Chalet RV built a one-of-a-kind prototype triple-slide truck camper to demonstrate their vision and test new materials, layouts, and appliances for future models. Stop the press! Breaking News at the end!
Due to the fact that the Chalet TS116 Prototype camper is a one-of-a-kind prototype, and not a production unit, my review of this product is more general than usual. This approach is also appropriate given that I was only inside the camper for about an hour total. The rest of the time I played, “gate keeper” outside during the rally review.
As soon as the Chalet prototype rolled onto the rally field grass on Friday evening, a buzzing crowd gathered. The rally was bursting at the seams with anticipation about this new Chalet floor plan. People couldn’t wait to find out where that washer/dryer was! Honestly, I was excited too, but I knew we needed to wait until Saturday to go in or Don and Pat would never get any rest after their long travel day.
Even with the few minutes we stood outside, it was obvious that this camper was different. The first thing that jumped out were the windows. The dinette slide featured two big acrylic windows and smaller acrylic windows on the sides. Then I noticed the rear slide was a different size and depth than I had seen on other Chalet units. Clearly there were some interesting things going on inside this camper.
The rally review began at 11:00am the next day. By 10:59am, Angela was sitting in the dinette writing comments and I was playing goalie so no more than four or five people were in the camper at one time. I asked Don and Pat to stay outside so folks would be comfortable saying what they wanted to say. Within the next fifteen minutes, the line stretched far and wide. It was a full on rally review!
Standing outside, I couldn’t help but admire the step system. They presented a wide and deep step at what appeared to be a residential height. Almost everyone who waited to explore the camper favorably commented on the steps.
Around the rear skirt, the Chalet prototype had two thirty-pound propane tanks on a roll-out tray and a large rear basement area.
What impressed me the most about the basement were the well organized and installed 2000-watt inverter, Schwintek slide controllers, and Rieco-Titan jack controller. Everything looked well cared for and easy to access. Well done Chalet.
The driver’s side skirt had a propane generator, exterior shower, city water connection, and hot water heater vent. Again, everything looked neat and tidy.
The driver’s side dinette slide had two storage compartments and a beautiful red center of gravity sticker. Boy, those red center of gravity stickers are sure pretty. Don’t you think every truck camper should have pretty red center of gravity stickers like these?
The front wall of the camper contains a compartment with six batteries. Why anyone needs this much battery power is beyond me, but it’s an impressive sight none the less. Just remember that each battery weighs about 60 pounds. You’re looking at 360 pounds of batteries folks, probably more. At least that battery weight is low and all the way forward.
With this design, you need to demount the camper to access these batteries, but that’s not a big deal. I actually appreciate the easy access to the batteries once the camper is off the truck.
Inside, this camper looks like a small apartment, or something you would see in a high-end yacht. This is why so many people walked into this camper and said nothing more than, “Wow!” over and over. Visually the prototype was stunning.
Let’s start with the bathroom as it’s the first thing you see when you walk up the stairs into the camper.
The bathroom in the Chalet prototype is something you had to see to fully comprehend. First, it’s partially contained in the rear slide. Half of the door way, the sink, counter, and bathroom cabinetry are all on the same slide that contains the rear storage cabinets.
Did I say, “half of the door way?” I sure did. Get this; the door way in the photo above literally disappears when you close the rear slide. Don explained that the bathroom door is secured before closing the slide, but I never saw exactly how this was done. The real question is, “Is this genius, or just plain nutty?” The answer is, “Yes!”
While this unique approach has its merits, I would be concerned that an owner might forget – just once – to correctly secure the door when pulling in the slides and possibly cause damage to the camper. Some folks would never forget, but I know I would at some point.
The other stand out feature of the bathroom, for me anyway, was the size of the shower. Not only could I stand up in the shower at 6’ 3”, but it had a storage area – in the shower stall – for your preferred body washing tonics. I don’t think I’ve ever seen shelving like this in a camper shower before. And look, separate faucets just for the shower, with an actually flexible hose! No stupid impossible and otherwise completely infuriating plastic hose coming out of the bathroom sink faucet. Yes, I have issues with those.
The other half of the rear slide is a huge double door storage area and drawer. Most folks will use this as a hanging coat and shirt closet. It would be nice to have some adjustable shelving for one side or the other for more of a general clothing closet. In light of the minimal storage in the cabover, this seems the best place for T-shirts, blue jeans, sweatshirts, etc.
Again we find a kitchen peninsula in a truck camper. It’s far too early to call this a trend, but it’s certainly something new that the truck camper industry is trying.
