Truck campers are a hot commodity in 2021 with truck camper manufacturers reporting record sales. For non-slide-out campers, the Lance 825, Northstar Laredo SC, and Bundutec Roadrunner are among the most popular. These campers sell well not only because they are light enough to be hauled by a standard one-ton SRW truck, but also because all three offer a wet-bath, a must-have feature for many. Another reason is the floorplan first made popular in the 1960s, which features a dinette and wet-bath on the passenger side, a full kitchen and wardrobe on the driver side, and a north-south bed in the cabover. We’ve been fortunate to own both the Northstar Laredo SC and the Bundutec Roadrunner (our current camper) and have been inside the popular Lance 825 numerous times. However, since we’ve only owned the Laredo SC and the Roadrunner, we will review and compare these two campers only. So without further adieu, let’s take a closer look at the two popular truck campers.
When it comes to construction, the Northstar Laredo SC and BundutecUSA Roadrunner are nearly identical campers. Both are constructed of wood and insulated with block foam using the same time-tested techniques. This shouldn’t be a surprise for the two Iowa-based companies. Northstar is owned by Rex Willett; BundutecUSA by Rex’s brother, Rory Willett. The two companies use only marine-grade plywood and the highest quality kiln dried Lodge Pole Pine 1 x 4-inch boards from the northwest Rockies. These boards are ripped down to 1.5 x 1-inch to save on weight, while providing adequate backing for the installation of cabinets, doors, windows and appliances. All joints are glued and screwed for extra strength and durability. Truth be told, the two campers are built like a tank. We have used both extensively off-road with both holding up exceptionally well with zero signs of stress.
The Roadrunner and Laredo SC have more things in common as well. Both are equipped with a standard Thetford Cassette Toilet. This model of cassette features a 5 gallon cassette holding tank for waste and a 4 gallon fresh water tank for flushing. We quickly became enamored with this feature due to the ease of dumping and wouldn’t consider owning a camper without it. If the cassette toilet isn’t your thing, then you’d be better served by going with the Lance 825, which offers a standard 14 gallon waste tank for black water. Both Northstar and Bundutec offer affordable sink and range/oven combinations with the standard range hood for venting. The siding in either camper consists of a smooth fiberglass while the roof is topped off with the standard EPDM rubber. Regardless of your choice, we highly recommend ordering the optional block foam insulation and foil wrap ceiling for enhanced four-season use. This is what we did, and the added insulation has served us well in both campers.
Northstar Laredo SC
The Northstar Laredo SC is a hard-side truck camper made for short-bed and long-bed trucks. Released in 2002, the camper eventually became Northstar’s best seller. With a dry weight of only 2,090 pounds (fully loaded the camper weighs 2,980 pounds), the Laredo matches well with most three-quarter-ton and all one-ton SRW pickup trucks. The Laredo SC’s floor length is 8 feet, 6 inches long with a width of 7 feet. Features include a 60×80-inch full-size queen bed oriented north-south, a well-apportioned kitchen with a 3.7 cubic foot refrigerator-freezer, and a spacious U-shaped dinette. The Laredo SC’s tank capacities are superb with a 40 gallon fresh water holding tank, 13 gallons grey, and 5-gallon Thetford Cassette Toilet. Moreover, the Laredo SC provides not one but two 5-gallon, 20-pound propane tanks—a must for winter camping. The non-ventilated battery compartment located underneath the dinette is large enough to hold two group-27 AGM or lithium ion batteries.
Lacking a basement, the Northstar Laredo SC is a true low-profile hard-side. Indeed, the roof height on our 2013 Ram 3500 was only 9 feet 8 inches high (this figure doesn’t include the air conditioner). You’d be hard pressed to find a hard-side truck camper equal to or lower than that number, most are well over 10 feet high and some are as high as 12 to 13 feet from the ground. The benefits of having a low profile camper are numerous, the most important of which is less wind resistance and better fuel mileage. For those who do a lot of freeway driving, this can result in a significant savings in fuel. The other benefit of having a lower profile truck camper is, of course, the ability to go where few RV’s can’t like narrow forest service roads and moderate 4×4 Jeep trails like the White Rim Trail at Canyonlands National Park.
