The problem with campers is that you need a good tow vehicle with hitch to travel with them. If you have a smaller, less powerful car or lack a hitch, you'll need to spend money on a better car or hitch installation before you can even consider a camper. The Swiss Roombox levels the playing field, allowing even small car owners to enjoy many of the conveniences of a camping trailer. The device is a removable set of modules that turns the average car into a mini-motor home.
The creators of Swiss Roombox were inspired by another Swiss product - the Swiss Army knife. Specifically, they were influenced by the Swiss Army knife's ability to pack many tools and functions into a compact, easy-carry package.
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The Roombox does exactly that, but it does it in a more three-dimensional way. The series of boxes slide along an intricate set of pulleys, cables and articulated arms, and attach together like a 3D puzzle. The system fits neatly in the trunk of everything from a compact car to a minivan and unfolds into a functional campsite. According to the company, it should only take you about 15 minutes to mount the Roombox anchor hardware, install the two modules and accompanying components, and be on your way.
When you arrive at your destination, you slide and fold out individual walls and surfaces to create nearly all aspects of your campsite. Segments of the Roombox adjust to reveal a camp sink and a double gas burner. The kitchen sink doubles as an outdoor shower, and the Roombox includes a curtain with mounting hardware. There's even an integrated Swiss Army knife, as a sort of homage to the Roombox's origins (and as a useful tool in itself).
Small pieces stored within the Roombox package assemble into counter-top work space, tables and chairs. All components include tool-free hardware that you can assemble in minutes. On top of that, they're modular, so that you can create different sizes and types of tables, for instance. Options like refrigerators, toilets, kitchenware, mattresses and organizers are available for purchase, and if you have the room, you can purchase a unit with more storage space.
When we first saw the Roombox, we assumed that it was meant to be used in addition to a tent for actual sleeping. We were wrong - the Roombox actually follows through on its promise of turning your car into a full-on mobile home by offering sleeping space. Assuming you have enough interior space and folding rear seats, the Roombox lays out flat in your car and provides about 6 feet (185 cm) of "bed" wide enough for two people. Simply slide your sleeping bags and/or camping mattress(es) over top of it, and your car becomes a hard-sided camper. To camp with a larger group, bring along a tent or two.
On the technical end, the Roombox has a 12-volt power system with switches for the water heater and water pump. It has an integrated 25-liter (6.6-gallon) fresh water tank and 29-liter (7.7-gallon) waste water tank. A 230-volt or 110-volt power inverter with USB connection accepts mobile devices for charging, and 12-volt plugs work with additional equipment like the optional cooler box. The only required connection is an electrical connection to your car's battery with an included cable.
From our first look at it, the Swiss Roombox seems like an ingenious device that could be as useful, albeit much more niche, as the Swiss Army knife. One of the worst things about camping is strategically stuffing the car full of equipment from the garage, basement, kitchen, etc. - I've spent the majority of a day just loading up the car to "relax" in the wilderness. The Roombox takes much of that hassle out, since it integrates so many components of camping. It also gives you a little more weather and wildlife protection than tent camping.
The price seems a little high though. The basic Swiss Roombox starts at CHF7,974 (US$8,833 at the time of publishing) outside of Switzerland, which puts it in the range of full campers and popups like the Sylvan Sports Go. You could get components (camp sink, stove, shower, furniture, etc.) for considerably less, so you're paying a lot for the design and engineering.
Swiss Roombox appears aware of its pricing vulnerability and plans to launch a smaller, less expensive unit in the near future. The EasyTech will cost CHF3,964 (US$4,400). It looks significantly smaller and simpler, but still offers such functions as bed, sink, stove and table space. The company has yet to detail the full information on the EasyTech model, stating simply that it's a 2012 model and is coming soon.
For now the Swiss Roombox is only available in Europe, but the company says it's working to meet regulations of other countries and should offer the system outside of Europe soon. Buyers should reference Swiss Roombox's measurements page, because while it's designed to fit many vehicles, you will need appropriate space.
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