Lance 921 Truck Camper
Twenty-five hundred miles and three weeks of being up close and personal will test the mettle of any relationship, especially a couple on vacation in a truck camper. However, the creature comforts we enjoyed on our 17-day RV caravan through northern Mexico in the Lance 921 (a slide-out dinette model) were such that the leisure aspects of the adventure never wore off. We were kept busy and excited, exploring the back roads of northern Mexico. First we cruised the state of Chihuahua, followed by five days fastened to a flatbed rail car being pulled through Mexicos Copper Canyon. Then driving free again, our caravan headed northward along the east shore of the Sea of Cortez, visiting colonial towns and seaside ports on our way to the Arizona border. It was like having an intimate luxury hotel room on wheels or rails.
Construction of the Lance 921 features the use of premium grade fir and pine members that are glued and screwed together to form the infrastructure of the walls, ceiling and floor. Rigid foam insulation is cut and glued into voids in the floor and ceiling structure frames. The interior wall panels are glued to the structural members, too. The exterior siding is then laminated to the campers wooden cage (the slide-out is similarly built), and the adhesive is cured under pressure. The optional Exterior Package, including smooth Filon fiberglass exterior walls, is standard on all Lance slide-out models. The roof exterior (as with all Lance products) is covered with a single sheet of aluminum and dressed with a baked-on enamel finish. The roof is sturdy enough to walk on.
The largest influence on truck camper floor plans in the last decade has been the slide-out room. The slide-out on the Lance 921 measured 68 inches long, 20 inches deep and 52 inches high, which meant that a whole bunch more living space was created when we extended it. The slide-out mechanism is electric, but a mechanical override is available, just in case power is down.
In addition to the already generous amount of glass in the camper, fair-sized windows are located in the short walls, and a large window opens up the face of the slide-out room, furthering the interiors wide-open feeling. The slide-out room houses a conventional bench-style dinette that coverts into a sleeping area to accommodate one adult or a couple of kids. Crank-out windows are used in the large wall of the slide-out and the sides of the cab-over bedroom. This type of window allows ventilation, even when its raining outside.
Early in the trip, a tropical depression brought heavy rains to the Sierra Madre Mountains (between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, Mexico), but the automotive crush-bulb-type gasket system surrounding the slide-out revealed no water seepage. Later during the excursion, we camped in winter windstorm conditions while in southern Arizona and again experienced no leaks or cold spots.
Our test unit included the Lance Winterizing Package that features a dual-pane window at the head of the cabover, heated holding tanks, and insulating covers for the skylight in the bathroom and the emergency escape hatch above the queen bed. The winterizing package also features additional insulation in the cabover area. The battery and propane compartments are insulated, too. Although we encountered no snow, we rested comfortably knowing the camper could easily withstand the inclement weather we were encountering.
A 20,000-BTU, forced-air-furnace system ducted air directly into the main cabin, into the cabover sleeping area, and into the bathroom. Our test unit also included an optional integrated wall thermostat that controlled both heating and air conditioning. The Lance 921, wired for 30-amp shorepower, was equipped with a 25-foot shorepower cable, 45-watt inverter, and a tray-mounted, deep-cycle RV/marine battery.
The house battery in our 921 test unit remained charged through one of several ways: when the trucks engine was turning; through shorepower; via the optional genset; or by the optional, roof-mounted, 50-watt solar panel and controller that yielded DC electricity even on a cloudy day. The solar panel can provide a continuous maintenance, or trickle charge, to the coach battery whenever the sun is up.
The LPG-fueled, 3.5 kW Onan genset (optional) was capable of powering all AC electrical equipment onboard simultaneously, including the air conditioner. The DC system powered eight interior lights (including two florescent units), the water pump, LPG- and CO-leak detectors, range-hood power vent and light, bathroom power vent, Fantastic Fan and the furnace. Twin high-power docking lights are located at the rear of the camper, along with exterior lights on both sides of the campers backside. Cabin lighting, inside and out, was good, but we would like to see adjustable spotlights added over the dinette, similar to those at the head of the cab-over bed.
A small exterior compartment door on the right rear of the unit provided access for the gray and black dump valves. The fresh, gray and black holding tank capacities are 33, 13 and 14 gallons, respectively, and the water heater holds another 6 gallons. A systems monitoring panel above the cooktop stove provides fingertip access to data on tank levels and battery condition. Other switches on the panel include those for the water pump, water heater, genset start/stop, range-hood light and hood-vent fan. An optional multispeed Fantastic Fan was also in our test unit.
The cabinetry in the Lance 921 offers raised-panel oak cabinet doors with fingertip positive-catch hardware. Two large galley drawers provide a respectable amount of storage area, and glide in and out on metal guides. A half-height, cedar-lined wardrobe featured an interior light that was operated by the door opening and closing. The pantry came with heavy-gauge-wire sliding trays, providing three adjustable levels of storage. The galley countertop was a dogleg-shaped design that included a double sink at one end (with a wood butcher-block cover) and a three-burner cooktop with oven below, at the other end. The hood and a large microwave oven sits above the cooktop, and the fridge/freezer is located just aft of the dinette and accepts three-way power. We prepared humongous amounts of food for potluck dinners and found the galley to be gracefully accommodating for meal preparation.
Our test unit featured a wet bath. The fiberglass, single-molded unit (including the walls, floor and ceiling) offers a sink, enclosed cabinet and marine-style toilet, which all gets wet during a shower. The sink has hot and cold faucets, and the handheld shower can be turned on and off at the showerhead. A second showerhead is located in a compartment on the outside of the camper perfect for cleaning up after a day at the beach or fishing.
Almost everywhere theres an empty space, Lance has tried to turn it into usable storage. Below one of the dinette bench-seats is a pullout drawer. Below the other is a storage compartment with a door. Accessed from the campers exterior, two more storage compartments occupy the rest of the empty space below the dinette seats. A combination television/VCR is located in an overhead cabinet with a door on each end. One door opens to the cabover bedroom area, the other to the dinette area. You simply spin the television inside the cabinet to face your viewing position.
To reach the cabover bedroom area, the camper provides a fold-down step, along with a permanent upholstered step, that provides easy access to the bed. Lance has utilized every nook and cranny around the cabover for storage, and the AM/FM/CD player is also located upstairs. Two sets of speakers, in the ceiling of the cabover and in the main living area, fill the cabin corner to corner with sound.
For five days and four nights we dry camped while fastened to the flatbed railroad car. Being vigilant about water usage, we were able to ration water and never empty our holding tanks. But whether we were fastened to a flatbed railroad car being pulled through Copper Canyon, driving the back roads of Mexico, cruising the Interstate, or hooked up to all the luxuries while enjoying a five-star RV resort, the Lance 921 made a perfect second honeymoon cottage.