Home-away-from-home tour (JATAC update)


Everyone—everyone—who sits for the first time in the dinette of our Four Wheel Camper and looks around, says exactly the same thing: “I can’t believe I’m in the bed of a Toyota pickup.”

It’s understandable. We had the same reaction when we sat in our first FWC in 1994, and that one fit our compact 1992 Toyota pickup. The new, wider Fleet model on the new, wider Tacoma displays even more of a fifth-dimension sort of spatial trickery. There’s a bed the size of a couple of barroom pool tables over the truck's cab, comfortable eating (or laptop working) room for two at that front-mounted dinette—underneath which is the grate for the hot shower. The galley (a term that seems more nautically jaunty than kitchen) incorporates a two-burner stove, a sink with pressure water fed from a 20-gallon tank, and a proper, compressor-driven fridge with freezer compartment. There’s storage everywhere, and a Porta Potti tucked under a back cabinet, across from two deep-cycle batteries. Overhead, LED lighting renders the interior as bright as you want when natural light isn’t flooding in through the four huge screened windows in the canopy.

Our first FWC seemed luxurious at the time. The new one, as I mentioned to Roseann, seems like the old one after it won a spot on Xtreme Kamper Makeover. Here's what it looks like inside.

Looking forward over the truck's cab. The bed in its extended position is . . . big (a bit over six feet wide and seven long), and the cushions are thicker than on our first FWC. Since both of us are under six feet (I'm 5'9"), we can sleep sideways even on this mid-size model, which allows us to leave two of the near cushions at home to save space (they won't fit on top of the main cushion when the camper's roof is closed). We worried that the gas lift-assist struts would be in the way, but that hasn't been the case—there's plenty of room behind them for both of us.

Looking in from the door. Lots of storage in the cabinets on either side. A Porta Potti fits in the near-right-side bottom cabinet. Cabinet materials and hardware are much improved over early models. The black door is the Dometic two-way fridge (12VDC and 120VAC). The grate for the shower is visible under the dinette table; the curtain tucks underneath it and clips to hooks on the ceiling. Controls and plug-in for the shower hose and wand are behind a hatch around the corner of the left cabinet (visible in top photo). The wand has a button that stops flow to conserve water. Duplicate shower controls are outside for remote/fair-weather bathing.

We discovered that two low-profile Bundu boxes from BunduGear.com fit perfectly onto the slightly recessed shower grate; we added a strap across the top and we have excellent storage for tools, boots, firewood, etc.

Hot and cold pressure water; water heater adds six gallons to the total water capacity (main tank is 20 gallons). Standard two-burner stove; a recessed stove with smoked-glass cover is optional, with a matching sink (also covered with smoked glass). Good working room on the right and also on the cabinet top above the fridge opposite. Silverware drawer could be bigger.

Stove has room for one big pot and a smaller one (or kettle). This stove has no pietzo ignition, and the rear burner is tricky to light with a match, especially if the front burner is already on. A gas match helps a lot. However, it's clear from the warning labels that if you actually use this stove YOU WILL DIE.

Vanity with mirror and storage has proven perfect for toiletries, clean towels, and small clothes. The Dometic fridge has a venting latch that holds the door slightly open when not in use.

Control panel. Cut off at top is the Global Solar charge controller and monitor. Underneath are two switched 12V outlets. Beneath them is the switch for the water heater; beneath that is a dual monitor for battery level and water level, with a switch to power the water pump for the sink and shower. 120V outlet is active when hooked up to shore power.

Inexpensive custom touches: Roseann found these towel bars at Target.

More customizing, courtesy Target: An inexpensive yoga mat was cut up to fit every cabinet bottom to reduce sliding and scuffing; a compact dish holder/drainer; folding fabric bins; spring-loaded curtain rod keeps items secure on shelf.

To the right of the under-sink storage is a deep, tall cabinet in which perfectly fits a 4L airtight OXO canister that we use for "wet" (i.e.: stinky) garbage like onion cuttings or coffee grounds; and behind it, a Snow Peak Multi-Purpose Cook-Set 3 (nesting 2 stainless pots, strainer, lids, and cast iron fry pan).

And . . . the bar is open. Under the right dinette seat was this spot perfect for safe storage of vital liquids. Swiss ammunition case holds larger bottles of more serious stuff. Hatch with finger hole is access to turnbuckles that secure the camper to the truck's bed.

Detail of the Swiss ammo bag converted to travelling bar. A very good friend gave us this as a camper-warming present. Shorter bourbon and whisky bottles fit perfectly.

Detail of the Closet Maid mini fabric cubes (7.5 x 5 x 5) from Target, which fold flat when not needed. Roseann cut leftover pieces of the yoga-mat padding to make bottle protectors (could there possibly be a better use for a yoga mat?). These cubes fit perfectly in the narrow spaces under the seats and three-across in the pantry storage (under the vanity).


Bundu boxes - BunduGear.com

Global Solar panels and charge controller - GlobalSolar.com

Snow Peak cookset - SnowPeak.com

OXO canister, dish drainer, towel bars - Target.com

ClosetMaid Mini Fabric Drawers - Target.com

Swiss ammunition bags - try your local military surplus store, eBay, or here

Good friend who gives you three bottles of best whisky and bourbon as a camper-warming - find your own