Answering two long standing requests, Northern Lite discontinues the 8-11Q-series and debuts longer and wider 8-11 EX Wet Bath Special Edition and Sportsman models.
Apple iPhone enthusiasts know the pattern well. First Apple announces the next generation of iPhone with a designated number; iPhone 4, 5, and 6. About a year later Apple then enhances that model and produces a “S” version; 4S, 5S, and 6S. While they skipped this cycle for the iPhone 7 and 8, they recently returned to form with the introduction of the iPhone XS (pronounced 10S).
For the past few years, Northern Lite has taken a similar approach with their clamshell molded fiberglass truck camper announcements. First they launch the next generation “EX” model as a wet bath or dry bath. About a year later, they roll out the same EX model with the opposite bath type (dry or wet) along with a list of enhancements. Sound familiar?
Keeping to their announcement schedule, Northern Lite is now announcing the 8-11 EX Wet Bath for 2019. Utilizing the same molds as the 8-11 EX Dry Bath model announced last May, the new model takes full advantage of the longer and wider EX dimensions. According to Northern Lite, the longer and wider dimensions allowed the manufacturer to address two requests they’ve heard for years.
To explain exactly what the changes are and how they improved upon the successful 8-11Q-series, we talked to Keith Donkin, General Manager for Northern Lite.
2019 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition Wet Bath Specifications
The 2019 Northern Lite 8-11 EX is a hard-side, non-slide, wet bath truck camper for short bed trucks. The interior floor length of the 8-11 EX is 9’3” and the interior height is 6’4”. Northern Lite is reporting the dry weight of the 2019 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition wet bath at 2,650 pounds. The tanks in the 2019 Northern Lite 8-11 EX wet bath are 33 gallons fresh, 24 gallons grey, and 13 gallons black. The camper accommodates two batteries and two twenty-pound propane tanks. The MSRP for the 2019 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Special Edition wet bath is $44,110 USD. Click here for a free Northern Lite brochure.
With the introduction of the 8-11 EX wet bath, is Northern Lite discontinuing any existing models for 2019?
We have discontinued the Northern Lite 8-11Q Classic Special Edition and the 8-11Q Sportsman. We have replaced both models with our newly designed 8-11 EX Wet Bath and 8-11 EX Dry Bath Special Edition models.
We debuted the Northern Lite 8-11 EX Dry Bath in August of 2017 with an all-new set of wider and longer fiberglass molds. Now we are building the wet bath model with the same 8-11 EX molds.
The 8-11 EX molds are 4-inches longer than the 8-11Q molds. By changing the angles of the mold, we were also able to stretch the EX molds to a full 9’3”. These dimensional changes give the 8-11 EX Wet Bath a more open and spacious interior, and creates some exciting opportunities.
Above: The dinette in the Northern Lite 8-11 EX is five inches longer
With the previous 8-11Q, we often heard from customers who wanted a longer dinette and dinette bed area. For 2019, we have redesigned and expanded the dinette in the 8-11 EX Wet Bath by 5-inches. The dinette in the 8-11 EX Wet Bath is now 6-feet long.
Above: The Northern Lite 8-11 EX has an optional U-shaped dinette
On the passenger’s side, the 8-11 EX offers more kitchen counter space – another common customer request.
The rear closet is slightly larger. It has a nice set of upgrades to an already highly-refined and popular model.
Above: The Northern Lite 8-11 EX Wet Bath
Did you make any changes to the 8-11 EX wet bath itself?
We decided to use the same wet bath that was in the 8-11Q. By using the same 8-11 wet bath in the longer footprint, we were able to make the dinette longer, add the counter space and expand the closet storage.
Our dealers and customers have always asked for an 8-11 short bed model with a longer dinette and a wet or dry bath option. With the 8-11 EX Wet Bath and Dry Bath, we have accomplished both objectives.
Above: The Northern Lite 8-11 EX Dry Bath
The 8-11 EX Dry Bath debuted with a unique design. Now that it’s been in the marketplace for a year, how has it been received?
Some people love it. They tell us to put the dry bath into everything we build. People also say they hate it and would rather have the wet bath. Now customers have two choices in the larger 8-11 EX footprint.
