By Tony Barthel
Recently, someone showed me one of the most unusual truck campers I had ever seen and it reminded me a bit of something you’d see in one of those futuristic sci-fi movies. The camper in question is the Kimbo Camper. It’s an unusual design that works.
Essentially the Kimbo™ Camper is a drop-in truck camper that will fit completely within the pickup box of a long-bed mid-size pickup as well as larger trucks, of course. Among the more unusual things about this camper is how it’s built.
The Kimbo Camper is constructed using sheets of aluminum that are riveted together to form the exterior skeleton of the rig. Rather than having an underlying frame or structure, the skin is the structure. If you’ve seen the Tesla pickup truck, that is slightly similar in the way its built and carries some of the same design cues to a certain extent.
Founder Mark King is likely not going to lob a baseball at any of the windows in this design – even though they are double-paned windows.
The inspiration for the Kimbo Camper
The inspiration for the Kimbo Camper came from when founder Mark King visited his father’s place of business, which happened to be the USS Alabama submarine. Mark was already living in an Airstream travel trailer at the time and desired something even more maneuverable that could also be taken deep into the woods. So he began to tinker.
Mark is also no stranger to tinkering, having created the Trayvax® wallet, which is described as being designed to be handed down. (It has a “65-year heirloom warranty.”) But it also has a similar industrial shape that is both utilitarian and stylish. Well, it is to me.
Thus started the journey in 2016 after he built the first Kimbo Camper and proceeded to put about 30,000 miles on it. That was the first generation. Today we’re in the sixth generation of this unique design and the appearance hasn’t swayed from the uniquely unusual – but function has improved inside.
What is the Kimbo Camper?
Let’s start with what the Kimbo Camper is, and that is a highly functional and simple pickup camper. Rather than being built to mimic every function in your home, this is designed for camping and one of the goals is to be able to drop this in the woods and be self-sufficient for a couple of weeks.
But that self-sufficiency isn’t living in the lap of luxury, although most of the basic necessities are there. Since Kimbo is a smaller company in the Pacific Northwest, they also offer the buyer quite a few choices. Those choices are made up of systems which can be incorporated in the build.
One of those is a wood stove, believe it or not. Not an electric fireplace – a genuine wood stove. There’s also a propane heater option which uses a dual-tube exhaust. That means the intake and exhaust essentially utilize the same chimney.
There is an optional refrigerator but no water pump. Instead there’s a jug in the camper and you can either have a gravity-fed sink or have one with a manual pump. Simple. And King describes every system in the Kimbo as being designed to be outstandingly long lasting but also easy to replace when it’s time to do so.
One of the things I saw them experimenting with is the shower. Using a metal sprayer mechanism that uses human power to pressurize the water, you put this over the propane stove (also an option) and heat the water to the desired temperature. Then you pressurize the water and there’s your shower. Simple. Effective.
The fresh tank, being a jug in the camper, isn’t exposed to the elements – so if you’re warm, so’s your water. Winterization means taking the jug and dumping it. Easy. Done.
Touring the Kimbo is interesting and the space feels a lot larger than you’d think, especially if you walk into one that’s in the bed of a mid-sized pickup truck. The whole camper is designed to fit in the bed with the tailgate closed so that you can have added security but also take advantage of a back-up camera if you have one.
Part of the idea is to be able to still have the mobility and ease of finding parking of a mid-sized truck. So having to leave the tailgate down wasn’t an option. However, that tailgate does make sort of a back porch.
Back to the tour
The entry way to the Kimbo is sort of a “mud room” for lack of a better description. As mentioned, the whole camper’s exterior is aluminum sheets riveted together. That includes the floor, but the entry has a few holes drilled in it and there’s a teak-slatted walkway. The thinking is that you could come in from a day of surfing or skiing or hiking and not feel bad about wet shoes or feet as the water would just drain right out of the camper. To your left is a closet to hang those jackets and such.
To your right is the kitchen. There are a number of options here including that gravity-fed water system. But you also have a choice of either a wood-burning stove or a propane stove as the source of heat.
There is also the option of a propane-powered refrigerator about the size of a typical bar fridge.
The interior is a water-resistant padded material
The interior is all a padded material that’s also water resistant and is part of the insulation picture. “A way of getting around actually having to use a frame. It makes it so we can put insulating panels right against the wall and also gives you more space inside,” states King.
To the left is a bench seat. A table rotates out from under a stack that includes a couple of cloth totes at the top. Your batteries are below that. However, they’re not just the batteries. They’re a battery device that incorporates 110vac and USB charging plugs – so it’s really an integrated system. Again, its one you can easily replace down the road if need be.
Next to that is where the small window-style air conditioner goes if you choose to get one.
If you choose a shower it will occupy the end of the walk way. A curtain hangs from the ceiling to keep you from spraying the entire interior.
On the camp side is basically a large platform that is the lounging space. It also serves as a step up to the bed, which fills the space above the cab of the pickup.
Unusual but handy storage in the Kimbo Camper
Another unusual thing is that wire baskets line the ceiling of the Kimbo. They’re your storage for dry goods and such. This was done so that you can see all the items in there. This verifies that Mark King isn’t the only individual who has found a can of food in the camper and questioned its age and how it even got to the back of the cabinet anyway.
There are four windows in the Kimbo, one on either side and a third on the nose cap. The last is on the door, which is a study in unique design itself. All the windows are double-paned and flip up, and they have a shade that can be pulled over them.
The door, as mentioned, is truly a unique piece and follows the shape of the camper including the notch up the back. The door is built in-house and, when opened, you can see the thickness of the wall structure and also the rivets that hold the interior and exterior together. I like it – but I love cool and unusual stuff and this is definitely cool and unusual.
The Kimbo Camper is absolutely not the camper for everybody – but I absolutely see the appeal. It’s simple, rugged, purposeful and light. It fits a lot of adventurous lifestyles.
One thing you didn’t read anywhere is about the toilet because there isn’t one. This leaves the decision up to you as to where to put one or even whether or not to bring one. There are a lot of aftermarket options available including cassette toilets and composting toilets. And then your local hardware store can sell you a five gallon bucket and a bag of kitty litter. Your choice.
Also, the Kimbo Camper weighs about a half-ton, so you’re going to have to choose your carrier carefully. In the most well-equipped standard Toyota Tacoma this leaves you with about 500 pounds for yourself and anything else you want to carry – and that’s cutting it pretty close.
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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