Before my Prius conversion and before my Class B, there was the thought of buying a light-weight pickup camper for my Tacoma. I went as far as buying and installing Firestone airbags to carry the weight of a camper.
Tacoma's are a popular reliable truck and Four Wheel Campers of Woodland, CA, near Sacramento, CA, is one of the few companies that make light-weight campers for the Tacoma. Being that I am less than 3.5 hours away here in Monterey, I decided to visit the company and learn about how their pop up campers are made and see if I still may be interested in buying one or staying with my Prius Campervan.
The factory is orderly and it wasn't long before I could see they have a good team approach to the production of campers.
This brochure above is where my Prius can't go. High center ridge (crown) in the road is a no go for my Prius. Although I can go many places I don't have the ability to get into some BLM or Forest Service land roads with the Prius. My Tacoma could go there and a lightweight camper would be a great camper for my needs. The question is can I really get a camper with what I need that is truly lightweight and if so at what cost.
I left at 5:30 AM and with one stop, I arrived at the factory at 9:30. Shortly after signing in as a visitor I met Terry, who did an excellent job of showing me around and answering my questions.
I had been reading about so called lightweight pickup campers for some time and had looked at all of Four Wheel pop up campers. Two are made for 6 foot truck beds like mine. The Eagle and the Fleet. The only physical difference is the width. The Eagle was made for the older generation of Tacoma's so they are narrower. The Fleet is wider for the current Tacoma's. They are now taking their last orders for the Eagle as they are phasing it out,
I like the wider Fleet model for the extra width. This allows me traveling by myself to sleep side to side over the cab without pulling out the bed to make it into a double. This then leaves the work area open for living.
Their product seems the best for strength as their frame is all welded aluminum. They have the lowest profile driving down the road to minimize drag and lowering gas Milage. The overhang sleeping area can hold 600 lbs.
Four Wheel makes a number of models for various truck bed lengths. With the Tacoma's weight carrying capacity of 1000 and their campers fully loaded at about 1600 lbs, the back end of the Tacoma will sag without help. I mentioned I had rear airbags, like the one on the upper right on the table (see above photo). The bags do an excellent job of lifting the weight off the springs and leveling the load. Right below the air bag in the picture is an additional leaf spring that can also be added.
When I asked if I would need to add the leaf spring in addition to my air bags, Terry told me no, but added that they could be easily added later, if I thought it was necessary. My Tacoma has the towing package that gives me transmission cooling and heavy duty alternator.
The lowest bracket on the table (photo above) is for composit truck beds (plastic) like the Tacoma currently has. This bracket gets bolted to the frame rails using existing bed bolts.
The camper gets loaded on two of these brackets that centers the camper and then the camper is tied down to these frame bars. There is no external under the truck frame bars that have to be used to hold down the camper outside of the truck bed. This is a nice feature.
My Tacoma is like the one above that is used for sales shows, except I have stock front and rear bumpers.
Notice how low the pop up profile is above the cab keeping resistance down when driving.
The camper sits back about an inch from the front bed mounting rail.
In the back the camper sits at the edge of the stock bumper so it doesn't overhang the vehicle length.
Here is the aluminum frame with styrofoam in between the braces for insulation.
I am partial to the front dinette design. The dinette can be used as a bed even with the roof not popped up. It also gives me an excellent place to work and eat.
This design also gives a window on either side of the camper at the back of the dinette seats for cross ventilation.
You get a nice screen door and cabinetry and storage. The black to the left of the light wood storage is a fridge when getting the dinette design.
On the drivers side rear is an outside shower spray.
On the passenger side is the propane storage to the far rear and then the fridge vents, just behind the dinette window.
It was a long drive with 3.5 hours each way and 1.5 hours for my visit. The time was worth it to get first hand information about this camper.
My decision on a purchase will take some time. I will be putting the weight and options on a spreadsheet to total the weight and costs.
As I told Terry I am s minimalist. I don't need everything they offer for options. For example I have a one burner stove that is fine for me. I don't need a 2 burner that is fixed as I may want to cook outside. I would rather have one stove o could use inside or outside.
This goes for other options as well. I have an Engle fridge. I don't want to buy a camper with a fridge when I have one.
My goal is to keep weight down. Yes you can make a decision on each and say it's only a few pounds but soon it's 10 lbs and then 20 and do on.
I also like designing space and building cabinets so that will be fun. Also it cost to have them build what I can do.
Here Terry is demonstrating a new awning called a batwing that covers both the rest and the side of the camper at the same time. This is interesting but not something I would want fm due to the weight.
What I do want is solar. Here is their panel offering mounted to optional roof rack. Their panel is less than 200 watts which I have determined as a minimum for off grid power.i would want the rack mounts to mount a panel of my choice.
I also would go with lithium batteries to save significant weight over lead acid.
I also don't need the 20 gallons of water as 10 would be sufficient but they only offer 20 and that is 160 lbs. 10 would be 80 lbs. I have a 6 gallon tank in my Prius and I can get by 6 days as I use a gallon a day. Even this would be fine.
I don't need a water heater either as I hear water as I need it.
I would like a a heater but I'm not sure of this one they offer for weight.
I will post more as I pull the information on cost and weight available.
The following specifications are from http://www.truckcampermagazine.com/buyers-guide/pop-up/four-wheel-pop-up-camper/
|Dry Weight||845 pounds|
|Wet Weight*||1,662 pounds|
|Interior Height||6’4″ top up|
|Exterior Height||83″ top down|
|Center of Gravity||32″|
|Truck Type||Short Bed, Mini/Mid-Size|
|Black||Cassette toilet or|
|Water Heater||Optional 6 gallons|
|Propane Tanks||2x 10 pounds|
|Batteries||One or Two Batteries|