Top Rigs of the 2022 Truck Camper Adventure Quartzsite Rally

The 2022 Truck Camper Adventure Rally in Quartzsite was the best one yet with a record 245 truck campers present, including an excellent mix of hard-sides and pop-ups. As expected, industry heavyweight, Lance Campers, led the way with an impressive 45 truck campers with Host taking second place with a very strong showing of 27 campers. Northwood Manufacturing took third with 22 Arctic Fox and Wolf Creek campers, while Four Wheel Campers and Adventurer/Eagle Cap tied for fourth place with 19 campers apiece. For the first time ever, Truck Camper Adventure recognized the top five truck camper rigs at the rally. As you can imagine, choosing just five rigs wasn’t easy for the three-judge panel. With over 200 rigs the task was actually quite daunting, yet there were several that really stood out. These five rigs were the biggest, baddest, and most technologically advanced rigs at the rally. Let’s take a look at each:

1st Place: Todd Lemke’s 1966 GMC-2020 Arctic Fox 865 Rig

The hands-down winner, Todd Lemke’s rig merges past with present with a new camper and a classic truck. “We call our rig The Toaster,” Todd explains. “The name actually came from the original owner. He had a huge car/camper cover he used to keep over it. The little kids in his neighborhood told him it looked like a giant toaster. The name stuck and it will forever be The Toaster. Right now we are in what we call phase three of The Toaster’s life. When I purchased it we called that phase one. It’s a 1966 GMC 4WD, and used to have an injected 427 Tall Deck truck motor, turbo 400, one-ton axles. The truck was built really well. The weak link of the truck was the frame. I was breaking and tearing the frame past the rear spring perch due to heavy trailer loads etc. One of the conditions of buying it is that I promised him I would never sell it. That was an easy commitment since I pretty much never get rid of anything; even still have my first car—which coincidentally is a ’66 as well and now even painted to match the Toaster.”

“Anyway, so in 2012 Pops and myself decided it was time to upgrade the truck a little. We special ordered a 2012 Ram 3500 standard cab dually 4WD with the 6.7L Cummins diesel. I wanted a straight front axle and Cummins engine so the Ram was a easy choice. Then phase two and what we thought was final phase of Toaster life was to begin We took delivery of it, backed it in the shop and unbolted anything that would unbolt and cut the roof off. Our first cut was in the same month the truck was assembled. We made a commitment to each other we would not take on any other projects or go on any vacations till truck was complete. We worked on it every night after work and most weekends and did it in under a year.”

“Well, we had worn out our old camper, but since we are always towing and there are really not many options on new campers that don’t stick past rear bumper, it took a while. I spent about five years looking for a like-new condition Lance that was exactly like my old one (yea, I’m not a big fan of change). Even though it was a lot to ask for, I just was not willing to give-in to getting a new camper. Then I was on the Internet and saw the layout of the Arctic Fox 865 and fell in love with having the kitchen in the back corner and bathroom midships. I wasn’t thrilled with it sticking past bumper nor the height of the unit, but once I learned about the huge holding tanks, I decided to go for it. Before finishing the order we went to a graphic designer to see if they could wrap it and make it look like the sides were corrugated. They assured me it would be no problem, so I went to the dealer and finalized the deal.”

“With the retro wrap, I tried to keep it looking as close to the 1992 Lance as possible. We were able to get that classic corrugated look as well as add stripes similar to the old camper. The wrap also included a fake front window (another thing near impossible to find on new campers). It was really important to me to still have the look of an old camper on an old truck even though in reality neither are what they appear to be. Any place where the old camper said LANCE, I replaced it with LEMKE, so driving down the road or even sitting your eyes will just kind of read Lance. Since the camper is an Arctic Fox, we worked with the designer in finding a Arctic Fox to put in front window, then we put a cowboy hat on him with the Arctic Fox logo on his hat.”

