There’s no doubt about it. The popularity of “vanlife” and “camperlife” has exploded with more and more singles and couples doing it. Scott and Sasha is one such couple. The two started their journey together when they met on Facebook in 2014. At the time, Scott lived in New Hampshire, Sasha in St. Petersburg, Russia. Their mutual love of travel and exploration continued to pull them together until finally they were married in 2016. After living together for about a year, they started to hatch a plan to travel full-time, starting first in North America. After choosing a NuCamp Cirrus 920 truck camper as their mobile home base, they quit their jobs, sold everything, and hit the road in November of 2019. Since their first meeting, they have visited eight different countries and 37 states. We met the couple at the recent Truck Camper Adventure Rally and were impressed with their energy and enthusiasm for this way of life. In this interview, the couple was kind enough to answer several questions about their rig and about truck camper life, in general.
How long have you been interested in truck camping?
Scott and Sasha: We’ve been interested in truck camping long before we got our truck camper. Prior to our truck camper, we owned a Coleman Clipper travel trailer and Scott had a 32-foot-long fifth wheel. The travel trailer was a great weekend camper and the 5’er was spacious and comfortable, but as we decided to travel full-time, we wanted to get something more nimble that would allow us to explore more places. The idea of getting a truck camper had been brewing for a while. We did a tremendous amount of research before purchasing our NuCamp Cirrus 920 and it fits our needs perfectly.
Can you tell us about your Cirrus 920 truck camper and why you chose it over all the other makes and models out there?
Scott and Sasha: Some of the main reasons are that we loved the holding tank sizes (38 gallons fresh, 32 gallons grey, and 18 gallons black). The holding tanks in our Cirrus are the perfect size for us, they’re not too big or too small. The fresh tank lasts us about four days with daily showers and we also carry four 6-gallon jugs, that gives us an additional three days of water. Having a partial basement gives us the extra tank capacity without making the camper significantly taller.
The double pane windows were another big factor. They offer excellent insulation in hot and cold weather as well as sound insulation! The windows tilt out, so you can open them in the rain and stay dry inside.
We love NuCamp’s esthetics. The camper that we chose was going to be our new home. We wanted to make sure that we liked the way it looks and that it’s comfortable for us to live in. We liked Cirrus for its European design, color palette and build quality. We also liked the fact that our Cirrus camper had a large generator compartment, so we were able to store and run our own Honda generator.
The Alde Hydronic Heating System is the number one reason why we chose our truck camper! It’s almost silent, doesn’t dry the air, eliminates cold spots and keeps our clothing nice and warm. We had a crack in our water heater tank which is a very rare occurrence, and what we learned during the repair process is that Alde’s customer support is fantastic! I was impressed with their follow through and flexibility with getting the repairs done. Also, having a couple weeks without a water heater really made us appreciate how much we use it. It’s always there, running silently and keeping everything warm.
As for our decision to go with the Cirrus 920 instead of the Cirrus 820, it came down to size and storage. We wanted as much storage as we could have without having to move to a different camper with slides.
What is your favorite Cirrus 920 feature?
Scott and Sasha: Our true favorite feature is the Alde hydronic heating system. Sasha and I agreed that the Alde is our favorite aspect of our camper. When we purchased our Cirrus, NuCamp was the only Truck Camper manufacturer that used the Alde system in their campers and it really set them apart from the other options on the market.
However, since all the NuCamp campers have the Alde system, I’ll explain our favorite features specific to the Cirrus 920. It comes down to storage and space. While comparing the 820 and 920, the added storage compartments are what sold us. The slide out pantry, the huge drawers under the cooktop, the added drawers and cabinet space between the bathroom and dinette and the additional waterproof storage compartment in the bathroom were exactly what we needed for our full-time camping life. The added length of the floor plan gives us the extra room to get around inside comfortably. Lastly, the exterior compartments offered more space and the addition of a generator compartment that I was able to use to house our Honda 2200i generator. After some modifications, that compartment lets me run the generator in the locked compartment, or remove it and run the generator far away from the camper.
Which tie-down and turnbuckle system do you use?
Scott and Sasha: We use TorkLift Tie Downs and Torklift FastGuns. They’ve been great!
What mods, if any, have you made to your camper to make it more livable?
