Alaskan Campers announces its first new floor plan in six years; a hard side pop-up for short bed trucks; the Alaskan 6.5. It’s a leather sofa camper that sleeps four!
Outside of the food industry, there aren’t too many companies that launched a product fifty years ago – or more – that’s still in production today. That list gets extremely short if you eliminate companies that have changed their products substantially over time. Even Chris-Craft boats and Vespa scooters swayed to current trends, and changed their classic products over time.
Not Alaskan Campers. Alaskan builds their hard side pop-up truck campers essentially the same way they did when the company was founded fifty plus years ago. They even look the same. We don’t recommend taking bets on an Alaskan Camper’s birthday from fifty paces. Unless you work there, it might be impossible to tell.
Speaking of working there, the crew at Alaskan has rolled out their first new floor plan in six years; the 2015 Alaskan 6.5. This new for 2015 Alaskan Camper is designed to work with short bed truck campers, and is light enough to be considered a match for late model half-tons with 2,000 pounds of payload.
To get the inside scoop on this new Alaskan, we talked to Bryan Wheat, President of Alaskan Campers.
2015 Alaskan 6.5 Specifications:
The Alaskan 6.5 is a hard side, pop-up truck camper that is made for short bed trucks. The interior floor length of the Alaskan 6.5 is 76″ and the interior height is 6’4″. Alaskan is reporting the dry weight of the Alaskan 6.5 at 1,483 pounds with standard features. The fresh water tank in the Alaskan 6.5 is 27 gallons. The camper accommodates one battery and one horizontal twenty-pound propane tank. The base price MSRP for the Alaskan 6.5 is $25,899.
Above: The 2015 Alaskan 6.5. The floor plan was not yet available at time of publishing.
TCM: Does the new 2015 Alaskan 6.5 replace any older models in the Alaskan line?
Bryan: The 6.5 is an all-new Alaskan Camper that we’re adding to our hard side pop-up truck camper line. We got the idea for the 6.5 at the Pacific Northwest Sportsman’s Show in Portland, Oregon in 2014.
We took an Alaskan 10 and an 8.5 to the show, two of our bigger models for long bed trucks. Most of the people at the show were hunters and fishermen with half-ton, short bed trucks. They kept asking us if we made anything that would work for their trucks.
With this feedback, we set out to build a lighter weight Alaskan Camper for short bed half-ton trucks. On average, our campers are about nineteen to twenty pounds per inch, so the only real way to make our campers lighter is to build them shorter.
The 6.5 is the result of this effort. It weighs 1,483 pounds, which is compatible with many half-ton trucks. Our seven foot model also works on some half-tons but, at 1,740 pounds with full propane and a water heater, it’s better suited to three-quarter tons.
Above: The interior of the 2015 Alaskan 6.5, the door looking forward
TCM: It’s interesting that Alaskan Campers are about nineteen to twenty pounds per inch. How do you weigh your campers?
Bryan: We take our campers to a local certified scale. We weigh the truck empty, then weigh the truck and camper together. To find the camper weight, we subtract the weight of the truck from the truck and camper weight. With five gallons of water and a full propane tank, the 6.5 came in at 1,483 pounds.
I actually guessed the weight within three pounds. We had a bit of a bet here at Alaskan about what it would weigh. Don’t tell my team, but I cheated by knowing the nineteen to twenty pounds per inch rule.
Above: The interior of the 2015 Alaskan 6.5, the overcab looking backward
TCM: Was the design of the Alaskan 6.5 dictated by the length and weight targets, or were there other sources of input?
Bryan: Feedback for the 6.5 came from sportsman shows, phone calls, and emailed feedback from customers. People wanted a lighter and simpler camper; no toilet, no black tank, nothing too fancy. There is room for a porta potty in the 6.5, but that’s it.
Above: The side dinette couch makes into a six foot bed
TCM: Was the 2015 Alaskan 6.5 started with a clean slate, or is it based on another Alaskan camper model?
Bryan: It’s really a completely fresh Alaskan. During our design phase, I come up with the general concept, and then bounce things around with our team. We use both pen and paper and computer aided design (CAD) to draw out the specifics.
One design criteria we had was to make the side dinette couch no less than six feet long. It’s important that an adult can actually sleep there. To get the 74-inch bed, the exterior length of the camper turned out a little longer than we had hoped, but the couch length was important.
Above: The tailgate needs to be removed on a half ton, short bed truck
On a six-and-a-half-foot short bed truck, you need to remove the tailgate for the 6.5 model. Of course removing the tailgate also removes about fifty pounds from your truck camper rig.
TCM: It sure does. We have weighed our fair share of tailgates over the years and they’re almost always right at fifty pounds. Did you change Alaskan’s wood and aluminum frame, hung-wall construction approach for the Alaskan 6.5?
Bryan: Alaskan has been building campers the same way since the 1950s. We were retro before it was cool. Besides, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The oldest Alaskan we’ve had here at the shop was a 1954 model. That camper had the same basic material and construction that we use today, and it looked fantastic. The aluminum skin was faded on top, but the construction quality was excellent. There’s a 1963 Alaskan outside my office window right now and it looks beautiful.
