Lance Camper showcased four truck campers at the 2019 RVX Show, March 12-14, in Salt Lake City, including a new truck camper rig the company is calling the “Altimeter.” Built on the popular Lance 855s and mounted on a diesel-powered 2018 Ford F-350 four-wheel drive truck, the Altimeter features a number of upgrades that would make any overlander drool.
“We brought four campers to the show,” said Bob Rogers, Lance’s Director of Marketing. “We displayed the Lance 650, targeted for half-ton trucks, the Lance 1172, our best-selling model and biggest camper, and the Lance 995, a single slide-out model for long-bed trucks. In a separate display, we also revealed a custom build using the Lance 855s that we’re calling the Altimeter. This is a custom build using a totally stock 855s using a custom wrap.”
In what is Lance’s most ambitious showroom build yet, the Altimeter consists of a 2018 Ford F-350 SRW short-bed truck, powered by the 6.7L Power Stroke turbo diesel, with a Lance 855s single slide-out camper mounted on top. Showcasing the rig’s towing versatility, the Altimeter also includes a trailer with a matching Yamaha YXZ 1000R utility task vehicle (UTV) for extreme off-roading. While the short-bed camper is a totally stock unit with a few experimental elements thrown in, the 4×4 truck has been modified extensively for off-road travel and includes a Stage 5 Icon Vehicle Dynamics 2.5-inch Suspension System, Maxxis Razr MT 37-inch tires, Raceline Defender 935BX 18-inch wheels, a Warn Ascent front bumper with a 16.5ti heavy-duty winch, and a Magnaflow Pro Series exhaust.
“The Altimeter is our third showroom build,” Bob explained. “The first two builds showcased what was then our new Lance 650—the first one we put on a Ford F-150, the second one on a Nissan Titan XD, an outstanding build by Hellwig. For this build, we wanted to do something bigger, but not where it couldn’t conceivably be a good overlanding vehicle. As you well know, if you get too big it limits where you can go, so we took the 855s, which is in that middle range and has a generator on it, and put it on an F-350 single rear wheel truck to help with the off-road capability.”
Key elements of a cool, yet functional truck camper rig are the wheels and tires. In this, Lance chose well by going with 18-inch bronze-colored Raceline aluminum wheels and a highly capable set of Maxxis Razr 37×12.50R18D mud-terrain tires. This wheel and tire combination not only provides excellent off-road traction, but also gives the rig a 2-inch lift over the stock wheels and tires for greater ground clearance.
“The tires are 37-inch diameter tires, so they’re big,” Bob said. “We mounted them on Raceline 18-inch wheels. The tires are weight-rated appropriately, that was real important to us, and the wheel is an 8-lug wheel rated at around 4,150 pounds. We wanted to get a good-looking tire and Maxxis really came through for us, they are a great partner for us and they also provided tires for the UTV.”
One thing that must carefully be taken into account when building an overland rig, is keeping the center of gravity low. This is especially true when building one capable of going off-road. Because of this, you’ll rarely see a truck camper rig with a lift greater than 3 inches. Bob kept this critical number in mind when he built the Altimeter.
“The lift isn’t really a lift,” he explained, “it’s more of a leveling kit, so the rear doesn’t go up at all on the suspension, it’s an Icon 2.5-inch suspension lift, a Stage 5 they call it, but the back is level, so really it’s just a 2-inch lift from the stock tire to the 37-inch tire. It looks good and gives us good off-road performance, but you have to worry about the center of gravity, it’s not a formula one car by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s very off-road capable.”
As for the Lance 855s truck camper, Bob decided to keep the unit stock. The camper weighs only 2,997 pounds dry, which puts it at about 4,000 pounds loaded, well within the payload rating of the Ford F-350. The camper’s 8-foot 11-inch floorplan features a gorgeous interior with dark, cherry stained cabinets, a large wet bath with a bathroom sink, a small kitchen with a three-way 5-cubic foot refrigerator, a spacious cabover with a north-south queen-size bed, and a driver side slide-out with a cozy leather dinette. Tank capacities are nicely apportioned for a four-season camper of this size, too, with 30 gallons fresh, 20 gallons grey, and 25 gallons black. Like all Lance campers, the 855s also features Lance’s new one-piece, molded TPO nose cap, which gives the camper a sleek and modern look compared to other makes of campers.