Scott and Sasha: We have made many modifications to our rig. Our biggest mod was building an office space. To make a comfortable working space, we completely redesigned the dinette area and turned it into an office for two people. We have a desk facing out the large side window and a pull-out teak table in the center that we use for paperwork and meals. The side-mounted desk gives us a place to keep our laptops set up for extended periods while we are stationary. Now we can keep our computers setup and have dinner without moving anything!
We have made many other small modifications focused on storage, organization, communications and comfort. Two other important additions were an external cell booster to help with low signal areas and a MoFi 4500 Hotspot paired with an unlimited cellular data plan to provide the bulk of our data needs. Other major changes include:
- 600 amp hours of custom LiFePO4 batteries
- A 2,000 watt Xantrex inverter-charger and a 1,000 watt inverter dedicated to our technical equipment.
- Dual DC-DC battery chargers that pull power from the truck’s alternators.
- The generator compartment modifications.
- Addition of a Haloview camera system.
- Lots and lots of command strips and hooks!
How long have you been full-timing in your Cirrus 920?
Scott and Sasha: It’s been 1.5 years and it feels like we are barely scratching the surface with our travels. There’s so much to see and do that we feel like we need more time to explore! We like to think that we are just starting off!
What are you doing now to support yourselves?
Scott and Sasha: Since neither of us liked our jobs, part of our grand plan was to figure out what we were truly passionate about. When I quit my 23 year career in Public K-12 IT Management, I was able to pick up some gigs with previous clients. However, we both wanted to transition from working for someone else to building a business. We have a few projects in the works, but nothing is up and running yet. We are hoping to bring our idea to life soon!
Sasha has always enjoyed teaching English privately and used to run an English speaking club in Russia. When she came to the U.S. she found a couple of students as a side job, but has never become a full-time teacher. With our new lifestyle, Sasha was able to focus on her teaching and picked up a few more students. She also started working for VIPKid. VIPKid is an online teaching platform that focuses on teaching English to children in China. Sasha absolutely loved working with the kids, however, the schedule was a little hard. Since she was working with Chinese time zones, most of her lessons would start around 3 to 6am. It also required a stable Internet connection, which can be challenging while we are on the move. Now she works fewer hours for VIPKid and focuses on her own students.
We have also been able to pick up some short gigs on the road. Last year we stayed at a campground that had just opened. The owner needed some help with it and he ended up hiring us! We worked for about a month doing various jobs like painting, raking, and watering. It was a fun change and we loved working outside, we both got a great tan! We are open to anything and everything that comes our way. Right now, we don’t make enough to fully support ourselves, so we are still partly living off of our savings. This was anticipated and planned for, we gave ourselves two to three years to make the transition and things seem to be on target. Fingers crossed!
Do you have any advice for others contemplating full-timing in their truck camper?
Scott and Sasha: We would suggest planning your budget and lifestyle first and making sure that you pick the right truck camper for your needs. Small details can be some of the biggest problems after a few months. Things like showering, using the toilet, washing dishes, storing shoes/coats/equipment, can all have their difficulties and annoyances. Spending a little time thinking about how these daily tasks will be done and how the specific camper you have or are looking at will accommodate your daily life. Paying attention to overall weight as well as what you may add in the future is critical! You don’t want to end up with a truck that will not support your needs down the road. We bought a dually truck with more payload than we needed. However, after a year of upgrades and additional “stuff”, we are running right at our max 14,000 pound payload capacity. Luckily, the truck we chose still handles the weight well and we are happy that we went with a dually from the start.
For us, living full-time in our truck camper provides a lifestyle that we could have no other way! It does come with it’s ups and downs. Some days we are frustrated with the amount of space we have, then other days we are so happy that we are small enough to go places most others can’t. Not having a permanent place to live also has some difficulties, mostly related to getting mail, packages, medication, health insurance, doctors visits and a sense of security if you get sick or injured. Give some thought to some of these aspects before you hit the road.
Do you use solar or a generator to keep your Cirrus 920’s batteries topped off?
Scott and Sasha: Both, plus some extra! We still have the 200 watts of solar that came with our camper. We added a couple of inverters to run our computers, microwave and A/C, laptops, cameras, phones, and other equipment. Our power needs are rather high, so we custom-designed dual 300 amp hour lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries giving us 600 amp hours of battery capacity. To keep those batteries charged, we added dual 40-amp Renogy DC-DC chargers giving us up to 80 amps of charging from the truck’s alternators. There is also a 600-watt solar project coming up in the near future. We also took a Honda EU2200i generator, converted it to propane, and did a custom install into the factory generator compartment. We have the choice to run the generator on gasoline or propane and we can run it in the storage compartment, closed and locked, or run the generator outside, away from the camper. The benefit to this setup is that we can remove the generator and run it far away from the camper during extended boondocking stays.
