My wife, Yoly and I retired over 12 years ago with a penchant and budget to travel. We had been traveling previously in a Ram 1500 with an A.R.E. shell on the back. We made several coast to coast trips with this set up and came to the realization that a lot could be done at little expense if one could adapt to a small space.
However, traveling over 10,000 miles a year for 10 of those 12 years not only allowed us to see everything on our bucket list, it also exhausted our retirement travel savings which were also depleted purchasing seven campers (four pull-behinds and three truck campers) and three trucks along the way. We came to the realization that we needed to downsize. Then one day, I ran across a mention of Eureka Truck Campers on the Good Sam forum. Much to my surprise it was built to a minimum price point by omitting many of the standard conveniences of many other truck campers. It was basic and simple with the potential of being trouble-free and highly customizable.
Eureka Campers was the brainchild of Bill Baldwin. In 1963 he started building travel trailers in the backyard of his home. Over the years, his pioneering spirit and ingenuity led to the production of over 25,000 recreational vehicles, mobile homes and commercial structures through Challenger Homes and Catamaran Cruisers. He designed and manufactured over 5,000 houseboats and recreational watercraft at a price point unheard of in the industry. Noticing a renewed interest in camping nationwide, Bill developed Eureka compact campers. Initially limited to small pull-behind campers, he expanded the production to include a slide-in truck camper specifically to meet a weight minimum for half-ton trucks and be priced low enough to attract a broad customer base. Each camper was available without any cabover or with a 24-inch or 48-inch cabover and each option had its own price point. The structure is comprised of 1-inch square and 1×2-inch rectangular aluminum tubing with high density solid block (R9) foam between the members. Decades of building aluminum houseboats provided the necessary experience for this type of fabrication. The exterior is an industry standard painted aluminum skin .040 inches thick with a galvanized steel roof. All of the interior framework is made from the same aluminum square tubing. There is very little wood found anywhere other than some shelving, counter top and seat bases, nothing structurally. These are all very much hand-made and the wide range of customization means very low volumes of units out the door. Very much a niche market and unique in many ways.
All of the base models included a 30 Amp Progressive Dynamics Converter-Charger, a 3.2 cubic foot compressor refrigerator, a fresh water connection with sink and a hand pump faucet with a 6-gallon fresh water tank. Also a microwave, a front window, a porta-potti, a full set of curtains, a large storage cabinet and two smaller cabinets above the sink and countertop. Standard seating is two opposing bench seats with 3-inch foam cushions that converts to a queen bed (independent of the cabover). It includes a full size rear door with frosted window and screen door and two bright LED cabin lights, an adjustable multicolored LED above the counter and an amber outside LED porch light. Options include a dinette table, a roof rack, rear ladder, four corner Reico manual jacks and a 5,000 BTU Air Conditioning unit. This base model with the 48-inch cabover goes out the door for $7,500. Without the cabover, they start at $5,995.
At this point, I’m going to inject a bit of sad news. Bill Baldwin passed away in September 2018 and without his guidance and oversight, the company is now history. They closed their doors at the end of October and since we took delivery of ours in April 2018, we have one of the very last 48-inch cabover models. Ours was painstakingly thought out with much of the critical interior details finalized by myself. Many of these details required Eureka to build to my dimensions.
We chose to eliminate some of the standard components in favor of providing our own. We were given credits off the base price as we did this. We deleted the fridge and toilet as well as the seat cushions and the front window. We upgraded to larger side windows for a better view. We had a custom seat base and backrest made to accommodate a couch design that allows a 20 degree recline angle for comfortable seating. We added 2 inches to the cabover slide out bed extension to allow for an RV short queen mattress oriented to north/south. We had two additional power strips installed to accommodate our media needs. We had them install two bidirectional 12 volt fans with thermostats in the roof. I had them install two eye bolts at the rear corners to connect a hitch mounted bracket used for carrying generator fuel. They also sized the compartment where the fridge goes for the Edge Star model we were substituting.
Then we added some of the options they offer such as the rear mounted 5,000 BTU Danby A/C unit, the four corner Reico jacks and the attachment kit. Because of the narrowness of the rig, the front jacks are swing out type normally used on duallies.
We left the factory with the custom camper after an outlay of exactly $8,889 (including all custom work, additional options and additional equipment added at their factory). On the way there, we stopped just outside of Columbia, Tennessee where the Eureka factory was located and carefully weighed the empty truck after filling the gas tank. We stopped again at the same scale after leaving the factory, filled the truck up and reweighed the rig. Without the fridge, the camper weighed exactly 1,220 pounds. This is a bare bones camper with no propane, no holding tanks, no water heater, no stove, no furnace, no fridge, no electronics, no cushions …. nothing but a box with a few cabinets at this point. This is why I always suggest that people with full featured campers get an actual scale weight before making claims based on manufacturers claimed dry weights.
First and foremost for us was comfortable seating. All the 90 degree seat backs of every camper dinette we had owned in the past had proven to be extremely uncomfortable over any real length of time. Our Eureka utilizes a 4-inch memory foam tri-fold “full size” mattress which when folded as a couch provides an 8-inch thick seat base (24 inches wide x 54 inches long) with another 4-inch thick 24-inch tall backrest that provides lots of upper back support.
My next highest priority was a dinette table large enough to not only eat on but also to serve as an office desk for our two laptops and camera gear. It needed to slide in and out for access and be easily removable. I made the top and the wall mounted support and slide mechanism. It is easily lifted off and stored along the base wall and held in place with a rotating flat arm. The small coffee table is great for morning coffee as it frees up cabin space. It is mounted on a 10-inch riser used as a foot rest due to the high seat height. I use this structure to store my bulky fluid damped tripod.
