Hard-wall camper hangs on Jeep Wrangler like a backpack with bathroom
We've seen some odd and unlikely Jeep Wrangler campers in the past, but the new Backwoods Camper might just take the cake. It's like a pickup camper without the pickup bed, hanging off the back of a Wrangler or SUV of choice to create a small, capable go-anywhere micro-RV. Unlike more expensive chassis-mounted options, it works readily with the unaltered stock vehicle and removes easily.
We thought the addition of the Gladiator pickup might end the quest for Jeep Wrangler campers, and perhaps it would if Jeep released a two-door Gladiator. As it is, though, Jeep lovers still hunger for the perfect way to turn a two-door Wrangler into a comfortable, highly capable 4x4 micro-RV. But with limited interior space and a short chassis below, it's a tricky objective that usually ends up in the four-door Wrangler Unlimited's lap, whether the project is a basic pop-up roof or a more complex chassis-mounted pop-up micro-cabin.
Last month, we saw one of the market's few two-door Wrangler camper solutions in the form of Oryx Platform's tailgate-to-steering-wheel hanging bed. That in-Jeep solution might prove ample for minimalist overlanders, but it undoubtedly won't be comfortable or elegant enough for everyone. Backwoods Camper offers a solution at the opposite end of the spectrum, hoisting as much living space onto the back of a Wrangler as imaginable.
The Backwoods project seems to have been born in an inverse way from the typical Wrangler camper. It was less about finding a way to camp in a Jeep and more about finding a way to adapt a pickup camper-style RV to an SUV.
Creator Kert Martin has been an RV fanatic since childhood and actually laid the groundwork for the Backwoods design in a Lego project of a Jeep with a camper that could be easily removed and reattached. Most people would have forgotten such a Lego build within a week or two, but this one stuck with Martin and he eventually pursued it as an adult. Leap forward 20 years, and that little Lego Jeep utility camper is now a full-size reality.
The Backwoods Camper looks a lot like a basic hard-sided pickup camper at first glance, but then you realize it's actually hanging off the back of a Wrangler with no pickup bed supporting it. This camper style isn't all too common, but it's not without precedent, harking back to piggyback camper designs of the mid- to late-20th century. At a time when SUVs weren't even a fully developed concept, some of the first piggyback concepts were developed around station wagons, sedans and even the occasional coupe. The Relax Cabin we saw at the 2015 Japan Car Camping Show was a more modern version that brought the concept to the Toyota Prius.
To the extent that they made production at all, most, possibly all, piggyback camper designs from past years and decades are no longer available. They turn up during the rare auction sale or barn find, but you certainly won't see them lining the lots of modern RV dealers. Backwoods essentially reworks the concept around the SUVs so popular on today's roads.
Made from foam core fiberglass panels, the Backwoods Camper has a taller, narrower base than a pickup camper, extending down to the vehicle hitch receiver that provides the attachment point for the custom rack that serves as a foundation. The long upper alcove attaches to the vehicle roof rack to complete the multi-point mounting. The base model weighs 500 pounds (227 kg) and requires a roof rack capable of holding 300 pounds (136 kg) along with a hitch receiver.
The Backwoods base model comes with a simple interior. The entry room just inside the rear door has a bench with under-seat storage on one side and a kitchen counter and cabinetry on the other. Backwoods has experimented with filling out the entry room on its prototype with a small kitchen on one side and wet bath on the other. The kitchen has a sink, dual-burner stove and fridge, while plans call for the bathroom to include a shower, toilet and accordion door.
Short of that kitchen/bath setup, which is not currently advertised as an option, owners can stow a portable toilet inside the bench and use their own portable cooking equipment.
The alcove, of course, is where the Backwoods Camper houses its bed, which the company describes as a California king. A roof vent over top ensures proper ventilation with help from a series of four screened windows.
Backwoods showed its camper clinging to the back of the white two-door Wrangler Sahara at the inaugural Overland Expo Pacific Northwest show over the weekend. The camper is available for order now and starts at US$15,525.
Along with the mattress, storage bench and basic kitchen structure, the base model includes interior LED lighting, the hitch rack to which it mounts, and a pair of camper jacks with extendable leg supports. Buyers will need to supply their own roof rack since that will be based on their vehicle model. Backwoods' website lists lead time at three to four weeks, and while company plans ultimately call for nationwide shipping, the campers are currently only available for pick-up at its Eagle Creek, Oregon shop.
The quick video provides a walkthrough of the base-spec model Backwoods brought to Overland Expo PNW.
Source: Backwoods Camper Co