The Wedgetail Truck Camper from Australia is officially the coolest design ever!
(At least as far as I'm concerned. )
I previously wrote about the Four Wheel Truck Camper style -- the one whose different-sized models are named after birds (ex. Hawk, Eagle, Raven, Finch, etc.) -- which is still my favorite truck camper design for my own DIY purposes.
I still love the classic "Four Wheel Camper" (4WC) design because it's compact and aerodynamic -- less than a foot taller than your truck while driving -- but camps at full height, thanks to a simple pop-up roof design and cabover. In it's most extreme design, created and sold by Phoenix Campers in its PULSE SC (self-contained) series, all of the appliances, including a toilet/shower, fit neatly into the bed of the truck. It's really quite a feat of creative engineering.
But here comes the Wedgetail!
The Wedgetail incorporates many of the great features I love about the 4WC, yet it's a completely different concept than anything else we've seen. Here are some of the notable features:
- The top flips open like a lid, creating a double-duty bed-platform & extended awning
- Flipping the top opens a full-height house-shaped tent, extending 12 feet overhead at the peak.
- The rear wall flips down creating another raised platform -- extending the floor area another 20 sq. ft. or so, that serves as a tent-covered entrance stoop, and bathroom/shower.
- All this extra space allows the "normal" floor space within the truck bed to be available as a nice-sized kitchen and dining area.
- The under-canopy area doubles as an outdoor kitchen -- the kitchen cabinets are accessible both from the inside and outside.
- Tons of other nifty features.
You really have to see the video to understand how amazing the Wedgetail is, so just watch it.
Now let's be clear... I am 100% a DO-IT-YOURSELF-er. My interest in camper designs is to find ideas I can use in my own camper.
After quite a bit of consideration, I've concluded that a basic version of this would not be TOO much more complicated than making a "Four Wheel Camper" style pop-up camper! But with the extra space comes some compromises. Here's a comparison.
- On the "Four Wheel Campers" (4WC) pop-up style, the bed sits on a cantilevered cabover. This keeps it very compact, allowing you to camp in town within a normal parking space. But the cantilevered sleep platform adds some engineering to the design, making it a bit more complex than just putting together "a large wooden box with a lid."
- The Wedgetail design, despite its complexity, is precisely "a large box with TWO lids" -- one on top, and one in back. Though both are cantilevered like shelves, they receive support underneath, so extensive calculations are less critical.
- The 4WC pop-up design is very compact. Since the roof lifts straight up, it allows you to day-camp in town within a normal parking space. The Wedgetail camper design requires substantially more space -- to use it properly, you'll inevitably be "double-parking." That's fine if you plan to do most of your camping in the country, but it makes day-camping in town much more difficult, and "stealth camping" nearly impossible.
- The 4WC design can be used without lifting the lid. It's tight in there, but not unlike using a regular camper shell. The Wedgetail, however, requires the rear wall to be lowered just to enter it, again making it impossible to stealth camp. (Though I suppose you could wall yourself in?)
- The pop-up in the 4WC design is relatively easy to construct. The fabric around the edge is just a 2.5 to 3 ft strip of fabric all the way around. The roof-lift mechanism is only as complex as you need it to be to raise and support the roof on both ends.
- The Wedgetail design requires some more complex geometry to raise the tent as you flip the lid open. However, it's not all THAT complicated, and if you've worked with pop-tents much, much of it will be familiar. You can tell in the video that the center posts raise in sync with the lid, but the corners are set up by hand -- just like in a large "family style" pop tent.
- While the 4WC's roof can be opened manually, the Wedgetail requires a winch and associated mechanism to open the top, because the roof needs to be a weight-supporting bed-platform / living space as well (read: potentially rather heavy). I do suspect it could be rigged to open manually, with a pulley system assisting the lift and drop, but it requires some extra engineering in any case. The same goes for the Rear Wall / Porch.
- Cabovers are a nice use of space, even if you don't put a bed there. The Wedgetail does not have a cabover, and after some thinking, I've concluded that without some reconfiguring, the design cannot support a cabover. Not because of any strength issue, but because the winch-driven roof opener on the front of the unit cuts across the cabover area. The roof opener probably can't go on the back wall either, because it would be in the way of the door. Even if the cabover wasn't huge, it would be nice to attach an aerodynamic fairing, but again, the roof opener is in the way.
Conclusion: Awesomely inspirational, but not for me... (YET!)
I still want to figure out how to make a Wedgetail. While not so great for stealth camping, once I find myself spending most of my time "in the bush" so to speak, it'll be tough to resist the temptation to add more space.
In terms of modifying the Four Wheel Camper design, an intriguing place to start is by turning the back wall into a pull-down convertible covered porch. The main design choice here is what to do about the door. Assuming that it'd be nice to use our camper even in stealth form with the roof and back wall locked up, we could either leave the door but make it sturdy enough to walk on, or move it somewhere else, like to the side. I actually prefer the first idea, because once you pull the porch down to use as an entrance, the door is redundant... and of course redundancy is something we want to avoid when trying to make the best use of our tiny space.
The other thing to look at is making the kitchen cabinets accessible from both the inside and outside. Personally, I would be using that "kitchen" space as a workshop, and having a pull-down workbench accessible from the outside would be pretty sweet.
There are so many innovative ideas incorporated into the Wedgetail, I'm sure there are tons more discoveries waiting for me. If you think of something, post me a comment with any ideas that might have struck you about either the commercial version of the Wedgetail or building your own DIY version. (And besides the Wedgetail, do you know of any other really innovative truck camper designs I might not have seen?)