We’ve got Wildsnow HQ here in Carbondale. We’ve got WildSnow HQ in Austria. Now, WildSnow mobile HQ will fill in the gaps!
Eagle Cap camper on 2009 Silverado, 8-foot bed.
We decided a few weeks ago to do the adventure drive to Alaska and back for our Wildsnow Denali expedition. That’ll make for some great backcountry skiing travel blogging, with perhaps a few ski descents along the way. Problem was, my older 2002 Silverado was getting rather long of the tooth. Plan was to upgrade next summer, so in view of the big AK trip I went ahead and pushed the upgrade up a few months. Replacement is a 2009 Silverado 2500 Duramax (more on that later, when ALL the mods are done).
We’d also been planning for a while to acquire some sort of RV for backcountry skiing and other adventures, either a sport van, smaller motor home, or slide-in pickup camper. Every RV has it’s pluses and minuses for backcountry trailhead use. Perhaps most importantly, most don’t come in 4-wheel-drive without expensive conversions. Even so, I briefly considered a 4×4 Sportsmobile conversion van. But the cost of a dedicated RV combined with eventually upgrading my truck anyway (I always need a truck) was too much, as was the budget burden of owning yet another vehicle requiring insurance, yearly registration, upkeep, and more.
So, as is the solution for bubbas worldwide, our chosen RV option is the big white box that slides into the bed of the ubiquitous pickup truck.
Since we tow our jeep or snowmobile trailer, I wanted a camper that rested flush with the end of a full-length 8-foot bed (which is what we bought the truck with). That way we wouldn’t have to contend with the camper overhanging the rear of the truck, necessitating using a “stinger” hitch extension and other stuff that would just add ever more details and junk to my life.
Though they exist, campers that exactly fit an 8-foot bed are not that common at dealerships. Yet as fortune would have it, one 8 foot long unit was sitting on a lot down in Grand Junction, and it was nearly exactly what we wanted. Check it out:
At 1,760 lbs estimated wet weight for the Eagle Cap 711,our Silverado 2500 longbed supports the camper with almost no sag, and nearly zilch excess sway while driving. I’ll still upgrade to adjustable shocks, but that’s optional. By the way, a good exposition of the Eagle Cap is here.
Another view of the rig, I like the way it fits tightly to the truck instead of having that bloated highway RV type look.
BUT first, nothing at WildSnow shall remain unmodified! Turned out the 2009 bed had an extra structural bulge near the rear that wouldn't let the camper fit without shimming it up with a sheet of plywood in the bed. Yet another thing to store and mess around with while dealing with the camper was not what I had in mind. I mean, where am I supposed to store a 4x8 sheet of 3/4 plywood? And who wants to carry that around every time the camper gets loaded or unloaded? So out came the welder and grinder for some hacking on the new truck.
Mod nearly complete.
Camper installed, arrow indicates are where more clearance was required. I have to admit at a bit of amazement that Chevrolet would change their pickup bed to be incompatible with numerous campers -- or that the dealership didn't know about this issue before they sold us the camper and tried to install it. Oh well, bubba with a welder, no problem. And the planned spray-in bed liner will make it all look 'factory' again.
Interior is basic, with real wood cabinetry that's for the most part of reasonable quality. Because this is only an 8-foot long camper and not super wide, the interior is a bit cramped but fine for two people. It'll work for three or four during our AK trip, but I wouldn't want to make a habit of that.
I'm not all that impressed by the removable table. It's a bit large for the space, and wriggles all over the place during use due to its cheesy attachment system. The thing could be better designed. For two people, I'll probably make a smaller table and figure out a way to hold it more stable. The bench seats do convert to a short bed with an extra fold-up, I removed this since we'll not be using it and it took up space.
While the Eagle Cap hull appears to be reasonable quality (other than a small defect I'll write about once we get it resolved), I'm less than impressed by the interior finish work. For example, this photo shows the end of some metal counter edging that's just sticking out in space ready to cut someone's hand. More, a poorly mounted partition intended to close off the battery area simply fell off as soon as we drove away. A neighbor told me that most campers don't have the interior quality you'd expect, so perhaps this stuff is typical. But after spending the bucks, you don't expect to be doing interior finish repairs on day one -- even if you do have a fully equipped shop.
Looking at interior from rear door.
The cab-over bed area is huge, as it's optimized to fit over the full crew-cab 4-door pickup. In this photo, we've got the queen sized mattress oriented from front to back and it comes exactly to the edge of the kitchen/living space, with tons of room on either side for baggage.
Lastly, another mod! The Silverado comes with a few months trial for XM satellite radio. While sat radio reminds me somewhat of that old Boss song '57 channels and nothing on,' it does provide some listening that's worthwhile, and is addictive when you get used to not constantly hunting for a working channel while driving in the backcountry. Problem is, the cab-over camper covers the antenna as indicated in the photo above, pretty much blocking the radio from functioning. Solution was to buy a sat radio antenna for the camper and wire it into the sat radio behind the truck dash. Pain in the rear, but now XM works great. Question is, will the 1-year trial of Onstar work correctly with the camper blocking the signal? More testing required. I'm really digging the Onstar hands-free dialing, though my understanding is it's based on cell service so thus not as useful as it could be if satellite based.
There you go, a first look at the new cab-over Eagle Cap. One we get it set up and finish the initial mods, I’ll file another post. Till then, on the powder road we go!
This could have been our choice, but it was kinda small. 1947 Teardrip kit camper-trailer is on display down at Centennial RV in Grand Junction, Colorado. If you want to see how Warren Miller lived when he got his start, stop by and check it out.