Lance Rinker, purchasing manager for Northwood Manufacturing, which makes trailers and campers, thought for years that the RV business was overlooking customers like himself—outdoorsmen who are into mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing and other strenuous pursuits.
But it wasn’t until the RV industry went into a sharp slump last year that he thought the time was right to suggest something new, and he began sketching ideas for a different kind of trailer. He knew that he and other outdoor athletes would want a unit that would be rugged and utilitarian, with plenty of storage for sports gear. And it needed to be lightweight so lots of people could pull it with the cars and trucks they already own.
Rinker enlisted the help of the company’s design and marketing team and took the concept to Northwood owner Ron Nash. “He loved the idea,” Rinker said, and before long a prototype was built.
The result was not only a new brand of trailer labeled True North, but a whole new class of RVs that Northwood is calling an “outdoor support vehicle (OSV).”
The first model, the True North Freelance OSV, is 16 feet, four inches long in a teardrop design, with an outdoor kitchen that opens up in the rear. The outdoor kitchen includes a sink, 10-gallon fresh water tank and stainless steel three-burner cook top. There is room to carry an ice chest or add an optional 1.7 cubic-foot Waeco AC/DC chest refrigerator/freezer. A 30-inch indoor/outdoor table is also available.
Rinker said people who would buy True North want to be outside most of the time, including when they are cooking, so an outdoor kitchen fits perfectly into their lifestyle. That lifestyle is also served by including both interior and exterior speakers for an audio system.
Lots of storage space was also essential, so True North was designed with a cavernous, lighted pass-through storage compartment with slider trays and cargo nets to make everything accessible. There are many other storage areas too, inside and out, with lots of attention to detail down to cup holders in the sidewalls and 12-volt outlets to recharge multiple electronic devices such as cell phones, Ipods and GPS devices.
The interior has a gaucho sofa bed that expands to 48 inches by 77 1/2 inches to provide the main sleeping area. A Porta Potti is optional.
Northwood worked with a leading cargo carrier company, Thule, to incorporate a variety of products, from bike and kayak carriers to a folding table and trash bin as options. Many of these Thule products, including a rack-mounted awning, are included in option packages, called the Ascent Pack and the Summit Pack, that you can add to the BaseCamp model. The various versions have suggested retail prices ranging from $8,250 to $11,300.
Rinker said the True North is built to be rugged, with laminated composite fiberglass walls, a one-piece fiberglass roof, insulated floor, diamond plate gravel guard on the front and diamond plate bumper wrap on the rear. There are six D-ring cargo attachment points to lash down equipment inside the trailer. The trailer is strong enough to carry two-thirds of its own weight in cargo and gear.
With a gross dry weight of 1,535 pounds, it is also light enough to be towed by vehicles with V-6 engines, and small enough to be stored any place you would keep a small boat. And because it has lots of space in the pass-through compartment and elsewhere, it can store bulky sports gear year-round.
Once the prototype was built, Rinker began testing it on camping trips. He discovered some little things, like the need to add a storage place to tuck away eyeglasses when you go to bed. So that was just one more little detail to be added, a cargo net to hook your glasses on.
Rinker took the first model to a cycling show in Monterey, California, in April and a multi-sport show in Vail, Colorado, in June to gather feedback from outdoor sports enthusiasts. The reaction was overwhelming. “Everyone ate it up,” Rinker said. “It was phenomenal.” What especially impressed everyone was the attention to detail, all with the needs of outdoor athletes in mind.
Orders rolled in and the first production run of 30 trailers was oversubscribed. Dealers began signing up, and True North has now taken its place as a separate brand in a Northwood lineup that includes Nash, Desert Fox and Arctic Fox.
The first dealers to carry the True North are Nelson’s RV in Idaho, Triple A RV and Thompson RV in Oregon, and Sumner RV, Wilder RV and Broadmoor RV in Washington.
For more information on the True North Freelance outdoor support vehicle, contact Northwood Manufacturing of La Grande, Oregon at (800) 766-6274 or www.truenorth.me.