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Old 02-12-2012, 10:37 PM   #1
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Chatel, Lance, Arctic Fox or Eagle Cap?

I am planning to buy a truck camper. In my search I limited my scope to those dealers that have a dealer in my state, or with one exception, the next state. I have spent a lot of time on this and even though I am a newbie and never owned a truck camper ( or any RV for that matter) I am pretty far up the learning curve. I know all about the weight situations and the low ball numbers that the manufacturers put out there. I am going with a Chevy 3500 Dually with the diesel and automatic trans.On the camper end, I have narrowed the search to four brands…. The Chatel TS116 (triple slide with the 72 inch sofa), a Lance, a Arctic Fox and possibly an Eagle Cap with the sofa….. which is basically the same floor plan as the Chatel.
I am looking at the larger 10 to 11 foot Lance/AF with a dry bath. What I am looking for is any insight that any of you may have on the pros and cons of any of these makes. I know, for instance that Eagle Cap has died in Bankruptcy twice and now has a third set of owners without many of the old people around. That is a problem I admit. But I am really interested in any insight about the pros and cons of one make over the other. One area of interest I have is the construction techniques……is there any one that is better then the others and why? How about problems on the road and getting around? I know these are all huge.....And since I have never lived in one before, will the larger floor space of the Chatel and EC really make a difference if you live in the thing for any period of time? I guess you can get use to anything, right? I will be using the truck camper on 2 to 3 months “missions” and will be going out maybe twice a year. It is just me and the dog so I could function in any of these really without any problem. But (aside from the pricing) are there any advantages that one make has over the other? I will be traveling in the US and Canada. Also what are your thoughts on solar panels. These seem to be a terrible waste of money since you have a generator on board. Do people buy these just to have a low amp charge to keep the batteries up when the camper is sitting there in storage, or are they really worth while having for some other reason? chris.castlercock@yahoo.com
Chris in Phoenix
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Old 02-13-2012, 08:47 AM   #2
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We had an Eagle Cap that we just sold last month. It was made by the second owners of the company in La Grande, Oregon. They were great in supporting their customers (we had a few things repaired/changed at the factory)!

When the company was sold and moved to Yakima, Washington, we called them about the table top that we needed to have replaced because it had become warped. They absolutely refused to do anything to help us...said they only manufactured the unit, but they weren't a repair center. Granted, we had a camper that they didn't build, so maybe their attitude would be different for people buying THEIR Eagle Caps, but I'd be leery about buying an Eagle Cap now for fear that we wouldn't get any factory support. There is an Eagle Cap Owner's forum which you can Google (should be the first item)...go there and ask if anyone has bought an Eagle Cap made by the new owners and how their factory support service has been.

We've never been impressed with the Lance campers, and I've never heard of Chatel. If we were going to buy another camper, we'd probably go with Arctic Fox.
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Old 02-13-2012, 10:44 AM   #3
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Earl

Thanks for your response. I actually have already been to the EC owners forum and have seen your post there about the table problem. EC is the one manufacturer that did not have a dealer in my state of Arizona, the nearest one being in Texas, Princess Campers. I actually called them about an EC with a sofa that they had for sale and asked them questions about the cost of the unit (pricing was not listed on their website) with the options that I was looking at. They took my phone number and email, but i never heard a single peep out of them. I guess if they won't call you back when you are thinking about buying one of them, the chances of them calling you back with ANY type of problem are going to be zero. I had pretty much crossed them off my list anyway, but am still open to hearing more about them. Chatel calls themselves the "Rols Royce" of campers, and the price differential is inline with that analogy. I called the factory and talked to the engineer (which I am too) about structural design of the camper and he designed the structure along the same lines I would have gone if I was building one. For one thing they did a stress deflection test by imposing adverse loads on the compeleted structure and measuring deflections. The maximum deflection on the door to the basement storage was only 1/8 inch. Which means that the door did not bind. On a test they did on some other brand the deflection was over an inch......So anyway I am waiting to see what information people that have owned some of these campers have to say, but the level of response is less then I would have thought. I guess you could take that as an indication that people generally have a limited experience with the one make of camper that they have and can not compare it to other makes, and that they are pretty much content with the one that they have.
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Old 02-13-2012, 02:50 PM   #4
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This is kind of a loaded question, sort of like asking Which is better Ford or Chevy..... I think most people have heard good and bad about all of the above brands. I have an arctic fox and think it is a good camper, I haven't noticed too many bad things about it except that as you go thru it you start to notice little issues about the quality put in when building it, screw holes stripped and things like that. Now I am a little more fussy than most people, but hey I am the guy that paid for it. I have called their factory a couple of times and have gotten great service by them.

