After many years messing about with both truck campers and travel trailers as the basis for an expedition rig (some may recognize my alias from the old ExpeditionCampers.com), I have come full circle back to another pick-up truck. I settled for a 2011 F-150 3.7L V6 (non-ecoboost) SB Ext. Cab. Even though I would loooooove to have a Tacoma again, the price of the Ford was just too good to pass up (even if the Taco has more "trail cred") and the MPG figures looked about the same or slightly better even though it is a full-size.
Now I find myself facing the age old dilemma of what kind of camper to put on it. I loved the simplicity and functionality of the FWC but hated the drop in fuel economy because of the "air-dam" effect from the cab-over and front wall. Even though I've never run a hard sided TC, it seemed to me that the difference in drag between a collapsed pop-up and a hard sided camper of approximately the same weight is almost negligible.
First, let me define my requirements. I would call this a "soft" expedition rig because, even though we are interested in international and off-the-beaten-path travel, we do not plan to tackle any extreme terrain with this truck. In fact, we tend to do most of our camping in organized campgrounds with facilities and establish a "base camp" to explore the area by bike, boat, motorcycle, on foot or even public transportation (since we frequently camp near cities and towns where we can experience interesting sights and cultural exchanges). For this reason, the camper functions more like a mobile motel room and our requirements are relatively simple:
1) A comfortable double bed that is usable even when collapsed
2) Reasonable ventilation and/or provision for A/C (since we do live in the South)
3) Space for a porta-potti with some privacy (a curtain will do) for use at night and for emergencies
4) Space for at least on person to stand up and change clothes at a time
5) Sitting area for at least one person with a small work area (to read or use the computer without having to lay down)
6) Storage for clothes, linens, and provision for up to a month (supplemented by outside boxes and/or trailer)
7) Demountable within 20~30 mins and usable off the truck on stands
Notice that I do not include a kitchen or shower. Like I said, we spend most of the day away from the camper so we don't cook in it very often and, when we do, I don't like to stink up the place. Also, I would rather use the camp's bathhouse, if one is available, or shower outside rather than attempt the contortions necessary to shower inside a small camper's bathroom stall.
My mind has been working overtime thinking what kind of jury-rigged, origami-like collapsible contraption would meet my needs and still give reasonable MPGs. (I know, I know... A nice tent would probably fit the bill but what's the fun in that!) Requirements (4) and (7) disqualify camper shells unless heavily modified. The Flippac seems like a cool concept but it is not easy to take on and off and the wife has already vetoed it due to lack of interior amenities and storage. Also, the Flippac still does protrude a bit from behind the cab and I am not sure how much this still affects gas mileage. A "caboverless" slide-in like the new FWC Cajita or Alaskan Mini looks like an even better option for me since it is easier to remove and has decent amenities but, again, these still have the back wall drag and I don't know if the gains in economy will be sufficient to offset the inconvenience of not having a cabover.
Does anyone have any experience with the relative fuel-efficiency of regular pop-ups versus caboverless designs? Are there other lightweight aerodynamic options out there that could fit my basic needs? Are there examples of custom builds with better aerodynamics? A custom design like the old Toyota-based Chinooks or the Thaler design for the Jeep seems a lot more aerodynamic since the edges are faired out but it may not be possible to design something like that and still make it demountable. Any opinions, ideas, thoughts, rants would be highly appreciated. I know I am probably asking for the impossible but, as I've learned over the years, collective brainstorming in forums like this is half the fun of these projects.
Thanks in advance...