Truck Camper News

Introducing Kingstar Campers

From Michigan’s 906 comes Kingstar, a new fastback, slide-in or flatbed, hard side, non-slide truck camper company with two models, five layouts, and a growing list of exclusive accessories. Head turning innovative truck campers ahead.

Introducing Kingstar Truck Campers

It’s a game we all play. As you drive an interstate, a possible truck camper appears on the distant horizon. Your first objective is to avoid the dreaded demerit of calling out a truck camper that’s actually a Class C motorhome. Once you’ve established it’s a truck camper, you squint to determine the exact make and model before your eagle-eyed partner calls it first. Camper Call Out would be easy if most truck campers didn’t share a nearly identical shape. That’s the game.

With one of the most unique front and side camper profiles we’ve ever seen, Kingstar Campers are destined to rack up countless Camper Call Out points across America. Kingstar’s distinct fastback hard side is not only easy to spot a mile away, but continues its trailblazing execution inside. Check your preconceived hard side truck camper ideas at the entry door. You’re in for a treat in innovative truck camper design.

Kingstar Exterior Hero Shot

The originality on display doesn’t mean Kingstar has ignored decades of truck camper evolution and wisdom. In fact, Kingstar’s floor plan, layouts, and accessories demonstrate a keen understanding of real-world truck camping. The secret to Kingstar’s intuition is experience. The President of the company spends upwards of 200 nights a year in a Kingstar truck camper. More importantly, he doesn’t hesitate to critique the form, function, and utility of what he’s camping in and make improvements.

Kingstar Interior Hero Shot

Above: Kingstar’s Cimarron interior in a Camino 88

Learning the entrepreneurial history of Kingstar Campers is critical to appreciating the company and its campers. As you’re about to read, the family and team behind Kingstar have a deep knowledge of design, intellectual property, metal fabrication, manufacturing technology, and production spanning two generations and multiple industries. And it all started with a horse named JD.

For the full backstory on Kingstar Campers, we talked to Marcus Niemela, President of Kingstar.

Click here to request more information about Kingstar Campers.

Kingstar Camper President Marcus Niemela

The origin story behind Kingstar starts with a horse named Jackie Diamond (JD) and a wilderness area in Happy Jack, Arizona. Tell us the story.

In 2005, my brothers and I sold Blizzard, the family snow plow company, and went our separate ways. Horses and the Western lifestyle were always something I had an interest in.

I had a truck camper and a bumper pull trailer. I would take JD out of the Phoenix Valley in the summer and head up to Happy Jack where it would be 15 to 20 degrees cooler.

We did that a few times and found out it was quite a task to bring the hay, water, and corral system. Hay bales are heavy and the process of setting a high line or corral panels can be a big undertaking.

While up there, the Kingstar trailer idea dawned on me. As my father would say, “If something’s hard, start thinking.” That was the genesis of Kingstar.

JD Kingstar Trailer Valley Of The God

Above and below: Marcus’ horse, JD, with a Kingstar horse trailer

Kingstar Marcus Leads JD From Trailer

In a video interview with Reyes and Deedra of Exploring Still Connected, you talked about the influence your entrepreneurial family had on you. What was that impact?

I’m number six of six siblings. Throughout our lives, we either worked for our father or ourselves. My father was a contractor and a manufacturer. During the 1970s, he manufactured wood furnaces under the name Defiance Company. I was about five at the time and either sweeping the floor or getting in the way.

Then, Boss Snowplow came along, which was also my father’s company. The plow was invented by my oldest brother, Cal. I believe the reason that Cal’s name isn’t on the patent was that he was too young. He was a 15-year-old kid when he came up with the plow. He truly was the brain child of the Boss Plow, no pun intended.

I worked for my father, Niemela Construction, Cuda (a parts cleaning business), and then Blizzard snow plows. We all owned Blizzard and were partners.

Kingstar Camino 88 Valley Of The Gods

Above: Kingstar Camino 88 in Valley Of The Gods, Utah

That’s quite the backstory. Was there a specific marketplace opportunity you went after with Kingstar truck campers?

A lot of the Kingstar camper concept came from what I wanted in a camper. I like horseback riding, kayaking, paddle boarding, and mountain biking. I wanted to create a truck camper that could store stuff, lift stuff, and make life on the road a pleasure; just like our horse trailer.

