nuCamp RV debuts the Cirrus 620, an all-new hard side, non-slide, short bed truck camper targeting half-ton trucks. The prized half-ton hard side truck camper market is starting to heat up!
If the fairy truck camper mother granted every truck camper manufacturer president one wish, a good number would ask for, “A truly half-ton payload compatible hard side truck camper”. Of course some might wish for cheap carbon fiber or super comfy socks, but you get the idea.
For decades, the truck camper industry has been chasing the opportunity of a truly half-ton payload compatible hard side truck camper. Some have even achieved the elusive objective with varying approaches to minimalism and extreme light-weight construction, but no company has completely run away with the market. It remains relatively wide open.
nuCamp took their first crack at the half-ton target in early 2019 with the Cirrus 720. The 720 was remarkably ambitious with an innovative floor plan, a ground-breaking radius tambour door wet bath design, hybrid aluminum-Coosa structure, and eWood laminated tables and countertops. And yet, like so many ambitious campers before it, it ultimately missed the half-ton weight requirement.
Of course the half-ton weight requirement varies considerably depending on who you ask. nuCamp publicly set the bar at 1,500 pounds dry. That’s a reasonable goal when many current half-ton trucks can be ordered with 2,000-pounds of payload, or better. That doesn’t mean any half-ton will do, but there are a good number of half-tons that now have this impressive level of payload capacity.
So what does nuCamp do after missing the target for the 720? Return to the drawing board with everything they learned from that experience, double-down on the weight focus, and build an entirely new camper; the 2021 Cirrus 620.
Above: The 2021 Cirrus 620 loaded on a Ford F-150. All photographs courtesy of nuCamp RV.
According to nuCamp, the Cirrus 620 base weight is under 1,500-pounds. And that’s not the whole story behind this new model. Like everything the Sugar Creek, Ohio company does, it presents a number of clever design choices, and a modern aesthetic that is distinctly nuCamp.
To find out more about the 2021 Cirrus 620, we talked to Scott Hubble, CEO, and Brent Cronebach, R&D Project Manager, for nuCamp RV.
2021 Cirrus 620 Specifications
The Cirrus 620 is a hard side, non-slide, toilet only truck camper for short or long bed trucks. The interior floor length of the Cirrus 620 is 5’9″ and the interior height is 6’4.5″. nuCamp RV is reporting the base dry weight of the Cirrus 620 at 1,491-pounds.
It has a 18-gallon fresh water tank, a 12-gallon grey tank, and a 5-gallon cassette toilet. The camper accommodates two batteries and one twenty-pound propane tank. The base price MSRP for the Cirrus 620 is $38,591. Click here to request a free Cirrus brochure.
Before we get to the 620, we need to introduce the newest member of nuCamp’s design team, Brent Cronebach. Brent, how did you come to work at nuCamp?
Brent: I actually started here in Sugarcreek, Ohio when I graduated from school over 35 years ago. Throughout my career I’ve been involved with many facets of engineering and project management. More recently I worked for a steel cord and radial tire manufacturing company working on machine design. I came on board early this year and nuCamp has been a wonderful fit for me. The more relaxed atmosphere here was exactly what I was looking for.
Above: Brent Cronebach designing the Cirrus 620
Do you have a background with RVing?
Brent: Yes, my entire childhood was involved with RV camping. My grandparents had a camper and I spent my summers with them, fishing all day long. When my wife recently saw the second 620 prototype she said, “I can see what you’re so excited about.” I’m hoping to make that camper my own.
That would be fantastic. We love to see industry leaders go truck camping. Our first impression of the 620 is that it shares a number of common design choices with the currently discontinued 720. Is that accurate?
Scott: The Cirrus 720 and 620 shared the same design objective; to create a hard-side camper that’s capable of payload matching half-ton trucks. Through the 720’s development process, we discovered that its design could never crack the required 1,500-pound goal. For the half-ton market, the 720 missed the mark.
We learned a great deal from that endeavor and went back to the drawing board with a sharper focus on weight. The weight target for the new Cirrus 620 was again under 1,500-pounds. This time, we nailed it. With the second and third 620 prototypes, we were able to make tweaks that brought the weight down even further.
