Northwood Manufacturing announces a list of updates to their 2016 Arctic Fox truck camper line including power awnings, an improved convenience center, ambient lighting, and more.
Around June of every year we ask the truck camper manufacturers if they have any updates to announce for the following model year.
Some manufacturers have a ready-to-launch formal list of planned updates and changes. Some manufacturers send us a list of everything they have changed since the last model year update. Others say, “Changes? We don’t need no stinking changes!”
What’s been interesting is how these three categories of model year changes has shifted over the past two years. Where we were getting mostly formal model year updates or “no stinking changes” from 2008 through 2014, 2015 and now 2016 announcements have seen a decisive shift towards the second category; changes made since the last model year update.
These changes are almost entirely small updates to existing floor plans. No big headlines, just refinements. So why are we not seeing more formal model year updates, and more significant changes being announced?
Put bluntly, the RV marketplace has shifted for the better over the past 18-months, gaining even more momentum in 2015. The uptick has been so pronounced that increasing truck camper production, not model year changes, has been the primary focus for the manufacturers.
As a magazine, we are very excited about this shift for two reasons. First, we are delighted to see domestic manufacturers not just back on their feet, not just crawling, not just walking, but finally running again. After a prolonged recession, it’s about time!
Second, we love seeing the manufacturers focused on refinement. New camper announcements are fun and exciting, but what we really like to see are proven truck camper floor plans made better. Refinements can be the difference between a good camping experience, and a great one.
Speaking on making proven truck camper floor plans even better, Northwood Manufacturing has a short list of changes and refinements to announce for 2016. Northwood’s dedicated truck camper line is cranking at peak capacity, so these updates have been made throughout the previous 12-months.
To get the story behind on these changes and their sources, we contacted Doug Karr, Northwood Manufacturing‘s resident truck camper guy.
Above: A 2016 Arctic Fox 990 – click to enlarge
TCM: Are there any Arctic Fox truck camper models being discontinued or new models being announced for 2016?
Above: New front nose graphics for 2016 campers – click to enlarge
TCM: Tell us about your new exterior graphics.
Doug: For the 2016 Arctic Fox model year change, we introduced a domed A-F fox head graphic for the front nose. It pops more visually, and the 3D effect is really striking. We are always striving for ways to enhance every aspect of our products, including the graphics.
Above: The new 2016 Arctic Fox graphics package – click to enlarge
Our Marketing and Graphics Department worked hard to ensure that the bold, new 2016 graphics package would look sharp whether it’s applied to an Arctic Fox 1150 or 811 camper.
The Arctic Fox head has become every bit as iconic as the name itself over the years and, while it has undergone several different revisions, it is always there and always highly recognizable. Several years back we went to the one-eyed, winking fox but, for 2016, we went back to the original, two-eyed version to change it up a bit.
Above: Electric rear awnings are standard for 2016 – click to enlarge
TCM: For 2016, you’re announcing standard rear electric awnings.
Doug: I really like the standard electric awning. It’s a snap for anyone to operate. With our standard electric awning, you just push a switch and the awning goes out. Push it again and it comes back in. It couldn’t be easier to use.
We also have adjustable pitch hardware that’s now standard for the awnings. If you put an awning straight out during a rain storm, and the rain is coming in at an angle, you might get wet. But, with the adjustable pitch hardware, you can angle the awning to the left or right so that you get better water run off. It’s also good for getting the sun out of your eyes.
Normally, you’d think you’d have to adjust an awning before it rolls back in. But, with this adjustable electric awning, you can adjust it to any setting and it will readjust itself and come back without binding. It’s a feature we are really excited about. Research tells us it’s what the end customer wants on their Arctic Fox camper.
Above: The convenience center features a battery disconnect and the activation switch for electric jacks – click to enlarge
TCM: The convenience center has a couple of new features. Could you explain how the convenience center has been changed?
Doug: We are known for listening closely to dealer and customer input; if we can make it better, we will and as soon as possible. For example, we received feedback that the battery disconnect under the sink was hard to reach when the slide-out was in. So we made the decision to move it into the convenience center. Now when you winterize, it’s easier to access the battery disconnect.
