With his stunning photography, Holger Neumann reveals the beauty of Iceland, and invites us all to experience the Land of Fire and Ice for ourselves with rental truck camper rigs. Get your bucket list out.
About half way through developing this article, Gordon and I had the same thought, “Let’s go to Iceland!” For us, Holger Neumann’s pictures and description of Iceland might be the most tempting opportunity ever to grace the fine electrons of Truck Camper Magazine. We want to go, bad.
Of course we also want to go truck camping in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, South America, parts of Europe. And there’s a certain state above Canada we need experience with a truck camper. All of these are currently on our bucket list. If affordable high-speed internet could go anywhere a truck camper can go, we wouldn’t hesitate.
Our advice? Grab your passport. Put the mail on hold. Shut the water off. Pack some underpants and a toothbrush, and go while the going is good. We’ll be right behind you.
Above: Traveling in Skorradalsvatn, Iceland
TCM: Did you go tent camping or RVing when you were growing up?
Holger: When I was growing up, my parents had a little cot in the forest and we spent almost every weekend there. Early in my life, I started loving nature, and that has never changed. As a young man I used a tent on my vacations. I hitch hiked with a friend through Europe and made long trips with the bike, always bringing along a little tent. We spent the nights in nature, whenever it was possible, and occasionally used a campsite.
When I met my wife, I shared this passion with her. We traveled with a bike and tent, mainly in the northern regions of Europe. We discovered our love for the north and made trips to Sweden and Norway. The more we came to the north, the more we enjoyed it. We had several trips north of the Arctic Circle, mostly with the bike, but also by car. We always used our little tent, which now was of a higher quality. We looked for beautiful places in the nature; the mountains, close to a small lake, or in the forest.
TCM: Tell us the story of how you were first introduced to truck campers.
Holger: In the late 1990s, I started traveling for my job to attend conferences in the United States. Sometimes my wife accompanied me and we added some weeks for vacation. Because we were used to camping, we rented an RV and explored the southwest of the United States. We traveled through California, Arizona, and New Mexico and visited the National and State Parks.
Later we took vacations in Florida and enjoyed canoeing in the Everglades. Traveling with an RV was very comfortable for us. We always tried to get the smallest vehicle available, since the RV was too big for us. We came from Germany with one suitcase each and never knew what to do with all this space in the RV.
Above: Camping in the United States with a rental RV
When we used the rental RVs, we noticed that it was not possible to go to all places we wanted to go. It was only possible to stay on paved roads. When we saw the guys with truck campers, we really became envious. That happened in Anza Borrego State Park where you are allowed to stay overnight in different beautiful places. We could not go there with our rented RV.
At home we already had a pickup truck, which is a practical type of car in the country. It took about two years until I realized that that what we saw in the United States would be possible for us in Germany, too. We only had to buy a truck camper. I started to explore the internet to find the best solution for us.
Above: Pite Alv Swedish Lappland, Sweden
TCM: What led you to choose your specific truck camper?
Holger: When I searched for a suitable truck camper, I had our experiences with the RV in the United States in mind and looked for a small truck camper. I also needed the camper to fit on our Mitsubishi L200. When I discovered pop-up truck campers, I knew they would be the right type for us. I liked to be small while driving and still have a tent feeling inside.
Finding the right brand was not difficult. From beginning I had a very good feeling with Northstar Campers and, when I called Rex for the first time, I felt vindicated. We had a very nice talk and I got more valuable information. I was convinced by the long experiences of this company and I like the robust construction with wood.
TCM: Did you ever put a truck camper on your Mitsubishi L200?
Holger: Yes, I put a Northstar 600SS on the L200. I added air bags to the rear leaf springs for a more stable drive. That worked well, but the driving properties, especially off-road and in sharp turns, were still not best.
On our next L200 I installed Roadmaster tension springs above the rear leaf springs instead of airbags. The driving properties were much better, and became perfect when I added one additional leaf to the rear spring.
Because we like to be close to nature and far away from civilization, we bought our Toyota Landcruiser HZJ79 after using two L200 for several years. With the Toyota we can go even further off-road. Toyota Landcruisers are very reliable and long lasting, but do not have the comfort of the L200. On the Toyota I changed the suspension to an OME (Old Man Emu) system, in order to get more ground clearing for off-road driving.