This shows the table storage as well as the SereneLife 5.3 gallon black tank porta-potti. The toilet is easily moved to the rear when the bed is pulled out or placed outside in our pop-up privy tent when we’re camping. Also available as is for roadside stops.
Standard storage on the base model includes a 54-inch tall “pantry” (with full length mirror) next to the fridge and microwave and two large cabinets above the sink and counter. There is also storage below the sink and countertop. A Pyle 1080p 25-inch flat screen with pivoting mount was also added.
I added additional shelves to the vertical storage. The bottom shelf stores the Coleman propane stove and two 1-pound propane canisters. The shelf above that stores the 1,800 watt induction cooktop. Above that is a plastic three drawer unit for cutlery, cooking utensils and basic household tools. The next two shelves are basic storage bins and the top shelf is for the Playstation 4 (PS4) game console.
The freezer on the Edge Star 3.2 cubic foot compressor fridge holds a 12-inch pizza, 4 pounds of frozen shrimp, eight servings of salmon, eight frozen dinners and six frozen burritos with room to spare.
My next highest priority was to create a means of running the 80 Watt compressor fridge while underway. Once down to temperature it only runs for about five minutes every hour if the doors stay closed. We also wanted power for the 1080p 25-inch LED flat screen and PS4 as well as our laptops when we weren’t connected to power or our Honda EU2000i so I installed a 1,500/3,000 watt pure sine-wave inverter. The truck charges the battery while underway and the converter charges the battery when plugged in to power so the 100 amp hour AGM battery usually arrives fully charged. I have a 15 amp Schumacher battery charger that when connected to the generator charges the battery twice as fast as the Honda does by itself.
The electrical panel has a rocker switch for the digital voltmeter as well as one for the water pump with an LED indicator. It also includes a 12 volt accessory socket. There is a dedicated power strip connected to the inverter. Camera and drone batteries can be charged while underway.
I removed the hand pump and spigot and added a pressurized fresh water system with a high-rise faucet for use when not connected to city water which has its own separate faucet. I purchased an additional 6-gallon tank from Walmart for $13 which doubled our fresh water capacity to 12 gallons. The 30 psi pressurized line has a diverter valve connected to a portable outdoor shower head. Total cost for everything was about $100.
There is a bed extension that pulls out with a handle and locks in place. The 5-inch memory foam tri-fold mattress easily flips out to form the standard “short” RV Queen mattress (60 x 74 inches) oriented north/south. Note the stereo sound bar on the ceiling at the head of the bed. Late at night we can watch movies with the volume so low it can’t be heard outside, but we can hear it due to the close proximity. I also made a pair of bedside cubbies (22 x 6.5 x 7.5 inches) made to size for the space available.
The side windows were sourced from a larger pull behind travel trailer and considerably larger than the standard windows. We absolutely love the unobstructed views that we get. Blackout curtains were custom made from a set of drapes. The frosted door glass was replaced by me with a (78 percent) film tinted piece of tempered glass which blocks all outside eyes during the day while allowing us to see who or what is outside our door at night as well as scenery during the day. I installed an IKEA roller blind (blackout material) to block all light and to keep anyone from seeing inside at night with the lights on.
Something to keep in mind with this camper. This is probably the smallest, lightest, and least expensive hard-side truck camper on the market. It is only 6.5 feet wide (cabin outside width), a foot narrower on each side compared to traditional truck campers. It maneuvers through tight traffic in narrow lanes with ease. It navigates narrow National Forest and BLM roads without getting scratched up. It has a very low center of gravity. It fits easily in any standard parking space with room to spare. It allows better than average rear views with side mirrors. Because of its actual (verified) light weight it attaches easily to the internal bed rings in a standard truck bed with simple turnbuckles and a very short length of chain.
There is little to go wrong, very little wiring, no propane system or devices and almost no plumbing. Sitting on our Ram 2500 the clearance height of the camper is 9 feet 10 inches and that includes my 2-inch safety margin. Other than the two fans, there is nothing on the roof so very little opportunity for water to enter from above. I have coated the steel roof and fan vent covers with Henry Tropi-Cool (a 100 percent silicone material) to reduce heat and completely seal the entire roof so maintenance is almost eliminated. The Ram 3/4-ton barely knows this camper is on board. It can safely run 75 to 80 mph if necessary.
It feels small inside yet somehow does everything we need it to do while offering remarkable comfort. Yoly and I are able to tolerate these close quarter conditions especially since we spend so much time outdoors and we are grateful that such a product exists at this point in our lives. We definitely didn’t want to go back to a small pull-behind so the Eureka fits our needs perfectly. On relatively flat ground with little wind running 55 to 60 mph, the big 6.4L HEMI gets 15.1 mpg with the little Eureka. At 65 to 70 mph it’s about 14 mpg.
From the factory the camper weighs 1,220 pounds at a cost of $8,889 (custom work, options and additional equipment included). Our camper as built and fully loaded weighs 1,600 pounds at a cost of $10,120. This includes all construction materials and hardware, roof coating and incidentals such as the fire extinguisher, indoor/outdoor digital thermometer, the CO detector and Mr. Heater Buddy heater.
It’s a shame that Bill passed without a way to continue the heritage of this unique and awesome little truck camper. We feel that this could have been a popular option for many owners of half-ton trucks unable to upgrade to the larger more expensive rigs normally required for the bulk of this market.
If anyone would like to see the development of this project in video format, there are four videos. One shows the camper as it was the day we picked it up, two more videos show the upgrades and additions that were made to the camper and the fourth video shows the data collection documenting the effectiveness of the specialized roof coating. The videos show much more than this summary does. All the videos can be accessed by the links below the video (click on “Show More”) and embedded in the original video.