A Hawk in the Arctic

sg1

Adventurer
We drive a 2015 F-150 with a FWC Hawk and just returned from a trip to Northern British Columbia, Yukon and North West Territories. In over a month we drove 10,000 km (6,200 miles), 30% on gravel. The trip took us all the way to Inuvik and we explored a lot off side roads and tracks in the North including the Canol Road. Despite the mostly cold and wet weather it was a fantastic trip with beautiful fall colors.
Although the truck is stock without any mods whatsoever we had no problems and it handled the roads and the mud well. Because of the relatively high payload of the Ford we were fully loaded with all tanks full and everything we (and especially my wife) thought we would need in the arctic still more than 100 lbs. below GVW.
The Hawk had no problems with the rough roads. But unfortunately it did not cope well with the cold and wet conditions. The first 2 weeks temperatures were mostly in the 30s and only occasionally got in the low 40s. It rained almost every day sometimes for hours. It became quite obvious that the Hawk is not designed for these conditions. We had very serious problems with condensation. Every morning we wiped all the wet surfaces and aired the camper. Whenever we were in the camper we ran the hot air heater using about 15 lbs. of propane in the process. It kept the camper reasonably warm but could not contain condensation. I have owned a few Westphalias before and was prepared for and accepted condensation on the soft walls. We have the Arctic Pack and it did nothing to reduce condensation but at least it provided some insulation and kept condensation away from us when we were sleeping in the alcove.
What I was not prepared for was the condensation on the hard walls, the roof of the camper and the floor of the alcove. When I looked a bit closer at the design of the Hawk I discovered that even apart from the soft walls it is essentially not insulated. The lower part is simply made of plywood, the aluminum frame in the upper part and the roof and the door and window frames have no insulation and the windows are single pane. All these areas were cold and moist or even wet.
After about a week the mattress felt very damp. Because it was raining we could not dry it and covered it with tarp to be able to sleep. A few days later we had a few hours of sunshine and we took the mattress out to dry. It was soaking wet on the underside and the tree sides where it touched the aluminum frame. This is not acceptable and the result of some serious design flaws. I own a second overland vehicle which we use in winter to drive the Panamericana. We usually spend more than 5 month in it and sometimes in conditions which are worse than those we encountered with our Hawk. In this other camper we never had condensation problems. This is because this camper is designed for bad weather. I learned that to avoid condensation especially in an alcove all the surfaces near the mattress have to be well insulated and the mattress should never touch an outside wall or floor. There should always be an air gap between outside walls and floor and the mattress to prevent moisture from seeping into the mattress. In the Hawk the mattress lies directly on the floor of the alcove, on three sides it touches the aluminum frame. There is absolutely no air circulation there. The floor is badly insulated if at all and the frame is not insulated. The carpeting on the frame provides no insulation it only stores moisture. When I checked both the floor and especially the frame were wet and very cold. I suspect that in addition to condensation water from the canvass trickles down onto the frame despite all efforts to wipe it dry. Besides it is impossible to really wipe the canvass behind the front panel. The mattress touches these wet surfaces and the foam soaks it up like a sponge. This is the worst possible design and FWC made every mistake they could.
Despite all efforts to dry the Hawk mold developed at the roof. This is only the mold I could see. I don´t even want to know how it looks inside the roof and the walls. As far as I can tell there is no effective vapor barrier in the roof paneling and the foam insulation does not seem to be bonded to the aluminum roof. There is most likely an air gap between the aluminum roof and the foam and condensation on the cold aluminum surface behind the foam. I can only hope that there is no mold. Again poor design.
In the years before we traveled in milder climates. After a cold night or a rainy day we would notice condensation and wipe it off. But after a day or two we would have dry and warm weather and the Hawk would dry out. On this trip we had a long period of lousy weather and it became obvious that the FWC campers are simply not designed for wet and cool conditions. Because they are light and sturdy they are perfect for trips to the Baja or the Moab. No amount of tinkering with Reflectix will make it a good camper for Canada´s North.
I don´t know how I will deal with these problems. I like lightweight pop up campers and I will certainly look at other products. T first glance they don´t seem to be much better or too heavy (Alaskan). An Alaskan style lightweight hard sided pop up build with modern composite materials would be my dream. I don´t think such a camper exists. Maybe I will have to build one. Alternatively I may find a way to insulate the floor of the alcove of my Hawk and provide an air gap between the floor, the frame and the mattress to keep at least our bed dry. Maybe there even is a solution to keep the roof dry. Any ideas would be welcome.
Stefan
 

