With all-new fiberglass molds, Northern Lite announces the 8-11 EX; the only hard side, non-slide, dry bath, short bed truck camper in the industry. And that’s not the only news coming out of Kelowna.
Having lived for months with multiple wet bath and dry bath truck campers, we have grown to appreciate the benefits of both bathroom types. For starters, wet baths are a much more efficient use of space allowing for more shower room and more storage inside the camper. On paper, it’s hard to beat a wet bath.
Of course people don’t buy truck campers on paper. In reality, some folks see a wet bath and immediately say, “No way!” They’re not comfortable with the shower, sink, and toilet all being in the same space. They want their shower separate from their toilet area, just like they do at home. They want a dry bath.
Which brings us to the 2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX. Until the debut of this all-new model, Northern Lite hasn’t had a short bed dry bath to offer folks who wouldn’t consider a wet bath. The funny thing is that no other manufacturer offered a short bed, hard side, non-slide, dry bath either. These customers have been left wanting – until now.
To get the full measure of the new Northern Lite 8-11 EX, we talked with Keith Donkin, General Manager for Northern Lite.
2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition Specifications:
The 2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX is a hard-side, non-slide, dry bath truck camper for short bed trucks. The interior floor length of the 8-11 EX is 9’3″ and the interior height is 6’4”. Northern Lite is reporting the dry weight of the 2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition at 2,650 pounds. The tanks in the 2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition are 33 gallons fresh, 24 gallons grey, and 12 gallons black. The camper accommodates two batteries and two twenty-pound propane tanks. The MSRP for the 2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition is $41,940 USD.
Above: The Northern Lite 8-11 EX. All photography supplied by Northern Lite Manufacturing.
TCM: Is the 8-11 EX a replacement for the 8-11, or a new model in addition to the 8-11?
Keith: The 8-11 EX is a brand new addition to our line up with brand new top and bottom fiberglass molds. We will be offering the 8-11 EX dry bath alongside of our 8-11 wet bath.
To develop the 8-11 EX, we worked with the same team and vendor that designed our new 9-6 and 10-2 EX molds. The new 8-11 EX is essentially a shortened version of the improved 9-6, but with a dry bath.
TCM: Why have you decided to debut a short bed dry bath?
Keith: We wanted another option for short box customers and we wanted to do something different.
We told our dealers that we were building a new short box camper and asked them what was selling best. When the idea of a short bed dry bath was presented, the dealers got excited.
TCM: With floor space at such a premium in a short bed, why go with a dry bath? Did you lose any interior storage or counter space?
Keith: Space wise, we were able to design the dry bath and not give anything up. We were able to keep the dinette size, the hallway width, and the entrance door size. We didn’t lose any storage. We actually gained kitchen counter space and dry bath space from the new molds.
Above: There is more kitchen counter space in the Northern Lite 8-11 EX dry bath than the 8-11 wet bath camper
No one else in the industry is building a non-slide, dry bath camper for a short bed truck. That’s what is exciting to all the dealers.
Above: The Northern Lite 8-11 EX dry bath has a lip that separates the shower area from the toilet area
TCM: The new 8-11 EX dry bath is quite different than the 10-2 RR dry bath. What was the thinking there?
Keith: We actually made the 8-11 EX dry bath four inches taller than the dry bath in the 10-2 RR, so that it can be used in both the 10-2 RR dry bath and the new 8-11 EX. The new layout in the 10-2 RR dry bath with give us two extra closets between the bathroom and the kitchen counter. The 8-11 EX dry bath itself is a new set of molds.
Above: The toilet area is separate from the sink and shower area and – once the curtain is drawn – does not get wet when you shower
We started our dry bath design with the space we had available in the new 8-11 EX molds. We prototyped it in the shop with different layouts and approaches. We wanted to include a sink and a divider to keep the shower area and toilet area separate. The lip that divides the dry bath is 8-inches high.
Above: Northern Lite 8-11 EX dry bath Extend-A-Shower rod
We have used an Extend-A-Shower curtain rod which adds an extra 5-inches of width to the shower stall.
TCM: Looking at the images, the bath looks tight. How is it in person?
Keith: The new dry bath molds and 8-11 EX camper molds allowed us to maximize the dimensions of the new dry bath. The toilet area is 24-inches wide by 30-inches deep by 74-inches tall. The shower and sink area is 21-inches wide by 30-inches deep by 74-inches tall and with the extend a shower curtain rod the space opens to 26-inches wide. We’re happy with the new dry bath space.
Above: The back of the camper has storage and a refrigerator (left) and the bathroom (right)
TCM: The new 8-11 EX floor plan is very similar to the existing 8-11. Was there any consideration to designing a mid-bath layout, or otherwise changing the existing floor plan?
Keith: The dealers told me that the 8-11 is the best laid out camper of anything they sell. Based on that feedback, we kept the existing layout and added the dry bath.
Above: The kitchen counter height has been lowered in the 8-11EX
TCM: What exactly has changed from the non-EX 8-11 camper molds?
Keith: The new 8-11 EX molds have the built-in roof reinforcement for an air conditioner. We also lowered the wings for a better truck fit and aesthetic, as well as a lower step-up into the dinette area and more headroom in the dinette seats. Lowering the wings also allowed us to lower the kitchen counter height. The kitchen counter is now the same length as our 9-6 camper.