2nd Place: Avi Meyer’s Ram 5500-Cirrus 920 Rig

If any other rig deserved a 1st place finish it was Avi Meyers’ rig, which features most of what makes an EarthRoamer so great without the $700,000 price tag. “In 2018 I traveled to Bliss Mobile in the Netherlands and Alrad Abenteur in Baad Kissingen, Germany,” Avi recalled. “I also looked very carefully at EarthRoamer and Global Expedition Vehicles. After drooling over gorgeous vehicles in the $600,000 to $1M range, I came to the conclusion that I could have just as capable a truck/utility-bed/camper combination that would meet all my needs at a significantly lower cost. I decided to redefine what’s possible, to design and build a state-of-the-art, highly individualized, overland rig for global travel. The result is likely the most ambitious, capable, and expensive truck camper rig ever built.”

“For the chassis, I chose a 2019 RAM 5500 for it’s load ratings and just as importantly, the Cummins 6.7L diesel which is used for various applications throughout the world. The Ram 5500 features 4WD, a crew cab, an 84-inch wheelbase, dual 440 amp alternators, 22 and 52 gallon factory fuel tanks, an AEV front bumper with an integrated Warn 16.5 winch, a Kelderman air suspension system, and size-41 Continental MPTs tires mounted on Hutchinson 20-inch split rim military rims.”

“For the service body I went to Highway Products because I wanted an all aluminum bed and the high quality they provide. I chose a 2018 Cirrus 920 from nuCamp because it has the right compact dimensions and it’s most amenable to the many and extensive alterations I wanted to make. As I put my rig together I continually kept in mind its purpose—reliability, safety, range, performance, comfort, environmental friendliness, no set-up time, and indefinite off-grid capability. I also wanted the capacity to carry and sustain supplies, equipment, tools, toys, and hobbies which no other vehicle could provide.”

“The Highway Products truck box has storage for a spare tire, a sliding rack with two ebikes, four MaxTrax sand ladders, a 3-inch ladder, a 12-inch ladder, a large fishing tackle cabinet, a fishing rod rack for 10 rods, a hydraulic/manual jack, and an Oasis 4000 compressor. I’ve also outfitted it with a tool cabinet, a fish freezer and fish prep station, a Victron 3,000 watt inverter, a marine desalination plant, a welding station, twin 20-pound propane tanks, and a slide-out grille. I also carry a two-person kayak, two SUPs, Boogie board, mats, chairs, tables, chairs lounges, hammocks, and a 2,000 watt generator for emergency use.”

“On the outside of the nuCamp Cirrus 920, I replaced all plastic fittings with marine-grade stainless, installed two rear storage boxes and electric steps. In front of the Cirrus, I installed a small roof rack with side work lights and desert lights. On the inside I reupholstered all the cushions, upgraded hinges and light fixtures, replaced the kitchen sink and faucet and adapted it to perform double duty as a clothes washer. I upgraded both vent fans and the entire electrical system. I added a sliding air fryer and toaster oven on top of the range. I installed dividers and slide-outs in the cabinets. I added an oscillating fan for the bed and built laundry hampers on both sides. In the bathroom I replaced the shower curtain with a slider, upgraded towel hooks and soap dishes, and installed a medicine cabinet.”

“The solar power system consists of 1,200 watts of Solara semiflexible panels, four 300 amp Relion lithium batteries, a Cruise N’ Comfort 12 volt marine air conditioner, a MobileMule 360 degree camera system, a cell phone booster, and an Air Head composting toilet. I also added a Dyson vacuum, a kitchen sink/clothes washer, a Smart TV, a Seagull IV water filtration system, and upgraded the grey water holding tank to 50 gallons.”

