Truck Camper Adventure is proud to present Mello Mike’s Truck Camper Musings and News—a Truck Camper Adventure Editorial of sorts—about truck camper life and happenings in the truck and truck camper industries. This is a regular feature here at Truck Camper Adventure.
1. Jeep Wrangler JL Pickup Truck Camper? In case you haven’t heard, it’s now confirmed—FCA is bringing back the Jeep Wrangler pickup in 2019. Rumor has it that the new pickup will be called the Scrambler. I asked Stan Kennedy of Four Wheel Campers a year ago if there were any plans to design a new camper that could be hauled in this new pickup. “No, not at this time,” he said, but at the 2018 Overland Expo he left the door wide open to the possibility when I asked him the question again. Robert Vogl, the CEO of Four Wheel Campers who was also present at the show, concurred saying that it’s quite possible that a new Four Wheel Camper could be designed if the demand was there. With the popularity of pickup trucks and Jeep Wranglers, we believe the demand will be there. If the leadership at Four Wheel Campers decides to produce one, it may resemble the old Sparrow model built several years ago for the American Expedition Vehicles TJ Wrangler Brute. Stay tuned to see what happens. This could be an exciting development for Jeep and truck camper enthusiasts.
2. Flatbeds on the Rise: The flatbed truck camper has been making serious inroads at the Overland Expo. Three years ago, flatbed campers were pretty rare. At this year’s show, they were pretty common. Hallmark and Alaskan Campers each unveiled new flatbed pop-ups at the big show, called the Nevada and 8.5 Flatbed respectively. Both companies have been producing flatbeds for years, but these new designs appear to be the beginning of a new flatbed truck camper boom, joining Four Wheel Campers, Northstar, Bundutec, Phoenix Campers, Camper Logic, and others in building flatbed truck campers for flatbed trucks. Why the boom? I think it has to do with the popularity of overland expedition travel. This segment of the industry is exploding in popularity. Flatbed campers provide more living space, more storage, and bigger tank capacities compared to regular truck campers, perfect for long-term expedition travel. For a sampling of these new flatbed models, check out our recent articles on the 2018 Overland Expo.
3. Propane Leak Test: When was the last time you had your camper’s propane system leak tested? Two years ago? Five years ago? Never? Did you know that all RVs should have this test done annually? If this is what’s recommended for a motorhome or fifth wheel, how much more important is it for those who like to take their truck campers off-road? The vibrations from off-road travel and extremes in temperatures to which we subject our campers can work fittings and connections loose, creating leaks. The official name of the leak test is actually the Timed Propane Pressure Drop Test. Due to its importance, the test should be done by a certified RV technician who has the knowledge and test equipment needed to do the test.
4. Sietz Window Flaw? Somehow, someway gnats and mosquitoes are getting inside the camper at night. I’m not sure how, but they are. They could be getting in through the refrigerator flue, which has large openings, or around the screen assemblies in the Sietz windows. Either way, the problem is annoying. I’m curious to know if others are experiencing a similar problem with their Seitz windows.
5. Melted Refrigerator Bins: Boy did we screw up. Don’t ever put refrigerator bins in your dishwasher to get cleaned. Wash them by hand. After our six-month trip, we thought we would give our refrigerator bins a good cleaning and sanitizing. Big mistake. According to Dometic, the maker of our CR-1110 compressor refrigerator, refrigerator plastics are tempered for colder temperatures and have a low melting point. We didn’t know this and we ended up melting the clear plastic crisper bins in our dishwasher. I’m passing this on so you don’t make the same mistake. We had to order replacements bins directly through Dometic. It seems like nobody carries parts for this refrigerator. We had to go through Dometic’s “Truck” Division to find and order the parts. This refrigerator, apparently isn’t considered an RV/marine refrigerator. Fortunately, the replacement bins were only $11 a piece.
6. Ford Charge Circuit Issue: David Kiel recently reported a problem charging his truck camper through the seven-pin connector of his new 2017 Ford F-350. Unfortunately, David isn’t the only person to have this problem with a late-model Ford truck. Others have reported the same problem on this and other forums. Apparently, Ford is no longer providing the electrical components needed to provide battery charging through the rear seven-pin connector. Apparently, you now have to order a special fifth wheel, towing, or camper package to get this capability. It’s too bad, every truck should already have this capability already built-in. If it doesn’t, dealerships should warn buyers of this potential issue. If you’re planning to buy a new Ford to haul a truck camper, make sure you order this important option.
7. Truck Camper Dry Weights: Long-time reader “Ardvark” recently aired his frustrations about the misleading dry weight numbers that some truck camper manufacturers are providing on their websites. We agree. In some cases, the dry weight and wet weight numbers provided are very misleading. Consumers are left to guess what the actual wet weight figure will be by adding 500 to 1,000 pounds for all the extra stuff, which can be a crap shoot when it comes to the actual figure. The solution for truck camper manufacturers, of course, is to have a factory scale that provides the actual “wet weight” figure for each camper that includes water, propane, and batteries, along with any other options installed at the factory. If getting a scale isn’t financially feasible, then taking the camper to a local CAT scale would be an acceptable alternative. Actual wet weights vice estimated dry or wet weights can be something that manufacturers can leverage when they advertise the specifications of their campers.
