Electro-expanding pickup camper mushrooms into hard-walled cabin
Pickup camper manufacturers often proceed down a single path from the road fork between low, aerodynamic pop-up camper with fabric walls and high-riding but sturdy fixed hard-wall camper. Oregon startup Cube Series, on the other hand, charges straight through the fork, finding a clever middle ground by creating a camper with an electric-actuated roof lift and folding upper walls. The QB camper ducks down low during the drive and rises up into a roomy, rock-solid shelter at camp. If the Big Bad Wolf should happen to come by, he might blow clean through the flapping fabric walls of your buddy's wedge camper, but you won't even hear him huffing and puffing outside the QB.
Cube Series certainly isn't the first to break the hard-sided pop-up truck camper code. Manufacturers like Hiatus use a similar folding wall panel system; those like Rossmönster use a lifting hard-sided upper roof module that fits over top the lower walls; and one popular startup matches the brashness of the Tesla Cybertruck with a high-rising telescopic design.
We haven't seen a hard-sided pop-up truck camper shaped, styled or constructed quite like the Cube Series QB, though. When closed, the QB camper is something of an inverted pyramid that tapers and steps inward from its roof to the base that sits in the pickup bed. It stands 44.5 inches (113 cm) high before sliding into the truck and is designed to ride low enough so that the truck can still fit inside the average garage or parking deck.
After the driver picks out the perfect patch of land and throws the truck into park, he or she pushes a button to activate the electro-actuated expansion system. The upper left and right sidewalls rise automatically with the roof until they stand at full height. The user then manually lifts the upper front and rear wall segments from their lay-flat position to create a snug, waterproof fit inside the roof molding. The process takes about 60 seconds, according to Cube Series. Here's a rough animation of how it happens:
The fully deployed QB camper isn't quite a geometrically precise cube, owing to its tapered base, but it's fairly close, measuring 90 inches (229 cm) from the pickup bed to the 90.5 x 90.5-in (230 x 230 cm) square roof. Perhaps if Cube ever breaks outside the pickup box and makes a chassis-mount or flatbed camper, it'll be able to fully cube it.
Inside the step-accessed rear door, Cube installs an ultra-efficient floor plan with a four-seat, dual-bench dinette all the way up front, a main kitchen block with dual-burner stove, sink and under-counter 28-L microwave in the rear passenger-side corner, and a 48-L fridge and storage cabinet in the driver-side rear corner. Between the entry door and fridge cabinet unit, it even manages to squeeze in an extra bench seat that flips open to reveal an electric cassette toilet.
The dinette converts over to a 44 x 80-in (112 x 203-cm) double bed at night. We think the design could benefit from the type of sleeper alcove common on pickup campers, giving it a permanent cabover bed and available convertible-dinette bed for three or four total berths. But we suppose the QB wouldn't be much of a cube in that case and the addition would complicate the lifting mechanism and add a extra weight. So a single folding dinette bed it is.
Cube conserves elbow room around its modestly sized interior by using a number of retractable furnishings, from the available pop-up TV stand in the backrest of the dining bench, to the pop-up electrical outlets, to the pop-up pantry. The QB comes wired with a 12-V deep-cycle AGM battery, 55-A converter/charger, 30-A shore power hookup, and preparation for plug-and-play solar charging and generator connection. It also comes standard with an 18,000-BTU furnace and 79.5- L fresh water tank.
Using all aluminum and composite construction, Cube is able to keep the weight of the QB down to between 1,100 and 1,200 pounds (500 and 544 kg), impressively lightweight for an expandable pickup camper with hard walls.
Cube says that the QB camper can fit the full gamut of pickup trucks, from popular midsize models like the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger, to full-size bestsellers like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado, to newer electrics like the Rivian R1T. Prices start at US$33,827, and optional extras include a lithium battery upgrade, air conditioning and a Dish Tailgater satellite TV setup.
Cube is also working on a $46,262, 1,600-lb (726-kg) trailer that uses a similar deployable hard-side design. The four-minute clip below goes beyond the animation and shows the physical QB camper setting up and breaking down, before going back to animation to preview the trailer.
Source: Cube Series