We love truck campers here at Truck Camper Adventure, especially new ones and existing models with new floor plans. One rig that caught our eye at the recent 2023 Overland Expo West was the KingStar Camino 88 Rig owned by Reyes and Deedra Murrieta. This spacious truck camper rig has it all—a Ford F550 for extra payload, an Eby Big Country truck bed with a massive gull-wing garage, Starlink, and a beautiful KingStar Camino 88 camper featuring a brand-new floor plan that KingStar calls the “Command Center.” Running everything is a powerful 840 amp hour lithium battery system, an 800 watt solar power system, a DC-DC alternator charger, and dual inverters. To say we were impressed with this cutting-edge rig would be an understatement. We rated it high in our Overland Expo West top 10. What makes this rig so special and what was the thought process behind building it? Deedra Murrieta was kind enough to tell all.
Thanks for talking with us. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Deedra Murrieta: We are Reyes and Deedra Murrieta, a couple who loves to explore and adventure any chance that we can get. We have spent our life together trying new things, being open to new experiences, and learning what we thrive on. We both work remotely in the realm of data science and analytics, and have a side business for media production. We travel with our two cats and they have developed a love for it over time as well (we think).
The past three or so years, we have had the bug to live life more freely on the road. We spent that time testing out the lifestyle with our overland Tacoma, spending week-long trips in the middle of nowhere in the southwestern United States. We tested our gear and ourselves to learn that we love the lifestyle and to see what we need to live comfortably. We absolutely love traveling to new places to see the beautiful natural world, explore cities and different cultures to meet new people, and visit friends and family along the way.
We were impressed with your KingStar Camino 88 Rig at the Overland Expo. Can you tell us about the camper and why you chose it over other makes and models?
Deedra Murrieta: KingStar as a company is relatively new to the truck camper world. They started with horse trailers and have been building truck campers since 2019. They have one model, the Camino 88, with multiple layouts and endless customization options.
Reyes was doing some research online for truck campers, and found the Camino 88 listed in a Truck Camper Adventure review online. When looking at it, we were immediately drawn to the unique look of the interior. It doesn’t have the typical RV or truck camper look to it. Soon after, we discovered that they would be at the Overland Expo Mountain West in 2022 and we went to check it out there. We were almost immediately sold, just from the obvious attention to detail and thoughtfulness of the design, the unique dry bath, and the receptiveness and friendliness of the CEO, Marcus Niemela.
When we researched it more, we found the sheer amount of customization available to be even more appealing. When we reached out to KingStar with ideas, they would discuss them with us and we found that many of them were implemented in future builds.
Aside from the new Command Center, does your particular rig have anything unique or custom about it?
Deedra Murrieta: The bed has a prototype garage or “gearage,” between the cab and the camper. KingStar is now offering it as an accessory in future campers. Our Eby truck bed is 11-foot long, so the garage is gigantic, about 32 x 72 x 48-inches tall. KingStar will be building them smaller, obviously, for shorter bed lengths. We are adding a slide-out to the garage so that we can store our two mountain bikes securely and easily access them. It will have enough room in addition to our bikes to store our protective gear and other biking accessories. The doors are gull-wing style doors, which are extremely functional and just give it that Back to the Future, Delorean look.
What is your favorite KingStar Camino 88 feature?
Deedra Murrieta: The dry bath. KingStar was extremely innovative with the design. The toilet and shower are separate. KingStar accomplished this by using a slide-out toilet with a swivel seat. The entire toilet is fixed on a slider that can be rolled out of the shower compartment and is still usable! The shower space is a comfortably sized area with storage, towel rack, and mirror included.
The sunroof over the bed was an pleasant surprise. This sunroof can be opened completely like a hatch and also doubles as the roof access point. The best part is that there is a hidden blackout shade that can be used to block the heat from the sun or to provide a comfortable darkness while sleeping, and there is a hidden screen that can be rolled out for those days that you want to keep the sunroof open but don’t want unwanted bugs or critters joining you in your camper.
The aesthetics and use of space in the camper are probably what ended up tipping us into the purchase. The camper has an open, homely feeling. You wouldn’t imagine that you’re sitting in a space the size of your vehicle. The color schemes and small accents make the camper feel more like home. There is very little space in the camper that isn’t either already utilized or made to be utilized for something. The amount of hanging space for clothes, the small but efficient pantry, and the shoe rack by the door are a few things that will make life on the road much simpler.
Have you made any modifications yet to your Camino 88 to make it more of your own?
Deedra Murrieta: The largest enhancement we are currently working on is in the reliability and availability of an Internet connection. Since we are working full-time in this rig, we need to be absolutely certain we will have the Internet wherever we decide to camp out. The modifications we are making for this include adding a Peplink router to our toolset. We already have the Starlink mobile internet package, and we also purchased a sim card for a data plan. What the Peplink will do for us is provide redundancy in our network. Our Starlink and SIM card data plan will be connected to the router, and it has a WIFI extender as well, and it switches automatically between these internet sources to find the one with the best connection. The router does this seamlessly, so we can leave everything connected and will not have a lapse in service if it switches sources.
