The tent shelter: a truck camper’s second room. (Carl Yates)

What’s Old is New Again

As we prepared for our trip to Forillon National Park in the Gaspe penninsula of Quebec, we recognized that a dining tent would be in order.  We have used dining tents in the past when tenting and saw the benefits again with a truck camper as it got us outside to fully experience and appreciate nature during meal time. Eating and sitting outside helps us get to know our neighbours, which is a wonderful part of travel. It also, of course, keeps the rain off and the mosquitos out.

I checked out a few models but found them all to be too heavy or too bulky to be carrying around in a truck camper where space is a little more limited than that found in a fifth wheel [our previous RV].  I almost bought one in July when all the tents went on sale but still didn’t see a model that caught my fancy.  Finally, I said to Linda, let’s just use the old one that we stored in the basement as it could fit nicely behind the front seat of the pickup truck and wasn’t too heavy.

After we were settled into the campsite at Petit Gaspe, we decided to put up the dining tent.  As we unpacked it, it did not seem familiar so we took out the instructions to guide our assembly.  Although it was a two person job to assemble, it surprisingly went together well and was quite functional.  We couldn’t however, remember when we put it together last and as we inspected it more closely, realized it was brand new!  After racking our brains, we recalled that we bought the tent just before our son Matthew and wife Sarah got married.  It was bought just in case the weather was bad and we needed a little more space for the rehearsal party (cheaper to buy a tent than rent one!). As it turned out, the weather was good and the tent did not get erected for the celebrations.  The erection in Gaspe was the first time it was put up.  In essence, we won one on account of being picky and having a bad memory!  We now have a brand new tent that will do nicely as we travel about in our truck camper.

Oh you ask, what kind of tent is it?  It is manufactured by Roots and is 12 feet by 12 feet with an entry on all four sides which can be covered with a flap fastened by velcro strips or rolled up and secured.  The entry openings are all equipped with a mesh that keeps the bugs out and the breeze fresh.  The roof has a mesh with an additional fly to put over the top to keep the rain out.  During the few rain showers we had, it performed great.   Interestingly enough, if I went looking for a new tent, I would buy this model as it is very functional with lots of flexibility to adjust it to take wind direction and rain into account.  The only challenge, as mentioned above, is the support frame requires two people to assemble it without cursing.  I suspect one person could manage it as long as you don’t mind that the neighbours could hear a few choice words.

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Or, you could go to the Park shelters and recreate with some new-to-you friends.

The Gaspe Peninsula-Ultimate Truck Camper Test (by Carl Yates)

In late July, Linda and I spent a week in Forillon National Park as a full trial run of our new truck camper, a 2017 Livin’ Lite, Camplite 11.0 purchased from Jerry’s RV in New Minas, Nova Scotia.  The 11.0 model is 20 feet long with a slide and weighs in at a dry weight of 3400 lbs.  As a result [you guessed it], it requires a long bed, one ton truck to carry it.  In this case, the one ton is a Dodge Ram 3500 with a 5.7 litre Hemi engine.  After the week, I can safely say, the truck camper is a blast and performed well on and off the road.   Although the Gaspe is rugged with an abundance of twisting roads and steep grades, the camper contents stayed put for the most part and the ride was smooth.  Some contents did slide towards the front when Linda stopped abruptly; she is learning that even with the excellent brakes on the Ram, the truck does not stop on a dime. The ride did of course benefit from the rear air suspension installed on the truck and are highly recommended when carrying or towing heavy loads.

Once set up at the campsite at Petit Gaspe, we got to try all the amenities, including the microwave!  We decided to continue to eat healthy [there is no excuse really with a fantastic propane stove and three-way fridge, both manufactured by Dometic] and made a couple of grain bowls to sustain us as quick, healthy travel meals for a couple days.  Our grain bowl consisted of a protein cooked on the BBQ [beef, chicken or lamb], stir fried mixed vegetables [bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes] cooked in olive oil and mixed with a healthy grain [brown rice, bulger or quinoa] cooked with chicken or beef broth.   I mentioned the microwave earlier as it served to heat up the grain bowl leftovers for lunches, after the first feast at supper time.

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Hills and valleys everywhere

The dinette slide on the truck camper benefits from a rack and pinion gear arrangement and was very easy to set up including the table.  The table has a solid base stand but not as stable at the top where it rests on the post; a double post system would be better or table attached to the wall.  The north south bed exceeded our expectations with a three inch memory foam over the standard queen mattress.  The comfort was as good as home and when the nights were a little too warm for sleeping, the air conditioner did the job on the low cool setting.  Some think you rough it in a truck camper; I beg to differ.

