Truck Camper Adventure is proud to present another truck camper review written by a guest author. In this insightful and informative piece, Michael Harris provides us with his thoughts on the 2015 ALP Adventurer 80RB, a hard-side, non-slide truck camper light enough to be hauled on a half-ton truck.
Every type of recreational vehicle has its pros and cons. We discovered this over the years as we progressed from a tiny teardrop trailer to a fully-equipped, 21-foot travel trailer. After a recent trip to the Northwest Territories in Canada my wife and I realized a travel trailer was no longer for us, we wanted a more remote, off-road experience. Soon after returning home, we noticed that there was an RV show going on. While looking through the show’s brochures we noticed a photograph of two ALP truck campers parked in front of the Arctic Circle sign in the Yukon. This was the same sign we had just photographed on our recent trip! We thought this had to be a good omen, so we bought the same brand of truck camper that was in that photograph, a 2016 Adventurer 80RB, the next day.
We chose the ALP Adventurer 80RB for a number of reasons, but primarily because of its small size and low weight. We were pretty limited on our choices because our pickup truck, a 2012 Ram 2500 with the 5.7L Hemi, has a payload rating of only 2,250 pounds. Fortunately, the Adventurer 80RB is one of the lightest hard side truck campers in the market. It weighs only 1,870 pounds with options including a 90 pound air conditioner that we added after purchasing it. As you can see, we still don’t have a lot of wiggle room left when it comes to payload. In fact, we’re a little overweight when loaded up for our trips. In spite of this, the truck still only sags 1 inch in the rear with the camper loaded. To counter this very minor sag, we installed a set of Firestone air bags, the only suspension modification we’ve had to make. And for those who are curious, the camper’s center of gravity is slightly in front of the rear axle.
Having never driven a truck with a camper before, I admit I was a little worried at first. Reading the internet is sometimes like reading a doomsday novel, so I was a little apprehensive about what to expect. The truth is at highway speeds and on flat roads, I don’t even know the camper is back there. When driving on winding mountain roads and when making tight turns there is a little sway, but it isn’t too bad. As with any load it’s always advisable to slow down when making turns. I haven’t experienced any high winds with the camper yet, so I’m not sure how it will handle, though with the camper’s low profile, I’m not expecting anything drastic. All in all, the camper handles better than I expected though I still worry a little about the weight.
The 80RB is well-constructed, the exterior sleek and modern looking. The two-toned graphics are pleasing to look at and accent the camper’s exterior nicely. The four-season camper features 1 inch Laminated walls with R-9 insulation, a non-yellowing Lamilux 4000 Fiberglass Exterior Front Wrap, and a one-piece seamless Thermo Polyolefin (TPO) roof with 12-year manufacturer warranty. The camper is framed entirely in 1×2 inch pine in order to save weight. In another weight saving measure, the camper is equipped with small holding tanks: a 15 gallon fresh water tank, a 6 gallon gray water tank, and a 6 gallon black water tank. The camper also features a 4 gallon water heater, giving the camper a total of 19 gallons of fresh water. One feature that we really like is that our camper was outfitted with a dual battery box, which is not listed as an option. We currently have two Group-27 batteries installed to supply power to the camper.
The interior of the Adventurer 80RB is well laid out and surprisingly roomy. When you step inside, it’s hard to believe that you’re in the bed of a pickup truck, it seems so spacious. The maple glazed cabinets and radius corners in the interior give the camper an attractive, high-value look. The kitchen features a two burner cook top; a 4 cubic foot, two-way refrigerator; a deep basin sink; and lots of storage. Moving from a 21 foot pull trailer to a truck camper we were worried at first because of the reduction in storage, but once we started “moving in” we realized we actually carried more than we needed. In the drawer below the cook top we were able to put all of our pots and pans with some other cooking utensils. Above the counter top and cook surface there are two more cabinets for dishes and dry goods. There are two more drawers, on the kitchen side, with full extension ball bearing slides.
The kitchen area is well-lit and includes an LED light above the sink and a smaller light above the cook top. We found the light above the cook top to be a little too dim, so we replaced it with a higher wattage bulb. The kitchen is very spacious. It’s easy for two people to work together to prepare a meal. With a little planning and space utilization, it’s a very functional layout. So far, we haven’t missed having an oven since we use a Dutch Oven outside quite frequently. All in all, we haven’t missed the kitchen space we had in our old travel trailer. The ease of use and size have actually allowed us to go places we would not have been able to go with a travel trailer.
The dinette is small, but functional for such a small camper. While three people could sit at the table it’s better suited for two. One of the best features of the table is that it slides in and out to create more “hallway” space between the kitchen and dining area. This capability also helps people get in and out from behind the table. Another nice touch is that the table can actually swivel 360 degrees which means it can be turned lengthwise to create a nice work space between two people while watching a movie on a laptop or portable device. The couch is what the manufacturer calls a “roll-over sofa” which folds over into a bed. Since this camper is designed to be light weight this sofa could’ve been an area to save weight. They didn’t, which is a good thing since the sofa seems strong and well made. When opened up into a bed, its more than long enough to accommodate an adult. In its sofa configuration there are two cup holders in each arm rest which is a nice touch. Since one of the arm rests is right inside the door we use the cup holder to hold our keys.
