The ultra-light hard side market heats up even hotter with the 2016 Palomino HS-650, a hard side non-slide truck camper targeting half-ton short bed trucks. What’s this solar port?
Over the past year, the greater truck camper industry got serious about payload matching half-ton trucks. In the past, “half-ton compatible” often meant, “Technically this camper could match a half-ton truck, if you special ordered the highest capacity half-ton truck currently available, and didn’t load the unit with water, batteries, propane, food, or stuff”. In other words, these units were half-ton compatible on paper, but not in reality.
Thankfully, this shell game is ending as manufacturers retire these older units and introduce all-new truck camper models designed to hit the weight and center of gravity numbers of real world half-ton trucks.
This doesn’t mean you can run out and match one of these new lighter-weight campers with any old half ton. That’s not how matching a truck and camper of any size and weight works. While the new ultra-light hard sides are significantly lighter than their predecessors, you still need to run the numbers outlined in our Newbie Corner article, “How To Match A Truck and Camper”. Always do the math.
The latest example of the ultra-light hard side trend is the all-new 2016 Palomino HS-650, a compelling option for half-ton trucks that’s literally hundreds of pounds lighter than the model it replaces. Even better, Palomino has included an impressive list of standard features including what we believe is a truck camper industry first; a solar port for portable solar panels. The Palomino HS-650 may be a light weight, but it clearly has some heavy weight thinking behind it.
To find out more about the 2016 Palomino HS-650 we talked to Pat Hines, Truck Camper Product Manager for Palomino RV.
Palomino HS-650 Specifications
The 2016 Palomino HS-650 is a hard-side, non-slide truck camper for short bed trucks. The interior floor length of the Palomino HS-650 is 6’5” and the interior height is 6’6”. Palomino RV is reporting the standard build dry weight of the HS-650 at 1,547 pounds.
The 2016 Palomino HS-650 has a 15 gallon fresh tank, porta-potti storage, and no grey tank. The camper accommodates one battery and one vertical twenty-pound propane tank. The MSRP for a standard build Palomino HS-650 is $16,300.
Above: A computer rendering of the 2016 Palomino HS-650 on a short bed Chevy truck
All renderings and photography were supplied by Palomino RV.
TCM: Does the new 2016 Palomino HS-650 replace any older models in the Palomino truck camper line?
Pat: The HS-650 replaces the HS-800. The outgoing HS-800 was our half-ton targeted camper, but it was really not half-ton compatible. At about 2,000 pounds dry, the HS-800 was only acceptable for a few late-model half-tons.
We wanted a camper to be truly half-ton compatible. Our truck target was 5 to 6.5-foot short bed trucks. The target weight of the camper was in the 1,500 to 1,600 pound range. The final unit is compatible with 5-foot beds, and weighs 1,540 pounds dry.
Above: A computer rendering of the 2016 Palomino HS-650 interior
TCM: That’s an impressive weight. Is that a base model stripped of features?
Pat: The 1,540 weight includes almost everything as standard including a water heater, exterior shower, interior sink, two burner range, 5-cubic foot refrigerator, some nice storage, a U-shaped dinette, queen size bed, porta-potti storage, Fantastic Fan, and an AM/FM, CD, DVD, USB, and Bluetooth-equipped stereo system. All Palominos have pretty much everything standard now.
Above: An AM/FM, CD, DVD, USB, and Bluetooth-equipped stereo system is standard
The only options on the HS-650 are a 19-inch LED television, electric jacks, an entry step system, air conditioner, and rear awning.
TCM: Why did Palomino decide on an east-west cabover?
Pat: That was a weight and center of gravity decision. Had we gone with a north-south cabover, the center of gravity would have been too far forward for a 1,540-pound camper with a 6-foot 5-inch floor.
Selecting a east-west cabover moved the center of gravity back to where it should be. The east-west bed is queen-size; 60-inches by 80-inches.
TCM: Why was it a problem for the center of gravity to be too far forward? Usually manufacturers are trying to get their center of gravity as far forward as possible.
Pat: If the center of gravity is too far forward on a light weight truck camper, the unit could potentially tip if demounted off the truck. Having the center of gravity further back keeps the unit steady on its jacks. There’s definitely a fine line between light weight, center of gravity, and tipping over.
TCM: What is the center of gravity for the HS-650?
Pat: The HS-650’s center of gravity is 29.5-inches from the front wall of the camper.
Above: A porta-potti will fit in this storage compartment
TCM: Why was the decision made to not include a bathroom?
Pat: Once again, that was a weight decision. To keep the HS-650 weight and center of gravity compatible with the widest possible number of short bed trucks, we did not include a bathroom.
Above: Exterior showers are standard in the Palomino HS-650
The HS-650 offers ample storage for a porta-potti, and an exterior shower is standard.
