Posted by: Steve and Bethany | March 23, 2009


date; 3/12/09

Back in 1987, when I was 21 years old, I spent two months driving across the country for the first time, from boston to Oregon. This trip had a fundamental impact on my personality, with the people & places I visited, I grew & learned more about myself than I ever expected. The vehicle for this trip was a four cylinder 1982 blue toyota 4×4 shortbed pickup truck outfitted with a soft top canopy I designed & built specifically for this trip. img034This was a cool setup for one person: a twin mattress just fit in the bed between the wheel wells, leaving just enough room on the sides for a toolbox, bag for dirty laundry, camp stove & some kitchen wares. On the mattress, while driving was an old metal Coleman cooler and a trunk for clothing, both got thrown under the truck at night while I slept inside. Believe it or not, I had this packed so well, I could travel indefininitely, camping at campgrounds some of the time (when I started to smell myself!) and driving into the woods or mountains other times.

One great memory was driving up this closed dirt road in Yellowstone park, quickly getting out of site & out of daylight just as I found some rolling hills to park on for the night. When I woke the next morning, me & my truck were surrounded by a heard of about 100 elk foreging in the grassy fields around me as the sun came up over the hills. I certainly wasn’t in Boston anymore.

This setup worked for me for years, traveling back & forth across the country eight times, down into mexico,  & up to Alaska, always taking a different route, never knowing that route until I was driving it that day. I got really good at always being able to find water to camp next to, for cooking, cleaning & swimming (I’m a sunshine camper) this is where I learned four wheel drive camping is an essential part of my life.

In 1999, Just as life seemed perfect, I found I now needed to accommodate a girlfriend & a dog with me on these trips, & the blue Toyota would not work anymore, plus, the blue Toyota finally got put out to pasture, literally, (it’s now a farm truck).

Next in line was something totally different, a four cylinder 1993 silver Toyota 4×4 pickup truck, this one however, outfitted with a four wheel camper. img0336The eagle model fit inside the small bed of this truck, & being the designer/builder I was, I got right to work painting it silver to match my truck, putting carpeting into it, building more shelves, devising a way to store the pop up table & base out of the way & building a folding step up into the camper that fit into the 2” receiver on the truck. my dog could sit just inside the camper with her head poking through the sliding rear window which gave her a perfect view down the road as we drove. This camper taught me the value of a pop up camper (low height, low center of gravity, ease of setup for pulling over for lunch etc.) I bought this camper used from the factory as a consignment, & as a result, it had many more options than I needed- or thought I needed, but learned to appreciate, such as:

A heater- I found the first summer we took a cross country trip, it rained the whole time, & the heater sure came in handy then, plus I’ve learned that a heater extends your camping season in both directions, spring & fall, so it’s now a must.

A refrigerator- an icebox would have been fine, as this was what I was used to, but the fridge has earned its keep in my setup.

The sink & cooktop- although we mostly cook outdoors, it sure is nice to have the ability to cook indoors when raining.

A queen size bed- I’ll be camping with my wife for the rest of my life, so why not be comfortable, plus the value of a good nap or nights sleep really makes traveling enjoyable.

Spring ahead to 2005, I’ve worked out all the little kinks in the camper, but the truck has been diagnosed with an irreparable tick which only got worse. When talk of a new motor begins, so does my search for a new truck. Some of the issues I had with the truck were going to get resolved now, namely, the four cylinder. Although peppy around town, I needed more power climbing over mountain ranges with the camper on its back. An extended cab would sure give just the extra needed storage for camp gear not wanted in the camper. So next up was once again, something totally different, a six cylinder 2001 silver Toyota 4×4 pick up truck, extended cab, (sencing a theme here yet!).Modifications this time were to resolve putting a permanent second battery in the camper, redo how the wiring for this battery hooked up to the truck, replace the ever spotty water pump, install a foot pedal switch for the water pump to save on water usage (thanks for the idea bob), put a permanent grey water drain below the truck, fasten the boot to the camper with snaps, to stop its sliding up & out from between the camper & truck. All of thes modifications will move with me into the design of the bullet XV.

Now that the four wheel camper was totally customized to the way we camp, & a brilliant design to begin with, I found that it was just too small for, now two, humans & two dogs for extended periods of time. In the morning, one person has to get up,  get dressed, & get out before the second person can get dressed. This because when the queen size bed is pulled out, there’s very little room to stand up. This plus the need for more storage inside & out plus my need to always design things better & tighter & a need to build my own destiny led me to where I am right now, ready to begin.



  1. Those are some good looking trucks. I have a 93 toyota pickup that I have been thinking about putting a pop up camper on, but I am worried about weight. How much did your four wheel camper weigh?

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