Keeping pace with technological advancements has always been a goal at Lance. As part of that ongoing goal, Lance is testing out new equipment in this camper comprised of four Battle Born 100 amp hour lithium-ion batteries, a massive 640 watt Go Power solar power system, a 2,000 watt Victron inverter, and a couple of imported Truma products for heating.
Testing lithium-ion batteries and the associated components makes a lot of sense for a manufacturer like Lance. Why? Because the lithium-ion battery is a game changer. Unlike standard lead-acid batteries, which offer only 50 percent usable capacity, the lithium battery offers a whopping 90 percent of usable capacity. This is a significant improvement for those who like to boondock and camp off-grid. But that’s not all. The Lithium battery also weighs less, provides a higher current output, charges faster because it can be bulked charged to 100 percent, and offers zero voltage sag. They also last longer. Of course, the only real negative with the lithium battery is the initial price—they cost three to four times more than a standard AGM battery—but when it comes to the pros, nothing beats a lithium-ion battery. Nothing.
Unfortunately, Bob wasn’t able to retrofit the revolutionary Truma Combi water heater furnace in the Altimeter because the camper was already built, but the Truma Combi is something that Lance continues to evaluate for possible use in truck campers. In the meantime, Lance is evaluating two other Truma products in the Altimeter, the Truma VarioHeat—which won the top award in the aftermarket category at the 2019 RVX Show—and the Truma AquaGo tankless water heater. Unlike the Combi, the VarioHeat and AquaGo are aftermarket units that can easily be retrofitted in any existing truck camper. Because each offers greater efficiency and weight savings, Lance is evaluating them for possible use throughout Lance’s fleet of campers and travel trailers.
Of course, one of the things that really makes the Altimeter stand out, is the special custom wrap found on the exterior of the truck and camper. Unfortunately, if you’re interested in getting this special wrap on your Lance camper, you won’t be able to get it.
“The wrap is custom,” Bob explained. “Most wraps don’t last longer than two years because they start to peel, but we do offer the mountain graphic on our campers—it’s called the mountain scene—and it’s our best-selling graphic. We offer two graphics at Lance, the traditional swoops and swirls, or the mountain scene. The mountain scene has taken over as our most popular graphic, over 60 percent of our customers now order it.”
So how was the Altimeter received at the inaugural RVX Show in Salt Lake City? “The response has been amazing,” Bob said. “Every year we seem to gain more momentum. It’s an interesting thing, I’ve been here for five years, the company has been around for 65 years, and we have a huge, loyal following of customers, yet 30 percent of our customers are first-time buyers. So for an established brand like ours to have 30 percent first-time buyers is kind of exciting, because you’re getting new people into the brand, which is great. But with all of that, I’ll go to an East Coast based event and run into outdoor people, including RV people, who’ve never heard of Lance and don’t know about truck campers, so I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Another thing Lance’s marketing team wants to do is to appeal to both baby boomers and millennials. Fortunately, the RVX Show put on by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is a new marketing event that provides an outstanding avenue to help educate dealers and the public. Bob and his marketing team are taking full advantage of this new marketing tool to get the word out about the benefits of the slide-in truck camper.
“One of the big things I wanted to do at this show was to continue exposing new markets to the truck camper segment and the Lance brand because when you do find somebody who knows about truck campers they know Lance—they’ve been at it for 65 years—and they go, ‘my father had one, we camped in one, my grandfather had one.’ ‘Ok, so how do we get you into one?’ We have to make our campers cool to appeal to a younger crowd, so part of that and why we do a build like the Altimeter is to make it cool, and know that you can do anything you want in it, whatever your hobby is, it will support it because the rig is so versatile. The RVIA has done a great job of getting non-traditional RV media to this show to see the Altimeter and they’ve been wowed by it,” Bob said.