The peninsula itself contains a lot of storage and functionality including the kitchen sink, water filter, range top, the washer/dryer unit (more on that later), and a counter extension. The storage in the peninsula comes in the form of large double door cabinets on the end accessible from both sides.
Although you really can’t tell, the counter tops are foam core which saves weight over traditional wood core countertops. I really liked how the counter top shape flowed into the cabover rather than just abutting against it. That shows an eye for design.
I really want to spend more time with a new Chalet before making any calls on quality, fit, and finish, but what I saw in the cabinetry was very promising. I’ll go as far as saying this was the best cabinet quality I’ve yet seen in a Chalet.
Above: Preparing for his pie-eating contest victory, Bruce Scott tries the chair.
This is not a sofa camper. That’s right kids, no sofa! What Chalet has done is provide an honest to goodness chair. Just one chair.
While I absolutely loved the chair (it was quite comfortable) I can only imagine the awkward situations having only one chair presents. This is like having one Oreo left. No one wants to eat the last Oreo, especially when their spouse also wants the Oreo. In our camper, that’s a, “You can have the last Oreo” and, “No, that’s okay, you can have the last Oreo” situation. You can split the Oreo, but somehow I don’t see folks sharing the chair. Well, maybe.
In all fairness, Don and Pat told me that the next version of this camper is somehow going to incorporate two chairs. Peace on Earth, or at least in your camper, will be possible.
The dinette is a simple two-post face-to-face dinette with storage drawers under each dinette seat. The prototype dinette slide features stacked windows and side windows that open. Pat explained that they would not put windows that open on the sides of the slide-out on a production unit. Should an owner forget to pull in these side windows and put the slide-out in, bad things would follow.
I honestly didn’t care much for the stacked windows. One big window is plenty, especially if the windows on the slide sides are kept (but made non-opening). Some of the rally goers complained about not having screens in these windows, but Chalet just hadn’t installed them yet. This is a prototype folks.
With two large windows, a big Heki skylight, and generous headroom, the overcab bedroom is wonderfully open, bright, and spacious.
It’s a little odd at first to have the access to the overcab on the left and right instead of the middle, but this is part of the unique signature of Chalet’s island, and now peninsula, floor plans.
The benefit of this central feature is space for another large flat panel HDTV at the foot of the bed. Snuggle up, it’s movie night.
Just under the bedroom television are two solar controllers for the units 650 watts of solar power.
I have a thing for symmetry, which might explain why I appreciated the forward cabinetry in the cabover. Not only do the two identical penguins (industry speak for front nose cabinets) have a drawer and storage cabinet, but they also act as bedside nightstands for cell phones, that book you’re reading, and the teddy bear your wife keeps telling you to get rid of. Yes, we know about your teddy bear. It’s embarrassing, really.
All woobies aside, there isn’t any other storage in the overcab. At first I was a bit put-off by this, but then I realized that I’m not usually getting dressed in the overcab anyway. Sorry for the image, but I usually bring my clothes to the area just outside of the bathroom. In the camper we have now, that’s the rear dinette seat. Where my skivvies and other garments are stored is otherwise irrelevant.
You can’t say that you have cold feet about the Chalet because it has Geo Dream Heating Film in the floor; electric radiant heat. During the rally review, I told folks they could take their shoes off to feel the heat. Some said they could feel the heat and others said they couldn’t. We noticed that the floor was indeed warm, but it wasn’t warm everywhere. Either our feet failed us, or the radiant panels were installed in major walking areas, but not everywhere. That would make sense.
The concept of radiant floor heating in a truck camper is intriguing, but it needs to prove practical in real world use. Is it efficient enough for battery use, or do you need to be plugged into shore power? Can it replace a furnace, or is it merely supplemental? How about weight and cost? As of now, there are way too many questions to make a judgement call, but I’m thrilled to see Chalet pushing and experimenting. This is what building and using a prototype is all about.
A washer/dryer in a truck camper? Are you serious? You’ve got to be kidding me, right? You don’t mean a real washer/dryer, do you? Where would you put it? How would that work? This has to be an April fools joke.
This is what my mind was asking, over and over, when Don and Pat told us they had a washer/dryer in their camper.
Many of my questions were answered when we finally saw the camper. The 110v Ariston ventless washer/dryer is a single unit nestled below the outside kitchen peninsula. Since there was no time for a formal test, I asked Don about the functionality and user experience.
Don explained, “We have done loads of laundry with the washer/dryer when boondocking and with full hook-ups. We found that using the washer/dryer consumed anywhere from 40% to 80% of our grey water tank capacity (38 gallons), depending upon the washer settings. There is no concern about having enough fresh water when boondocking since our Chalet camper holds 66 gallons of fresh water.