Rico V

New member
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Stefan. I've been eyeing a future Alaska trip in my Grandby but will take many extra precautions prior to embarking, thanks to your summary. I hope you'll be able to come up with a suitable config for your next trip up.
Rico
 

adam88

Explorer
FWC is and always has been a 3 season camper. It does not handle cold weather well at all, and the propane furnace probably only adds condensation. I know you are aware of this (now) but to be honest I am surprised you didn't know this before hand. Yes, it is totally improperly insulated and it is kind of ridiculous how badly insulated it is, but the type of people using it are in hot climates. An Alaskan Camper would do much better up north, it is designed for cold climates with thick insulation.
 

sg1

Adventurer
We have a Propex forced air furnace not a Wave type catalytic heater. A forced air furnace even if it is propane powered should not add to condensation because it draws the air for combustion from the outside and all the exhaust is emitted to the outside. The whole combustion process has no connection to the air in the camper. That's why we got one.
Stefan
 

NikonRon

Adventurer
Just warming the air of the camper and then 2 people breathing is going to add to the condensation problem. Difficult to insulate a camper that has soft sides.
I look at it as camping, I don't use any heat at all. Ron
 

sg1

Adventurer
This is a great camper. Unfortunately a bit on the pricey side and it needs a flatbed. I have a crew cab short bed half ton truck which I use as my daily driver. Resale value of this type of truck would suffer with a flatbed.
Stefan
 

Clutch

<---Pass
This is a great camper. Unfortunately a bit on the pricey side and it needs a flatbed. I have a crew cab short bed half ton truck which I use as my daily driver. Resale value of this type of truck would suffer with a flatbed.
Stefan
Even in Alberta? Seems like there are more flatbeds running around here down in Idaho, than there are with normal beds.

Might have go with a hard side.
 

digitaldelay

Explorer
Even in Alberta? Seems like there are more flatbeds running around here down in Idaho, than there are with normal beds.
Hardly anyone swaps their box for a flat deck here (except fleets). I always thought that would be a great setup for a lot of guys around here. But no, people would rather carry their two quads or skidoos up on those stupid elevated aluminum platforms.

OP, I have the same truck ('16). Do you have the 2.7 too?

