Truck Camper Adventure recently had the pleasure of getting a tour of the Alaskan Camper factory in Winlock, Washington. We always enjoy such tours because it lets us see how the campers are built and how the company is run. During the three-hour tour, we took note of several things that makes Alaskan Campers unique from the rest of the industry. While it’s true some of these things are mentioned on the Alaskan website, a good number of them aren’t. So without further adieu, here are the Top 10 reasons to buy an Alaskan camper.
1. The Telescoping Pop-Top
Alaskan makes what is probably the most unique slide-in truck camper in the world. As everyone knows, the slide-in truck camper produced by other companies comes in two basic forms, the hard-side and the pop-up. With an Alaskan camper you get both. How is Alaskan able to do this? By building a hybrid truck camper with a telescoping hard-top that hydraulically raises and lowers with the simple flip of a switch. For cabover models, the deployment of three flip-up panels in the cabover is the only manual intervention required by the owner during setup. The benefits of Alaskan’s telescoping design are obvious. Not only does the design provide full standing room in the interior when camping, but also less wind resistance and better gas mileage when traveling on the road. It also makes the camper more capable off-road. Indeed, Alaskan’s patented, telescoping hard-top design is so ingenious and so unique that it remains one of the most iconic truck campers in the world.
2. Stout Wood Construction
Another great reason to buy an Alaskan Camper. Like the original Alaskan campers built by Don Hall in the mid-1950s, today’s Alaskans are framed entirely out of wood and wrapped with the same 3-inch aluminum break skin pattern used in the originals. Alaskan uses 3/4-inch and 1/2-inch, waterproofed ACX plywood in the construction of its campers—no chip board is used in its campers at all. Strength and rigidity comes with the addition of the alder cabinets, which are glued and screwed into the wood frame, and with appropriately placed 2×6-inch and 2×4-inch studs, which are used to support the camper’s four lift jacks. With the prominence of aluminum framing in the RV industry today, some may balk at Alaskan’s preference for using wood, but they really shouldn’t. Wood is easier to work with compared to aluminum, insulates better, is just as strong as aluminum, and is easier to repair. Sure, wood can rot if a persistent water leak gets to it, but not if you regularly maintain all of the windows and penetrations in your roof. The truth is, water is the enemy of any camper, no matter how it’s constructed.
3. Alaskan Customization
Most truck camper manufacturers are very restrictive on changes and will allow only previously approved options in its campers. “No,” is the response you’ll most likely get when asking for a change, but not at Alaskan. Need to replace that storage cabinet with a Thetford cassette toilet? No problem. Want a space saving, ultra-quiet Truma Combi in that custom, flatbed camper? You got it. How about an enlarged battery compartment for extra time off-grid? Sure, they do this all of the time. Alaskan’s small, highly-skilled workforce builds nothing but truck campers and is great at doing it. The company doesn’t waste its time and energy building fifth wheels, travel trailers, and toy haulers like some of the competition. Not only that, but Alaskan sells factory direct only with each camper built to order, so there’s no middle man. The bottom line is that Alaskan likes to put happy campers into its truck campers and a happy camper is good for business. Indeed, Alaskan has been doing it since 1955, longer than any other truck camper company in the business.
4. Four Season Insulation
Easily, one of the top 10 reasons to buy an Alaskan camper. One of the negatives associated with a standard pop-up truck camper is the canvas. It’s called a soft-top for a reason. While such a design makes a pop-up camper lighter, it isn’t as stout or as well-insulated for winter use. Not only that, the standard soft-top does poorly in heavy winds and must often be lowered to weather the storm. In contrast, Alaskan’s rounded, hard-top design, strengthened with microlam 2×2-inch framing, is stout and well-insulated. Alaskan does this by filling the voids in the top with spray foam, while the sides of the pop-top are insulated with standard block foam. Additional insulation is installed in the floor of the camper as well. All of this insulation, coupled with the powerful 20,000 btu furnace and the optional Coleman Mach 8 air conditioner, makes every Alaskan a true four-season camper capable of tackling all kinds of temperatures and weather conditions.
5. The Vintage Wood Interior
Unlike many truck campers being built today, you won’t see any lackluster design elements or residential “foo-foo” in an Alaskan camper. Instead, what you’ll find is a retro, leather and wood interior quite unlike any other truck camper being built today. In fact, if you were to pull up photos of a few ocean-going yachts from the 1950s you’d be surprised at the resemblance. Compared to a yacht, the only thing missing from the interior of an Alaskan camper is a porthole or two. Highlights that make every Alaskan “land yacht” stand out are the maple cabinets and Norwegian pine paneling used on the ceiling and inner walls. The cabinets in every Alaskan truck camper are constructed using Alder face frames and 3/4-inch plywood, covered with a beautiful Wilsonart maple laminate. Each cabinet is glued and screwed into the camper’s frame to provide additional ruggedness and strength. Company CEO, Bryan Wheat, demonstrated the strength of these cabinets by kicking one several times at a recent show. You couldn’t even tell he had abused the door and cabinet after he was finished.
