Palomino pushes the lightweight envelope with an all-new pop-up, non-bath truck camper specifically designed for compact trucks.
When it comes to the collective attitude of the pop-up truck camper marketplace, the consumers say, “Hey industry, lighten up the campers already.” It’s not that the pop-up folks don’t appreciate a little luxury, but keeping the weight down is generally their number one priority. Weight, weight, or forget it.
Making things even more challenging for the truck camper design teams, the pop-up consumers also want as little truck as possible. For many, compact trucks like the all-new for 2016 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the all-new for 2017 Honda Ridgeline, the ever-popular and recently redesigned Toyota Tacoma, and the Nissan Frontier are all they want.
Adding fuel to this compact truck fire are the rumored return of the Ford Ranger in 2018 and a Jeep Wrangler-based pickup also due that year. Other companies are toying with entering or re-entering the compact truck market include Ram, Hyundai, and even Mercedes-Benz. Things could get real interesting in the compact truck segment very soon.
Since size and payload is sacrificed at the compact truck alter, the truck camper industry has been forced to scale-down, miniaturize, and otherwise think big about going small. Fortunately, the truck camper industry has already gone through much of this process as it developed half-ton compatible campers like the Palomino HS-650 hard side introduced earlier this year, and the SS-550 pop-up introduced in 2014.
Putting this all together, Palomino is introducing the 2017 Palomino SS-500, an impressively appointed pop-up truck camper for compact trucks. It’s been light-weighted to an extreme, with some luxury features added back for comfort. A refrigerator, sink, cooktop, face-to-face dinette, and a north-south bed on the back of a Canyon or Tacoma? That’s impressive.
What will be more impressive will be properly matching this camper to a compact truck. That calculation will have to be saved for a future review. In the mean time, we are intrigued with Palomino’s new offering, and the aggressive dry weight they are reporting.
To find out more about the 2017 Palomino SS-500, we talked to Pat Hines, Truck Camper Product Manager for Palomino RV.
2017 Palomino SS-500 Specifications:
The 2017 Palomino SS-500 is a pop-up truck camper made for compact trucks. The interior floor length of the 2017 Palomino SS-500 is 6’0”, the interior height is 7’0” and the center of gravity is 19”. The 2017 Palomino SS-500 has a 16 gallon fresh tank, an optional 6 gallon hot water heater, and no grey or black tank. It can accommodate one battery and has one twenty-pound propane tank. Palomino RV is reporting the base weight of the Palomino SS-500 to be 1,299 pounds. The base MSRP for the 2017 Palomino SS-500 is $11,712.
Above: The SS-500 with Palomino’s new 2017 exterior graphics
TCM: Palomino already has a pop-up truck camper that’s compatible with the compact truck market, the SS-600. What does the new SS-500 offer the compact truck market that the SS-600 does not?
Pat: A few years ago we redesigned our SS-600 to fit compact trucks, but it was still too heavy, too tall, and it didn’t look right when mounted on some compact truck models. With the SS-600, we were missing the mark for compact trucks, an increasingly important segment of the truck camper marketplace.
The SS-500 has been designed from the ground up to properly fit and payload match the most popular compact trucks. We get a lot of dealer phone calls and asking about for Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon. We believe there’s a large market for these compact trucks, and are excited to finally offer a proper pop-up camper for this segment.
TCM: How did you set the design parameters for the SS-500?
Pat: We went out and measured every compact truck and set the specifications for SS-500 around those measurements. The SS-500 will fit a Tacoma, Colorado, Canyon, and essentially every compact truck currently available.
Beyond the fit, weight was also a significant concern for the SS-500. To accommodate the payload capacity of the most compact trucks, the SS-500 needed to be under 1,300 pounds dry. We met that goal.
Another design parameter of the SS-500 was to offer a water heater. Our SS-600 and SS-800 pop-up models lack a water heater, a limiting factor for those units. The SS-500 has an optional water heater. We actually designed the SS-500 around the compact truck measurements and the water heater. People want a hot water heater for washing their hands and dishes in the kitchen sink, and for the standard optional exterior shower.
Above: The SS-500 is 6-foot 4-inches wide to accommodate compact trucks
TCM: At 6-foot 4-inches wide, the SS-500 is a full 10-inches narrower than the rest of Palomino’s pop-up truck camper line. Why build the SS-500 that narrow?
Pat: Compared to full-size trucks, compact trucks require a significantly narrower width. Our extensive compact truck measurements told us the exact dimensions the SS-500 needed to be for maximum compact truck compatibility.
TCM: Does the SS-500 fit the various short bed lengths compact trucks offer?