Released in 2020, the Roadrunner is the brain child of BundutecUSA owner Rory Willett. Rory has designed well over a dozen campers in his lifetime and the Roadrunner is arguably his best. The listed dry weight of the camper is 2,400 pounds with a fully loaded wet weight of 3,300 pounds. This means the Roadrunner is a good 300 to 400 pounds heavier than the Laredo, yet the Roadrunner is still an excellent match for today’s one-ton SRW trucks. Built for both short-bed and long-bed trucks, the floor length of the Roadrunner is 8 feet 7 inches long, is 7 feet wide, and has 6 feet 4 inches of headroom inside. The camper features a 35-gallon fresh water holding tank, a 20-gallon grey water holding tank, a 5-gallon propane tank, and a 5-gallon cassette for solid waste. The battery compartment, which is located underneath the rear dinette seat, is large enough to hold a massive 360 amp hour lithium cube battery. The Roadrunner comes standard with 3.7 cubic foot DC refrigerator freezer.
Like the Laredo SC, the BundutecUSA Roadrunner is a low profile hard-side with a roof height of 9 feet 9 inches. Unlike the Laredo SC, however, the Roadrunner’s roof is straight. This full walk-on roof provides more headroom and storage in the cabover though the extra height in front increases wind resistance on the road and increases weight. However, the enlarged wet-bath is the real highlight of the Roadrunner. The Roadrunner bathroom measures 36 inches wide by 33 inches deep with the shower pan measuring 36 inches by 20 inches, a good 6 inches wider than the Laredo SC. This extra space provides enough room for not only a cassette toilet, but also a clothes hamper, something that was sorely lacking in the Laredo. Unfortunately, having a larger bathroom means having a smaller dinette, something we were willing to compromise on.
Roadrunner vs Laredo SC
The Northstar Laredo SC offers several advantages over the BundutecUSA Roadrunner. For one the Laredo SC is 400 pounds lighter. It’s also more aerodynamic. These differences result in better fuel mileage for the Laredo SC, about 1 mpg better than the Roadrunner. On the other hand, the Roadrunner offers more storage in the kitchen and extra cabinets and storage cubbies in the wet-bath and cabover. The weight increase also means that the Roadrunner should really be hauled on a one-ton truck, unlike the Laredo SC which is also compatible with better-rated 3/4-ton trucks. As a matter of fact, we rated the Northstar Laredo SC very high in that all-important truck category. Lastly, the Laredo SC has a wider main door, a full 26 inches wide and 2 inches wider than the Roadrunner’s main door. This extra width makes loading and unloading the Laredo easier. Why doesn’t Bundutuec offer a wider door? Simply because the Roadrunner’s larger bathroom won’t allow it.
But the Laredo SC offers other benefits as well. For one, the dinette is 6 inches longer, meaning the Laredo SC is better for small families and for those who want to entertain a guest or two. The larger dinette also means the Laredo SC has a more open feel inside compared to the Roadrunner. Another feature we really liked about the Laredo SC is the optional Torklift bumper with the drop-down entry step. Our first truck camper had the Torklift Glowstep scissor step and we hated it because it had to be stored and deployed each time we wanted to use it. It was a pain. On the other hand, getting in and out of the Laredo with the Torklift bumper step was a real joy and literally took just a few seconds each time we used it. Unfortunately, no similar option exists for the Roadrunner. This means Roadrunner owners will have to get either the aforementioned Glowstep or the Easy Hitch Step, the latter of which negatively impacts the Roadrunner’s off-road departure angle.
While we were generally pleased with the build quality of the Northstar Laredo SC, two issues with the build are worth pointing out. Particle board rather than solid wood was used in the substrate for the laminated kitchen countertop and as you’d expect this created a problem over time. As you know, particle board swells and expands if it ever gets wet. During the five years we owned the camper, small cracks and large bubbles developed in the counter top in several places. There’s only one way to correct a problem like this and that’s by replacing the entire countertop, a BIG job. The other issue relates to the 1/4-inch Luan used on the Laredo’s sloped front roof. Because Luan was and is still used on all Laredo SC front roofs, you really can’t walk on it. While this approach saves on weight, it really doesn’t instill confidence in the overall construction of the camper, especially when working on the roof.
So what qualities endeared us to the Roadrunner? The taller cabover and larger bathroom are two that immediately come to mind. The Truma Combi Eco, which comes standard, is another. This combination water heater and furnace not only saves about 30 pounds in weight, but also space. The German-engineered appliance is also more efficient and much quieter than the standard US furnace which roars like a jet turbine when it’s on. Yes, the Truma Combi is more expensive at $1,400, but the savings in weight and increase in storage is well worth the extra cost. These benefits make Truma Combi a must-have item in today’s truck camper where storage is always at a premium.
