Truck Camper Adventure is proud to present another truck camper review written by a guest author. In this insightful and informative piece, Jeff Sherman provides us with his thoughts on the 2017 Bigfoot 25C9.4SB, a hard-side, non-slide truck camper made for one-ton trucks.
It seems unlikely that a review of a hard-side, basement truck camper would have a place in Truck Camper Adventure. But there are those of us who do like to adventure on to back roads as far as the limitations of our truck camper rig allow us. Yes, I am envious of smaller hard-sides and pop-ups being able to go virtually anywhere. But our Bigfoot camper does allow us to stay in remote areas for long periods of time.
We lived in Alaska for 42 years and for 10 years we had a hard-side, non-basement Bigfoot 15C9.5FS truck camper we had bought used. Bigfoot truck campers are made in Canada and have a structural fiberglass exterior that is constructed in two halves that join in a sealed seam about half way up the camper shell all the way around. We have never had an issue with the seam in 11 years of Bigfoot ownership. Our 1500 series model was built in 2000 and it held up extremely well in Alaska’s weather. Rainy summers, cold winters, heavy snows, and where we lived, lots of freeze-thaw cycles in the winter. It was always outside, uncovered, not even a tarp in the winter. We had the entire rig recaulked only once as a preventative measure.
We loved that Bigfoot, took it to a lot of places in Alaska, put it on the state ferry system and made trips to the Yukon in it. But we often came up against the limited storage capacity of the grey water tank. The tank capacity on the 15C9.5FS is 32 gallons fresh, 11 gallons gray, and 14 gallons black. In Alaska, with often saturated soils and camping in proximity to salmon, trout and grayling streams or lakes, dumping gray water on the ground is not something we do. And the camper only had one battery. So we planned to sell it and get something with more tank and battery capacity.
Bigfoot truck campers have a loyal following in Alaska and Canada for their four-season camping capabilities. Double-pane thermal, solar-reflective glass windows are standard. The 1500 series has an inch of insulation while the basement model 2500 series has 1.5 inches of R8 extruded polystyrene insulation. Since the fiberglass shell is the structural support for the camper, the insulation is more uniformly distributed under the fiberglass as opposed to wood or aluminum construction where structural members inside the skin take the place of insulation and create cold spots. Good insulation and the white gel-coat exterior finish also keeps the camper cooler in the summer.
My wife and I bought a new 2017 Bigfoot 2500 series 25C9.4SB which is the subject of this review. It’s a basement model, molded fiberglass exterior, non-slide, wet-bath, truck camper made for a short-bed pick-up. The tank capacities are 38 gallons fresh, 32 gallons gray, and 22 gallons black. The battery compartment is made for two batteries. The camper has two 20 pound propane bottles with auto change over and a 30,000 BTU forced air Atwood furnace with ducts into all areas that have tankage or plumbing. The Atwood water heater is propane fired with a 6 gallon tank and remote electric start. The fridge is a 6 cubic foot Dometic 2-way.
We ordered our new Bigfoot from Tim Anderson at Alaska Performance RV and Marine and he arranged for delivery of it to the Lower 48 where we happened to be with our pickup at that particular time. Tim was very helpful; providing us with the weights of various options as we steered clear of anything that would significantly increase the weight. We only added a few options: LED lighting and a second Fantastic Vent fan being the most important.
We chose the 25C9.4SB model because the wet bath is forward, just before the cabover as is the fridge. This means the entire back of the camper is dedicated to the kitchen and dinette with windows on all three sides. When we back into a camping spot we have great 270 degree views out our windows. Our old 1500 model had the wet bath at the back of the camper—which was great for stowing our wet rain gear and southeast sneakers as we entered the camper—but really broke up the interior layout and views.
The 25C9.4SB is not designed for heavy-duty, off-road travel. At 2,850 pounds dry weight, it is heavy but a one-ton SRW truck can handle it. With 38 gallons of fresh water (317 pounds), plus 6 gallon water heater (51 pounds), plus two Group 27 batteries (130 pounds), plus propane (40 pounds), the basic wet weight comes to 3,388 pounds, not including food, beverages, stuff or people.
