By Tony Barthel
“Overlanding” is a term that is being bandied about more and more. Essentially, it refers to camping in places that aren’t really places, at least not as far as traditional maps are concerned. Forests, deserts, and hidden spots that your local tourism bureau isn’t going to tell you about. One of the vehicles well-suited for getting you there might be a camper from Four Wheel Campers in Woodland, CA.
Four Wheel Campers makes a variety of campers that fit a variety of trucks. All their models share the fact that you bring your own truck and they’ll build a camper for it.
This can take the form of a traditional drop-in camper as you might have seen many, many times. But where they really stand out is in their flatbed campers. Available for both full- and mid-sized trucks with flatbeds, these are semi-permanently mounted campers that take up the entire surface of the truck bed area along with having a “nose” that extends over the cab of the truck where the bed is located.
By using the flatbed instead of the pickup box you utilize the entire surface of the truck so you get more space inside. In addition to the flatbed, it’s possible to mount storage boxes under the flatbed so you get more storage than you might with a typical drop-in camper.
Another thing you get is the ability to spec the truck to the type of drive train you’re looking to use. This means that you can get trucks with some serious off-road capabilities. Hence – overlanding. The company’s website has a number of quotes from owners who are adventure-seekers such as hunters, fishermen, climbers and such who appreciate that they can use these campers to take their RV and all their gear with them even when the road has long disappeared.
Having a flat-bed-based camper or even a pickup camper also means that you might be able to tow something like a boat or dirt bikes too.
I recently looked at one of Four Wheel Camper’s “Fleet” models on a Toyota Tacoma flatbed platform with four-wheel drive.
One of the interesting things about these is that the whole camper sits on a flatbed so that means the bottom of the entry door is above the rear wheel. Remember those old cartoons where they said, “Watch out for the first step – it’s a big one!”? That’s this. Of course, there are step options that extend down from that door to facilitate entry.
I saw a number of YouTubers who used a step ladder instead of the attached steps. This helped not only get into and out of the camper, but also helped to facilitate popping the latches that hold the pop-up in place.
All of Four Wheel Campers’ products are pop-up campers.
To pop the top, you unlatch a series of latches on the outside and then go inside and push the top up. This is relatively easy. It’s counterbalanced with hydraulic struts, so it’s an easy affair. The company has an interesting “push bar” to facilitate securing the front of the camper.
From there you can fully stand up inside.
Across from the door is a two-burner stove and a sink with a drain that goes directly outside. Some of the people whom I worked with to learn more about this camper indicated that best practices include putting a bucket or catch bag under the external drain from the sink to catch the water.
To your right is a cabinet that can hold a cassette toilet. When it’s not time to go you have a bit more surface area. When it’s time to go you get to take care of business right there in the camper. There are certainly adventurers, fishermen, sportsmen and the like who would have zero issues with this.
One of the more innovative features is the bed, which is above the cab of the truck – as you might expect. That bed is on a large drawer-like slide mechanism. When it’s time to sleep you can accept the bed as is or slide out a lower drawer-like platform and substantially increase the size of the sleeping area.
A tip shared with me by a couple of owners of these is to put some sort of air gap between the bottom of the cushions and the surface of the bed itself to minimize condensation and moisture buildup. A handy tip if you’re planning on getting one of these.
This might seem like a great place for one of those Froli™ sleep system platforms…
I can see the flatbed model making the most sense only because you maximize the surface area, especially on a mid-sized truck. But that means you have to have a mid-sized truck with a flatbed. Fortunately, Four Wheel Campers has a direct affiliation with Norweld, who can convert your everyday Toyota Tacoma into a flat bed. There are options to do so with only the flatbed, but the hot tip is to get the flatbed with under-bed storage compartments.
While there are certainly storage compartments inside the Four Wheel Camper, in a space of this size it never hurts to have more and the additional storage bays seem to be worth the price of admission. The flatbed conversion itself is listed at $6,799 from Norweld, or $8,999 with the storage boxes.
There is also a more substantial package that includes a 43-liter (11.36 gallons) under-tray water tank and a rear storage drawer as well – but this option is $11,799.
If you’re not interested in taking the bed off your pickup, Four Wheel Campers is there for you with drop-in and cap-style campers as well. This also means you’re not getting rid of the pickup box but it does have the advantage of being easily removable so you can continue off-roading while leaving the camper behind.
Back up in the camper, the windows that are incorporated into the material portion of the pop-up are interesting. With the optional thermal package there are essentially three layers that can be opened: a full cover of the window space, a cover of just the window portion and then the window itself.
Lighting in the campers comes in the form of LED strips that are dimmable – a nice touch. The company also offers a number of solar charging options, or you can simply bring your own panels to the party.
You’ll definitely want some form of charging if you take advantage of the truck’s four-wheel-drive to get you to places where other humans aren’t, as the optional refrigerator is 12-volt DC only. The truck will charge your house battery when you’re driving, but you’ll want something to charge it when you’re not.
There is an increasing number of people on the social channels that I follow who are embracing this “overlanding” style of RVing. And why not? It gives you the chance to go places where few others are and see some incredible nature.
There’s beauty across this great land and here on the left coast, there are tens of thousands of acres of incredible free camping on BLM lands and other public areas. So it makes sense to have a company that builds these kinds of campers in a place where they can be used year-round.
However, I would caution someone buying one of these to be very careful about payload and truck capacity. While a full-size four-wheel-drive, three-quarter-ton pickup will take something like this and barely notice it, a pickup camper on the back of a Tacoma takes about 1,295 of the available estimated 1,400 pounds of payload.
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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