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Four Wheel Campers Pop-Up Campers – A look inside t he company and their Fleet Camper

Written by  Beau Johnston
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Four Wheel Camper Review - Toyota Trucks Magazine

The Company
Four Wheel Campers started in 1972 in Colorado, with a revolutionary camper design for the International Scout.  The product lines eventually expanded to include pop-up campers for the Scout, Ford Bronco, Chevrolet Blazer, and campers designed for pickups.  While the Scout, Bronco, and Blazer have all gone the way of the dodo bird, Four Wheel Campers has continued making pop-up campers.  After being purchased/sold a few times over the company’s history, and relocating to Woodland, California, Four Wheel Campers was eventually purchased by Tom and Celeste Hanagan in 2001.  It is here where we begin to see the evolution of the Four Wheel Campers camper into a modern travel platform we see on the roads today.

We recently had the opportunity to visit the Four Wheel Campers facility and check out how these campers are manufactured.  We were walked through the process of making a pop-up camper from the creation of the frame to the final quality checkout.  Having personal experience designing and fabricating equipment I paid special attention to the welding and overall fit and finish of the campers as they rolled through the assembly line.  All too often the frames, which are the most critical component of any piece of equipment, are slapped together with poor quality welds.  I guess it fall into the ‘out of sight – out of mind’ mentality.  It was for this reason that I was pleasantly surprised to find the camper frames leaving the welding area with clean and beautiful welds.

Attention to detail didn’t stop at the frame; we watched as workers meticulously installed exterior and interior components.  The production area was a beehive of activity with workers buzzing around the units being built; installing and checking to make sure the components are functioning properly.  We were amazed to see such a well-coordinated effort and were not surprised to find out that the assembly team produces 10 campers each week.  With an increase in sales projected for 2015, we can only imagine the production floor will continue to crank out campers into the new year.

The Fleet Camper – Our Thoughts
I will be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived at the Four Wheel Campers headquarters to pick up their 2001 Tundra that had been outfitted with one of their fully-equipped Fleet Pop-Up.  I had poked around their display at Overland Expo for the last couple of years but could not wrap my head around traveling in a setup like this.  Sure I had read about several couple traveling around the world in pop-up campers but they were few and far between.  Perhaps it was the thought of 40’ motorhomes lumbering down the highway or the notion that ‘real’ travel requires sacrificing personal amenities that creates a about ‘stigma’ of traveling in an RV.  In 2013 the truck camper market saw an increase in demand of 9% from 2012, and seemingly more and more pickup truck and Fuso/Unimog-based overland vehicles popping up in our travels, there has to be something to the idea of larger overland platforms like these.

We set out to test the Fleet Pop-Up, and the overall Tundra-based platform, over a 10-day trip down the Pacific Coast Highway.  Our travels would take us through crowded cities, back country roads, and winding highways.  Each day would be filled with exploration and each night would bring a new place to spend the night.  I was worried about the time it would take to deploy and retract the pop-up each day but was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy, and quick, it was to setup and take down.  We camped the first night with our friends traveling in the Land Cruiser with a roof-top-tent.   I was able to set the camper up in the time it took them to remove the cover from the RTT.

Our Fleet Pop-Up was set up with their Side Dinette Seating configuration, with two other configurations available.  The Side Dinette Seating features a large countertop along the driver-side and a three-seat dining area along the passenger-side.  The configuration provided enough room for both Krista and I to move around, prepare meals, and sit down comfortably to a meal.  The camper's sleeping arrangements can comfortably accommodate up to three adults, although a family of four would be well suited by the setup.  The main, over-cab, bed expands from roughly a full-size bed to roughly a king-size bed by pulling the platform out.  All three configurations feature a bench or dining area that also converts into a second sleeping area.  Taller folks, like myself, over 6' 3" tall will notice the narrowness of the camper's sleeping area.  I am 6'6" tall and had to sleep at a slight diagonal; thankfully there was plenty of room for the two of us on the camper's main bed.

Over the course of the trip I began to understand why so many folks are traveling like this.  Having spent most of our travels in our 1998 4Runner, the ability to standup inside the sleeping area was incredibly welcoming.  Sure you can outfit your pick up or SUV with RTTs, elaborate camp kitchens, and hot water systems but there really is something to the idea of having a large space where you can get out of the elements.  Even the added space provided by the camper van we rented in New Zealand was welcoming during the rainy days our travels often saw.

As with our New Zealand camper van, we wish there were a couple of things that were a little different.  Most notably was the stove configuration.  While the camper's interior was spacious, when compared to the accommodations our 4Runner provides, it is still a fairly small space.  Cooking rich meals full of garlic, herbs, and spices can overpower a space like this.  Even with windows cracked and exhaust fans running, the smells of food can linger in the same space you will later be sleeping in.  While there is enough space inside the camper to store a second stove, it would be cool to have something like a Partner Steel two-burner stove integrated in such a way that it could be removed for exterior cooking.

Final Thoughts
It only took us five days, into our 10 day trip, to really fall in love with the Fleet Pop-Up and the idea of traveling in a pickup outfitted with a pop-up camper.  The overall platform wasn’t so large that it inhibited our ability to navigate through parking garages or the narrow streets we sometimes found ourselves traveling down.  The camper was easy to setup and take down, provided ample space for the two of us, and was a welcoming retreat at the end of a long day of traveling.  Not only were we impressed with the Fleet Pop-Up but the overall friendliness of the folks at Four Wheel Campers.  These are honest folks with a genuine desire to design and build quality equipment for the adventure traveler.  I would, without hesitation, encourage everyone to take a moment to visit with the Four Wheel Campers team at next year’s Overland Expo or browse through their website.  These really are platforms well setup for your next adventure, whether it be exploring the Desert Southwest or traveling the world.


Fleet Pop-Up Specifications:
•    Dry Weight: 845 lbs.
•    Height Down (including vent): 54″ (most trucks)
•    Roof Length: 129″
•    Floor Length: 80″
•    Body Width: 75″
•    Adult Sleeping: 3
•    Extended Interior Height: 6′ 4″
•    Roof/Wall Framing: Aluminum
•    Exterior Material: Aluminum (Fiberglass Siding Available)
•    Fresh Water Capacity: 20 Gallons
•    Base Model Price: $14,495.00
•    www.FourWH.com

*The number of truck campers sold in 2012 & 2013 is estimated from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (www.RIVA.org) data on Wholesale Shipments in those years

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