Tell us about the three 620 prototypes and what changed with each iteration.
Scott: We actually began building the 620 with what we call prototype zero. In this prototype, we build a wood-framed and walled version with a fully planned out interior. Prototype zero focuses on the exterior framing, overall floor plan, equipment choices, cabinetry size, style and placement. That process tells us if we’re on the right track.
Above: A prototype Cirrus 620. In the final production version the upper cabinetry was changed to better match the interior decor and the lower cubbies gain cargo netting.
From prototype zero, we typically build two additional prototypes. From prototype one to prototype two we refine every aspect of the design. Prototype three more or less serves as our first production unit and acts as a guideline for the production team. In essence, prototype three is the final production version.
Brent: Prototype one allows us to evaluate the look, feel, and function of the unit. From there we make minor modifications to transform the design to what we anticipate the production version needs to be. Everything goes from fit to form to function. Prototype to prototype, we made more fine-tunings until the production version is complete.
What did you do during the prototype phase to reduce weight?
Brent: Due to the aluminum-framed and laminated construction method of Cirrus truck campers, the focus of the 620 design was on the materials we employed. We were able to reduce the amount of material in the basement and cabinetry to reduce a good amount of weight. We’re talking subtle changes that, but it adds up.
Scott: We were able to hit the under 1,500 pound mark with prototype one. From there we were able to further reduce the weight somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-pounds. With that, we were able to make some thought-to-be optional equipment, standard – pushing the weight back towards the 1,500 mark.
What is the official dry weight of the 620?
Where is the center of gravity?
The Cirrus 620 features a T-shape rear-profile. Why did you choose that design approach?
Scott: When we were designing the 620, we looked at where the 720 failed and where we could pull weight out. From that research, the T-shape rear profile became obvious. With the tailgate steps offered on some new pickup trucks, it made even more sense.
Brent: Removing and reinstalling a tailgate is cumbersome. With the T-shape rear profile of the 620, it’s not necessary to remove the tailgate. You can leave it on, even with a short bed.
What trucks will the Cirrus 620 fit?
Brent: The Cirrus 620 will fit half-ton, three-quarter ton and one-ton trucks. The best part is that it can be loaded into short or long bed trucks. With 6-foot short beds you can close the tailgate. With a 5.5-foot bed, like my own personal Ford F-150 has, you can leave the tailgate on, like a back porch.
Is the 620 built with the same wood-free, aluminum frame, closed cell foam, and Azdel composite laminated walls as the 820?
Scott: Yes, the 620’s materials and build are extremely similar to the 820. The only difference is the 620 does not have a walk-on roof.
Brent: The roof is still aluminum-framed with insulating panels and seamless aluminum outer skin, but it’s not designed to be walked on. We restructured the roof to reduce the weight of the unit. Those were the kinds of decisions required to pull weight out of the unit.
If the roof is not walk-on, how are people to maintain their roof’s seals?
Brent: There are only two roof protrusions that would require seal maintenance and they’re both located close enough to reach from a ladder. Everything else, including an optional air conditioner and the standard 210-watt solar panel, do not require seal maintenance.
When developing the 720, nuCamp experimented with Coosa, a high-density polyurethane foam board. Did you employ Coosa or any other new materials to lighten the 620?
Brent: We use Coosa around the windows and the entry way door. We also use Coosa for the windows and door on our 820 model. It’s a good material for that purpose.
Throughout the unit there are multiple CNC-cut storage cubbies. What was the thinking behind this approach to storage?
Scott: The nuCamp design team likes to poke fun at my desire to capture any open space and turn it into storage, but I know how important storage is to our customers. Some of the cubbies in the 620 were designed out of the gate.
Others were discovered during the design and development process. We found more when we went from prototype zero to one.
The overhead cabinetry looks very similar to what debuted in the Cirrus 720. Is it the same?
Brent: The curved overhead cabinetry is almost the same, but we have made refinements and the finish is different. We also removed accent pieces that were featured in the 720 version.
Does the 620 feature an Alde hydronic heating system?
Scott: Yes, it does. After our 1,500-pound goal, the Alde system was the number one thing on our ‘must have’ list. The Alde system is a big part of what nuCamp is all about. People expect a nuCamp camper to have a hydronic heating system. It’s part of our identity.
