We chose an Arctic Fox 990 as the right truck camper for us. And here is part of our journey towards choosing it. Before you get started, let me tell you this is a longer post than some we’ve written. So get yourself a cup of coffee. Also, I, Noelle started writing, but the topic really needs both our input, so Steve is chiming in too.
Originally, during our sabbaticals from work and adult life, we set out to hike the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. You can read about it on our other pages, but the short story is that after 400 miles, I bought a 1995 Dodge Pleasure Way Campervan and followed Steve through the rest of the trail. It worked well for me and for the occasional nights when Steve slept in it too. But it was simply too small for the both of us.
I developed a keen interest in Van life or RV life as a result of my summer in the Shaggin’ Wagon, as PCT hikers took to calling it. Pleasure Way really is a dumb name. They’re still made, but now it’s by Mercedes and they cost a pretty penny. Anyway, I don’t believe Steve shared my interest at all and I guess I saw it as something we might do, after we really retire.
So, after the hike and seeing our families (there’s really a lot that happened in this period, but maybe you can check that out another time) we went on with our planned adventure and headed to SE Asia. Our plan was to travel around Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and where ever else we felt the whim to go. Then, well, global pandemic happened, so we came back to the US after only a couple months. We laid around feeling sorry for ourselves for awhile. Then we took care of some family obligations. Then we began our search.
What kind of RV should we even look at?
Steve and I knew we were now trapped in the US for at least a year. We didn’t have a home or jobs, and we really didn’t want to throw in the towel on adventuring. We had trip permits to complete the last 600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, but the PCTA asked hikers not to hike. Other long trails were asking the same, for hikers to stay close to home and only do shorter trips requiring no re-supply. Seems we chose a hard couple years to duck out on real life, but hey, what are you going to do?
So we opted to list the camper van for sale and then see what happened. We had listed it in the Fall before going to Thailand with almost zero response, so we didn’t know what to expect. In the end, we should have asked a lot more than we did, because it flew out the door!
Okay, camper van sold. Now what? We narrowed our search to a Class C Motorhome or a truck camper. Steve and I wanted to keep our budget around $40,000, between van money and inheritance from my Dad. We thought it’d be more than enough to buy something amazing.
Class C Motorhome
We narrowed our search pretty much immediately to Class C’s and truck campers. Here are the things we love about Class C’s.
- They’re smaller than Class A’s but still have plenty of room, generally two queen beds, so that’s great for tag-a-longs.
- We found some around 24′ which is very manageable for driving.
- They have tons of storage for living beyond a week or two.
- You can easily hop into the front and drive away if a situation feels sketchy.
- We found one built on a Mercedes chassis, powered by diesel. That’s a good combo.
- In addition to the dinette, they generally have one chair that is similar to an actual chair. That’s huge for comfort and something I missed in the campervan.
- The bed is super easy to get in and out of, as it’s a regular bed.
- We could easily get a used Class C within our budget.
- Truck Campers go everywhere, especially if the truck is four-wheel drive. This opens up a lot of backcountry camping.
- The camper comes off, so you still have a truck
- It’s a neat, compact home
- Most states don’t require registration (as it turns out Oregon does require it, plus a fee)
- Can park in tighter spots than Class C’s, so easier around town. (We actually fit in a single parking space, but we stick out a bit lengthwise, so we generally park in the back of lots and take up two longwise spaces.)
- The camper itself has lower maintenance, since it has no axels, motor, tires, etc.
- Great re-sell value, we found some five year old campers within a couple thousand dollars of new price
Basically what sold us on purchasing a truck camper came down to all the YouTube videos Steve watched. Ha! Actually the ability to more easily go off normal driving roads to experience more backcountry camping is what won the day. We did look at quite a few Class C’s, with Winnebago’s Navion 24D being my favorite. But for this time in our lives, with our love of hiking and backpacking, it made the most sense to go the truck camper route.
The Truck and Truck Camper Searches are On!