TCM: Why do you still side your campers with aluminum? Almost the entire RV industry has gone to filon fiberglass sides.
Bryan: Aluminum siding costs less, is lighter weight, and it’s more easily repaired. It also can’t de-laminate like filon does. I have a friend with a $300,000 Class-A motorhome and it’s got de-lamination bubbles on the sides. You don’t see de-lamination bubbles on Alaskans.
Above: The honey-color straight grain Wilsonart Monticello Maple interior
TCM: Good point. Are there any new materials or components in the Alaskan 6.5?
Bryan: We went to a honey-color straight grain Wilsonart Monticello Maple interior. The countertop and walls are all Wilsonart laminates. Wilsonart products are almost bulletproof. It’s doesn’t scratch, it’s waterproof, and incredibly durable.
An Alaskan Camper with a Wilsonart interior will look brand new in twenty years, as long as you don’t beat it up. Alaskan customers can pick an Wilsonart material they would like by going to the Wilsonart website, wilsonart.com, or your local Home Depot.
Above: The sofa pictured above is made from recycled and resurfaced leather – fabrics can also be used in Alaskan Campers
TCM: In the photographs the sofa looks like leather.
Bryan: The couch is made from recycled and resurfaced leather. We’ve gone green. We’ve been using resurfaced leather for the last two years. It’s great for dogs because it wipes right off. We also have other fabric options. We get a lot of people who ship fabric to us to use in their camper.
If you don’t like our linoleum, you can pick your own. We’ll go with what the customer wants in his or her camper. Most go with our standard fabric, countertop, and floor materials, but some change laminates or countertop colors.
Above: The Nova Kool 12-volt compressor refrigerator
We also upgraded our refrigerators. Most customers want the Nova Kool 12-volt compressor refrigerators. They prefer them over the three-way refrigerators because they don’t need to be perfectly level. Our customers don’t necessarily camp on level blacktop. The Nova Kool is also very efficient drawing about an amp an hour.
Above: The flip-down foot rest that includes the table base
Under our dinettes we usually have a step for your feet to rest on. The Alaskan 6.5 does not have a step, so we incorporated a flip-down foot rest and also contains the table base. While you’re not using it, the table stores under the seat. This versatility gives the 6.5 a wide open aisle way. With the sofa dinette, the 6.5 can sleep up to four adults.
TCM: They would need to be good friends though.
Bryan: Yes they would.
TCM: What type of windows are standard; single or thermal pane?
Bryan: Single pane windows are standard. You can get dual pane windows as an option for the side windows. Unfortunately, Hehr does not make thermal windows that would fit our cabover window sizes.
Above: Alaskan uses a hydraulic lift mechanism that comes with a lifetime warranty
TCM: Tell us about the pop-up mechanism and roof on the 2015 Alaskan 6.5.
Bryan: We have been using the same hydraulic pump motor for our roof lift mechanism since 1997. It’s so proven that we offer a lifetime warranty on our hydraulic pump. We manufacture the hydraulic lift system in-house.
TCM: Obviously, there’s no black tank in the Alaskan 6.5, but what about a grey tank, and the fresh tank?
Bryan: There is a twenty-seven gallon fresh water tank in our 6.5. In fact, all Alaskan Campers have a twenty-seven gallon fresh water tank.
There is no grey tank in the 6.5. However, there’s a straight run out to the exterior. You hook up a hose on the outside of your camper and collect grey water in a portable grey water container. Alaskan owners don’t want to tote around twenty gallons of grey water. It’s also really easy to get rid of a few gallons of grey water in a campground or residential sink.
TCM: What considerations are given for winterization for the Alaskan 6.5?
Bryan: Since you don’t have a grey or black tank this camper, it’s really easy to winterize. Simply drain the water out of the fresh tank, outside shower, and water pump.
TCM: What about the hydraulic lift system?
Bryan: The hydraulic lift system is good to -40 degrees. If it’s anywhere near that cold, the lift system will go up and down slower, but it won’t freeze.
Above: The space above could be for an optional furnace
TCM: In the photographs there doesn’t appear to be a furnace or a hot water heater.
Bryan: The 6.5 does not come standard with a furnace or a hot water heater. However, both can be installed as options. You will lose some of the galley area storage.
In the photographs you can see a big open storage cabinet to the lower right of the sink. That space could contain the optional furnace. The person who buys the 6.5 in the photographs will likely have us install a furnace. That’s what that space is for.
If you want a water heater we can add that too. Since there’s no inside shower, many customers don’t see the point to a hot water heater. We work with our customers to design the camper they want. You could have a water heater under the stove top and the furnace in the big cabinet area.
TCM: How many batteries does the 2015 Alaskan 6’5 have, and where are they located?
Bryan: The camper pictured has one Group 24 Deka AGM, but you can put in as many as four. The standard single battery is installed underneath the couch all the way forward. We use an AGM in the 6.5 because it’s sealed and doesn’t need to be ventilated.
TCM: What are the propane tank sizes?
Bryan: There is one horizontal twenty pound tank in the Alaskan 6.5.
