In their most significant update in decades, Four Wheel Campers announces two electric roof lifts, roof-mounted AC, standard lithium batteries, up to 500 watts of solar, Truma furnaces and water heaters, a three-layer quilted thermal pack, extended 60-inch cabovers, underbed storage in the Hawk and Grandby, and more. Something big is happening at FWC!
This past April, Four Wheel Campers announced Redarc isolators, Victron controllers, and up to 405 Ah of Dakota lithium batteries. This was a massive upgrade to energize their 2023 product line, but a much larger and even more significant update was waiting in the wings.
About a week ago, we got an email from Stan Kennedy, Four Wheel Camper’s Brand Champion, listing updates that literally sent me out of my chair. To put what follows into perspective, we’ve been covering Four Wheel Campers since 2007, and never have we seen updates in the quantity or significance that’s being announced today. I hasten to state that this is the biggest model year update in Four Wheel Camper’s half-century-plus year history, but it very well might be.
So what are we talking about? How about an all-new electric roof lift? That announcement alone would have warranted an article. Four Wheel Campers’ manual roof lift was invented by Dave Rowe in 1972 and has been in production as the only roof lift mechanism in Four Wheel Campers ever since. Add to the all-new electric roof lift the option for a roof top air conditioner. Roof top air conditioners have forever been one of those, “when you-know-where freezes over” kind of issues at the Woodland, California company. Evidently, that day has come.
In another jaw-dropping change, the Hawk and Grandby models are moving from 48-inch cabovers to 60-inch cabovers (shown above) and getting underbed cabover storage. Underbed storage has been a popular modification to Four Wheel Campers for many years and makes perfect sense for FWC to incorporate, but the extended cabovers are something we definitely didn’t expect.
And there’s more. Actually, there’s a lot more; Truma furnaces and water heaters, standard lithium batteries, a new three-layer quilted thermal pack, new cold weather window coverings, flush-mount sink and stoves, new fabric choices, a 110 volt option for Base (shell) models, 250 and 500-watt solar panel options, a bug screen option for Project M, and outside privacy curtains. If there’s ever been more to announce from FWC, we don’t know about it.
To get the details about all of the above, we talked to Stan Kennedy, Four Wheel Camper’s Brand Champion, and Chief Keeper of Company History.
Click here to request more information about 2024 Four Wheel Campers.
Above: The above FWC video presents the 2024 Four Wheel Camper updates
This past April, Four Wheel Campers announced an impressive round of electrical system updates including Redarc isolators, Victron converters, and optional Dakota lithium batteries. Now in December, Four Wheel Campers is once again announcing a significant round of product improvements. Is there a new focus on aggressively upgrading the product at Four Wheel Campers? What’s going on?
Note: Separate from our interview with Stan Kennedy, we emailed this question to Dan Welty, President of Four Wheel Campers. Here is his response:
Dan: Our campers have been long thought of as the go-to option for decades of reliability over very challenging terrain. To complement this strength, we wanted to deliver an enhanced user experience.
Products need to evolve based on the availability of new technology, changing consumer preferences, and new ideas. We evaluated improvement ideas from our dealers, customers, and employees and got to work.
We also selected premium product partners like Dakota Lithium, Redarc, Victron, and Truma. We are all energized to bring these new features and products to our customers and future customers.
The following begins our interview with Stan Kennedy.
Stan: We are placing a renewed emphasis on adding value and improving the user experience. Many of these improvements have been on lists for years. The ideas came from phone calls with customers, customer rallies, surveys, and reading forums. Our dealers also give us feedback on items that need to be added or improved. Our service techs and sales team also provide improvement ideas. We are excited to add more functionality to what’s proven and reliable.
Our focus this year is a big push to add value with minimal impact on pricing. As of December 15th, we are transitioning to higher quality furnaces and water heaters, thicker wiring for electronics, lithium batteries as standard, optional air conditioners, electric roof lifts, and more. Many people have been working on these projects for the past six to eight months. A key to getting things done well has been the collaborative approach by our engineering and production teams.
Above: The above FWC video focuses on the new electric roof lift systems
That all makes perfect sense and will be welcome news. FWC has utilized a proven manual lift system for half a century. Why are you now offering electric roof lifts?
For the past 20 years that I’ve been at Four Wheel Campers, I’ve seen customers add more features to their roofs. This includes roof racks, solar panels, roof vents, and now air conditioners. Combine these additions with people adding storage boxes, surfboards, stand-up paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks. The combination has led to a heavier roof load. A heavier roof makes lifting the roof more challenging for some.
