts at $18,600 with a large variety of upgrades available. Customers are always amazed at the affordability of our products and the high quality that comes with it. The upgrades available make it easy for everyone to make the unit as minimalistic or as fancy as they want to fit their needs.
TCA: The Bundutec Wild is a terrific, little truck camper and a super value for the money. If readers wanted to order one how would they do it, factory direct or through a dealership?
Rory Willet: Currently, we are selling factory direct except for the far northeast part of the country. We have partnered with Polar RV in New Hampshire to sell our campers up there. New Hampshire is a state with no sales tax on campers. We just do not have the production numbers to service dealers right now. I want to stay small and build each unit individually, one at a time on a custom level to maintain our quality.
TCA: What is the wait time if somebody wanted to order one now?
Rory Willet: Our production lead time has just went over 22 weeks. The orders that we took from the Expo added to what we have in-house is far more than I anticipated. I’ll be adding to our workforce to stay ahead of the orders yet to come.