TCM: Why not use the more common vertical twenty pound propane tanks?
Bryan: We would use vertical propane tanks, but they don’t fit into Alaskan Camper designs. Specifically, the top would restrict access to the propane tank door when the top is down. It’s important to have access to the propane tank with the top down. With a horizontal tank, you can.
TCM: Can you get an air conditioner for the Alaskan 6.5?
Bryan: Yes, there are two optional roof mounted air conditioners available for the 6.5; a Dometic high-efficiency model, and a Coleman Mach with the lower profile with lower amp draw. The Coleman Mach can be run on a Honda EU2000i generator.
TCM: Does the weight of a roof mounted air conditioner affect the hydraulic lift system?
Bryan: Alaskan roofs can hold and lift up to 300 pounds. Even with an air conditioner, roof rack system, and a couple of canoes the hydraulic lift system works well.
TCM: Tell us about the entry step system for the 2015 Alaskan 6.5.
Bryan: We use Step-Up Products scissor steps for Alaskan Campers. They are twenty-four inches wide, eight inches deep, and double barred. They’re heavy, but stable.
TCM: Are there any new options that are available for the 2015 Alaskan 6.5?
Bryan: Nothing new, but available options for the Alaskan 6.5 include a solar panel system, roof top air conditioner, water heater, furnace, and LED lighting. You can get just about every option we offer, except a cassette toilet.
Above: Kaper II LED lights are an option in Alaskan Campers
TCM: What LED lights are you using?
Bryan: We offer Kaper II LED lighting is an option. I like the efficiency of LED lights, but I still prefer the warm light color and quality of incandescents. Some customers ask for LED lights in the dinette area only.
TCM: You already told us that the Alaskan 6.5 weighs 1,483 pounds. Where is the center of gravity?
Bryan: The center of gravity is 29” from the front. That is measured with an empty water tank which is located across the front wall.
TCM: How did you measure that?
Bryan: We use two cable camper tripod jacks, one on each side, and lift the camper. We raise the camper up a little, and see if it’s front heavy, or rear heavy. Then we move the jacks forward or back to compensate. When we lift the camper from its center of gravity, it’s perfectly balanced on the two jacks. That’s how we find center of gravity at Alaskan.
TCM: Why not mark that point with a center of gravity sticker?
Bryan: We don’t put a sticker because the center of gravity changes when you load the camper with stuff. If you put in all twenty-seven gallons of fresh water, it moves it forward.
But, I have the sticker, and we know where the center of gravity is with five gallons of water in the fresh tank. We would be happy to put a center of gravity on for the customer. But, I do tell them that it changes when they load it with their stuff.
TCM: What is the MSRP for the 2015 Alaskan 6.5 with standard build features?
Bryan: The MSRP is $25,899.
TCM: What is the warranty for the 2015 Alaskan 6.5?
Bryan: We have a twelve month warranty on Alaskan Campers and a lifetime warranty on our hydraulic pump motor.
TCM: What kind of maintenance is there on an Alaskan camper?
Bryan: Alaskan Campers are no different than any other RV on the market. Check the vents, roof edges, and window seals a few times a year. Add caulk when it’s needed. We use a Epmar non-siliconized flexible seal. It’s a construction grade high performance roof sealant. We also put putty underneath.
TCM: What about the seal between the top and bottom sections of the camper?
Bryan: We use a double seal rubber Pirelli webbing. It’s a two inch wide flexible flap. Some customers put Armor All sealant on the Pirelli.
In general, it will be three to five years before you’ll need to change the rubber seal on an Alaskan. Changing the rubber seal is an easy process. It shouldn’t take more than a couple hours for most Alaskan Camper owners. Customers can also bring us their camper and we’ll change the rubber seal.
TCM: What would that cost?
Bryan: If you were to bring it to the Alaskan factory, it would cost $86 in parts and $100 in labor for the 6.5 camper. If you have an appointment, we’ll take care of it while you wait.
TCM: When will the 2015 Alaskan 6.5 be available?
Bryan: We have one available right now. You can buy the one we have ready to go, or you can order one built to your specifications.
Above: The countertop space in the Alaskan 6.5
TCM: Is there anything about the 2015 Alaskan 6.5 that you would like to add?
Bryan: People like how much countertop space we have in the Alaskan 6.5. If you look at any of our campers, you’ll see that we have more countertop space than some hard-side slide-out campers. It’s particularly impressive in the 6.5, a short bed truck camper with no overhang.
TCM: Are there any other new model announcements coming from Alaskan in 2015?
Bryan: We don’t typically debut new models because literally every other camper coming down the line is custom. Every third or fourth camper is really different. Of course customers can order a standard build, or just add the options and features they want.
It’s always helpful if you can stop in and see the factory and campers for yourself, but we do most of the customizing over the phone. There’s always two or three Alaskan Campers here to see in person.
TCM: Any other news to share from Alaskan?
Bryan: We’re making a triple-slide that goes up in three stages. Just kidding! There’s a new website on its way. Stay tuned!
For more information on the Alaskan 6.5, visit their website at alaskancampers.com.