Adventurer Manufacturing introduces the 2018 Adventurer 80S, an 8-foot hard-side, single-slide, wet bath truck camper. The light-weighting discoveries from the development of the 80S could be a game changer.
In the automotive industry, the concept of light-weighting is the process of removing weight from an automobile to improve the fuel efficiency and overall handling of that vehicle. Examples of light-weighting include the use of high-strength steel, composites, military-grade aluminum, aluminum foam, and even carbon fiber.
Light-weighting is not restricted to material science, but rather any design change that reduces the weight of a vehicle while maintaining or improving its structural integrity. For example, sometimes a structural element can be redesigned with less material while actually increasing the strength of the automobile. Even better, this type of light-weighting is often possible with no additional material or production costs.
The all-new 2018 Adventurer 80S is the latest example of what can happen when the truck camper industry pursues the concepts of light-weighting. With a dry base weight of just over 2,000 pounds, the Adventurer 80S represents a light-weight breakthrough for slide-out truck campers.
Perhaps even more compelling than the new Adventurer 80S itself are the light-weighting design concepts and material applications that were discovered during its development. From our conversation Adventurer, we can expect to see a number of these light-weighting innovations make their way into future Adventurer and Eagle Cap truck campers.
For the full story behind the 2018 Adventurer 80S, we talked to Greg Tucknies, Director of Sales and Marketing for Adventurer Manufacturing.
2017 Adventurer 80S Specifications:
The 2018 Adventurer 80S is a hard side, single-slide, wet bath truck camper made for short or long bed trucks. The interior floor length of the 2018 Adventurer 80S is 8’0”, the interior height is 78”, and the center of gravity is 34”. The 2018 Adventurer 80S has a 20 gallon fresh tank, a 14 gallon grey tank, a 14 gallon black tank, and a 4 gallon hot water heater. It can accommodate one battery and has one twenty-pound propane tank. Adventurer is reporting the base weight of the 2018 Adventurer 80S to be 2,010 pounds. The base MSRP for the 2018 Adventurer 80S is $22,680.
Above: 2018 Adventurer 80S on a 2016 F350 long bed truck. All photos provided by Adventurer LP.
TCM: Adventurer is known to debut a new floor plan specifically to beat the pants off another Adventurer model that’s getting long in the tooth. In this case, we suspect the eight year old 80GS better pull up its shorts.
Greg: Actually, the Adventurer 80GS is still going strong. We originally thought the 80RB was going to eliminate the 80GS. The 80RB is now our number one seller, but the 80GS is also solid. At this point, there are no plans to discontinue to 80GS, but we will let the marketplace determine our decision.
TCM: On paper, the idea of a slide-out truck camper for half-tons is a non-starter. Half-ton trucks don’t generally offer enough payload to even consider the thought, and slide-outs add a considerable amount of weight to a truck camper design. So how is it that we’re here talking about a slide-out truck camper for a half-ton truck?
Greg: 90-percent of what we do is customer driven. We have heard time and time again from customers that the 80GS would be better if it had a dinette slide. That put the 80GS project on our engineering books about four years ago.
When the average retail customer asks for a floor plan or feature, they don’t necessarily understand what it takes to make that happen. Early on we determined that there was no way to have a slide-out go up and over the box rails without a basement. To add a basement the camper would need additional framing and walls. The weight of the basement, additional walls, and the slide-out put the weight beyond the half-ton target, so we pushed the project off.
Over time, the 80S became a challenge for our Dave Frampton, our General Manager, and Shawn Mathews, our Head of Engineering. Together they developed a whole new approach.
TCM: To be absolutely clear, you’re not recommending the 80S for every half-ton truck, nor are you limiting its compatibility to half-ton trucks. Is that correct?
Greg: That is correct. We state on our website that the 80S is only for select half-ton models. In general, the 80S is a better payload match for three-quarter tons. And the 80S is particularly well suited to three-quarter ton and one-ton truck owners who want to tow boats, trailers, and other towable toys.
We always recommend that you match your camper within the capabilities of your truck. We always tell our customers to include the weight of their spouse, dog, kids, and all of their stuff in their calculations. That always has to be the conversation. That’s why we have the Build Your Own system to discover the dry weight with options for the camper you’re interested in. We want you to have that information.