A lot of thinking went into our first camper design. If you walked into the prototype, you’d see essentially the same layout we have today. We debuted the prototype camper in late 2019. A few months later, the state of Michigan declared a shutdown. [laughs] We thought, should we just lock the doors and let this pass? We continued forward.

Kingstar Interior Hero 2

Our original target market was rodeo because of the trailer. They liked our camper, but either couldn’t afford it, or didn’t deem the stainless steel roof system, stainless steel shower, and closed cell spray foam insulation enough to justify the cost.

On the other hand, the Overland and off-grid folks encouraged us to go further with the implementation of Truma Combi, lithium batteries, inverters, solar, dry bath, and more recently, Starlink and Pep link.

Kingstar Cabover Hero

I saw somewhere that you spend over 100 days a year in your camper. Talk to me a little bit about your truck camping lifestyle.

For the past few years, I’ve spent over half the year in a Kingstar truck camper. Unlike the early days camping with JD, I’m not exactly vacationing on the road. We are building a company and a brand. My experience living in Kingstar campers has allowed me to study and test every element of our products. I have been able to think through and finish every aspect of the camper in real-life truck camping.

When I do get away, I hook up our horse trailer, bring JD, and go out for maybe a week. God willing, I’ll get my mountain bikes and paddle boards back out and be able to really start enjoying truck camping again.

Kingstar Lounger Layout

Above: The Lounger layout in a Kingstar Camino 88

Work wise, it’s a real trip to be going down the road. As a matter of fact, I pulled over for this interview. My feet are up on the lounger talking to you two. It’s crazy!

We understand what you’re saying about vacation truck camping versus work truck camping. And we also feel so lucky to be able to do what we do. Since you’re on the road, are your siblings back home overseeing the business?

My oldest brother, Cal, is mostly there. Two of his sons and a son-in-law are also involved and part of the business.

Kingstar Company Group Photo

Above: The Kingstar production team

So, is it all family working at Kingstar?

I would say two-thirds are related, but there are employees from the local community working as well.

Kingstar Logo

Where did the name Kingstar come from?

There’s no great story behind it. It was a bunch of names that were written down. Kingstar just hit the right note, especially when the logo was designed.

You and/or your brother Cal hold dozens of patents including various plows, transport trailers, hinge locking systems, deployable storage for vehicles, and convertible storage systems. How does your history of invention and patents influence your camper design?

Intellectual property has been something that our family has really coveted and gone after. With the snow plow business, there were red ones, yellow ones, orange ones, and blue ones. We were the white ones. If all we had was another plow that went up, down, left, and right like everyone else, that would be a hard way to enter an existing industry of established brand-name plows.

Intellectual property gets you out of a me-too product. If you have a patented product that’s superior because of the features you offer, it could be purple with pink polka dots and people are going to buy it. In Blizzard and Boss’ case, it made our customers more money. Due to the design features these plows have, they pretty nearly double their accounts per plow because of the productivity they offer.

Defiance Snow Plow

Above: The Niemela family founded and continues to operate Defiance snowplows

This way of thinking is how, for example, the sliding toilet was developed. Our campers are 7’7” wide and have floor lengths as short as 7’11”, so a dry bath design was a challenge. I spent a good many hours in the evening leaning up against the kitchen counter looking at the toilet thinking, “How can I get that thing to come in and out of there to create a dry bath without it being a Rubik’s Cube to figure out?” You get lucky sometimes.

It sounds like you were looking at it just like your dad told you to.

Exactly. There was a need there. It would be easy to offer a dry bath if we made the camper three feet longer in the back, but that would be defeating the purpose. We are about maximizing a footprint that lives very comfortable inside, functions amazingly on the outside with available accessories and, in most cases, tows a trailer with no extension required.

Kingstar Welding at Plant Three

Above: Metal fabrication at Kingstar Campers

Tell us about the Kingstar factory and team.

We have sixteen employees. There are three buildings that are all within a mile of each other. One of them is where we do all the stainless steel and aluminum fabricating for Kingstar accessories and roof systems. We call that Plant Three (below right) and it’s about 6,000 square feet.

Show more
Kingstar Factory Houghton Michigan

Kingstar Plant 1

Show more
Kingstar Factory In Michigan

Kingstar Plant 2

Show more
Kingstar Factory Michigan

Kingstar Plant 3

Plant Two (above middle) is also about 6,000 square feet. That’s where we have our CNC and spray foam insulation machine. It’s also where our campers are framed, rough wired and plumbed, cabinets installed, and spray foamed.

