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Factory Tours

Northern Lite Factory Tour

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Do you, bottom camper shell, take this top camper shell, to be your lawful wedded truck camper, to go anywhere and camp anywhere, from coast to coast, for summer, for winter, for campgrounds, for boondocking, until the kids take the keys?

With tears in our eyes, mostly from the fiberglass dust in the air, we watched the two shells come together to form a complete Northern Lite fiberglass camper shell.

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After the rice throwing and limos, it’s time to party at the reception.  Bringing the party music and ensuring the new marriage will take is Brad McAteer.  As his stereo system pumps out the jams, Brad applies butyl tape, stainless steel screws, and belt molding around the perimeter seam between the two camper shells.  Before the camper leaves the factory, this seam will be tested for any imperfections using a Sealtech leak detection system.  More on that later.

Brad also installs the jack brackets and a good number of the other external features.  Here he’s attaching a passenger side rear jack bracket.  Note how the bracket wraps around the underside of the camper to lift the camper from the side and bottom.

RIGHT: Once Brad has completed another camper shell, it’s brought to the production line.  Here Nathan wheels over a completed shell from Brad’s reception hall to the beginning of the line.  The next time this camper sees daylight, it will be a finished Northern Lite.

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LEFT: Walking onto Northern Lite’s dual production lines you may ask yourself, “Where did everybody go?”.  The answer is right in front of you, inside the campers.  Where other truck camper manufacturers build truck campers from the basement up and then add the walls and a roof, Northern Lite starts with a completed exterior shell and moves in to assemble the interior.  When it comes to the Northern Lite’s production lines, it’s an inside job.

Since Northern Lite campers are built shell first, they literally need their basements and floors built inside them.  At the first station on the production line, we met Bob Holmes building the basement in a 10-2 CD Special Edition.  We asked him to find us before installing the floor.  In this photograph you can see the completed basement with holding tanks.  Immediately after this photograph was taken, the basement was painted with water resistant black sealant and then covered over with the camper floor.  Once the floor was down, Bob installed the linoleum flooring.

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Last February, we had the pleasure of working the Springfield RV Show with Keith Donkin, General Manager of Northern Lite.  On display were two Northern Lite truck campers, a 10-2 CD Special Edition and the 9-6Q Classic Special Edition.  The great majority of the show attendees were not there to see truck campers, but they would often stop to look at the Northern Lites which had their doors facing a busy corridor.  What happened next was as predicable as it was funny.

At the bequest of their husbands, wives would walk half-heartedly into the Northern Lite Special Editions looking for any excuse to say, “not for me” and quickly move on.  But then they would catch a glimpse of the South African Sapele wood cabinetry and they would start raving about how beautiful the Northern Lite interiors were.  It became a game at the show to get the wives into the campers so they could “ohh” and “ahh” over the Sapele interiors.

The man who’s primarily responsible for the cabinetry that makes the ladies swoon is Arlie Bartholomew.  As he worked, I watched Arlie make tiny adjustments that no one would ever notice unless he pointed out exactly what he had done.  This obsessive attention to detail results in a very high fit and finish to Northern Lite’s cabinetry.  If you have doubts, just stand around a Northern Lite Special Edition at an RV show for a while.  Arlie’s Special Edition Sapele cabinetry wins the ladies, every time.

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LEFT: Brian Koffler is responsible for assembling the wiring harnesses and plumbing systems.  Here he’s holding part of a PEX plumbing assembly for a 10-2 CD Special Edition.  PEX is a water supply piping system that is highly resistant to scale, chlorine, and corrosion.  It’s used in many brands of truck campers and is favored for it’s light weight and durability.

CENTER: As the camper molds mature, they can develop blemishes that result in minor inconsistencies on the exterior of the camper shells called mold marks.  One significant advantage of molded fiberglass construction is that these marks are easy to spot with a trained eye and can be buffed out.  In this photograph, Nathan Rieger is removing a mold mark.  When he’s done, the marks will be completely gone and the camper shell will have one of the brightest white exteriors available on any RV.

RIGHT: We never seem to resist taking a picture of a camper getting it’s front decal.  Of course in Canada it’s pronounced, “Deh-Cull” as opposed to “Dee-Cal” as we say it in the States.  No matter how you say it, it’s fun to see a logo decal placed on a camper.  In this photograph, Darlene Herring puts the large Northern Lite logo on a new camper.


Sometimes we see things a camper manufacturer is doing and ask ourselves, “Why isn’t every camper manufacturer doing that?”.  One clear example we’ve seen on this tour is the increasing use of portable scales to weigh each camper as they leave the production line.

Once each camper is weighed, the dry weight with options is posted inside the camper.  For the consumer, this dry with options weight is an accurate dry weight to plug into our Buyers Guide wet weight calculations.  Every truck camper manufacturer on the planet should be doing this.

Add Northern Lite to the list of manufacturers who weigh each and every camper on a scale system before it leaves the factory.  The dry with options weight number is then posted inside the camper for the consumer.

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To observe the camper weigh routine, we asked Reg Sieben to weigh a camper that had recently graduated from the production line.  The camper was a 10-2 RR and the inside posted weight had already been completed.  When Reg set up the scale, we stepped on the scale to see if it was accurate.  It was.

Once the camper was lowered, the scale read 2,993.5 pounds.  The inside posted weight was 3,004 pounds.  While we were initially disappointed that these numbers didn’t agree, we were happy that the 10.5 pound difference was in the right direction.  Maybe the last time the camper was weighed someone left a few tools inside.  What matters is that Northern Lite is giving you the weight of the camper in front of you, with options.

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Another practice that should be standard is the use of Sealtech systems.  A Sealtech system can find even the smallest breaks in a camper’s seals before a camper leaves the factory and long before that seal break has the opportunity to cause a damaging leak.

Broken seals and the water leaks they cause are the number one threat to your truck camper’s longevity.  It doesn’t matter if you have a wood framed, aluminum framed, or molded fiberglass camper, broken seals will eventually lead to leaks and cause catastrophic damage to your camper.

Not inspecting and maintaining your camper seals is like not changing the oil and filters in your car.  In a few years, you’ll be lucky to have a car that runs, or a camper that doesn’t have a serious leak.  This is why we harp on maintaining your seals and published the easy to follow article in our Newbie section, “Maintaining Camper Seals”.

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