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RV Review: Northstar TC 800 XB

September 18, 2007
Filed under RV & Trailer Reviews

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Several years ago, we had our initial experience with a pop-up truck camper, during which we fought constant battles with the roof – struggling to raise it at night, and struggling to fold it back into the travel position.

There was no such experience with the Northstar TC800 XB. You simply release the four exterior mechanical latches (one at each corner of the roof), step inside the camper, insert and turn the interior hand-crank, and in 30 seconds, the solid roof is extended 18 inches, bringing the camper’s full interior height to 6 feet, 7 inches. To retract the roof back into its travel position, unlatch the interior manual lock that keeps the roof in its extended position and crank it down.

The one tricky part about folding truck campers is getting the expandable fabric sides to fold in under the roof when it is being lowered. This unit was as easy as pie to manage. We closed the rear entry door and all the windows, opened the roof-mounted Fantastic Fan, and turned the fan on high while cranking the roof down. The fan created a vacuum that sucked the fabric in while we were lowering the roof. With the fan on we didn’t have to stop midway through the lowering process and go outside to tuck in the vinyl fabric, a difficult task on some of today’s tall trucks.

When ready for travel, the roof can handle up to 300 pounds of evenly distributed weight. Items such as kayaks, canoes, and storage pods can be carried on top, attached to the optional roof racks. Remember, however, that the manual lift system is rated to raise the roof with /only/ 100 pounds of roof-top cargo still attached.

SLEEP MORE

The XB in the unit’s model number stands for Extra Bed (500-pound load rating), which is now available in almost all of Northstar’s pop-up truck camper models. This new drop-down bunk platform bed had two exterior latches (each latch includes a built-in lock) that when released, permitted us to effortlessly fold out the 621/2×301/2-inch platform bed. The booth-style dinette and table can also be turned into a 75×36-inch bed.

This bunk platform (hinged along the bottom on the curb side wall) is surrounded by a vinyl fabric canopy and includes zippered panels that can be opened or closed. Behind each of the translucent fabric window panels is a panel of fine mesh screen that keeps insects out. The bed canopy is held in place and opened by a removable rod that pushes the fabric out, up and into place.

When equipped with the optional extended cab-over 60×80-inch queen-size bed, the TC800 XB can comfortably sleep four persons. The queen bed features a 51/2-inch-thick inner spring mattress.

SOLID STRUCTURE

The new TC800 XB is built for short-bed and long-bed pickup trucks (including GM, Dodge, Ford, the Toyota Tundra, and the Nissan Titan King). We tested the TC800 XB on a Chevy 2500 extended cab short-bed unit.

Kiln-dried 2×2-inch and 2×4-inch wood studs and structural members are used in the construction of the camper’s walls, and the cut-block foam insulation is hand fitted. The insulated floor is made from 5/8-inch plywood. Northstar uses “A” grade “Lite Ply” plywood throughout its product line. The Lite Ply plywood is also used in furniture, yacht and aircraft manufacturing. It’s 35- to 40-percent lighter than the southern yellow plywood Northstar used in the past, and has very low formaldehyde emissions. Every joint is glued, stapled, and then screwed together with hardened steel screws.

The exterior of our unit was finished with the optional luan-backed, laminated Filon fiberglass, but for campers who prefer metal, an aluminum exterior is standard. The domed, laminated roof (0.024 aluminum) extends over the roof edges and down the body of the camper by 11/2 inches, and has reinforced cast aluminum corners.

INSIDE STORY

Northstar offers its Arctic Pack for those who enjoy camping in colder venues. This consists of insulated panels that can be installed as needed to provide an added layer of insulation to the interior sides of the tent and window portion of the camper. When not in use the Arctic Pack can be stored onboard.

The standard utility systems package on the TC800 XB includes a 16,000-BTU auto-ignition forced-air furnace. A 20-pound LPG tank located in a sealed, galvanized exterior compartment fuels the furnace, water heater, three-way-power 3.7-cubic-foot refrigerator and cooktop. The deep cycle house battery is a Group 27 unit. The camper is wired for 30-amp shore power to power the optional AC and interior and exterior 110-volt receptacles. A 25-amp power converter/battery charger is also standard equipment. There is no fixed bathroom on board, but the TC800 XB has space for a portable toilet. The camper comes with a 12-volt water pump.

In the galley, drawers and cabinets are located below the recessed two-burner cooktop and the stainless steel single-basin sink. Both the cooktop and sink feature hinged covers that (when closed) provide a galley countertop of respectable size. A wardrobe with a hanger pole can accommodate shirts, jackets and trousers on hangers. All totaled, we counted 19 closed storage areas inside the unit, including the horizontal cabinet compartments that line (front to rear) both sides of the queen-size bed. And if you option your camper with the full-wrap rear for a short-bed truck, there will be two additional storage compartments on the exterior.

To reinforce the foundation of the U-shaped dinette table and make it more substantial, Northstar mounts it on two stainless steel poles that fit into circular receivers in the floor. With the poles removed, the tabletop becomes part of the platform for the convertible bed. The longest cushion of the U-shaped bench seat folds out to become the mattress inside the fold-down bunk bed.

And last but not least, Northstar dresses the interior floor with durable low-maintenance vinyl linoleum. Just like the vinyl-covered interior wallboard, it cleans up easily with a damp cloth.

ROAD TRIP

We took our test unit on a nearly 1800-mile round trip from southern California into the wilds of southern Utah for a week of adventure and never experienced any problems or breakdowns. The new Northstar TC800 XB folding truck camper offers the adventurous outdoor traveler a camping abode that can sleep four people, is easy to clean, easy to set up and live in, and easy to travel with. And the price is right. It might be just what you’ve been looking for.

SPECIFICATIONS

Base MSRP: $12,355

Price as Tested: $15,702

Overall Length (ext. cabover): 14′ 4″

Overall Width: 7′

Body Travel Height (closed): 5′ 6″

Interior Height Open: 6′ 7″

Base Dry Weight: 1530 lbs.

Fresh Water (incl. water heater): 36 gals.

Gray Water: 12 gals.

LPG: 20-lb. tank

Sleeping Capacity: 4 persons

Major Standard Features: 3.7-cubic-foot three-way refrigerator, 16,000-BTU auto ignition furnace, four mechanical corner jacks, two-burner stove, single sink, exterior locking wing doors, 25-amp converter/charger, 30-amp shore power cord, aluminum exterior, 20-pound LPG tank, innerspring mattress, exterior and interior 110-volt AC outlets, screened entrance door with deadbolt, lift-up cabover under-bed storage with gas struts, interior plastic battery box, Fantastic Fan with thermostat, porch light, exterior patio lights (one each side), two interior fluorescent lights, insulated floor.

Major Optional Features: water heater with exterior shower, large-capacity water pump, 12-gallon side-saddle gray water holding tank, pre-wired for rear window AC, wrap-around rear (for short-bed trucks), laminated fiberglass sidewalls, extended cabover.

Manufacturer

Northstar Campers

R.C. Willett Co., Inc.

3040 Leversee Rd.

Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613

319/233-3461

/northstarcampers.com/

/Special thanks to American Campers and Trailers (800/968 1819 or 626/444-1867; /americancampersandtrailers.com/), Baldwin Park, California, for the loan of the camper for our evaluation./

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