Even though this is designated as a short-bed camper, you have to watch the fore and aft weight distribution or your rear axle may get over loaded. The empty, dry weight, center of gravity (COG) is about 47 inches to the rear of the front bumpers of the camper. On my Ford F-350 short bed this means that the empty COG is aft of the rear axle by 6 inches or so. A trip to the CAT scales confirmed this—with the camper totally dry and empty my front axle weight was lighter with the camper in the truck than with the truck empty. But if you pay attention how you load the camper, you can move the loaded camper COG forward of the rear axle. The fridge is well forward next to the cab over. We load the fridge full of our food, beer, wine, and bottled water. Bigfoot placed the fresh and black water tanks as far forward as possible. When we fill the fresh water tank at the front of the camper, the COG moves forward of our rear axle. When I weigh the fully loaded camper and truck at CAT scales the front axle is heavier than when the truck is totally empty, so I know the COG of the camper is forward of the rear axle when loaded.
However, a word to the wise. The limiting weight factor on a SRW short-bed truck with this short-bed camper will very likely be the rear GAWR. Bigfoot did not shorten the length of this camper to make it a short-bed model—it is the same overall length as the long bed version. They just took advantage of more stowage space beyond the truck bed using wing storage.
The 25C9.4SB has an interior floor length of 9 feet 4 inches. Being a basement model, the camper is high: 8 feet 3 inches, so low tree branches are not your friends. But it makes for a very roomy bunk area with 34 inches of space above the 8-inch thick mattress. The camper is wide (7 feet 11 inches) so it may not be able to squeak by a tight cliff-side on a narrow road. The rear overhang of the camper extends past a short-bed truck a lot (about 28 inches past my Ford bumper), but does not reduce the departure angle too much (ignoring the jacks) because the truck bumper below the camper influences the departure angle as well. The electric jacks are easily removable with only three bolts each. Removing front jacks reduces width about 3 inches while removing rear jacks is essential to improve the departure angle.
The Bigfoot is pre-wired for solar with a pair of 8 gauge cables from the fridge vent down to the battery box area as a standard feature. A solar panel is a Bigfoot option, but we needed more than one panel and wanted wider choices as to panels, controller, etc. so I’m currently installing my own solar system.
The battery compartment is the sealed type (allows for wet cell batteries) and opens to the outside only. It holds two Group 27’s in a tray. If you got rid of the tray you might be able to fit larger AGMs in there. The battery box location is aft of the rear axle so the 130 pounds of batteries is one of the COG offenders. We wish Bigfoot would offer an AGM option whereby there is no sealed battery compartment and the vented door is replaced with a standard weather tight RV access door. That would allow the batteries to match the interior temperature.
The water pump has been plumbed with a winterizing system to enable the entire water system to be filled with RV anti-freeze for winter storage.
There is a small door to access the dump valves at the rear of the camper. As I mentioned, the black water tank is forward and under the toilet. Therefore the knife valve for the black water tank is well forward at the tank outlet. There is a very long cable extension to the knife valve handle. There should not be any clogs at that valve because this Bigfoot has a standard black water tank flush/rinse system, so I clean the tank at every dump location that has a water hose—it is a simple hookup on the outside of the camper with a sanitary backflow preventer. The gray water valve is right there at the access door as is a fresh water tank drain valve. Because of the plumbing, this area has a furnace duct.
To access that black water knife valve and any plumbing related to the tankage, there is a large access panel on the front underside of the camper. It is held in place with pan head screws so a rubber mat is essential to protect your pick up bed. Our old non-basement 1500 series model, where all the plumbing was accessible from inside or through access doors, had a beautifully solid fiberglass bottom. The access panel on the bottom of our 25C9.4SB has not given us any problems but I do make sure the drain holes at the forward corners of my pick up bed are clear before loading the camper. I do not want the camper sitting in a pool of water.
