Truck Camper Adventure is proud to present this interview with Mike Cash, a long-time reader and follower of this website. Mike was born and raised in rural Indiana and now makes Arizona his home. He took up outdoor photography in 2007, and soon thereafter, the hobby became a passion and a an important creative outlet in his life. In 2008, he married his wife, Joni, and in 2010 the two began a new chapter of their lives as they moved to the Prescott, Arizona area. Mike is a long-time Jeep owner and has explored much of Arizona and southern Utah in it. He realized that truck camping was a great way to support his passion in photography and his interests in off-road exploration and purchased his first truck camper, a Hallmark K2 pop-up, in early 2015. Mike is an avid blogger. His photography and accounts of his explorations can be found on his website at nomadacy.com.
TCA: Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to talk. How long have you been interested in exploring and RV’ing?
Mike: Joni and I both have a lot of history being outside and traveling but we’re new to RV’ing. We got our present and first RV in March of 2015.
TCA: Can you tell us about your truck camper and why you chose that particular make and model?
Mike: We have a Hallmark K2. I started research and planning in 2013. By early 2014 we had narrowed the candidates to a few choices. We went to Overland Expo West in May on day passes to see those choices for real. After looking at the Hallmarks on display and talking with Bill Ward (owner of Hallmark) our decision was made. In December 2014 we made a trip to the Hallmark factory in Colorado. There we had the factory tour and Bill Ward sat down with us to figure out what model and options we needed to fulfill our desires. That conversation started with what kind of camping we wanted to do and what places did we want to travel to. We like the pop-up roof. On the road we have better aerodynamics and off-road we have better clearance. For us the K2 is not too big, not too small, it’s just the right size to have the features we want.
TCA: Do you remember the first time you went off-road?
Mike: I grew up on a farm so in a way it can be said that I’ve spent a lot of my life “off-road.” In 2005, I bought a 2000 Jeep Cherokee with 325,000 miles with a lot of “Arizona racing stripes” on it. It’s a great Jeep that taken me off pavement to a lot of remote places in Arizona in southern Utah.
TCA: Which tie-down and turnbuckle system do you use to secure your Hallmark camper?
Mike: We use Torklift turnbuckles with bed-mounted tie-downs in front and frame-mounted tie-downs in the rear.
TCA: Have you made any modifications to your Hallmark camper?
Mike: Just a few. Our truck has a backup camera in the tailgate. Of course the tailgate is removed when the camper goes on. Hallmark advised us that if we brought a factory back-up camera kit with us they’d install it on our camper. It’s just so awesome to be able use the factory backup camera on our rig! The only other thing we’ve done is add a foam pad on top of the stock mattress for a little more sleeping comfort.
TCA: Do you use solar power or a generator to keep your truck camper’s batteries topped off?
Mike: We don’t have a generator. We have 200 watts of solar power on the roof. For us its the only way to go.
TCA: Can you tell us more about your truck?
Mike: We have a 2014 Ram 2500 Big Horn, mega-cab, short bed, 4×4. We bought it new and love it. It’s like a luxury car that can go off-road. Joni loves the Prairie Pearl paint and the two-tone chocolate and cream interior.
TCA: Have you made any modifications to your truck’s suspension to carry your truck camper?
Mike: The only modification we’ve made was to replace the stock rear sway bar with a Hellwig Big Wig unit.
TCA: Do you have any regrets in any of your choices? Anything you wished that you did differently?
Mike: We are very happy with our choices. We give the Ward family at Hallmark a lot of credit for helping us design the right camper for us.
TCA: Which engine type do you prefer, diesel or gas?
Mike: When we were doing our research this was a huge question. When it came to the final decision we went with gas. It was the right choice for us. The 6.4 liter Hemi in our Ram has more than enough power to haul our camper and our fuel mileage is, we think, quite good. We’re very pleased with the Hemi.
TCA: What kind of mileage do you get hauling your camper?
Mike: We get anywhere from 11 to 14 mpg.
TCA: Do you tow anything like a Jeep or boat?
Mike: No. One reason we went with a truck camper is to not have to tow anything.
TCA: What tires do you have on your truck and what inflation values do you typically run when driving off-road?