I also removed the standard bed and installed a flatbed.
TCM: Tell us about the flatbed. Is it custom, or from a manufacturer?
Holger: It’s taylor-made for my truck and camper. I worked with a company near my home village that had experience with installing equipment like this. They produce trailers and make adaptations to big trucks. I discussed with them what I wanted and they built the flatbed to my exact measurements.
TCM: Why did you decide on a flatbed?
Holger: I saw that the Australian guys often pair campers with flatbed trucks. It was not an easy decision, but I am really happy about it now.
The main reason for the flatbed was that the cab of the Toyota Landcruiser is higher than on most other trucks, which means the camper had to be raised by about 7-inches. The sidewalls of the bed are less high then at a regular truck, so there was a big gap that didn’t look very nice.
Additionally, the spare wheel is located at the front side of the bed, which means that the camper could not go all the way to the front creating another gap. I tried to build some cabinets to fill the gaps, but was not happy with the results.
Above: 40 miles from Reykjavik, Iceland
With the flatbed and the new adapted 600SS, the rig looks more like a unit. The Northstar 600SS has big compartments in those areas where normally the wheelbases are located.
The sidewalls are detachable when setting the camper on it. The camper fills the rear area of the bed completely.
For the spare wheel, I had them build a big box in front of the camper under the cabover. There is also space for other useful equipment. Together with this big box at the front side, all of the gaps are filled.
Above: After a dirty road driving from Krossneslaug, Iceland
TCM: The completed rig looks fantastic. What is the diamond plating with the compartment door under the camper and above the flatbed?
Holger: The compartment with the diamond plating is part of the camper. There is a lot of additional storage there. Northstar offers diamond plating on all of its campers, especially for flatbed models.
TCM: What do you do for power when you’re camping in nature?
Holger: Our camper has a 107-watt solar panel on the roof and we can stay off-the-grid without driving for several days. If the sun is shining, we can be out for weeks. If we drive to another place, the battery will be charged again. With this set-up, we normally do not need shore power.
TCM: I see that you have Torklift International Fastguns. How did you get the Torklift International tie-down system to work on this unique set-up?
Holger: I like the Torklift Fastguns very much. They are very stable and can be fastened very fast. I absolutely trust them.
Because I knew I would use them, I planned eyelets at the side of the flatbed at the right position. These eyelets are welded on and very strong. I never had problems with this connection, even after driving long distance on very rough roads. I just fix the Fastguns once and don’t have to think about them anymore.
Above: Route F752 Highlands, Iceland
TCM: What is the GVWR and payload of your 2009 Toyota Landcruiser HZJ79?
Holger: In Germany, we have a virtual limit for the GVWR at 3.5 tons (about 7,700 pounds), which separates small trucks from big trucks.
If you have a higher GVWR than 3.5 tons, it is a big truck and you need a special drivers license. Only people who got their drivers license more then 20 years ago are allowed to drive trucks up to 7.5 tons (about 16,500 pounds).
Additionally, there is a speed-limit of 80 Km/h (49.7 mph) for all trucks above 3.5 tons, including on highways. For this reason, most pickup-trucks have a GVWR of 3.5 tons or less. Our Toyota Landcruiser HZJ79 has a GVWR of 3.5 tons and a payload of 1.3 tons (about 2,870 pounds).
Above: Klausturskogur, Iceland
TCM: That’s firmly in the three-quarter ton truck range for Ford, GM, and Ram. Were there any other challenges to the matching of the truck to the camper?
Holger: No, but these challenges were already enough for my point of view.
Above: Route F550, Iceland
TCM: If you were to build another rig again, would you use the same truck, or would you try another?
Holger: I hope this rig will last me several years. For our preferred kind of vacation, it is the best solution. Maybe in the future I’ll like to have more comfort both in the camper and in the truck. Then I would like to try an American full-size truck with a bigger Northstar camper.
In general, I think you have to look very close at your own wishes and needs when it comes to the decision for a suitable rig. These needs can change over the years. You have to prove, from time to time, what you really need, and what combination of truck and camper suits you best.
Above: Before the flatbed truck was finished
TCM: That’s exactly the premise of, “The Best Truck Camper”. Did the camper have to be adapted any other way for Europe?