I also looked at eagle cap, adventurer and host when shopping. They all seem to be great campers, the one thing I did like about eagle cap at the time I was shopping was the nose cap, the way the designed it, it is less likely to develop leaks. I still like their design. But since them moving to Yakima, I would now think twice about that camper due to the lack of factory support that I have read about. I do know that one of the main guys who provided great support when they were in Oregon has moved to Chalet and is now working with them, hopefully he will continue that support over there. Host also makes a great camper but is a bit higher in price and less of a dealer network.

Solar Panels are more geared towards those of us that go off the grid. They man advantage is not having to fire up the generator every day to recharge the batteries. The solar panels if designed right based on usage will maintain a charge to extend your stay. If you are going to be staying in places where there are hookups then I think it would be an unnecessary cost, not to mention that the standard solar panels that they usual sell would probably not meet a true boondockers needs. You are better off going to a specialty store and getting a custom designed system. Slide outs are a huge bonus, I have been in non slide campers and those with. If you plan on doing an extended trips in it, you will be glad you got a slide camper. You might also check the NATCOA website, that sight is gear only towards truck campers, arctic fox also has a owners website as well which you can google. Just remember sometimes people have had bad experience with campers but I dont think they are all the manufactures faults. Just like anything else, if you dont take care of it things will fail and go wrong.
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Old 02-16-2012, 07:51 PM   #5
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I cannot speak of any camper other than Lance. I've owned two Lance campers and currently own a 2006 Max 1191 with side entrence, one slide and dry bath. I cannot believe there is a better made camper on the market. I've also personally visited the Lance factory in Lancaster, CA, twice, and seen their manufacturing process. You cannot beat Lance customer service (at factory level). I have found, however, that the quality of service at some Lance dealerships varies greatly. Overall, I do not believe you can beat a Lance.
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Old 02-16-2012, 08:09 PM   #6
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Calster,

I think there is a lot more to think about and consider than your analysis so far. For example how close or far away is the factory? Is the factory receptive to customers bringing the camper to them for repairs? What does the camper weigh, water capacities, propane capacities, side door or rear door, slides or not, and wet bath or dry bath. As you are an engineer I think you would understand the merits of the Lance construction at the corners. Aluminum will crack at the corners as that is where the stresses end up at the welds. The Lance lock process eliminates that possiblilty as it is not a continuous weld in the corners. Aluminum will crack someday, always after the warranty is over, and perhaps not for 15-20 years but the normal stresses that never were an issue with wood are always present in aluminum. Then it becomes an expensive repair. Many manufacturers never wanted to go aluminum but felt that they had to to stay competitive. Time will tell if it was a good move. Aluminum is also not necessarily lighter than wood. Look at the Northern Lite campers as they are clamshell and will likely last a lifetime. My suggestion is to take a real good look at construction techniques and decide what will work for you. If it was me it would be between Lance 1191 side door, dry bath, tent option and Arctic Fox dry bath 1150. Both will squat your truck and you most likely will add air bags, more suspension stuff, shocks, to handle the load. Lance is the only manufacture that sells struts and recommends them for stability connected between the cabover and truck. If you can live without a slide out the Northern Lite would be my first choice hands down.

