Professional bass fisherman, David Walker, is enjoying the versatility and features of today’s truck camper. But discovering the benefits of the modern truck camper didn’t come easy to the FLW bassmaster elite series champion whose list of accomplishments could fill a bass boat. A few bumps before ownership were encountered along the way.
“Having an RV with me is something we’ve done for a lot of years,” explained Walker, the Michigan native who now resides in Sevierville, Tennessee with his family. “I started fishing professionally in 1999, and my wife and I got married in 2000. I’ve got a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old, so they’ve grown up with it. At first when it was just me and my wife, we stayed at hotels and traveled to the tournaments. After we started having kids, staying in hotels with babies just sucks, so we started looking for alternatives and we ended up buying a fifth wheel. Well what goes into that then is that you have to have a truck that pulls the fifth wheel, and then I still have to have my boat with us, so I had another truck to pull the boat. So my wife and kids would ride in the pickup that pulled the boat, and I would pull the fifth wheel with my diesel truck and we would caravan around. We did that for a lot of years and had three different fifth wheels.”
Walker really liked the convenience of living in a fifth wheel and staying at a campground where he could return after a hard day of competing on the water. It wasn’t always that easy while staying at hotels. “I always liked that aspect about having an RV,” Walker recalled, “because you have your own place and parking is never a question. So many times I’ve come back to the hotel that night and all of the parking is gone. You’ve got a truck and boat and you’ve got to plug-in that boat in order to charge your trolling motor batteries. It can be pretty challenging to do that, whereas in a campground, you get your spot, you pull into there, you know it’s quiet most of the time, you’re right on the lake, as opposed to driving into town, you can make your own meals, so you can plan out your own day. You don’t have to go into your hotel, change, clean up, then go out and eat, then come back, get up again and drive back out to the lake the next morning.”
While having a fifth wheel provided Walker and his family with the comforts of home while on tour, it also presented the professional angler with a major obstacle. “The RV deal just worked out so well,” he explained, “but the problem was the only time I could take the fifth wheel is when everybody went because my wife had to drive the truck with the boat. Triple towing, I know a few guys who’ve tried it, but it seems to be more problems than it’s worth to be honest with you when you travel. The fifth wheel that we’ve got is so big that really it would be crazy to try to manage that much equipment just by myself. So I was like, I’m going to look into these truck campers, so I started doing a lot of research.”
Unfortunately, the search for the right truck camper wasn’t an easy one for the busy professional who’s constantly on tour. In east Tennessee, where he lives, there are very few truck camper dealerships. As a result, his search for the perfect truck camper lasted two long years until a breakthrough finally occurred while working as an ambassador of the sport. “I went to the big RV show in Louisville, Kentucky,” Walker recalled. “I went there at the request of the people at Go RVing, who were sponsoring the show, so I was there each day at their booth, signing autographs, and they had a couple other people there, one guy was a snowboarder, the other guy was a golfer, and all these people had RVs, so they had me there. So that being a manufacturer’s show gave me a chance to look at everything—the latest and greatest stuff—which was perfect for me.”
Which camper in Louisville caught Walker’s eye the most? It was the one he eventually ended up buying, a Cirrus 920 long-bed truck camper, from Ohio-based nuCamp, builders of the highly regarded T@B and T@G tear drop travel trailers. This innovative, rapid-growing company decided to throw their hat into the truck camper ring in 2015 by offering a pair of truck camper models with a number of European design elements and innovations found in their highly successful travel trailers. Some of the cutting-edge features found in their truck campers include the Alde hydronic heating system; the Froli modular sleep system; Sietz thermopane windows; heated flooring, a folding bathroom sink; and the versatile Lagun swing away dinette table. The response from the truck camper buying public has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The first thing that caught my eye was the styling of the camper,” Walker said. “I was pretty intrigued by it because to me it looked like it was pretty substantial, but I thought well maybe that’s just the look they were going for, but then I got in there and looked around more and it was legit. Talking it over with the nuCamp rep there, he was able to show me how many features they got into the camper. What they did right was pack a lot into a small space. They seemed to be able to do that really well, because I know other guys who’ve got campers, and you know the basics are there, you’ve got a fridge, you’ve got a bed, but when it comes to the little things like the way the drawers slide in and out, how many cabinets I have, there’s so much more of it,” added Walker.
