Travel Lite announces their new 2013 770P pop-up truck camper and talks about the new generation of Travel Lite pop-up truck campers. Here’s Travel Lite’s latest soft side story.
Almost three years ago, we got a call from Travel Lite announcing a new line of Travel Lite pop-up truck campers. Travel Lite had not manufactured pop-up truck campers before and was very excited to be entering into a new product area.
Soon after, Travel Lite debuted a travel trailer line at Louisville. From the moment the travel trailers hit the show floor, they were a big hit with the attending RV dealers. It didn’t take long for the travel trailers and hard side campers to crowd out the fledgling pop-up campers from the production line. When you’re in the manufacturing business, you build what sells.
Of course we don’t give a hoot about travel trailers at Truck Camper Magazine and kept asking Travel Lite what was going on with their pop-up line. After many months of pestering, they finally brought an all-new 2013 Travel Lite pop-up truck camper to Louisville this past December; the 770P.
Based on the successful Travel Lite 770 SuperLite hard side, the 770P showcased Travel Lite’s new approach to building pop-up truck campers. When we asked for details, it became immediately apparent that a full article would be in order. To get the inside scoop on the 2013 Travel Lite 770P and the new generation of Travel Lite pop-up truck campers, we talked to Dustin Johns, Vice President of Travel Lite.
Above: The floor plan for the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
2013 Travel Lite 770P Specifications
The 2013 Travel Lite 770P is a pop-up camper made for long or short bed trucks. The interior floor length of the 2013 Travel Lite 770P is 7’7″, the interior height is 78.5″ (61.5″ when closed) and the center of gravity is 33″. The 2013 Travel Lite 770P has a 9 gallon fresh tank and a porta-potti. It can accommodate one battery and has one twenty pound propane tank. Travel Lite is reporting the base weight of the Travel Lite 770P to be 1,385 pounds. The base MSRP for the 2013 Travel Lite 770P is $10,995.
Above: A Travel Lite produced video on the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
TCM: We published an article announcing Travel Lite’s new pop-up truck campers in April of 2010. Since then Travel Lite has kept a relatively low-profile with their pop-up camper line, no pun intended. What happened with that initial pop-up camper launch?
Dustin: Quite frankly, our hard side campers have outsold our pop-up units and diverted our resources and attention in that direction.
When we decided to revisit our pop-up line last year, we took a fresh look at everything. We listened to dealer and customer feedback and addressed their requests.
Above: The front dinette, overhead storage, and cabover in the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
To make our pop-up models more appealing and affordable, we removed unnecessary and/or expensive standard features including the European sink and range top, and the bedspread and pillow. We were getting feedback those options were not important for our pop-up camper line, but we still offer them as options.
We also added our new power lift system that lifts the pop-up roof with the push of a button located inside the entrance door. Now raising and lowering the roof is as easy as putting out an electric slide-out.
Finally, we launched an all-new pop-up floor plan, the 770P. It’s directly based on our most popular hard side model, the 770 Super Lite. Both the hard side 770 Super Lite and the pop-up 770P can go on long or short bed trucks and are incredibly light weight. The 770P is just 1,300 pounds dry.
Front: The new radius front nose on the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
TCM: Before we get further into the details of the new 770P, let’s talk about some of the other changes to Travel Lite pop-up campers in 2013. Tell us about the new radius front nose.
Dustin: In our previous generation pop-ups models, the front nose was flat. The new radius front nose is fiberglass with a smooth finish resulting in better aerodynamics and fuel economy. It also sports our Travel Lite logo, something the old front nose design and material did not allow.
TCM: Why did Travel Lite design a radius from the cabover into the front wall?
Dustin: Underneath the bed, where the wall connects to the main body of the camper, we have added another radius. That adds a lot of strength to support the overcab.
TCM: Exactly how does a radius add strength?
Dustin: Now that we’re using a radius, we are able to put wood radius blocks across the front. That distributes the weight from a flat to a crown surface. It also gives us an extra five inches of wood support on the bottom side. With this approach, the pressure is not focused on one spot. It is equally distributed across that underbelly area.
TCM: Tell us about the new electric lift system. Is that now a standard feature on Travel Lite pop-up campers?
Dustin: Yes, the electric lift system is standard in all of our 2013 pop-up campers. The lift we are using is from an industry leader in pull-behind pop-up trailers. They approached us about using the system. We immediately liked the ease of use and the smooth movement of the system.
We were able to get the testing done right before the Louisville RVIA dealer show. The electric lift company ran it up and down 30,000 times and we did it about 400 times at our facility before we took it the show. We had to make a few more tweaks before production, but it’s rock solid now.
Above: Just inside the back door, this switch raises and lowers the electric pop-up roof system.