I think the dry bath turned out well. There are compromises, as there are with any dry bath configuration. What we ended up with is best of both worlds. It works well.
Earlier you mentioned that the Sportsman models would also be using the 8-11 EX molds. We don’t see many Sportsman models in the field.
We don’t build that many Sportsman models, but some dealers order them. The Special Editions are the bulk of our sales.
With the 8-11 EX measuring 9’3” long, are there any plans to make a shorter Northern Lite at this time?
The black tank sizes in the 8-11 EX Dry Bath and Wet Bath are different by one gallon. Why are the tank sizes different between these two models?
The different black tank sizes were determined by the shape of the tanks and where the drains come out. The 13-gallon black tank from the Wet Bath model didn’t work with the newer Dry Bath design. We had to modify the tank to work in the Dry Bath, which turned it into a 12-gallon tank.
Other than the dry versus wet bath and the minor differences in the black tank sizes, is there anything else different between these two models?
The bathroom is a wet bath and the same size as the old 8-11 bath. The closet, dinette and kitchen counters are longer and the black tank sizes are one gallon different. Everything else is the same.
Let’s talk about any other 2019 Northern Lite changes and updates. Are there any changes to the Northern Lite interiors for 2019?
We have done some mid-model year changes. We upgraded the television shelf recently to a solid Sapele shelf with a lip. The lip keeps things from rolling off the surface. Previously the shelf was a countertop. We also changed over to the new Jensen 12-volt 24” televisions.
Our Midi Heki now has an exterior white shroud. Aesthetically it looks better.
We added two 12-volt and two USB ports to the camper. They are in the kitchen and behind the television on the passenger’s side of the overcab.
The additional standard 12-volt and USB ports are very welcome additions. Any changes to the exterior?
The solar panels have changed from 95-watt to 100-watt panels. We also changed the brackets for the basement step that’s connected to the bumper.
Why did you change the brackets for the basement step?
It was the last piece of steel on our campers. And we wanted something with a cleaner look. To do the same bracket design in aluminum would cost three to four times the price as the steel bracket. The new aluminum bracket design is the same price as the old steel bracket.
Lorne Nakonechny, our CEO, prototyped a new bracket in Fusion 360 and 3D printed a prototype. The 3D printed prototype (small bracket on the left below) was proof of concept and a clear way to communicate the design to our team.
Above: The black bracket is what was used before; bottom left to right are the prototypes with the final bracket all the way to the right.
The new brackets are lighter and more efficient to produce. We have them made by the same local fabricator that makes our aluminum bumpers.
The fabricator took Lorne’s design and further improved it with rounded corners and powder coating. There are no compromises with the new brackets.
It’s amazing to be able to design and prototype parts using 3D printing. Is Northern Lite increasing prices for 2019?
There was a 3-percent increase in prices for 2019. That price increase went into effect on May 1, 2018.
As a Canadian manufacturer, has Northern Lite been impacted by the United States steel and aluminum tariffs?
Not really. We had some slight increases in our aluminum prices. Our campers are fiberglass, so the metal tariffs do not really impact us. We have been more affected by the price of doors, which is related to a Canadian retaliatory tariff.
Above: The Northern Lite 8-11 EX ready to be shipped
Is there anything else about the 8-11 EX Wet Bath or Northern Lite in general you would like to add?
To keep up with current and future demand, we are looking at substantial additions to our current factory. For starters, we are adding another fiberglass spray booth, which will be larger than our current one. We already have one of the largest in the Okanagan Valley.
In the very near future we will be adding an additional truck camper production line. That line will be dedicated to Northern Lite 10-2 EX campers. We are nearing completion of an additional 10-2 EX mold. That will allow us to double capacity for 10-2 truck campers.
Our cabinet shop will be vastly expanded allowing for new technologies like CNC and panel saws. That will help to maintain quality and further increase production. Finally, we are hiring team members and giving them substantial training to ensure they meet the quality standards we expect.
For more information on Northern Lite, visit their website at northern-lite.com. Click here for a free Northern Lite brochure.