The massive, earth-wandering big rigs of Overland Expo West are always a sight to see, but sometimes what makes the most impact are the lighter, sleeker designs of the show. One such design that grabbed our eye this year, the Leentu pickup truck camper is billed as the world's lightest, most aerodynamic pop-up camper shell. In a world of unabashedly huge vehicles and tiny gas mileage numbers, this light, simple pop-up composite camper stood out like a sore thumb.
As with roof-top tents and trailers, new pick-up camper designs have been rolling steadily through recent Overland Expo shows, where we've seen models like the EarthCruiser GZL and Tacoma Habitat. The Leentu is still a prototype, but plans call for it to be the sleekest, slipperiest and lightest of them all.
Maybe it was because of that prototype status, maybe because we expect overlanders to go big and burly, not necessarily sleek and light, but the Leentu was the oddest-looking creation to catch our attention at this year's Overland Expo West in Arizona. It's like an ultralight backpacking tent in a world of heavy-duty safari tents. When deployed for camping, the pop-up rises high above the vehicle, looking part roof-top tent, part cabover camper and part vehicular hot air balloon.
The low-profile hard-shell body slides into a mid-size pickup bed, providing a sleek, aerodynamic form during driving. The low roof and body shape are designed to help avoid issues with plummeting mpgs or bumping into branches, rocks or garage door frames.
At camp, the pop-up quickly deploys into a soft-sided tent-top with a built-in 42 x 80-in (107 x 203-cm) mattress made from 2-in (5-cm) high-density foam. The high-rising roof provides about 7 feet (2.1 m) of headroom from the pickup bed floor.
In addition to giving it an aero-enhanced profile, Leentu is aiming to make its pop-up lightweight – around 100 lb (220 kg) worth of lightweight, a goal that puts it at less than a third of the 340-lb (154-kg) Tacoma Habitat, a design that's similar in style and function, albeit a bit roomier, with a larger 87 x 48-in (221 x 122-cm) mattress and up to 7.7 feet (234 cm) of headroom. Leentu uses a Nomex honeycomb composite shell to achieve weight savings.
Beyond that, the Leentu is a very simple and basic camper. It's designed to manually pop up and compact down within seconds. A built-in light electrical system powers the LED lighting, ventilation fan and charging ports and is fed by a 60W solar panel integrated into the roof.
The Leentu is still a work in progress, and the first model is being developed around the Toyota Tacoma with 6-foot bed. Assuming that one gains some steam, Leentu will add additional pickup models and bed lengths to its options list down the road. Pricing hasn't been set yet, but the company estimated a price around US$12,000 when we spoke to a rep at Overland Expo.