Ultralight $15K camper makes Jeep Gladiator a brilliant 4-man micro-RV
Hitting a new lightweight benchmark for a fully enclosed pickup camper, RoverKing is looking to turn some of the market's most off-road-capable midsize trucks – à la Jeep Gladiators, Toyota Tacomas and Chevy Colorados – into all-out go-anywhere 4x4 micro-RVs. The Canadian startup thinks of its Capra camper like a backpack for your truck, and at under 700 lb, we'd call it the equivalent of a sub-pound Dyneema backpack stuffed with equally ultralight camping gear.
It's never easy building a complete pickup camper around the limited payloads of popular midsize trucks, a reason that floor-less pop-up toppers like the Hower Base Camp and AT Overland Summit have become so popular. The Tacoma, America's bestselling midsize pickup and a highly popular choice with overlanders, has a maximum payload of 1,685 lb (764 kg). But start adding the type of factory upgrades you'll want for overlanding or primitive camping with family or buddies – four-wheel drive, double cab, V6 – and that figure quickly tumbles to 1,155 lb (523 kg). That's before you even consider aftermarket add-ons like a winch or roof rack.
Similarly, the Jeep Gladiator Sport boasts a solid 1,700-lb (771-kg) payload, but the Gladiator Rubicon, lusted after by off-roaders and overlanders everywhere, brings payload screeching down to 1,200 lb (544 kg). Full-blown pickup campers rarely hit such low weights, and when they do, they leave very little payload for actual passengers, luggage and supplies.
For example, the two-sleeper Kimbo 6 weighs 900 lb (408 kg) at its very lightest; the four-sleeper Scout Yoho weighs 884 lb (401 kg); and the two-person Alu-Cab Khaya comes in at 881 lb (400 kg). Those minimum weights are directly from the manufacturer's website as of publishing, and some vary from larger or smaller original estimates available when we first looked at them. The EarthCruiser GZL, which is no longer available in the US, weighed approximately 850 lb (386 lb) when we first looked at it in 2016.
Those are the lightest fully enclosed pickup campers we've run into over the years, and none of them leave more than around 300 lb (136 kg) of payload on the Tacoma 4x4 Double Cab mentioned earlier. That figure might be okay for two people traveling lightly, but start loading in family members, pets, luggage and sport gear, and you're going to exceed payload quickly. Sure, you need only Google "overland Tacoma" to realize plenty of folks push far beyond payload, but staying well under is better for vehicle safety, performance and longevity, among other considerations – and that starts by not eating up all of it with just a camper.
RoverKing has slashed weight to make it more practical to travel and camp comfortably within a midsize truck's payload. The advertised base weight on its Capra beats the competition by a full 200 lb (90 kg) at just 640 lb (290 kg), which still includes beds for three or four people plus a dining area. It doesn't rise too high from there, as the fully loaded "Premium Plus" spec weighs in at a still-ultralight 684 lb (310 kg).
RoverKing started its Capra lightening program by keeping the dimensions compact. Other midsize pickup campers tend to jut out past the tailgate, and some also stretch out well over the sides of the bed. By contrast, the Capra sits inside the closed tailgate and has walls that line up fairly nicely with the truck's width. To put it into numbers, the Capra base measures 4.6 ft (1.4 m) long, fitting neatly inside a 5-ft short bed, and the upper cabin stretches a max of 64.6 inches (164 cm) wide at the windows, nearly identical to the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon's 64.4-in (163.6 cm) rear track and just a touch wider than the Ford Ranger's 61.4-in (156-cm) rear track or Ranger Tremor's 62.4-in (158.5-cm) track.
RoverKing has filled the Capra's compacted dimensions out with lightweight materials like a welded sheet metal frame, aluminum body panels and 20-mm felt-covered styrofoam insulation. It calls the camper a four-season design, but we're not sure how well that tall fabric upper and ultralight build will handle Canadian winters without a furnace and maybe some extra weatherproofing.
At camp, the Capra's full-length pop-up roof lifts high to create 6.6 ft (2 m) of headroom. A combination of the lift-up rear hatch, truck tailgate and swing-out camper door open up a large entryway. The interior has benches on each side ending in a front dinette with vis-a-vis cushioned seating and a foldaway dining table. The benches also double as storage space, both for optional RoverKing equipment and for the owner's personal use.
The dinette converts into a 30 x 59-in (76 x 150-cm) bed, a complement to the primary 77 x 63-in (195 x 160-cm) bed up high. The latter extends at night to create its full sleeping area, retracting during the day to clear headroom over the dinette.
The Capra is likely to be quite snug and cozy based on its compact overall dimensions, but it's an impressively efficient micro-living layout. It certainly isn't the choice to sleep four burly hunting buddies, but between the queen-size main bed and convertible bed, it should be able to sleep a two-parent family with two small children or one older child ... at least until the older child sprouts over 5 ft tall, then it might be tent time.
All three Capra trim levels include those basic amenities, plus dual sliding windows and PVC flooring. The mid-grade Premium package steps things up with an 80-Ah gel battery, 170-W solar panel, electrical control panel, external 110-V plug, LED lighting, USB outlets, 30-L chrome water tank, water pump and exterior chrome shower sprayer. The top-tier Premium Plus package has everything from the Premium package and adds four height-adjustable camper jacks and a set of four curtains and mosquito nets.
RoverKing doesn't advertise any kitchen equipment, but shows how the shower sprayer can team with a simple bowl to make a sink. Campers can pack in their own portable stove, fridge or cooler, and cassette toilet and have a very functional little base camp for cooking, dining, sleeping, cleaning and general daily living.
RoverKing campers are available for order now, and the Standard model retails for US$15,400, the Premium for $19,500, and the Premium Plus for $20,900. A larger camper series for full-size trucks like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado is under development.