What’s Old is New Again: Lance 805 Resurrects Classic 70s Truck Camper

Interior of the 1972 Lance M-350.

What’s old is new again. Sometimes the solutions to problems can be found by turning to the past. When it comes to truck camper design, this old adage certainly applies. When Lance, the largest truck camper manufacturer in the world, was looking for a lightweight camper to meet the needs of today’s adventurers and overlanders, it turned to an old classic from the 1970s called the Lance M-350. Indeed, the new Lance 805 resurrects what had been a mainstay in the Lance truck camper catalog when progressive rock, punk, and disco ruled the airwaves.

The new Lance 805 offers everything you need and nothing you don’t. Gone are the “Brady Bunch” avocado greens and golds and dated wood panels found in the original. These were updated with a bright and modern interior and new appliances including an energy efficient 12 volt refrigerator. The new 805 offers only a porta potty, 10 gallons of fresh water, and 20 gallons grey, yet the new, half-ton camper still retains the layout that made the original M-350 an enduring classic, including a 6-foot countertop—the longest at Lance—a propane cooktop, a U-shaped dinette, a 60×80-inch east-west cabover bed, and a water heater and furnace. The new and improved Lance 805 even includes an optional 23Zero outdoor shower enclosure not found in the original.

The new and improved Lance 805
Lance 805 with 23Zero outdoor shower enclosure.

“The market has shifted to the younger buyer and people wanting to get back to what I would call, non-asphalt campgrounds more regularly,” explained Gary Conley, Lance Director of Marketing and Sales. “The 805 allows us to get into a market that I wouldn’t say that we shied away from, but it’s just that the market outgrew it, and now it’s back. Somebody who perhaps liked to camp in canvas before, and now they want to camp safely where there are bears, but they still like the simplicity. It’s an offering that we haven’t offered in a number of years. This product allows us to basically give a quality product in that segment.”

In a segment dominated by lower-rated pickups, the Lance 805 is positioned to do well. With a dry weight of only 1,555 pounds, the Lance 805’s size and weight means that better-rated, full-size short-bed and long-bed half-ton pickup trucks can carry it, including the ever popular Ford F-150 pickup. Even better-rated 3/4-ton, diesel equipped trucks like the Ram 2500 and Chevy Silverado 2500HD can safely haul this lightweight, hotel-on-wheels around. With electric jacks, the 23Zero shower enclosure, and the step bracket, the Lance 805 comes in at a svelte 1,635 pounds dry.

Lance 805 layout

The lack of a wet-bath may turn-off some buyers, but what many fail to realize is that wet-baths are heavy and take up a large amount of space. As a matter of fact, the wet-bath in the popular Lance 650 takes up so much space that the refrigerator had to be placed in the cabover, obviously a less than ideal location. Going with a simple porta potty like the one found in the Lance 805 not only frees up space and reduces weight, but also allows the camper’s 8 foot 11 inch floorplan to include a number of features and amenities not found in many overland campers like a built-in DC compressor refrigerator, a comfortable dinette, a large wardrobe, and a 6-foot-long galley.

Interior shot of the Lance 805 looking forward.
Interior view of the Lance 805 looking aft.

“On a piece of paper it’s really easy to design things and say, ‘wow, this would be cool,’ but application becomes a whole other element,” Conley explains. “I think the thing with truck campers that you have to realize is that everybody wants a 6-foot long bed, right? What’s the length of some of these truck beds? In other words, if you just lay your body in there and then say, ‘okay, now I want to put in a refrigerator.’ Well, do you want it right above your head or below your feet? So with the Lance 650, it’s only a 6-foot long unit. To have that sleeping space, something has to give or move. The same thing goes with the bathroom, which is why we went with a porta potty in the 805. The storage step enclosure allows you to basically pull the porta potty out, use it, and then slide it out of the way. Which is something that, again, goes back to the original roots of the floor plan.”

As one would expect from the North American truck camper manufacturing leader, the Lance 805 has been refreshed and updated with the latest tech. The Lance 805 features an all-aluminum frame, fully laminated and CNC cut components, and dual layer Azdel walls topped with an attractive mountain graphics package. The camper also features awning-style, dual thermopane windows with built-in window shades. Better yet, the 805 is powered by two group 27 batteries with an option for two 100 watt solar panels. The 20-pound propane tank fuels the campers 16,000 BTU furnace and water heater as well as the Furrion dual-propane cooktop. Inside, you’ll find a large wardrobe (or pantry), generous storage underneath the kitchen cabinet, and MOLLE panels where you clip and fasten gear after a long-day on the trail. An optional Coleman 11,000 BTU air conditioner can also be ordered.

Fortunately, Lance offers two 100 amp hour lithium batteries as an option. Yes, the lithium battery is more expensive, yet it also weighs half as much as a lead-acid battery and doubles the amount of usable power. It also charges faster, an important consideration when camping off-grid, plus it also operates at a higher voltage during use—typically between 12.8 and 13.2 volts. Lance’s go-to supplier for lithium is Go Power, a Canadian-based company.

“We use Go Power lithium,” said Conley. “One of the reasons that we’re with Go Power is everything electronically talks to each other, so from your control panel to the battery monitor. So all of those items talk to each other. And as most people, I think, will find out is that when you get into electronics, that if something, if one board doesn’t talk to another board, isn’t nice to each other, you get into some real trouble. So we’ve tried to just keep it simple. There’s a lot of systems that are on the market that are pretty good. I guess you could debate it a lot, but at this point, we’re just going to stick with that system at the factory.”

Closeup of wardrobe and porta potty step enclosure.
View of the Lance 805 6-foot dinette.

