Our New Northstar Liberty Truck Camper
For more than 15 years, my husband and I have owned travel trailers. Albeit, they have been micro or small travel trailers, but we’ve always towed our little homes to campgrounds around the western US. Many of our journeys have taken us into the backcountry of Bureau of Land Management lands and over some gnarly dirt roads where the term washboard is an understatement.
After several years of this, we decided that we wanted something a little more suited to the types of rugged places we like to go.
This lead us down the truck camper route.
Choosing a truck camper
Being truck camper newbies, we had a bit of a learning curve to overcome. We knew we wanted a truck camper that would fit into a short-bed truck. In addition, we had reached a certain age where we wanted a little more creature comforts. We didn’t want to crawl over each other to get in and out of bed, a toilet would be nice, and a fully functional interior kitchen was necessary.
The type of truck we purchased would depend on the size and weight of the camper, so we also needed to brush up on heavy-duty trucks. Another learning curve.
The world of the truck camper ranges from simple popups and folding overlanding rigs to four-season fiberglass luxury campers.
The research and planning behind which one we wanted took us about a year. We looked at everything from the Lance 650 and the Cirrus 820 to the Four Wheel Campers and the Northern Lite. We also looked at a few more affordable options such as the Rogue by Palomino and even the intriguing Kimbo.
Nothing we looked at online or in real life fit the bill. That is, until we saw the Northstar Liberty.
The Northstar company has been designing and building truck campers since 1961 and under the Northstar name since the 1980s. To us, it had flown under the radar and didn’t seem to get as much coverage as the more popular Four Wheel Campers or Lance.
Northstar makes both popup and hardwall campers. Five models of the popups are available, and two of the hardsided models are available.
The smaller of the hardwall designs, the Liberty, immediately caught our eye. The layout included everything we wanted (wet bath, full kitchen, dining area, lots of storage) that all fit within a standard truck bed. It also has a large queen-size bed that faces North/South.
No more climbing over each other to go to the bathroom at night!
The Liberty features a queen-size bed with windows on both sides. It also features a dinette with a Lagun table that converts into a small bed for children.
It’s pretty incredible that all these conveniences could fit into the 6-foot bed of truck without any rear overhang. That’s right—our Liberty does not have a rear overhang and sits flush with the back of the truck bed. Some truck campers have long or heavy overhangs that make the entire camper look very unwieldy on the back of the truck.
The kitchen features a Dometic stove, large sink, and eye-level fridge. The Liberty also has a wet bath with a cassette toilet and a full hanging closet.
How much does it cost?
In addition to the aforementioned amenities, the cost of the Liberty was the lynchpin in the decision to purchase. The cost of a new Liberty is about $32,000.
This is just a few thousand dollars over the cost of a new Four Wheel Camper Hawk model, which has half the amenities, storage, and comfort. A brand new Northern Lite truck camper is nearly double the cost (and weight) of the Liberty. The cost savings allowed us to spring for a Ford F250 Super Duty with a 4,260 lb. payload. The truck holds the 1,700 lb. camper easily with a set of Torklift tiedowns.
Here are a few other things we love about the Northstar Liberty:
- We were able to customize it. Many RVs in general don’t allow for much customization. You get what you get, even if you don’t want it. We didn’t want a TV, DVD player, stereo, air conditioning, or microwave. We were able to have those removed and instead put in the things we did want. These include a 12-volt fridge, extra closet, electric jacks, and two 170-watt solar panels.
- The fridge is in a convenient location. While we liked the open feel of the Lance 650, having the refrigerator just above the bed didn’t make any sense. What if one of us is sleeping and the other needs to get the milk out for coffee? The Liberty’s Dometic compressor fridge sits just opposite the wet bath at a convenient eye level. There is no need to crawl around on the ground to access our veggies.
- The freshwater tank is accessible. The freshwater tank on many truck campers and RVs is inaccessible and not easy to clean. The Liberty features a 20-gallon freshwater tank underneath the dinette that can be accessed via a hatch for cleaning and checking on water level.
- The interior is simple. The interiors of each of the Northstar models are clean and simple without any extra, unnecessary materials. The Liberty is no exception and comes with neutral decor, large windows with shades and screens, and a handy table on a Lagun table leg.
- The cassette toilet and no black tank. One of our biggest selling points for this type of truck camper is the Thetford cassette toilet. The cassette is accessible from the outside and has its own tank and water fill point. That means we can fill the toilet tank with any kind of water from a creek or stream and we don’t have to use any drinking water from our freshwater tank to flush.
- The HappiJac jacks. Last but not least, we sprung for the electric jacks by HappiJac. One of the negatives of a truck camper is that they are not as easy to load and unload as a towable trailer. However, with a simple press of a remote button, we can adjust each of the jack legs or all four of them at once to take the camper on and off the truck. The ability to take the camper off the truck makes it nearly as good as having a towable trailer with one added benefit: in most states you don’t have to register them with the DMV.
Do your research
This personal story is just a note that it pays to do some upfront research for any camper or vehicle you plan to purchase. We have heard several horror stories of hasty purchases gone wrong, from slideouts that stop working completely, rendering a sleeping area useless, to converted vans with faulty wiring or heating.
While you don’t need to take a year like we did to find our rig, taking some time to work out both the pros and cons of various RVs can be helpful in the long run and makes for happier camping.
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