Wow, a 600 amp hour lithium battery system? Please tell us more about it?
We are looking forward to it. Can you tell us more about your truck?
Scott and Sasha: We have a 2018 RAM dually Cummins 6.7L crew cab Laramie. We did remove the rear seats and built a custom storage rack. The truck handles well, it’s smooth, quiet and a dream to drive. We debated going with gas or diesel. I was really trying to find a gas model, but when you look at the dually trucks, they are dominated by diesel. While I’m not excited about some of the aspects of diesel, emissions systems and a lack of diesel south of Mexico. It has been perfect for travel around North America. Having the exhaust brake does most of my breaking is also a dream come true! Also, the ability to pass vehicles going up hill with no worry about power is nice. We have 35,000 miles so far and the only problem has been a noisy door gasket which will be fixed under warranty.
Did you need to make any modifications to your truck to carry your camper?
Scott and Sasha: The only mods to the suspension have been Upper and Lower Torklift StableLoads and four Bilstein 4600 shock absorbers. We also added a front hitch to carry wood occasionally. We have been very happy with the setup, but maybe adding a sway bar in the near future to prevent rocking when driving on particularly rough roads and trails.
Do you have any regrets in your choices? Anything you wished that you had done differently?
Scott and Sasha: Surprisingly, no. We did extensive research before buying our camper, so we don’t have any regrets. We make changes as we go, so whenever we feel like we’re having trouble, it’s time to design a solution.
For example, whenever we spend a lot of time in our truck camper (working or because of bad weather), we wish we had a little bit more space. However, every time we drive or park our rig, we are so happy with its size! There are pros and cons to everything and we tried to find a happy medium. For us, this is the perfect setup for our lifestyle. If that lifestyle changes, we will either adapt our existing camper or look for a better fit. For now, it’s home-sweet-home!
Have you made any mistakes relating to truck camper life that would help our readers?
Scott and Sasha: Luckily, we didn’t make any major mistakes, but we sure did learn a lot! We spent a ton of time reading, talking and testing things out before we made a purchase. It took a few months to figure out all of the components, measurements, clearances, weights and capacities. But, once we had that all worked out, everything just came together really well!
One aspect that caught us by surprise was the bicycle rack solution. A week before our full-time departure, we ran into some fitment problems with hauling our bikes. We have two eBikes that are quite different from each other. This made it really hard to find a bike rack that would accommodate both of them. It was a lengthy problem to solve and we wrote an article explaining the process.
What kind of mileage are you getting when hauling your Cirrus 920 truck camper?
Scott and Sasha: It really depends on a lot of factors. Our average is about 10-13 mpg. 13-18 mpg unloaded.
Now that you’ve used it, what are your thoughts on the Alde Hydronic Heating System?
Scott and Sasha: Like we mentioned before, this is the number one reason why we chose our truck camper! It’s almost silent, doesn’t dry the air, eliminates cold spots and keeps our clothing nice and warm in the storage compartment.. We had a crack in our water heater tank, but Alde’s customer support was great. This type of failure is very uncommon and may have been caused by user error on our part. We are still under warranty and they shipped us a new part without any questions, top notch service!
What are your thoughts on the Froli Modular Sleep System?
Scott and Sasha: We absolutely love it! It allows air travel underneath the mattress, which reduces moisture and mold build up. The Froli system also acts as a foundation for the mattress and helps distribute body weight and really improves comfort even with a somewhat thin factory mattress. The Froli system can be added to any camper, but we really liked that it was included right from the factory.
Do you have any favorite places or trails you like to explore? What was the most difficult and challenging?
Scott and Sasha: This is a really tough question to answer. We love all of it for different reasons. The wilderness and openness of the West is really attractive to us. Having BLM land and RV services available in most places makes RV travel much easier than back East. We like exploring mountain roads, desert tracks and out of the way areas. When a road looks like knotted up spaghetti, that is where we will go!
