Scott Tuttle, President of Livin’ Lite, gives us the inside story on why he’s launching a new line of wood-free all-aluminum hard-side truck campers. No staples included.
One of my favorite things about publishing Truck Camper Magazine is getting to know the movers and shakers behind the truck camper industry. Each brings their own unique history, perspective, and vision to the marketplace which is clearly reflected in their companies and the truck campers they build.
Scott Tuttle, President of Livin’ Lite, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Over a decade ago, Scott had a vision for a wood-free, all-aluminum, entry-level, ultra-lightweight pull-behind pop-up. His pull-behind pop-ups would be priced under almost everything on the market, so light that even a car could pull them, and all-aluminum so you could wash them out with a garden hose without fear of rust or rot.
Nothing about his vision was traditional and Scott knew it would be an uphill battle to gain acceptance with RV dealers. With the focus, determination, and hard work only true entrepreneurs bring to the table, Scott made his vision a success in the marketplace.
Now Scott has turned his sights on bringing his unique building techniques and business model to the truck camper market. If the past is any indication for the future, Scott Tuttle is about to make a significant impact on the truck camper industry and community.
TCM: Livin’ Lite may be new to the hard side camper market, but you’ve been in the RV industry for some time. Tell us how you got into the RV business.
Scott: I started in the RV industry in mid-1980s working for Mallard Coach. I had gone to college for graphic design and developed the brochures and marketing for Mallard. After working for Mallard, I went to work for Gulf Stream Coach as their Director of Advertising and Marketing. Then I started my own advertising agency and worked with five or six RV companies on their marketing efforts, brochures, and websites.
At the same time, I was talking to some friends in RV business about starting our own RV manufacturing company. In the summer of 2003, we started Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles. Soon after, in the Fall of 2003, I started a second company, Heartland RV with a few other friends.
TCM: What was the original vision behind Livin’ Lite?
Scott: The concept behind Livin’ Lite was to design all-aluminum ultra lightweight tent campers. Wood-free recreational vehicles that were light enough to be pulled by small cars had never been done in the RV industry. We were also focused on building RV products for the entry level family. At the time, the RV industry was leaving this market behind as it made pull-behind pop-ups bigger and more expensive.
Around the year 2002 a pull-behind pop-up would cost $10,000 to $12,000 and was so heavy that you needed a full-size pickup truck to pull it. We designed the Quicksilver to cost in the $5,000 to $7,000 range and be lightweight enough to be pulled with a car. The all-aluminum construction meant the products would not rot or rust. It took some time to get the dealers to understand the opportunity our products represented, but the consumers got it right away.
TCM: So what happened with Heartland RV?
Scott: As Livin’ Lite got off the ground slowly, Heartland RV took off quickly and it didn’t take long for Heartland RV to take up all of my time and energy. Heartland RV ended up being one of the fastest growing RV companies of all time and demanded the vast majority of my time. Because of that, I had a GM run Livin’ Lite on a day to day basis for me, while I focused on Heartland.
TCM: Wow. Are you still working at Heartland RV?
Scott: No. I sold my interest in Heartland RV in 2008. It was a real transition to go back to Livin’ Lite with just $500,000 in revenue a year. I moved Livin’ Lite to my hometown, Wakarusa, Indiana, and settled down to what I thought would be a quieter lifestyle. Then the factory literally burned down on the first night after the company moved. That was October 1st, 2008. All of our materials, tools, and machinery literally melted.
TCM: That must have been devastating. How did Livin’ Lite recover from that?
Scott: We actually rebounded quickly and started ordering parts the very next morning. Two weeks to the day after the fire, our first unit rolled off the line. We rebuilt our facility in the first half of 2009 and moved into a new factory in July of 2009.
Then we started to expand into larger tent campers and enclosed toy haulers. In 2009 we developed our first hard side travel trailer under the CampLite name. Again these products were all-aluminum from the frame to the flooring to the cabinetry to the roof. There’s not a splinter of wood in our travel trailers and they are light enough to be pulled by most cars, minivans, and cross-over vehicles.
Above: The Camplite CLTC 5.7 prototype with a Chevy Colorado (top center) and Ford Ranger (top right). The inside of the CLTC 5.7 features all-aluminum cabinetry.