We found the kitchen in the Hallmark Cuchara XL to be intuitive to use and highly functional.
The dinette in the Hallmark Cuchara XL is a U-shape dinette but works well as a face-to-face dinette for two. As a face-to-face dinette, it feels like a small two-top table in a restaurant. One neat feature of the table is that it can be moved in and out from the passenger side wall. When we weren’t using the dinette, I pushed the dinette table towards the side wall to give the interior of the camper more space.
Sitting at the dinette, there’s plenty of room for your knees and feet. Like many truck campers both pop-up and hard side, the angle of the sitting position is about 90 degrees making the dinette supportive and comfortable, but not for extended sitting. This is a common problem with truck campers and I’m hearing more and more about it as our core demographic gets older. Hey, it happens to the best of us, if we’re lucky.
The sturdy dinette table is the same fiberglass granite coat as the kitchen counters. The table is also easy to remove to make the dinette into a bed. Hallmark even has a clever storage cradle on the ceiling of the overcab to store the removed table top up and out of the way.
The two lower windows in the dinette are large, single pane glass. To compensate for the lack of window insulation, Hallmark provides snap-on layered insulation. The snap-on insulation is comprised of the same material their insulated soft wall is made from and finished with the interior fabric of your choice. We found this window insulation to not only be effective during our cold temperature nights, but also very attractive.
Speaking of soft walls, the insulated soft walls did their job in the cold weather. I was really skeptical that a pop-up truck camper could stay warm in temperatures that dipped into the mid-thirties, but the Hallmark did just that three nights in a row.
LED Lights and Other Details
Matt Ward is well known for his LED light fetish. This was on full display in the Cuchara XL which featured LED lights throughout the interior and exterior. Of particular note are the round LED lights under the upper storage compartments. There are actually two functions to these lights. First, they act as kitchen counter and dinette lights. Second, a red LED light on each round fixture stays lit at night to guide your hand to the lights (they switch on with a press) and to maintain a red night light in the camper.
The thermostat, hot water heater switch, speakers, stereo, and tank and battery monitor are located on the front wall and under the forward kitchen counter. Just inside the rear door are three on-off switches that allow the owner to turn on and off the electric throughout the camper interior.
Pop-Up versus Hard Side Thoughts
Borrowing the Hallmark Cuchara XL was particularly interesting because it was the first time we had ever camped in a fully self-contained pop-up truck camper. In other words, we could compare every function of the Cuchara XL to our experiences in hard side campers. It’s not exactly apples to apples, but it’s close enough to make for a fascinating comparison. To make matters more interesting, we had camped in relatively cold weather for three nights and used every function of the camper we could think of given our time and location constraints.
After three days and nights in the camper, I can comfortably say that the differences between using a fully-self contained hard side camper and the fully-self contained Hallmark were much less than I would have thought.
There’s no getting around the need to pop-up the roof to use the camper, but this is not that different than needing to slide out side-walls in a hard side. Essentially, the electric roof in the Hallmark is a slide-out, only it reveals vertical rather than horizontal space. Maybe Hallmark should call their campers “full-roof slide-ups” instead of “pop-ups”. Either way, you have to slide-up or slide-out to use your camper.
Once the roof is up, the Hallmark essentially gave us a hard-side camper experience. Everything we have grown accustomed to in hard-side campers was there. The only reminders that we were in a pop-up came when the wind moved the soft walls or when an outside noise traveled through the soft wall. Hard side campers do insulate and isolate you better from the outside world, but I was very happy to discover the difference isn’t nearly as significant as I would have thought. If you’re a hard side truck camper owner who’s pop-up camper curious, the Hallmark Cuchara XL will surprise you.
A true test for the overall quality of any truck camper is to open the cabinetry and compartments (inside and out) and look at how well the wiring, plumbing, and other materials are fit and finished. We’re happy to report that the Hallmark passed this test with flying colors. Every cabinet and compartment revealed a clean and neat presentation. It’s always a relief to see this level of quality in places where some customers would never look.
Our overall impression of the Hallmark Cuchara XL was that of an extremely well made pop-up truck camper. The structure and fit and finish of the Hallmark was first rate, easily among the very best we see in the industry.
I attribute this level of quality this to two primary factors. First, Hallmark’s floor plans do not change year to year, but are rather refined through experience and the discovery of better materials, components, or techniques. Second, Hallmark’s management team and manufacturing team, with few exceptions, has been steady and consistent since our first factory tour in the summer of 2007. Right through the recession, Hallmark has stayed the course, kept their team in tact, and continued to refine and improve their campers. It shows.