Nobody purchases a car and expects to have to take it back to the factory should the dealer not be able to fix it, or the dealer will not get enough reimbursement for warranty so they won't fix it; but with an RV, it is often that the fix gets resolved at the factory level, not the dealer level. So, I would carefully think through the distance to factory. Imagine a Toyota Prius owner taking the car back to Japan to get something fixed! Buying an RV is not like buying a car; with a car purchase under warranty the dealer fixes the issue. With a truck camper and many other types of RV's the factory's warranty arm only reaches to the actual frame and body construction, not necessarily components. If your car AC craps out the dealer fixes it, if your RV refer craps out, it sometimes is not the factory responsiblity as they did not make the refer, only installed it. For that reason the dealer is very important. A good dealer can make the experience good for you and a bad dealer can make it a nightmare. If you can find a good dealer use them. Good luck.
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Old 02-22-2012, 03:49 PM   #7
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Hi everyone.I`m new here but not new to camping. Just had to chime in on this post.Chalet is the manufacturer not chatel a simple misspelling error made by calster. No wonder others didn`t recognize the name.LOL I was recently at a camping show in Springfield,Ma as an exhibitor as I work for Danforth Bay Camping Resort. My wife and I fell in love with the Chalet campers they seem to be very well built,very roomy and well insulated,but very pricey. The TS -116 was $50k and that was the show price.Oh well maybe someday.
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Old 02-24-2012, 05:56 PM   #8
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A very timely post, as I am actually in the middle of the same decision making process. I would suggest that calster check his capacity of his truck. Based on my research EVERY ONE of those campers is over the capacity of a one ton dually (granted, I have only been checking quad cab capacities) We have to tow a boat so our plan is to get a Dodge 5500 and a custom box. If anyone has information that would indicate I am incorrect in the weights capacities please let me know. I am quite interested in the Chalet as well, but no dealers in Alberta. I have looked at a 10 year old Artic fox 1050 and was impressed with how it held up, but the Artic fox is the only one that does not have a side entry, and that seems to be a non negociable for us.
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Old 02-25-2012, 10:48 AM   #9
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A very timely post, as I am actually in the middle of the same decision making process. I would suggest that calster check his capacity of his truck. Based on my research EVERY ONE of those campers is over the capacity of a one ton dually (granted, I have only been checking quad cab capacities) We have to tow a boat so our plan is to get a Dodge 5500 and a custom box. If anyone has information that would indicate I am incorrect in the weights capacities please let me know. I am quite interested in the Chalet as well, but no dealers in Alberta. I have looked at a 10 year old Artic fox 1050 and was impressed with how it held up, but the Artic fox is the only one that does not have a side entry, and that seems to be a non negociable for us.

Xtreme,

Please take this as I am providing it. I have no interest in being argumentative just some observations. And I see you are in Canada all the rules might be different than the US. Having said that most dealers in the US will insist the customer puts the Lance 1181/1191 or AF 1140/1150 on a one ton dually. These campers are a little more than 3000 pounds without any options and often more like 4000 pounds or more with normal options like AC, jacks, generators, value packages, etc. Then add water and 500 pounds of stuff and the camper is 4500-5000 pounds.

A Dodge one ton dually has a 9350 pound rear axle and the dually will support over 12000 pounds rear tire capacity. The truck weighs about 7800 empty and has a gross of around 12,200 and a paper number payload of approximately 4400 pounds. In the US GVWR is essentially a function of the ability of the truck to stop with the truck weighing at a certain load. It is not the amount the truck can be loaded to and weigh before it is overloaded or loaded beyond capacity. Therefore, many with the larger campers look at the axle and tire/wheel capacities and go from there. With a 9350 pound rear axle capacity and realizing that a cabover puts little or no weight on the front axle almost all the camper weight is over the rear axle. Empty, the truck's weight is biased to the front axle, not equal among axles so the preponderance of new camper weight can be added to the rear axle without adding a lot to the front axle already carrying the heavy diesel engine. However, there is excess capacity, albeit not that much, with the front axle as it is not maxed out with the truck empty. Adding the front and rear axle capacity together the truck can weigh over 14,000 pounds, or about 2000 more than the GVWR. This allows for a camper load of approximately 6000 pounds without violating any axle, wheel or tire capacities. You will likely want to use air bags, spring suspension overload bumpers, perhaps an aftermarket sway bar and upgraded shocks. Many carry these campers on one tons with no issues at all.

With a heavy camper will the truck be over the paper GVWR and therefore payload numbers from the factory? Probably yes. Is it over the capacity of the truck's components to carry the camper, probably not.

Obviously if you choose to haul with a 450/550 or 4500/5500 so much the better. And as I indicated, Canada may be different in how 'capacity' is considered.
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Old 02-26-2012, 07:14 PM   #10
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Xtreme,

Please take this as I am providing it. I have no interest in being argumentative just some observations. And I see you are in Canada all the rules might be different than the US. Having said that most dealers in the US will insist the customer puts the Lance 1181/1191 or AF 1140/1150 on a one ton dually. These campers are a little more than 3000 pounds without any options and often more like 4000 pounds or more with normal options like AC, jacks, generators, value packages, etc. Then add water and 500 pounds of stuff and the camper is 4500-5000 pounds.