When that’s done, then the campers go to Plant One (above left). Plant One is where our office and upholstery shop is and the final build process is completed.

Upholstry Shop Kingstar

When a camper is completed, it’s pressure tested with a Sealtech machine (shown above) to make sure there are no leaks. We pressurize the cabin, and soap spray all the seams and penetrations.

Show more
Kingstar Seal Tech test for each camper
Show more
Seal Tech test being taken
Show more
Seal Tech Test looking forbubbles on the outside
Show more
Seal Tech Test at Kingstar
Show more
Seal Tech Test in action at Kingstar Campers
Show more
Seal Tech Test 5

The Sealtech has helped us greatly with how we build and install our roof system. The exterior roof sealant is for appearance only. We get the job done right – from the back side of the roof.

As fabricators and inventors, do you make and do everything in-house?

You can pivot quickly when you have things done in-house. The only thing we don’t have in-house is a laser cutter and brake for the metal work. That’s outsourced from the next town over. It’s pretty convenient.

Kingstar Factory CNC Machine

Above and below: CNC equipment at Kingstar Campers

Are your campers designed with pencil and paper or CAD?

We use SolidWorks.

Show more
Kingstar CNC Prep
Show more
Kingstar CNC Running
Show more
Kingstar CNC Machine

Your website proudly proclaims that Kingstar is, “Hand-Built In 906 Michigan”. Why was it important that Kingstar be located in Michigan?

We’re proud of the Great Lake State of Michigan! It was the state that put the world on wheels and pretty much won World War 2. So yes, we are proud to be Michiganders, and more so Yoopers aka 906ers.

Kingstar Hand Buit In 906 Michigan

We have a ton of readers from Michigan. They’re going to love that. Are Kingstar truck campers custom built to order or are they production made?

The new Kingstar Camino line is about 90 percent production made. Different layouts and interior colors can be easily changed, and the whole camper is prewired for options. In half a day, the Camino can go from a $40,000 camper to a $60,000 plus camper with installed options and accessories. The higher-end Kingstar KRUZR is custom-built to order.

Kingstar Camper Camper Width

Above: Kingstar Camino 88 with the Overland Pack and Fold & Go Stairs

Are your campers exclusively sold factory direct from your Michigan factory?

Yes. The challenge with selling through a dealer network was our layouts, options, and accessories. Most customers would get interested in a camper on a dealer lot, and then end up ordering one the way they wanted it.

To market our campers, we have chosen mediums like Truck Camper Magazine, Google, social media, trade shows, and our website. We have customers from all over North America who have come and toured our factory and campers. That said, a fair amount of customers place their order sight unseen.

Kingstar Fastback Design Front And Side Camper

Kingstar campers have a distinctive fastback design. Where did that come from?

I had my ideas for the design. We worked from the inside out, translating how we wanted the camper to function on the inside to the form outside.

Cal always has a pen and pad of paper. He sketched up the fastback profile in a few minutes. When the mocked-up profile was on the truck, we thought we had something unique.

Kingstar Factory Production Line 1

Kingstar horse trailers are constructed from structural aluminum. Kingstar truck campers are made with wood framing. Why did you decide to use wood framing for Kingstar truck campers?

Wood is quiet, warm, and dry. Aluminum is loud, wet, and cold. In our opinion, aluminum is not the best material for a habitat. Also, it’s interesting that some aluminum camper manufacturers put wood inside the aluminum framework. They say it’s for backing to fasten into as well as for R-Value. However, now the wood is trapped in this, at times, wet environment.

With any camper, the key is to keep the water out. If you have water coming in, you have problems no matter the construction materials or method.

Wood has a significant R-value. And it doesn’t conduct cold and moisture like aluminum does. Our mattress doesn’t need to be elevated due to the wood construction and closed-cell spray foam insulation. There’s no condensation.

Our campers are like a sound studio inside.

Show more
Spray Foam Insulation 1
Show more
Spray Foam Insulation 5
Show more
Spray Foam Insulation 4
Show more
Spray Foam Insulation 2

Why did you decide to use spray foam insulation instead of block foam?

Spray foam insulation has an incredible R-value. We’re getting R12 to R13 in our units. Kingstar campers are airtight, almost to a fault. Spray foam insulation also adds structural integrity to the camper. When a camper is sprayed, it locks the framing together as if it were a mold.

Kingstar Factory Tyvek Wrap

Are Kingstar campers laminated or hung wall?

