As my wife and I aged (gracefully, I like to think) out of tent camping, I began looking for an alternative that wouldn’t sacrifice the spirit and feel of the outdoors at the expense of comfort. I didn’t want to tow a trailer as I wanted to be able to camp in more out-of-the-way places than RV parks. The same for a motorhome – in addition to mileage constraints and the expense of gas. Truck campers, meanwhile, had always seemed a bit unwieldy to me.
So I began researching alternatives a year or so ago. My preconceptions were changed, of course. None of my initial thoughts were totally accurate and I developed a personal feel for the pros, and not just the cons, of each type of recreational vehicle. But it wasn’t until I looked at the many versions of pop-up truck campers, trailers and vans that I started to hone in on a solution that seemed to meet our criteria – which not so surprisingly from this side of the search, turned out to be a pop-up truck camper. A four-wheel drive truck might not be a Jeep Rubicon, but it could go most of the places I thought we’d want to go.
Looking at the many available campers, one name kept cropping up that seemed to have an almost cult-like following – the Alaskan Truck Camper. It was a product of the Pacific Northwest for the most part. I certainly hadn’t seen any in the Southeast where I lived. But it had been around for years.
Developed in the 1950s, these campers looked something like a cross between a bread box and a Spam can. They were heavy. They were old school. They seemed primitive in comparison to anything today. But they had a retro charm that grew on me the more I looked. Their wooden interiors reminded me of nothing so much as a vintage, land-cruising sailboat. Hard-sided and insulated, they promised comfortable four-season camping within the limitations of their size.
And size wasn’t a significant driver for us – we were used to tents and these were larger than any tent in which we’d camped in the past. They also appealed to the part of me that had been inspired by Thoreau’s Walden in my teens and that even now appreciated simpler, less complicated living – of which the current Tiny House movement is just one example.
I quickly found out they weren’t easy to find, but I located one outside of Vancouver, BC and decided to purchase it and bring it back East. It was 2700 miles each way, but I told myself (and my wife) that we would make it a long vacation and take our time. So it was decided…