jefe's hardside camper hauler


West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
At the moment I'm a persona non grata in Klubb XTC. For the last 3 months and the first time in 18 years Jeanie and i have no camper. There is definitely something missing in our lives but this will change next month when we pick up our 2020 Northstar Laredo SC at the factory in Iowa ordered with just the items we wanted: no frills or bling.: Sub Zero insulation package. Only tried and true appliances with a stable track record with pairs of propane tanks and batteries. The 'NO list' is long. No TV; air conditioner; microwave; oven; awnings; backup camera. We will stay at a nearby campground for a couple days working every system and appliance to make sure the 'period of adjustment' is close by the factory before we start our long trek as leaf peepers to take in the N.E. color palate. I will make a full report after the trip.

But this thread is about the truck. Below is an edited list of upgrades we have done to our 2001 Dodge CTD specifically to haul our hardside camper and survive any season or road condition.
In 2001 I bought a new 2001.5 (the ".5" was the addition of rear disc brakes) Dodge 2500 4x4 High Output Cummins Turbo Diesel, Camper Package, essentially the SRW 1-ton of the time, NV5600 NV241HD (wide chain to reduce the negative effects of shock loading when snow plowing), short bed (6-1/2 feet), 3 inch front coil spring spacer lift. Transmission ratios: 5.63/3.38/2.04/1.39/1.00/0.73/5.63R At 27% overdrive, this has the tallest top gear of any of the 6-speed manuals.

TGC Top Gun Customz 2000-2002 Dodge Ram Control arms for 2500/3500 4x4 for 6” of lift but installed on a 3” lift; front coil spring spacers placing the front axle 1-1/2 inches forward.

4” exhaust system with resonator delete. No smog reducing add-ons, just a pipe and and a more free flowing muffler.

Vulcan Big line Pusher Pump Kit relocating it to frame in front of fuel tank.

upgrade lift/transfer pump and fuel tank sending unit

Low fuel pressure alarm (idiot light goes on below 5 pounds fuel pressure) I still run the original VP44 injector pump.

K&N Filtercharger PN 33-2056 /2006

short tube on turbo waste gate to engage turbo at a lower RPM

SpynTec Dodge Dana 60 Hub Conversion Kit, inner spindle bearing kit, new Dana 70 spindles, new Timken bearings, hub seals, Dana 70, 35 spline outer stub shafts, Mile Marker Dana 70 Lockout hub assy, factory ABS sensors and studs. Front axle disconnect (CAD) delete. Front unit bearing delete. Add front 35 spline Eaton Detroit True Trac torque biasing, gear driven limited slip, and 4.10:1 gears.

Dana 70 Mosier 35 spline front long and short front axle shafts. Stock 32 spline axles deleted.

Dana 80-35 spline rear axle with Eaton Detroit True Trac torque biasing, gear driven limited slip with 4.10:1 gears.

8 leaf rear springs: 3 upper secondaries, 1helper spring in stock spring pack. Stable Loads. Rancho 9K adjustable shocks. This translates to a 3" loaded lift with the loaded camper on.

GEN 4 tie rod, drag link, TRE’s, and pitman arm. steering stabilizer. Upgrade steering box and pump.

10” x 16” ‘Power Wagon’ Stockton steel super single rear wheels (1/2” plate center hubs) 4-1/2” B.S. Stupid high load rating.

7-1/2” x 16” steel front wheels. 6.25” B.S. unadjustable 4WP stiff shocks front. With a load or not, the front axle weight does not change appreciably.

35 inch Cooper AT3's in a 315/75 R16 size, load range E: 3860 pounds. Lots of sidewall for deflating on sand.

New factory clutch, T.O. bearing, pilot and rear main seal

Warn Transformer winch carrier, Warn #30092 transformer grill guard with added tubing and radiator saver. Fairlead #69604. Warn #62027 foot forward winch mount. Warn 15K pound winch. Camper jacks and rear seat removed for long distance travel. New sound deadening pad under the hood.

12 ton hydraulic jack with jack board that will fit under the axle on the side with a flat. Lots of recovery equipment. On board air and ‘Safety Seal’ , on-wheel tire plug kit. Spare hoses and belts. Receiver hitch square tubes front and rear. Aluminum rack when needed. Fits front or rear. In the pic below the rear end drops about 3 inches to level with the camper on engaging the overloads and Stable Loads.

Those fender lips are to protect the wooden frame camper from moisture as much as possible.