Yet, the Roadrunner comes out on top when it comes to the options as well. Yes, Northstar offers an impressive list of options too, but Bundutec offers more. We’ve already mentioned the Truma Combi, but Bundutec’s options list also includes a True Induction Dual Cooktop, an Arctic Tern Roof Hatch—which has a much better track record than other roof hatches—a Xantrex Freedom X 3,000 watt inverter with a built-in transfer relay, and lithium batteries. We fully expect that Bundutec will be adding the brand-new Truma Aventa air conditioner as well. We realize that customizing and installing special options like these takes additional time and effort, but being a smaller company, Bundutec was willing to work with us on getting these options when Northstar wasn’t. We found this approach to truck camper construction refreshing and welcome.
Another Roadrunner advantage is looks. In general, we think the Roadrunner is a better looking camper, both inside and out. The Roadrunner’s light gray interior is both bright and modern, while the Laredo’s oak interior is dark and dated. In general, a more modern interior would greatly benefit Northstar campers. It’s true that a more modern oak finish with grey undertones was released by Northstar in 2019, but in our opinion, the change doesn’t go far enough. This look hasn’t been in vogue since the 1990s. We also like the white or grey exterior fiberglass option that BundutecUSA offers. We also prefer the look and durability of the black diamond plate used on the Roadrunner’s lower flanks rather than smooth white aluminum used on the Laredo SC. Northstar would be well-served by at least offering other interior and exterior looks for its campers.
Are there any negatives associated with the Roadrunner? Not much. Our first criticism is with BundutecUSA’s pass down inspection (PDI) or lack of thereof before purchase. The camper needed cleaning and during our inspection we found several things inside the camper that needed correcting. By and large the items on the punch list were simple things to fix, but these should have been caught during the PDI. Fortunately, this is something that can easily be corrected by BundutecUSA. As a relatively new company that deals factory direct, having this issue corrected is a must. The second criticism relates to the truck camper wiring, the inverter cables as originally installed were undersized for a 3,000 watt model with a 6-foot run to the battery compartment. Again, this was relatively easy to fix (we upgraded using 2/0 cables), but this should have been caught during Bundutec’s build process.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Northstar began offering a larger Laredo SS model in 2019. With an interior height of 6 feet 9 inches as opposed to the SC’s height of 6 feet 4 inches, this “super size” Laredo is an excellent option for those who need a little more headroom. This extra height enables Northstar to install a larger 6 cubic foot double door refrigerator as opposed to the standard 3.7 cubic foot single door refrigerator. This extra height also means a taller cabover, like the Roadrunner but even higher. At 8 feet 9 inches, the floor length is 3 inches longer than the Laredo SC and 2 inches longer than the Roadrunner with the additional 3 inches being added to the width of the wet-bath. At 7 feet 6 inches, the Laredo SS is also 6 inches wider than both the Laredo SC and Roadrunner. As you’d expect, the dry weight of the Laredo SS is the heaviest of all at 2,470 pounds which isn’t that bad. It’s nice to have options, and in this regard Northstar is to be commended for offering a super-size Laredo for those who love the floorplan yet want more camper, but as of 2022, it looks like the Laredo SS has been discontinued as it’s no longer on the company’s website.
Both the Northstar Laredo SC and BundutecUSA Roadrunner are winners. You really can’t go wrong with either camper. The quality of the two campers is outstanding with workforce pride apparent in every camper built. Both have their strengths with few weaknesses, which is why the two campers are so popular. So why did we decide to sell our Laredo in 2020 and buy a Roadrunner? That’s a great question. We loved the Laredo’s layout and build quality, but there were several things inside that we didn’t like. For one, the wet-bath was too small for our liking. We also wanted more storage, something that the Truma Combi helped achieve. We also wanted the conveniences that only an induction cooktop and a high-wattage inverter with a transfer relay could provide. We strongly considered upgrading to the Laredo SS when Rex told us about it, but when we mentioned the aforementioned things that we wanted to add to it he said he couldn’t do it. Rory, on the other hand, was not only willing, but went above and beyond what we envisioned when he built the Roadrunner.
We’ve been asked several times, by prospective buyers is if there’s anything that we would change about the Roadrunner. Honestly, there isn’t. The camper is pretty much perfect in every way because that’s how we ordered it. Sure, we wish the camper had a rear bumper like the Laredo’s, but BundutecUSA couldn’t design and order one during the pandemic. We also wish the Roadrunner had a 40 gallon fresh water tank like the Laredo models, but the 3,000 watt inverter had to go somewhere and the best place was in the fresh water holding tank compartment. When you design a camper there always has to be some give and take. Fortunately, with the Roadrunner most of this give and take worked out in our favor. Apparently, others agree. Bundutec has sold numerous Roadrunners since ours was built in 2020 with a dozen more on order already in 2021 and early 2022.