With all-new larger clamshell fiberglass molds, a larger bathroom, and a laundry list of updates and improvements stem to stern, we debut the 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX.
In the 1991 comedy film City Slickers, black hat cowboy Curly, played by Jack Palance, says to neurotic New Yorker, Mitch, played by Billie Crystal, “Do you know what the secret to life is?” Curly then puts up a solitary finger, looks Mitch in the eye, and answers his own question, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and the rest don’t mean…”
Perhaps twenty-five years ago, in a British Columbia movie theater, the founders of Northern Lite smiled. Where other truck camper manufacturers often change their floor plans year to year, or follow the latest trends, Northern Lite has stayed tightly focused on one thing; high-end, non-slide, molded fiberglass truck campers. Thank you, Curly.
For many non-slide, wet bath truck camper enthusiasts, the Northern Lite 10-2 CD Special Edition has long been an aspirational product. In fact, we have yet to talk to a single Northern Lite owner who isn’t in love with their camper. They are, in essence, happy with what they have. Oh how Northern Lite is about to mess with their zen.
Out of Northern Lite’s brand new factory in Kelowna, British Columbia, a brand new Northern Lite 10-2 has just emerged. This new 10-2, designated as an EX model, is eleven full inches longer, features a redesigned wet bath, and a number of impressive upgrades, improvements, and refinements sure to have every current 10-2 owner reexamining their happy place.
To get the low down on Northern Lite’s new 10-2 EX models, we talked to Keith Donkin, General Manager for Northern Lite.
Above: The 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX floor plan – click to enlarge
2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX CD Special Edition Specifications:
The 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX CD Special Edition is a hard-side, non-slide, wet bath truck camper that is made for long bed trucks. The interior floor length of the 10-2 EX is 131″ and the interior height is 6’8″. Northern Lite is reporting the dry weight of the 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX CD Special Edition at 3,295 pounds with standard features. The tanks in the 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX CD Special Edition are 36 gallons fresh, 40 gallons gray, and 18 gallons black. The camper accommodates two batteries and two twenty-pound propane tanks. The MSRP for the 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX CD Special Edition is $43,210 US.
Above: The Northern Lite 10-2 EX on a 2015 Chevy 3500
TCM: Before we talk about the new 10-2 EX, update us Northern Lite’s current production status. Has production fully ramped back up?
Keith: Our production is now 30% higher than it was before the fire. The increased production is the result of additional manpower, and the higher efficiency of our new factory. We are continuing to increase our manpower and efficiencies in the new building.
We are still in catch up mode to fill all of the pre-fire orders, and orders placed after the fire. 2015 sales have also been strong. We will have a significant back log of Northern Lite orders for a good portion of 2015 as we catch up.
TCM: Which models have shipped so far?
Keith: All three models of Special Editions, the 8-11 and 9-6 Sportsmans, and the 8-5Q Lite have all been shipped from the new factory.
Above: The 10-2 EX dinette, kitchen, and overcab in Mystic Beige
TCM: In previous interviews, you mentioned that the 10-2 EX models were going to be longer and wider than the previous 10-2. How much longer and wider are the new 10-2 EX models?
Keith: The 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX features an additional 11-inches of interior floor length for all three 10-2 EX floor plans. The width is the same at the maximum 98-inches, but we re-shaped the mold to give more interior width in the dinette bench seat.
Above: The Northern Lite 10-2 EX mold was reshaped to give more interior width in the dinette
We had a lot of feedback from customers and dealers who wanted the 10-2 to be a little larger. The 10-2 EX is now the largest camper Northern Lite has ever built at 11’2”. So far, it’s gone over very well.
TCM: In 2011, Northern Lite debuted a new set of 10-2 molds adding three inches to the overall interior height of the camper. Are the new molds the same height as the 2011 molds?
Keith: Yes, we stayed with the same height. The interior height of the 10-2 EX is 6’8”.
Above: The 10-2 EX’s side wings have been lowered by two inches for a tighter fit to Ford, GM, and Ram trucks; 2015 Chevy 3500 pictured above
TCM: You have previously reported that the new 10-2 EX molds would fit trucks better than their predecessors. Can you give us any specifics?
Keith: We lowered the side wings on the 10-2 EX by two inches. That change brought the wings closer to the truck box rails, created two inches of increased headroom in the dinette, and increased cabinetry storage in the kitchen.
With the previous molds, we had feedback from Northern Lite customers and dealers that the height of the sides was too high above the truck rails. When we were designing the new 10-2 EX and 9-6 molds, we lowered the gap by two inches. As a result, the new campers sit a little tighter to the truck.
We left ourselves a little wiggle room in case Ford, GM, or Ram decides to change their trucks in the future. For example, GM raised their box rails about an inch for 2015. We never know what the truck manufacturers are going to do. I can’t see them making the box rails much higher than where they are now.
TCM: Did the new and larger molds necessitate changes to the Happijac jack brackets?