The rear spring pack:
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West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
We've been out 21 days on our Leaf Peeper Tour of the North East. We moteled it until we picked up the new Northstar. We stayed at friends homes; National Forest campgrounds; thumb_DSCN2153_1024.jpgthumb_DSCN2184_1024.jpgstate park campgrounds; private campgrounds; boondocked; stealth camped; and find ourselves today in North Woodstock-Lincoln New Hampshire in the White Mountains. The color was ablaze today in full sun.

We're slowly turning the corner and gradually heading back west through Chicago; on up to the Black Hills; down to I-70 for a trip over the Rockies; and back home via our favorite route, the loneliest road in America, Hwy 50 across Nevada. These pix are on the day and day after we picked the camper up. Note no awnings; no AC; no rear door window. When we get home the electric jax come off. Our handy Little Giant 4-step stairs are just the right height. So far we've been in CA, NV, UT, WY, NE, IA, MN, ND, WI, MI, Ottawa Can, NY, VT, and NH, and been on the shores of 5 Great Lakes searching for color.


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Renaissance Redneck
I’m thinking it’s staying on the truck full time, so pulling the jacks gives more clearance, and keeps them like brand new. I’m more confused about the lack of rear window and awnings. I boondock a lot, and want to be able to see who/what is lurking out behind my door.


West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
Yes, it's staying on the truck full time now. We chose to have no back window for privacy and insulation reasons. Awnings will just be ripped off by passing trees or rocks. This model is only 7 feet wide; exactly the same as our old Lance 165-s. The jax are Happy Jac's newest, sleekest, electric with a very long, square tube extension that will remotely raise the box from very near the ground to 48 inches up. Together, they weigh an estimated 180 pounds, so leaving them at home will help with air flow, side mirror visibility and lighten the load. They also contribute to sway even with my overbuilt suspension. I never had a woe with sway with the Jack-less Lance.
I'll give a complete assessment of the new camper when we get off the road in a few weeks.
Just a few amenities that we deemed important. Some are stock; some are choices. Rex @ Northstar bent over backwards to address our needs and wants.
*Dometic 2 burner stove top with auto start ignition, hinged glass cover and iron grate for more counter space when you need it.
*glass top stainless steel sink with drainboard, silverware drying rack, and cutting board that all fit together under the cover, with a home style gooseneck wand. Closed, the glass top offers more counter space.
*a quiet heater with thermostat and rotatable output fins.
*Euro View dual pane convex windows with latches to open out in 3 positions. The slick full window shade latches up, and the tight bug screen pulls down. All windows are this way allowing no light to leak out or in; or wide open with no screens; or partially open with screens, etc. These would be great in AK during June as the sun almost never sets. Rex has the exclusive rights to these in the U.S.
*Dometic 3.8 cu. ft. compressor fridge that runs completely on 320 watts of solar and 2, group 27 AGM storage batteries. It is approaching silent.
*The pair of 160 watt solar panels take up a lot of the roof: one crossways, and the other front to rear.
*Insulation upgrade with added foil faced both sides block foam insulation, both walls and roof. Rex calls this the 'sub-zero' insulation package and also helps with the rigidity of the structure's shear.
*Permanent wrap around rear for short beds with a pair of generous storage boxes.
*Dually swing out brackets for 3 inch extensions.
*Snap cover for standard exit vent.
*The propane compartment will hold 2-30 pound bottles of prop. If not using both, there is a lot of storage there. So you can use one bottle or the other, or both if you are that remote or in deep winter.
*41 gallon fresh water water tank placed down and well forward.
*I brought my own, brand new HappyJac tie downs and turnbuckles as they are completely out of the way of passing bushes and rocks.
*Thetford cassette toilet. Jeanie had some resistance to this, but i promised her she would not ever have to worry about the black tank and hose. I'm the one dauning the rubber gloves. We have gotten used to it already, taking any opportunity to dump the 5-gallon tank. It is a lot easier to deal with than a dedicated black tank.
*3 rooftop vents: a single hand crank, tried and true in the center for exhausting hot, wet air; a rear mounted Fantastic Fan with a rain resisting hood which can now be locked into any position while traveling. It has a very quiet and air replacing speed. How could that be? In the front over the sleeping area, we opted for the standard escape hatch with cover after hearing about woes with the new Euro hatch.
*No rear bumper.
*No stairs. I have a couple sets of steps and because of the lift and larger tires, they don't work very well, even after considerable revising. Our 4-step Little Giant (with the hoop removed) hangs on the camper ladder and is VERY stable. Once we get home I'll work on a new system.
Because of all the items we deleted or did not want, the result is the most storage space I could ever imagine. The space where the TV, microwave oven, oven, and larger appliances would have gone are now storage or flat serving area. After 18 years with the Lance, we knew we needed a lot of storage for longer trips like we are currently on. Remember, most of the TC's we inspected had lots of bling, but approaching zero storage. All the drawers have the push button press and lock feature. The windows are all Euro View double pane with argon gas or some such in between. It is very quiet in there. The Lagun table is the most space increasing and flexible we've seen. The Queen, N-S bed with a nice mattress. There are 14-LED lights inside the camper. Every possible angle can be illuminated including inside the closet. The bathroom is molded fiberglass with enough room for me to stand and shower with the removal of a false floor.
In short, we are thrilled with the Northstar Laredo SC. The fit and finish is superlative. As Rex said, "This is a very tight unit." The caulking guy should be employee of the month it's so perfect. I agree as there are no passing breezes in there, unless they are man-made. I'll go into a couple of the not-so-good features and why down the road. Below is a full frontal shot showing how narrow the TC is. The widest points are the mirrors (which we turn in to avoid rocks and trees) and the fender lips. Once those outrigger Jacks are off it will be even narrower.
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Active member
there are a lot of lessons here for me to learn as i do my own build, and your experience reinforces many of the things i had been considering not having to save weight and make more space, and I especially like the freestanding steps idea as more flexible than fixed ones. Definitely looking forward to hearing some of the negatives and any ideas you have for mitigating them.