Holger: Yes, there were some changes necessary for European standards. Because we have 220 volts in Europe, the converter had to be changed, and we need different inlet and outlet sockets. The refrigerator also had to be prepared for 220 volts.
On the 12 volt side, no changes are needed, but the connection to the truck is different. Our trailer connections have thirteen pins. So the camper needed to be adapted here as well.
Another big adaptation is the gas system. There are different gas regulations in Europe. For example, we need shut-down valves for each single device. We also have different gas bottles, which required different connectors.
In addition, the tie-down system is different in Europe. In the United States, the turnbuckles are located on the outside of the bed. In Europe, people don’t like to see the turnbuckles and there are no tie-down systems for the midsize trucks available.
European turnbuckles are located behind the sidewalls inside the bed. For the camper, that means the tie-down hooks have to be in another position.
The water system remains the same, and we can use adapters for our connections here. All of these changes were done during production at the Northstar factory.
Above: Route F335 to Hagavatn, Iceland
TCM: Northstar has been building and shipping truck campers to Australia and Europe for decades. They specialize in preparing the rigs for those markets at their factory in Iowa. For example, we have seen Australian units and US units on the Northstar production line at the same time. What do you enjoy doing while truck camping?
Holger: We like exploring great nature landscapes and going on hikes or canoe tours. My camera is always with me and I try to capture rare animals or take pictures of stunning scenery. I really can relax in nature and enjoy the silence of remote areas.
Above: Lurs en Provence, France
We also like to go to some tourist attractions and visit local museums to get an impression of the culture and art of a region. Meeting local artists, who make beautiful works of traditional or modern art, is another passion. My wife loves gardening, so we also enjoy visiting private and public gardens.
TCM: Where have you been with your truck camper that you would recommend to other truck campers?
Holger: With our truck camper, we have traveled to northern Sweden. The area between Sorsele and Jokkmok is very beautiful. There is a mountain range at the border to Norway with some nice natural parks, and it’s a good area for hiking. The river Piteälven is one of the last rivers not used for hydroelectric power and very natural with many lakes in the surroundings.
Sweden is a very nice country and, in my opinion, traveling with a truck camper is the best way to visit. It is easy to find a beautiful place for the night, close to a small lake, without any other people. Also, the campsites are often very nice and spacious.
In the south, I like the county Smaland. It is said that you can find every kind of nature of Sweden in this one county.
Above: Mosquito protection in Lappland, Sweden
Also Dalarna, in the middle, is very nice, especially the western part, and Lappland, in the north, where the Sami people live. They breed reindeers and are very good artists.
Above: Drying laundry in Loire, France
We also went on a garden and castle tour in France in the Loire area. It was completely different to our other trips, but very interesting.
Above: West Alps close to Digne in France
France is on the border to Italy at the southwest part of the Alps. We have been there two times and enjoyed our long hikes in the mountains above 6,000 feet. This area is not overcrowded and there are some beautiful natural parks.
Above: Lake Balea at the Carpathian Mountains, Romania
For those who like dirt roads and remote areas, I also can recommend the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. Three years ago, I took a three week trip on my own in Romania and liked it very much. Beside the mountains, I also went to the Danube Delta, which is a beautiful swamp area comparable with the Everglades in Florida.
TCM: Where do you recommend people go truck camping in Germany?
Holger: I like the northeastern part with many natural lakes and a nice coast at the East Sea. We spent two weeks on the island Rügen some years ago and enjoyed it very much. My personal impression is that the campgrounds in the eastern part of Germany are nicer, but that may be completely wrong.
There are many campgrounds in Germany and it is easy to find one, but not so easy to find a good one. It is very common in Germany that people from the cities have a little site on one specific campground. They have their caravan there all year round and spend weekends and holidays there. Some campgrounds are specialized for this and have only a few sites for travelers.
In attractive areas like the North Sea in the north, or the alps in the south, the campgrounds are often overcrowded and have very small sites of maybe 500 square feet or less. In most cities you can find RV sites, but most times these are more or less parking lots for RVs. These are good for one or two nights.
Above: Camping at the ocean
Finally, we have discovered Iceland as our dream destination. We spent three weeks last year over there, and we know it was not the last time.
Above: Beautiful scenery in Iceland
There are so many attractive things in a stunning landscape; glaciers, geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, lava fields, the biggest stone desert of Europe, black beaches, and colorful mountains, just to mention a few.