It’s a hung wall process. We use quarter-inch laminated panels of filon and Azdel composite. These panels come to us in Polar White, Clover Mist (silver/grey), or Champaign (gold/brown).

Kingstar Factory Installing Metal Nose

Kingstar truck campers have stainless steel and aluminum roofs. Which parts of the Kingstar roof are steel and which parts are aluminum?

Our campers are 20 and 22-gauge stainless steel and .040 aluminum. For the areas with high visibility and high impact, we use 20 gauge stainless.

In low visibility areas of the camper, we use aluminum for weight and cost savings. Starting from the rear wing is 22 gauge stainless. There’s no impact there, but it’s high visibility.

The flat fastback part of the roof and the very top is aluminum, then we transition to 22 gauge stainless steel where the skylight is. The front nose cap is 20 gauge steel to take impact, then back to aluminum for the cabover, and then back to stainless where it ends in the bed of the truck.

Kingstar Kruzr Nose

So your front wall under your cabover, around your front nose, and all the way back on the roof to the rear overhang is metal?

Yes.

Kingstar Roof With Solar Panels

Why not use a more typical rubber or TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) roof?

Nobody is doing stainless steel roofs. It’s a timeless look for generational enjoyment and minimal maintenance. It’s stainless steel after all.

With a metal roof, we’re able to bend the roof panel over the side of the camper wall. We have about an inch and a quarter bent over, so we don’t have a seam there and it captures the walls of the camper. It has served us well.

How do you address electrolysis between the aluminum and the steel?

With dissimilar metals, there will be a barrier of 3M tape between them.

Kingstar KRUZR 6 with accessories

Above: Kingstar KRUZR 6 with Rack Pack and Rack Pack tower; on Kingstar’s website scroll to exclusive accessories

Why are your campers are 7’7” wide?

We didn’t want to be big just to be big.

We had to get big enough for a nice shower, house the Truma Combi, and get the spacious feel inside that we were trying to accomplish and we did. With that goal, 7’7” is where we ended up. We have what we call the CA (cab to axle) wide body/flatbed build. Those campers are five inches wider in the galley because the real estate is there on a flatbed.

Why are Kingstar campers non-basement designs?

We wanted to offer maximum interior height while keeping the overall camper height low. With no basement and no rooftop air conditioner, there is a 6’8” interior height and 10’6” to 11” exterior height, depending on the truck it’s on.

Kingstar Side Tank

Above: An optional external holding tank accessory

What size holding tanks do the Kingstar campers offer?

The fresh tanks are approximately 32 gallons fresh and 20 gallons grey in the 8 foot series, and 25 gallons fresh and 20 gallons grey in the 6 foot series. Our flatbed series has 30 gallon grey tanks. We do offer auxiliary water tanks for the 8 and 6 series campers. It adds 30 gallons fresh for the 8 series and 25 fresh for the 6 series. That’s over 60 gallons on the 8 series and 50 for the 6 series.

Our grey tank is what I call a 3.5-season tank. It has a quick divert to the ground if you run into freezing temperatures. You can quickly flip it back to the tank when temperatures allow. Most parts of the country are above-freezing year-round.

The demographic of a KRUZR and Camino is not a KOA campground chaser even though it would be the jewel of the park. It is in compliance with full-hookups and dump stations at campgrounds and state parks.

Our target customers are more adventure and expedition individuals who want to get out and stay out. This is due to the huge water, battery, and solar capacities we offer along with offering a hard side, non-slide camper without a huge rear overhang. The trade-offs of not having a full basement, four-season grey tank, and rooftop air conditioner give us arguably the lowest exterior height and maximum interior height in the industry. That’s worked well for our customers.

Kruzr With Big Refrigerator

Kingstar campers appear to have storage tucked into every possible inch. Where does storage fit into Kingstar’s overall design concept?

I have spent several hundred days and nights in our campers and enjoy the opportunity to be critical of our design. Why not look at every cubic inch as something meaningful?

Kingstar Lots Of Storage Under Stove

For instance, there was a dead space behind the pull-out pantry/spice cabinet. With that, we created a space for two paper towel rolls; one that’s in use on a barrel and another ready to go. When the first roll is done, you pull out the tray and another roll drops down. That adds value for the customer. There’s a space and a place, aka splace, for everything in our campers.

Kingstar Storage Pantry And Trash Can

Splace. That’s going to stick. Both Kingstar models, the KRUZR and Camino, share the same footprint. Do all Kingstars basically start out with the same general design?

