Lance Campers launches an all-out assault on the hard-side, short bed, half ton truck camper market with the all-new 2016 Lance 650. Is that a tankless water heater?
We are very excited about something Lance Campers did for the 2016 Lance 650, and it has nothing to do with the camper itself. Yes, we are impressed with Lance’s new half ton truck camper, but that’s not what has us ready to stand on our truck and cheer.
“We payload matched this camper to a 2015 Ford F150. The truck is here at Lance, and it’s a legitimate payload match,” explained Gary Conley, Lance Camper’s National Sales Manager.
What a concept! Before launching their new camper, Lance Campers calculated the wet weight, bought a truck, and created a payload matched rig to show the public.
“Can you show us the GVWR sticker, tire and loading information sticker, and window sticker for the 2015 Ford F150?” we asked. “We want to show our readers the exact configuration.”
“You bet. We’ll send it over.”
Upon close inspection, all of the numbers lined up. Even when we started with a standard build weight and used our Lance Buyers Guide wet weight calculation, it still lined up, with payload to spare. Lance Campers has indeed built a half ton truck camper that’s a perfect match for a properly configured 2015 Ford F150.
Suddenly, the importance of this demonstration hit us. What if every truck camper manufacturer properly matched their new models to a specific truck prior to launch? And not just on paper, but with an actual truck including tie-downs, turnbuckles, and any necessary suspension equipment.
Showcasing a truck and camper match would not only legitimatize the new model, but simplify the pre-purchase research for the consumer. Put another way, many folks who are interested in the new model will see the match, and buy the rig. We know this because of how many folks bought a 2013 Lance 855-S and 2013 Chevy/GMC 3500 rig after our Payload Match Challenge series in late 2012.
Putting the F150 match aside, the other big story here is that Lance Campers is debuting an all-new model designed for the largest market in trucks; short bed half-tons.
Lance Campers believes they have the ultimate short bed, hard side, half ton truck camper solution. If they do, the 650 will quickly become the most significant and exciting Lance Camper to debut in a long time.
To get to the bottom of what’s up with the 2016 Lance 650, we talked to Gary Conley, National Sales Manager, and Randy Hunter, Product Development for Lance Campers.
The Lance 650 Rule Breaker
Hellwig Products and Lance Campers put together a Nissan Titan and Lance 650 for SEMA. Introducing the Rule Breaker!
Lance 650 Camper Specifications
The 2016 Lance 650 is a hard-side, wet bath, non-slide truck camper for short bed trucks. The interior floor length of the Lance 650 is 6’10” and the interior height is 6’9″. Lance is reporting the dry weight of the Lance 650 at 1,640 pounds without options. The Lance 650 is 1,800 pounds with standard build features; air conditioner, convenience package, awning package, microwave, 19″ LED TV, Fantastic Vent, electric jacks, rear awning, assist handle, and the four season package.
Above: A 3D floor plan of the 2016 Lance 650 – click to enlarge
The tanks in the 2016 Lance 650 are 22 gallons fresh, 15 gallons grey, and 16 gallons black. The camper accommodates one battery and one horizontal twenty-pound propane tank. The MSRP for a base Lance 650 is $19,858 and the MSRP for a standard build is $23,738.
Above: The Lance 650 mounted on an aluminum body 2015 Ford F150.
All photography was supplied by Lance Campers. Click to enlarge the photos throughout this article.
TCM: Lance already has two light-weight, non-slide, short bed truck campers; the 865 (1,815 pounds dry) and 825 (1,726 pounds dry). Now Lance is announcing a third short-bed non-slide truck camper with the 2016 Lance 650 (1,640 pounds dry). Why is Lance focused on the short-bed non-slide truck camper market?
Gary: The Lance 825 and 865 are designed to work on short bed trucks with 6-foot or 6-foot 6-inch beds. Neither the 825 or the 865 fit a short bed less than 6-feet.
The all-new 2016 Lance 650 has been designed from the ground up to work on half-ton beds as short as 5-feet. It even works with super crew cabs, and the 6-foot 8-inch Ford F150 short bed. Essentially, the 650 fits any short bed truck, in any configuration; standard bed, regular bed, crew cab, you name it.
Above: Computer renderings of the dinette in the Lance 650.
Above: Computer rendering of the kitchen area in the Lance 650.
