One thing that has plagued the truck camper industry recently—and the RV industry as a whole—is the cookie-cutter approach to construction. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Not every company is guilty of such indiscretions, of course, but you get the general idea. Fortunately, several truck camper companies are raising the bar with fresh and innovative designs. Newcomer KingStar is one such company. Known for building inventive horse trailers, the Michigan-based company decided to build innovative truck campers to pull those cutting-edge trailers. One look at the KingStar Camino 88—inside and out—and you know it’s different. It’s not just another cookie-cutter camper. Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy the Camino 88 either.
Derek and Rachel Kulla acquired a Camino 88 recently. Available in four distinct interior layouts, the Couch Bunk, the Lounger, the Dinette, and the Open Range, the couple opted for the Dinette floorplan, which can be transformed into a comfortable full-length bed. All Camino 88 floorplans offer a generous floor length of 9 feet 3 inches, a width of 7.5 inches, a center of gravity between 34-36 inches, and can be hauled either on a long-bed or short-bed truck. The dry weight of the Camino 88 is only 2,225 pounds for the standard-equipped Open Range model.
One thing that sets the Kingstar Camino 88 apart from other campers is the Camino’s shape. The company decided to ditch the standard roof line found in most campers for a more shapely appearance with a raised center just aft of the cabover. This additional height inside—a full 6 feet 7 inches at the highest point—results in a less cramped and claustrophobic feeling for the east-west bed and provides additional storage inside including a window-mounted air conditioner.
The Camino 88 is available in either retro aluminum or smooth fiberglass siding, with several exterior color options to choose from. The interior is both rustic and refined, with solid ash wood accents complimenting tasteful combinations of soft leatherette and warm designer fabrics. Available in four rich color palettes ranging from a southwestern motif to saltwater vibes, the quality and attention to detail is apparent throughout the camper.
Standard features of the KingStar Camino 88 include a 28 gallon fresh water holding tank, a Suburban 20,000 BTU furnace, a Suburban 6-gallon water heater, two 20-pound propane tanks, a Vitrofrigo 3.2 cubic foot DC compressor refrigerator, two AGM batteries, an outdoor shower, pullout tables, and full window treatments. A smorgasbord of KingStar Camino 88 options include a Truma Combi, a 22-gauge stainless steel shower, a propane cooktop, a 4-gallon Thetford Porta-Potti, carpeting, “soft touch” ceilings, a marine-grade Bomar Skylight, lithium batteries, either a 2,000 or a 3,000 watt inverter, and a full entertainment package.
What things do Derek and Rachel like best about their new KingStar Camino 88?
“We love the near-perfect balance between the rugged, overlandish form and function, combined with the finely appointed interior—the stainless steel shower, soft-touch ceiling, beautiful interior finishes, and solid wood cabinetry,” Rachel said. “We also love the utilization of space, which gives an impressive amount of storage space that is crucial for the two of us while we travel. Another feature that we were surprised by—yet we are thrilled to have—is the outdoor auxiliary shower. The ability to clean off and keep the mess outside comes in handy when you’re out playing in the water or on the trails.”
Yet the KingStar Camino 88 offers several things not found in most campers—certainly not in your grandpa’s old 1970s camper. These include underfloor storage, a wall-mounted air conditioner, a stainless steel roof, optional reclining seats, and a spacious stainless steel shower. Derek and Rachel’s camper features an east-west cabover, but KingStar just announced that a north-south berth is now available. Of course, KingStar’s amazing Hitch Pack, Hitch Pack Tower, and Jack Pack can be ordered as add-on accessories for additional storage. Nobody in the marketplace produces anything like the Jack Pack.
The KingStar Camino 88 is a true four-season truck camper. The wood-framed camper comes standard with 2-inch spray foamed closed cell insulation throughout, thermopane windows, and a 22 gauge stainless steel roof. All of this makes for a very quiet and comfortable camper that cools down quickly when it’s hot, yet holds heat well during cool nights in the mountains.
A major highlight of the Camino 88, is the stainless steel shower. The shower offers plentiful amounts of elbow room, unlike many campers which have showers that feel like a small closet. From the waist down, the shower measures 33 inches north-south and 25 inches east-west, while the shower measures 33 inches north-south and 40 inches east-west from the waist up. The stainless steel used is a thick and attractive, 304 22 gauge with a #4 brush finish. The shower pan is a heavier 304 16 gauge, which is TIG welded to the walls to form a water tight barrier.
