I couldn’t wait to write today’s review of the AT Overland Aterra XL flatbed truck camper. As you would imagine, I see a lot of RVs all the time in person and in theory. And, let’s be honest, the lack of innovation in the RV space is a bit sad. That’s not true of this truck camper.
One of the things that’s very special about this Aterra XL is that it solves a lot of problems normally associated with truck campers. Those include small holding tanks and a minimal amount of interior space. Yes, I know there are some ridiculous multi-slide beasts out there that require a one-ton dually. But that seems to change the game in another direction.
Essentially this is a very lightweight camper built to be mounted on a flatbed truck. According to the company, it can be mounted on anything from a properly outfitted half-ton flatbed to beast mode four-wheel-drive trucks. That was the example they showed at the event.
The outer shell is built of a lightweight but very strong man-made honeycomb material. Inside you see this plus a material called Plyboo, a bamboo plywood, and stainless steel fixtures. But it’s not just the unique materials that make this special – it’s the thinking that went into this.
Water systems in the Aterra XL
Let’s first look at the water system – which is a 30-gallon fresh water system. The tank for the water is effectively inside the cabin of the camper so it won’t freeze – as long as you have heat and are comfortable yourself. But you can actually see a sliver of the tank from inside, which is your level gauge.
The tank is also illuminated with a dimmable light which serves as both a night light and also a way to monitor tank level. If you go outside to the road side, you’ll be able to see the whole side of the tank in a compartment. The light in the tank also illuminates that compartment.
In there you’ll find two Lion Energy lithium batteries along with the water pump and Truma Varioheat cabin heater. Since this device is in the same compartment as the batteries and water pump, it keeps them comfy and warm, too. That eliminates the issue of lithium batteries not being able to be charged below freezing temperatures. You also eliminate worries about the water pump freezing.
Also in here is the “brains” for the National Luna battery management system. This system is a fuseless smart controller system that oversees charging functionality from the rooftop solar as well as from the vehicle’s alternator. It also has a control panel inside to let you operate lights and such. Those can also work from a smartphone app, but there are also switches at the door.
While we’re on the subject of water and such in the Aterra XL, I’m really happy to see that the water and propane plumbing for this rig are all on a manifold system. That means you can disable a fixture if it becomes problematic ,rather than having to shut down the entire water system if there’s a leak somewhere.
Inside the Aterra XL
I had mentioned that this rig solves a lot of design issues with campers, and one of those is storage. There is quite a bit, but I also like that the storage is in the form of eight full-size Step 22 Stingray bags and two half-sized bags. These little canvas bags allow you to take them out of the camper and get it all loaded up or use them outside and in.
They’re all in cubbies and then held in place with chuck keys.
Above that, the kitchen counter holds a combination two-burner stove and sink under a glass cover. Refrigeration comes from a National Luna 12-volt refrigerator/freezer unit. All told, there’s a surprising amount of storage and space in the Aterra XL, especially given the size and weight.
As mentioned, Aterra XL solves a lot of the issues that are inherent with this type of camper.
The toilet is a Wrappon waterless toilet. Essentially this device uses a very, very long plastic tube that you buy in compressed packages. When it’s time to go you simply do what you do and then push the button. The Wrappon toilet has already heat-sealed the bottom of the tube to catch what you’re delivering, but then it wraps and heat seals the top and you have a tiny package of yesterday’s tacos that is considered a class 2 biohazard.
What that means is it’s comparable to a baby diaper so you can just throw it right in the trash. Since it’s sealed on both ends, it’s hygienically neutral so you’re not touching anything you don’t want to touch. As the name implies, this is a totally waterless system. So you’re not wasting fresh water disposing of waste. That also minimizes the size of the sealed packages this toilet produces.
The shower is essentially the foot well for the dinette which has wooden slats over a “bowl” that holds the water. You can also take this whole thing outside where there’s an outdoor shower.
The shower curtain attaches to the carpeted ceiling by Velcro. That brings up the carpeted ceiling – where you can attach bags, hook-and-loop straps or patches. It acts as both an insulating component and also serves this purpose.
The windows in the Aterra XL are all Arctic Tern dual-pane models. They also feature an integrated night shade as well as a bug screen. They all open, including the ones above the bed in the ceiling. With the number of windows in this rig, you get a very bright, open feel to the interior. There’s a lot of air flow with them all open, as well, if that’s what you desire.
Another thing that really sets this rig apart is the bed. Underneath it are three very, very long drawers. When it’s time for sleeping you can slide the drawers open and extend the space for the bed significantly. The mattress sits on Froli Sleep System springs, which provide air flow under the mattress. That eliminates the condensation issues common in small spaces like this.
In fact, if you opt for the cushion extension when those drawers are pulled out and you drop said cushion extension in place, you get a full 79” X 80” sleep surface. Yep, a king bed.
But there are also three “wells” that are exposed when you pull out the bed which are hidden compartments at the back of the bed. Think critical documents or even firearms that nobody knows are there.
Getting up here is made easier with pull-out steps that are held in place during travel by the same key chucks that hold in some of those storage bags.
As mentioned, I get excited seeing innovative and unique designs in the RV space, which is why I always look for small, independent companies. There is so much right with the way this camper was designed that we’re all going to have to look at other products from this company.
One of the nifty things about it all is that you can combine this with some pretty efficient small diesel flatbed trucks, if fuel mileage is your thing. Or you can combine this with an absolute built beast of a four-wheel-drive if deep woods overlanding is your thing.
The bottom line on this is that you can tell it was designed by someone who uses these vehicles. They have obviously thought through some of the best ways to solve the problems they encounter, including those encountered far from the uncivilized world we all call home.
Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long 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.
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