Let’s check out the 2012 Lance 825. Smart design? Check. No slide-outs? Check. Good looks? Check. Storage? Well, yes and no…
Text and photos by Jeff Johnston, Pictures & Words Productions
Fade in: A lone figure, not exactly slender, stands in the deserted street of a dusty western town. Cut to a closeup on his face, and he says, “This camper ain’t big enough for both me AND my camera…”
Okay, in fact there is more than enough space inside the 2012 Lance 825 truck camper for both me and my camera, but my size combined with the lack of any slide-out-enhanced space created some interesting bodily convolutions while trying to shoot those broad interior scenes and simultaneously staying out of the camera’s view. Such convolutions are not part of normal camper use!
The 2012 Lance 825, at 1,730 pounds dry weight, is the smallest slide-in camper model in the Lance catalog. Lance describes the 825 as being, “light enough to fit on a Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan, or F-150/1500 Series short six-foot bed.”
That’s a tall order, considering the modest gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of some 1/2-ton-sized trucks, and the potential and tendency of people to load down their rigs with masses of cargo when prepping for a camper outing. However, if any Lance model has a fighting chance at making a non-overloaded match up with a half ton, it’s the 825. Just be sure to use our, “Matching a Truck and Camper” system when designing your lash-up.
Above: Holy retro, Batman! It’s a normal-sized camper that fits a normal-size truck! And a good looking one, at that.
In addition to its relatively compact size, the Lance 825 also carries a modest $16,337 base MSRP. That’s a pretty decent starting point compared to the stickers that we’re accustomed to seeing on today’s lavishly-equipped campers. Even in its nicely-equipped state, the 2012 Lance 825 we viewed topped out at $21,629 MSRP, still a bargain in today’s world of $30 and $40K-plus truck campers.
Although it is a lightweight, relatively speaking, the 825 is still built to the usual Lance quality standards. It’s framed entirely with aluminum, employs polystyrene foam insulation throughout, and features laminated construction. Lance uses a variety of weight-saving but sturdy construction methods for its cabinets, countertops, and the like to pull all the weight out they can without compromising strength or durability. The roof is one-piece TPO rubber and the exterior is laminated smooth fiberglass making the camper as sleek and contemporary as any on the market.
We spent a bit of time in our example 2012 Lance 825 model at Guaranty RV Center in Junction City, Oregon. It’s not hard to spot the 825 sitting on the dealer’s lot. It almost looks downsized compared to its bulked-up multi-slide-out brethren. In general appearance, the 825 is a return to the earlier pre-slide-out days of truck camping. It measures a trim 16-feet 6-inches long with an 8-foot 6-inch floor length, a feature of its design for short bed trucks, and about 7-feet 6-inches tall off the truck.
Campers with slide-outs tend to have raised floor levels, sometimes as high as the truck bed rails, to accommodate the slide-out design requirements. Combined with full-clearance interior ceiling heights, some campers present incredibly tall profiles that seem to overwhelm their pickup partners. Not so with the 825! It seems it would fit its pickup hauler in a well-balanced way that would be less intimidating to some less-adventurous drivers, yet it still offers a full 6-foot 6-inch interior headroom.
The camper’s curbside exterior is smooth and adorned with nothing but a pair of external speakers. Optional wireless-remote jacks make the mounting and dismounting job easier.
Above left: A propane-line quick-disconnect fitting is tucked into the upper corner of the propane cylinder compartment. Middle: There are a few semi-fragile plumbing lines in exposed spots the user should be careful about, but the two exterior storage compartments can handle a decent quantity of hoses, level blocks and other hardware that you’d rather not have inside. Right: The driver’s side compartments closed up for travel.
The street side is where all the interesting stuff is positioned, including the single 20-pound propane tank, water heater panel, 30 gallon fresh water fill, and external shower. Interestingly, there’s also a pair of generous-sized storage compartments in the rear corner, which represents more outside storage space than we’ve seen in some larger campers. Very impressive.
An optional roof access ladder and optional rear-wall awning adorn the rig’s aft end. That awning is a must-have for us because it’s entirely worth the cost. We really appreciate being able to climb into the camper without the rain chasing us inside. Entry is via a fold-down step assembly that may also call for an extra ground-level step or block if the camper is on a taller model pickup.
Above: Exterior plumbing compartment with dump valves
In the lower-right corner there’s a small door accessing the tight and somewhat cluttered compartment with grey and black water dump valves, a winterizing hose, low-point fresh-tank drain hoses, plus tank level sensor wires running all over the place. An owner would want to rearrange the clutter to provide clear access to the dump valves and avoid having to work through the obstructions with each dump station visit.
Above: Interior of the Lance 825 with the Rain Forest theme
The floor plan and interior details are much as we’d expect in a camper from years back, with a few exceptions. We liked its Rain Forest décor scheme just fine because it’s attractive but not gaudy. The aft curbside corner houses a wet bath and toilet adjacent to the extra-large U-shaped dinette/bed. The galley and storage are street-side, and up front is a fore-and-aft queen-sized bed. It’s a simple setup, but it does what a camper is supposed to do.
Above: There’s about two feet nine inches of headroom above the bed, which is enough for most average maneuvering therein.
We like the fore-and-aft (north-south) bed arrangement because one sleeper doesn’t need to crawl over the other for entry or exit from bed. A pair of swivel bullet lights up front are well-positioned for reading and a narrow step-up platform helps with the climb into bed, but users with agility impairment may still find the climb to bed a bit challenging.