Keith: Yes, the new molds required adjustments to our jack brackets. We wrap our jack brackets underneath the camper so the bracket lifts the camper. This avoids putting all of the stress on the jack wall. Our brackets don’t get loose over time, and there’s a lot less stress on the jack brackets themselves. I’m surprised more manufacturers haven’t followed this approach.
Above: There is now a reinforced roof in the air conditioner area, also shown above is the standard 95-watt solar panel
TCM: Are the new Northern Lite 10-2 EX fiberglass shells structurally stronger compared to the 10-2 fiberglass shells they replace?
Keith: Structurally, the new 10-2 EX fiberglass shells are equally strong as our previous shells. The only real structural change with the 10-2 EX shells is the reinforced roof where we install the air conditioners. The new roofs are stronger in the air conditioner area, and no longer need an additional support to accommodate an air conditioner.
The fiberglass, resin, and gel coat are all the same as before. We had new and state-of-the-art low-emission gel coat and fiberglass chop guns, materials, and techniques before the fire. The only real change is the improved lighting in our glass shop. It’s much brighter than our previous glass shop. This makes the job of gauging gel coat and fiberglass thickness easier.
Above: The sink has been moved to the corner in the 10-2 EX’s redesigned wet bath
TCM: Tell us about the new bathroom in the 10-2 EX. What has changed?
Keith: The wet bath in the 10-2 was already one of the largest in the truck camper industry. For the 10-2 EX, we didn’t change the size of the wet bath, but we did move the sink to the corner. When you’re in the new 10-2 EX bathroom, it feels larger because there’s more space where the sink used to be.
Above: A pull-out pantry was added on the driver’s side, fabric above is Mystic Beige
One of the benefits of leaving the wet bath the same dimensions is the addition of the new pull-out pantry on the driver’s side. We were also able to add three inches to the dinette bed. The dinette bed is now 6’3” in length. The dinette table is the same size, but we added to the seat depths. Where the seat depths were not equally deep before, now they are.
Above: More storage has been added to the passenger’s side next to the refrigerator – two drawers and an additional cupboard
Above: The two extra drawers open with metal roller bearing guides
On the passenger’s side, we added an additional cupboard and drawers beside the refrigerator, and have an additional storage area for taller items in the kitchen area.
Above: The kitchen is on the passenger’s side of the Northern Lite 10-2 EX, a new glass top stove cover is now featured in all models
Above: A close-up of the new glass top stove cover
TCM: Have there been any changes to the standard features for the Northern Lite 10-2 EX?
Keith: We have glass stove top cover on all 2016 Northern Lite models. In the 10-2 EX, we now have a basement sliding tray. Unfortunately, the new tray doesn’t fit older 10-2 models. We have already had requests for the tray, but it’s too long for the older Northern Lites.
Above: Special Editions now have the rear patio as standard
Above: The pull out tray is in the compartment under the entry door
The patio is now standard on all Special Edition models. All of our campers now have Atwood high output furnaces. We went out on a winter test of the furnace and were very happy with the results. The new furnace design takes up more ducting space behind the cabinets, which took some reworking on all of the models.
Above: Two double-dome LED lights have been added to the rear hallway of the Northern Lite 10-2 EX (top right of above photo)
We’ve been very happy with the Kaper 2 LED lights, so the LED lighting has stayed the same for 2016. We have added two additional double-dome LED lights in the 10-2 EX in the back area.
We are also happy with the quality of the 95 watt solar panel we are using. The regulator is 30 amps, which is good for people wanting to add additional panels.
TCM: In 2014, Northern Lite increased the fresh water tank in the 10-2 from 24 gallons to 36 gallons – a 50% increase. Does the Northern Lite 10-2 EX also have a 36 gallon fresh tank?
Keith: Yes, the 10-2 has a 36 gallon fresh water tank, plus it has 6 gallons of water heater capacity.
Above: The generator storage compartment is now larger with the capacity for a five gallon gas can and Honda generator, or two Honda generators, or a built-in Onan generator
TCM: Were there any other holding tank or capacity changes for the Northern Lite 10-2 EX?
Keith: The battery compartment and propane capacity is the same; up to two Group 29 batteries, and two 20-pound propane tanks.
The generator box has been redesigned to fit up to two Honda eu2000i generators. We wanted to make it easier to get the generator into the box. Before it was a tight fit, and we wanted to eliminate that. Because of the extra length of the new 10-2 EX, we were able to incorporate a much larger generator compartment in the rear side of camper.
Now you can put in a five gallon gas can and Honda generator, or two Honda generators, or a built-in Onan generator. There is also a quick propane connect for a barbecue in that location.
Above: An easy way to tell the difference between a 10-2 CD Special Edition and a 10-2 EX CD Special Edition is the rear decal
TCM: Have the exterior graphics changed for 2016?
Keith: The exterior graphics haven’t changed that much. We made the graphics slightly darker grey. The 10-2 graphics were already new prior to fire. The 10-2 EX does feature a prominent decal in the back that says, “10-2 EX”.