A Dodge one ton dually has a 9350 pound rear axle and the dually will support over 12000 pounds rear tire capacity. The truck weighs about 7800 empty and has a gross of around 12,200 and a paper number payload of approximately 4400 pounds. In the US GVWR is essentially a function of the ability of the truck to stop with the truck weighing at a certain load. It is not the amount the truck can be loaded to and weigh before it is overloaded or loaded beyond capacity. Therefore, many with the larger campers look at the axle and tire/wheel capacities and go from there. With a 9350 pound rear axle capacity and realizing that a cabover puts little or no weight on the front axle almost all the camper weight is over the rear axle. Empty, the truck's weight is biased to the front axle, not equal among axles so the preponderance of new camper weight can be added to the rear axle without adding a lot to the front axle already carrying the heavy diesel engine. However, there is excess capacity, albeit not that much, with the front axle as it is not maxed out with the truck empty. Adding the front and rear axle capacity together the truck can weigh over 14,000 pounds, or about 2000 more than the GVWR. This allows for a camper load of approximately 6000 pounds without violating any axle, wheel or tire capacities. You will likely want to use air bags, spring suspension overload bumpers, perhaps an aftermarket sway bar and upgraded shocks. Many carry these campers on one tons with no issues at all.

With a heavy camper will the truck be over the paper GVWR and therefore payload numbers from the factory? Probably yes. Is it over the capacity of the truck's components to carry the camper, probably not.

Obviously if you choose to haul with a 450/550 or 4500/5500 so much the better. And as I indicated, Canada may be different in how 'capacity' is considered.
Last fall I used your theory when I hauled some yard bricks home from Home Depot(about 10 mi). They weighed about 5K which made my GVW about 13K . I drove no more than 45 ( which was all I was comfortable with). My load was all loaded within the 8' box and even with the sides. There was a little less weight to the back. I sure wouldn't put a camper that heavy on it. I have gone over the 11500GVWR with our 8 1/2" camper. I will admit I had some extra weight under the camper but wasn't that much.
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Old 02-26-2012, 07:33 PM   #11
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Last fall I used your theory when I hauled some yard bricks home from Home Depot(about 10 mi). They weighed about 5K which made my GVW about 13K . I drove no more than 45 ( which was all I was comfortable with). My load was all loaded within the 8' box and even with the sides. There was a little less weight to the back. I sure wouldn't put a camper that heavy on it. I have gone over the 11500GVWR with our 8 1/2" camper. I will admit I had some extra weight under the camper but wasn't that much.

I have hauled many miles a 4000 pound camper on my truck. In stock configuration it was acceptable but not perfect. With mods especially air bags and overload suspension bumpers it handled it just fine (and I am a picky person about handling). My gross weight rating is 12,200 and at 4000 pounds I was still under gross by a few pounds with three adults in the truck. I think I could go up to 5000 pounds before I felt it was beginning to degrade the truck's performance. One thing that is important to remember is that the truck's brakes stop the truck and camper unlike trailers or fifth wheels that also provide braking. It is very important to allow for the extra room for the truck's brakes to do the job. The stopping difference between empty and loaded with a camper is noticable.

At 13,000 pounds you were 1500 pounds over your gross and you did not share whether you had a dually for stability or not. With a 5000 pound camper on a truck with a gross of 12200 the total would be only about 600 pounds over gross (calculated at an approximate empty weight of 7800 and gross of 12,200). However, I would not want much trailer tongue weight with that heavy of a camper. Probably a 450/4500 or greater would be better for both trailer towing and hauling the camper.
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Old 03-23-2012, 09:44 PM   #12
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Get the smallest camper you can live in, not the biggest. With truck campers bigger is not always better, you want to maintain driveability, think mountain roads, maneuvering, parking lots and campsites, loading off and on, maybe towing something, car, trailer, boat. I saw a huge Lance 11' with a side entry at an RV show, it was sold, boy was it nice inside. I later saw it loaded on a 350 Ford dually, that camper overpowered that poor Ford, looked like a turtle loaded on an ant.
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Old 03-28-2012, 09:54 AM   #13
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We had a 2000 Arctic Fox 1150 (4000#) on a 2002 Chev 3500 dually, 4 door cab with D/A. Was probably 500 to 1000# overweight. It drove OK. Rear did not sag much. We sold it and went to a class A. Needed more room.

I think a lighter camper with the manufacturer close to your casa would be the way to go.
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Old 04-21-2012, 11:47 AM   #14
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Get the smallest camper you can live in, not the biggest. With truck campers bigger is not always better, you want to maintain driveability, think mountain roads, maneuvering, parking lots and campsites, loading off and on, maybe towing something, car, trailer, boat.

This guy is 100% correct!!!!
The minute you go nuts and go BIG the fun will go away. Carrying that behemoth really takes away from the experience. I know my opinion doesn't mean crap on the website, but I bet if many of these guys could do it all over gain, they would do it differently. But of course, the world is full of followers and would be embarrassed to admit they over spent.

You can have just as much fun without all the crap coming with you.
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