One of the first things we look for in a new RV is storage space. In that respect, the 825 excels in most areas and falls short in another. We already mentioned the dual exterior compartments, impressive enough by themselves. Inside, for example, the bed is flanked by a curbside bed-level carpeted floor space the length of the bed, and that’s topped by a wire rack shelf. We can imagine a pile of duffel bags and such stored in that area.
Above: The bunk over the dinette is a storage compartment when folded up, and deployed, it becomes a bunk or an even larger storage space.
Directly above the dinette there‘s an optional overhead cabinet that folds down into a bunk space for a lightweight occupant, which is by way of saying, not me! In cabinet mode, it’s a good storage spot. With the cabinet face folded down in bunk mode, even bulkier items can be stashed up there and out of the way while using the living space. I’m always looking for out-of-the-way spots to place camera and video bags after hours, and the bunk would be it for us.
Aft of the galley there’s a wardrobe closet tall enough to accommodate hanging shirts along with shoes and whatnot down below. We aren’t often formal when truck camping but it’s nice to have shirt-hanging space now and then. Opposite, in the wet bath, there’s also a closet rod that means taller items, or things like wet coats you’d rather not have front-and-center in the living space, can be hung in a moisture-friendly area for drying. All told, these represent commendable storage areas for a smaller camper.
Above: The only drawback with the 3-cubic-foot refrigerator is its door is hinged on the wrong side for grabbing a beverage from the bed platform. Ahh, the efforts we’re put through in our quest for comfort.
Next, we took a look around the galley and envisioned where all of our cooking hardware would go. There’s an overhead cabinet top left, a pair of small drawers under the counter on the left, and that’s it. The below-stovetop door accesses the water heater plumbing. We try and keep our cooking complications to a minimum, but even at that, we’d be hard-pressed to round up enough places to store our cooking cargo – a modest pot and pan variety, utensils, dry goods, bulk supplies and such.
The shirt wardrobe could hide some canned goods, for example, and the overhead bunk spot could likewise house a Rubbermaid container or two of materials as needed, and that’s what we’d need to do with this camper. Such extra storage needs would aim this camper more towards two people as opposed to a family that needs to use the bunk for sleeping space.
The balance of the kitchen is terrific. The single-bowl sink and two-burner stove are sized for what we would need and there’s even clear working space on the counter top. The microwave oven and refrigerator are in the right places, but the under-cabinet work light is stage left and it might make sense to center it a bit.
Speaking of lights, the first thing we would do with this camper would be to replace all of the incandescent bulbs throughout with LED lights. We’re completely sold on the known battery-saving low-power-drain aspects of LED lighting, especially for an RV that’s used for dry camping. Realistically for this model, LED lights are still a bit costly, which places them out of the original equipment range for a price-sensitive rig, but they’d still be a welcome factory addition.
Dining for two is comfort incarnate. The fore-and-aft spots at the dinette table are sized right for fully-proportioned adults. If more guests are accommodated, the smaller ones should be on the outside wall seating spots because table-to-cushion space is limited. Plan on some serious footsie action when all those legs are angled together under the table.
In addition to its handy closet rod, the wet bath does what it is supposed to do. There’s toilet maneuvering room and a functional shower therein. The 30 gallon fresh tank and 11 gallon grey tank capacities mean shower users would need to be seriously conservative with water under a dry-camp scenario.
The bathroom door is an interesting sort of sliding/folding single panel that moves from “open” against the back wall to “closed” over the doorway by way of sliding hardware tracks. The sliding door was sticky and took some fiddling to get it to move, so it could use some tweaking to make it operate more smoothly. It’s a smart design that operates without swinging and intruding in either the hall space or the bath area.
Above: The bathroom door closes with a clever slide-fold kind of action that saves space.
Self-containment features and fluid capacities are par for a rig of this size. 30 gallons of freshwater, 11 gallons of grey, and 14 gallons of black water will do for a conservation-minded pair of campers, but they’ll need to closely monitor water use. Optional dual-pane windows, insulated bed pad, insulated hatch covers, and insulated battery and LP compartments add to the camper’s functionality in bad weather.
The simple forced-air furnace is centrally mounted on the cabinet below the kitchen counter so while fixing breakfast on cold mornings, with the furnace running, your Grape Nuts may be warmer than you’d prefer. There’s a spot for a single group-24 battery under the aft dinette seat. It would take some modifications to fit a larger battery or more than one battery in place, so a solar panel charging system might be in order for avid boondockers.
After discovering the legendary affordable non-slide Lance, the lone figure admires his portly shadow, as it grows longer, and admirably thinner, with the setting western sun. The camera slowly pans, following him across the arid landscape, then cuts to a closeup; “Don’t worry” the dark stranger grunts, “I’ve been in tighter spots than this.”
Cue music. Fade to black. End titles.
There’s still a part of our RVing contingent that doesn’t care for, or need, the extra cost, weight, and complication that can result from having a slide-out room in a truck camper. Given our complicated lives, there’s a lot to be said for simplicity.
The Lance 825 is a camper that can be used on many of the medium-sized trucks people already own – no need to invest in a heavy hauler with this rig. The 825 can provide comfortable accommodations for two when they’re accustomed to living within the means provided by a smaller rig. The 825 provides that kind of living, of course, in true Lance style, and the Lance quality reputation helps make this an interesting and attractive option in the modest-size camper arena.