The Thetford Porta-Potti toilet used in the Camino 88 provides options not found in other campers and can either be left in the shower or removed to provide even more room in the shower. The Thetford Porta-Potti comes with 4 gallons of flushing water and 5.5 gallons for waste, which is one gallon larger than the standard Thetford Cassette Toilet. The advantage of going with this type of toilet is that it can be dumped at any pit toilet or rest area bathroom for free.
Of all of the options and accessories that came with their camper, the couple is particularly enamored with the Jack Pack. This option is unique in the industry and adds a tremendous amount of storage, something that is always in high demand in a truck camper.
“We have the Camino 88 in champagne retro aluminum siding, the Kingman interior, with the dinette floorplan,” Rachel explained. “It also has KingStar’s Jack Pack system, which mounts to the back two jacks on the camper. It has a storage box that holds a Camco Olympian 5500 portable grill on the top shelf, while the bottom holds three 2-gallon Roto-Pax gas cans and two small Coleman 1-pound LP bottles. The box is also designed with a mounting plate that locks down inside the box, which we have a Honda EU2200i generator mounted to. The Jack Pack also has an integrated landing and stair system that pins up out of the way in travel mode.”
Additional storage can also be found within the camper in places you wouldn’t expect it. Pull-out drawers can be found not only underneath the dinette, but also underneath the floor and other nooks and cranies. You can even find storage compartments and pull-out drawers above and below the refrigerator and underneath the kitchen counter.
Another thing that sets the KingStar Camino 88 apart from typical truck campers is the Amana 8000 air conditioner. The unit is mounted on the side of the camper, not on the roof, which frees up space on the roof for more important things like solar panels—a full 600 watts! The three-speed unit weighs only 51 pounds, is remote controlled, and consumes only 5.8 amps AC (64 amps DC). At 56 db, the 8,000 BTU unit is also extremely quiet unlike most RV air conditioners that sound like a freight train.
The couple keeps their AGM batteries charged using their Honda generator, but for those who prefer solar power, all Camino 88’s are pre-wired for solar with a dual outlet on the roof and a single outlet on the driver side for a portable panel. KingStar offers a base solar package that is a 180-watt package with nearly a 600 Watt package for someone who plans on spending a lot of time off-grid. Usually, the customer who ops for the 600 watts of solar power will pair that with the Battle Born lithium battery package with either a 2,000 or 3,000 watt inverter.
Every great truck camper build starts with a great truck and in this all-important decision, the couple chose well. They elected to go with a 4×4 long-bed truck, an olive green 2021 Ram 3500 powered by the 6.4L Hemi. The truck is completely stock. Given the power and efficiency of today’s gas engines and the cost being $10,000 less, there is a good argument to go with gas over diesel. In a lot of cases and certainly with the KingStar Camino 88’s, a diesel would be overkill. That said, if you need to pull a decent-sized trailer or you need the torque to go up steep mountain passes, diesel is a great option. As far as GVWR, their rig comes in around 3,500 pounds.
So what kind of mileage are Derek and Rachel getting with their setup?
“We have currently put in just over 6,000 miles with the camper on the truck, averaging about 10 mpg. It depends on head/tailwinds and the area of the country we are in. We tend to take it easy at highway speeds to conserve some fuel, and our highway mileage is usually closer to 11-12 mpg, while slower speeds and starting and stopping in town lowers our overall average,” she said.
One thing’s certain about Derek and Rachel’s KingStar Camino 88. It won’t be sitting idle in some suburban driveway or storage lot. As full-timers, the active couple is always on the move. Right now, they can be found in Wyoming, Montana, and Utah, but they plan on spending a significant amount of time further south later this fall and winter in Arizona and possibly parts of New Mexico.
So what advice would the couple offer to those who are considering buying a truck camper like the Camino 88?
“When it comes to truck campers, there will always be trade-offs due to the limits on space. Spend some time thinking about what your priorities will be while you are traveling or camping out of your setup. Once you have those priorities figured out, buy the best camper you can afford that serves those priorities,” Rachel said.
Priorities? Affordability? There’s no doubt about it, the KingStar Camino 88 is not just another cookie-cutter camper. The stainless steel shower, the underfloor storage, and the wall-mounted air conditioner provide ample evidence of that fact. Couple these features with the center console and two reclining seats in the Lounger floorplan and the optional Jack Pack and you’ve got yourself a truck camper that’s quite unlike anything else in today’s market. Sure you can find some of these features in more expensive rigs like the Earthroamer and the Host Mammoth, but not in a $31,000 truck camper like the Camino 88.
So what are waiting times like right now if somebody wanted to order a Camino 88? Marcus Niemela, KingStar owner and CEO, tells us the the waiting list is about eight weeks out, perfect for those needing to get into one of these magnificent campers quick.