November 23, 2022 | By Bryon Dorr
You might be thinking, “Just what we need, another pop-top truck camper.” Well, that was my first thought when I first stumbled across the Lone Peak Camper. But, at a starting price under $6,000, it’s hard to ignore. Folding Camping Trailers
My second thought was, is this a race to the bottom? Is the pop-top truck camper market saturated, or can a new player find a niche within the niche? Big questions, that really only time will answer.
I’ve been talking with Lone Peak’s founder, Kyle Hart, for many months now about his latest business project, Lone Peak. I also recently got to crawl around the Lone Peak Camper prototype (pictured here) myself. What I found is that this new entrant into the crowded pop-top truck camper market is going to be a great fit for a lot of people, and is particularly impressive because of its price point.
Hart is an adventurer and camps out of his vehicle dozens of nights a year, mostly to dirt bike and hunt with his friends. On one fateful dirt bike/hunting trip near Mt. Rainier, Wash., Hart and his crew came back to their pickup and found it to be stripped of its roof rack, rooftop tent, and motorcycle trailer.
After returning home and to his day job as owner and lead product designer for Rhino Camera Gear, Hart did some research on wedge-style campers. He was looking for campers that might give him the rooftop tent accommodations he loved while also providing a more secure area to lock valuables, in a more securely attached to the truck product. He was disheartened to find that most pop-top truck campers cost upward of $10,000, which was well out of his budget.
His designer gears got to turning, and he set out to make one himself “that cost half the price” and he’d “ship directly to customers.”
Over the next few months, Hart toiled away, trying to find a way to manufacture a camper for half the price of the competition without sacrificing quality or features. After four or so full redesigns in CAD, Hart figured he’d come to the point where he needed to make a prototype and test his design theories. He then reached out to Asian suppliers that he’d worked with at Rhino to build the prototype parts to his specs.
The design and prototype finally started to come together as Hart bolted together the custom aluminum extrusions to create a rigid frame. Thin aluminum-skinned composite panels were then bonded with VHB tape to the frame to create a “waterproof lightweight structure.” This style of construction differs from much of the competition and removes any bending, welding, or finishing, which can quickly drive up the cost of production.
The morning this camper was completed as it headed off on its first shakedown trip. That trip produced the images you see in this article and covered about 4,500 miles; from Wenatchee, Wash., to Santa Fe, N.M., out to San Francisco, and dropping by Portland, Ore., on the way back to meet with GearJunkie. Along the way, customers and overland shops provided feedback on the design, with many expressing interest in the product.
More than a dozen updates and modifications are on Hart’s shortlist to dial in the Lone Peak Camper before one gets delivered to the first customer in June. Changes like creating stronger bed mounting brackets and moving the gas struts inside the tent are at the top of that list. Even the tent is going to be modified to create a more taut setup that is more waterproof and makes less noise in the wind.
Hart stopped by my house in Portland, Ore., on his way back to his home in Washington so I could crawl all over this camper and see what it’s all about. My initial impression is that it is going to appeal to a lot of consumers in the market for a pop-top wedge-style truck camper. The price is impressively low and the construction overall seems solid.
The functionality of the bed being on gas struts to lift out of the way is solid. Even when the bed is fully deployed, there are 32 inches of standing room in the truck bed. That standing room also feels very spacious, due to the expanding rear tent design, which is pretty unique to this product category. Interior, out-of-the-weather, living space is really one of the largest advantages of these pop-top truck camper systems.
I was also impressed with the simple solid front hinge built into the extrusions and the lockable rear latches, which make setup and breakdown quick and easy. I do question the waterproofness of the hinges and door seals, but Hart assures me that tweaks to the production version of the camper will fully address any concerns I might have.
I’m also pretty concerned about condensation issues with this camper design/construction, especially so if used with a heater. The thin walls and mostly metal construction will likely get very wet very quickly under the right conditions.
My guess is that part of the compromise with this tent’s incredible price will be that it is best used for three seasons, instead of year-round. Snow loading on the tent design could also be a winter issue.
I really love all the accessories that are already in the works by Lone Peak. The company is focused on the user experience just as much as the product. The key to campers like this working well on real adventures is not only for them to be strong and weatherproof but also to be ergonomically efficient for camp life.
Things like gear organization, counter space, seating, cooking areas, electrical accessory controls, and so much more are afterthoughts on so many products in this space.
Out of the box, Lone Peak is going to offer a suite of accessories to dial in this camper from the factory. These include LED lighting, storage containers, interior shelves, and even wiring hookups for roof accessories.
In the not-too-distant future, Lone Peak plans to also offer an awning, diesel heater, truck bed bench, a wireless switch box, solar panels, and more.
The Lone Peak Camper is nearly half the price of many competitors in the space. Lone Peak’s founder, Kyle Hart, says there were able to achieve this price point through some serious engineering.
He says, “Most campers on the market are welded or riveted together and have a ton of post-processing on the material, which drives up the cost. We’re using the same high-end, lightweight materials but we’re bolting them together and using pre-finished panels that we mill in-house for the skin. The result is a super durable, lightweight camper at half the price.”
Deliveries are expected to start in June of 2023. Installs are free at Lone Peak’s Wenatchee, Wash., assembly facility, or shipping direct to customers or a local certified installer are also options.
To place your order — get in early for the intro price — and stay up to date about all things Lone Peak, check out its website.
Bryon Dorr caught the outdoor adventure addiction through whitewater kayaking, and worldwide adventures to remote places ensued. He crafted his own professional path as a photographer, journalist, and marketing consultant in the automotive and outdoor industries, while full-time overland traveling for nearly 8 years. You’ll usually find him out exploring by 4x4, adventure motorcycle, or sports car while seeking out opportunities to ski, mountain bike, and kayak. Bryon now has a home base in Portland, OR with his wife and young daughter.
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