Narrowing down our truck selection
First we needed a truck, so since my Dad, the motorhead, is gone, we turned to the next two experts in our lives…our sons. Turns out our oldest son is something of a Dodge Ram nerd and knows pretty much anything we needed to know about engines, transmissions, and well pretty much everything. So, with guidance, we searched for a Dodge Ram 3500 diesel dually. We found three around the country, whose ads met our son’s approval, so we hired Lemon Squad to go check them out.
Lemon Squad offers a comprehensive vehicle status report for around $200. We’ve used them in the past and feel comfortable with their process. Since the trucks were located in Utah, Texas and Michigan, while we were still in Colorado, it was a no-brainer to have an external inspection performed. The reports helped us narrow our search to finally select the Texas truck. Houston has flooded a couple times in recent years, which concerned us. We do think our truck probably flooded at some point, because we found mud in the fuse box. But the superb clean-up job convinced the inspector that it had not.
A transmission error code appeared during the inspection, so the dealer took the truck to a transmission shop for an “independent” assessment. We now know they were probably buddies, as we had to replace the transmission within a thousand miles of purchase. Now, the truck is a 2005, so our expectations of repair were realistic. However, our understanding of the actual costs of those repairs proved less than ideal. Live and learn!
We bought a 2005 Dodge Ram 3500. It’s a one-ton, quad cab, long bed, dual rear wheels. It was shipped to us from Houston and we felt shocked when we saw it for the first time. The thing’s a beast. It’s big and loud and bouncy. We’ve had smaller trucks before, but nothing of this size! It’s huge!
Narrowing down our truck camper selection
With our truck search underway, we simultaneously began looking at truck campers. We quickly discovered a range of possibilities and prices, but pretty much all of them look basically the same. What I mean is that RV manufacturers are stuck in the 1980’s for interior design. I really dislike the interiors of almost all of them, including the one we eventually selected. The dealers all repeated the same mantra, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However if you google RV remodels, there is a huge market for updated interiors. That leads me to believe it is broke, but it doesn’t actually matter since the public (including us) buys the same old – same old anyway.
Some things are pretty much the same on all truck campers. So these options were fairly equal across the board, just with differing brands:
- Electric Jacks
- Roof Rack
- Exterior awning
- Air Conditioning
- Some level of solar option
- Some level of inverter
- Wet bath (there are some dry bath options too, but we prefer the wet)
- Exterior shower
- Exterior speakers
- Dual LP tank compartment
- LED lighting
- 4- Season packaging
- TV wiring (usually tv isn’t included)
Our Top Truck Camper Choices
Cirrus 920 by nuCamp
Stylistically this was by far our favorite truck camper. We also liked the 820, which offered all the same options, but in a smaller size. Here’s what we love:
- Sleek-lined cabinetry that is styled more like a sailboat. We sailed a new 36′ Beneteau Oceanis for a couple years and this cabinetry was very similar to that. So the camper felt familiar and it made excellent use of the space with tons of storage.
- Non-slide out
- No oven, so more storage space
- Looks more modern than other RV interiors
- Froli sleep system
- Keyless entry
- Overall Length 18’10”
- Floor Length 10’1″
- Gross weight (dry) 2,905 lbs
The Granite 11 RL by Rugged Mountain Custom RV
This company understands today’s customers. It had a white interior with highlights of lime green or turquois. This truck camper has white cabinetry with pale gray and white (stick on) tile backsplash. It looks like someone’s farmhouse interior, complete with farmhouse kitchen sink. However, we only saw one of these campers at only one dealer. While we loved the interior, we weren’t ready to select a lesser known option.
- Non-slide out
- Besides the beautiful interior, no other options that stood out as exceptional to others
- Overall Length 18’10”
- Floor Length 9’7″
- Gross weight (dry) 3,720 lbs
Lance is a well-made and well-respected truck camper manufacturer. We just didn’t care for them aesthetically. Both the 850 and the 995 were the models we saw the most of at several different dealers. Neither of which we loved.
- 850 is non-slide and has the U-shaped dinette, which we didn’t care for
- The 995 is similar in size to the other brands we looked at but offers much less interior storage
- This camper more than others seemed stuck in the 1980’s interior décor. It’s just unattractive to us.