TCM: That’s certainly an important niche to pursue, but why not make a light-weight, non-slide, long bed truck camper? Outside of the long bed Lance 850 (2,350 pounds dry) Lance does not offer a truck camper to that market.
Gary: Long bed half-tons represent less than one-percent of the truck market. The majority of those trucks are sold to municipalities. Looking at production statistics, the half-ton long bed truck for consumers almost doesn’t exist anymore. I would basically call it extinct. The short bed half-ton truck is the marketplace.
Over 50-percent of the trucks sold have a 5-foot 5-inch bed. More trucks are built with that bed length than any other length making it the largest market in pickup trucks in the United States. In fact, many customers buy a 5-foot 5-inch bed truck and don’t realize that it’s not a 6-foot bed.
Above: The Lance 650 was designed in SolidWorks to be a half ton truck camper.
TCM: That’s a stunning statistic. Does the 650 replace either the 825 or the 865?
Gary: No, the 650 model is an addition to our product line. The 825 and 865 will be available alongside the 650.
Currently, the majority of truck camper buyers with 6-foot truck beds and shorter are buying pop-up truck campers. With the 2016 Lance 650, they will now have the ability to buy a hard side truck camper, often for less money. More than any truck camper we have debuted in recent memory, we believe the 650 will broaden the range and appeal of the truck camper market.
TCM: For short bed customers who want a non-slide Lance Camper, what distinguishes the 650, 825, and 865 from one another?
Gary: Bed length, weight, and floor plans distinguish the three models from one another.
Short bed truck owners with 6-foot or longer beds will be able to choose between the 650, 825, and 865 floor plans. Short bed truck owners with beds less than 6-feet are limited to the 650 floor plan.
If the customer has a half-ton short bed, it’s very likely that the 650 will be a better payload match regardless truck bed length. The dry weight of the 650 is 1,640 pounds. With the most common options, the dry weight will be around 1,800 pounds.
TCM: Where did the design decisions come from for the 650?
Gary: The Lance 650 floor plan is similar to the old Six-Pac D650. Of course we studied and enhanced every aspect of that classic design and made it a modern Lance Camper.
Above: Computer rendering of the cabover bedroom area; the Lance 650 features a north-south bed.
Above: The refrigerator is located in the cabover of the Lance 650.
For the first time in Lance’s design history, the refrigerator is in the cabover area. Moving the refrigerator gives the Lance 650 a 6’4” dinette. We also gave the 650 plenty of windows making the interior feel very open and inviting. When you step into the 650, you don’t feel like you’re in a 6-foot non-slide truck camper.
Above: The wet bath in the Lance 650, a half ton truck camper.
Randy: The wet bath in the 650 is based on the wet bath in the old Lance 815. It’s the same wet bath configuration, with some design improvements.
Gary: We built thousands of 815 truck campers. The 815 wet bath is a thoroughly proven design that we are excited to bring back in the 650.
Above: The rear skirt was designed to work aesthetically on 5-foot 5-inch or longer short bed truck.
TCM: How have you made sure that the 650 dimensions are compatible with the 6’5” and 5’5” short trucks from Ford, GM, and Ram?
Gary: We worked from the minimum bed length on the Ford, GM, and Ram trucks, and built to that length. Then we designed a rear skirt that looks good on a 5-foot 5-inch or longer short bed truck.
Above: The 2016 Lance 650 dinette makes into a 6-foot bed.
TCM: Why not stop at the tailgate to save weight, push the center of gravity forward, and make towing – which over 70% of our readership does – easier?
Gary: Most people can’t lay down on a 5-foot 5-inch truck bed. We wanted adults to be able to sleep in the lower dinette. That means the floor length needed to be a minimum of 6-feet. That requirement precluded us from making the 650 end at the tailgate.
For towing, the necessary stinger/extension length will be based on which truck you purchase. On the Ford 6’6” bed you can tow directly off the stock hitch no extension required.
Above: The inside floor length of this half ton truck camper is 6-foot 10-inches.
TCM: What is the exact floor length of the 2016 Lance 650?
Randy: The floor length of the 650 is 6-feet 10-inches.
Above: The interior of the Lance 650.
TCM: When we were at the Lance Camper factory in May, you had a 650 prototype in the later stages of design. Tell us about what you learned during the prototype process with the 650.