Starlink is becoming very popular. What are your thoughts on the system and the pros and cons of it?
Deedra Murrieta: We’ve been using Starlink for over a year now at home in Colorado and on the road at locations like Moab, Winterpark, Colorado, and other remote areas throughout the southwest. Performance-wise, we have been impressed so far. We both work remotely and Starlink has allowed us to work from locations that would otherwise be inaccessible to us due to our work schedules. We both spend most of our day on video calls. We recently upgraded to the high-performance dish and average about 80 watts of power draw per hour, which we fortunately easily recover during the day with our 800 watts of solar in our Camino 88. During the work day, we get exceptional download speeds ranging from 50 – 170 Mbps. We have occasionally seen a dramatic performance drop after 5pm (down to approximately 2-20 Mbps), but this is only on occasion and we typically don’t see any drop in service in the evenings. We anticipate there will only be improvements in the connection as more satellites are launched.
The primary con for Starlink is the upfront cost. Depending on the model, you can pay anywhere from $600 to $2,500 for the high-performance dish we opted into. We haven’t had the high-performance dish long enough to give feedback on whether it is worth the upgrade. The other con is the subscription plans. The plans have fluctuated quite a bit in both price increases and changes in prioritization. We currently pay $150 a month for the “Mobile – Regional” plan (unprioritized) and have yet to have issues working with that. We only anticipate issues if we move into high saturation areas, but our plan with the truck camper is to generally stay off the beaten path. Our Starlink is our primary method of connectivity, but since we are completely dependent on the internet for our jobs, we do have backups. We have three different mobile hotspots and an optional wifi booster. Overall, we love our Starlink and would not hesitate to suggest purchasing it for anyone who is living on the road or wants to stay connected while traveling in their truck camper. It is one critical piece that enables our lifestyle on the road.
Can you tell us about your camper’s electrical system including your solar power and DC-to-DC charger system?
Deedra Murrieta: Our camper came set up with a massive 800 watt solar power system and an 840 amp hour battery bank. It has a 3,000 watt Victron Multiplus inverter. The entirety of the electrical system is Victron, which we know from previous builds is a great brand to use. We also have the DC-DC charger system for charging the battery bank while on the road, and have a separate Honda 2200i generator as the backup to the backup. Since we will be working our day jobs while on the road, it is critical for us to have ample power.
A great addition for the Command Center layout of KingStar campers, which is the layout that we have, is a separate 500 watt Victron Phoenix inverter that is solely dedicated to the center console of the office area. This inverter is more efficient than the 3,000 watt inverter, and enables us to turn off the main inverter while we are working in the middle of the day with just our laptops and Internet source plugged into the 500 watt inverter.
Thus far, our solar array has been more than enough to keep our battery bank charged, which is probably not surprising with 800 watts of solar. For those who attended last month’s Overland Expo West, you know how cloudy and rainy it was all weekend. Even with our camper being parked there for three days with our Starlink Internet plugged-in and running the Danby 8000 BTU air conditioner intermittently to demonstrate it to people at the Expo, we only got down to about 57 percent battery at the lowest using only solar. The Danby A/C only consumes 5.9 amps.
Can you tell us about more about your truck?
Deedra Murrieta: It’s a 2023 Ford F550 Lariat with the 6.7L turbo diesel. We are not the type of people to be loyal to a specific brand (we have a Dodge, Toyota, and now Ford at this point), but we have family in the Ford business and we wanted to support them. But when receiving our truck, we were just blown away by it and could not be happier. The Lariat is the highest package that is available for the F550 as it is considered a commercial vehicle, not a personal vehicle. Insurance is higher, but the initial cost was significantly lower than the F450 equivalent. We also knew we would want a flatbed, and the F550 does not come with a standard truck bed, just the chassis, so this just solidified our decision because it took the hassle of removing the bed off our hands.
We never buy new vehicles, but we went new in this case for the sole reason that this truck would be part of our new home. We wanted the warranty, a clean slate, and most importantly the reliability of a newer vehicle.
The F550 was not required to haul the truck camper, as the Camino 88 camper we bought weighs about 4,000 pounds loaded, but it does provide us with more flexibility as we add more gear and payload (we like our toys). A F350 or higher can handle the load, but between F350 and F450, the camper brings it closer to the max payload capacity. With the F550 including some high capacity add-ons that we purchased, we don’t have to worry about the load on the truck. We plan on keeping the truck for its lifetime, whether or not it has this camper on it, and we want the flexibility to use it as a work truck for whatever we need.
Have you made any modifications to your truck to carry your truck camper or improve its ride?