“But I think what sold me on it was the idea that it wasn’t huge,” said Walker, about the Cirrus 920, which has a dry weight of 2,900 pounds, “you know the weight issue wasn’t any issue at all, and that it looked to me like it was something that was built to last. I feel like I’ll get a lot of years out of it. I mean, I know campers, I’ve had quite a few of them, I’ve had several fifth wheels, and they’re really big and they can be pretty disposable. It’s amazing how much money you pay for them and the longevity is just not there, and this one right here it just seemed like nuCamp went above and beyond in the components to put it together to make, so I thought well if I’m going to get one of these, let’s get something that’s going to last because truck campers aren’t cheap,” he said.
The Cirrus 920 is an innovative truck camper design loaded with a number of features not found in your typical American camper. One of these is the so-called Alde hydronic heating system, a combination water heater furnace unit imported from Europe that not only saves on weight and space, but is also whisper quiet. “I really liked the idea of the Alde heat system, because I know being in those campers before what you use for heat tends to be quite loud and I knew that being in that little space like that there might be something that would be really clever, and so far, I use it and I really like how quiet that it is—it kind of sounds like a little percolating going on—a little water flowing in there, and that’s it. It’s very quiet. I like that part about it,” Walker said.
When asked what else he liked about this modern, cutting-edge truck camper, the bassmaster elite champion with 23 top 10 finishes mentioned several things, including the imported Lagun dinette table. “Everything about the camper is really cool, even the table in the booth where you sit,” he answered, “it has a really infinite amount of locations because of the way they have it on that pole where it’s mounted, it slides up and down, and it also rotates around, and it goes in and out. So its kind of like on one of those brackets like you would see on a camera would be one, where it’s really three rigid pieces, but the way they’re put together, it gives you an infinite amount of locations where you can put it.”
Another feature about the camper that Walker really likes is the Froli modular sleep system. This revolutionary design consists of numerous customizable springs that offer surprising comfort, while at the same time providing under-mattress ventilation that helps eliminate moisture and mildew buildup. “It’s the strangest deal,” Walker said about the Froli sleep system, “that plastic grid pattern that’s underneath the mattress, but you know it’s a big bed. I’ve got plenty of room, but you know that’s one thing about beds, a lot of times you’re just kind of sleeping on some foam and I thought, man, two weeks of this, I’ll find out if that bed is any good, and it was fine. It worked out really well. I didn’t come home and put a mattress or mattress pad on my list of things to get.”
As any truck camper owner knows, having a nice camper is one thing, having a nice camper that handles well on the road is another. He hasn’t taken his rig to the scales yet, but according to Walker, the 2,900-pound, long-bed camper handles exceptionally well on his unmodified 2015 Chevy 3500 DRW pickup truck. “I already had the dually because I used it to pull my 40-foot fifth wheel,” he explained. “I had a 3/4-ton that I had put springs on previous to that with my other fifth wheels and then when I traded in that truck for this one in 2015, I went with a dually, and boy, I’m glad I did because, gosh, does it haul that camper so well. What ever you put in the truck it just doesn’t even sneeze, just away it goes.”
How is Walker, who just finished competing at the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Central Open #1 at Ross Barnett, enjoying his new Cirrus 920 and all of the benefits that a truck camper provides? “It’s nice because I’ve got the best of both worlds. I’ve got my truck and I can pull my boat with it, but I have my room with me, too, my bed goes with me, my refrigerator, so I’ve got my hotel room, I bring it with me. So you get to the campground, you set the camper off the truck, hook the boat up to the truck and then you just drive back and forth to the lake each day from the campground. It couldn’t be any more convenient for a fisherman to be honest with you,” Walker said.