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10 days in a Four Wheel Campers Hawk pop-up camper: RV Review

Today’s review of the Four Wheel Campers Hawk pop-up camper is very, very different in a lot of ways. The biggest change in this is that I got to spend ten days in the camper touring some wonderful spots on the West Coast. 

Life experience

I often do these reviews from the standpoint of either seeing the rigs in person or seeing a well-done video of them. (Thank you, Josh Winters!) But this one was done having borrowed the camper and spending almost two weeks out on the road with it. It certainly gave me a unique perspective and appreciation for it and the pickup camper lifestyle. 

This was not unlike how I used to do reviews of new vehicles. The vehicle manufacturers had fleets of press vehicles that they would provide to us journalists specifically so we could write in-depth reviews. It was pretty cool. 

Well, so was getting a new car every week. 

Four Wheel Campers

Based in Woodland, California, since 1971 Four Wheel Campers builds one thing—pop-up campers for the backs of trucks. The trucks that get the campers can range from mid-sized trucks like the Toyota Tacoma to what we had, a big, beefy Ford F-350 four-wheel-drive diesel. The company also makes a lot of models for flat-bed trucks. That provides more space and makes the rig almost like a Class C sorta kinda. 

My experience started in their factory watching the company put together the campers themselves. Actually, it really started in their showroom. There you can tour several dozen campers of various sizes and configurations to get an idea of what you might want for your own camper. 

From there it was out to the shop where my wife got to lift a fully finished welded aluminum frame—they’re really light. From the frame they skin them in aluminum, either corrugated or smooth-sided. Then they finish out the interiors based on customer choices. 

On the subject of aluminum, the pop-up roof is a single piece of the stuff, so leaks aren’t nearly as likely. 

What’s inside the Hawk pop-up camper

The pop-up model we got (see floor plan illustration) featured a three-person dining space on the camp side and a camp kitchen on the road side. 

When my wife, Peggy, and I planned this trip we had no idea how much cargo capacity there was so she packed very, very light. But we still had 10 days on the road, so there was a good amount of just stuff. 

The first impression in the pop-up camper is that the cabinets and drawers inside swallowed up everything we brought with ease, except the clothing. Those stayed in two big duffel bags and moved from inside the camper to inside the cab. 

We also had a cooler full of food for a week. The 12-volt-DC compressor fridge swallowed it up and could have held more. One of the tricks we used to minimize space was to buy eggs in a carton rather than as eggs in shells, for example. So space was utilized carefully. 

Tricks of the trip

The model we had did not have a microwave, which is seemingly un-American (also no TV!). But, believe me, America—this isn’t bad. For example, a friend gave us an incredible meal that he smoked. I reheated it by using the sauce pan that I brought filled with water, putting a frying pan over that and then “tenting” the whole thing in aluminum foil. 

Voila! No microwave needed and the food came out beautifully. We also fed our coffee addiction with our Aeropress, which makes for wonderful coffee. 

This Hawk pop-up camper had 160 watts of solar on the roof. It kept the two AGM batteries topped up every day with one exception. Remember the 12-volt fridge? Well, on a day where it reached 92° F, that sucker was working in a camper painted black. So it wanted more battery power than was available. However, I brought my Jackery with me and fed the camper’s power needs that way. 

In fact, I also used the Jackery to charge both our new eBikes. The more uses I find for that thing, the more I’m liking it. 

Sleep tight…ly

There is a bed above the cab in the pop-up camper, as you would expect. Four Wheel Campers has done a clever job of making this bed expandable from a full-sized to a king-sized bed. It’s a really slick arrangement. 

But two fat folks made the decision to have one above the cab, Peggy, and one on the dinette. I will say the cushions Four Wheel Campers have chosen were the one sticking point, to my taste. They felt almost park bench-like in their firmness. 

However, I bought a mattress pad that I will use in our vintage trailer. So it’s all good, and that worked out fine in the end. 

Observations

This pop-up camper had a 20-gallon fresh water tank and no gray tank. However, there was a plastic folding container and the sink had a drain into this. I actually ended up really liking this arrangement—no making a big production of dumping the tank. I could either dump it down a sink in a bathroom or it could be dumped on the grass since I used eco-friendly soaps. 

While there are models that can be had with showers and toilets, this was not one of those. There was the Go Anywhere toilet included, which I wrote about. There’s also an outdoor shower that draws from the water heater so, depending on the circumstances, this could actually work quite well. 

We ended up staying at developed camp spots almost the whole trip, with one night’s exception. That was a clothing-optional place, so nobody was offended by someone trying out the outdoor shower. Yes, I do have photos. No, I’m not going to share them. 

Putting the pop-up camper top up and down is easy

Putting the top up and down is an easy proposition. They’ve done a great job of making it easy with a clever design that includes gas struts to help facilitate the operation. 

Several of our nights in the desert were really, really windy. While the material between the lower half and the top of the camper did blow a bit, we were comfortable inside. 

In fact, I really liked the three-layer top material that featured Velcro attachments for the inner layer, protective layer and clear layer. The way this is done is another example of how this camper is very, very well thought out. You can expose half the clear layer, fully cover it or open the whole thing up—which really made for nice cross-breezes. 

More thoughts on the Hawk pop-up camper

Speaking of wind and breezes and such, another big plus of this is that you can buy the truck to suit your circumstances. This was on a lifted diesel one-ton truck. But you could also put this same camper on a half-ton truck with a small diesel engine and get pretty good fuel mileage. Or, a half-ton truck with a gas engine and the company guesstimates that the fuel economy hit would only be about 1-2 miles per gallon. Not bad. 