Pat: Yes, the SS-500 is designed for 5-foot, 5.5-foot, and 6-foot short beds. The exterior floor length is 6.5-feet. Despite its smaller dimensions, it’s a very comfortable truck camper inside.
Above: One change from the camper above will be that the taillights will be notched out, like Palomino’s SS-1200 and SS-500 models
TCM: Have any changes been made to the SS-500 since completing the first prototype?
Pat: The SS-500 we debuted at the Elkhart Open House was the first prototype. With dealer feedback from that Open House, we are making a few changes to reduce weight and make the unit even more appealing to customers.
The back wall on the prototype was a full back wall with taillights built-in. To save weight, we are going to notch out the back wall like our SS-1200 and SS-550 models. The SS-500 doesn’t need the back wall and taillights as the truck taillights will be fully visible when mounted. That change will save a lot of weight from the unit.
We also changed the water heater from standard to optional. Dealers suggested that not everyone wants a water heater, or the weight and cost they add to the unit. Finally, there’s a short list of minor cosmetic improvements we want to make before the SS-500 is production ready.
Above: The Palomino SS-500 features the Rieco-Titan electric roof lift system
TCM: Is the SS-500 built the same way, with the same materials as the rest of Palomino’s pop-up truck camper line?
Pat: Yes, the Palomino SS-500 is built the same as our other pop-up campers. The SS-500 is wood framed to save weight, vacuum bonded for strength, and features our one-piece front-to-back laminated and crowned roof.
Of course the SS-500 also comes standard with our electric Rieco-Titan roof lift, an extremely popular feature of Palomino pop-up truck campers. For 2017, the Rieco-Titan lift has an on-off switch and the optional remote key fob has been updated. It’s also a little smaller, neater, and user friendly. The Rieco-Titan lift has been a huge success for us.
Overall, we believe Palomino has the best made, most fully-featured, and highest-value pop-up truck campers in the marketplace. No one can touch the bang for the buck that Palomino offers.
Above: European flush mount sink and two-burner range in the Palomino SS-500
TCM: Are there any appliance or material differences between the SS-500 and the rest of the Palomino pop-up line?
Pat: The SS-500 has a European glass top range and a European sink with folding faucet.
As flush-top appliances, the range and sink give the SS-500 more counter space, a very important feature in a camper like the SS-500.
Above: The Palomino SS-500 has a north-south cabover bed
TCM: Why did you decide to make the SS-500 with a North-South bed rather than a weight saving and length shortening East-West bed?
Pat: We did a lot of homework when designing the SS-500. One of the things we discovered is that most of the compact trucks are sold as extended and quad cabs. More often than not, compact trucks are quad cabs.
Not only does a North-South bed orientation better fit and balance a quad cab truck, but most of our customers prefer North-South cabovers. With a North-South cabover, you’re not climbing over your significant other to get out of bed. You can enter and exit the cabover directly.
To offset the weight of the North-South design, we placed some of the heavier appliances and features towards to back of the camper. That’s why the standard refrigerator, 20-pound propane tank, and optional hot water heater are located toward the rear of the unit.
Above: 2017 Palominos have dark walnut cabinets and new countertops
TCM: Tell us about the cabinetry and counter tops in the Palomino SS-500.
Pat: For 2017, Palomino has debuted a darker walnut cabinetry. We also updated the floors, countertops, and fabrics for 2017.
Above: Palomino is also debuting new floor and fabrics for 2017, note the 2-cubic foot refrigerator
For cost, efficiency, and quality, Palomino uses one interior for everything we produce including all of our truck campers and travel trailers. As I like to say, we use the KISS method of interior design; Keep It Simple Stupid. For Palomino, one interior fits all.
Above: The 16 gallon fresh water capacity is only used for the kitchen sink
TCM: What size are the holding tanks in the SS-500, and why did you make them that size?
Pat: There is a 16 gallon fresh water in the SS-500, and no grey tank or black tank. The fresh tanks in most of our pop-up truck campers are 16-gallons, again for efficiency and cost. We standardize everything we can for production. That’s how we are able to build the highest quality for the lowest price.
As is the standard in the pop-up marketplace, none of our pop-up truck campers have grey tanks. Grey water from the SS-500 is collected outside the unit in a portable container. The only grey water from the SS-500 is coming from the kitchen sink.
Above: The Palomino SS-500 has one vertical 20-pound propane tank
TCM: You’re right that most pop-up truck campers don’t have grey tanks. It’s something that pop-up users take for granted to save weight. Plus, you never need a dump station if you don’t have a grey tank or black tank. Tell us about the battery and propane capacity of the SS-500.
Pat: The SS-500 has one 20-pound vertical propane tank located in the driver’s side rear. For battery power, the SS-500 has a vented battery compartment under the cabover step. It fits a Group 24 battery.
