We talk to Dave Frampton and Dave Catron of Adventurer Manufacturing’s design team to get the inside scoop on the development of the 2010 Adventurer 80SK.
Truck camper layout and design choices are often debated on the web forums, at truck camper rallies, dealer lots, or anywhere truck campers get together. Here at TCM, we often have conversations about floor plans and other aspects of camper design. Why did they design it like this? Why don’t they design it like that? Many a napkin has been inked in our camper dinettes.
It turns out that these debates are echoed at every truck camper manufacturer as well. To illuminate one such story, we interviewed Dave Frampton, Product Development Manager, and Dave Catron, Engineer, about the design and development of the 2010 Adventurer 80SK. During the conversation we also learn more about the 2010 Adventurer 80GS and get a peek into the future of design at Adventurer.
2010 Adventurer 80SK Specifications:
The 2010 Adventurer 80SK is a hard side, non-slide, truck camper. The interior floor length of the 2010 Adventurer 80SK is 8’0″, the interior height is 78″, and the exterior width is 84″. Adventurer Manufacturing is reporting the dry weight of the camper at 1,296 pounds without options. The fresh water tank is 15 gallons. The 80SK accommodates one battery and a 20 pound propane tank. The MSRP of the 80SK is $12,950.
TCM: Do you go RVing?
Dave Catron: Yes. I grew up truck camping, fishing, and hunting with my dad and uncles, so I also have always been around RVs. Right now I have a travel trailer, but I had two truck campers before purchasing the travel trailer. I had a Conestoga and Western Wilderness truck camper.
Dave Frampton: As long as I can remember, I’ve been going RVing. My dad took me RVing every weekend we weren’t playing baseball. I go RVing as many times as I can during the year. I have a half-ton pop-up truck camper. I go hunting and fishing. My wife and kids love to go waterskiing and wake boarding at Lake Roosevelt. That’s like two and a half hours from here. Dave and I go hunting together.
TCM: Tell us how you got into the RV industry.
Dave Frampton: In 1990, I was looking for a job in Yakima and interviewed with Doug Mathews at Western Recreational Vehicles. Since then, I’ve been involved in product development. I started as a drafter and gradually worked my way up in the company. I learned CAD (computer aided design) drafting through the Phoenix Institute of Technology.
Dave Catron: In 1983, I came on board with Western Recreational Vehicles building cabinets and laminating. Two years later, I got into management and became the Assistant Plant Manager overseeing the cabinet shop and half of the production line. Twelve years later, in August of 1997, I joined the product design team.
TCM: Have you brought anything specific from your days at Western Recreational Vehicles to Adventurer?
Dave Frampton: Absolutely. Our skills and experience at WRV translated directly to Adventurer. Getting a new start at Adventurer was refreshing and getting an opportunity to work with James Epp, President of Adventurer and Fraserway RV, has been eye opening. Designing for the truck camper user has been gratifying. I am really enjoying the experience.
Dave Catron: Some of the processes that were in place at WRV are processes currently in use here at Adventurer. We are also implementing some of our own processes that we brought over from WRV.
TCM: Tell us about the actual design process. Do things start on napkins and then progress to AutoCad or SolidWorks?
Dave Frampton: Ideas come at any time and any place. Ideas can start on a napkin, a piece of cardboard out in the plant, or in the middle of the night. We never know where inspiration comes from.
The idea for the 80GS came about at a dinner with the Fraserway group of dealerships in Canada. They were looking for something to fill a niche with the half-ton market.
Dave Catron: Inspiration comes from the fact that we are truck camper users ourselves. We come up with ideas while we are out there using the product. Plus we see how others are using truck campers which helps us with our designs.
TCM: How does a new camper design make it from the computer to prototype?
Dave Catron: It’s a team effort. We’re in close contact with James Epp, our company President, and his sales team. We send them our layouts and they give us their input on changes they would like to see before going into prototyping.
Dave Frampton: Just take the 80GS as an example. We talked about that at Louisville in 2008, and drew up the floor plans. We really needed to get the weight right for that camper. Once we finished our plans we sent them to James Epp for review. Once the prototype was built, we refined it.
