Project Great White Apex 8 Hybrid Truck Camper
The Making of a REAL Off-Road RV
A few years ago I looked far and wide for an RV solution to fit my off-road lifestyle. Initially, I purchased a used Class A motorhome. It had minimal off-road capabilities, which were just good enough to get us into our favorite Baja camping spot at Punta Cabras, but unfortunately not up to the base of Comp Hill at Dumont Dunes. We fondly dubbed this rig the "ORC ARK" and it served the staff of Off-Road.com well in limited capacity with all the comforts of home. Unfortunately, the ARK let us down a few times on driving comfort and reliability, and was simply a real burden to keep clean, with its "snowbird class" style living room décor, straight from the 60's.
With the top down or up, you can visualize the aerodynamics and roominess of the Apex 8 camper. Couple this rig with the ORC-Baja-Proven F-350, and we have the makings of a REAL off-road RV!
CLICK ANY IMAGE TO SEE A LARGER VERSION
On the other side of the coin, the lighter and more aerodynamic pop-up campers were not as self contained as I have become accustomed to. You can image that after living with the Ark for so long, I have become very found of hot showers, microwave cooking, reliable heat and cold AC at the flick of a switch. All those items are now "must-haves". Even my kids are spoiled, "Tent camping? No way!" they say.
At one point, pursuing what seemed like the right solution, I commissioned the folks at Callen Campers to build a custom camper of my design. Callen builds a tough rig at a good price. However, the process with Callen began to unravel for various reasons I won't go in to here.
Fortunately, about a month into the "Callen plan", I stumbled across a line of hybrid campers built by Outfitter Manufacturing of Longmont, Colorado. By the definition of "hybrid", the camper is a low profile, light weight, pop-up unit that is fully self contained. This article focuses on our selection - the "Apex 8" model with an optional AC, a generator and a roomy shower, all with room to sleep four at a very low total weight of 1500lbs.
It's amazing how Outfitter fits so much in the bed of a shortbed pickup truck.
After a quick call to Brian Ward, the owner of Outfitter, I was on a flight to see his product. Brian runs a small shop with a veteran crew. His family is deeply rooted in the Colorado RV business, with Brian's grandfather building his first rig in 1959 under the "Warhawk Campers" label. Brian learned early and in depth. Outfitter's moniker is "The Pop-UP RV Industry's Manufacturing and Design Leader". That's a steep statement to stand behind. In consideration, one of the first points I conveyed to Brian is that any camper on Great White will be tested to the extreme, with one hundred-plus mile jaunts down some of the toughest sections of the Baja 1000 course as a regular basis. Brian didn't flinch and went on to back-up his position with a lot of industry "firsts" and "only's", in his own words as follows:
Industry's First Basement
Outfitter Apex models are the only pop-up campers in the industry to feature basements. Basement storage allows fresh water and holding tank capacity to increase by 70 percent, and prevents the tank contents from freezing, a common problem with most self-contained RV's that have externally-mounted holding tanks. Storing the tanks in the basement also lowers the camper's center of gravity, making it less tipsy and safer to use. Basement storage increases the overall height of the camper, making the Outfitter Apex the only pop-up camper with a shower that allows you to stand up fully while inside.
Owner Brian Ward displays the easy steps to stowing the full size shower and toilet partion, prior to travel.
Aluminum Frame, Vacuum-bonded Composite Walls
Vacuum-bonded composite walls set the highest standard for durability in the industry. The framing and vacuum-bonding processes require higher degrees of precision and attention to detail than traditional wood-framing processes. While most RV manufacturers are still framing campers with wood that is stapled together at the joints, every Outfitter begins as a double-welded aluminum frame.
An inside view of the full sized shower and toilet area
|Brian holds up the rear aluminum frame and foam insert insulation of one of his campers|
Instead of the standard bead foam that most RV manufacturers use for insulation, Outfitter uses block foam in every camper it produces. Block foam provides structural strength that bead foam cannot and gives Outfitters nearly double the insulating factor of any other camper made today.
Outfitter not only uses the finest materials, like solid oak cabinet doors and drawers, to create a comfortable living environment, they also spend a great deal of time making sure the interior will continue to look good for years to come. The durability of the campers include the use of a stain- and cut-resistant counter, with an integrated sink that won't chip, rust or corrode; and a single sheet of linoleum that not only covers the floor, but all the way into cabinets and storage bins, eliminating seams that can leak, collect dirt, or peel up. The porcelain toilet is claimed to not crack, stain, or collect odors, and the shower is a one-piece formed fiberglass enclosure that won't leak, peel, or rot. All of the surfaces are designed to be easily cleaned, including the ceiling which is finished in a light-weight fiberglass that can be washed with warm soapy water.
Interior view of the Apex 8 Camper. Clockwise from top left: Looking forward at the bunk area; Looking right to the dinette area; Looking aft with the shower and toilet stall raised; Looking right to the galley area.
The extremely light weight cabinet section for the galley area of the camper.
More exterior views of the rig.
Outfitter uses only Patrick 2000 rubber roof material, transforming the roof into a one-piece membrane that virtually eliminates all possibilities for leaks. The Patrick 2000 rubber roof material is maintenance-free and more puncture-resistant than the most commonly used rubber roof material (E.P.M.D.), and it will not scuff, chalk, or grow mold. Outfitter roofs are completely hail-proof. Flat RV roofs hold snow and rain, which can eventually cause them to collapse. Outfitter roofs, however, are constructed in a crown shape that allows snow and rain to roll off rather than collect.