The worst thing you can do as a truck camper manufacturer or dealer is to put the wrong camper on the wrong truck. You are asking for unhappy customers, and possible safety issues. If you stay within the payload of your truck and tire ratings, you will be safe. We must get that question 100 times at a RV show.
TCM: Did the 2018 Adventurer 80S start with elements of the Adventurer 80GS and 80SK, or was it designed completely fresh from the ground up?
Greg: The 80S is a 100-percent fresh design from the ground up. Everything is different. It’s a completely new floor plan in the truck camper marketplace.
TCM: What weight were you targeting for the 80S during this time period?
Greg: Our target was 2,000 pounds; 2,200 pounds max. The engineering team originally said they couldn’t get to that weight range. With a few tweaks they were able to get it down to 2,400 pounds. I stated that customers would not buy the 80S at that weight because the 86FB is at 2,545 pounds.
That’s when the real breakthroughs happened. Traditional slide-outs have their own floor. The 80S slide-out utilizes the floor that goes over the wing walls. That saved a considerable amount of weight.
Above: The 80S slide-out utilizes the floor that goes over the wing walls
We also employed a new floor design with balsa wood in the lamination. The balsa lamination tested as strong as the plywood we had been using, but with a weight reduction of 40 pounds. The biggest challenge of using balsa is that it doesn’t provide a structural anchor for cabinets or screws. We employed metal strips for the screws to solve that challenge.
Above: The open faced cabinet in the cabover saves weight
To save even more weight, you’ll see cabinets and wardrobes without doors. The wardrobe in bedroom is open faced. This allows for larger shirts and coats to fit in this space, or for the owner to use a set of plastic storage containers. Even the framing under the refrigerator is open. Every element of the design was focused on saving weight. We were literally looking at ounces.
Above: Photos of the 2018 Adventurer 80S manufacturing process
TCM: Earlier you mentioned the framing of the 80S. Is it wood or aluminum framed?
Greg: It’s a hybrid of the two. For example, we used aluminum framing in the structure that supports the balsa laminated floor. The walls and roof of the 80S are wood frame. Wood framing is important for building a lighter weight truck camper. Most folks think aluminum framing is lighter, but that’s not the case.
TCM: As the engineering team worked to reduce weight, how did they ensure that structural integrity wasn’t sacrificed?
Greg: The key to structural integrity is our True Composite Construction (TCC). The 80S’s walls, roof, and floor are all laminated for incredible structural strength. We back the 80S with the same 3-year structural warranty that every Adventurer Manufacturing product carries. We did not sacrifice quality for weight. The 80S is as sound and solid as anything we build.
TCM: What is the height of the basement in the 80S?
Greg: It’s a wheel well height; 10-inches. The basement contains the holding tanks and is heated. The basement also allows us to have an incredible amount of exterior storage in the basement and on the driver’s side slide. The 80S has more exterior storage that our 86FB and 89RB models.
TCM: How did Adventurer design the 80S to be long and short bed compatible?
Greg: We played with all kinds of layouts to move the center of gravity forward. We had the slide-out forward and back. The kitchen was flip-flopped. We moved the propane and battery locations. The final center of gravity came in at 34-inches. That was a pleasant surprise.
Above: Locating the center of gravity on the 2018 Adventurer 80S
TCM: Is the 80S compatible with super short bed trucks?
Greg: Unfortunately, no. That was on our wish list, but we were not able to get there.
Above: The Power Gear SlimRack system on the Adventurer 80S
TCM: Adventurer chose the Power Gear SlimRack system slide-out mechanism for the 80S. As an industry and community, we have learned to be at least cautious with the introduction of a new slide-out mechanism. From this perspective, how have you tested this new Power Gear SlimRack system?
Greg: We have actually been testing the SlimRack slide-out mechanism for some time. Here at the factory we installed a SlimRack slide in a sidewall and dinette-slide mock-up six months ago. Our concern was racking when the system wasn’t level or weight balanced. That’s what plagued the Schwintek system.