My point in this is that we drove through the desert where high winds stopped other RVs from traveling for a while. But this big truck with the camper that didn’t have such a huge surface area wasn’t affected by the cross winds at all. 

We also had several lunches in a single parking space at a store and didn’t bother raising the top at all. Yes, the headroom with the top down is minimal, but both of us could sit at the dinette and have lunch and we only took up a single parking space. 

We could drive the speed limit

Further, not having some huge RV to drive or tow meant we could travel at whatever the speed limit was. While I don’t go above 65 with a travel trailer behind me, there were roads with higher posted limits and I drove with traffic. 

One of the striking things about these is that you bring your own truck. That means if you have a pickup already, you’re almost certainly able to put one of these on it. The campers themselves aren’t horribly expensive. This seems far, far better than many Class B RVs, as you could get a truck with four-wheel drive if that’s something you’re interested in. 

Further, when the truck needs maintenance, you can easily remove the camper and still stay in it while the truck’s getting work done. Try that with a Class C. 

Final thoughts

In the attached video there are some shots of the company’s showroom in Woodland, CA, along with the factory there. These are very well made, as is evidenced by them lending this thing out to folks like myself. We cared for it well, but I know that not all do and it was still solid as a rock. 

I also won’t share much about the pickup itself because this is an area where you can choose one to suit yourself, or bring one you already own. 

We might buy one of these pop-up campers

Since we’re used to a travel trailer and having more space, it was a challenge to adjust to this smaller space at first. However, by the end of the trip, we are actually considering buying one of these for ourselves. 

Yes. We have a travel trailer on order and will still get that. But this would be a great quick trip machine or one where we could leave the travel trailer and then use the camper to explore more distant spots. In fact, the model we’re considering is called the “Model M” which is essentially an empty shell with a pop-up top. We could use this for cargo or for camping with our camping gear inside. 

I could also use this as an office space, so I could get a smaller trailer after all, which simplifies a lot of things. And I love options. 

I had mentioned not liking the Go Anywhere toilet, but we did buy a Camco portable toilet which will also find its way into our vintage camper build. That solved that problem.

Attention to detail from Four Wheel Campers

There are a lot of examples of how it’s clear that Four Wheel Campers’ decision makers actually use these rigs themselves. Attention to detail like positive latches on cabinets and drawers, the way the space is designed and the material choices show that these aren’t just designed to keep some corporate accountant happy. 

In fact, the company has a number of people who regularly camp and some who even live in these that help tell the story. I have to admit if the company is working on building a fan base, you can add me to that list for a variety of reasons. 

I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.

Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.

Got an RV we need to look at? Contact us today and let us know in the form below – thank you!

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Steve
5 months ago

Hope you don’t mind too much, Tony, that I’m hijacking your conveniently timed pickup camper article to mention another brand.
Cruise America is selling many of their Lance rental pickup campers right now. Not pop-ups like this one, but I’ve always considered Lance one of the top 3 RV manufacturers in the country and perhaps No. 1 in pickup campers. Most of them are at the Mesa reconditioning center and are priced at $19,900. However, a few are available from other CA lots like Denver, Las Vegas, LA, Seattle, etc.

Your mention of getting a “free” new car every week brought to mind the Denver Post automotive writer. Bud Wells’ father owned a car dealership in a farming town on Colorado’s eastern plains. So Bud grew up in the auto business, but wanted to be a newspaperman. Deep into his journalism career, he began writing new car reviews. Now in his 80s, he is still doing his weekly column, including driving an all-electric M-B S-Class last month!

Roger Spalding
5 months ago

Tony, it was nice to see photos of you and Peggy actually using the rig described in your piece. It’s good to see that you two are real people who are living the dream. There is one particular vlogger on YouTube who refuses to show his face to the viewers. Does he have a disfiguring and loathsome disease? Is he afraid of terrorist kidnappers? Is he embarrassed by all the freebies given to him by manufacturers to influence his vlogs? Or, maybe he’s just a repulsive narcissist patronizing his subscribers? Anyway, I found it reassuring that you and Peggy are none of those, and your outgoing and pleasant demeanor comes through on camera and in your writing. A vlog or podcast by you doing RV reviews would be a treat. I don’t like every rig you write about, or some of your opinions, but I do enjoy reading your writing about them. Thanks and keep up the great work.

Steve
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Barthel

Great to hear about your move, Tony! You shouldn’t have to worry quite as much about wildfires in Albuquerque as in rural Northern CA. Maybe we can meet you for dinner during an overnight stop at the Cochiti Lake COE campground during one of our many New Mexico trips. It’s our go-to fall campground when visiting either Santa Fe or Albuquerque. On one October stay there, we had sandhill cranes flying over all day while they were moving south from Monte Vista NWR to their winter home at Bosque del Apache NWR.

And we LOVE NM state park campgrounds. You can’t beat $14/night for W/E sites and $18/night for FHU sites! We often meet my sister and her husband at Sugarite Canyon SP on the last weekend in July. We are in Denver, they are in Amarillo, so we meet halfway. A few of our other favorites are Heron Lake SP near Chama, Caballo Lake SP (great for overnights right off I-25), Bottomless Lakes SP near Roswell, South Monticello cg at the far north end of Elephant Butte Reservoir/SP, and Santa Rosa SP and Bluewater Lake SP when traveling E-W on I-40. I have long wanted to stay at Rockhound SP near Deming (since I am a retired geologist), but have never had the time when heading to AZ snowbird resorts. Someday!

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