CampLite announces a new floor plan that stretches the popular short bed 8.4S to the long bed 9.6S. Introducing the 2015 CampLite 9.6S! We take the opportunity to talk to Gary Peter, Designer and Engineer for CampLite.
For anyone who hasn’t yet heard of CampLite’s trail-blazing 100% aluminum and composite construction by now, here’s a short summary; no wood. That’s right kids, wood is a four letter word at CampLite. From the exterior walls, to the frame, to the cabinetry, everything in a CampLite truck camper is made from either aluminum or a composite. For folks who think wood is rotten, that’s the good news.
The not-quite-as-good news has been a real challenge. CampLite has had to work very hard to make their camper interiors feel like something resembling a cozy RV. As consumers, we take for granted the warm aesthetic and soft feel of wood. In our homes, wood is what makes our tables, chairs, cabinets, dressers, beds, and even our floors. Nothing says, “home interior” quite like wood. Try building a home and furniture out of nothing but concrete, steel, and plastics and you may find yourself pining for wood.
Quite remarkably, Livin Lite, the manufacturer of CampLite, has managed to integrate composites and laminates that make their no-wood campers look like wood, at least inside. You might say that CampLite truck campers are “wood lookin’”. The interiors don’t have the softness of wood, or all of the natural aesthetic of wood, but it’s darn close. The team at CampLite might say what you lose in “wood lookin’” you gain in “no rottin’”.
For previous new camper announcements from CampLite, we’ve talked to Scott Tuttle, President of LivinLite, and Rick Barna, Vice President of Dealer Relations. This time we asked to talk to Gary Peters, the LivinLite Engineer who designed and developed not just the new 9.6S, but many of the nine truck camper models LivinLite now offers. This time we’ll cover the new 2015 CampLite 9.6S and dive a little deeper into how CampLite makes a no wood truck camper work.
Above: The floorplan for the 2015 CampLite 9.6S
2015 CampLite 9.6S Specifications:
The 2015 CampLite 9.6S is a hard side, single-slide, wet bath truck camper made for long bed trucks. The interior floor length of the 2015 CampLite 9.6S is 9’8” and the interior height is 6’5”. The 2015 CampLite 9.6S has a 30.5 gallon fresh tank, a 17 gallon grey tank, a 13 gallon black tank, and a 6 gallon hot water heater. It can accommodate one battery and has two twenty-pound propane tanks. LivinLite is reporting the base weight of the CampLite 9.6S to be 2,950 pounds. The base MSRP for the 2015 CampLite 9.6S is $28,970.
Above: The 2015 CampLite 9.6S is a hard side, single-slide, wet bath truck camper made for long bed trucks
TCM: Before we talk about the new 2015 CampLite 9.6S, tell us about your background and how you came to work for LivinLite.
Gary: I’ve been in the RV industry for over thirty years, four of which have been here with LivinLite. I started at Shasta when I first got out of school. Then I spent seven years at Holiday Rambler, six years at Starcraft, seven years in the Dewall research and design shop working on RV prototypes, three years with Americam, seven years with Hartland, and then back to Shasta for a year. When I was working for Shasta, I got a call from Scott Tuttle, President of LivinLite, and who offered me a job to work here. I’ve been working for Scott ever since.
Above: Gary Peter, Designer and Engineer for CampLite truck campers
TCM: What do you do for LivinLite?
Gary: I am LivinLite’s Director of Engineering. I have two engineers who work with me. I take care of two product lines; travel trailers and truck campers. The other engineers I work with oversee the toy haulers and our new fifth wheel products. I also deal with outside vendors and new concepts.
We have AutoCAD 13 and design everything in 3D on the computer. I get the opportunity every once in awhile to work with dealers in Australia, China, and New Zealand. I am also currently working with a guy who will be mounting a CampLite truck camper on an Isuzu pickup truck and taking it to South America.
Above: The kitchen area in the CampLite 9.6S
TCM: That sounds like a future story. As an engineer, talk to us about the challenges of designing and manufacturing truck campers with aluminum and composites.
Gary: Working with aluminum and Azdel was a learning curve for me. As a designer, there are things you can’t do with aluminum and Azdel that you can do with traditional RV wood.