We were in New England for the fall colours three years ago - its beautiful.


White Turtle Adventures
Nice looking rig!!!

I was in the same place as you with wanting to remove the jacks as I never took my camper off. Had the tools out several times to do that. Never did and glad numerous times I didn't. Was nice to drop the jacks in the wind or when I wanted a solid camper to walk in when in the same place for a few days. Was nice to help take some weight off the wheels for repairs and once when I had troubles I knew I could drop the camper off the truck for servicing. I did raise the jacks up for more ground clearance and was happy for that as well.


West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
Mike, with 8 leaves ( 3 upper overloads, 5 in main packs including a 2K pound helper spring)DSC_0281_zpsxzccc5r5.JPG; stable loads; anti sway bar; Rancho 9K shocks on the rear axle there is no need to drop the jax. I think using the jacks to lift the truck even a little bit is a bad idea. The wooden frame/composite structure is just not made for weight lifting. Certainly screw jacks will have a short life by over pressing the screws, gears, and bearings. No matter how high you lift the jacks, they will be manhandled where we go. A pic of our old LanceLite 165-s going over a rock pile at Mengel Pass in Death Valley. I did bend my rear driveshaft going over the rocks. My brother John behind caved in his quarter panel trying to get around the corner his is in right where a jack would be connected if he did not leave them at home. I did drag both pigs going over this pile. If you never get close to this predicament, then leaving the jacks on is a fine idea.


West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
A pass side shot last week of the new Northstar in a camping spot at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois: and some interior pix. Compare the NS Laredo SC to the Lance 165-s in terms of size. They have the same footprint. We just arrived home on the west slope of the northern Sierra Nevada after 8320 miles and almost 5 weeks on the road in the white brick. It is a pleasure to travel in this well thought out, custom made truck camper. My only observation is that it is about 600 pounds heavier than our old Lance which is totally eclipsed by the great attention to detail, fit and finish.


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West slope, N. Ser. Nev.
Regcab, Mike @truckcamperadventure is sponsoring a no admission charge truck camper boondock near Quartzsite AZ this Feb. There are currently 43 TC's enrolled out of 50 slots. Since you are close, this could be you and I could finally get to meet you.
is the announcement. The hard-core trip takes place right after the meet over the Bradshaw Trail in CA. Not as many signed up for this one.
This expo forum is pretty much dead and TC Adventure is on the upswing with a lot of pertinent, well written articles and trip reports.
The Nstar is 600 pounds heavier than my old Lance 165-s and does have a lot more porposing without the camper struts. Since I'm only 6 feet tall, no headroom problem with the Nstar.


Renaissance Redneck
Hmmm. Quartzite in February you say... I do need some new striped socks and other random weird crap. Might have to make a drive south.

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Hey Jefe - Great to see your new camper, looks great and a fun journey to break it in besides! Enjoy your new camper and say hi to Jeani for me!