Yes, because it works. The design works. The Camino isn’t built on government cheese. It has the same good nutrition as the KRUZR does; closed-cell spray foam, thermal pane windows, and a stainless roof system. It’s just not as fancy, nor does it have the equipment offering of the KRUZR.

The Camino owner doesn’t need or want 810 amp hours of lithium or 1,000 watts of solar that the KRUZR can get. They’re weekend warriors or have that occasional one-week annual trip they enjoy. The Camino is built as a price point camper with heirloom quality that can be built up over time with additional features and options. It’s prewired for a lot of components and, with the optional rack rail, can receive all of the accessories we offer.

So there’s no government cheese in your camper whatsoever?

Not that I’m aware of. [laughs]

Kingstar takes a different approach to floor plans and layouts. How do you explain the different configurations the two Kingstar models are available in?

The Open Range is the base floor plan for the Camino and KRUZR. It’s a flat area of 43 by 72 inches in the 8 series and 43 by 57 inches in the 6 series. All of our other floor plans are built into this same area. It comes with two folding chairs and two pull-out tables; one from under the bed and one from the shower wall.

Kingstar Open Range Layout 2

I’m looking out the camper window right now and there’s a guy with a Great Dane. The Open Range would be perfect for him. At night, the Great Dane has this huge area to sleep. During the day, the owners can set up the chairs to create a sitting area.

Kingstar Dinette Set Up

We offer a traditional face-to-face Dinette that can convert to a 43 by 72 inch sleeper bunk.

Kingstar Lounger With Storage Drawers

The Lounger, being the most popular, allows for maximum storage and comfort. You can throw your feet up for comfort. It also has a much bigger feel when you walk in versus the Dinette because the table is not at the galley. The Lounger is perfect for one or two people.

Kingstar Couch Bunk As Sofa

The Couch/Bunk is much like the Lounger. It’s very comfortable and spacious but it’s great for grandparents or young couples with children. With the Couch/Bunk, you can sleep four adults comfortably.

Kingstar Command Center Overview

The Command Center is where you have counter space all around you or not. No matter how you swivel that chair, you can surround yourself with tables; a laptop here, and a tablet and phone there. Then you can transform it. Spin around, pull out your tables from underneath your bed and off the shower wall, and make it into a dinette. The Command Center is kind of like a hybrid dinette.

We want to make our campers appeal to everybody and every lifestyle. We feel like we have captured that idea with our five layouts.

“We want to make our campers appeal to everybody and every lifestyle. We feel like we have captured that idea with our five layouts.”

Can you see Kingstar branching out into a mid-bath floor plan or a slide-out model?

I don’t see Kingstar deviating from our current design and how it flows from the door to the pillow. We may come out with larger models for our flatbed builds or living areas that have a little bit more counter space and a little bit more seating areas. That would give us the opportunity to have U-shaped dinettes and it would work better for the Command Center; having more north-south real estate in the living area. I also see having an electric-diesel version of our camper.

There are accessories in development for storing tires, kayaks, and paddle boards.

Kingstar Camper Winter Snowmobile

Given your horse trailer design, that’s an intriguing idea. Where do you see Kingstar in three to five years?

After going through the virus and knowing how quickly things can change, three to five years almost seems like an eternity. [laughs]

We want to stay focused on just consistently providing a good steak. Steak is fresh on my mind because I always stop in Amarillo at The Big Texan steak house off Interstate 40. It isn’t some fancy high-end Mastro’s or Fleming’s steak house, but I know I’m going to get a good steak there. They sheer me a little with the bill, but they don’t butcher me. [laughs] Given the quality of the steak, the customer service, and the ambiance, I expect to be sheered a little.

“Our vision for Kingstar is to offer a world-class truck camper at a fair price with exclusive features and accessories that make life on the road amazing.”

Our vision for Kingstar is to offer a world-class truck camper at a fair price with exclusive features and accessories that make life on the road amazing. Our product is incredibly well made with the finest of materials and components; the quality and value we represent are in another league!

I think we have a new phrase for you, Marcus; sheer value.

Yes, I love that! That’s exactly what we’re after with Kingstar Campers; sheer value.

For more information on Kingstar, visit their website at kingstarcampers.net. Click here to request a free Kingstar camper brochure.

Next: A deep dive into the Kingstar Camino and the KRUZR; design, specifications, capacities, and lots of photography. 

 

Truck Camper Chooser
To Top