For this reason, an electric lift was needed. We now have two options available; an exterior electric lift with linear actuators, and a simple, less expensive, interior system that works by using a 12-volt outlet.
Tell us about the design and operation of the two electric lift systems.
The internal system is portable and stows on the ceiling inside the camper. It complements the normal folding panels and gas struts on the exterior.
The external system has two linear actuators on each side of the camper. It lifts the roof straight up and down. You turn a switch on and, once it’s raised, it shuts off automatically. It’s programmed not to overextend. The external lift had lots of R&D and testing to get it at the right angle, pressure, and weight ratings.
Above: The interior of the camper with the electric roof lift system
We have looked at all kinds of electric lift solutions in the past. Until now, the solutions had limitations. These have the required strength and are much better quality.
Does the interior electric lift system impede into the living area or cabover sleeping area of the camper?
No. When it’s not in use, it folds up against the ceiling.
The interior system also uses an actuator, but it’s smaller and a different style. The interior lift is designed to lift one side of the roof, then the other. You can raise the back and raise the front, and then lower the back and lower the front.
Will you still be offering the traditional manual lift system?
What lift system do you believe most customers will want in future Four Wheel Campers?
The interior system will probably sell more because it’s significantly less expensive. It’s $850 for the interior electric lift system and $4,995 for the exterior electric lift system.
Also, the interior system is easily retrofittable. For past Four Wheel Camper customers, contact us and we will ship this system in a kit that includes the required parts, how-to installation instructions, and a how-to install video link.
Above: The above FWC video focuses on the new optional roof-mounted air conditioner
Another monster announcement is the availability of roof-mounted air conditioners. Again, FWC has never even entertained the idea of roof-mounted air conditioners. How is this now becoming a reality?
In some US regions, there is a need for air conditioning to make summer camping more enjoyable. Having a rooftop option has always been a goal. However, until lithium batteries were coupled with lighter AC units with improved performance, a good solution wasn’t available.
What model of air conditioner are you installing?
Engineering selected an air conditioner made by Nomadic Cooling company because it’s low profile and lightweight. It’s a 12-volt DC roof-mounted air conditioner that weighs 44 pounds versus 87 pounds for the competition. We use higher gauge wiring to accommodate the unit.
Air conditioners require an enormous amount of power to run off-grid. Is that something you are accommodating for, or do you intend for these air conditioners to be used while plugged into shore power?
Answering the question, “how much power is needed to run AC units?” is challenging. Variables include the outside temperature, the inside camper target temperature, the amount of usable solar power, and the power requirements from other appliances.
There are two options to power an AC unit while camping. One option is plugging into an external power (shore power) source via a 110AC outlet or a portable generator. This option will provide continuous power.
The other option is accessing power from lithium batteries. We currently offer, depending on the camper type, 270 or 405 amp hours of lithium power in our campers. We also offer 250 or 500 amp-hour solar capacity, depending on camper type.
The hourly draw to run our AC in eco mode is 30 amp hours. The hourly draw from the refrigerator, lights, etc. is typically about 10 amp hours. Assuming there is no power coming in from solar (night-time or cloud cover), this translates to six to ten hours of AC use.
If solar power is available, the AC run time can be extended to eight to fifteen and a half hours. Again, projecting AC use duration is not a precise calculation due to the variables.
Four Wheel Campers will now come standard with lithium batteries (except for Project M). Is the Dakota Lithium 135 Ah battery the standard battery?
Yes. The Dakota has been our standard battery for the last two years. They’ve been flawless. We’ve had no problems. And Dakota batteries have an eleven-year warranty. The company is great to work with.
Four Wheel Campers can accommodate one, two, or three Dakota Lithium 135 Ah batteries (up to 405 Ah max). Which models accommodate one, two, and three batteries?
Most every slide-in camper we make will easily accommodate two Dakota lithium batteries. Certain floor plans, like our front dinette Hawk and Grandby, can fit three Dakota lithium batteries in the current box.
Most of our customers are more than adequate with 250 watts of solar, a DC-to-DC charger, and two Dakota 135 Ah lithium batteries. That will run everything, except an air conditioner.
How do your lithium and solar combinations do with your 12-volt compressor refrigerators?
This year we eliminated propane refrigerators and transitioned to all-electric refrigerators. Electric refrigerators are significantly more reliable and user-friendly. They eliminate dirty burner issues, perform better in extreme heat, provide better temperature regulation, and do not require the camper to be level.