Is it a full-blooded Alde system with the same Alde boiler unit, convectors, and control system found in previous Cirrus Campers?
Scott: Yes, it’s 100-percent the same Alde system. We made sure to send it through comprehensive testing in a heat/cold chamber so that it could be used year round.
Brent: The Alde’s boiler sits under the cooktop and sink area. One of the two doors on the lower kitchen cabinet is for access to service plumbing and electrical. The second door gives you full access to the water pump and Alde system for any needed service or maintenance.
There are five Alde convectors; two up front in the cabover, two in the main living area and one in the basement – along with a blower. The Alde’s reservoir and controls are located in a cabinet in the middle of the unit.
Scott: The area under the kitchen countertop does not offer any storage as it houses the Alde system. It also offers access to the water pump and mixing valve.
When weight is such a huge priority, was there any consideration for something other than the Alde system?
Scott: If we absolutely had to go lighter, we might consider a lighter and simpler Alde system in a future product. Maybe a unit with just the heating system and not the integrated water heater. Maybe an Alde with fans instead of convectors. I could see reducing the system, but that’s not in our plans.
The sink and cooktop might represent the most compact kitchen arrangement in the marketplace. How did you test it out for functionality?
Scott: It is a small kitchen, but it works well for meal prep and washing dishes. If you’re not using the cooktop, the glass cooktop lid creates more counter space.
We also had a couple load a 620 prototype and take out on a 30-day test run. They used every feature of the unit and had a positive experience with the kitchen.
Brent: The couple took the unit out west for a month and adored it. They used it completely and brought their feedback to us after their travels. That information was very helpful when developing the final prototype.
Tell us about the refrigerator in the 620. First, is it a 12-volt compressor or an absorption unit?
Scott: It’s a West Marine Isotherm, 12-volt compressor (AC or DC), 2.3 cubic-foot refrigerator. It’s a model we brought over from our teardrop trailers. It draws 2.5-amp hours and features a built-in freezer behind the door.
Why not opt for a larger refrigerator?
Scott: A larger refrigerator would have added weight and cost.
It also would have eliminated the sliding spice rack to the left of the fridge and the spacious cubby below. When we looked at the options, this was the best choice for the available space and overall weight goal.
How did you come to the decision that a separate bathroom was not required for the 620?
Scott: That design decision was dictated by the 1,500-pound guidepost. In order to achieve that weight things had to be sacrificed. The biggest sacrifice for the 620 was a wet bath. A wet bath was simply untenable in this footprint.
We had ten dealers come in and look at 620 prototype two. They commented that it will appeal to many different audiences within the truck camper marketplace, including single women with pickup trucks.
We believe the 620 will bridge the teardrop trailer and truck camper markets. It may even pull a few teardrop trailer owners in the truck camper direction. I had a trailer customer recently contact me and say, “I have been waiting for something like this.”
Above: The seat just inside the entry door hides the cassette toilet system
Above: The bowl swivels toward the main living area for use, and then swivels back to be put away. Here the bowl is shown turned in its stowed position.
The hide-a-way Dometic cassette toilet is a clever touch for a camper of this size and weight target. Was that feature on the drawing board from the beginning, or did it evolve through the development process?
Scott: It was something we talked about from the beginning of the 620’s design process. We’ve all seen this approach taken in many marine and even a handful of RV products. It’s a very efficient way to add a toilet to a camper and have it convert into a useful seating area.
The 720 featured a 4.75-gallon Thetford cassette toilet. Did you employ the same model in the 620?
Scott: Yes, it’s essentially the same; the 620 features a 4.75-gallon Thetford C223.
Some customers may not want the cassette toilet. Is it standard or optional?
Scott: That was a discussion point, but the cassette toilet is a standard feature. While we won’t list it as a formal option, a customer could certainly custom order a 620 without it.
Above: The Lagun table system above is shown in a prototype 620. The final production version the lower cubbies gain cargo netting.
The 620’s dinette employs the Lagun table leg system. You’ve been using the Lagun on a lot of nuCamp products. Is it becoming a signature item like the Alde system and Froli bed system?
