We love aluminum here at Truck Camper Adventure. As former Airstream travel trailer owners, we’ve always had an affinity for aluminum construction. Raw aluminum not only looks good, but is more durable and longer lasting. That’s why you see so many 60-year-old Airstream travel trailers and Avion truck campers still in use today. We were happy to see Livin’ Lite take up the aluminum truck camper mantle in the early 2000s with its small lineup of rivet-less aluminum truck campers, but were sad to learn of the company’s demise in early 2018, the victim of corporate bean counters. Livin’ Lite’s demise left a massive void in the aluminum truck camper market, that is until now. Enter Kimbo Campers out of Bellingham, Washington.
Kimbo Campers is the brainchild of inventor and entrepreneur Mark King. The inspiration for Kimbo Campers came from the inside of a nuclear submarine, the USS Alabama, which his father commanded, and from living in a 19-foot Airstream. Mark soon discovered that his love for the outdoors and exploring was incompatible with a low-clearance towable like an Airstream, so Mark started building an aluminum truck camper in 2016, a camper he designed in college. After living in it for six months, and traveling over 30,000 miles, Mark was ready to bring his passion to market with what he would call the Kimbo 6, a lightweight camper with a 6-foot floorplan.
“I’ve been living in an Airstream for three years,” Mark explained. “Within the first three hours of owning it, I was backing into the RV spot, and the person who was backing me into the spot backed me into a shed and it cost $8,000 to fix. So that inspired me to build a camper that if you dented it, it wouldn’t cost and arm and a leg to fix, or if you scratched it, the scratch would fade right in.”
The Airstream influence in the Kimbo 6 is obvious. The all-aluminum design hearkens back to the 1960s when aluminum travel trailers and Avion truck campers were commonplace. Unlike those earlier campers and trailers, however, the Kimbo camper has no aluminum frame. The camper’s construction consists of a patented, single wall, riveted aluminum, insulated with rigid R5 foam lined with suede. The secret to the Kimbo camper’s strength is how the aluminum panels fit together and how they overlap, preventing water leaks, while at the same time providing a rugged design that is surprisingly strong. The camper can even be used fully off of the truck.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Kimbo 6’s profile is that there’s no overhang in the rear. While you lose some interior living space going this route, it also makes the camper lighter and more trail worthy for overlanding. It also makes it easier to maneuver and park in the city. In spite of this design choice, the camper still boasts some pretty impressive numbers like 6 feet of floor space, 6.5 feet of headroom, and over 3 feet of clearance in the cabover. Fully loaded, the mid-size camper weighs only 1,100 pounds, well within the payload ratings of the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, and Chevy Colorado.
The layout of the Kimbo 6 belies its size. Standard features include a teak entryway/mudroom with an aluminum partition, a 54×75-inch east-west bed, two couches for social seating, removable lift jacks, and three Arctic Turn double pane insulated “Euro” windows. The camper also comes with a three-speed roof vent fan, a Yeti 400 solar generator with 12 volt USB ports, an exterior propane bay for a 30-pound propane tank, and high-efficiency, dimmable LED lighting. Pricing starts at $19,999, a very reasonable starting point for a lightweight camper of this quality.
Customers can build out the Kimbo 6 any way they want by ordering a number of optional “modules.” These include a kitchen module with hot water ($2,000), a refrigerator module ($1,600), a table and clothes closet with shelves ($600), a water reservoir with electric sprayer ($350), a roof-mounted 100 watt solar power system ($700), a fold away shower module ($1,300), a 30-pound propane tank ($200), a Dickinson propane fireplace and chimney ($1,600), and an air conditioner with a storage bay ($900).
What is Mark’s favorite feature? “The fireplace,” he said, without hesitation. “Because it makes the camper feel like home. When you’re sitting there at night and you’ve got dinner made, and it’s 15 degrees and snowing outside, and you’ve got the fireplace running and it’s pumping heat in there and you’re completely warm, it’s an amazing experience. There’s something about having a little fire inside that makes you feel safe and warm when it’s cold outside.”
If you’re looking to “rough it” in luxury, this probably isn’t the truck camper for you. The Kimbo 6 embodies the minimalist principles espoused by its designer. As such, you won’t find the convenience of a large, walk-in wet-bath with a toilet, overhead storage cabinets (wire baskets are used instead), or massive fresh and grey water holding tanks. This is minimalist living at its finest.
“When you look inside it looks simple, it’s supposed to be,” Mark said. There are no bells and whistles, no special or fancy features. We have three patents on the camper, two on the design, and one on the construction. It’s designed in such a way that makes it easy to modify, easy to upgrade, modules installed and removed easily. Its safe and feels like home, it’s very well-built. There aren’t any fake woods inside it. The cabinets are solid wood.”
One convenience that Mark is working on, is a portable, self sealing toilet. Mark wants to get away from the mess and smells associated with the traditional RV toilet and RV black water holding tank. The company is tossing around several ideas, including possibly using an import like the Wrappon Green tear and seal electric toilet, a product we recently reviewed.
“The point of this camper is to be able to take it into the wilderness and have it be self-reliant for two weeks and it achieves that. So if you go out in the wilderness with propane, it runs off of solar and recharges itself, there’s high-efficiency LED lighting strips all along the perimeter inside, and you can run just about indefinitely on solar. The propane can last for months just running the refrigerator, and weeks using the fireplace,” he said.