We have found the washer/dryer to be extremely convenient. We have done a load of laundry every couple of days and stored our dirty laundry in the unit when we were awaiting the next load. Since the typical vented dryer at home uses 220V AC, the 110v non-vented dryer does take more time to dry clothes than the standard home dryer.
We believe that the washer/dryer would be very helpful for full-timers, or those who travel extensively. After having and using the washer/dryer, we realized that we had been losing travel days to laundromats. One day a week our trips had been getting interrupted for laundry days. This is no longer the case.”
Personally, my jury is way, way-out on this way, way-out idea of having a washer/dryer in a truck camper. Don makes some excellent points, but there’s no getting around the considerable fresh water use, grey tank use, energy use, weight, and space a built-in washer/dryer in a truck camper requires. Besides, it seems to be best suited for moments when you have full hook-ups at a campground. That same campground is likely to have laundry facilities.
In all fairness, I have to admit that having a built-in washer/dryer sounds wonderful. I’m actually at a campground as I write this getting ready to use their coin laundry machines. Of course their washers and dryers are industrial sized and the laundry will be done inside of an hour and a half.
Like I said, I’m way, way-out on built-in washer/dryers for truck campers, but I’m listening. After all, there was a moment in time, not that long ago, that people said the same thing about slide-outs in truck campers.
Wait! No really, we need to talk about weight.
Let there be no doubt that the Chalet TS116 triple-slide truck camper prototype is very big and heavy. Don and Pat estimated the camper at 4,700 dry, but they had not yet run the camper across the scales. Based on our experience, this camper will likely weigh close to 6,000 pounds wet, with options, and loaded up with you and your stuff.
This is not a, “My dually can handle it” camper. You must run the numbers and match this camper with the right truck, preferably one with at least 6,000 pounds of payload. Match this camper correctly with the right truck, and it will stop, steer, and handle beautifully. Match it incorrectly, and it would not be a fun rig to drive. Please follow our article, “How To Match A Truck and Camper” no matter what truck and camper you assemble.
Wrap It Up
This is a prototype with many elements that will probably never see the light of day in a production unit. So why did I spill so many electrons writing about this may-never-be camper? Well, it’s very interesting for one. And I want to do everything I can to encourage the truck camper industry to build prototypes and push their materials, floor plans, appliances, and everything else they can think of.
The car companies understand the importance of building one-of-a-kind experimental products and sharing them with the public. Why not truck campers?
If you’re an industry leader reading this article, I challenge you to build the ultimate version of your camper. If you were challenged to build the best camper ever to come from your company, what would that be? Go wild! Dream big! What’s you’re all-out assault on the state-of-the-art? I double dog dare you to build it. I guarantee we’ll write about it here in Truck Camper Magazine, and get people excited about your vision and willingness to push the limits.
On a personal note, I want to thank Don and Pat for driving their prototype from Oregon to Virginia for the Mid-Atlantic Truck Camper Rally. I know the rally attendees were extremely impressed that the owners of the company were on hand, camping in their product, and listening to their feedback. Thank you!
Stop the (electron) Press!
Late last week, Don Rose contacted us to announce that this prototype is now one step closer to being an offical Chalet model. He sent us the following list of changes that would be made based on his first hand exepereince using the camper:
1. As soon as we identify screens that we feel are satisfactory, they would be added as standard.
2. The washer/dryer would most likely be a vented model.
3. The shower drain would be positioned at the rear of the shower.
4. The shower head would be positioned at the front of the shower.
5. The windows on the side of the dinette slide would be non-opening windows so that the slide could not be accidentally closed with the windows open.
6. The washer/dryer would be optional with choice of a washer/dryer, or more storage.
7. The refrigerator/freezer would most likely be a standard propane/electric model instead of the compressor model in the prototype.
8. Of course, the 650 watt solar, tankless water heater, satellite dish, ultra leather interior, and radiant floor heating would be all be options.
9. I want to find a way to move the water tanks more forward to open up more basement storage and move the center of gravity forward as much as possible.
Don continued, “The camper had a tremendous amount of thought and feedback put into it prior to its development and we were very pleased at how well it turned out. Pat was very upset to give up our previous TS116FB, but after using the prototype for the short amount of time, she now insists that any unit we use have the access to both sides of the bed and the larger bathroom of the prototype.
We also want to see what the feedback is from Truck Camper Magazine’s rally review and article before we make the complete list of definitive plans on changes. If this is offered as a model, as appears likely, it will be available with the next month or so.”