- No along-the-bed storage hampers, which means it’s wasted space
- Overall Length 19′
- Floor length 9’11”
- Gross weight (dry) 3, 499 lbs
We viewed three Adventurers. The 86FB non-slide, the 901SB 50th Anniversary Edition non-slide and the 910DB Single Slide. We liked the 901SB the best. These campers are well built and beautiful. Aesthetically, they are pleasing and roomy.
- Lowering bunk over dinette
- Great neutral colors and style
- No along the bed storage hampers, instead there’s a small “night stand”
- Overall Length 17′
- Floor Length 9’1″
- Gross weight (dry) 3,280 lbs
Arctic Fox 990
We also viewed the non-slide 865, but in the end we chose to go with a dinette/fridge slide for more interior room. The 1140 offers even more square feet and a large pantry. It’s wonderful, but we decided it was simply more than we need.
- Arctic Fox has a Cathedral Arch ceiling so it gives Steve’s 6’3″ frame a bit more headroom
- Large Capacity Storage Compartments along the bed
- An older interior look, but still neutral (I still want to paint and reupholster, but it’s brand new, so I won’t)
- We got the Legacy Edition model because it includes the Fox Landing
- Fox Landing is super important to us because I can’t easily get in and out of the camper without it
- Overall Length 17’6″
- Floor Length 9’10”
- Gross weight (dry) 3,010 lbs + 595 for the “mandatory option” of the Fox packaging
how did we choose?
So, given that truck campers are all more similar than dissimilar, what swung the tide for us to go with an Arctic Fox 990? A few things, but a huge component is Ulysses at Boardman RV in Pueblo, CO. He’s awesome. He set us free and let us look around without a big sales pitch. I think he “gets” introverts as he literally just left us alone for an hour or so. We went back to their showroom on two or three occasions to look some more, before finally making our decision.
Interestingly enough, we met a husband and wife in Natchez a couple weeks ago. They’re from Virginia, but had purchased their truck camper from Ulysses too. Like us, they had nothing but praise for him and for Boardman’s service. We’ve also experienced great service from Boardman, right from the beginning when they gave us a top to bottom, inside out tour of our new truck camper. We highly recommend them!
Our truck choice took some options out
We looked at all truck camper options and sizes. We drove a lot of miles around Colorado to view new and used campers. Pretty much we left no stone unturned in deciding the brand and size that is right for us. After narrowing our truck search to a long bed dually, that helped in making the decision for which camper to buy. Some are built for short beds and some for long, which we would have never known prior to our search. Bed length wasn’t a specific criteria in our truck search, so we couldn’t fully decide on a camper until we purchased the truck.
Choosing between a slide-out and a non-slide truck camper
Non-slides weigh less and also make it much easier to stealth camp. Those are two huge items we considered. There’s a big difference in a truck’s towing power and its payload rate. So every saved pound makes a difference! The lighter weight of the non-slides appealed to us. However, me crawling over Steve’s legs to go to the bathroom at night doesn’t appeal to either of us.
Stealth camping is also important to us, as sometimes we’re in a city and we don’t want to pay for an RV park. Just hopping into the back and having access to everything had great appeal to us. We can still get in and out of our camper with the slide in and we can still access the bathroom. But not having to suck in our stomachs to do so would also be nice.
Climbing out of the Bed
It may sound silly, but we literally made the final choice for a slide out because of the ease of getting in and out of bed. Steve is tall, I think we’ve mentioned that. 🙂 Non-slides have a narrower opening to get in and out of bed. Steve’s height means the smaller opening makes him sleep at an angle. Slide outs generally have bed openings which are the full width of the bed. That’s a good thing! The wide opening also makes it easier to make the darn thing in the morning. While we don’t usually have the crisply made bed we did in our house, we do have a somewhat neatly made bed each day.
Storage seals the deal
A big advantage for the Arctic Fox 990 is the clothes hampers on the sides of the bed. We each have two baskets down inside them and all our clothes fit. I roll my clothes so it’s easier to see them, but simply having this space was a huge point in our decision making. I’m not sure why manufacturer’s think RV’ers need so much hanging clothing space. We simply don’t, so the big storage cabinets at the front of the cabover are perfect for our backpacking gear. The big cabinet at the foot of the bed perfectly holds plastic totes of backpacking food and extra toiletries, paper plates, bowls and chips.
