TCM: That could be useful. How did you come up with the idea for the Loading Buddy?
Steve: That’s another story. After picking up the Practice Camper at the shop, I drove it home. My wife took one look at what I had done, smiled, and climbed in the driver’s seat. She drove that truck and inflatable camper around for over an hour.
“This is no big deal,” she said. I cautioned her that the real truck camper would add a lot of weight and change the vehicle driving dynamics, but she was already in the zone.
“I can handle this. I was mostly worried about driving something so big,” she explained.
Mission accomplished, I revealed my next idea.
“Honey, I think you need to learn to load and unload the camper.”
“No way!” she exclaimed. “Loading this thing is your responsibility. Not a chance.”
We drove in silence for a few minutes before she pulled over, pushed the truck into park, and turned to me with that familiar, “What are you up to this time?” look.
Above: An AirWalken 2.0 HP Jack Blower
TCM: I get that, too! Maybe it’s a guy thing.
Steve: Probably. Anyway, I told her about my Loading Buddy idea and, once again, she loved it. Two weeks later, we were back at the plant to see the first iteration of what would become the Loading Buddy product.
The Loading Buddy shared the same design as the Practice Camper, but had two additional side supports that simulated the form and function of camper jacks. The two side supports have their own blowers and can be raised and lowered independently using a standard camper jack remote.
Above: Steve’s conceptual rendering of the Loading Buddy profile. Note the adjustable jack bladder to simulate the form and function of camper jacks
TCM: That’s really cool. How did you key the two leg blowers to be triggered using the standard camper jack remote?
Steve: We worked with a camper jack manufacturer and they released their wireless codes to us. When you hit the remote, you either increase inflation pressure to go up, or release air pressure to go down. That took some engineering, but it works beautifully.
When my wife saw the Loading Buddy, she jumped right into the truck and started backing up towards the inflatable. Within seconds she hit the Loading Buddy at an angle. As the product was designed, the Loading Buddy out gassed, but nothing was damaged, and she simply pulled forward and tried again.
Seeing the determined look on her face, I went into the plant for coffee. By the time I came back out, she had successfully backed the camper under the Loading Buddy. About ten minutes later, she had pulled forward, driven around the lot, returned, and started towards the Loading Buddy again. She hit the Loading Buddy a couple more times, and then nailed it. This went on for the better part of the morning.
TCM: How is she now at loading and unloading?