The North American Truck Camper Owners Association (NATCOA) has some very big news. First, it’s now free to join. Second, the club has restructured to offer its membership more rallies, gatherings, caravans and even more truck camping fun.
NATCOA was launched in 2005 by Co-Founders Bill Matthews and Paul Beddows. Bill came up with the idea and posted it on RV.net. As Paul explained in a 2007 interview in Truck Camper Magazine, “I would like to take all the credit for the idea (laughs), but I think it was Bill.”
NATCOA originally started as an internet forum for truck camper owners and manufacturers to communicate. Soon after, the fledgling club organized a truck camper caravan with member-funded prizes, potluck meals, and the opportunity to make new truck camping friends.
“We thought it wouldn’t go anywhere because the first caravan flubbed,” explained Paul. “Then Rex Willett of Northstar stepped in and gave us the credibility we needed. Shortly thereafter Rex, Bob Mehrer of Snowriver, and Robin Harper of Torklift gave us the financial assistance we needed. They made NATCOA possible.”
The majority of the truck camper industry quickly followed. By the end of 2007, truck camper manufacturers were putting NATCOA stickers on their units and promoting the club in their printed brochures. As Rex Willett, President of Northstar Campers, stated at the time, “With NATCOA, manufacturers can promote, defend, teach, and solve problems. That’s the real beauty and spirit of NATCOA.”
Arguably the crowning achievements of NATCOA were two National Truck Camper Shows in 2006 and 2007. Angela and I attended the 2007 event in Ogallala, Nebraska and counted over 50 brand new truck campers on display from 19 brands. We celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the NATCOA event with the must-see article, “The 2007 National Truck Camper Show: Ten Years Later”.
Above: Northstar was one of 19 truck camper brands on display at the 2007 National Truck Camper Show in Ogallala, Nebraska
The National Truck Camper Shows were developed to become the cornerstone of NATCOA and give truck campers the opportunity to have their own national show. After two successful years, the event was well on its way.
Then the Great Recession struck. The severe economic downturn took down a number of NATCOA’s key manufacturers and extinguished industry interest in a third national truck camper event.
In the years that followed, Paul and the original NATCOA leadership took a step back. The NATCOA membership, forums and rallies continued with enthusiasm, but the organization strained under the increasing weight of its lost support.
Through the sheer determination of NATCOA’s Presidents, Boards, and dedicated rally organizers, the club continued – but the sign was on the wall. If NATCOA was to regain its status in the truck camper industry and community, change was needed.
Introducing NATCOA 2.0
In mid-October we received an email from Rich Bain, the current President of NATCOA. At the top of the announcement Rich stated, “We have some pretty big changes coming our way for the club”. He wasn’t kidding.
First and foremost, NATCOA is now a free organization. There are no longer annual membership dues. NATCOA is now free to join.
Second, the aging NATCOA forums and various social media channels are being shut down by the end of 2018. The conversation will continue on NATCOA’s Facebook page.
And third, NATCOA’s Board of Directors has been dissolved. NATCOA will still be run by volunteers, but a board is no longer necessary under the vastly simplified reorganization.
To get the story on the changes being made to NATCOA, and where the organization is going into the future, we contacted Rich Bain for an interview.
Above: Rich and Joanne Bain at a NATCOA Wine Tour gathering