Truck Camper Adventure is proud to present Mello Mike’s Truck Camper Musings and News, a quarterly editorial and news brief about truck camper life and happenings in the truck and truck camper industries.
1. A Banner Year: 2018 was a banner year for Truck Camper Adventure with over 1.7M views. Not only that, but overall readership has tripled over the last two years with projections showing a readership of 2.5M for 2019. We are humbled by the success, but we couldn’t have done it without you, our readers. Why the growth? In part, we think it has to do with our independent approach to news, reviews and truck camper rankings. We also think it has to do with our broad approach to truck camper coverage. We cover all types of truck campers here at Truck Camper Adventure, both slide-in and chassis-mounted campers. We also cover the entire truck camper industry, regardless of affiliation and advertising status, unlike our competition. We are striving to be a positive catalyst for change in the industry. What we say won’t always be well received by companies, but that’s okay. Fortunately, our approach seems to be working. We now have 11 truck camper companies currently advertising with us with that number expected to grow in 2019.
2. New Jeep Four Wheel Camper? Last month, FCA finally unveiled the new Jeep Gladiator, a mid-size 4×4 pickup truck with a 1,600-pound payload rating. We asked Stan Kennedy at Four Wheel Campers if they have a camper that will fit in the truck’s narrow tailgate opening and he told us, no, a new camper would be need to be designed. Several years ago, Four Wheel Campers produced a limited run of the Sparrow, a lightweight pop-up for the American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) TJ Wrangler Brute. It was a great little camper, but few were made due to the limited number of AEV TJ Brute conversions. That will change with the guaranteed popularity of the Gladiator, which will hit showroom floors in April 2019. No word yet from Four Wheel Campers on a new Gladiator truck camper, but we’re pretty confident it will eventually happen. We’ll let you know as soon as we get the official word from Four Wheel Campers.
3. Work continues on NuCamp Cirrus 670 half-ton prototype: The NuCamp team is hard at work putting the finishing touches on the Cirrus 670, a hard-side, short-bed truck camper made for half-ton trucks. The company revealed the prototype at the Hershey RV Show and the Elkart Open House this past fall and the overall feedback from the public was very favorable. The floorplan offers a split dinette in front with a full wet-bath and refrigerator on the driver side and a kitchen and wardrobe on the passenger side. The camper features the best of the popular Cirrus 820 and 920 models, including the Alde hydronic heating and Froli sleep systems, with several new twists, while at the same time keeping the weight down so that today’s half-ton trucks can carry it. It’s an admirable goal, but based upon feedback and what we’ve seen, the camper is still too heavy for most short-bed half-ton trucks. Sure, NuCamp designers still might be able to shave off a few more pounds, but this camper appears to be a better match for today’s 3/4-ton trucks instead. We’ll see.
4. New Jeep Truck Camper: It seems like new truck camper companies are popping up everywhere. A partial list of these start-ups include ExoHauler, OVRLND Campers, Rugged Mountain, AT Overland, Camper Logic, Cave Campers, and ArmorLite, some of these start-ups have been chronicled here on Truck Camper Adventure. We’ve recently learned of another new start-up, called ActionCampers, that makes a pretty cool camper for Jeep Wranglers and the new Jeep Gladiator pickup. Made of a durable, lightweight composite, the camper features a wedge-style pop-up with a dinette in the rear, a pull-out bed, a large pass-through window, a split kitchen, and lots of storage. The owner of the company, Eric Thaler, tells us that the camper will be available in 2019. Look for a demo of the cutting-edge camper at the 2019 Overland Expo West in May.
5. Hellwig Gives “Patrol Brief” at 2018 SEMA: Truck Camper Adventure and other members of the media received a pretty cool “Patrol Briefing” from Mike Hallmark, Hellwig’s Marketing and International Sales Manager, at the 2018 SEMA show in Las Vegas. The briefing covered new products, plans for 2019, and everything in between. Hellwig didn’t have a Lance Camper at the show, but they did have a pretty impressive display featuring the company’s Big Wig Sway Bars and Big Wig Air Springs, both of which have been reviewed on this site. TCA received a pretty cool swag bag filled with various goodies including SEMA Load and Sway Patrol patches, koozies, a SEMA survival kit, sunglasses, and portable flashlights. The president of Hellwig, Melanie White, received top honors as the 2018 SEMA Person of the Year, a very prestigious award for the annual show.
6. New Alaskan Camper Facebook Group: Pat Anderson recently announced the creation of a new Alaskan Campers Facebook group called “Alaskan Camper Fans.” Pat explains that anybody interested in Alaskan Campers can join by answering one question: “What is the nature of your interest in Alaskan Campers?” The group description is “The Alaskan Camper Fans group exists for people who own Alaskan Campers, would like to own an Alaskan Camper or are just interested in Alaskan Campers! This group is not sponsored by or affiliated with Alaskan Campers, LLC.”
7. Know Your Wheel Weight Rating: We all know how important it is to get the right tires and wheels for your truck camper rig. When it comes to buying wheels and tires for your truck, the most important number is the weight rating. Be diligent when shopping for wheels and tires and make sure they have the right weight rating. DON’T RELY ON TIRE STORES TO DO THIS FOR YOU. Explain to your tire salesman that you’ll be hauling a truck camper and need a minimum weight rating of 3,640 pounds though more is better. Most salesmen are good about doing this, but not all, which is why its important to double-check their work before you purchase the wheels and tires and have them mounted. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, yours and the salesmen, but ultimately, it’s you who will have to pay for any oversights during purchasing. More about this later.