Above: The 2016 Palomino HS-650 features a fully-laminated barrel roof
TCM: Palomino has used a barrel roof – a unique feature of Palomino truck campers – in the design for the HS-650. If weight is a priority, wouldn’t a traditional straight roof have saved some weight from this unit?
Pat: As you can see in the photography, the HS-650 features our full-laminated barrel roof giving the camper 3-4 inches of additional headroom. The barrel roof is standard on all of our Palomino truck campers and really opens up the cabover.
Due to our lamination process, the weight difference between our barrel roof and a straight roof is minimal. The benefits of interior height outweighs the minimal weight difference.
TCM: Is the barrel roof on the HS-650 a full walk-on roof?
Pat: Yes, the HS-650 has a full walk-on roof. It’s very important to be able to walk on your camper roof to inspect for damage, check the seals, and remove snow or debris. Our customers also like the ability to mount a storage pod or kayaks on the roof. For this reason, every hard side Palomino truck camper has a full walk-on roof. You and ten of your friends can walk on our barrel roofs.
Above: The fresh water tank is under the step up to the cabover
TCM: The HS-650 has a 15 gallon fresh water tank and a kitchen sink, but no grey water tank. What is the recommended way to handle grey water with the HS-650?
Pat: Not having a grey tank was another weight decision. The owner of the HS-650 can handle grey water the same way our soft side camper owners do. We provide an exterior grey water drain where you can attach a hose that goes into a bucket. You can also attach a blue buddy and then dump it at a dump station.
We carefully considered adding a grey tank, but it adds too much weight. Plus, with the HS-650 being a non-basement model, there’s not a lot of real estate to put a grey water tank.
Above: To reduce weight, bungee material is used instead of wood cabinet doors
TCM: After the first prototype was completed, were there any adjustments made to the design of the camper to make it production ready?
Pat: We made a handful of minor changes. As prototype was being made, we spent a lot of time inside the camper at numerous stages. We made changes during the prototype process. The production manager, Rob Foster, myself, and the sales team all had input. By the time the prototype was finished, it was ready for production.
Above: Another example of bungee material being used instead of cabinet doors
TCM: Can you give us an example of the changes you made during the prototype build?
Pat: During the process, we decided to make the cabinet faces out of bungee material instead of having cabinet doors. By making that change, we were able to eliminate 20 to 30 pounds. That’s considerable when you’re targeting 1,500-1,600 pounds.
Above: The U-shaped dinette converts into a bed
We also made a front facing U-shaped dinette in the main seating area. That seating area will accommodate three to four adults comfortably. A step-up into the bed was integrated into the dinette for easier cabover entry and exit.
TCM: The front dinette is unique in the Palomino truck camper line.
Pat: This has been the first front dinette camper that we have built here at Palomino, at least that I can remember. We decided on the front dinette to move the center of gravity. Usually, the refrigerator and stove are in front for center of gravity, but we needed it in the back to bring the center of gravity back. Plus, the front dinette really opens up the main living area.
TCM: Tell us about the framing material, lamination, and other construction details.
Pat: The Palomino HS-650 is built same way as other Palomino truck campers. We didn’t reinvent the wheel. The HS-650 features vacuum bonded lamination and is wood framed.
Above: The kitchen features a two-burner range top and single bowl sink
TCM: Tell us about the cabinetry, counter tops, and fabrics in the Palomino HS-650.
Pat: We used the same materials that we use for all Palomino truck campers. This goes back to our KISS (keep it simple stupid) production theory that enables us to sell an extremely affordable camper using the same construction materials and appliances across all of our production units.
Above: The 5-cubic foot 2-way refrigerator-freezer combo unit
TCM: Did you select appliances for the HS-650 based on weight considerations?
Pat: Yes, we did. First, we eliminated the microwave. A microwave is standard on our other hard side truck campers, but we needed to delete the microwave on the HS-650 to save weight and provide extra room for storage!
For the refrigerator, we opted for a 5-cubic foot 2-way refrigerator-freezer combo unit. That also saved weight while offering the right amount of food storage for a unit this size.
Above: Single pane frameless windows and Rieco-Titan manual jacks are standard
TCM: What type of windows are standard?
Pat: Single pane frameless windows. The frameless windows give the HS-650 a modern aesthetic and weigh about the same as the outgoing framed windows. Thermal pane windows are not available.
Above: The vented battery box allows for a single Group 24 battery
TCM: How many batteries does the Palomino HS-650 have, and where are they located?
Pat: One Group 24 battery will fit in the vented case under the cabover transition step. There is room for two batteries, but we provide the one case.