Our radius walls are a good example. You can only bend Azdel so far before it breaks. We have mastered the properties and limitations of Azdel and aluminum, and know exactly how far we can go with the materials.
Scott has defined a niche in the RV industry with all-aluminum and composite construction. At the end of the day, the LivinLite customer is getting a wood-free product that will last a lifetime.
Above: The dinette slides out in the CampLite 9.6S
TCM: Does the new CampLite 9.6S replace any older models in the CampLite line?
Gary: The 9.6S is a new floor plan for CampLite and does not replace any existing campers in our line. When we introduced the 8.4S earlier this year, we had dealers ask if we could make that exact floor plan for long bed trucks. That camper is the 9.6S.
Above: The added pantry in the kitchen
The 2015 CampLite 9.6S is 19” longer than the CampLite 8.4S. With that added length, we added an extra closet in the back and a pantry cabinet in the kitchen. We also made the kitchen bigger.
Above: The overcab in the CampLite 9.6S
TCM: Was designing the 9.6S just a matter of stretching the 3D model of the 8.4S in AutoCAD?
Gary: It’s not quite that simple. I always start by getting the footprint of the camper right. It’s important to make sure the camper is not going to cause problems on any of the trucks it is compatible with; Ford, GM, and Dodge.
We take careful measurements of the intended trucks, and get measurement books from the truck manufacturers. From that point, I take the worst-case scenario from all three and make sure the camper will fit no matter what truck it’s matched with. Like all of our truck campers, the 9.6S is designed to fit all three manufacturers.
Ideas continuously come to us from dealers and customers. For example, I had a dealer call me about a customer who wanted to carry a portable 2,000-watt generator. I got on the web and pulled up a few different portable 2,000-watt generators, got their dimensions, and saw what the worst scenario was for height, width, and depth. That way the generator storage area would accommodate most, if not all, portable 2,000-watt generators.
Our design work is all done in AutoCAD. And we certainly reference previous AutoCAD models when designing a new product. But, before that can happen, there’s a lot of information that needs to be gathered, measurements to take, and customer and dealer feedback to consider.
Above: The driver’s side of the CampLite 9.6S
TCM: After the first prototype 9.6S was completed, were there any adjustments made to the design of the camper?
Gary: Since we’re framing in aluminum, it’s hard to go back and fix something. We’ll often build an aluminum skeleton unit before we laminate to make sure everything will fit like it’s supposed to. We always build an aluminum skeleton unit for a new truck camper as truck campers can be particularly tricky.
As a group, we will look at the skeleton to see if anything needs to be changed and fine tune the AutoCAD design before it goes down the production line. Usually the changes are minor. There might be a wire chase that needs to be changed to make production easier. Or a sales guy might ask if there can be a bigger holding tank.
I’ve been designing RVs for so long that we usually get it right the first time. I may need to fix a wire here or there but, normally, it’s pretty much cut and dry. There were no changes on the 9.6S. There might have been some backers missed but, other than that, it ran fairly smooth.
Above: Notice the aluminum interior compartment doors – click to enlarge
TCM: Can you give us a run-down of how a CampLite truck camper is built?
Gary: We build from the ground up, using all-aluminum framing. The floors are tongue and groove aluminum decking on aluminum sub-frames. We have one-inch vacuum bond laminated exterior walls and roofs.
There’s no wood at all inside our campers. Anything that looks like wood is actually a composite material call Azdel. We stuff the walls with one inch closed cell foam, laminate the outer skin, and add Azdel.
Above: You can see the aluminum framing if you look inside the outside storage compartment
TCM: So the Azdel and aluminum are held together with lamination adhesive?
Gary: That’s correct. It’s all done with adhesives. There are no staples in our campers. Once you get a lamination process dialed-in, there is no way for it to come apart.
Azdel is put on our cabinet skeletons with industrial 3M tape. The countertops in our campers are foam board with a laminated formica on top and EGS strips glued to the bottom. We are using cutting-edge materials and cutting-edge construction techniques to make the lightest weight, longest lasting truck campers on the market.
Above: CampLite truck campers use the Schwintek slide mechanism for all of their slide-out campers – click to enlarge
TCM: What slide mechanism does the CampLite 9.6S use?
