MOTOR MATTERS - ROLLING HOMES



HOME AWAY FROM HOME: RV CAMPER WITH `ISLAND KITCHEN'


BY JEFF JOHNSTON
RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 4, 2010



Island-style kitchen cabinet features are popular in residential housing. When we visited Chalet RV in Albany, Ore., (www.chaletrv.com), and saw the company's new model DS116RB with an island kitchen, we thought it was notably impressive considering it's a slide-in truck camper. This is the first truck camper with this feature.

The DS116RB features a double-slideout floorplan with the entry door in the curbside right-rear sidewall. Pair of opposing slideouts incorporates the galley (kitchen) countertop, sink and refrigerator curbside and a decent-sized dinette streetside.

The dry bath with shower is in an enclosure in the streetside rear corner, opposite the entry door, and the fore-and-aft configured queen bed is forward (per usual in the cab-over area). The sink and several storage cabinets are in the compact kitchen island, which also includes a swing-up counter for light dining with barstool seating.

It took a significant engineering shift, a raising of the bar -- or specifically, the floor -- to allow Chalet to design such a floorplan. Most slide-in campers are planned around the truck bed interior dimensions, plus whatever may hang out the back of the bed, along with the components that use the side "wing" space above the bedrails.

Chalet designed a structure assembly method that places the camper floor above bedrail level, which means the designers can work with the full 8-foot body width and that opens up many possibilities. Toss in the slideout room features and there's a lot that can be done with such a compact space.

Chalet's floor structure is at the heart of the camper's design. It's a multi-layer laminated assembly that weighs about 200 pounds and provides considerable rigidity to the structure. The floor and wall assemblies fit together via an interlocking mechanism that adds a lot of strength not possible with a simple screwed-together unit. Even with the two large wall openings for slideout rooms, the entire camper displays only about 3/16-inches of "sag" when supported by its lift jacks on two diagonal corners. That's pretty good.

Chalet designed the camper with top-notch materials. Composite-type counters are standard and all of the woodwork is either solid hardwood or wood laminate -- there's no vinyl-covered artificial wood finish in this RV.

The DS116RB offers floor space and livability unheard of in truck campers just a few years back. Besides just making the RV more fun and comfortable, the space is especially important at times when the weather is bad and you're forced to hunker down inside for an extended duration.

Bed access is also improved by the tall floor. Instead of climbing to the cab-over from a low floor, the bed is about knee height, making access much easier for all of us, but especially for RVers with reduced mobility.

Although tall, the camper's center of gravity is still relatively low because most of lower location of the heavy hardware. For example, the water tanks, including 66 gallons of freshwater and 38 gallons each grey and black water, are below the floor in the truck bed area, and the 2.5kW propane generator and dual-30-pound propane cylinders are also below floor level in the aft-end body overhang.

At the same time users need to be aware that this is a big, tall, heavy camper. Fully optioned it pushes 4,700 pounds, so loaded with fluids and personal cargo it's going to top 5,000 pounds easily. That calls for a big truck, like a 1-ton with dual rear wheels, and something like a Ford F-450 wouldn't be a bad idea. Pay attention to your truck's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and rear-axle Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) and you can assemble a safe RVing lashup.

The Chalet camper is expensive, and will likely break the $50,000 threshold in nicely equipped form. Given its interesting features and living space, the Chalet DS116RB still might be just the ticket for a crowd of slide-in camper fans. -- Jeff Johnston, Motor Matters

Photos courtesy Jeff Johnston: The new DS116RB is the new camper from Chalet RV, and it incorporates two slideouts, plus a first for a slide-in camper: an island-style kitchen. Enthusiastic cooks will likely find the DS116RB island kitchen a pleasant change from the usual truck camper galley appointment.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010


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