3rd Place: CJ’s Ford F450-Bigfoot 25C9.4LB Rig

The clean lines and rugged looks of CJ’s Bigfoot rig made it an easy choice for our top five. Who wouldn’t like a Bigfoot camper mounted on a Ford F450 with super singles? “The truck is 2020 Ford F450 Platinum Pickup and the camper is 2020 Bigfoot 9.4LB,” CJ explains. “The super single conversion was done by DBL Design: 3-inch lift kit, Continental MPT 81 tires and Fox shocks. The truck is also re-geared by using a takeoff gear from F550 and as a result the ratio is changed from 4.30 to 4.88. In order to carry the full size 40-inch spare tire, I fabricated a platform using 3-inch square tubing sitting on the stock hitch and let the tire lay flat on it. On top of the hitch platform I installed a landing framework and a toolbox to carry stuff. The toolbox sits on a set of slides that can be pushed out to the driver side if I need the full opening for the camper door.”

“Just like everyone with a truck and camper we have evolved to this setup. Our family started RVing from a Toyota Tundra and 20-foot travel trailer. The small travel trailer lasted for us for three years and we needed more space so we moved to a 27-foot travel trailer. A few trips later we upgraded to a 2017 Ford F350 diesel and we loved the power. We felt it was a chore to pull travel trailer out even for a weekend trip, we decided to add a truck camper since we already had the F350. We chose the Bigfoot 9.4 LB because no side means lighter weight and we wanted to build a DIY Earthroamer. We learned the reality quickly, the dry weight 3,000 lbs easily turned into 4,000 lbs wet weight and the F350 was over loaded and it was scary moment after we weighed it on scale, we were 2,000 lbs over. I was back on drawing board to upgrade the truck, I thought really hard between F450 versus F550. We chose F450 for its amenities such as LED headlights and I did not like driving F550 with flatbed or service body to tow a travel trailer.”

“My wife was really excited about the new setup and we drove to a off-road trail by Big Water in Southern Utah. The dually tires caught a rock in the first 100 yards off the road. We managed pulling the rock out and I was determined to convert the truck into a super single. We came back from the trip and I made an appointment with DBL Design and we drove all the way from Utah to Texas during the 2020 Christmas and stayed at DBL parking lot for four days while the truck was worked on.”

“Since we got back to Utah and made several trips without taking the full size spare tire, I knew I needed to figure out a system to carry spare either when I used it as truck camper or when I used the truck for towing travel trailer. By now the travel trailer is just for long family trips and camper is for my wife and I running short weekend trips. I researched on social media and thought about several ideas, in the end I wanted to keep it simple and be able to turn it back to regular pickup when I need it. I like how it turns out, simple and functional, works well for us for weekend uses.”

“I had installed Torklift StableLoads as well as rubber blocks for the overload springs, and also airbags to reduce the body roll on rough roads. In fact I just learned a new idea from the rally that I could replace the stock overload leaf spring with a heavy duty leaf pack and I am working on this improvement now. Over the last two years using the truck and camper we have learned this setup can go off-road, but probably for the first mile, if we really want to see the view in the last mile, we would need to flat tow a Wrangler or Bronco. That would be our next goal. We are still on the road chasing that ideal setup.”

4th Place: Pete Diewert’s Ford F450-KingStar Camino 88 Rig

Ditching the OEM truck bed for an aftermarket truck bed with an above-bed spare tire mount and under-bed storage compartments has exploded in popularity. Pete’s rig is a perfect example of this approach. But this particular KingStar camper isn’t a flatbed model. “The base for our setup is a 2022 F450 Lariat chassis cab truck,” Pete explains. “I ordered this from a dealership in Texas mid summer of 2021. All the companies I used to up-fit this truck were in Texas so ordering a truck from there made logistical sense.”

“After a lot of deliberation we settled on converting our stock dually to a super single. We are very active with mountain biking, paddle boarding rivers  and snow skiing. Given the places we venture, the super-single seemed more optimal than the dually setup to get this rig to the places we wanted to take it. I think now its debatable if it was necessary however you have to consider “cool factor” and the 41-inch tires give it plenty of that.”

