Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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RV Review: Backwoods Camper for Jeeps

Today’s RV review is of the Backwoods Camper, a camper small and light enough that the company advocates that you can stick it on a Jeep Wrangler or other SUVs. They say that because they’ve done it with their own Jeep Wrangler. 

A Jeep Wrangler might be one of the top three vehicles that gets modified in the U.S. I don’t see a whole lot of these that aren’t somehow different than what rolled off the end of the assembly line. Some only have different wheels and tires. But some have big snorkels and super bright lights because, well, you want people in Walmart to think you’re a real off-roader. 

Heck, some people are real off-roaders! These are often the people with farm jacks and traction aids along with two spare tires, though. 

Anyhow, back to the camper. This camper is a super-lightweight rig that mounts to a rack on your Jeep. How light? It’s about the same as bringing along two of your friends from first-period band who are just trying to figure out life and will move out of mom’s basement as soon as their POV YouTube channel about Hogwarts Legacy hits big. You know, about 500 pounds. 

What’s inside

Looking at the outside, you might have already figured out that there’s a huge bed in this since so much of the camper resides over the Jeep itself. In fact the company states that the sleeping surface is a California King. 

On the “main floor” of this are cabinets on the camp side and overhead. You can special-order these with a number of different configurations, but one of those can include a two-burner camp stove along with a small sink. 

You could also have it set up such that a portable toilet like the Camco portable toilet that I have would fit on the passenger side.

For a base price of $15,525, it’s an interesting addition to something like a Jeep Wrangler. 

But before you go all camperiffic on your Jeep, know that the company states that you have to have a suitable rack to mount this to. Oh, and a blog post on their site also strongly recommends upgrading the suspension on the Jeep, as well. 

Features

The way the company has managed to build a 500-pound camper is by doing so out of structural fiberglass over foam core panels. In some ways this is like a SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) house, but lighter. And more campery. 

The back of the camper is where ingress and egress is done through a standard RV door. The step is mounted to the rear of a rack which is part of what supports this camper. 

In fact, the racks recommended by the company on which to mount the camper are rated for 300 pounds. I wondered how this kind of math worked out. It turns out you mount the “main floor” of the camper to a cargo rack in the receiver hitch of the camper. 

Back story

The interesting thing, to me, about the company is that the designer went to school across from an RV dealership, starting in kindergarten. He was so intrigued by the RVs across the street that he started drawing pictures of them, including floor plans, and then began building models of them using his Legos. 

This is something I did as a kid, too. Perhaps we now know who might take over my job here when you all get tired of me? 

As a Jeep owner himself, he built the prototype for the camper and the idea was born. 

In summary

The Backwoods Camper is certainly an interesting concept. But the fact that there are so many recommendations for making the Jeep capable makes me think that, perhaps, a four-wheel-drive pickup and something from a company like Four Wheel Campers might really be a better idea. 

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but Four Wheel Campers has been doing this for a long time, and you can get a pickup in just about any flavor you want. I also like that the top pops up, so that means a lower center of gravity. 

*****

More from Tony

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.

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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. He also works closely with a number of RV manufacturers to get an inside look at how things are done and is a brand ambassador for Rockwood Mini Lite with his wife, Peggy.

You can also check out his RV podcast with his wife, Peggy. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. They are based on information from a single unit and may not reflect your actual experience. Shop your RV and dealership carefully before making a buying decision. 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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Jewel
4 days ago

As a Jeep owner and RVer (we have a truck and 5th wheel) this is an idea that is always talked about. Many in our Jeep club (a really off-roading group) have tried pulling tiny trailers. The idea is interesting but very impractical.

With the tow package and 3.73 gear ratio, a 2 door Wrangler had a tow rating of 2,000lb. and hitch weight 200lb. I don’t see this possible especially adding in the length of the wheelbase of 95 inches.

As to the suggestion of a Jeeper going to a truck instead, that’s like saying if you love bananas, you should try potatoes…they are sort of alike (food).

I will be interested to see what they do with this idea but right now, it isn’t possible to safely use it on a 2 door Wrangler – even with reinforcement.

Steve H
4 days ago
Reply to  Jewel

This camper is not towed, so the Jeep’s towing capacity is not a factor. As David explained below, this camper works exactly the same way a weight-distribution hitch works when towing a travel trailer. The weight pulls up on the hitch receiver and pushes down on the overhead rack, which moves the camper center of gravity to about midway between the axles. So, the effect is the same as adding two 200# rear-seat passengers and a couple of kayaks or e-bikes on a roof rack of the Jeep. And, yes, I am an engineer. But I have seen plenty of Jeeps loaded to that capacity on Jeep roads in the San Juan Mountains around Silverton and Telluride!

Jewel
3 days ago
Reply to  Steve H

not likely. The short wheelbase will work against any lifted Jeep with this kind of weight on the rear, even if part of it is on the cage. It’s all behind the front half of the body so even if it works on flat pavement, it won’t do well on trails. I wish it worked but not worth the risk. I’ll take it separately while my husband pulls the fifth wheel.

But you go for it!

Bob p
1 day ago
Reply to  Steve H

Somehow you have weight distribution and weight carrying mixed up. Looking at the pic of the hitch set up there is nothing but a weight carrying hitch inserted into the receiver tube. Weight distribution depends on spring bars transferring weight between trailer axles and front tow vehicle axle. The camper exceeds the weight carrying capacity of the receiver, this is a very dangerous set up especially for a short wheel base vehicle like a Jeep Wrangler, add lift kits and bigger tires, I don’t even want to think about it. Another thing, how do they load/unload it? With a fork lift?

Steve H
4 days ago

Looks like something an RVer with a diesel pusher might add to his existing Wrangler toad. The additional weight on the toad would not be a problem for a big Class A. The Jeep could then be used for overnight off-road adventures while the motorhome remained in an RV park or a seasonal boondocking site at Quartzite.

Randall Johnstun
4 days ago

It looks like to me the rack on top of the jeep supports the majority of the weight and the bumper mount stabilizes it, so there’s not much weight on the bumper. With heavier suspension, I could see how this would easily work.

david
4 days ago

Tony, that Jeep camper is a modern marvel. The 7′ cantilever bed area brings the weight distribution to the front of the receiver hitch. It will actually be pulling up on the outer edge of the receiver hitch and pushing down at the inside mount of the receiver hitch “where the load- bearing frames are located”. This will actually not be much of a load on the hitch at all. Unfortunately, most of the negative comments will be coming from “armchair WTB engineers” that will be oblivious to this remarkable engineering design. Watch the reviews coming in. “I’ll slam it if I am not smart enough to understand it”. Thats a shame for this solid build. Because of this, the company should show some sketches on how well this camper is balanced. And that it is literally trying to lean forward and not “fall off the back”, and that the brunt of the load is actually at the center of the receiver hitch, not 3 feet behind it. (By my calculations) Great job! My hats off to the owner!!

Bob p
4 days ago

I may be missing something but from the pics it looks like all they’re doing is adding 500 lbs well over the rear bumper where it hooks into the hitch receiver that’s rated for 350 lbs. not only is the hitch weight over capacity but the handling specs are going to be weird. A complete safety flop if I ever saw one. I’m really surprised you would even consider writing about this.

Bob M
4 days ago

Looking at view 9, he probably should have welded a gusset from where it comes out of the hitch to the top tubing.

Donald N Wright
4 days ago

Oh, these folks are a lot braver than I am.

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