We use Isotherm 12-volt compressor refrigerators. Compressor refrigerators work better and have remarkable efficiency. The worst case and highest amp draw is approximately 5 amps an hour. Once cooled and the food is cold, the compressor only runs some of the time. Then the units draw 2.5 to 3 amps an hour.
FWC will be offering a 110/120 Volt AC shore power in the Base (shell) camper models as an option. Does this mean the Base models will get a 110/120-volt electrical system?
Yes, if the customer selects the shore power option in their Base Model. With this option, the Base model comes with a standard 12-volt power system; a shore power outlet on the outside (for 15 or 30 amps), and circuit breakers with a Victron IP22 charger on the inside.
Solar is another big headline. Four Wheel Campers can now get 250 watts of solar. Is that a single hard panel?
It’s actually two flexible 125-watt panels by Overland Solar. Overland Solar panels are much lower profile and lighter than hard glass panels. The engineers at Overland Solar explained that two 125-watt panels are actually more efficient than one 250-watt panel. It also allows for one panel to be shaded by a tree or kayak, while the other is getting sun.
Solar panels are still an option, but our units have come pre-wired for solar for 15 years. We started with a 50-watt panel and have steadily increased our panel output. As power increases, people find new consumption uses. Now we’re offering up to 500 watts for some models.
Above: A camper with 500-watts of solar on the roof
Which FWC models can fit 500-watts of solar panels?
Any model with a longer roof. The Grandby and flatbed models will fit 500 watts of solar. The Hawk is possible if you don’t get the front roof vent. People usually want fans and vents so, if you get a short bed camper, you select a fan vent or extra solar.
All Four Wheel Campers are getting upgraded wiring for changing the lithium batteries. What did you increase the wire gauge to; from what to what?
We have increased the wiring gauge to complement the increase in power sources and appliance types. For most campers, it’s 10 or 8 gauge, but some get 6 gauge. For example, if a unit has the Redarc DC-DC charger, the Redarc Manager 30, and three Dakota lithium batteries with an inverter, we’re using the heaviest gauge wiring.
That’s logical. Earlier in 2023 we announced that Four Wheel Campers come custom with Redarc DC-to-DC chargers and Victron controllers. Is that continuing into 2024?
Yes. We’ve been installing those features since the announcement. The Redarc DC-DC 1225D bumps up the voltage coming from your truck to charge the lithium batteries properly. Lithium can take a rapid charge so, when you have the right gauge wiring and components, the camper batteries get charged so much faster. The Redarc Manager 30 or Manager 30 with Rogue display are for our higher-end campers.
Above: The above FWC video focuses on the Truma furnace and water heater
Another big headline is the transition to Truma furnaces and water heaters. What led you to change to Truma?
The Truma systems are more reliable, quieter, offer more precise temperature management, and are anticipated to perform better at higher elevations. After many years of listening to our customers, dealers, and reading the forums, we are delivering a product that will improve the user experience.
Above: The Truma AquaGo
Are you using the individual Truma furnace and water heaters or the combination units?
We are using the individual units; the Truma VarioHeat furnace and the Truma AquaGo Comfort water heater. We didn’t have enough space for the Combi models and we didn’t want lots of different products for different campers. By using the individual units, we didn’t need to change the interior layout of our cabinetry and production can be standardized.
Above: The Truma VarioHeat
The Truma furnace and water heaters are options for 2024. Project M still has no heat solution. As of now, you can’t get a heater in a Project M from FWC. In the Base model (shell), we will use the Truma VarioHeat only. There is no water system in a Base model. Our standard (non-Base model) slide-in campers, with a stove and refrigerator, will get the Truma VarioHeat and the AquaGo Comfort.
Four Wheel Campers is now offering a three-layer quilted thermal pack for the soft wall. How does this improve over the soft wall insulation you previously offered?
For 20 to 30 years, the original thermal pack was a single layer of breathable fabric. The new version is a triple-layer thermal pack. It’s thicker, breathable, and has more insulation. The padding and insulation create a better air barrier. It’s like dual pane versus single pane windows. It’s better because there is less heat and cold transfer.
It took us almost a year to order and test different fabrics for the new quilted thermal pack. We looked at thermal properties and moisture wicking to find the best combination. It’s a big improvement.
Is the three-layer quilted thermal pack permanently attached or installed when needed by the consumer?
