Editor’s Note: The following article in Truck Camper magazine features an exclusive interview with Northstar Campers President Rex Willett detailing the builder’s debut of the 2016 Northstar 12STC. To read the entire Q&A click here.
Believing that the industry has moved too far from the time-tested and proven preslideout truck camper designs of the late 1980s and 1990s, Northstar Campers “returned to its roots” with the launch of the 12STC, a 12-foot, non-slide, side-entry, dry-bath model.
TCM: The prevailing wisdom within the truck camper industry is that truck campers beyond 10 feet in floor length don’t sell without a slide. We have heard this from dozens of truck camper manufacturers and dealers over the years. That said, how is it that Northstar Campers is announcing a 12-foot non-slide truck camper?
Willett: Bill Penney, Owner of Truck Camper Warehouse, has been the main driver of this camper. He’s been telling me for a few years that there’s a need for a longer, side entry, non-slide truck camper; especially for the beach campers in the Northeast. For example, you can’t take a slideout truck camper on the beach in Montauk, N.Y. These folks want a big camper with big capacities, but they can’t have a slide.
During design and development, I also sought out input from industry veterans who were active in the marketplace before slide-outs were introduced. Bill Durkee was especially helpful with his experience and feedback.
I keep a library of old truck camper brochures and remembered a 12-foot side-door Real Lite truck camper from the 1980s. At that time, the 12-foot non-slide Real Lite was the premier truck camper in the country. That floor plan and others from that time period were referenced while designing the 12STC.
The truck camper industry has gotten away from its no-basement, no slide-out, roots. With the 2016 Northstar 12STC, we’re getting back to those roots, with a refreshed and modern approach.
TCM: How did the design and development phase progress with the 12STC?
Willett: The first prototype was 11 feet long. I had the 11-foot floor mocked up when the Midwest truck camper rally crowd came through our factory last summer. At that point, the bathroom just didn’t feel right. Bill Durkee told me that if it didn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
Lots of dollars went into the original 11-foot floor plan, but I took it out back with a forklift and burned it. What good was it if it didn’t feel right?
That night I thought about the camper. It had to be longer. People want more room in the bathroom, and they want the bathroom to be more functional. We mocked up the bathroom cabinets about twenty times and kept making little changes. All that work paid off.
TCM: You did the cabinet mock-ups with wood, or on a computer?
Willett: With real wood. I understand using computer aided design when developing a camper, but you need to see a camper, and sit in a camper, to truly design it right.
Having that real world, and real life tactile experience, you can immediately see that a cabinet needs to be an inch further back to get the right amount of cabinet space. And so we build it again, see it again, and sit in it again, until it feels right.
That’s the problem with relying too much on CAD. You need that trial and error, and real world experience, to get a camper that truly works.
During the design phase, we get input from the people who work here. We also have a few visits every week from potential customers who want a factory tour. We get their input too.
Northstar customer, Duncan Crawford, had some excellent input. He’s very practical and has an exceptional amount of experience as a long-time truck camper owner. His feedback on the 12STC was very helpful.
To read the entire Q&A click here.