Randy: The primary advantage of a physical prototype is being able to walk into the camper and see the room available inside. Designs on computer screens and paper don’t always work in reality. We build a physical prototype for every truck camper and trailer we develop. Full scale mock-ups are the only way to truly evaluate the interior feel and roominess.
Above: Hidden storage opportunities in the Lance 650 – click to enlarge
Gary: We made some subtle changes since you were in the factory. Most of those adjustments were to cabinetry. We’ll add an inch here, shorten something there, add a little more storage, and discover other small areas of opportunity.
One important example in the 650 are the adjustments we made to the dinette seating and table to make it more comfortable. For these reasons, and many others, physical prototypes are absolutely necessary.
Above: The new one-piece TPO front nose cap in the Lance 650.
TCM: Tell us about the new TPO front nose. Why TPO instead of fiberglass?
Gary: Contrary to what some of our competition claims, TPO does not crack. We have the technical data proving that claim is false. TPO is also significantly lighter than fiberglass, making it the superior choice for a front nose cap.
Designing a TPO front nose cap for the 650 brings it in line with our other truck camper products.
Above: TPO stands for Thermoplastic Polyolefin and has a high strength to weight ratio. TPO also does not degrade under UV radiation.
TCM: What benefits does the new TPO front nose offer the 650?
Gary: The most obvious improvement is the style. With the new TPO nose, these campers will look fantastic going down the road. The TPO nose also improves the fit and finish of this half ton truck camper. The cap also improves the overall aerodynamics.
Above: TPO is commonly used in the automotive industry for bumper fascias.
TCM: How do you know it improved the aerodynamics? Did you test it in a real or simulated wind tunnel?
Randy: No, but it’s common sense. Any time you keep flat areas to a minimum, and make the design more sleek, wind is going to travel around the camper more efficiently.
Gary: We also eliminated forward facing screws with the nose cap. That eliminates potential leaks, and further improves wind resistance. Anytime you replace a square surface with a radius, you make the camper more aerodynamic.
Above: A two-burner propane cook top was used instead of a propane cook top and oven to save weight – click to enlarge
TCM: Obviously minimizing weight is the ball game when targeting the half-ton market with a hard side truck camper. How was the 650 designed and built to minimize weight?
Randy: There’s a long list of small adjustments that added up to significant weight savings. For example, we used 12 mil thick Lite-Ply for the cabinetry instead of our usual 15 mil thick Lite-Ply. For appliances, we used a two-burner propane cook top instead of a propane cook top and oven.
Above: The wet bath is light weight ABS, which is a strong and durable thermoplastic.
Above: The wet bath sink (left), and towel rack, vent, LED light, and skylight (right).
Gary: The wet bath is light weight ABS instead of a much heavier fiberglass stall. We also went with a tankless water heater in the 650.
Above: The Girard tankless water heater in the 650.
TCM: You’re using a tankless water heater in the Lance 650?
Gary: Yes, we are using a Girard tankless water heater in the 650. It saves 48-pounds from the wet weight of the camper by not holding 6-gallons of water. It’s more money than our standard water heater, but saving weight was the priority for the 650.
TCM: Can folks order other Lance truck campers with a tankless water heater?
Gary: We could technically offer the Girard tankless water heater throughout our truck camper line, but we don’t at this time. It would certainly help to reduce the weight of our truck campers, so it’s something we’re looking into.
There is a learning curve to using tankless water heaters. We need to educate the consumer about how tankless water heaters work, and what the advantages and disadvantages are. Tankless water heaters are also more expensive, so they would add cost to the units.
Above: European-style acrylic thermal pane windows are standard.
TCM: What type of windows are standard in the 650?
Randy: For windows, we used light weight European-style acrylic thermal pane windows. They not only save weight, but offer excellent insulation, bulb seals, and the ability to push-out up to 90-degrees for ventilation.
TCM: Tell us about the framing material, lamination, and other construction details.
Randy: The 650 is essentially built the same way we build the 825. Like the 825, the 650 features a 1-inch roof instead of the 1.5-inch roof featured on our larger truck campers. Intended to be a half ton truck camper, we did not design a full-walk on roof. In other words, the design limits use of chairs on the 650 to watch a NASCAR race. If you need to walk on the roof, we suggest using plywood to span the roof structure where you need to walk to add strength. Using this technique, you can work on the seals or just inspect the roof in general.