8. Getting Another Generator: Yep, we did it. After a five-year hiatus we bought a generator, a used Honda EU2000i. Why? Two reasons. One, to use as an emergency backup for our solar power system during extended campouts off-grid. Two, when we need to run the air conditioner at lower elevations during the summer. Yes, we’re still big proponents of solar power, but when the clouds roll-in you’ve got to have a backup, especially if you’re running a compressor refrigerator like us. We won’t always bring the generator with us on our trips, but when we do, we’ll be hauling it on the front bumper of our truck using our new Torklift Lock and Load. Click here to read our recent review of this outstanding security cargo tray.
9. Induction Cooktop: This electric cooktop is slowly growing in popularity on this side of the Atlantic. EarthRoamer, Global Expediton Vehicles, and other big name RV manufacturers are now offering this cutting-edge, electric cooktop as either a standard feature or as an option. The induction cooktop offers numerous benefits over the standard propane and electric cooktop. The biggest benefit is speed, food cooks faster thus requiring less power to operate. The induction cooktop is also easier to control temperature-wise and is safer to use because only the pan gets hot—the cooktop itself cools off almost immediately after use. We decided to see what all of the fuss was about and buy a single burner unit. We got ours at Costco for $69, and so far, we’ve been impressed. We use ours in our home and in the camper. The biggest negative, of course, is that most of the induction cooktops need 1,500 watts on the highest setting to operate, meaning you’ll need either a generator or a decent size battery bank and a 1,500 watt inverter to use it.
10. Converter-Charger Blues: The standard converter-charger installed in most RVs and truck campers just plain sucks. Most campers get the basic WFCO 8945 45 amp converter-charger like the one that’s in our Northstar Laredo. I wouldn’t complain if the converter-charger ever put out a standard bulk charge of 45 amps and 14.4 volts. The problem is it rarely does. In fact, I’ve never seen it. The most I’ve ever seen put out by my unit is 7 amps and 13.6 volts. The problem is that if you have a severely depleted battery, it will take over 24 hours to recharge it. When you’re camping off-grid that’s unacceptable when running a generator. It would be nice if truck camper manufacturers followed Outfitter and Hallmark’s lead by installing a high-quality unit like the Progressive Dynamics Intelli-Power 9245 charger with the three-stage Charge Wizard in their campers. The increase in cost is negligible and the customer gets a more efficient and quicker charge. End of rant.
11. Lance and Alaskan Goes Truma: We’re happy to report than more truck camper manufacturers are using the Truma Combi in their campers. We introduced the Truma Combi to Bryan Wheat, the CEO of Alaskan Campers, at the 2017 show and at this year’s show he was excited to show me the space-saving, energy efficient unit in his new Alaskan 8.5 Flatbed model. Bryan explained that additional Alaskan models will be getting the German-made unit as well. Lance Campers also announced recently that it’s using the Truma Combi in two of its travel trailers, the Lance 1475 and Lance 1575. According to Bob Rogers, Lance’s Director of Marketing, there are no plans to put these in truck campers yet, but that might change if the customer feedback of the new unit is positive. Truth be told, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Truma Combi. Our friends at Bundutec have been putting them in their campers for several years now and they’ve been very popular with customers. Let’s hope that Lance makes the move to put these in their campers and that other truck camper manufacturers follow. In spite of their higher cost, it makes sense to use them when you consider all of the benefits that they provide.
12. Water Pump Woes: A water leak from faulty plumbing is one of the worst things that can happen to your camper. Sure, it’s not as bad as a fire or a propane leak, but it ranks right up there in total suckiness. We had a water leak happen to us recently when we had our camper hooked up to city water and it wasn’t fun. Through some quick troubleshooting, I was able to trace the problem to a faulty check valve in our Shurflo water pump. Whenever we hook the camper up to city water, the faulty valve allows water to enter the fresh water tank unabated. Eventually, the tank fills up with water spilling over into the propane compartment and into the main compartment of the camper. This is the second Shurflo water pump issue we’ve had in our camper in the 2.5 years we’ve owned it. I think it’s time for another make. Any recommendations?
13. Pickup Truck Price Wars: If you’re in the market, now is a good time to buy a half-ton pickup truck. Reuters recently reported that the big three are in the middle of another price war, offering big discounts of up to $16,000 per truck. Ford dealerships are offering discounts of up to $12,000 on the 2018 Ford F-150, which remains the best-selling vehicle in the country. Ram and Chevy are offering even higher discounts with up to $16,000 on the Ram 1500 and $13,000 for the Chevy Silverado. Apparently, the discounts are intended to reduce 2018 carryover for the redesigned 2019 models. Ford’s recent production shut down due to a supplier fire appears to have also played a role in increased incentives being offered by Ram and Chevy.