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Alaskan Campers meet many of today's RV needs

November 25, 2005|by JEFF JOHNSTON/Motor Matters

In today's costly fuel environment, many RVers are thinking about ways to ease their pain at the pump while in search of adventure. Lighter weight, better aerodynamics and smaller engines are among the qualities that come into play when seeking extra miles per gallon for one's RV setup.

A small family-owned company has been quietly producing a line of slide-in truck campers that represent a partial solution to the fuel economy quagmire. Ever since 1953, Alaskan Campers Incorporated has built truck campers with a twist: they feature hardwall bodies that telescope down for travel and up for camp. Unlike fold-down campers with tent-fabric sidewalls, the Alaskan campers are fully solid-walled for greater security, strength, insulation - and resistance to weather.

On the road, an Alaskan camper presents less wind drag. A conventional hardwall camper has a large frontal profile that the truck has to push through the air, and at today's highway speeds, that calls for a lot of extra fuel. The Alaskan's lower profile means the truck doesn't work as hard, which translates into fuel savings. The lower center of gravity is also a welcome feature when cornering and traveling off-pavement, and there's also less chance of running into an errant tree limb or other low-hanging obstruction. In short, the Alaskan is more fun to drive. That's important for enjoying one's leisure travel time.

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A hydraulic pump mechanism with a manual emergency backup raises the top half of the camper when parked. The camper starts at just 4 feet 10 inches tall (bed floor to roof) when collapsed for travel, and grows to 6 feet 4 inches of interior headroom. Three panels flip easily into place in the cabover bed area, positioned to create the side and forward end walls. It's pretty easy.

The campers are available in 8- and 10-foot sizes in both non-cabover and cabover bed models. Both include well-equipped kitchen, dining and sleeping accommodations. Buyers can also custom-design interior features to suit special needs or interests.

Among the self-containment standard features are a 2.5-cu/ft refrigerator, 16,000-btu furnace, a 27-gallon water tank and demand water system and Wedgewood propane stove and oven. Buyers can add a wide array of amenities including a cassette toilet, larger refrigerator, pre-wiring for an air conditioner, stereo system, water heater and external shower. The sky - and your wallet - are the limits on your choice of camper accessories.

Storage cabinets are tucked away wherever possible in the camper, but the Alaskan Casmpers raising and lowering design means it must, by necessity, lack some of the storage spaces available in hardwall campers. We've found that items stored in soft duffel bags, and shuffled around as needed during travel or when camped, make the storage situation liveable.

Alaskan has always prided itself on assembling a camper designed to hold together under rugged real-world use beyond the pavement. That tradition continues with wood framing and foamed-in-place insulation, a single-piece curved roof for fewer leaks, dovetailed cabinetry and other features.

Solid oak wood trim, laminate countertops and durable upholstery are also on the list of standards.

Alaskan especially prides itself on the quality of its upholstery. It uses a four-layer process to build up the dinette cushions and seating areas, which is important, since people spend a fair amount of time sitting in a camper.

These are not campers for lightweight trucks. The 8-foot models weigh about 1,740 pounds wet, and the 10-footer is 1,910 pounds, more or less. These weights will vary with the addition of any optional features. Such weights are best handled by 3/4- and 1-ton trucks set up for camper hauling.

Even with an Alaskan aboard, the truck should still have enough towing capacity to handle a boat, horse carrier or other recreational vehicle.

For even more convenience, Alaskan also offers a service body, similar to that used by a commercial electrician, plumber or other business-type pickup driver, to replace the standard truck bed. This unit provides scads of extra storage spaces accessible from the outside.

You don't need to be a hardcore hunter or backroads explorer to enjoy an Alaskan Camper. Those looking for some fuel economy, and an enjoyable driving experience, may find the telescoping Alaskan is just right.

For more information, contact Alaskan Campers Inc., 420 NE Alaskan Way, Chehalis, WA 98532; 360/748-6494, www.alaskancamper.com.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2005

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