Gary: The 650 has what’s called a deck roof. It’s not fully reinforced. Again, we made the decision to give the 650 a deck roof to save weight. You’re not going to build a true half-ton capable camper without making these kinds of choices.
TCM: In that same spirit, have you limited the number of options available for the 650? Otherwise, it might be easy to start with a truck camper that’s weight-compatible with a half-ton, and end up with a heavily optioned camper that needs a three-quarter ton.
Gary: Yes, there are a limited number of options for the 650. For example, you cannot get an oven in the 650. If you need an oven, and you have the necessary payload, get the 865.
There also isn’t an option for a roof rack at this time. We are researching possible roof racks for the 650, but we are being very careful to not overload this particular camper with too many options.
Everything starts with what truck the customer has. The camper model, its payload, and truck bed length often determine which Lance Camper is the right choice.
Of course customers can always choose the Lance Camper they want first, calculate its wet and loaded weight, and then go buy the truck they need for that camper.
Above: Netting is used above the dinette to save weight – click to enlarge
TCM: Tell us about the cabinetry and counter tops in the Lance 650.
Randy: The counter tops and cabinetry are similar to the 825 and 865 models; laminate wood framed board table and counter tops and solid Lite-Ply wood cabinetry. It may be a light weight truck camper, but it’s still a Lance Camper.
TCM: Is the Lance 650 a basement model?
Gary: It’s a semi-basement model. The tanks are under the floor, but there’s no pull-out drawer from the basement area.
Randy: I would also like to mention that there are separate grey and black tanks in the 650. In the 815 from years ago, the grey and black tank was combined. In the 650, you have separate tanks.
TCM: What are the sizes of the holding tanks, and are they heated?
Randy: The holding tanks in the 650 are 22 gallons fresh, 15 gallons grey, and 16 gallons black. The holding tanks are not heated, although the fresh water tank is contained in the interior of the camper.
Gary: We used state-of-the-art computer aided design to make the tanks as big as possible given the size and weight targets we set. None of this technology was available when we designed the 815 years ago.
Above: The 2016 Lance 650 holds one Group 27 battery
TCM: How many batteries does the Lance 650 have, and where are they located?
Randy: The 650 has a single Group 27 battery under the forward dinette seat. The battery is accessible from inside the unit by removing a cushion, lifting the seat support, and opening the sealed battery box. It’s easy to access.
Above: One 20-pound horizontal propane tank fits in the Lance 650 – click to enlarge
TCM: What are the propane tank sizes?
Randy: The 650 has one 20-pound, horizontal propane tank located in the rear of the unit. We went with a horizontal propane tank versus the more common vertical tank because it was the only tank that would fit into our design.
Gary: A horizontal tank is more expensive than a vertical tank, but it was necessary to make this floor plan work.
Above: The low water drains and dump valves.
TCM: Where are the low water drains, hot water heater bypass, dump valves, and battery disconnect on the 650?
Randy: The low water drains and dump valves are located in the rear. The battery disconnect is located near the battery below the dinette seat.
Gary: A lot of people don’t realize that you can pour rock salt into your tank and P-traps to winterize your camper for a lower cost. Using rock salt in your black and grey tank also allows you to camp in freezing temperatures, or store your camper without the lines freezing. Or you can use traditional RV anti-freeze.
Above: The 9,000 BTU Polar Cub is an option on the Lance 650 – click to enlarge
TCM: Can the roof support an air conditioner?
Gary: Yes. We offer a Coleman 9,000 BTU Polar Cub. One important advantage of the 9,000 BTU Polar Cub is that it runs on a portable Honda EU2000i generator.
Above: Scissor steps mounted on the 2016 Lance 650
TCM: Tell us about the standard bumper and entry step system for the 2016 Lance 650.
Gary: The 2016 Lance 650 is designed to be used with scissor steps, including Torklift International’s GlowStep series. We are also having some European scissor steps custom made for the 650.
Randy: The 650 does not feature a bumper.
Above: The window sticker for the 2015 Ford F150 at Lance – click to enlarge
TCM: What trucks are you targeting for the 650?
Gary: We have an aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F150 here at Lance. It’s a 4×2, super crew, 156” wheel base, 3.5L V6 EcoBoost with the 6-speed automatic transmission.