Free camping on the east coast is challenging at times, but is still doable. We have really taken a liking to boondocking in the western states. Part of the challenge there sometimes are the roads. We love exploring dirt roads and mountain passes, however, washboard roads tend to make us turn back. We are fine with slowly crawling through rough areas and technical areas on trails. But when we find a 5+ mile washboard road, that is when we look for another route.
We encountered a really challenging road in the hills of West Virginia. It was a very steep and twisty unpaved mountain road. That was obviously not maintained. It crossed from one valley up over some hills down to another valley. Scott was having a lot of fun driving, but Sasha was a little nervous going down. We really like finding challenging areas to camp, but don’t travel on back country trails too often, unless we have people to go with!
What are your favorite states where you like to explore?
Scott and Sasha: We are from New Hampshire and the western states have always called for us. We absolutely loved New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado.The desert scenery is very unusual to us and we’ve had so much fun exploring these states. We love Colorado for the tall mountains. We only got to spend a couple of days there last year and we are hoping to see more this year. We also met some great people in Texas and we love it’s open spaces and diversity. The beauty of West Virginia and those mountain regions is truly breathtaking. We really love being in and around the mountains, but also enjoy all the places we have been for the unique characteristics those locations offer.
What’s the most worrisome or scariest moment you’ve experienced during your travels?
Scott and Sasha: The scariest moment that we had was a huge thunderstorm with tornado and hail warnings. We were staying at a rest stop in Utah when we received an intense storm warning, with winds up to 70 mph, possible hail and tornadoes. It’s not fun driving on the road, being top heavy with weather conditions like that, so we decided to outrun the approaching storm! The storm was moving north at around 50 mph. The only road option that we had was going north-west and we had to keep the speed up to stay ahead of the storm. Luckily, we drove fast enough and only got the heavy rain on the leading edge of the storm. We drove for about 1.5 hours in and out of heavy rain with the worst parts only minutes behind us. It was definitely one of the worst weather situations we have dealt with. We also camped for a night in the Guadalupe Mountains with 65 to 75 mph winds. However, we put all four jacks down while still attached to the truck and that keeps things really solid. High winds seem to be the toughest weather event we deal with due to our high center of gravity and large cross section. Obviously, we pay close attention to the weather!
Do you have any full-time tips on how to stay organized in your truck camper?
Scott and Sasha: Everything has to have its place. It helps us to put things away right after we’re done with them. Occasionally we feel lazy and forget to put something away. Which makes a mess and acts as a reminder that we need to clean up. Another aspect is to always know where a new item is going. Even for clothes, if we buy a new pair of shoes, we need to get rid of an old pair. It’s nice to have all the things you need, but periodic spring cleaning really helps keep things organized.
Do you have any meal preparation tips for those living on the road?
Scott and Sasha: We make food out of what we have. Our fridge allows us to store fresh veggies for about 5 days and if we are far away from grocery stores, we will switch to non-perishables. So, while we have an abundance of fresh food, we will make salads and have healthy snacks. And once we’re low on fresh food, we will use canned veggies and frozen meats. We also break our meats into daily portions and freeze them in a neatly organized and stacked fashion. Removing packaging from cereal boxes and other containers will sometimes save you tons of space. We also try to cook a little more than we want each night, that will give us options for breakfast and lunch without as much prep time. If we are planning to go someplace without services for a while, we will prepare meals in containers to maximize the storage space for fresh foods.
Since we move every few days, we frequently just stop and restock our food supplies. The longest we have stayed away from services is probably 10-12 days, towards the end of that time, we were eating up some canned foods and eating up our dry goods.
One last tip. We keep a supply of dehydrated and freeze dried foods with our backpacking equipment in the truck. We keep that to use for long hikes and as an emergency food store. If we were low on food and had a problem getting back to civilization, that food would keep us well fed for another three to five days.
Do you have any social media channels where our readers can follow you?
Thanks, guys. This has been great talking to you about your full-timing adventures. Do you have any final advice for our readers?
Scott and Sasha: Thank you so much for having us! We feel like it’s important to listen to your heart and follow your dreams. We’ve had the urge to travel for our entire lives, and ever since we’ve met that desire has fueled our life decisions. We are both happy with the opportunities afforded to us though this lifestyle. We always urge people to follow their own dreams and try to worry less about the fine details. Things have a way of working out for the best, even if people don’t think they will. We started this journey with a dream and a great deal of fear, doubt and worry. Now that we look back, 99 percent of that fear, worry and doubt was completely imaginary. Go out there and make it happen!