It’s so nice to be able to just reach your hand inside of the door and just pop up the top. It’s so much better than hand cranking the pop up, and it’s a lot classier. This is now the best electric system that I’ve seen.
Above: The manual override for the electric lift system.
Customers have also been curious to know if there was a manual override. There is, and we provide you with the tool that’s needed. Each part of the lift is independent and has its own independent override. You insert the tool in and crank the roof up or down.
Above: Lindsey Johns, Sales Administrator for Travel Lite, shows the height of the overcab sleeping area.
TCM: Travel Lite has increased the height of the pop-up soft walls. Why was this change made and what is the resulting interior height?
Dustin: It’s a really big difference. People buy pop-ups because of the lower profile, lower weight, and better gas mileage. With a pop-up you also have more of a tent experience with open windows and breeze. And pop-ups usually come at a lower price.
With our first generation pop ups, we had a higher side wall than we needed. We had it for the type of entrance door that we were using. When we eliminated that particular door, a couple inches came off the side wall height. To compensate, we increased the height of the pop-up soft wall. It’s now 6’8” inside when the camper is popped up. When you are in the bed area there is plenty of room to sit up. It is definitely not claustrophobic.
As a bonus, the lower height side wall gives the our 2013 pop-up models and even lower profile with the top down. This results in a lower center of gravity and better aerodynamics and fuel economy.
Above: A close-up of the double seamed vinyl soft wall.
TCM: Travel Lite describes the pop-up soft walls as, “Mildew resistant double seamed vinyl”. Are the soft walls a new material for 2013?
Dustin: The material is the same and is an industry standard. We pay extra for the soft walls being double stitched. With the amount of times the soft wall goes up and down, having it double stitched will help it maintain its integrity.
Like all camper soft walls, our soft walls are hand made with sewing machines. Single seams are less money, but it’s way more likely to fall apart over time if it’s single seam. The integral parts are the corners where two sides come together. With the double seams, it duplicates the strength of the stitching. It was an easy decision for us. Our whole goal is to be a step ahead in quality at a lower price than our competitors.
Above: Overhead cherry style cabinetry in the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
TCM: Did you make any other changes to your soft walls for 2013?
Dustin: In our previous pop up line we had panoramic windows wrapping all the way around the camper; front, back, and sides. For 2013, we added overhead cherry style cabinetry which means we now have a little less space for windows on the sides, but the additional storage is a nice feature and customers love it. They also love the privacy curtains for every window.
TCM: Is the cabinetry inside Travel Lite pop-up campers the same construction and style as in your hard side campers?
Dustin: Yes, it is the same Amish made, gimp free cabinetry we use in our hard side campers. Our pop-up models were treated the same as our hard side models.
Above: The kitchen in the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
In the 770 SuperLite hard side, we use a flexible netting for the cabinet faces. This reduces the weight and the price. The netting is standard for both the hard side and pop-up 770. If people would prefer a wood door with hinges, and raised panel, it’s almost no charge. Just keep in mind that you’re looking at around eight pounds per wood door versus a few ounces for the netting.
TCM: Fiberglass is generally a heavier material to skin a camper than aluminum. Given that fact, why is Travel Lite skinning all of it’s pop-up campers in fiberglass?
Dustin: When you use traditional aluminum siding are multiple pieces of material. It’s not one cohesive piece, like fiberglass. From a broader point of view, fiberglass is more money and more weight, but structurally, it’s superor. That was a big part of our decision to use fiberglass. The gel coat fiberglass we use also gives our campers a more modern and rich aesthetic.
TCM: Tell us about the way Travel Lite manufactures pop-up roofs.
Dustin: We skin our roofs in the same fiberglass material that we use to skin the campers. It’s one piece of fiberglass material, but not a molded fiberglass roof. We use wood to frame the roof, metal corners, and insulation. Then the whole roof is pressed and shaped using bonding agent and adhesives. There are no seams in the final product, it’s a one piece pressed roof.
Above: The molded fiberglass kitchen counter top in the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
TCM: Your father, Larry Johns, has been very passionate about the development of Travel Lite’s granitecote molded fiberglass counter tops. Are molded fiberglass counter tops available for your pop-up campers?
Dustin: Yes, granitecote molded fiberglass counter tops are options in our pop-up campers. We wanted to make our campers as affordable as possible, so marble looking laminate countertops are standard.
TCM: How much is it to upgrade to the molded fiberglass counter tops?
Dustin: In the 770P pop-up you have a counter top over the refrigerator and one in the kitchen area. The package for the granitecote molded fiberglass counter tops is $195 and the weight savings is sixteen pounds.
Above: The fiberglass shop at Travel Lite.
TCM: Where are your molded fiberglass components manufactured?