When it comes to truck camper design, seating is critical, especially during rainy days and for those who work remotely. The U-shaped dinette is 6 feet long and can seat either four adults or two adults and three children comfortably. The shape and the location of the dinette in the Lance 805 offers a number of pros. The first being the view that the dinette offers, the second the number of people that it can seat comfortably, and third convenience during late-night nature calls. “One of the benefits to the rear dinette is that if you do have somebody who’s sleeping in that lower bed, you’re not stepping on somebody to use the facilities or having to build an erector set when you’re inside the camper and using it,” Conley said.

Of all the Lance 805 features, we are particularly happy to see a built-in, Norcold 3.3 cubic foot DC compressor refrigerator. Some overland companies have opted for 12 volt portable refrigerators instead, yet these top-loading refrigerators have their limitations, namely in how heavy they are and the amount of interior space that they gobble up. Stand up units resolve both of these problems in a major way.

“We really like our 12 volt refrigerator,” Conley said. “For those who have used Yetis and things of that nature, once you fill them up, it takes two gorillas to move the thing around. So one of the things that we found is that a built-in refrigerator was still the way to go. I know when I camp, I use soft coolers. The reason for that is that once your items are gone, I can collapse them. They’re not bulky, and I’m not tripping over them. I think that that experience there is a biggie as well, just the style of camping and what you do. Plus, soft coolers allow you for less weight as well. Building in that refrigerator, it just seems more practical and more secure. Plus, you’re not having to move things to get to the refrigerator like you would in other units that have top loads.”

This brings up an important point regarding DC compressor refrigerators like the Norcold unit found in the Lance 805. While it’s true that these modern, 12 volt refrigerators featuring Secop compressors are very efficient, we strongly recommend going with the dual lithium battery option for those who prefer to camp off-grid. It’s been our experience that DC compressor refrigerators use a lot of power during the summer months when ambient temperatures are higher. The greater electrical capacity offered by two lithium batteries provides the extra power needed to not only run the refrigerator, but also all of the other electrical devices found inside the camper.

View of the 6-foot-long galley, the Furrion propane cooktop, and the overhead MOLLE storage rack.

With the advent of lithium batteries, induction cooking is one option that Truck Camper Adventure has been pushing for since 2020. We love the induction cooktop found in the Truck Camper Adventure Rig. The induction cooktop is light, safe to use, and extremely efficient. It can boil water is less than a minute. Sure, it takes a 2,000 watt inverter to run one, but the pros of induction cooking far outweigh the cons. As a matter of fact, the original Lance 805 prototype featured an induction cooktop, but it was dropped in favor of a Furrion propane cooktop. Why didn’t Lance opt for an induction cooktop in the final design?

I think with beds and cooking and things like that it is a very personalized type of thing,” Conley said. “Some people basically want to cook outside. That’s the way it is. They’ll never cook inside. There are people who like to cook inside, but some don’t. I like my kitchen space. I don’t want the mess, and the bugs. Induction is interesting and specialized, but what we found is that a lot of people obviously bring a barbecue and they bring a grill. The other thing that would happen there would be is that having the portable induction allows them to basically just take that outside and use it outside as well. So it’s not necessarily built-in.”

Lance 805 Specifications

Keeping the batteries charged is the job of the camper’s optional solar power system. Customers can order either one or two 100 watt solar panels from the factory. We recommend ordering two regardless of whether you opt for one or two 100 amp hour lead acid or lithium batteries. The two solar arrays together provide about 13.9 amps of charging per hour. A full-day in the sun provides about 100 amp hours of charging, enough to replenish one lithium battery.

As Conley points out, solar power is nothing new at Lance. The company led the charge for solar when the original Lance M-350 was still being sold on dealer lots. “We first started using solar panels back in 1985. This is nothing new to Lance as a whole. We started using Arco Solar Panels that came out of a William Lamb company, which was out of Chatsworth, California, near our old facilities in North Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley. Some of this stuff that it’s like, ‘the latest and greatest,’ we’ve got over 40 years of experience with solar on camper products under our belt. So while it might seem like we’ve been sitting on the sidelines, we’re very familiar with what’s required and what’s needed for use in this type of camping environment,” he said.

Overall, we are thrilled with the new Lance 805. The lightweight, minimalistic camper places Lance firmly in the red-hot overland market with two more campers soon to be released, including an even smaller, mid-size model. While we would’ve preferred a 20 gallon fresh water holding tank, a DC air conditioner, and an induction cooktop, it’s hard to fault Lance designers for their choices. Simplicity and low weight are essential requirements for today’s overland adventurers. What does the Lance 805 list for? Only $26,613 MSRP. With campers often listing for $70,000 and up, this is a refreshing figure in an age of runaway inflation when many campers have doubled in price since the 2020 pandemic.

“I think that one thing about Lance in general is that we have a lot of experience building product that can be used off-road, and it’s tried and true. We go back to the days of the ’60s and the ’70s, when we had a lot of people that used to go to Baja and that was their main thing in being here in southern California even to the desert. We had a lot of motorcycle guys used to do the Baker run, a lot boaters that would run the river before the Colorado River was developed. We sold tons of product to all those drag boat guys back in the day. A lot of them bought campers like our Lance M-350 because they just needed someplace where they could rest. They’d have a swamp cooler on them, battery power, so that way they could get cool in between heats. The 805 is basically the same floor plan,” Conley said.

Like they say, what’s old is new again.

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.

2 Comments

  1. My dad had a 72 Chevy Cheyenne with a Galaxy camper. Same floor plan. Truck and camper was $11,000. Ice box fridge and 5 gallon bucket toilet

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