Going from a large dry bath to a small wet bath was one thing we were worried about. In our travel trailer we had a full size bathroom with a full size shower. The truck camper is one-third of that size. In actual use, however, the wet bath works well for us. The bathroom is equipped with a shower curtain and a sliding door to close it off from the dining area. A raised dome skylight is mounted above the shower to provide more room for taller people. I’m 6 feet tall and I’m able to stand comfortably in it. There is a 12 volt exhaust fan and a small shelf for soaps and toiletries. The toilette paper holder has a waterproof door that covers the paper when showering. It’s also possible to sit and shower if needed. The toilet is also functional except that the foot flush is a little too far back to reach with your toe. The only real negative with the wetbath design is the step required to get up to it, it’s a little high for anyone with bad knees. So far we haven’t missed the larger bathroom and its storage space.
This is our first truck camper and we had to pinch ourselves a few times because couldn’t believe that we were sleeping above the cab of a pickup. In fact, we sometimes find it hard to believe we are camping in the bed of a truck, the room seems so much larger. The camper came with a 60×80-inch queen size double density foam mattress, which we replaced immediately. I’m sure having the thinner mattress is a weight saving feature, but some things you just don’t want to give up, a nice mattress is one of those things. We purchased an aftermarket 8-inch memory foam mattress which works so much better for us. On either side on the bed is ample storage, one side has a small closet and a drawer while the other has just a shelf. The closet will not take full size coat hangers, but we were able to find a few smaller ones that worked well for us.
For anyone looking at truck campers I highly recommend a north-south bed, meaning one that runs front to back. With that configuration no one has to climb over anyone to get up in the middle of the night. For us this is a must have. Adventurer makes another model, similar to ours, called the 80GS. It is a little lighter with a slide-out, but it does not have a north-south bed. If you are looking to shave a few pounds it’s an option but you’ll love the bed in the 80RB once you upgrade the mattress. If I was asked about changes, I think I would add a thermostat in the sleeping area for the furnace.
And speaking of the furnace, the camper is equipped with a thermostat controlled, 16,000 BTU unit with an auto ignition. We traveled to Montana recently and the temperature dropped into the 30s. The furnace kept us nice and warm every night. For propane, the unit is equipped with a single 20 pound propane tank. While the tank is removable it’s designed to be filled in place which can be an issue for those not familiar with the correct nozzle to use when filling it. Our camper, while pre-wired for it, did not come with an air conditioner. We opted to have one installed, the Coleman Mach 8. Numerous online videos show this project to be good for DIY’ers as it is very easy to do.
Aside from the air conditioner, we’ve made a few modifications to the camper. We installed a 19 inch flat-screen TV over the foot of the bed, using a swivel arm mount. This mount allows us to view the TV either from the dining space or when laying in bed. We also added a couple of footmen, webbing and Fastex buckles to secure the TV while traveling. The only viable attachment point for a TV in this model is above the sink at the end of the cupboard. For added support and strength for the TV mount, we attached a small backer board on the inside of the cupboard. We also added a gauge to the propane tank so we can monitor our usage. Lastly, to prevent theft, we modified the leveling jacks by drilling a hole into each leg in its fully retracted position. We use locking pins, like the ones used in trailer hitches, to secure the leg in the retracted position.
For all of it’s pros there a few opportunities for improvement. Like I mentioned earlier, the step up into the bathroom is a little high and could be troublesome for someone with bad knees. Also, the outside area under the door is almost too small to attach a set of Torklift Glowsteps. When we first used our camper the heater wouldn’t come on. Fortunately, I was able to get it working without having to call a technician. We also found that the space for the sewer hose is too short, so we added a PVC tube with end caps inside the bed of the truck, which works perfectly for us. Due to the small size of the holding tanks, you really have to keep a close watch on water usage and your black and gray holding tanks levels. I also wish that the rear of the camper was fitted with side storage boxes. In spite of these minor issues, we’ve been very pleased with the quality and features of the camper. Yes, you can say we’re happy campers.
Because we have been so impressed with our Adventurer 80RB, we decided to take a short trip to Yakima, WA to tour the ALP factory. One of the sales managers, Jim, gave us a complete tour of their facility and we were impressed with the efficiency and the quality of the work. Jim told us that they are able to turn out three to four campers a day and were able to sell every one that they make. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend a tour. Be careful, though, because if you bring your wife she may get ideas for the next purchase.
We are extremely satisfied with the Adventurer 80RB and would purchase another model from ALP without hesitation. Their staff in Yakima was extremely helpful and even got us over our fears of not “having enough truck.” What does the future hold for us and the 80RB? A return to the Arctic of course!