Seriously the storage in the 990 is plentiful for us. There’s a pull out “pantry” which was a big selling feature from its looks, but doesn’t actually function as well as we’d hoped. It works okay but many containers are just too wide for it, so there was a bit of a learning curve. Three cupboards above the cooktop and sink, along with a narrow canned goods cabinet take care of all our food storage and dish needs. We store our cookware in the oven and generally use the microwave to store our large bowl, tea and tortilla wraps.
and even more storage in our Truck Camper
There’s storage under the step to the bed for extra hand towels and couscous. Weird, right? But we love the Israeli couscous and it’s hit or miss whether stores stock it, so I usually have a backup container in this little storage space. Although when I opened it to take a picture, I found arborio rice instead of couscous…hmmm…
There’s also storage under the step beneath the dinette. We keep shoes, our broom, extra fuel containers for our backpacking stove and bottles of water in here. We each have storage in the dinette seats. Mine keeps extra shoes and office supplies. Steve’s keeps electronic stuff in there.
We even have a big spice rack, which is more handy than we thought it might be. I kind of love it!
Finally there’s a good-sized drawer under the bathroom, which we use for medicines.
But wait! There’s more! 🙂 I forgot about the exterior slide out storage bin. It’s slides under the camper and is definitely added storage space, but it’s a little hard to get to. We have to take the step off to access it, so we only put things in there which we don’t use everyday.
So, for us, the Arctic Fox 990 won on storage and on the good salesmanship of Ulysses. He owns a 990 himself so that’s a good advertisement right there.
Arctic Fox is manufactured in Oregon
Another winning reason for us to select an Arctic Fox is because they’re built in LaGrande, Oregon. Our home state. Well half our home state, as we’ve spent a lot of years in SW Washington too. Knowing that our purchase helps our state’s economy feels good. Knowing that our purchase helps employ Oregonians makes me happy. So while it wasn’t a deciding factor, buying “local” (while we were in Colorado, haha) did weigh into our overall decision. We’ve already driven the highway between Portland and Boise (visiting our daughter) two or three times, passing Arctic Fox’s hometown as we’ve traveled. It’s kind of nice knowing they’re right there!
Any Buyer’s Remorse?
I’d have to say that I haven’t really experienced buyer’s remorse. I believe we made a logical decision based on gathering data and getting input from others. Our truck has had some mechanical issues, but it’s fifteen years old, so that’s somewhat expected. Our camper has treated us well so far. We’ve been in it full time for about nine months so far. It’s had some issues, but nothing that has said we made a mistake or anything like that.
The issues we’ve had thus far are
- The generator wouldn’t start, or it would start and immediately die. Turns out that was a problem with our propane lines, so they were both replaced (under warranty).
- The sani-flush quit working. It’s like the water goes in but it isn’t making it to the black water tank to rinse. We got it repaired in March (under warranty).
- Two windows have separated (not sure how to say that) and they are foggy inside them. They’ll also be replaced under warranty. Just waiting for them to come in, which is a longer wait than expected.
While these are more issues than we expected to have in a new camper, they aren’t the end of the world. And aren’t enough for us to second guess our Arctic Fox 990 selection.
Loving Truck Camper Life
We’re having a great time exploring the US and having the flexibility to go off road to find amazing boondocking sites has been as amazing as we thought it would be. You know I’m all about the sunsets and we’ve seen some awesome ones. Steve carries his telescope in the back seat of the truck for those star-filled nights in the middle of nowhere. The truck camper allows us to get into the backcountry away from all light-pollution. Experiencing stars and the beauty of the night skies is just one reason we know we made the right choice for us.
Leave us a comment and let us know your summer camping plans. What kind of set up works for you? Whether it’s one like ours or an RV or a tent, we’d like to hear all about it. We’d also love to hear about your favorite places, so maybe we can enjoy them too!