Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021

RV review: Northstar Campers 600SS Pickup Camper for midsize trucks

I’m not sure why the smallest RV configurations get the most results in these reviews, but you seem to love smaller RVs. No worries – so do I. So when I wrote about the Lance 960, I got an inquiry from reader Pat B asking me if I’ve looked at the Northstar Campers brand of camper. Why, no, I haven’t. 

Northstar

Northstar Campers is a small RV company in Cedar Falls, Iowa, that has been building RVs since 1955. The company was founded by Ralph “Tex” Willett and his son, Robert (“Chuck”). Eventually Chuck’s son, Rex, took over the company in the 1980s and changed the name to Northstar, which continues to this day. 

Northstar only makes truck campers, period. But they make truck campers for full-sized trucks and midsized trucks, which is how I came to look at the Northstar 600SS. 

Midsize trucks

The Northstar 600SS is built to be used with the midsize pickups that have come back into favor recently. Part of the way these make sense is that the midsize models have a folding top that squishes down so that there’s less aerodynamic drag on the front of the truck. 

We’ve seen this before in a midsize truck when previewing the Hower Built truck camper and then also checking out the Palomino Backpack. 

For any size truck this makes a tremendous amount of sense. Aerodynamic drag combined with a top-heavy camper can lead to some less than enjoyable camping journeys. By having the top portion of the camper collapse down on the whole rig, you eliminate drag and also weight. 

Insulation

One of the areas that some folks wonder about is insulation on something with a canvas section in the roof. Actually using an air gap between an inner and outer section of the material is a pretty effective insulator. Furthermore, there are zippered “windows” on this. You can zip open the inside layer to see the window and also zip open the screen and even zip open the window. Makes a lot of sense. 

In a space this small, the heater doesn’t really have to work hard to keep things comfortable. Also, the fact that the fresh water holding tank is inside the actual body of the camper means it’s not likely to freeze as long as you’re comfortable. 

Cool features in the Northstar 600SS

While the space isn’t going to be very big in something that fits into the bed of a midsize truck, that doesn’t mean they haven’t used the space well. 

There’s a dinette on the camp side that features a Lagun table. That allows you to move it around on its double-jointed base to accommodate people or passageways or whatever. You can also adjust the height on this to afford yourself more counter space. Or you can set it for dining to the height that’s comfortable for the user. I like these Lagun tables. 

The three-way fridge makes sense

There’s also a three-way refrigerator in here. You can use the propane or 120-volt shore power to chill the fridge, then use the 12-volt to safely keep things chilly on the way to your adventure. You don’t see a lot of three-way fridges any longer, but they really do make sense. 

The memory foam mattress, which effectively sits above the cab, is on a strut lift system. You can raise the bed and find more hidden storage underneath. It’s separated into three longer compartments. There are compartments on either side of the bed, as well. 

When it’s time to take the camper off or put it onto the truck, there are four power jacks, one at each corner of the main section. A wireless remote control allows you to raise each jack individually or just lift the whole thing off the truck easily. I like the backup plan on this remote. It allows you to attach it to the main “brain” unit of this lift mechanism in the event the batteries in the remote have gone on their own holiday. 

The top of the camper is also raised and lowered through a power mechanism. Also, Northstar has fitted the camper with a high-performance vent fan. This is relevant because you can use this vent fan to “suck” in the canvas as you’re lowering the top. That really speeds up the process. 

In summary

Northstar has a good reputation for their products and proudly touts that on their website, of course. 

Naturally I can’t write about a camper for a midsized pickup without thinking about the total cargo carrying capacity of these little trucks. For example, the Tacoma is only rated to carry 1,440 pounds (depending on the model), whereas there are Ranger models designed to carry 1,860 pounds. The Colorado is right between these figures with a maximum of 1,578 pounds.  

Be aware of cargo carrying capacity of midsized trucks

As with any carried or towed RV, it’s wise to be as aware of these numbers as possible so you’re RVing safely. Also, this model does not have a provision for a toilet (not sure where you’d put it). There’s no gray tank, either. So a good camper will remember to bring provisions for both of those functions. 

I’m going to have to look at Northstar’s larger options in the future. But this is a pretty slick option for the right midsize truck. 

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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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Folding top
Compact size
No black/gray tank

SUMMARY

Northstar is a family-owned company that has been building pickup campers since the 1950s. The 600 SS is their offering for mid-sized trucks and offers a lot of features in a small package.

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Roger Spalding
20 days ago

Who is Chuck? Did I miss the antecedent somewhere? Not a big deal, but since he was mentioned…

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
20 days ago
Reply to  Roger Spalding

Oops! Thanks, Roger. “Chuck” was the name Robert went by. It’s been corrected. Have a great day! 🙂 –Diane

Steve
20 days ago

I agree with Tony and Bob on the weight issue. Our 2011 Nissan Frontier might have carried this camper and my wife and me. But we wouldn’t have had any margin of error for minor details like water, food, clothes, porta-potty, camera, fishing gear, inflatable kayak, bicycles, etc.

So the new Ford Ranger has a stated payload capacity, properly equipped, of 1,860#? I’d like to see it here in Colorado climbing Wolf Creek Pass with a 1250# (dry) camper and those additional items, equipped with its only engine option–a gasoline-fueled, turbocharged 4-cylinder! The Northstar designers in Iowa don’t have to climb an 11,000′ pass or 10-mile long, 6% grade to a Continental Divide tunnel every time they go camping like some of us. Here I wouldn’t even consider using this camper on anything less than a short-bed, max-payload F-150 with an Ecoboost 6-cylinder or a Ram 1500 with a turbodiesel. That turbo-6 torque is critical at high altitudes.

Bob p
20 days ago

I’m glad you brought up the weight factors as most mid sized trucks will be at their max capacity with the camper it self without the weight of humans, and supplies. Of course if you had one of those new self driving trucks you could send your truck and camper out by themselves and when it comes back it could tell you how great the trip was. They need to take about 300 lbs out of it before marketing it. I noticed in the pics there was a Nissan pickup carrying one, I have a Nissan and my weight capacity wouldn’t allow me or my wife to go with it, not a good sales pitch, but they may have the attitude most sales persons have, sure it’ll carry this camper.

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