Earlier I mentioned that we made the SS-500 fresh tank size identical to most of the rest of our pop-up camper line. We also made the battery and propane tank size on the SS-500 identical to our larger pop-up campers. This was a huge challenge since the SS-500 is smaller than our other pop-ups. I need to praise Rob Foster and Josh Tyler on our production team for making this possible. You really lose nothing with the smaller form factor of the SS-500.
We really didn’t do anything different than what we do anyway with our pop-ups. We want our campers to be as production friendly as possible, so we keep the same elements for all our pop-ups consistent.
Above: Palomino SS-500 front wall power ports; solar charge, exterior charge port, umbilical cord from truck to camper, and pre-wire for electric jacks
TCM: Does the SS-500 also have the winterization features that are standard on the other Palomino pop-ups?
Pat: Yes, the SS-500 has the same battery disconnect, low water drains, water heater bypass, anti-freeze tube, and charge port. It’s a fully-featured Palomino pop-up, just in a smaller size and weight class to match compact trucks.
Above: The front seating area in the Palomino SS-500
TCM: Can you get an optional air conditioner on the SS-500?
Pat: A Dometic 13.5 BTU air conditioner is an option. The Dometic will run on a 2,000 watt portable generator like the popular Honda EU2000i.
TCM: Tell us about the standard bumper and entry step system for the 2017 Palomino SS-500.
Pat: For those who want something more than a step stool, we offer a set of optional Torklift International GlowSteps. You can order them with the SS-500 directly from the Palomino factory, or have them installed at a Palomino dealership.
TCM: So far we have learned about the optional hot water heater, air conditioner, and Torklift GlowSteps. Are there any other options for the SS-500?
Pat: In addition to those items, you can get remote control Rieco-Titan camper electric jacks and a side awning. Those are pretty much the only options available for our pop-up truck camper models. Over the years we made most of the popular options standard features.
TCM: Can you give us some examples of standard features that were once options?
Pat: The Rieco-Titan electric roof lift didn’t even exist a few years ago, but now it’s standard on all Palomino pop-up truck campers. We also made LED lighting standard on all Palomino pop-up units.
TCM: What is the center of gravity for the SS-500?
Pat: The center of gravity is 19-inches from front to back. That’s where the center of gravity needed to be to keep it forward of the rear axle for the majority compact truck configurations.
TCM: What does the 2017 Palomino SS-500 weigh with standard build features?
Pat: The prototype weighed 1,299 pounds and we’re changing some things to make it even lighter. When the production unit is completed, it should weigh about 1,200 pounds. That’s our goal.
TCM: What is the MSRP for the 2017 Palomino SS-500 with standard build features?
Pat: The MSRP is $11,712 for a base SS-500, which is about the same as the other pop-ups.
TCM: How can you charge essentially the same MSRP for the SS-500 as your larger pop-up models?
Pat: Since we’re using the same materials, components, and interiors across the board, there are no penalties for longer or shorter models. The SS-500 is a shorter camper, so there are less building materials. On balance, we are putting some higher-end features in the SS-500, like the European appliances. We use these factors to price the unit. We don’t charge extra because of our brand recognition. As a result, our customers get a great product at an affordable price.
TCM: What is the warranty for the 2017 Palomino SS-500?
Pat: Customers get a one year nose-to-tail warranty. There is a five year warranty on the soft side material, and a five year warranty on the roof and roof lift. The appliances all have their own warranties from the manufacturers.
TCM: When will the 2017 Palomino SS-500 be available?
Pat: The SS-500 should be on dealer lots on or before in January of 2017.
TCM: Thanks Pat. Is there anything else readers should know about the SS-500?
Pat: None of the other manufacturers are as big or as production focused at Palomino. For the past year, our main focus campus-wide has been cleaning up production, becoming even more efficient, and building a better quality truck camper.
For quality control, we have successfully implemented a shine bay. The shine bay team conducts a complete systems check and goes over every inch of every unit before it’s allowed to ship. The shine bay has paid dividends.
We also have a weekly team meeting with the production managers, sales, engineers, warranty, and purchasing agents. It’s a round table and we talk about production, efficiency, and quality control. The warranty manager flags what has come up as recurring warranty issues. The shine bay reports also show us where we can improve our designs, and production. We all have the same production, efficiency, and quality goals in mind, and do what’s needed to be done to move those goals forward.
There has been a culture shift at Palomino. From a product, production, and quality control perspective, we are night and day better than we were just two years ago. Quality has become our number one concern. In years’ past, Palomino had a stigma of being cheap. We are still very affordable, but we don’t take a backseat to anyone anymore for quality.