Five of us pulled and tweaked the mock-up slide and it ran perfectly. Then we pushed on the slides and did everything we could to rack the system. Even with considerable pressure and weight, the system ran in and out without binding. At one point we were a full two-inches out of alignment and it still ran fine. That really impressed us.
The design of the SlimRack is very forgiving. It has a steel rack inside. The gears can move up and down and remain positively engaged. It’s smoother, quieter, faster and draws less power. I don’t think you can make it fail unless the motor goes. We now believe the SlimRack is a viable slide-out system, and it’s much lighter in weight.
Above: The 80S with the slide-out in
TCM: That’s quite a statement. Are you considering using the SlimRack in other models?
Greg: To adopt the SlimRack in our existing models we would need to redesign the framing and walls to accommodate the system. It’s more likely that we’ll possibly incorporate the SlimRack system on new models.
TCM: The wet bath in the 80S features a one-piece fiberglass base. Does that mean only the bottom of the bathroom is molded fiberglass?
Greg: That’s correct. Below the entry door is a one-piece fiberglass tray that rises about 8-inches up the walls. We used the same mold from the 80GS bathroom. It creates a better seal than the plastic tray we used a couple years ago.
In designing the wet bath our team found another creative way to save weight. They used the same Lamilux 4000 gel coat fiberglass we use on the exterior of the unit for the wet bath. Essentially, we laminated the Lamilux 4000 to the interior of the wet bath’s walls and sealed the seams.
It’s an entirely new style of wet bath construction, and one that creates a full fiberglass shower stall. The final 80S wet bath weighs less than the wet bath in the 80GS.
TCM: That’s very impressive, and efficient for purchasing and production. Tell us about the double-door fiberglass water tight linen closet.
Greg: That was another innovative idea. We used exterior baggage doors to create a large waterproof storage area inside the 80S’s wet bath. The doors are actually the same we use on the exterior of the 80S, just turned vertical.
Above: Inside the wet bath storage area are adjustable shelves
TCM: The L-design of the dinette is fairly self-explanatory, but what was the reason behind this design approach?
Greg: We originally tried a face-to-face dinette like what we have in the 86FB and 89RB. When we looked at the result, it looked like another me-too design. We were copying ourselves.
The Lagun can be moved in so many directions, or pushed out of the way to open the interior. We haven’t employed the Lagun in another model, so it’s completely different for us.
To do something different, the engineering team developed three different drawings and layouts. That’s when the Lagun table leg system came up. We had used it in a Class B design for Fraserway and it made sense for the 80S.
Above: The Adventurer 80S’s dinette being made into a bed
TCM: Can the dinette still be made into a bed?
Greg: Yes, it can. The pictures I took show how that’s done.
TCM: Adventurer is stating that the new 80S has more galley counter space than any other 8-foot truck camper on the market. That’s a crazy bold claim. Are you 100-percent sure of this?
Greg: Yes, we are. We looked at all of the floor plans out there.
The 80S has a huge counter top and a large stainless-steel bowl sink, and a two-burner stove. Anyone who enjoys cooking is going to love the 80S.
Above: Dometic 4-cubic foot, 2-way refrigerator/freezer
TCM: Another claim surrounds the 8-foot exterior storage which Adventurer says is like no other 8-foot truck camper.
Greg: I don’t think there’s a truck camper out there with storage like this.
The slide-out design allowed for an enormous amount of exterior storage space in the 80S.
Above: The heated tanks in the basement of the 80S
TCM: The tank capacities for the 80S are impressive for a half-ton targeted camper; 20-gallons fresh, 14-gallons grey, and 14-gallons black. How did you determine these tank sizes?
Greg: Once again, those decisions are customer driven. Customers have asked us for bigger tanks in models targeting half-ton trucks. We had to balance that request against the target weight and center of gravity requirements. To strike the right balance, we designed and built new custom tanks for the 80S.
TCM: What size batteries does the 80S hold, and where is the battery compartment?
Greg: The exterior battery compartment on the 80S is the same design from the 80RB. One side holds up to a Group 31 battery, and the other is for the power cord. Some folks have removed the divider and put two batteries in this compartment, but it’s designed for one battery, and storage for the power cord.
