It seems like everyone wants a slide-in truck camper in 2021, yet some potential buyers are still hesitant to take the plunge. The one thing that holds some people back is loading the camper—it’s a major anxiety. Normally, it takes a little practice and an extra set of eyes to get the camper loaded just right, but wouldn’t it be great if there was a product that made this loathsome task easier? Fortunately, there is. The good folks at Camper Cradle just released a patented, new product that helps keep the camper fully aligned while backing the truck in. The owners, Thom and Patricia Emmert, revealed the new truck camper product at the recent Truck Camper Adventure Rally in Quartzsite. The response was overwhelmingly positive. In a TCA exclusive, Thom and Patricia were kind enough to answer several questions about this new product that makes truck camper loading easy.
TCA: Thanks, guys, for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you got started with Camper Cradle?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: We both are small business owners. Thom started in the automotive industry in his early teen years, working in his families Napa Auto Parts store and car dealerships then eventually collision shops. He started his own auto restoration business, called Emmert Restoration, about 18 years ago and now his day-to-day operations include building award winning street rods and custom cars along with restoring high end antiques. Patricia has been a self-employed hair stylist for 27 years allowing her some freedom in her schedule to be able to devote time to Emmert Restoration and now Camper Cradle. We started truck camping together many years ago due to the need to be able to tow a car hauler and still have a convenient place to stay while on the road for car shows. Truck camping has been an adventure for us giving us many opportunities to see places we never would have and to meet many new friends along the way. We have one teenage daughter who travels along even though that is becoming a rarity as she ages and finds us not so “cool” anymore.
TCA: Can you tell us more about your Camper Cradle business?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: Our development and production facility is in Enumclaw, Washington. With so many things being produced abroad, we felt compelled to keep our products fabricated in the USA. We have recently begun producing the Camper Cradle 3D printed bushings in-house as well and are considering incorporating a waterjet and computer software into our fabrication facility. When we decided to launch the Camper Cradle and start production, it was kind of nice (logistically speaking) as we were able to implement the use of part of our current business facility and tooling. This allowed us to minimize overhead and some of the traditional start-up costs of a new business.
TCA: We like that everything is made here in the USA. What inspired you to manufacture and market the Camper Cradle? Was it a personal experience or was the idea customer driven?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: The inspiration behind the Camper Cradle was primarily from personal experience. It started out as something for my pickup due to the arguments ensuing in the driveway while loading the camper (I’m sure my wife and I are not unique to this experience). As fellow campers began to show interest in our loading device it became apparent that others might benefit from this as well. So, we decided to start producing these and called it the “Camper Cradle” because that’s what it does.
TCA: Did the basic design change in any way during development?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: Oh boy, YES. We constructed several versions prior to landing on the current configuration of the Camper Cradle. We ultimately wanted a device that would be simple to use, convenient and not require drilling or modifying of the vehicle. After a lot of head scratching we finally had something that worked very well and would not deface my pickup. It even looks good on the truck when it’s naked (not wearing the camper).
TCA: How exactly does the Camper Cradle work?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: The Camper Cradle is designed to assist the loading and centering of a typical truck mounted camper into the bed of a typical pickup truck. This is achieved by means of an adjustable modular assembly constructed with guide rollers positioned to capture the camper while backing under it. Once captured, the camper will be guided into the rear of the pickup bed straight and true to center.
TCA: What does the Camper Cradle consist of? What components are included in each kit?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: The Camper Cradle consists of three basic components:
- The bottom horizontal and transverse structure: This is a three-part assembly. The halves (or sides) are fitted with a slip joint (center section) for width adjustability and fixed by means of set screws once desired placement is achieved. At the outboard end of each side is a fixed receiver tube in the vertical orientation, welded to the outboard end of each side. Also, welded within the outboard ends of the horizontal transverse structure are round tube segments (typical each end). Said tube segments, along with the use of bushings, are designed to capture the factory tailgate hinge of the vehicle.
- The vertical (or upright) stud height adjusters: These slip into and reside inside the fixed vertical receiver tubes of component 1. Said stud height adjusters’ function as a slip joint and are fixed by means of set screws once desired height is achieved in order to capture factory vehicle tailgate latch studs.
- The adjustable roller assemblies. These two assemblies are located near the outboard ends of the horizontal/transverse structure, designed to adjust and match the standard base width of a typical truck mounted camper. Once desired width is achieved, the roller assembly position on the horizontal structure can be fixed by means of set screws. Installation is very easy.
TCA: Is there a standalone kit for all trucks and campers or is it truck and camper model specific?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: Our intention was to have a universal assembly that would work on all full-size domestic pickups. Largely, this was achievable. However, due to minor differences between manufacturers, models and campers we found it sometimes necessary to provide vehicle specific uprights and roller assemblies. But for the most part, the Camper Cradle will be a universal fit. Whereas, unique hinge bushings will be provided for the specific vehicle. Also, the nice thing about the Camper Cradle being a modular unit is it is possible to replace individual parts if they become damaged or lost. Additionally, if a Camper Cradle owner purchases a new or different pickup they will be able to reuse their unit by simply changing out the hinge bushings to match the new vehicle. We are currently developing another version of the Camper Cradle to accommodate campers that do not have straight/smooth base sides or have bumpouts such as those made by Northern Lite, Adventure Manufacturing, BundutecUSA and Northstar.
TCA: When will beta testing for the bumpout version be complete?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: We anticipate having the unit ready in July.
TCA: How is the Camper Cradle constructed?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: The Camper Cradle is constructed of M36 mild steel with both MIG and TIG welded components. It is sandblasted and protected with powder coating for longevity. The rubber rollers are of a durometer (material hardness) that will absorb impacts yet be gentle on the camper base surfaces.
TCA: Do you have a video which demonstrates how it works?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: We have two short demo videos available to view now on our website at campercradle.com and on YouTube. One video shows an overhead view, the other a side view. We also have a more detailed video describing the components and going over how to install and use the Camper Cradle, it has been recorded and is in the production process now. Hopefully to be released shortly.
TCA: What are the advantages of the Camper Cradle over manually loading a camper?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: Well, the time it takes to load with the Camper Cradle and without is night and day different. It’s also more accurate as the camper ends up dead centered between the wheel houses resulting in a more balanced load. Keep in mind, there’s still some responsibility on the part of the user. You will need to get somewhat square into the rollers and the Camper Cradle will assist from there.
TCA: You demoed Camper Cradle at the recent Truck Camper Adventure Rally in Quartzsite. How well was it received?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: The Camper Cradle and its functionality drew quite a bit of interest at the Quartzsite rally. Because of this venue, we were able to send out several units. Everyone there was super friendly. They had lots of questions and were very supportive of our products and ideas.
TCA: How much does the Camper Cradle cost?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: $395
TCA: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the Camper Cradle or your business?
Thom and Patricia Emmert: Yes. In addition to the Camper Cradle, we have begun introducing additional products on our website, campercradle.com. Concepts that have been inspired by little inconveniences while using our camper. We have developed a modular BBQ/Prep Table that clamps to a camper jack leg, a lighting plug keeper bracket, and several other nifty gadgets are nearing developmental completion. We would also like to say a very special thank you to our dear friend, Scott Baker. Without his assistance and guidance the Camper Cradle would not have come together.