My Shelter

Back Porch2014 pop-up Four Wheel Camper “Hawk” shell model

I researched trailers and campers for years and decided I wanted something I could take on any road without having to deal with more wheels hitched behind my truck, especially when backing up.  I ordered this model when I visited the factory near Sacramento in June 2014, and paid $12,000 for it.  I took delivery on Sept. 15, 2014.   The delivered dry-weight was 1,100 lbs.  I ordered the more basic “shell” model because I wanted to customize it with a few DIY ideas, and save a lot of money and weight, and put my “signature” on it.  I did order some factory essentials, the most prominent being a stove and furnace and dual auxiliary marine batteries.

As far as I know, it’s the lightest and lowest-profile camper on the market, which gives it a low center of gravity, which is a big advantage on winding, cliff-top roads, and in strong wind.  I can fit it in my garage with the roof rack removed, so I keep the camper on my truck all the time now, ready to hit the road with little preparation.  The light weight gives me decent gas mileage, too, and saves on tire wear (which Toyota Service often comments on).  The fit-and-finish is excellent, and it’s dust-proof as well as waterproof, as many dusty roads have proven.

It’s small, with long-term camping space realistically only for two people (although it now sleeps three), and storage is tight (I hang my extra shirts and jackets in the extended cab of my truck), but I’m happy with my choice.  It’s quick and easy to set up camp and I can break camp and be on the road in 15 minutes; I can camp anywhere with it, hauling it in my 4×4 pickup truck, and the low profile helps me follow trails under low-hanging trees, and clears my garage door.  It’s kept me warm in zero-degree weather all night, kept me dry in downpours, and kept me cool in summer with the strategically placed, screened windows and roof vents.  I recommend it and will gladly answer any questions from an avid user’s standpoint.

Standard factory features & equipment:

  • Extended Cabover Queen Bed
  • Finished Wood Interior
  • Vinyl Floor
  • Deluxe Fabric Cushions for Cabover Bed Mattress
  • Screen Door
  • Pre-wired for Solar with Panel Plug on Roof
  • Full-size Louvered Passenger-Side Window w/Safety Exit
  • Roof Vent
  • Insulated Side Walls & Roof
  • Aluminum Exterior Sides & One Piece Roof

Factory-supplied options:

  • two 10-lb. propane tanks with exterior door to compartment
  • rear awning with soft-shell storage case (rarely used due to cumbersome setup)
  • dual-burner propane stove and fire extinguisher
  • propane furnace with digital thermostat and exterior vent
  • dual auxiliary, deep-cycle, 12-volt, AGM batteries
  • two 12-volt receptacles (for fridge and shower pump or inverter)
  • powered roof vent fan
  • extra roof vent over queen bed
  • Yakima roof rack (crossbars never used due to weight and height)
  • rear wall steps/hand-holds
  • thermal wall liner package (dampens sound, too)
  • front opening window
  • full-size louvered driver-side window w/safety exit
  • two fluorescent lights for kitchen and beds
  • front and rear pairs of “lift-assist” pressurized struts for raising roof (installed 8/24/15)

Owner-installed, after-market options:

  • swivel dining table (26″ x 18″)
  • 4-inch memory-foam mattress for queen bed above
  • convertible single bed below, with memory-foam and ThermaRest mattresses
  • wall-to-wall plush carpeting with 1/2-inch padding (installed March 2016, replacing bath rugs)
  • contoured dining seat cushions
  • spice rack, towel rack, paper towel holder, dish & utensil storage
  • porta-potty (Reliance fold-up model replacing factory-supplied Thetford cassette)
  • outdoor hot shower with 12-volt pump
  • attached, owner-designed, side awning (roll-out 10′ wide x 8′ deep, self-suspending, installed April-May 2016)
  • attached factory rear awning for convenience (roll-out 5′ wide x 6′ deep, installed April 2016)
  • indoor-outdoor digital thermometer
  • LED instead of fluorescent lamps (big power saver!)
  • Engel dual-voltage (12v/110v) 40-quart fridge/freezer
  • gravity-powered running water supply with 7 gals. potable water
  • built-in sink with drain on extended kitchen countertop
  • interior portable 2.5-gal. gray-water holding tank under sink
  • slide-out garbage can under countertop
  • slide-out pantry under countertop
  • 110-volt shore power with Iota 30-amp smart-charger for camper batteries
  • 150-watt power inverter to charge laptop and toothbrush
  • personal fan with rechargeable lithium battery & USB power supply
  • removable bug screen and bamboo Roman blind for front window
  • privacy curtains for side and rear windows
  • exterior locking storage for outdoor furniture (hammock frame, folding table & chair, shovel)
  • home theater (Sony CD/Radio/Amp, Bose & JBL speakers, MacBook Air & Samsung DVD player)
  • iTunes, Audible Books on iPad
  • SiriusXM satellite radio with remote control
  • FM/AM/Weather Band radio (crank/solar/USB powered)
  • Toyota back-up camera installed on rear of camper
  • Zamp 150-watt solar panel flat on roof (installed 9/25/15) (roof tilts 15 degrees)
  • Grape Solar 160-watt solar panel with pop-up tilt range of 45-55 degrees (installed 11/21/16)
  • Renogy 100-watt solar panel with pop-up tilt to 35 degrees (installed Nov. 2017)
  • Zamp ZS-30A solar charge controller (installed Nov. 2017)
  • Upgraded “lift-assist” gas struts from 40 lbs. to 60 lbs. of pressure to compensate for added weight of solar panels (installed 11/22/16 and 11/29/17)


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In October 2014 in Yellowstone NP, I tested out my home theater: “Casino Royale.”  The next day a ranger told me that, due to bread being left on a nearby picnic table (not mine) the previous night, a bear had destroyed a tent in the adjacent camping sector and raised a ruckus.  I never heard a thing.  The movie, even a second viewing, was sufficiently distracting.  (Thanks, Eva!)

A.R.E. Downsize

In December 2021 I sold that camper for $10,000 and ordered an ARE DCU aluminum shell, taking delivery in March 2022. Since then I’ve customized it as a 3-season camper. I installed insulation and wood paneling, curtains, a 2-burner portable stove with 10-lb. propane tank nestled just in front of the camper above the cab, a portable heater, a sink and 5-gal. gray-water tank, and beds to sleep two, and a port-a-potty. It’s a quarter of the weight of the previous camper and my gas mileage is boosted by 15-20%, and the truck feels so much nimbler. The stove heats up the camper nicely for morning coffee. I love the change.

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