Above left to right: 2016 decor choices include Camo, Loden Green, and Linen Brown (Mystic Beige is featured in some of the other dinette photos in this article) – click to enlarge the above photos
TCM: What are the available interior fabric choices?
Keith: We had four new fabric options for 2016 – Linen Brown, Mystic Beige, Loden Green, and Camo.
TCM: Were there any other new materials, components, or appliances used in the development of the Northern Lite 10-2 EX?
Keith: Everything else is essentially the same. We had just improved the carpeting to be more plush prior to the fire, so we stayed with that.
TCM: After the first 10-2 EX prototype was completed, were there any adjustments made to the design of the camper?
Keith: The first 10-2 EX came out great. We benefited tremendously from retaining our employees. They made sure the cabinetry was right and dry fit prior to building the first 10-2 EX. When the first 10-2 EX came out of the glass shop, everything was ready at the stations. The guys are familiar with this model. There were only a few changes with the roof line and walls. This made prototyping much easier.
Over the summer we reverse engineered the 10-2 and 9-6 campers in a different warehouse. We had our cabinet shop people there to make the new cabinetry jigs. We took our 10-2 and 9-6 campers apart and reverse engineered them so the jigs could be built. We worked off those as a base, and tweaked them. The guys made measurements, but they knew a lot of the measurements from memory from years of manufacturing them.
Basically the campers are built in the same way they were before. The only real difference is the new building. In the new building, we do not need to take the camper outside at any time during production. Everything is now inside the building, and continuous. If the weather is bad, we can even load campers for transport inside the new building. All of this greatly improves efficiency.
Above: The driver’s side of the 10-2 EX; the center of gravity is marked on the side of each Northern Lite camper
TCM: Where is the center of gravity on the 2014 Northern Lite 10-2 EX?
Keith: The center of gravity for the 10-2 EX is 48”.
TCM: Is the center of gravity marked on the side of the camper?
Above: The rear awning is standard in the Special Editions
TCM: With the increased length and other changes, what is the weight of the 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX?
Keith: The total weight increase is approximately 250 pounds, which brings it to 3,295 pounds fully loaded for a Special Edition. The Special Editions include air conditioning, a side and rear awning, solar, and the back bumper patio, all for 3,295 pounds. That is the true weight, meaning what it actually weighs with options.
TCM: Is Northern Lite currently producing all of the 10-2 variations; Special Edition, Sportsman Editions, RR Dry Bath, and 10-2 RD?
Keith: The only 10-2 EX models we’re building at this point are the Special Editions. The RR dry bath being prototyped now. After that, we’ll work on the RD. There have been more orders for the RR dry bath, so that’s the next priority. We’re hoping first RR dry bath comes off the line in late March.
TCM: What’s the status of the Sportsman line?
Keith: We’ve built the 8-11 and 9-6 Sportsman models. They are very similar to Special Editions. There are some changes to the Sportsman standard features for 2016. For example, we are using thermal pane windows and different cabinetry.
TCM: The value of the US Dollar has dramatically increased versus the Canadian Dollar over the past year. Has this increase in value affected the MSRP for the 10-2 EX?
Keith: Yes, it has. The MSRP for the 10-2 EX Special Edition is $43,210 US, which is lower than 2014.
TCM: What is the warranty for the 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX?
Keith: We still have a six year structural warranty. We are proud to have the longest warranty in the truck camper industry.
Above: The interior of a Northern Lite 10-2 EX CD Special Edition in Linen Brown
TCM: When will the 2016 Northern Lite 10-2 EX be available?
Keith: It is still making its way to dealers now, but most are pre-sold units. If you’re serious about getting a 10-2 model, go to a dealer and put down a deposit. There is going to be a shortage for consumers this year because of the back log.
At this point in the year, the RV shows are starting to wind down. A 10-2 EX will be at the Great Rockies Sport Show in Bozeman, Montana from March 27-29, 2015.
TCM: With the 8-11, 9-6, and the 10-2 EX now in production and shipping, what is the status of the 6-10 and the 8-5 Lite Series?
Keith: At this time, they are still in line-up. The first 8-5 Lite has been shipped to Five Star RV in Denver. We have orders for the 6-10, but they haven’t been prototyped yet.
TCM: Did the process of re-designing the 10-2 and 9-6 molds, and having those new designs developed, spark any ideas for a future model?
Keith: We’ve kept all our plugs, so we have the ability to change those floor plans and build new models. At this point have our hands full, but we are looking at things. There may be new models, or changes to existing models.
TCM: Are there any other new model announcements coming from Northern Lite in 2016?
Keith: There’s a good chance we could be doing something else for this model year. Right now our concentration is to get the orders to the dealers. When we get some free time, we’ll look into future new models, and changes.
The Northern Lite 10-2 EX was awarded Readers’ Choice Camper of the Year.
For more information on Northern Lite truck campers, visit their website at www.northern-lite.com.