For options, it has the Max Tow Package, Heavy-Duty Payload package with 18-inch rims, power telescoping mirrors, and 60/40 bench seats.
Above: The GVWR sticker on the 2015 Ford F150 at Lance – click to enlarge
The GVWR is 7,850 pounds. The payload capacity is 2,799 pounds.
We only added Torklift Talon aluminum tie-downs, Torklift turnbuckles, Hellwig air bags, and wiring. That’s it. It’s a really nice riding truck.
TCM: What is the MSRP of that truck?
Gary: The MSRP on the window sticker is $46,670.
TCM: Wow! That’s a beautiful truck, but our 2014 Ram 3500 SLT with 5,851 pounds of payload has almost the same MSRP of $47,960. What does the 2016 Lance 650 weigh with standard build features?
Above: The payload and tire rating sticker on the 2015 Ford F150 at Lance – click to enlarge
Gary: The 2015 Ford F150 shown in this article has a 7,850 GVWR, and a payload capacity of 2,799 pounds.
The total weight of a 2016 Lance 650 with standard build options is 1,800 pounds. With a full 22 gallon fresh tank (183.5 pounds), full propane (20 pounds), and a battery (65 pounds), the camper wet weight is approximately 2,068.5 pounds.
If you start with the above truck, that leaves 730.5 pounds of payload for support equipment, people, pets, gear, food, and clothing. This makes the Lance 650 a half ton truck camper.
TCM: Where is the center of gravity on the 2016 Lance 650?
Gary: The center of gravity on the 650 is 21” from the front bed.
TCM: Is the center of gravity marked on the side of the camper?
Gary: We do not mark center of gravity on our truck campers because it moves based on how you load the truck camper.
Above: The 2016 Lance 650 on an aluminum-body 2015 Ford F150 – click to enlarge
TCM: We implore Lance Campers to come up with a solution for marking center of gravity. We believe center of gravity stickers should be standard, and we’re open to exploring ways it can be done better, and more accurately. What is the MSRP for the 2016 Lance 650 with standard build features?
Gary: The MSRP for the 2016 Lance 650 is $19,858.
TCM: What is the warranty for the 2016 Lance 650?
Gary: Lance truck campers, including the 2016 Lance 650, come with a 2-year structural warranty, and a 12-year roof warranty. The individual appliances all have their own extended warranties.
The 2016 Lance 650 also comes with a road side emergency service plan. If you experience a problem on the road with a Lance Camper, a mobile RV repair person will be dispatched to your location. Just call the 800-number, and they will come help you.
TCM: When will the 2016 Lance 650 be available?
Gary: The 650 was debuted at the Elkhart industry show in September. It was also featured as a “Best of Show” at the Pomona RV show.
Above: The audio-video entertainment system including 19-inch HD television, CD/DVD player, Bluetooth, HDMI out, and more – click to enlarge
TCM: Is there anything about the 2016 Lance 650 that you would like to add?
Gary: I don’t want anyone to think the 650 is a just a stripped-down basic camper. It’s not. It has many modern conveniences like a north-south queen-size bed, plenty of storage, an audio-video system with Bluetooth and HDMI, 12-volt USB charging ports, and more. The 650 may be light weight as it is intended to be a half ton truck camper, but it’s still full of Lance flair.
Left to right: 110, 12-volt, and USB outlets in the dinette, city water and black tank flush, magnetic exterior latches, exterior shower, grab handle, rain gutters, cable connection, and charge port for batteries – click to enlarge
On a different note, we just returned from Caravan Salon 2015 in Dusseldorf, Germany, the largest RV show in Europe. We were researching new European products and floor plans, and gathering new ideas from the European RV marketplace.
We found plenty of fresh approaches to reduce weights and returned with over 1000 photographs and a long list of new supplier contacts. Our design team is already prototyping and implementing some of what we learned in Germany. What this means is that the next generation of Lance Campers will continue to push the boundaries of strength, light weight, functionality, and technology.
We will also be displaying at the SEMA Show (Specialty Equipment Market Association) this year. We’re very excited about that opportunity, and have a prime spot at the show in the light truck area. The truck will have a wrap to make it stand out. The display will be a huge awareness boost for Lance Campers and the truck camper market in general. The SEMA Show is the second largest event. Only the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is bigger in terms of attendance.