June 15, 2022
BY BEAU BECRAFT
Pres and Janice Meyers have covered countless miles as dedicated campers and outdoor enthusiasts over the years. Many of those miles were spent accompanied by a Knapheide Service Body that served as the foundation for their Alaskan 10-foot cabover camper.
Janice informs us that Pres grew up loving to backpack and subsequently introduced her to camping when they were married 46 years ago. Throughout those 46 years of marriage, the couple has experienced all the outdoors have to offer, including backpacking in the Sierra Nevadas, tent camping with their three children, sleeping in the back of a pickup, and now enjoying their second truck camper.
Their first truck camper, however, was a 2004 Ford F350 the couple found in Missouri after a lengthy search.
“We spent three years researching and dreaming about buying either a camping van or truck camper,” Janice recalls. “One day, while discouraged looking for a used camper [that met our criteria], I decided to call the Alaskan HQ to see if they had any new listings even though I had just checked their website ads.”
Bryan Wheat, owner of the company, answered Janice’s call and informed her of a brand new listing that he was working on posting.
“My heart skipped a beat and I asked for the contact number,” Janice says. “I immediately called the seller, who exclaimed that I was the first person to inquire and was amazed as they had only just given Bryan the details of the ad.”
Pres and Janice were delighted to learn that the seller was parting with the truck as a complete unit including the Knapheide Service Body and the camper that would meet their needs and wants for their camping excursions.
“The utility truck meant having the spare tire, tools, and camping gear within easy access,” Janice says. “This was just what we wanted. However, the truck and camper were in Missouri and we live in California. So, after the seller patiently answered our many questions and sent us more photos of their rig, we purchased it sight unseen.”
An adventure all its own, the couple traveled to the Show-Me State to retrieve their new sight-unseen purchase, which they admit was a tough task. You can read more about that particular journey on the couple’s blog.
One potential hang-up the couple faced with the telescoping roof of the camper was a lack of storage. However, the added benefit of the Knapheide Service Body made quick work of that potential drawback.
“The Knapheide was wonderful for bringing all the camping equipment we needed as well as tools for the truck,” Janice notes. “The truck came with a 40-gallon diesel fuel tank and no spare tire hanger underneath, so one of the cabinets was dedicated to carrying the spare tire. But, we soon learned that we could not carry the tire with the necessary air pressure and still get it in and out of the cabinet. So, we bought a portable air compressor for filling the tire to change a flat. Having the compressor was great for airing the tires up and down as needed and it was equally great to have a storage spot for the compressor.”
Instead of having to throw everything in the camper itself during travel, the couple utilized the storage compartments to keep everything organized, which Janice says saved them a lot of time setting up and tearing down their campsites. They also customized one of their toolboxes to carry two seven-gallon propane tanks, which were plumbed to their propane furnace, refrigerator, and water heater.
“The cabinet gave us easy access to the tanks to refill or check the fuel level, which was so handy,” she says.
But the storage benefits didn’t stop there. Janice also notes that the Service Body was ideal for storing camping chairs, their BBQ grill (and charcoal), backpacks, water, wheel chock blocks, and a multitude of other things they used on their travels. Most importantly, the ability to lock these items up securely when they needed to leave the rig was a priceless feature.
“We also stowed our scissor steps to get in and out of the camper when not in use, which we stored in the same cabinet that held our camper battery,” Janice continues about what they carried onboard the camper truck. “Our fire extinguisher was within easy reach, as was a first aid kit, tools, extra fuses, bungees, blankets, and lots more. We also had a gas can for the generator that sat on the back bumper.”
While the storage and practicality of the camper truck were important factors to Pres and Janice, durability was also a primary concern, which Janice notes was quickly a non-issue as they put the truck to the test across multiple miles and types of terrain.
“Pres loves driving off the main roads and this rig did well twisting and turning over challenging 4×4 dirt roads through scratchy brush and cacti,” Janice says of the conditions the truck was put through. “We don’t have a garage, so the rig was always out in the weather. The boxes never leaked and held up beautifully through snow, wind, rain and extreme heat. The Knapheide aided our ability to be self-contained and ready for long stays in the wilderness with its storage capacity and rugged durability on the trail.”
Unfortunately, a scary accident in the Inyo Mountains caused a setback for Pres and Janice.
The truck lost traction going up a shale section of the switchbacks in the mountains, causing the couple to slide down a steep slope and eventually roll onto its side before coming to rest.
Thankfully, the couple escaped the vehicle with minor injuries and were later rescued off the mountaintop by Bureau of Land Management Rangers from Ridgecrest.
The truck remained stuck at its resting place for two months, on the side of a mountain laid over on the driver’s side. The couple’s beloved Alaskan camper was a casualty to the accident, being deemed totaled by the insurance company. The AC unit on the roof was heavily damaged and had broken through the ceiling of the camper. Rats had taken up residence inside, leaving a mess inside cabinets, chewing through bedding, and more.
The Knapheide Service Body? In a true testament to durability, the utility body was pulled out with “just a few dings and one dented cabinet door” according to Janice.
“The camper stayed bolted to the bed in the wreck and recovery of our rig,” Janice informs. “Pres was actually able to do minimum repairs to the truck bed and had to do more major work on the truck hood and cab door.”
While the couple had fully anticipated replacing their truck with another Knapheide-based configuration, they went an entirely different route with their current camper setup. But Janice admits that there’s still a “twinge of jealousy” when they see another truck camper mounted on a Knapheide bed. With that in mind, she says she would absolutely recommend a Knapheide body to those who share their hobby/lifestyle.
“You bet [I’d recommend Knapheide!]” she exclaims. “The Knapheide is rugged and provides secure, practical storage for folks who enjoy truck camping. Truck campers who have regular pickup truck beds are really missing out on the amazing storage these utility beds provide.”