At Rock West Composites in Salt Lake City, they deal in all sorts of composite materials. They may sell carbon tubing to a company that makes custom bike frames. They may sell prepregs to a fabricating operation that makes custom surfboards and skateboards. Carbon fiber has taken off to the degree that there are more uses for them than Rock West can keep track of. It turns out that composites can even go camping.
A company that calls itself Leentu has come up with a revolutionary camper that takes full advantage of all the best properties of carbon fiber. They will eventually be offering two models (they can be pre-ordered now) that fit on the back of the standard Toyota Tacoma pickup truck. One model weighs just 150 pounds while the other comes in at 100 pounds.
Both camper models utilize carbon fiber panels for the main body and roof, joined together in a sandwich design by a waterproof tent that provides upward expansion. That means the campers can be easily taken wherever you can drive your pickup truck. Owners enjoy all the protection of a lightweight, weatherproof camper without having to tow a trailer behind.
Why Carbon Fiber Works so Well
The composite experts at Rock West explain that carbon fiber works so well for this application because of its weight, strength, and rigidity. In terms of weight, carbon fiber is a lot lighter than both aluminum and steel. Less weight means better fuel efficiency and the ability to create a larger unit.
Carbon fiber is also stronger and more rigid than aluminum and steel. You are not losing any structural integrity by designing a camper with carbon fiber. In fact, you’re actually gaining. A carbon fiber shell is going to last a whole lot longer than steel or aluminum. It is going to withstand the elements and the punishment of the road a lot better.
It’s Aerodynamic Too
The designers of the Leentu campers came up with an excellent profile alongside utility and function. The profile is aerodynamic in the sense that there are no hard lines. The front portion of the roof lies directly on top of the truck’s roof to send air up and over the top of the vehicle. Truck campers made of aluminum may be a little aerodynamic, but not as aerodynamic as this camper.
Addressing aerodynamics during the design phase was yet another way to give people a lightweight camping option that does not eat into fuel efficiency. It would be interesting to see how fuel-efficient a truck is with the camper on top as opposed to having an empty bed with the tailgate.
All that being said, the Leentu camper also looks great. It is so unique in its outward appearance that you might not realize it’s a camper unless the owner told you. It’s that sleek and good-looking. Designers may not have intended that to be the case, but it is what it is.
Expanding the Reach of Carbon Fiber
A carbon fiber truck camper may not seem like a big deal to people who don’t follow composites manufacturing and fabricating. But to those in the industry, what Leentu has accomplished is yet another example of the expanding reach of carbon fiber as a steel and aluminum replacement.
Plenty of campers are going to get their opportunity to go camping with carbon fiber in the near future. Whether or not Leentu ever expands beyond their initial models is yet to be seen. But it will not be long before other manufacturers follow suit with their own carbon fiber campers.