Dave Catron: Dave and I are both hands-on. We both built the prototype and we both walk the production lines looking for opportunities to improve the product. We’re also there to answer any questions the production team may have.
TCM: As designers, how much freedom are you given with design and materials?
Dave Catron: We have a lot more freedom here at Adventurer than we’re used to. We’ve made a lot of changes on our own. We do consult with our sales team and they are very accessible and open to our changes and ideas.
TCM: Do you find your designs restricted by cost considerations?
Dave Frampton: Costs are always a huge issue. We are always looking at what the end consumer can do with his or her dollars. Our goal is to provide the highest value for the lowest price. Right now in our office we have 150 different samples of products and materials we are evaluating. We’re always looking for something better for your dollar. If you looked at our materials list, we’ve made hundreds of changes with our parts, freight, cost, terms, and warranty.
Dave Catron: Currently we have three generators, three toilets, a bumper, and several faucets in our shared office. We’re a little crowded in here.
TCM: How much are your designs dictated by the various codes you need to meet?
Dave Frampton: We have a lot of codes we have to comply with like RVIA, CSA, and FVMSS (Federal Vehicle Motor Safety Standards). That’s an everyday battle, especially with plumbing and wiring. We have to make our product legal and safe for the customer.
TCM: Tell us about the design and development of the 80GS and 80SK.
Dave Frampton: As I said, we talked about the 80GS at Louisville in 2008. The design and development took two months. We had new manufacturing ideas to drive the weight out. We had to make sure it fit into the half-ton truck camper market. We wanted the 80GS to be under 1,400 pounds dry weight. We went slightly north of that.
Dave Catron: We are always looking for improvements for weight and cost reduction.
TCM: Did you hit your design goals for the 80GS and 80SK?
Dave Frampton: Yes, we hit our design criteria. I don’t believe we are ever satisfied. We always want to make it lighter and add more value. We’re always looking to make our products better.
TCM: Were there any design challenges or breakthroughs with the 80GS manual slide?
Dave Catron: For the most part, the manual slide went rather well. Actually, it went better than what we had anticipated. We were believers that it would work.
Dave Frampton: We had to meet our weight goal and the manual slide helped us to do that. We saved twenty to twenty-five pounds by using the manual slide.
TCM: Twenty to twenty-five pounds? That doesn’t sound like much. Were you really worried about a pound here and a pound there?
Dave Catron: We were literally sweating over ounces. It is a fully self-contained camper. It’s an eight footer for a half ton truck. That’s no small feat.
Dave Frampton: There are things that would have been nice to have in the camper but aren’t because of weight. During the design of the camper, we spreadsheet calculated the weight of the camper. It helped us look at where we were in comparison to our end goal.
TCM: Tell us about the 2010 Adventurer 80SK.
Dave Catron: The 80SK is a simplified 80GS. There are no waste holding tanks or toilet. It comes with a porta-potti option and fits both 6 1/2-foot and 8-foot bed trucks. Hot water, forced air furnace, two-burner stove and a large four-cubic foot refrigerator/freezer are standard. It has a roomy U-shaped dinette/lounge area that makes into additional sleeping space for two.
Dave Frampton: The 80SK comes in at 1,296 pounds dry weight.
TCM: Since we’ve been talking so much about reducing camper weight, where are the opportunities to reduce the weight of truck camper designs?
Dave Frampton: We’re working with our parts and material vendors to reduce weight. We relay ideas to the vendors, they come back with solutions, and then we see improvements in the products they are offering. There’s constant communication.
We’re also looking to reduce weight through the use of lamination to add strength and reduce weight. Everything from laminate on counter tops to fiberglass on the exterior is looked at.
Dave Catron: The codes from RVIA and Canada often tie our hands with design aspects.
Dave Frampton: It’s a team effort. You have to have fun. I really enjoy working with Dave.
Dave Catron: See, he does like me.
TCM: Thank you, Dave and Dave.