Innovation is the lifeblood of any industry. Yet, from the 1980s to 2004, the truck camper industry was anything but, with the same floor plans, construction methods, and appliances offered in nearly every model. If you saw one, you saw them all. All of that changed with the introduction of slide-outs in the early 2000’s and the popularity of overlanding around 2012. Since then, a bevy of new truck camper manufacturers and floor plans have been introduced, which have pushed the envelope on truck camper design and innovation even further.
One such manufacturer is Michigan-based KingStar. Known previously for building revolutionary horse trailers, KingStar decided to try its hand building innovative truck campers to pull those cutting-edge trailers. To say that KingStar’s efforts were successful would be an understatement. Since its founding in 2018, the company has incorporated a number of innovations in its Camino 88 truck camper to make it stand out from the rest. These include a stainless steel shower, a raised center roof line that offers more headroom and storage, a wall mounted air conditioner, a stainless steel roof, and a brand-new, dry bath interior slide-out toilet option that can only be described as revolutionary.
KingStar offers three interior floor plans for the Camino 88: the Couch Bunk, the Dinette, and Lounger. All floor plans offer a generous floor length of 9 feet 3 inches, a width of 7.5 feet, and a center of gravity between 34-36 inches. The dry weight of the wood-framed camper is only 2,580 pounds for a standard-equipped model with a north-south cabover, and can be hauled on either a 3/4-ton or one-ton, long-bed or short-bed SRW truck with the requisite payload. And with the Camino 88’s moderate weight, superb center of gravity, and narrow girth, KingStar Camino 88 truck camper can be taken practically anywhere. As a matter of fact, we think so highly of the Camino 88, we rated it as one of the best truck campers for sale in 2022.
To find out what’s new for the KingStar Camino 88 in 2022, we spoke with KingStar Founder and CEO, Marcus Niemela.
Hi, Marcus, it’s great to talk to you again. The last time we met you revealed several upgrades to the Camino 88. Can you give our readers a recap of what they are?
Marcus Niemela: Hi Mike, yes, thank you for the opportunity to highlight the new and innovative features that have been added to the KingStar Camino 88, as well as items that were options that are now standard equipment. In regards to the latter, the north-south (east-west optional with price deduct) sleeper bunk; the 6-inch-thick Green Tea, residential queen, memory foam mattress; the electric jacks; an Amana 8,000 BTU wall-mounted air conditioner; two 20-pound LP tanks; a Vitrifrigo 3.2 cubic foot DC compressor refrigerator; a bathroom sink/vanity and mirror, as well as the upgraded Maxxfan deluxe 7500 fan are all standard. On this note, I’d like to mention that the recent price increase is not just due to inflation, but the aforementioned items that were options previously are now standard equipment. Our customers are actually getting added value for the money.
That’s good to know. What exterior siding options and colors are you currently offering with the Camino 88?
Marcus Niemela: We are currently offering three exterior colors: Champagne (earth tone) Clovermist (grayish/silver tone) and Polar White. The colors come on an attractive, filon slick-side fiberglass laminated to an Azdel substrate.
Are there any differences between the short-bed and long-bed versions of the Camino 88?
Marcus Niemela: No, none. We build the one model—the Camino 88—which works in both the 8-foot and 6.5-foot truck bed.
We are very impressed with the new dry bath/sliding toilet optional feature. Can you tell us more about it?
Marcus Niemela: Yes, the “dry bath” with sliding privacy door option, is just now being introduced to the KingStar Camino 88. We use a 4-gallon Thetford C224 Cassette toilet that is mounted to an aluminum pan that slides in and out of the shower stall with ease. This slide-out mechanism provides a massive 33×36-inch stainless steel dry bath! The toilet can be used inside or outside the shower stall. The shower also comes with an optional 12-inch clothes hanging rod that rotates into and out the shower stall. That shower stall space that is used 5 percent of the time can now used as a closet! In a east-west camper that is a total of 32 inches of extra closet space, in a north-south that is, get this—44-inches of extra closet space. If you choose the Rack Pack with Tower accessory you will add an additional 22-inches of closet space.
How much does the dry bath/sliding toilet option cost?
Marcus Niemela: The “Dry Bath/Sliding Toilet“ option costs $3,490. It includes the toilet, the sliding pan, a bath mat, a toilet paper holder, a privacy door with full-length mirror, and 12-inch, swing-away closet rod.
Does KingStar offer any other portable toilet options like composting and electric Wrappon toilets?
Marcus Niemela: Yes, we do. We offer Airhead and Natures Head composting toilets, but there is a several month lead time on these.
We think the stainless steel shower is one of the KingStar Camino 88’s biggest assets. Can you tell us how the shower stall is constructed?