Deedra Murrieta: No, it is still stock from the factory. We did get the “Payload Plus” package and the “High Capacity Trailer Tow Package” when we purchased it, but it would have been fine to carry the camper without either of these. For the Eby bed, we removed the headache rack so that the garage and camper could fit. The truck rides extremely rough without the camper, as would be expected for an unloaded F550, but it rides surprisingly smooth with the camper.
Can you tell us more about your aftermarket truck bed?
Deedra Murrieta: Yes, our rig has an Eby Big Country flatbed. We went between the Eby and the CM truck beds because we have heard great things about both and they are priced better than competitors (at least they were when we looked). Honestly, the decision between the two came down to aesthetics. We like the look of the taillights on the Eby more than the CM truck beds.
The bed we went with is aluminum and includes two 48-inch storage boxes on each side in front of the rear tires. Rear boxes are available as well, but the front boxes are more than enough for us. They also had a huge range of sizes for these boxes, with 48-inches being the largest. The custom ‘garage’ is attached to the bed, so when the camper is removed, the ‘garage’ stays with the truck and has the directional brake lights on the back.
We purchased the bed by finding a local dealer on the Eby website, then calling them for the order. The dealer went through the bed options with us, ordered the bed, and installed it. The whole process took about a month.
Does your rig feature any other accessories or features worthy of note?
Deedra Murrieta: We travel with our two cats, so we needed a place for their litter box! When we reached out to KingStar about this, they didn’t hesitate to find space in the floor storage area and convert it to a litter box compartment that our cats can access through a hidden side tunnel. They absolutely love it as a hidey-hole right now, and we are creating a custom 3D printed litter box to fit perfectly in the area.
Do you have any plans for future upgrades or modifications?
Deedra Murrieta: We are planning to upgrade to a liquid Springs Suspension and super singles in the future to make the ride and off-road capabilities even better. The Liquid Springs Suspension uses an active hydraulic suspension which adapts the reaction of the suspension at each wheel to provide optimal ride quality and handling characteristics. The super single is essentially a conversion from dual rear wheels to single rear wheels on 41-inch tires.
We are DIYers at heart, so there will absolutely be more modifications and upgrades in the future. But this is one of the first times we have purchased something, especially a rig, that we don’t feel like we immediately need to make modifications to the rig to make it our own.
We can’t wait to see it with those upgrades! What kind of mileage do you get when hauling your truck camper?
Deedra Murrieta: With the weight of an F550, the mileage is fairly consistent except when facing winds. We get between 11-15 MPG on the highway with the camper, specifically 15 MPG at 55-65 MPH and it drops from there. If we are facing a strong headwind, it drops to about 8-9 MPG. In town, we average about 13 MPG, and we were pleasantly surprised about that.
What tires do you have on your truck and what inflation values do you typically run when driving on and off-road?
Deedra Murrieta: We have the stock Ford tires currently, which are the Continental Hybrid HD3 225/70R19.5. Since we have only had the rig for a month, we haven’t had the chance to test the tire pressure. It is currently at the factory level for on-road use. We haven’t run the camper off-road yet, but have ample experience in our other rigs and will lower the tire pressure as needed for a smooth ride.
Where have you taken your rig thus far?
Deedra Murrieta: We have driven the rig from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (where it was built) down through the Midwest over to Arizona for the Overland Expo West, and then headed home to Colorado from there. Since that trip, we have done local excursions up to the Rocky Mountains. We have only had the rig for about a month at this point, and are still working on getting it set up for our needs.
Where are you planning to take your rig in the future?
Deedra Murrieta: This summer, we will make a month-long trip to the Overland Expo Pacific Northwest (KingStar booth A33) then back home. We intend to hit the coast on the way up and travel through Idaho and Montana on our way back. One main purpose of this trip is to do a shakedown of the rig and how we set it up to see what changes we need to make (if any) to the rig or what we bring with us on the road.
We will be transitioning to full-time on the road at the end of the summer. We have committed to a year minimum on the road, exploring the western half of North America from Baja, Mexico to Banff, Canada. We still have a home base in Colorado if we absolutely need it for work or for a break, but we believe the lifestyle will agree with us as we have worked and spent long getaways in our vehicles in the past (overland Tacoma and rock crawling Durango).
Do you have any social media channels where our readers can follow you?
Deedra Murrieta: Yes, you can follow us on Instagram @exploringstillconnected. We also post weekly to our YouTube channel, and post on Instagram quite a bit. We started a blog at www.exploringstillconnected.com recently to document our travels and provide anyone who is curious with insight about living full time on the road. We have a full walkthrough of our truck, what we carry in our truck bed storage, and our camper on our YouTube channel. Check out our newest walkthrough of our truck camper here:
Interested in seeing this amazing rig in person? You’re in luck. The rig will be on display at the Overland Expo Pacific Northwest (KingStar booth A33), 7-9 July, in Redmond, Oregon.