6. The Full-Height Door
One of the biggest negatives associated with a pop-up truck camper is the ever-present threat of banging your head or tweaking your back when entering or exiting the camper. We’ve bumped our head several times as we toured pop-up campers of other makes and it really sucks. This is because the door in most pop-up truck campers is only about 4 feet high. Not so with an Alaskan truck camper. The door in every Alaskan Truck Camper is nearly full-height at 5 feet 10 inches. Better yet, the two-piece, 22-inch wide door simply latches together using a simple latching mechanism. Having this feature may not seem like a big deal, but believe us when we say that it’s a very nice feature to have in a pop-up truck camper, especially as you age. Your head and back will thank you for it.
7. Comfortable Seating
Without a doubt, one of the top 10 reasons to buy an Alaskan camper. One of the biggest deficiencies we see in today’s truck camper—and the RV industry in general—is poor seating. Most truck camper dinettes are inherently uncomfortable and just plain bad. Part of the problem is the angle in which you sit. Most RV dinettes are constructed using 90 degree angles. Alaskan’s seating is different. They build their dinettes with a more natural, 80-degree backing so that real lumbar support is provided for more comfort. Not only that, Alaskan also goes the extra mile by building its dinettes the old-fashioned way with solid steel frames and springs. And unlike most RV dinettes, which use cheap block foam covered with fabric, the seat cushions in each Alaskan camper are constructed using a thick, two-layer memory foam covered with an attractive, easy-to-clean leather look-alike vinyl. We don’t think you’ll find a better looking, more comfortable dinette than the ones found in an Alaskan truck camper.
8. Alaskan’s Superb Value
Every RV manufacturer says they provide value, but Alaskan talks-the-talk and walks-the-walk. Behind every Alaskan name you get a quality, well-made camper loaded with features that many truck camper and RV manufacturers classify as upgrades or options. The standard features found in every Alaskan truck camper include a NovaKool 2600 compressor refrigerator, Hehr radius windows, a Suburban 20,000 btu furnace, Wilsonart maple laminate, a stainless steel sink, spray foam insulation, custom seats with steel frames, a DEKA AGM Battery, dovetail drawers, a 27-gallon fresh water holding tank (many companies offer smaller tanks as standard), full-length overhead storage cabinets (a wonderful feature that provides loads of storage), two 12 volt MaxxAir fans, and the list goes on and on. These standard features are things that you often have to pay extra for with other companies, but not when you buy an Alaskan Truck Camper.
9. The Thetford C224CW Cassette Toilet
Dumping black water is never a pleasant thing to do when you’re out enjoying your camper, but the Thetford Cassette Toilet gives you more options on where you can dump and that’s always a good thing. Rather than just limiting you to RV dump sites, the Thetford cassette can be dumped practically anywhere, like at a trail head pit toilet or at an interstate rest area bathroom. Concerned about the cassette’s 37 pounds of weight? Don’t be. Each cassette is equipped with a two wheels on one end and a pull-out handle on the other to allow you to effortlessly pull the cassette behind you like a rolling suitcase. Alaskan uses the excellent Thetford C224CW model in its campers. Unlike other Thetford swivel cassette models, this toilet is plumbed separately from the rest of the camper and has its own 2.37-gallon fresh water tank. In fact, the toilet is so well designed and works so well its remains one of Alaskan’s most popular options with over 90 percent of the buyers choosing one.
10. Alaskan’s Outstanding Customer Service
Another top reason to buy an Alaskan Truck Camper is the legendary customer service. Alaskan is family owned and operated and has been in business since 1955. Quality customer service seems to be a dying art these days, but not at Alaskan. If you have an issue with your camper, the company’s CEO, Bryan Wheat, will get back to you to resolve it, even if you bought your camper used. How many CEOs get involved with customers at this level? Not many. Got a question about a modification that you want to make to your camper? A customer service rep will quickly put you in touch with the right technical person to get the answer you need to do it right. Better yet, if you need a new part, Alaskan will ship one out directly to your home. This is almost unheard of in the RV industry today.
What is the weight of the Alaskan camper?
Depends on the model.
Some day, when we win the lottery, we’d love to get an Alaskan. The reclined seating is enough to get our attention. I love the fact that you included the advantages of such a design and indicated the short comings of the convention school of thought by the rest of the industry. The industry will never update the design concept unless media and consumers bring it to their attention. Thank you.