The 25C9.4SB has a compartment sized for an Onan 2.5 KW propane generator. Unfortunately this compartment is in the rear overhang beyond the pickup bed which would exacerbate the COG situation. It would be nice if this door and compartment would fit a Honda or Yamaha generator (for stowage only) to give you an option. But it does not. The dimensions are 24.5 inches wide, 18 inches deep and only 13.5 inches high. My old Yamaha EF2000iS is about 17 inches high. There’s nothing above this compartment inside except a tall drawer in the kitchen under the stove. If that drawer was a few inches shorter then the generator compartment and door could be higher where something other than just an Onan would fit. It would be great if Bigfoot made this an option. We do not have the Onan, so this compartment, perfectly lined and sealed with galvanized sheet metal, stores our trash bag and anything else that might be a bit dirty or smelly. We wish that if you did not get the generator, the door was solid and did not have the built-in vent for a generator.
There’s a good ladder to the roof with easy access from the top step of the scissor steps. At the top of the ladder there is a low hand railing around the back of the camper which is, well, very handy. There’s plenty of blank real estate on the roof for solar panels. I easily fit two and could fit a third if need be.
There’s an outdoor shower. And at the back of the camper there is a Dometic Sunchaser awning. Nice location to have the door shaded or shielded from rain. Below the door is the access to the huge basement storage. It is 33 inches wide, 13 inches high and the deepest part is a whopping 66 inches. The sides and floor of the storage area are all beautiful white fiberglass with a gel coat finish as nice as the exterior. I cushion it with non-skid. We store potable water hose, camp chairs, camp table, etc. in there. This area is unheated because there is no plumbing in it. It does have a nice interior light.
But what we don’t store in the rear basement storage area is anything heavy because it’s at the back of the camper. So tools, jumper cables, recovery equipment, 12 volt air compressor, etc. all get stored in the extended cab area of the pick up.
The interior cabinetry we chose is light colored which makes the living space bright and cheery. The windows over the dinette have day/night shades while those over the kitchen counter have venetian blinds. Opening windows are sliders. There is a large skylight over the living area and it has a shade. There are two Fantastic Vent Fans for ventilation—one in the wet bath the other in the living area. An opening skylight over the bunk area allows ventilation there. All opening vents and windows are screened.
Starting at the door, to the right there is a three-burner range with a bi-fold cover and oven below. There’s a 12 volt range hood fan above the cooktop that exhausts to the outside and a microwave above that for when you have shore power. A large storage drawer is under the oven. Plenty of overhead cabinets on both sides with very firm hinges to keep the doors closed. There’s ample counter space between the cooktop and the double stainless steel sink. The single-handed faucet pulls out and has a spray setting. An under cabinet light is over this area, but hardly needed as the entire interior is very well lit with many LED light fixtures.
One minor issue, there isn’t a 12 volt outlet in this area. There’s one across the way above the dinette table. So I installed one in the trim space below the sink. The other issue in this area was a bit of a surprise: the lower cabinet to the left of the sink did not have any shelves at all or even a right side partition. It was completely open to the floor and was pretty much sharing the under sink catch all area to the right. You would think a separate cabinet would have enclosed sides and shelves. I’ve already fixed this with a partition and shelf.
Just inside the door to the camper, near the floor so it is cleverly within reach of a person standing on the ground outside the camper, is the button for the electronic disconnect. The disconnect itself is hidden under the kitchen counter-top. While doing the electrical work for the solar, I noticed that the electronic disconnect was mounted on very flimsy .25-inch fiberboard. The solenoid in this is a bit heavy and I noticed the mounting screws were already coming loose so I glued, screwed and fastened with metal ties a .75-inch plywood backer behind the disconnect and screwed it into that. Problem solved. If you do take a Bigfoot on rough roads I suggest making a similar mod. The control box to the right of the disconnect is for the jack motors and is very lightweight and not an issue—yet.
Just forward of the kitchen is the wet bath which has a sink. The shower fixture is a standard plastic RV unit and I am replacing it with a water-saving EcoCamel shower head.
