Long overdue Equipment Update (Four Wheel Camper)

Soon after starting on our adventure, nearly two years ago, I posted an Equipment Update with notes on our (newly acquired) bus (Stimpy) and our Tow’d with pop-up camper (Ren). Here’s some updates:

Our Four Wheel Camper – Fleet Pop-up

We really like our Four Wheel Camper. The Fleet model is one of the few campers that are designed to be used on a mid-sized pickup. They’re hard to buy used so most folks end up ordering a model built to their specifications. We waited three and a half months for ours to be built.

We ordered the base model Fleet here:  https://www.fourwh.com/product/fleet-popup-truck-camper-mid-mini-tacoma/ 

We added some options:

  1. Front Dinette Seating ($1500)
  2. Thermal Pack (insulation for pop up vinyl) ($850)
  3. Portable Entry Step ($40)
  4. Extra vent over the Bed ($195)
  5. Upgrade both vents to Fantastic Fans ($295 each)
  6. Forced Air Furnace with Thermostat ($695)
  7. Hot water heater (6 gal) with external shower ($895)
  8. LED Exterior Light Package ($295)
  9. Yakima (tracks only) mounting system on roof ($395)
  10. Bat-wing 270 degree awning system ($1,400)

Numbers one through six we would do again; seven through ten we would not.

The front dinette was a nice choice. Opens up the interior and allows a reasonably comfortable seating area for meals and in poor weather.

The Thermal pack is great. It’s well made and adds a lot of value.

The entry step is nothing special, but solves the entry issue simply, effectively and cheaply.

The extra vent is nice because you can adjust it when you’re in bed.

The furnace was questionable to us at purchase. I’m so glad we got it. It uses a lot of propane, but works great. We’ve often used it. It’s chilly in the mountains.

The hot water heater: we’ve never used it except to test that it works properly. Likewise the shower. Reasons? Mainly that it’s very squanderous of resources. This is a little camper. It doesn’t carry much propane (twin ten pound tanks) or water. It takes a lot of propane to heat up six gallons of water – of which you will use a quart or two (at most) to do the dishes. The rest just turns back into cold water slowly. Showers would justify it, but showers don’t really happen when a) you have to stand outside in the dirt and b) you only have twenty gallons of water in the tank. Having a small dishpan for the sink (we use a stainless steel dogfood bowl) and a teapot to heat water for dishes, coffee, washing or whatever is way more efficient. Your dishwater gets cold. Set that dog dish on the stove and heat it back up! Elegant and efficient. Having the water heater also adds appreciably to the weight of the rig and steals what would be very valuable cabinet space. (You do gain six gallons of emergency water supply that you can drain down into your primary tank, but that’s also an extra fifty pounds of weight).

What we end up doing is campground showers if we’re in a park or wet-wipe wash-downs or towel baths if we’re boondocking. 

The exterior LED lights are not worth it. The side lights are WAY TOO BRIGHT and RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. They aren’t usable in our opinion. They are also cheap clear plastic fixtures that are already yellowing with age in their second year. One cracked apart at its lower fastener (probably over-torqued at installation). I repaired it with a galvanized steel screw and washer. The fixtures are something you could buy on Amazon for a few dollars each. Way nothing special. They cheapen the sides of the camper and required three holes in the siding for each light. 

The yellowing “in your face” LED lights

The Yakima Tracks seemed like a good idea. Maybe they are for some. We find the roof heavy enough to lift as it is. Both Keng and I are adult men and plenty strong. We added solar, which made it heavier. We had AM Solar (Springfield, OR) install a 160 watt system on the camper at the same time they installed our system on Stimpy. They did a fantastic job, using top quality components. It was considerably cheaper than the factory option and probably better. One nice thing they did was use adhesive to mount the panel brackets to the roof. Using the existing solar pre-wire the solar installation resulted in no additional holes punched through our beautiful one-piece, edge-wrapped aluminum roof.

The Yakima Tracks, though, are screwed through the roof every six or eight inches down the full length of each of the two tracks. I resent each and every one of these potential leak point holes in my perfect roof. I consider it a bad move on our part.

The Bat-wing awning was $1,400 in 2016, Looks like the option costs $1,750 now. It’s not worth it. We’ve used it little. It’s a WOW feature, though. People love it when we deploy it. It’s lightly built and extremely vulnerable to wind. It offers only modest protection from rain: it doesn’t drain water well at all. It’s best used for sun shade (very valuable) in calm weather. It can be staked down for wind tolerance, but it requires staking three separate posts and they are easily ripped from the ground.

Worse, the design of the awning requires that it use a lightweight vinyl cover. This cover has failed after less than two years. The zipper has two ninety degree radiuses which are tight. I’m sure the sewing of the cover was difficult. As it is there’s too much stress on the fabric and the zipper. Both fabric and zipper have failed at the terminal end. The cover doesn’t appear easy to replace. Looks to require the removal of the awning to get it off and re-installed. Seems like it’s going to be a fairly frequent, probably expensive job. The side-awning would have been a better choice. Probably better off in the long run without either of them.

Vinyl cover for the Bat-wing awning is already broken.

There’s a couple of things we should have ordered, but didn’t. We should have ordered the upgraded sink and stove option. I didn’t like the upgraded stove; it’s one of those under-counter ones with the glass top. I thought it would be better to have a surface mount stove that I could use any size pan on easily. I still feel the same way about the stove.  But the sink would probably have been nicer. We have a problem with the Whale model kitchen faucet. It’s arm is so short and low. You can’t hardly get a pan under it. It’s hard to use the sink for dishwashing, or anything else. It’s billed as high quality marine-grade stuff; count us as unimpressed. Looks to be difficult to switch out to something better.

We should have upgraded to aluminum jack brackets. They weren’t very expensive and the stock steel ones are ugly (and heavier).

BUT, don’t get me wrong. We really like the camper overall. It’s well built and well designed. Be careful with the options, though. They’re expensive and not all of them are up to the quality standards of the base camper.

Next: “Stimpy” 2006 Fleetwood Revolution 40E LE Diesel Pusher plus our fancy Solar/Lithium battery upgrade

2 thoughts on “Long overdue Equipment Update (Four Wheel Camper)

  1. I dont know why they still use zippers on anything outside…it will just fail, sun, dust, wind, impossible packing routines are all points of failure.. why cant they use some sort of rivet / robe system is a mystery to me. I bought so many zipper products that failed and then ended up rigging my own system to extend the lifetime.

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