Capri Campers makes a list of significant upgrades to its entire hard side, non-slide, half-ton compatible truck camper line. First up, an all-new electrical system. And a beer tap?
When father and son team, Pete and Tyson D’Acosta purchased Capri Campers in 2014, the company was something of an institution, and a time capsule.
As an institution, the then 45 year old the company had supplied the thriving Professional Rodeo market with light weight and efficient hard side truck campers. In a nutshell, serving the Professional Rodeo market was the history and success formula for Capri and its product line.
As a time capsule, not much had changed about the design, construction, and feature set of a Capri Camper over the decades. A Capri Camper that rolled out out of the building in 2014 had more in common than not with a Capri Camper that rolled out in 1974. The design, construction, materials, and finish was essentially the same.
Over the past four years, Pete and Tyson have maintained and improved Capri’s renown Professional Rodeo Cowboy support, and grown the company into an important player in the hard side truck camper marketplace. Today, Capri Campers is a truck camper force, growing double-digits year after year, and showing no signs of slowing down.
An important part of that success has been improving the Capri product without losing the proven qualities, nostalgic charm, and value that Capri Camper represents. That stated, there was a lot of room to run with a product that had not been changed for so long.
With great care, Pete and Tyson have been opening that time capsule, bringing the Capri product into the present, and pushing it into the future.
For 2019, they are updating the very heart of the camper itself; the electrical system. In a nod to the future, they’re also making Group 31 AGM batteries standard, and changing to Nova Kool 12-volt compressor refrigerators. They didn’t have those in 1969!
To learn about Capri’s 2019 Announcements, we talked to Pete and Tyson D’Acosta, President and Vice President of Capri Campers.
Capri Campers announced a number of upgrades for 2018; new gas struts for the upper cabinets, a new sink faucet and sink, entry doors with optional 10-inch windows, color-coded PEX plumbing lines (blue and red), and LP/CO and smoke alarms. How have the upgrades been received this past year?
Tyson: Our 2018 updates were very successful and encouraged us to push even further for the 2019 updates we’re announcing today. They were all very positive upgrades for us and made a big difference in our campers.
Combined with everything we are doing for this year, the 2019 Capri Campers really stand apart from anything we’ve ever built.
Before we get to the 2019 changes, did you make any additional rolling changes in 2018?
Tyson: Yes, we did. The most compelling change is the option for a hand pump sink and feeder tube.
It’s a great option for many Capri customers because it eliminates the need for a built-in fresh tank and water pump. Plus, it doesn’t need to be winterized.
Pete: We carefully listen to our customers about how they are going to use their campers. Our goal is to build the camper they need for what they want to do.
A hand pump sink is perfect for customers who don’t order a camper with a shower. If all a customer wants is a sink for hand washing, teeth brushing, and light dish washing, a hand pump is likely all they need.
One of our customers ordered the hand pump for beer kegs. He asked for an extra long feeder hose that could go out the entry door. Evidently our campers are perfect for tailgating – including the party sink.
Now that’s an exciting option! The biggest Capri update for 2019 is an all-new electrical system. Tell us about it.
Pete: For 2019, we took a step back and re-evaluated every facet of our campers. My son, Tyson, has been working for months on evaluating new materials, products, and appliances from a range of vendors.
We also researched the best ideas from customer feedback over the years, as well as input from our own team. The goal was to build a significantly better Capri Camper.
Our new electrical system was the most important development during this process. We hired an electrician consultant to engineer a better 110-volt and 12-volt electrical system for every Capri Camper.
As part of the new electrical system, we also added a 30-amp inlet for shore power, a standard battery, and a WFCO power center and charger.
The resulting electrical system is not only more capable, but allows for faster and easier troubleshooting in the field. All too often, an electrical issue starts and ends in the fuse box.
How would you describe the electrical system you had before?
Pete: We previously had a continuous loop wiring system. It was very effective, but if a customer had an electrical problem and something stopped working, trouble shooting was hard to do.
Now we have this WFCO power control system and breakers. Everything goes to an individual breaker. As technology has progressed with 12-volt and USB outlets, having a solid electrical foundation is important.
Above: As an non-ventilated compartment, sealed AGM batteries are required for safety.
What batteries are you making standard for 2019?
Pete: We have made a 100-amp hour Group 31 AGM battery standard in all Capri Campers. If your camper is off your truck, you always have a dedicated battery in the camper.
That’s a nice size battery for a small camper. We have Group 31 AGM batteries in our camper and they’ve been fantastic. Why did you decide on AGMs?
Pete: We prefer AGM batteries because they charge up to five times faster, offer a longer life-cycle, and require no maintenance. Most importantly for our floor plans, AGM batteries are sealed and do not require ventilation.
Can a customer add a second Group 31 AGM battery if they want to?
Pete: Yes, there is room for a second Group 31 AGM battery in our campers. If that’s something a customer wants, they can make that request when ordering their camper.
The WFCO power centers are popular in the truck camper marketplace. What model did you choose for Capri Campers?
Pete: We got an 8700-series model. It’s designed for smaller RVs, has multiple AC and DC branches, and a 30-amp main circuit breaker.