Scott: We call it ‘smart things in small places’. That’s what we do. This type of table system works well in that context and has quickly become part of our signature feature list. It was certainly the best table option for the 620.
Does the mid-dinette convert an adult-size sleeping area?
Scott: Yes. The converted dinette bed is approximately 30-inches wide and 76-inches deep. That’s relatively close to a traditional twin bed. Part of what dictated the size of the kitchen area was the need to make the dinette convertible into a useful bed.
The 620 appears to have exactly the same thermal pane acrylic windows found on the 820. Are these the same make, model and size windows?
Scott: Yes, we use the same windows across the board. And we’re starting to see more truck camper manufacturers use them as well. That’s confirmation for us. The windows in the cabover are the same as the 820. The windows on either side of the main living area are used on other units we produce, but new to the Cirrus line.
Does the 620 come with the Froli system? It doesn’t exactly show in the photography.
Brent: The 620 does indeed have a Froli bed system, but we hid it in the 620 behind a trim piece. It’s not as visible when you walk into the unit, but it’s there. We use the same Froli system that’s in the 820.
We couldn’t help but notice the cabover hamper-style storage lids are split, just like David Pellegrini’s October 2017 modification in his Cirrus 820. Any chance David’s mod was the inspiration?
Scott: I am sure we took note of that modification, as we take note of a lot of inspirational modifications our customers share with us.
Brent: It’s nice to only need to lift half the hamper’s lid to access the storage area underneath. Before you had to remove anything on top of the hamper deal with the long door. The split door is a much better solution.
There’s a small cabinet on the forward passenger’s side of the cabover. What is that?
Brent: That’s where the Alde’s reservoir and controls are located. It’s the perfect area to have the controls as you can easily reach them from the cabover.
In the initial photography, there didn’t appear to be a stereo system, built-in speakers, or even a television. What’s the thinking towards audio-video for the 620?
Scott: That’s another feature we decided not to include in the 620. In lieu of the television, we are including a TV prep feature. This includes a 110-volt outlet and coax prep at the foot of the bed. I suspect many customers will prefer to use their laptops and tablets with wireless internet streaming for television shows and movies.
For audio, every 620 will be furnished with a well-known, high quality, mobile bluetooth speaker. With the market we are targeting, we believe this approach is the way to go.
What size are the fresh and grey tanks in the Cirrus 620?
Brent: There’s a 19-gallon fresh tank and a 15-gallon grey tank.
Scott: I have called the 620 a unicorn because it’s nestled into the middle of the lightweight truck camper market. It has larger holding tanks than anything under 1,500-pounds. It also offers a north-south bed. Most lightweight campers feature a less desirable east-west configuration.
I really didn’t want to come out with a camper with a 9-gallon fresh tank and no grey capacity. We thought that would be cheating our customers. So we maximized the holding tank capacity in the 620’s basement space with 19-gallons fresh and 15-gallons grey.
The 620 utilizes the Nautilus water management system that was introduced in the updated 2021 Cirrus 820 last spring. Is it the same Nautilus P3 model?
Scott: Yes, the 2021 Cirrus 620 features the Nautilus P3 water management system. From the Nautilus P3 panel you can fill fresh water, connect to city water, sanitize the fresh tank, connect an outside shower and even connect to coax cable television.
The Nautilus P3 puts all of these features in one convenient location. This is a much better approach than having everything sticking out from various sidewall locations. It also means less sidewall seals to maintain, and a cleaner look for the overall camper.
Where are the batteries on the 620 located?
Scott: We carved out a lot of space for batteries by creating storage space under the left seating area. The dimensions of the battery storage space are 7.5-inches wide, 12-inches deep, and 23-inches long. It can house two Group-24 batteries. With that said, there is the capability to expand the length to accommodate larger group battery sizes.
Are lithium batteries an option?
Scott: The 620 does not come standard with a battery and at this time, we do not offer lithium as an option. With the rapidly expanding landscape, including it as standard equipment is something we are exploring.
Does the 620 have an option for solar?
Scott: Actually, the 620 comes standard with the same solar package we include on the Cirrus 820. It’s a 210-watt solar panel by Sunflare that is equipped with bypass diodes. It’s a flat and flexible panel that does not require mounting brackets.