Mike: We replaced the OEM tires with BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires in the stock size on the stock aluminum wheels. They’re slightly larger diameter than the OEM tires. I could tell an immediate difference in ride quality and handling when I left the dealer with the new tires on. Our experience with the BFG KO2s on our Ram (and our Jeep), on and off-road, reflects the good test reports we’ve read. We keep our tires inflated to the factory values of 80 PSI rear and 60 PSI front.
TCA: Do you have any favorite roads or trails you like to explore? What was the most difficult and challenging?
Mike: We enjoy the Old Rim Road on the Mogollon Rim. Our most difficult trail so far was on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Kaibab National Forest. We were headed to Crazy Jug Point and ended up on a narrow trail with a steep, twisting, rocky downhill stretch near the end. Overall it was a beautiful stretch of trail, but we were very relieved to reach the bottom.
TCA: What are your favorite states where you like to explore?
Mike: That’s a hard question to answer. We love our home state of Arizona and see no end to the exploration possibilities here. That said, I love southern Utah and look forward to taking Joni there with our truck camper. This spring I went to Death Valley National Park for five days. Going back next spring is a must and Joni says I wont be going alone.
TCA: Are there any areas or trails that you think are overlooked by most overlanders?
Mike: Good question! Often we see other overlanders concentrating on an epic trip of some sort. We have those sort of plans too. But we also realize there’s so much to enjoy within a day’s drive of home (admittedly we may have an advantage on this living in Arizona, essentially in the middle of Prescott National Forest). Don’t overlook what’s close by.
TCA: What advice would you offer to those who are considering buying a truck camper to take off-road?
Mike: Really get a good understanding of what one can expect to do off-road with a truck camper. Research what’s available, what can be done and what others are doing. Talk to the experts.
TCA: If you were to buy a brand new truck camper or overland rig, and price wasn’t an issue, what would it be?
Mike: If price weren’t an issue Joni and I would be looking real hard at an Earthroamer.
TCA: What’s the most worrisome or scariest moment you’ve experienced during your travels?
Mike: That downhill stretch on the way to Crazy Jug Point was probably the most worrisome. Our first outing to the Mogollon Rim also comes to mind. We camped in a gorgeous location right on the rim. It rained all night. We were worried about getting up out of the site and back on the dirt road as well as the muddy conditions on the road. Fortunately our concerns were unfounded, though we did have a lot of mud to clean off the truck when we got home.
TCA: Have you had any notable run-ins with wildlife?
Mike: Not really, but we were out for a walk while camping in the Kaibab National Forest one morning and found a bear track in the middle of the trail. We’ve never seen a bear in Arizona but we’ve seen proof they are out there.
TCA: What foods do you like to eat when you’re out exploring?
Mike: In the morning after breakfast we especially enjoy having coffee “on the veranda” which is in a chair under the awning enjoying the scenery. Dinner is always cooked on the grill unless the weather is bad. Grilled steak, chicken or fish with sliced grilled potatoes and/or other veggies is a common dinner for us. At Overland Expo West 2016 we purchased a Tembo Tusk Skottle to replace our little grille. We love the simplicity and versatility of the skottle. Learning more about camp cooking in order to have more variety is a goal for us.
TCA: We first met at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff. What interests you about that show?
Mike: We’ve been attending Overland Expo for 3 years now. It does seem like we are becoming regulars. We enjoy seeing all the equipment, other people’s rigs, learning from classes and showing our rig to others who are interested in a Hallmark.
TCA: Do you have any other hobbies as they relate to the great outdoors?
Mike: Outdoor photography has been a passion of mine since 2007. One big reason for an off-road truck camper is to go to those remote places I’m interested in for photography. Some of my older work can be seen on mikecash.photography.com. Since we got our truck camper I’ve been blogging our adventures along with my photography on nomadacy.com. By and large when we travel Joni photographs the journey and I make the art.
TCA: What camera do you use for your photography?
Mike: I use a Nikon D7100 and a Nikon D90 with various lens and other equipment.
TCA: Do you have any advise for us amateur photographers?
Mike: The best camera is the one in your hand. When you take a photo simplify your composition.
TCA: This has been great talking to you. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me. Do you have any final advice for our readers?
Mike: We all have dreams. Follow your dreams and have no regrets for doing so.