It’s just like before. It Velcros in and out, so you can have it in full-time or part-time. It’s just thicker and has more layers.
In addition to the three-layer quilted thermal pack, Four Wheel Campers is offering cold-weather window coverings. Are these made from the same three-layer quilted material as the new soft wall thermal pack?
Yes. The window coverings are individual pieces of the same three-layer quilted thermal pack sized for each window. The window coverings have elastic straps that tuck behind the glass window pane. They just hook on without snaps or Velcro. Together with the new Truma furnace, Four Wheel Campers will be much better in cold weather.
For 2024 Four Wheel Campers, customers who order the quilted thermal pack will get both the thermal pack for the top windows and the window coverings for the lower windows. Existing customers with older campers can order the lower quilted thermal window kit for $300.
For 2024, the Hawk and Grandby models are getting two cabover options. First, both models will be available with underbed storage in the cabover. And second, both models will be available with 60-inch cabovers. Why are these options being added for 2024?
People have been asking for longer cabovers storage since crew cabs became popular in the early 2000s. In the 1990s, trucks were predominantly standard cab and extended cab trucks so the shorter cabovers worked and looked better. Now customers want a longer cabover to utilize the space over their truck cab and push the cabover area farther out in their truck camper.
In addition to an aesthetic improvement, the extended cabover length translates to a reduction in the slide-out portion of the bed. This means the slide-out bed doesn’t consume as much camper living space.
The underbed storage has also been asked about for a long time. The Hawks and Grandbys look really nice with the underbed storage. The length, height, width, and depth on a full-size truck looks right.
Now that the cabover length is 60-inches, how far into the living area does the pull-out north-south bed need to be pulled?
For a queen, there’s a 12-inch slide-out. For the king, there’s a longer slide-out so you can sleep North-South. When I’m camping, I don’t use the slide-out functionality. I just get into the cabover and sleep. But, for customers who own them and use their camper more, it’s a nice feature.
One thing people may not think of is how the new extended cabovers raised the height of the roof. To accommodate the cabover storage, the sidewalls were raised four inches. This means the interior height went from 6’6” to 6’10”. It’s the first thing I noticed in the prototypes; it feels so much bigger in the unit. The headroom gives the camper a whole different feel.
How big is the new cabover storage area?
The underbed storage is 72 inches wide by 58 inches long by 4 inches deep.
Is that area separated or one large space?
Aluminum supports are in that space for strength and as dividers. It has the same look and design as the cabover storage in our flatbed campers.
How do the new cabovers impact the center of gravity on the Hawk and Grandby?
The dry weight center of gravity change is negligible. However, it will increase the weight because the camper nose is bigger and customers have more storage space. Hopefully, it’s just clothes and bedding. We’ve had no issues with the underbed storage in the flatbeds and we’ve sold those for years. It’s time-tested.
Can someone order the Hawk or Grandby with the old 48-inch cabover without the storage?
Yes, that’s still standard. The longer nose and the underbed storage are optional at $1,995.
Why did you decide to change to flush mount sinks and stoves?
Ninety-five percent of our orders have included flush-mount sinks and stoves, so those features are now standard.
Four Wheel Campers is offering new fabric choices for 2024. What are the new fabric choices?
Every year the fabric manufacturers discontinue and add fabric colors. The update is nothing wild and crazy, but we are offering a few new fabric colors.
Finally, privacy curtains will now be available for the outside of most models. These can be used for outside showers or a porta-potty. Tell us about this option.
The option is for a small bagged awning-style privacy curtain that’s permanently mounted; usually on the driver’s side. You unzip it, the fabric drops down, the arms fold out, and there’s a small room that has privacy for a shower or porta-potty.
Together with the earlier 2023 updates, this is an absolutely stunning list of updates for Four Wheel Campers. How do think the loyal Four Wheel Camper customer base is going to respond to all these changes?
For 2024, we are checking a lot of boxes our customers and dealers have been asking for. I think our community is going to be very happy with the new products and product enhancements. Some may even sell their current Four Wheel Campers to get some of these new features; especially the Truma heater and water heater, extended cabovers, underbed storage, air conditioner, and exterior electric roof lift. These options make a big difference to the function and comfort of the camper.
Is there anything you want to add that we didn’t talk about?
This was our big to-do list for 2024. We are dialed in and production is ready to go. I also want to invite your readers to come see us at the trade shows. We are doing more trade shows than ever in 2024. Come see us at the shows in 2024!