Thats’s generously-sized standard solar panel. Where are the propane tanks on the Cirrus 620?
Brett: One 20-pound vertical propane tank is located on the driver’s side rear.
Scott: As you know, propane consumption by the Alde system is low compared to traditional water heaters and furnace systems. That single 20-pound propane tank will last a long time, especially in a smaller camper like the 620.
Is there an optional air conditioner available for the 620?
Scott: Yes, we offer a Coleman Mach with 9200 BTUs. It’s the smallest air roof top conditioner we can get and offers plenty of cooling capacity for the 620.
Due to its design, the 620 lacks a bumper and step system. How do you recommend people get in and out of the unit?
Brent: There are a couple options. Some of the newer trucks offer steps built into their lowered tailgates. That’s a fantastic option for the 620. You just drop it down and walk into the unit.
If you don’t have a truck with that feature, you can use a small three-step ladder. The couple who toured in the prototype 620 had a ladder step and stored it beside the unit when they were traveling. You could also use a hitch step if your installation removes the tailgate.
Will the 620 be available in different colors and with different color graphics?
Scott: Yes and no. With the way materials have been tight in 2020, we will only have silver walls for the first 620 run. We hope to have a run of white walls for the 620 in April.
For accent colors, most dealers and customers opt for black – be it on a silver or white unit. With that said, we also offer standard accents of white, silver and burgundy. If you are looking for something else, you’ll just need to special order it.
The interior cushions are all a darker grey, as you see in the pictures. Again, dealers and customers have asked us for neutral colors. Neutral colors are also easier for our dealers to inventory.
What is the MSRP for the 2021 Cirrus 620 with standard build features?
Scott: The base price is $38,591. As with all of our units, we incorporate many things typically viewed as optional into our standard build. In the 620, that includes: a robust solar package, electric jacks, the FROLI sleep system, backup camera, smartCamp control and a cassette toilet.
There are only three options; the air conditioner, a 7-foot motorized side awning, and a microwave. With all three options, the 620 MSRP is $41,298.
What would a Cirrus 620 weigh with all three options?
Scott: The fully loaded 620 prototype was 1,610 pounds dry.
What is the warranty for the Cirrus 620?
Scott: Cirrus has a 3-year structural warranty. It’s 12-months from the date of purchase for everything else.
When will the Cirrus 620 be available at nuCamp dealerships?
Scott: We have a national roll-out on Saturday, December 19th, 2020. We have targeted 17 different dealer lots with dealerships around North America. We’re pretty excited. Each location will only have one unit, but they will be getting reinforcements early next year. If you want to see a 620, it’s almost time.
Is there anything else with the Cirrus 620 that our readers should know about?
Brent: Yes! We are very excited about the internal anchoring system that we have incorporated for the 620.
Featuring a ratchet-style hold-down system, the 620 allows the user to load the unit into their truck and anchor it by attaching to the existing hold down locations within any truck’s bed.
The adjustment is then done by simply working the ratchet until slight tension is created. The ratchet unit is fastened to the truck camper through reinforced structure in the lower sidewall of the camper unit.
This will create a cross pull between the anchor straps to help maintain tension on the straps during travel. The rating on each strap well exceeds the weight of the complete unit.
How does one attach the front ratchet closest to the truck cab? It seems like you might be blocked from accessing ratchet by the truck bed itself.
Brent: Because the ratchet straps are self retracting, you are able to hook the front in before lowering the camper into the bed. This would also be the case for unloading. You set the ratchet to the auto retract position and raise the unit until you can reach the hook.
The Cirrus 920 is due for an update similar to what the 820 enjoyed last spring. Should we be expecting to see an updated Cirrus 920 next spring?
Scott: An updated 920 is coming, but not until next fall. We are doing a lot of significant changes to the unit and continue to make tweaks. The redesigned 920 will be the next Cirrus after the 620. We’re really excited to launch it in the fall of 2021.
Any other truck camper prototypes on the drawing boards for 2021?
Scott: As of right now, it’s just the new 920 for 2021. Like the 620, it’s going to be an exciting camper that we believe will further redefine the direction of the truck camper market.