The bed is north-south with a short queen spring mattress. It has hamper bins with windows above on each side and mini-closets at the very front. At the foot of the bed on the passenger side is a shelf with drawer and AC and DC plugs and an antenna jack for a TV. On the driver’s side there is a full height cabinet. It all is great except for one thing: the trim for the cabinets and the forward closet plywood is so tight to the mattress that you can’t hardly get a sheet in there much less a blanket or comforter. This drove my wife crazy and to be honest when I tried to make the bed, it drove me nuts as well. You scrape your knuckles just getting the sheet in there and forget about the blanket and comforter—they stay rumpled up on top of the bed. The coffin hampers on either side are not an issue—plenty of clearance. It is the forward closets and the trim on the rear cabinets. Just a little bit of attention to the design of the cabinets and closets with no loss of cabinet space would give you the 1.5 inches you need. We solved the problem by getting a narrower 8-inch thick memory foam mattress from Amazon. I really hope Bigfoot gets out in front of this issue.
The fridge is located right at the step into the cabover. The step has a cab thru window that aligns with the truck rear window, but we never use it. I wish there were an option to delete it. The fridge is great. We fill it completely, using frozen water bottles if there is space before we travel. With it turned completely off, it stays cold because it is full. Even in 100F degree temperatures we have had a cold fridge and freezer at the end of the day.
Under the cabover step is the Progressive Dynamics converter and power center. The AC panel includes 120 volt pre-wire to the center Fantastic Vent fan location for installation of a roof-top air conditioner. Right now, we’re trying to get by without AC and the generator we would have to carry for it.
Between the fridge and the dinette is a wardrobe closet with three drawers beneath it. The dinette seats face each other and are very comfortable with plenty of leg room. Under the rear seat is a large drawer for storage. Under the forward seat is the 30,000 BTU furnace and ductwork. There are three round duct outlets near the floor in the living area with rotating directional louvers, one of which faces the bunk area. Staying warm is not a problem. The dinette table drops down to form a bed in combination with the seat back cushions though at 68 inches long it is kidlet size. Above the dinette are 120 volt AC, USB and 12 volt DC outlets as well as a CD and satellite radio stereo that I wish were optional so I could just install what I want. The stereo speakers are built-in which is nice.
Now it’s time to talk about a basement model camper relative to the tank capacity, storage and the dinette. When a manufacturer makes a basement model camper it allows them to do four things. One, it increases the size of the holding tanks. Two, it creates large storage areas under the floor. Three, it creates a higher ceiling so there is more clearance above the cabover mattress. And four, this is often overlooked, it makes the raised floor under the dinette table high enough to extend above the bed rail of the pick up. Because of this, you get face-to-face seating with a dinette floor all the way to the exterior wall of the camper. This appears to be one of the determining factors of the basement height. On non-basement models, the dinette is usually a U-shape so that the seat cushion at the bottom of the “U” is out over the pick up rail. So basically in a U-dinette you are sitting out over the rail, but your feet are inside of and below it.
For those of us who mostly want increased tank capacity, but would be happy with a U-shape dinette and a less tall (less top-heavy) camper, I wish Bigfoot would make a version of this camper with maybe a “crawl space” instead of a full basement. This would mean having flatter and broader holding tanks. It would also mean less storage for stuff—as the tankage would take more of that volume—but we don’t use all the storage as it is. A shorter crawl space and the resulting lower floor and lower ceiling would also reduce the headroom above the bunk closer to a normal non-basement clearance instead of the generous 34 inches of headroom now.
The result would be a camper with the same great tank capacities, a U-shaped dinette and less basement storage. It would not be as tall and a bit lighter which are both good. But the one downside to Bigfoot’s fiberglass shell construction method is that the forms/molds already exist and are used repeatedly. There are high front end costs associated with new forms/molds for a different model.
Despite the few faults, and wishing for a few more options, we love our Bigfoot 25C9.4SB truck camper. We especially like the floorplan with 270 degree views out the windows, the weathertight fiberglass exterior, the large tank capacities, thermal pane glass windows, high-capacity ducted furnace and thick insulation. Yes, we definitely cannot take the camper everywhere, but we can go to many remote areas, boondock in one or two spots till our fresh water runs out without worrying about dumping, and drop the camper to explore the rougher roads in our pick up.