Did I tell you about the guy who called me at twenty after 9:00pm? He told me that he was camping and had no power. I asked him if he had the battery disconnect pulled. He forgot because it was under the sink. We had a few laughs, he activated his battery, and was fine.
Above: The convenience center features an LED light – click to enlarge
We also put an LED light in the convenience center. If you pulled into an RV park or your camping destination for the night and you needed to dump your tanks, in low-light situations it could sometimes be difficult to see the black-colored dump valves inside the convenience center. Now, with the LED light inside the convenience center, you can see the dump valves.
The activation switch for the jacks is also in the convenience center. If you get to a campground at night and you need to level your rig or put your jacks down, you can see the activation switch with the new LED light. It’s a lot more convenient because you can see everything. Our eyes don’t get better as we age, so I’m all for the extra light.
Above: The easy-open assist handle is an option in 2016 campers – click to enlarge
TCM: Speaking of making things more convenient, talk to us about the new easy-open assist handle option for 2016.
Doug: We just started offering that option, and I really like it. I’m 6’2”, but my wife is 4’10”. When a camper is loaded on a truck, the entry door is pretty high up. Getting to the door handle can be a challenge for my wife and grandkids. It gets cumbersome if they have anything in their hands, like groceries.
The new EZ Open Handle option basically extends the basic flap entry-door handle to the bottom of your entry door, so it’s easier to reach when your camper is mounted on your tow vehicle. You just set it to the easy-open position, pull the handle to open the door, and you walk up the stairs and into the camper. The convenience is fantastic.
Above: The easy-open assist handle clips right to the door handle
I regularly travel in an Arctic Fox truck camper to visit dealers and stay the night in campgrounds. I haven’t had one person who said they wouldn’t want the new EZ Open Handle. I’ve even had a couple people who own fifth wheels ask for it.
With the EZ Open Handle installed, you can grab the door in any position. You can also grab the door handle and the door will open. It’s very well made.
Above: The friction hinge on the entry door
TCM: Arctic Fox has gone to a friction hinge on the entry door. Why did Northwood make that change for Arctic Fox?
Doug: The friction hinge is an Absolute Northwood feature, meaning we use it on all Northwood products. How many times have you opened the door and there were thirty mile per hour winds and the door slams into the camper?
Above: Close-up of the friction hinge on the entry door
With the new friction hinge, the entry door hinges have tension in them, greatly reducing that free swinging quality that can cause issues in high winds. It will still open and close by hand, but is designed to only open or close to the position you set it to rather than free swing. There is no latching, which is more convenient.
Above: Interior colors for 2016 are Early Autumn, Flagstone Mosaic, and Shimmering Sands – click to enlarge
TCM: We certainly have experienced truck camper doors swinging open from strong winds. Did you change your interior fabrics for 2016?
Doug: Yes, we did. The interior colors for 2016 are Flagstone Mosaic, Shimmering Sands, and Early Autumn.
Above: The roller bearing guides on the bathroom door are now two 50-pound door guides
TCM: Northwood is updating the bathroom door bearing guides in Arctic Fox truck campers for 2016. Why is Northwood making this change?
Doug: Again, this goes back to dealer input and us reacting to it. One of our camper dealers reported to us that some of their customers were forgetting to snap the sliding bathroom door travel straps and then would experience trouble with their bathroom doors during travel.
Above: Roller bearing guides are on the top and bottom of the door – click to enlarge
Before this year, the bathroom doors had the industry standard top slider track and a door guide at the bottom. If a customer didn’t remember to latch the door properly, it could possibly slide back and forth as they drove. We all forget things now and then.
Our dealer suggested installing two 50-pound door guides on what is essentially an eight-pound door. The 50-pound door guides are mounted both top and bottom, and are significantly stronger than the old guide system. It’s over built to say the least, but you’re much less likely to have a problem with your bathroom door, even if you forget to latch it.
Above: A drawer has been added under the wet bath of the 990
TCM: We enjoyed finding the drawer under the bathroom door during our demo in Colorado last Fall. Is that also part of the 2016 update?
Doug: Yes, that improvement came directly from our camper plant Production Manager, Lonnie Savage. Everyone here at Northwood genuinely cares about our products and constantly strives to improve them. Lonnie is constantly going over our camper floor plans to improve them and, in this case, found extra storage spots.