8. Faulty RV Propane Pigtail: During a recent outing to Flagstaff and Sedona we had no propane. At first, we thought we had a bad propane regulator. After replacing the regulator, however, the propane system still didn’t work. What was the problem? It was the propane system’s pigtail! This was a real head-scratcher since the pigtail was only six months old and worked fine on the previous outings. What’s the moral of the story? If you’re having a problem with your propane system, don’t count out the pigtail as being part of the problem. Most people go straight for the regulator, which isn’t really a bad thing, it’s just that the problem can also be the pigtail like it was in our case.
9. AC Circuit Breaker Upgrade: We recently upgraded the AC side of our truck camper’s electrical system with an additional circuit breaker. Only three breakers—one 30 amp, one 20 amp, and one 15 amp—came with our camper. For some reason, the builders at Northstar Campers wired all six 15 amp outlets and the converter-charger to the same 15 amp breaker. This sucked because sometimes I wanted to shut down the converter-charger, but couldn’t because it would also shutdown all of the electrical outlets in the camper. A quick run to the local hardware store and $15 later and the problem has been solved. I bought a dual 15 amp breaker which took about 10 minutes to swap out and upgrade.
10. Dometic Seitz Midi-Heki Vent: Have you ever had one of the strings on your Heki Vent come loose? Unfortunately, this recently happened to us. Ultimately, the problem was with a broken plastic tab on top of one of the slider bars. Apparently, this is a fairly common problem with an expensive fix. Dometic sells the entire bug screen and privacy shade assembly only, which will set you back $385. OUCH! Fortunately, there’s a very cheap alternative to this expensive, time-consuming fix. I was able to fix the broken tab using a small, wood screw. The string simply slides against the side of this screw to keep the string taut and in place. Look for an article soon here on Truck Camper Adventure with specifics on how to do this repair yourself.
11. New Look Torklift Talons: After four years of “road rash” and being out in the brutal Arizona heat, our Torklift Talons were looking pretty rough, even after having them cleaned and painted. The good folks at Torklift were kind enough to send us a new set of Talon inserts. Unlike the last set we got from Torklift, the new set sports an attractive and more durable gray, hammertone finish. The improvement in looks is pretty dramatic.
12. Don’t Forget About the Fuel and Air Filters! Keeping your truck maintained is critically important. We all know how important it is to change the oil in your truck regularly. Most of us are pretty good about doing this, but how often do you change the air and fuel filters in your truck? According to Ram, the two fuel filters in a new Cummins 6.7L Diesel should be changed every 15,000 miles, half that number if you do a lot of towing and hauling. The air filter should be changed every other oil change, but should be checked more frequently if you live in dusty-climates like the Desert Southwest. Changing these filters out regularly can get very expensive, but you can defray the costs by buying the filters online at discount outlets and by doing the work yourself (fuel filter servicing at the dealership costs anywhere between $350 and $500). We buy the filters for our Ram 3500 at Geno’s Garage. They offer probably the best prices on the internet with a savings between $50 and $70 per filter compared to the dealerships.
13. Turnbuckle Clearance Brackets: Less wind drag and accessibility off-road are the main benefits of having a narrow, 7-foot wide camper (most campers are 8-feet wide). Unfortunately, having a narrow camper also brings with it a few cons, the biggest being the small distance between turnbuckle mounting points and the truck bed. If the camper happens to shift in the bed from one side to the other, which is pretty common off-road, this can cause the front turnbuckle on the opposite side to dig into the side of the truck bed, causing dents and scratches. I solved this problem using a metal bracket on the front truck camper tie-downs. This C-shape bracket provides another inch or two of distance between the turnbuckle and the truck bed and has completely solved the problem. The picture below illustrates how this works. We salvaged our brackets from an old tow bar assembly, but can be made by any welder out of heavy gauge steel.
14. Request for info on the Fiesta Truck Campers built by Vehicle Concepts Corp: I recently received this email from a reader, Garth Johnson, who just bought a Fiesta camper from a defunct company, and is asking for info about the company: “Some time ago my wife and I were in the market for a dually crew cab 4×4 pickup truck and managed to find a 1997 GMC 3500 that fit the bill of what we were looking for. The truck was being sold with a camper which worked out well too because we did eventually want to get a camper. Both the truck and camper were in excellent condition and remain so today. Since purchase I have attempted to find out more about the camper unit because I have never seen another like it. Hopefully you can help me with some history? The camper is noted as a 1991 Fiesta by Vehicle Concepts Corp manufactured in Elkhart, Indiana. I have found several examples of van conversions done by Vehicle Concepts Corp and some ambulance conversions but never another truck camper. Do you have any idea how many were manufactured or where I could find out? The unit measures about 12 feet long and is a side entry with north/south bed (bigger than a king sized bed). It has an aluminum frame and is well insulated with bonded hard foam between the aluminum framing. It appears that the unit was a higher end unit when manufactured as it has solid oak cabinets and is nicely appointed with appliances, etc.”