Above: Route F26, Sprengisandur, Iceland
The Snaefälljökull glacier is on a peninsula north of Reykjavik. The whole area around this glacier is one of the three national parks in Iceland. The lava from old volcano activities went down into the ocean and made interesting sculptures. The orange lighthouses sitting in the lava field are very typical for Iceland. We have gone on nice hikes in this area.
Above: Latrabjarg, westernmost point
For passionate bird watchers, Latrabjarg is a must. It is the most western point of Iceland and Europe. There you will find 1,000 foot high cliffs stretching 10 miles.
These cliffs are the home of millions of different birds including the funny Puffin. It is the largest Puffin nesting site in the world.
A very special place is Laugarfell in the Highlands on route F752. It is a hot spring in the middle of nowhere of a stone desert. You can enjoy an open air bath in 100-degree Fahrenheit warm water with view to the glacier Hofsjökull.
Above: Lakes in the highlands
One of the most beautiful areas we visited was southwest of the biggest glacier of Europe, Vatnajökull. This area is known for its colorful mountains. We made a trip late in the evening and the low sun created a beautiful atmosphere. On our way back to Reykjavik, we made a stop in Vik, a small village on the south coast with a very special beach with black sand.
Above: Dynjandi in the Westfjords, Iceland
Finally, there are an uncountable number of waterfalls. A very big and beautiful waterfall is the Dynjandi in the Westfjords that runs over several cascades down to the fjord.
Above: Westfjords, Iceland
The Hraunfoss waterfall close to Husafell is also interesting because the water runs under a lava field and comes out at many different openings giving a beautiful view.
Above Left: On the way to Glymur waterfall in Hvalfjordur fjord, Above Right: The Hraunfossar waterfall
The people in Iceland are very hospitable and have a genial disposition. For us, Iceland is like paradise.
Above: Route F208 in Iceland
TCM: Your photographs and description of Iceland have us making future plans. What an amazing country. How hard is it to find dry camping in Europe?
Holger: It is very rare that we use a campground. Most times we try to find a nice place in nature where we can stay overnight without disturbing any other people.
Finding dry camping spots depends very much on the country in Europe where you are located. Each country has its own rules.
In Sweden it is allowed to stay overnight wherever you want as long as you do not disturb anybody. You should be out of sight from any houses and you should respect the nature and not leave any garbage. We have had the experience that the people are really friendly and interested in foreign people.
In Iceland, it is the same with the exception of national parks, where you are not allowed to stay, even for one night.
In the Netherlands, boondocking is strictly forbidden and people really don’t like it. It’s not only the rules that count, but also if the people of the country like it or not. For example, in Germany it is allowed to stay for one night, but in some regions people don’t like it and you get angry vistas.
In France, I believe, it is not allowed, but the people are often very friendly.
Above: Campsite at Berca Mud Volcanoes, Romania
Romania is the only country in Europe where it is allowed for you to stay for a longer time and camp in the nature. Many people are doing so on the weekends and you can see tents everywhere. There are not many campgrounds and only a few people own a RV or a caravan.
Above: The Black Sea near Constanta, Romania
We got a kind of feeling over the years where you are welcome and where not. If we feel we are not welcome at one place, we move to another, or go to a campground. We really want to respect the local people and nature.
That is also an issue in Iceland, where the nature is very damageable because of the weather conditions. So it is strictly forbidden to go off-road, not even a short distance to a nice overnight place. If we are not really sure with one place, we go and search for another. In Iceland, especially in remote areas, we easily found good places. In more populated areas, mainly around Reykjavik, we stayed in campgrounds.
Above: A geyser erupts
TCM: What are your truck camping plans for the future?
Holger: We have big plans for this summer. We will go to Iceland again, but this time we will bring along our rental truck campers.
Two years ago, we started a rental truck camper service in Germany. When we noticed how well suited a truck camper is for Iceland, we decided to offer our rental service over there in the summer months.
Above: Route F333 in Iceland
We will be in Iceland for three months this summer. We want to explore even more of this beautiful country and will support our renters as best as we can. We will have two trucks with Northstar 600SS campers for rental purposes, and a rig of our own. So far we have had a great response to this offering and are looking forward to our new adventures.