Gary: We are using the Schwintek slide mechanism. We haven’t had any issues with the Schwintek system and we’ve been using them for the past three years. The Schwintek slide has all four sides coming in evenly, so there’s less chance of a leak.
TCM: Were there any challenges to getting the Schwintek system to work with your all-aluminum and composite construction?
Gary: The Schwintek system was made for 1.5 inch walls. Our walls are 1 inch. The solution was to add a spacer on the inside of the wall for the pan and rollers to fasten to. Ever since we figured that out, the Schwintek system has worked well.
Above: The CampLite 9.6S has a wet bath
TCM: With the 9.6S, can you access the bathroom with the slide-out in?
Gary: Yes, you can.
Above: Single pane glass windows are standard on the CampLite 9.6S
TCM: What type of windows are standard on the CampLite 9.6S?
Gary: Single pane glass windows are standard. We offer double-pane windows as an option. The windows are framed with an aluminum sub-frame in the wall.
TCM: Is the CampLite 9.6S a basement model?
Gary: Technically, it is. The fresh water and holding tanks are under the main floor. The basement in the 9.6S is six inches in height, which is tall enough for the tanks.
As part of our four season package, we offer an insulated basement where we add bottom panels for insulation and a two inch heat duct to the basement. The four season package also includes twelve-volt heating pads on the tanks. The only time they kick in is when the tanks get to a certain temperature.
For our four season package, we also add an extra layer of Azdel to our walls and our roof, which adds an insulation value of R4. Then, on the bottom of the basement, we add removable foam panels to insulate the underside of the unit.
Above: The water heater is easy to access in the CampLite 9.6S
TCM: Tell us about the size of the holding tanks and why you made the tanks that size.
Gary: The holding tank sizes in the 9.6S are 30.5 gallons of fresh, 13 gallons of black, and 17 gallons of grey. There is also 6 gallons of fresh in the water heater. The holding tanks were optimized for the CampLite 8.4S. For economy, we used the same tanks in the 9.6S.
TCM: How many batteries does the CampLite 9.6S have, and where are they located?
Gary: There is one battery on the driver’s side with exterior access. The battery is tucked in a space behind the stereo system.
TCM: Do you have a battery disconnect switch for winterizing campers?
Gary: There are no battery disconnect switches on our campers. If a customer is going to park their unit for a length of time, we recommend just unhooking the battery and storing it inside a garage where it’s not going to freeze. Even better, put it on a trickle charger for the winter.
Above: Two dual 20-pound propane tanks can fit in the CampLite 9.6S
TCM: That’s what we do. What are the propane tank sizes?
Gary: The two dual 20-pound propane tanks are under the kitchen sink on the driver’s side front corner.
Above: The wood looking linoleum floor of the CampLite 9.6S
TCM: Can the optional air conditioner run on a portable Honda EU2000i generator?
Gary: Yes, it can. We use a Polar Cub 9,200 BTU air conditioner, which can run on a 2,000-watt generator in most circumstances.
TCM: Where is the center of gravity on the 2015 CampLite 9.6S?
Gary: At the end of the production line, we take a three inch steel tube and balance a new model truck camper on the tube to determine where the center of gravity is. We do this for every brand new truck camper, with the first prototype and production model we build. We mark our center of gravity with a sticker on every camper we build.
TCM: What does the 2015 CampLite 9.6S weigh with standard build features?
Gary: The weight of the CampLite 9.6S is 2,950 pounds.
TCM: What is the MSRP for the 2015 CampLite 9.6S with standard build features?
Gary: The base MSRP of the CampLite 9.6S is $28,970.
TCM: What is the warranty for the 2015 CampLite 9.6S?
Gary: The warranty is three years on the structure, and one year for the appliances.
Above: CampLite campers come in a range of colors from silver to grey to black to tan
TCM: Is there anything about the 2015 CampLite 9.6S that you would like to add?
Gary: When a dealer is trying to sell a camper, they get asked the question of why our campers are more money than a travel trailer or another brand of camper. People have to understand that they are buying a product that is going to last. Campers with wood are going to rot. With our product, even if it gets wet or leaks, it will never rot.
If you find water in your CampLite truck camper, clean up the mess, get it sealed up, and you’re good to go. With a traditional camper, that leak is going to have the wood rot out on you. We want the consumer to understand the value of our campers.