After initially thinking the leak in the hot water tap on the outside shower was fixed [see previous article], a slow drip was evident [see attached photo].  Fortunately we could still use the hot water system as water was available directly from the Park system which is brand new this year.  The tank capacity is excellent on the Camplite 11.0 with a fresh water tank at 28 gallons and grey and black tanks holding 30 gallons each.  We only had to dump the tanks once during the week and it was very easy to pack up and dump at the station near the campground entrance.

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Outside shower leaking

After a week in Forillon where we enjoyed breathtaking scenary and hikes with our two Jack Russell terriers, we packed up and left for Montreal via the north coast.  And if you thought the south coast was rugged and spectacular, you should see the north coast which has more twisty turns and even greater changes in elevation.  Not to worry, the truck and camper were meant for each other and the drive was splendid.

Dollar Lake: Testing our choice of truck camper (by Carl)

Dollar Lake: Test of our Choice of Truck Camper

When Linda and I first became interested in recreational vehicles [RVs] while living in the Musquodoboit Valley, we wanted the flexibility to go off road without too much planning.  As a result, we purchased our first truck camper in 2002; a light weight pop-up that fit into a short bed half ton pickup.  We had many adventures including a trip to Red Bay Labrador where the Basques whalers made their presence  well before Cabot; they were smart to not tell anyone where they were going!

After selling our camper and moving to the City in 2005, we often got away on vacations to national parks where we would enjoy the ease of a rented cabin; Fundy Highlands Chalets in Fundy National Park being one of our favorite places to visit to replenish our souls.  We enjoyed this for some time but decided it was time to get back to the mobility and enjoyment of an RV.  At this stage our family was growing with both of our boys married and the potential for grandchildren which meant a search for an RV that would fit us all.  We bought a 29 foot Cougar Lite fifth wheel trailer in 2014 that could be towed by a half ton pickup  truck with no problem.  Although we had many enjoyable trips with the fifth wheel including a family outing in the summer of 2016 [a trip to Fundy National Park] where we were joined by our boys and their spouses [Shane and Enrique, Matthew and Sarah, and our grandchild Ellie], there were limitations.  A fifth wheel adventure requires a flight plan [your brain should always be fifteen minutes ahead of your destination] and getting off the beaten path was not easy.  The only practical approach was to find a decent campground as a base of operation and then unhitch and conduct day trips or excursions in the pickup truck.  Something was missing.  The ability to do spur of the moment and off road trips was limited.cropped-img_20160914_142632.jpg

After our 2016 summer camping was over, we decided to take another hard look at truck campers to capture the flexibility we were looking for.  As the quest continued, we decided we wanted a large camper that could accommodate both of us, two dogs and facilitate a sleepover with a grandchild.  Our search continued until we stumbled upon the Livin’ Lite Camplite series which seemed to have a good track record and the specs we were looking for; light weight, spacious and durable.  We settled on the 11.0 model which comes in at 20 feet long, 3400 lbs dry weight and features a dinette slide.  The dinette slide was important because I like to cook and I didn’t want to be bumping into things as I prepared a meal.  It also gave a nice open feel to the camper.  The deal was made with Jerry’s RV in New Minas with the trade of the fifth wheel included.  Now, as you can appreciate, a half ton truck cannot carry 3400 lbs so we also traded the Dodge Ram 1500 for a Dodge Ram 3500 to ensure we had payload capacity.  We picked up the camper in September, 2016.  When I drove away, all appeared to be in order.  Unfortunately, it was immediately evident that there was a problem.  One of the tie down anchor plates at the rear of the camper was fastened by ordinary screws and not the proper structural bolts.  The local dealer also recognized this shortfall and contacted me to make things right.  During the repair procedure, it became evident that the quality assurance program at the manufacturer’s plant was woefully lacking as this defect had to be noticed in the factory and sent along the assembly line anyway.  Although a gallant effort was made to realign the anchor plate and install the proper bolts, the repairs were not successful and another visit to the shop was scheduled for April, ahead of the 2017 camping season.  In addition, we received a recall notice from the manufacturer about the propane tubing in the stovetop burner which also needed replacement.

After getting all the defects fixed inApril, we were ready to go and booked our first outing at Dollar Lake provincial park for the Canada Day weekend on July 1st.  We chose Dollar Lake as it is a good park and the closet to home; Linda had to preach that weekend.  Although the original defects were repaired in good order, we discovered a new problem with a leaking hot water tap on the outside shower connection and made arrangements to get that fixed.  The good news is the camper does not leak from the external elements as we found out during the July 1st weekend as the rain was extensive and drove most of the campers home.  Although the rain came down hard, it did not dampen our spirits; we enjoyed the comfort of the camper and managed to get a hike in on Saturday afternoon with dogs in tow.  Hopefully, we will get things straightened out with the outside tap so we can get back to our first love of truck camping adventure. We intend to visit three national parks this summer, compliments of a free Discovery Pass from our federal government.

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Rain, rain, go away