Above: Slide out the drawer and access the area underneath the bathroom – click to enlarge
There used to be an access door for plumbing there, so there was a good size area for a drawer. Now you can slide out the drawer and the access area is wide open.
Above: A new spice rack has been added to the kitchen
TCM: Did Lonnie also find the new spice rack area in the kitchen?
Doug: That was Lonnie again! Just a wall was there before. Lonnie suggested we could use that area as a spice rack. I really like it because I used to have a shoe box for my spices. Now, I keep them in the lower spice rack and take the ones I need out when I barbecue. There’s no more digging through the shoe box.
Above: There’s also a spice rack next to the refrigerator
In the 2016 Arctic Fox 990 spice rack, I can probably put twenty-five spices in that area. There’s also a spice rack next to refrigerator. That’s also a nice added storage area, and another one of Lonnie’s ideas.
Above: The Kenwood audio system is now standard
TCM: Northwood Manufacturing is installing a Kenwood audio system standard on all Arctic Fox truck campers for 2016. What’s the story behind that?
Doug: The new stereo is still a tried-and-true automotive-style Kenwood stereo but, we upgraded it to a Bluetooth capable, double-din version with an MP3 port. When I say double-din it refers to the overall height of the stereo. A conventional automotive CD player is a single-din so this new one is twice as tall. This of course increases the readout screen size and helps with its visibility, which is great for older eyes like mine!
We also offer an option for a DVD player with touchscreen. By the way, Bluetooth capability is another Absolute Northwood feature. We know that our customers want mobile device connectivity so every Northwood stereo system is Bluetooth capable.
Above: USB outlets have also been added to the cabover
There are also two USB outlets in the cabover. Before I was putting my phone in the truck to charge and missing phone calls. Now I can charge the phone and watch the 12-volt television at same time. Plus, with the USB, I just carry the USB cord, not the charger, too. That’s one less thing to bring along.
Most people have cell phones, tablets, and MP3 players, so USB and 12-volt charging is the way to go. I appreciate it when I’m out on the road as much as I am. It’s more convenient, and less hassle.
TCM: Moving to the cabover, the first thing that caught our eye was the ambient strip lighting behind the bed.
Doug: When we changed the Arctic Fox nose profile in 2013, that gave us more depth, and top and bottom room in the cabover. Before we had a shelf across the top, big enough for some books.
Above: The overcab of the 2016 Arctic Fox 990
We knew we wanted to keep the shelf, but wanted to add even more feature benefit. With the inset we were able to pick up even more storage in that area. You can put your reading glasses, books, or even extra pillows and blankets in there.
Above: LED strip lighting has been added behind the bed – click to enlarge
TCM: Are those LED lights?
Doug: Yes, it’s an LED rope light designed into the shelf. I love the LED ambient lighting that was added. When I’m laying in the cabover and I can’t see the remote, and I don’t want to turn on the reading light, I use the ambient LED lights. They are just enough light to read a book and it’s a nice warm look for the cabover.
Above: The two cup holders and a catch-all tray by the door
TCM: Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Doug: There are now two cup holders and a catch-all tray by the entry door for your drinks or to drop your keys.
Above: A lower profile air conditioner forced air kit
We now have a lower profile air conditioner forced air kit on the interior that increases the head clearance, which is always a plus.
Above: The removable, black-out cover over the Fantastic Fan opening
We have also put in a removable, black-out cover over the Fantastic Fan opening. In really cold weather that helps with condensation but, more importantly, it keeps the sun from shining in your face in the morning. The cover keeps it dark in the cabover bedroom.
I also wanted to say that I attended the Northwood Owner’s Rally in mid-June. The Northwood Owners Group is great because they have a forum where people can ask questions and get advice.
Torklift was also at the rally. They brought two half-ton trucks, one with the Stable Load system, and one without so folks could compare the performance. They put blocks in the truck bed to add several hundred pounds of weight to show how the truck handled differently under load. People were very impressed.
There were more truck campers than ever at the rally, and more newbies than ever. We had people raise their hands and we asked who was there for the first time. I met people from Florida, Texas, and way up into Canada. This was the thirteenth year of the rally, and it went really well.
For more information about Arctic Fox truck campers, visit Northwood Manufacturing’s website at www.northwoodmfg.com.