WFCO has an excellent reputation and is known for building a high-quality unit. Capri Campers have always been built on a 30-amp system, but the new WFCO power center distributes it more evenly. It’s an important upgrade.
We knew we needed a more solid electrical foundation to advance our camper. The WFCO is the heart and soul of it.
Having a 30-amp shore connection is also new for 2019. Where is the 30-amp connection located on the campers?
Pete: The 30-amp connection is at the rear of the camper. For customers who don’t often plug into 30-amp outlets, we are providing a 15-amp adaptor for standard household outlets.
Another big change you’re announcing for 2019 is a new 12-volt compressor refrigerator. Why are you making this change?
Tyson: After testing and evaluating a good number of refrigerators, we selected the Nova Kool R-2600 for its size, capacity, quality and remarkable efficiency.
The Nova Kool R-2600 is 2.4 cubic feet with a .14-cubic foot freezer. It weighs 39 pounds and uses 2.2 amps per hour. We ran the Nova Kool for three days straight and it didn’t kill the Interstate Group 31 AGM battery we were using.
For 2019 you’re also announcing a new escape window.
Tyson: Yes, all of our 2019 Capri Campers have one 20-inch by 42-inch escape window on the passenger’s side in the dinette area.
The escape window still has a built-in screen, but functions as an escape window as well. It’s an important safety upgrade.
Are there any changes to the interior materials or fabrics?
Tyson: We have the same interior wall paneling options but we did change the countertop and table top. They are now a lighter marble looking Formica. Before it was a darker earth tone. Visually, it’s about the same.
In Capri’s manufacturer’s response to the 2017 Capri Retreat review, you stated that a towel rack would be added to the option list to answer our evaluation. You also said this would be called a “Gordon Rack”. Do you now have a Gordon Rack on your option list?
Tyson: I totally forgot we said that. And yes, of course we have a Gordon rack. It’s being added to the 2019 option list as we speak.
In all seriousness, we are adding a towel rack option for customers who order a shower. The Truck Camper Magazine review pointed out that we needed a towel rack for those customers, and we are moving forward with that suggestion for 2019.
Has Capri Campers been affected by the aluminum and steel tariffs?
Tyson: We get at least one letter a month about a price increase. Not all of that is related to the tariffs, but everything we use in a camper seems to have gone up in price this past year.
As a small family-owned manufacturer, we can’t order 1,000 units to lower the price. What we can do is look at every design element, material and component that goes into our units and find ways to improve the campers while lowering our overall costs. We can implement changes fast, and are always looking for ways to improve.
Are you increasing prices for 2019?
Tyson: We are increasing our 2019 prices to cover increased material costs, but we have also made a number of significant upgrades including the new electrical system, the standard AGM battery, and Fantastic Fan. You’re getting a much better Capri Camper in 2019, and our pricing is still very competitive.
Is there anything else you want folks to know about the 2019 Capri Updates?
Tyson: We source a lot of our electronics and appliances from residential sources. For example, we use Kenwood speakers and stereo systems, not some cheap and unrecognizable RV brand.
We also use stainless steel Kenmore microwaves and other name brand gear our customers know. These electronics and appliances are more expensive, but the quality is unmistakably better.
Have you noticed any trends with the custom orders from the past year?
Tyson: More people want to camp off-grid. We are adding more solar ports to make our campers solar ready. Our customers tend to prefer the versatility of portable solar panels.
Did you have any interesting exterior color combinations in 2018?
Tyson: We made two different red and yellow campers this year; a red Cowboy with a yellow stripe, and a white Capri with red and yellow stripes.
We’re about to build a maroon and chrome camper. All three customers wanted something that would stand out.
For 2018 you announced some colorful and wild faux gator and ostrich fabrics. Has anyone ordered those fabrics?
Pete: I think we sold two with those fabrics. On the other hand, our custom cushion and shades have been a big hit.
Customers love to pick out their interior fabrics and colors. The faux gator and ostrich fabrics were not a hit, but our custom interiors are quite popular.
Have you noticed any interesting marketplace trends?
Tyson: I bet we’ve had over a dozen customers looking to go backcountry skiing. We had a guy email a week or two ago who is a two-time Olympian and won multiple medals in downhill skiing.
Above: A ski closet on a Capri Camper. The distortions in the above two photographs are from the wide angle camera lens.
Winter use is becoming more popular the last couple months. For our skiing customers, we build little ski closets. We’re building one now for guy out of Aspen with a place for his ski boots and snowboard. Because we are smaller we can accommodate custom needs.
One thing that’s impossible to miss when talking with you is the enthusiasm and fun you’re having running Capri Campers. With all the growth you’ve had over the past five years, are you still having fun?
Tyson: We ask ourselves that all the time. We don’t ever look at it like work. We love this place. We take pride in taking care of our customers. The fun part is that we meet people all over North America and the world. That gives us renewed energy every day. Every day is a new adventure.
All the guys in the back are like family. We all get along. Everyone in the shop and factory gets together for birthdays with cupcakes and a card. As long as we can make it work well with our small and dedicated team, that’s what we’re going to do.