TCM: What size propane tanks does the 80S hold, and where is the propane compartment?
Greg: There’s a single 20-pound horizontal propane tank located in the rear driver’s side of the unit.
TCM: Tell us about the standard bumper and entry step system for the 2018 Adventurer 80S.
Greg: The 80S doesn’t have a bumper. We offer a five-step Torklift International glow step scissor step from the factory. The dealers can also offer the Torklift step system. Depending on the truck you will be matching with the 80S, you’ll need a five or six-step system.
TCM: What considerations were given for winterization; battery access, water heater bypass, low water drains, etc.
Greg: The 80S has all of those features. It’s a full-blooded Adventurer. The only things the 80S lacks are a rear ladder and a microwave.
TCM: After all was said and done, what did the 80S weigh?
Greg: When we weighed the first unit, everyone on the management and engineering team was guessing what the 80S would weigh. Most guesses were around 2,100 pounds.
We were all surprised when it actually came in at 2,010 pounds. The first thing we did was check that the unit had everything it was supposed to have and it did.
TCM: Does that weight include Adventurer’s mandatory Elite Option Package (EOP)?
Greg: Yes, our Elite Options Package is included in the base weight of 2,010 pounds.
The Elite Option Package highlights our heated and enclosed holding tanks, 24-inch friction hinge entrance door with dead bolt and screen, laminated closed-cell block foam insulation, Lamilux 4000 high-gloss front wrap, interior LED lights, all-wood full-extension drawers with soft/self-closing ball-bearing drawer guides, framing around all windows, and more.
Above: The outside shower, water heater, and battery access in the 80S
TCM: What does the 80S weigh as a standard build, and loaded?
Greg: That first unit was a base build with no options. People don’t normally order campers with no options, so 2,010 pounds is at the low end of the 80S dry weight.
Above: The Jensen stereo system is an option in the 80S
Standard build for the 80S includes a stereo, awning slide topper, rear awning, and camper caddy. With those features, the dry weight of the 80S is 2,076 pounds.
The fully loaded 80S in the pictures weighed 2,206 pounds and included a scissor step system, rear awning, slide-topper, camper caddy, stereo system, air conditioner, and electric jacks.
Above: A fully loaded 80S weighs approximately 2,206 pounds
TCM: Adventurer has been at the industry forefront with weighing each and every truck camper that leaves the factory and posting the resulting dry with option weight inside the units. Adventurer has also been a leader by putting center of gravity stickers on the exterior of every camper it manufactures. Are these best practices be continuing with the 2018 Adventurer 80S?
Greg: Absolutely. That’s our standard practice.
TCM: What is the MSRP for the 2018 Adventurer 80S with standard build features?
Greg: The base MSRP for the 80S is $22,680. The MSRP for the standard build with electric jacks is $24,787. A fully-loaded unit comes in at $25,984.
TCM: What is the warranty for the 2018 Adventurer 80S?
Greg: The Adventurer Manufacturing structural warranty is three years. The three year warranty is transferable to other owners, and starts at the time of customer delivery. The manufacturer warranties on appliances are between one and three years.
TCM: When will the 2018 Adventurer 80S be available?
Greg: They are coming off line now and are shipping. The 2018 Adventurer 80S will also be at RV shows in early 2018.
TCM: Do you think some of the design and material ideas developed for the 80S might make their way into other Adventurer Manufacturing products?
Greg: Absolutely. Some of the design and material discoveries from the 80S have been so impressive that we’re considering adopting these approaches for other Adventurer truck campers. This should help our larger truck campers to become much stronger and lighter in the future. The material changes may cost us more, but not as much as it would have in the past.
TCM: Is there anything about the 2018 Adventurer 80S or Adventurer Manufacturing that you would like to add?
Greg: With the 80S, our engineering department truly exceeded my expectations. They have achieved incredible things with this unit and discovered some new design and material ideas that will push Adventurer Manufacturing products even further. With the 80S, we have another floor plan that’s going to shine in the marketplace.
We recently added 4,000 square feet to our facility, and are looking to expand production even further. We don’t have a definitive new model at this time, but we are looking at new innovations, and maybe an all-new truck camper line.