Dustin: We do all of our own molded fiberglass components in-house. We have a separate fiberglass shop here and we have expanded it to having a full time fiberglass staff. I’ve even been approached by major RV manufacturers in Elkhart County to run fiberglass parts for them.
A positive to running our own fiberglass shop is that we don’t have to pay the mark-up for fiberglass. It’s an art and our main fiberglass artist is the best I’ve ever seen by a long shot. The fit, finish and quality is astonishing. We can now do things that we couldn’t request before. I could ask for pink polka dot countertops and he would make it look rich. It’s a lot of fun to do my job when we have that ability.
We’ve been using our fiberglass shop to manufacture the front fiberglass nose caps for our hard side campers for years.
TCM: Travel Lite debuted the 770P at Louisville this past December. Why was this an important pop-up truck camper floor plan for Travel Lite to introduce?
Dustin: It shows innovations of our brand new pop-up line. As I said earlier, the 770P is a new floor plan for pop-ups that has been successful on our hard side line. The 770 Super Lite hard side camper has become our number one floor plan in retail sales. So, why not use that in our pop-up line? It’s already been a success.
Above: The porta-potti room in the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
TCM: The 770P has a nine gallon fresh water tank and a porta-potti. How did you decide on a nine gallon fresh tank?
Dustin: The entire design of the 770P was based on price, weight, and flexibility. In the pop-up and hard side 770, we have a five gallon flush porta-potti. It has a separate bath with a separate door. You can pick up the porta-potti and place it somewhere else, or leave it at home. You use that room for anything you want. You don’t have a cumbersome non moveable object in your way.
Above: The porta-potti room can be used for storage.
TCM: What is the thinking at Travel Lite on what toilet option should be in which truck camper model?
Dustin: It’s all about what the consumers want. As the units get smaller, the bathrooms get smaller. I also strive to create products that give the customer as much flexibility as possible given the space allowed, and targeted price point of a particular new product. With that in mind, toilets in a camper cost more to manufacture than having no bathroom. A porta potti is in between a bathroom and no bathroom. The price matches the product.
Above: The kitchen sink drain valve in the 2013 Travel Lite 770P.
TCM: The 770P does not have a grey tank. Where does the sink drain to?
Dustin: The sink water has a stopper on the bottom. When you’re done, you need something to catch the grey water. There’s a drain out on the driver’s side where you can attach a hose and a bucket for this purpose. There are no grey tanks on any camper we build that does not include a shower.
TCM: What does the 770P weigh?
Dustin: It weighs 1,385 pounds dry with our standard build; refrigerator, stainless steel sink, battery, and electric lift system.
TCM: Do you weigh each camper as it leaves Travel Lite?
Dustin: We weigh every model once every month or two. We have a weigh station nearby where we weigh the campers. Option weight gets added into the computer. The stickers on the campers are the dry weight as equipped with options.
TCM: What does the 770P cost?
Dustin: The base price of the 770P is $10,995. With the granitecote countertops and bedspread, it’s $295 more.
TCM: How much is the Rieco-Titan electric remote jack option?
Dustin: It’s $1,345 for Rieco-Titan electric jacks.
TCM: Are you developing any more new truck camper products for 2013, pop-up or hard side?
Dustin: Yes and I’m really excited for what is currently in the works, but I’m not going to go into detail yet. I will drop this on you. It is a brand new line altogether and it’s unlike anything that’s ever been done before. Of course, when the launch occurs, Truck Camper Magazine will be the first to know!
TCM: What is the warranty for Travel Lite pop-up truck campers?
Dustin: There is a one year warranty on everything that Travel Lite manufactures. Appliances have warranties that are two to three years. The warranty information for the appliances come with the camper. It is always recommended that you maintain your seals.
TCM: Travel Lite announced a line of travel trailers about two years ago now. How has that development influenced the truck camper line at Travel Lite?
Dustin: The travel trailer line has completely reinvented our truck campers. We have completely different interiors compared to eighteen months ago. In the last twelve months we have gone from a maple style look to variegated natural tones. We have stainless steel, a new decal, and new linoleum. The campers are now more modern and stylish. That’s all because of the travel trailer line.
We are also able to buy materials in larger quantities and get better prices due to the higher volume the travel trailer line affords us. We buy more fiberglass and order more components, appliances, and screws. With all of that we get better buying power. The savings then get passed down to the consumer.
TCM: Is there anything else going on at Travel Lite that you would like to share?
Dustin: Don’t forget our other pop-up campers, the 610P and 875P. The 610 pop up fits on mid-size trucks like the Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tacoma, and Ford Ranger. The 875 fits full-size trucks and comes standard with a toilet that flushes and a hot water heater and shower. Both have been updated for 2013.
We had our best year ever in 2012 and we are starting off strong in 2013. Travel Lite is on the move.