Marcus Niemela: It sure makes a first impression when you open the door, doesn’t it! Yes, as mentioned before we now have on the passenger wall, from floor to ceiling, a mold that incorporates a sink in the bathroom as well as a stainless steel toiletry holder and mirror. The front and back wall is still made of stainless steel.
We are very impressed with the Camino 88’s Battle Born lithium and inverter setup and how it can run the Amana 8000 air conditioner with ease. Can you tell us more about it?
Marcus Niemela: The Amana 8,000 BTU wall-mounted air conditioner is one of our most talked about features. Usually, there is a trade-off having an air conditioner, but with the Amana 8000, it’s all positives. Being that the Camino 88 comes standard with 2-inch spray foam closed cell insulation and dual thermopane windows it’s the optimum BTU’s for this camper, this translates to lower wattage, less weight, no roof penetration, lower roof clearance and a sleek exterior profile! Being that we offer three, 100 amp hour Battle Born lithium batteries, a 3,000 watt Victron inverter and up to 600 watts of solar, you will have hours of operation due to its minimal, 700-watt power draw.
KingStar offers three unique floor plans for the Camino 88. Are any new floor plans being planned for 2023?
Marcus Niemela: Yes, but we are currently fleshing-out the details of the design. Look for it in a few months, digital nomads are going to love it!
We’re glad to see KingStar offering the Truma Combi as an option. It’s a game-changer. Are you offering any other Truma products as options?
Marcus Niemela: We agree, the Truma Combi really is a real game-changer and we highly recommend it over the conventional furnace and 6-gallon water heater, especially if you intend to use the camper in the winter. We don’t have it in our website yet, but yes, you can get the Truma AquaGo water heater that fits in the same foot print of the Suburban water heater.
Are any other upgrades in store with the Camino 88’s solar power system?
Marcus Niemela: Good question, Mike! Actually, yes. KingStar is currently prototyping a new air conditioner intake and exhaust manifold, which will allow us to remove the roof-top intake vent. If all goes as planned, this will open us up to more roof-top solar real estate. We will go from a maximum capacity of 480 watts to 780 watts on the east-west cabover and from 600 watts to 900 watts on a north-south cabover! This translates to even better air conditioning run times!
We’re glad to see that KingStar is offering a cell booster as an option with a folding antenna bracket. Can you tell us more about that setup?
Marcus Niemela: Yes, KingStar’s Communication Package comes with a Weboost Drive Reach RV Cell Booster and a King Swift Omni Directional WiFi antenna. The package also includes a convenient, 180-degree fold-away bracket with a “quick catch” antenna holder in the down/travel mode. When you get to your campsite, simply flip the antenna up and when you head out, fold it down and attach in the quick catch bracket.
Nice! What are the most popular options offered by KingStar?
Marcus Niemela: The Truma Combi, the upgraded 5-cubic foot refrigerator, and the Battle Born lithium battery bank with the 3,000 watt Victron inverter. I’m sure the new Dry Bath option will be popular as well.
We agree. Can you tell us about your new back porch, motorcycle hauler option?
Marcus Niemela: It’s called the “Pack Away Porch.” It works with our current Fold-n-Go stairs to enter the camper from the side. It’s needed for motorcycle applications. It’s a $1,490 option.
Are you currently offering a DC-to-DC charger to keep the Camino 88’s battery bank charged while driving?
Marcus Niemela: Yes, as standard equipment we have a 30 amp DC-to-DC charger in every camper and offer a second 30 amp DC-to-DC as optional. Our system is centered around the Victron-Orion Tr 12/12 volt-30 amp DC-to-DC charger, heavy gauge wiring, and protected with appropriately-rated fuses.
What is the MSRP of the KingStar Camino 88?
Marcus Niemela: As stated earlier, the price for the KingStar Camino 88 increased from $39,990 to $45,960. Yes, inflation has added to the price, but most of it’s added value, such as electric jacks, an air conditioner, a north-south cabover now being standard, whereas before the east-west cabover used to be standard.
Most truck camper manufacturers have year-long backlogs if not longer. What is the current backlog if somebody wanted to order a KingStar Camino 88 today?
Marcus Niemela: We are into September/October 2022 for completion dates on orders placed now.
Which rallies and shows are you planning on attending in 2022 and early 2023?
Marcus Niemela: We will be attending the Overland Expo Northwest, July 8-10 in Redmond, Oregon, the Overland Expo Mountain West, August 26-28 in Loveland, Colorado, and the Overland Expo East, October 7-9 in Arrington, Virginia. We are also planning to attend D&H RV truck camper rally in the fall, the Tampa, Florida RV Supershow in January 2023, and, of course, the Truck Camper Adventure Rally in Quartzsite in February 2023.
Great interview Mike and Marcus…what a fine, innovative product you offer Marcus.