Oregon-based SherpTek revealed a truck camper combo that created a big stir on social media recently. This mid-size rig, consisting of a stock 2019 Toyota Tacoma, a 2019 Kimbo 6 aluminum truck camper, and a SherpTek aluminum truck bed tray, clearly illustrates that a combo doesn’t have to be big to comfortably travel and camp off-grid. Built for devoted skiers who spend a significant amount of time camping in winter, the key component that makes this rig work is the SherpTek aluminum tray. This modular truck bed not only provides plentiful amounts of storage for ski equipment and other gear, but also houses a diesel-fired Espar heater for the camper with a dedicated diesel holding tank.
“This particular build started with a 5-foot bed Tacoma so it was a short-bed,” explained Ryan Goodwin owner of Oregon-based SherpTek. “The customers were pretty adamant about it wanting to match the length of the Kimbo camper. I pushed back a little bit at first because we don’t like doing bed extensions without true frame extensions, but I came up with a way to put a 6-foot bed on a 5-foot bed Tacoma and have it structurally supported. The flatbed comes in with less weight than the stock bed even with all of the underbed boxes. So even with our full truck body replacement with the flank sides we were within 50 pounds of the stock bed. That was something we were really happy with and it matched the Kimbo really well.”
SherpTek takes pride in the quality of their work. All SherpTek truck beds are made from aircraft-grade aluminum, using aerospace construction techniques for the strongest and lightest structure possible. Each truck bed is custom built to match a customer’s truck and lifestyle, and often weigh less than the OEM truck bed. Each bed is mounted within an 1/2-inch of stock bed height, and comes with modular structural attachment points on top and bottom, so accessories can be added, removed, and swapped at will. SherpTek truck beds come standard with DOT lighting and fuel fills, and can add up to 60 cubic feet of storage, a huge plus for mid-size truck campers with limited storage like the Kimbo 6. Pricing, of course, depends on options, but you can get a basic SherpTek truck bed with a fuel fill, lighting, and flanks for around $10,000.
While many companies avoid custom work, SherpTek actually embraces it. In fact, custom work is SherpTek’s modus operandi. This particular 72-inch-long and 75-inch-wide bed includes front and lateral camper alignment brackets, wheels wells with end caps, custom lighting, rear seal hip plates, a 100-amp alternator charging circuit integrated with the camper, and a custom rear bumper with tow shackles, camera, license plate light, and backup sensors. The job also included relocating the diesel-fired Espar heater from the camper and to the bed and the installation of a 3-gallon diesel tank. All told, the entire truck bed came in under 400 pounds, an amazing feat.
“We did a lot of custom things to it that were driven by the customer,” Goodwin said. “We relocated the Kimbo’s Espar heater to the outside of the camper and ran the exhaust out the back of our system. We put a custom 3-gallon fuel tank underneath the bed with a quick-disconnect pass through to the bed. So the Espar runs off of the tank under the bed and that didn’t take up any storage space. It has its own fuel fuel fill on the bed with a gauge to monitor the fuel level. And we rigged up a system so if they ever did have the camper off of the truck and wanted to run the heater you could run it off of a Rotopax.”
“One of their main priorities was getting their long powder skis to fit in the side. The rear of what we call the hips actually extend a couple inches past the camper, something we normally would not do, but they really wanted a certain length of ski to fit and we only have so much room to work with. It’s one of those details that we can do. We’re small enough where we can make something like that happen,” he said.
The alternator charge circuit is one of SherpTek’s most popular options. The 100 amp system connects the alternator to the camper’s batteries using a dedicated, heavy-duty charging cable. The OEM charge line found in most trucks and RVs use only 10 AWG wire that provides a basic, trickle charge of maybe 4 amps. A dedicated alternator charge system, like the one SherpTek builds, can provide up to a whopping 120 amps for battery charging. To maximize the charge, SherpTek’s system uses thick, 2 AWG cable while the highest rated system uses 2/0 cable. The rest of the battery charging system consists of Victron smart isolators, dual circuit breakers, and waterproof connectors integrated into the bed. It’s a finely tuned system that works remarkably well. In fact, SherpTek helped design the system in conjunction with another Oregon-based company, AM Solar.
As for the camper, the Kimbo 6 is quite unlike any other camper being built today. The Kimbo’s angular, all-aluminum design hearkens back to the 1960s when Airstream 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.
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. 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.
Pricing for the Kimbo 6 starts at $19,999, a very reasonable starting point for an aluminum camper of this quality. However, if you’re looking for luxury camping, this probably isn’t the truck camper for you. The Kimbo 6 embodies the minimalist principles espoused by Mark King, 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. In spite of this approach, the Kimbo still packs a powerful punch when it comes to ruggedness, features, and good looks. There isn’t another camper in today’s market that looks quite like it.
“The Kimbo design was fun in an engineering, design challenge sort of way. All of the angles of the Kimbo didn’t really match our standard geometrey, but because of the modular way we design things we made it work. It looks so spaceship like. It doesn’t look like any other camper out there,” Goodwin said.
I met the couple who own this camper in a parking lot in Leavenworth, WA this summer. They were very happy with their camper and truck tray. I did glean a few bits from them….they said they had been in 20F and the 2kw heater could maintain 65F inside but that was it….Kimbo claims to have R4 (or 5?) Insulation which I believe insufficient for a true cold weather camper, especially with an aluminum ‘heat sink’ for a skin. The owner did mention having condensation and frost on the door frame and some other areas that has an interior rib attached to the skin. This is what I expected to be the issue and I would be very concerned with condensation around any of these sites wetting the insulation. The insulation, as I understand it, is adhered to the inside of the skin in and around (albiet few) structural members. There is no internal vapor barrier to prevent moist air from penetrating areas where it reaches dew point temperatures. I believe this will quickly be an issue in cold weather. Overall though, a neat but small and pricey design. It will be fun to watch as it develops.