Above: The exterior battery charge port means you don’t need to remove the batteries for trickle charging
An exterior battery charge port is standard on the HS-650, as is a battery disconnect. These two features allow the owner to keep the batteries in the HS-650 charged without removing them. The battery disconnect is located just inside the rear door.
Above: Solar ports are a new Palomino feature for 2016. Solar ports allow the owner to connect up to a 90-watt portable solar panel
For 2016, we are introducing solar ports. Solar ports allow the owner to connect a portable solar panel up to 90 watts. The solar ports and solar port pre-wiring are included as standard giving every Palomino truck camper owner the option to use a portable solar panel.
Above: The HS-650 comes with one vertical 20-pound propane tank
TCM: That’s a fantastic idea. Portable solar panels can be quickly placed and angled for the best sunlight, and moved to charge boat and other towed toy batteries. In many ways, portable solar panels are more practical than roof-mounted solar panels. What are the propane tank sizes in the HS-650?
Pat: A single vertical 20-pound propane tank is located at the rear of the driver’s side of the camper. You can exchange 20-pound vertical tanks any of the thousands of exchangeable propane vendors across the United States and Canada.
TCM: Does the HS-650 offer hot water heater access, hot water heater bypass, and low water drain for winterization?
Pat: We include all of those convenience features as standard including a water heater bypass and easily accessible low point drains. The HS-650 has everything you need to properly winterize.
TCM: Can you get an air conditioner with the HS-650?
Pat: The optional air conditioner is a Dometic 11,000 BTU unit. The Dometic runs off a Honda EU2000i portable generator.
Above: For maximum short bed length compatibility, the 2016 Palomino HS-650 does not feature a bumper. Torklift International GlowSteps are a factory option.
TCM: Tell us about the standard bumper and entry step system for the 2016 Palomino HS-650.
Pat: There is no bumper on the HS-650, but Torklift International GlowSteps are available through Palomino. The GlowSteps are a factory available option that most dealers order.
TCM: What does the 2016 Palomino HS-650 weigh with standard build features?
Pat: A standard build camper is 1,547 pounds. Standard build includes everything except our five options; 19-inch LED television, electric jacks, an entry step system, air conditioner, and rear awning. All together, those six options would add about 350 pounds to the unit (1,890 pounds dry).
TCM: Is the center of gravity marked on the side of the camper?
Pat: Palomino is still not marking center of gravity. Center of gravity changes as you add options and your stuff, so we don’t mark it on the production line.
We do measure center of gravity by rolling a bar under a production unit. We are also now putting that center of gravity information in our brochures.
TCM: That’s an excellent step in the right direction. And you’re right about center of gravity moving depending on added options, holding tank levels, and cargo, but we still encourage Palomino to mark the dry weight center of gravity. How does Palomino weigh their truck campers?
Pat: We have certified scales that we use for our travel trailers. A tractor driver at Palomino uses what we call a “miracle cart” to slide under a truck camper and bring it to our certified scales. Then we subtract the weight of the miracle cart to get the camper’s weight.
TCM: What is the MSRP for the 2016 Palomino HS-650 with standard build features?
Pat: Before options, the MSRP is $16,300.
TCM: That’s a very aggressive price.
Pat: Palomino RV is a division of Forest River, itself owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Forest River’s buying power and scale of production drives down Palominos material and appliance costs beyond what any other truck camper manufacturer can achieve.
With Palomino, you’re also not paying a premium for the brand sticker on the unit. You get all the material, appliance, and production quality and none of the low-volume, high-brand fees. In fact, many of our materials and appliances are better than our more-expensive competition.
We also now have an automotive-style shine bay for final-finishing quality control and have put in extra quality control processes throughout the production line.
We put out a fantastic product, and will continue to improve on a daily basis. Our campers are shipping to dealers ready to go. For our dealers and customers, our quality offers piece of mind.
Finally, Palomino now has a dedicated Truck Camper Product Manager – yours truly. My responsibility is to keep a pulse on the truck camper community, to see what other manufacturers are doing, and to stay on the cutting edge.
Above: A 2016 Palomino HS-650 at the end of the assembly line
TCM: We are looking forward to seeing the shine bay in action. What is the warranty for the 2016 Palomino HS-650?
Pat: Palomino RV offers a one year bumper-to-bumper warranty. All components have their own manufacturer warranties.
TCM: When will the 2016 Palomino HS-650 be available?
Pat: It is arriving on dealer lots now and we are in full scale production.
TCM: Any other news from Palomino?
Pat: We’ve got a lot of stuff on the drawing board and some prototype ideas. We’re thinking about a long bed version of the HS-650. We’re working on a prototype that could possibly replace the 6601. It will be lightweight with a wet bath, and will probably be good for three-quarter ton. There will also be a brand new soft side and some nicer revisions to existing floor plans for 2017. Stay tuned!