“After the super single conversation we had the truck delivered to an EBY dealer for the bed install. The bed we chose is an 11-inch EBY Big Country and personally I think this is one of the best aluminum flatbeds on the market. We also installed two of their below bed mount boxes. The last thing we had installed is our Warn 16.5 winch. We have plans for a few more upgrades such as onboard air, suspension and exterior lighting. Just haven’t made it that far yet.”

“Christmas Eve the truck was delivered to our home in Indiana. After New Year’s we drove to Houghton, Michigan to take delivery of our KingStar Camino 88 camper. KingStar is a relatively new company who makes, in my opinion a fantastic product. The Camino is a slide-in truck camper, however, KingStar manufactures boxes for the sides if the camper is going to be carried on a flatbed. The box system is fantastic and completes the look of this rig. KingStar is currently designing a front garage and hopefully we will have that installed in the spring. We also decided on their “Rack Pack and Tower.” This unit mounts to a rail system on the back of the camper. It allows for storage of a grill and generator as well as upright storage in the tower.”

5th Place: Tony Shelton’s Ford F550-Eagle Cap 1200 Rig

If any truck camper rig at the rally had the look and feel of an EarthRoamer, this rig was it. It was an easy choice to place in our top five. “After a lot of prayer, patience, and searching, we found our unicorn truck,” Tony recalled. “A friend sent me a Facebook marketplace post that had been up nearly a month. It was exactly what we were looking for. We said a prayer, made the contact, and waited for a response. It took a while for the seller to respond, but we finally got the answer… ‘still for sale.'”

“The seller had set the truck up for the exact camper we already had, an Eagle Cap 1200. What are the chances of that? He had spent nearly a year getting the truck ready for the camper. But, unfortunately he had a relative who became ill, and he told me he was going to have to put his dream off for a few years. Within a day or two, he had driven the truck up from Phoenix to Las Vegas, we paid him, and got him on a plane home.”

“The truck is a 2017 Ford F-550 6.7L Power Stroke.  Almost all the work on it was done by the time we bought it.  The seller was an airline mechanic, and also builds and runs off-road vehicles.  His work on the conversion was immaculate. The 2.5-inch lift and super single conversion is DBL Design.  They have been doing super single conversions for many years. The seller of this truck had completed the conversion himself. He documented it all in the internet, so it was easy for me to go back and see the quality, time and effort put into his work. I’d be confident in saying that I’d have as much or even more confidence in his conversion than if he had done the conversion at DBL.”

“What we have now for the sides is experimental. In this short time I already know that I’m going to change the sliding pin hinge to a piano hinge and unlocking wire, so I can let the side doors all the way down to reach deeper into the bed. Our doors cover the entire under area of the camper plus a 13-inch space so we can roll the spare tire out. The doors are heavy, but easy to close. Currently they have two latches, but a third will be installed higher up near the front for more rigidity. They weigh about 70 pounds each. This is still a lot less weight than 150-pound full-length aluminum boxes. Plus, we have gained precious inches of free space that we would have lost with boxes.”

“We outfitted our rig with 21 Gallons of spare fresh water for a total of 87 Gallons, a 36-gallon spare black tank for a total of 70 gallons, a 1,200 amp hour lithium battery bank, a Pioneer Mini-split air conditioner, and Starlink Internet. We decided on a full-body Plastidip rather than paint, though we might decide to go with Rhino Line. We wanted a dark color to blend into the desert better. We were worried the dark color would be too hot, so we chose Plastidip because if we didn’t like it, we could just peel it off later, like a wrap. It turns out this Plastidip is pretty darn good. It holds up great to desert pinstripes, most of them just wash off. For deeper scratches, you just wipe with cleaner, mask off around it, and spray can the fix. You can’t even tell where it was scratched. So we might keep this for a while before going to with a Rhino Line.”

“Our rig is still a work in progress. The top of the enclosure isn’t finished, There is a lot of trimming to be done on the sides, and the gasketing needs to be fully installed.  We’ve been running it all over different terrain to make sure we aren’t going to bottom the camper out on the sides. So far, so good.”

About Mello Mike 889 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.

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