Above: The 8-11 EX is 98-inches inches wide
TCM: Are the exterior dimensions the same? For example, the 10-2 EX molds were longer and wider.
Keith: The height of the 8-11 EX is the same. The camper is a little wider. We changed the angles of the mold so it goes out to the full 8’2” (98-inches). The new 10-2 EX and 9-6 molds are also 8’2”.
TCM: Is the 8-11 EX actually 8’11” long?
Keith: It’s actually 9’3”. We lengthened the molds by 4-inches to accommodate the new dry bath.
Above: The Northern Lite patio provides more stepping room when entering and exiting the camper
TCM: So why not call this camper the 9-3?
Keith: We’ve always designated our 8-series truck campers as our short box models. Anything above 9-feet was a long box model. To keep our short box model names consistent, we are calling the new camper the 8-11 EX.
TCM: So the extra 4-inches in length of the 8-11 EX went into the bathroom area on the driver’s side?
Keith: Yes, the extra 4-inches all went into the dry bath.
TCM: Will the new 8-11 EX molds be used for all 8-11 models?
Keith: No, the existing 8-11 has its own molds.
TCM: Will the 8-11 EX be offered as a Special Edition and Sportsman Edition?
Keith: The 8-11 EX will only be offered as a Special Edition.
Above: The black assist handles and porch lights are new for 2018
TCM: Other than the new dry bath, are there any stand out features of the 8-11 EX that you’re excited about?
Keith: The 8-11 EX has the same features and options as the 8-11. We added a digital thermostat. All 2018 Northern Lites will have that feature. We have also changed to a black exterior assist handle and black porch lights for better UV protection.
Above: Digital thermostats are new for 2018
TCM: Were there any adjustments to the 8-11 EX once the first prototype was completed?
Keith: We were very happy with the prototype. With mold design and production, it was a long process. We started well over a year ago with building the plug for the camper and the shower mold. We did make the shower mold after the camper mold to make sure they would fit together properly.
Above: The propane and battery compartments are the same as the Northern Lite 8-11 wet bath camper
TCM: Is there anything different about the 8-11 EX that customers can’t see. For example, are the basement and holding tanks the same as the 8-11?
Keith: The fresh and grey are the same as the 8-11 at 33 gallons of fresh and 24 gallons of grey. We changed from a 13 gallon to a 12 gallon black tank. A 12 gallon black tank worked better under the shower. Everything else from the batteries to the propane sizes are the same specifications as the 8-11.
TCM: What does the 8-11 EX weigh with standard build features?
Keith: The 8-11 EX is 125 pounds more than the 8-11, so it’s 2,650 pounds. All 8-11 EX campers will weigh the same since they’re all going to be Special Editions. With our Special Editions, every option except a generator comes standard.
TCM: Is the center of gravity marked on the side of the 8-11 EX?
Keith: Yes, center of gravity is marked on all Northern Lite truck campers. The center of gravity moved two inches back from the 8-11, so it’s at 39.5-inches on the 8-11EX. It’s still in front of the rear axle for all the short box trucks.
TCM: What is the MSRP for the 2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX?
Keith: The MSRP for the 2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX is is $41,940 USD.
TCM: What is the warranty for the Northern Lite 8-11 EX?
Keith: We have the longest warranty in the truck camper industry. We have a 6-year structural and 1-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. The appliances have their own warranties through the appliance manufacturers.
TCM: When will the 8-11 EX arrive at Northern Lite dealers?
Keith: People should start seeing them at dealerships in June of 2017.
TCM: Is there anything else about the 8-11 EX you would like to add?
Keith: My Dad liked the 8-11 EX so much that he’s keeping this first prototype as his demo. He has a GMC 3500 Denali. He toured the east coast of Canada and the United States last year in his 8-11 Special Edition.
TCM: Should we be expecting any other news from Northern Lite in 2017?
Keith: We are currently expanding two sides of our manufacturing plant. First, we are expanding the glass shop so that it has a mold maintenance room. With the new mold maintenance room we will have all the molds inside at room temperature. This gives us better access to the molds for maintenance and cycling. This will help us to increase production and further improve quality.
We have also added additional overhead cranes in the glass shop so that we can move multiple campers out of molds. That was just completed. These changes should result in a 25-percent increase in production out of the glass shop.
TCM: That’s a remarkable increase in production capacity. What’s the second factory expansion space for?
Keith: On the left side of the building we are adding a service bay. We get calls for customers who want to add accessories after their purchase. By having this bay dedicated to customer service, we will not disrupt our main production. Once completed, it will be a 35-foot drive through service bay.
TCM: Are you using the same company that rebuilt the Northern Lite factory in 2014?
Keith: Yes, we are using the same contractor as we did after the fire. He is a spark plug for getting things done.
TCM: On May 4th, 2017, KV Private Equity issued a press release announcing that they had acquired Northern Lite Manufacturing. Can you tell us about the acquisition?
Keith: The KV Private Equity acquisition has been completed, but there will be no changes to the Northern Lite management team or production team. I am also staying on with the company.
We are 100-percent focused on increasing production in our newly expanded building, and continuously improving our products, value, and quality. The share transfer actually makes more of our initiatives possible. We are all very excited about where Northern Lite is going.
TCM: So there will be no changes from the KV acquisition?
Keith: None whatsoever. It’s full steam ahead for Northern Lite.