Outfitter soft-walls are guaranteed to hold 65 degrees Fahrenheit inside the camper even while it is -20 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The soft-walls are made from Weblon, a product that, unlike most others, will not mildew, rot, or crack from constant temperature changes or cold temperatures. The soft-wall has a 12-year UV warranty. It is fully insulated and double-stitched to prevent leaking.
Generator and Air Conditioning
The Outfitter APEX model is the only pop-up RV available with a Generator and roof mounted, Air Conditioning system.
The Outfitter Factory Tour
After a tour of the factory, I boarded Brian's Dodge Cummins powered pickup for the test drive. Brian's truck was fitted with the same Apex model I ordered. Preface: Do you remember what I said about the ARK failing us in driving comfort? Well, let me provide a bit of the gory detail. I am used to pushing that Class A motorhome around where any trip over 300 miles simply drains you physically and mentally. Even with upgraded suspension and steering stabilization, the old ORC Ark handled like the chassis was always overloaded. Add nature's cross winds, wind bursts from passing semis, hills to climb or grades to descend and what was supposed to be a relaxing time, often became a marathon of stress that drained me for the first day of any trip. In comparison, 600 miles aboard Great White is a walk in the park. Even on the narrow and dangerous, "Baja Highway 1."
After a few turns out of the Outfitter shop, Brian hit the interstate and the stride of his demonstration at speed! With Brian changing lanes like a teenager in a lowered Honda Civic we nudged 80 mph. The truck never swayed, lurched or acted anything like it was carrying all the comforts of home in its bed. As Brian backed down he asked "Did you feel that cross wind?" I never felt a thing - the truck tracked perfectly. Wait! It gets a bit better. Brian's truck has stock suspension - no air bags, no helper springs, nothing, nada, zilch. Simply load it and go! I was sold!
The all-too-famous "Mars Attacks"-adorned checkbook of PJC came out of the pocket and my deposit was inked.
Here is my list of options on the model we ordered:
This is a working rig. It will be used often as a base of operation for ORC staff at off-road events. The power system must be able to handle 3 to 4 laptops, a printer and our Motosat Internet system.
- 1500 Watt Inverter
- Dual 6-volt, high amperage, marine batteries
- Additional, Inverter derived 110 volt outlet under the dinette for laptop and sat modem power
- Smart Charger - 50amp charging circuit for the marine batteries via the dual 110amp, alternators of Great White
- 2500 watt, Onan propane fueled generator
Microwave Oven - Powered by the generator or
11,000 BTU Air Conditioner
External Speakers. A first for Outfitter. We
located shallow depth, planar speakers at West Marine that made the
install a breeze. My infamous "Robb Zombie" campfire MP3 collection
will live on in this new rig.
- 8' Self supporting awning
- Hide-a-bed system
- 80" Over cab bunk
- Torsion Assisted Lift System
- Vacuum Bonded Composite Walls
- Solar Reflective Windows
- 3' 3-way Refrigerator
- Electronic Ignition 16K BTU Furnace
- 20lb LPG Bottle With Gauge
- Polar aire® Ventilation System
- Insulated 32 Gallon, Fresh Water Supply
- Insulated 32 Gallon, Black & Grey Water Tanks
- City Water Hook-up
- Marine Grade Toilet
- Shower stall enclosure with sink
- Outside shower
- Electronic Ignition 6 gal Water Heater
- Shurflo® Electric Water Pump
- 3 Burner hi-output Stove with Piezo Ignition
- 30 Amp Power Converter with Trickle Charge
- Queen Size Cabover Bed
- Underbed Storage
- LPG & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Locking Fresh Water Fill
- 110 Volt & 12 Volt Outlet
- Oak Interior Doors
- Washable Curtains
- Sliding Cab Through Window
- Camper Anchor Tie Downs with Centering Guide
- Wiring with isolator
- Spring loaded Turnbuckles
Select Photos from the Gallery
The 2500 Watt Onan Genset is mounted in the left rear of the camper.
The 8 foot awning is self supporting and includes support rails for breezy conditions.
There is a huge amount of storage space under the overcab bed.
The Outfitter Apex camper has enough head room to sit at the dinette or use the toilet quarters, without having to raise the pop-up roof.
|Brian not only delivered the camper from Longmont, Colorado to Las Vegas, he also did the entire install of all electrical and camper mount systems.||This image shows the extra bunk over the dinette. The platform folds in half and stows under the overcab bed.|
|A single, easy to use crank raises and lowers the pop-up roof even with the added weight of an air conditioner unit.||Brian holds up the welded aluminum cage that makes up the roof structure of an Outfitter Camper.|
A close-up of how tight the foam insulation is fitted to aluminum cage.
Watch for follow-up articles on:
- "Living With The Rig" in our September, 2003 edition. This will allow time to fully test and evaluate the Outfitter Camper with numerous trips to Baja and the local Nevada Desert.
- Tailoring the "Great White" F-350 chassis and suspension to support the rig for the long haul. We'll be recalibrating the National Springs and possibly revalve the King Shocks.
- Creating a custom storage rear bumper and receiver hitch platform by Dirt Junky Fabrications, Inc. to integrate with the new role of truck and camper.
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