Jason

Sent from my SM-G920W8 using Tapatalk
 
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rangerdogg

Adventurer
We drive a 2015 F-150 with a FWC Hawk and just returned from a trip to Northern British Columbia, Yukon and North West Territories. In over a month we drove 10,000 km (6,200 miles), 30% on gravel. The trip took us all the way to Inuvik and we explored a lot off side roads and tracks in the North including the Canol Road. Despite the mostly cold and wet weather it was a fantastic trip with beautiful fall colors.
Although the truck is stock without any mods whatsoever we had no problems and it handled the roads and the mud well. Because of the relatively high payload of the Ford we were fully loaded with all tanks full and everything we (and especially my wife) thought we would need in the arctic still more than 100 lbs. below GVW.
The Hawk had no problems with the rough roads. But unfortunately it did not cope well with the cold and wet conditions. The first 2 weeks temperatures were mostly in the 30s and only occasionally got in the low 40s. It rained almost every day sometimes for hours. It became quite obvious that the Hawk is not designed for these conditions. We had very serious problems with condensation. Every morning we wiped all the wet surfaces and aired the camper. Whenever we were in the camper we ran the hot air heater using about 15 lbs. of propane in the process. It kept the camper reasonably warm but could not contain condensation. I have owned a few Westphalias before and was prepared for and accepted condensation on the soft walls. We have the Arctic Pack and it did nothing to reduce condensation but at least it provided some insulation and kept condensation away from us when we were sleeping in the alcove.
What I was not prepared for was the condensation on the hard walls, the roof of the camper and the floor of the alcove. When I looked a bit closer at the design of the Hawk I discovered that even apart from the soft walls it is essentially not insulated. The lower part is simply made of plywood, the aluminum frame in the upper part and the roof and the door and window frames have no insulation and the windows are single pane. All these areas were cold and moist or even wet.
After about a week the mattress felt very damp. Because it was raining we could not dry it and covered it with tarp to be able to sleep. A few days later we had a few hours of sunshine and we took the mattress out to dry. It was soaking wet on the underside and the tree sides where it touched the aluminum frame. This is not acceptable and the result of some serious design flaws. I own a second overland vehicle which we use in winter to drive the Panamericana. We usually spend more than 5 month in it and sometimes in conditions which are worse than those we encountered with our Hawk. In this other camper we never had condensation problems. This is because this camper is designed for bad weather. I learned that to avoid condensation especially in an alcove all the surfaces near the mattress have to be well insulated and the mattress should never touch an outside wall or floor. There should always be an air gap between outside walls and floor and the mattress to prevent moisture from seeping into the mattress. In the Hawk the mattress lies directly on the floor of the alcove, on three sides it touches the aluminum frame. There is absolutely no air circulation there. The floor is badly insulated if at all and the frame is not insulated. The carpeting on the frame provides no insulation it only stores moisture. When I checked both the floor and especially the frame were wet and very cold. I suspect that in addition to condensation water from the canvass trickles down onto the frame despite all efforts to wipe it dry. Besides it is impossible to really wipe the canvass behind the front panel. The mattress touches these wet surfaces and the foam soaks it up like a sponge. This is the worst possible design and FWC made every mistake they could.
Despite all efforts to dry the Hawk mold developed at the roof. This is only the mold I could see. I don´t even want to know how it looks inside the roof and the walls. As far as I can tell there is no effective vapor barrier in the roof paneling and the foam insulation does not seem to be bonded to the aluminum roof. There is most likely an air gap between the aluminum roof and the foam and condensation on the cold aluminum surface behind the foam. I can only hope that there is no mold. Again poor design.
In the years before we traveled in milder climates. After a cold night or a rainy day we would notice condensation and wipe it off. But after a day or two we would have dry and warm weather and the Hawk would dry out. On this trip we had a long period of lousy weather and it became obvious that the FWC campers are simply not designed for wet and cool conditions. Because they are light and sturdy they are perfect for trips to the Baja or the Moab. No amount of tinkering with Reflectix will make it a good camper for Canada´s North.
I don´t know how I will deal with these problems. I like lightweight pop up campers and I will certainly look at other products. T first glance they don´t seem to be much better or too heavy (Alaskan). An Alaskan style lightweight hard sided pop up build with modern composite materials would be my dream. I don´t think such a camper exists. Maybe I will have to build one. Alternatively I may find a way to insulate the floor of the alcove of my Hawk and provide an air gap between the floor, the frame and the mattress to keep at least our bed dry. Maybe there even is a solution to keep the roof dry. Any ideas would be welcome.
Stefan
Why not check into northstar truck campers. They have a pop top and have a 4 season package like some other truck camper and are made very well. I love my hawk but it's not made for that from my searching and reading for years. And there's a few other that can build you what you want . Good luck I'm sure you could sell it
 

Clutch

<---Pass
Hardly anyone swaps their box for a flat deck here (except fleets). I always thought that would be a great setup for a lot of guys around here. But no, people would rather carry their two quads or skidoos up on those stupid elevated aluminum platforms.

OP, I have the same truck ('16). Do you have the 2.7 too?

Jason

Sent from my SM-G920W8 using Tapatalk
I do live in the heart of the farm country here, that is probably why I see a lot. Those high center of gravity sled racks are popular too, guess those are for guys who don't know how to drive with a trailer....

Don't have to get rid of the bed, just put it back on when it is time to sell.
 

TacomaAustin

Observer
It'll eat up propane while using a forced air heater, but if you crack open one of the access doors for the turnbuckles and open the roof vent a bit - you'll increase the circulation of air within the camper. This should reduce some of the condensation that you experienced.

You may also want to add anti-condensation mats under the mattress in the cab overhang area of the sleeping alcove. It's just a small air space, but it keeps the mattress from coming in contact with the damp floor of the overhang.

Someone mentioned a Propex heater. On that heater, it's possible to duct in outside air and then leave only the roof vent open a bit - which will prevent you from heating what is essentially recirculated air.
 

Roger M.

Adventurer
The OP's post has opened my eyes in terms of FWC's ability to provide a comfortable camping experience in other than a warm, dry environment.
Although though having researched the crap out of the Granby, and knowing condensation was a reality, the amount of condensation highlighted in sg1's post is enough for me to give serious reconsideration to my FWC plans.

A most informative post - one that has highlighted the reality of a soft-sided AND uninsulated camper.
 

fireball

Explorer
I would like to know what heater unit they were using and what they were doing for ventilation at the time. Also what temp you were trying to achieve inside the camper?

We just got our used Hawk a few months ago so haven't done any cold-weather camping in it yet. I've read on Wanderthewest that some folks have had good luck putting the Reflectix insulation under the bed - keeps the mattress and bed area warmer and serves as a vapor barrier.
 
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