Northstar 850SC

October 1, 2001
Filed under Trailer Reviews

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Pop-up truck campers are preferred by many RVers who are serious about getting off the
beaten path. And there are others who enjoy more conventional camping, but appreciate the
idea of a compact unit with minimal wind drag. For either crowd, pop-up truck campers have
come a long way from the original Spartan, tent-like accommodations with little more than a
thin foam mattress, a compact galley, icebox and, in some cases, space for a portable
toilet. The more advanced units in this category have grown dramatically in sophistication
and comfort during the past few years while retaining their compact size and versatility,
much to the credit of a family-owned company that builds what is arguably the top of the
line: Northstar. The newest Northstar, built by R.C. Willett Co. Inc., takes livability to
a new level without increasing overall size. In fact, the full self-containment of the new
850SC (8-1/2-foot floor length) may be a first in pop-up truck campers. Why a
self-contained 8-1/2-footer? Rex Willett says the company first produced a self-contained
hard-wall 8-1/2-foot camper, which required quite a bit of shoe-horning to get everything
in, including a full galley and bath and two holding tanks of reasonable size. “That unit
quickly became the best seller in our hard-wall line,” he recalls, “and we just had to do
it in the 8-1/2 pop-up. The unit has a detachable feature so it will fit either a long-bed
or short-bed truck.” Willett created a full bathroom with fresh-water toilet (the Thetford
Cassette unit with 5.3-gallon holding tank), and he sandwiched a 15-gallon gray-water tank
in the floor while maintaining the unit’s original overall height of 66 inches. Limited
height and width (7 feet) are essential to maneuverability in close backwoods situations,
and wind resistance is lowered as well. The unit has a shower, a full galley with
three-burner gas range, 3-cubic-foot Dometic refrigerator and 30-gallon fresh-water holding
tank. A 60 x 80-inch innerspring mattress (positioned fore-to-aft, for easier access)
occupies the extended cabover, and the dinette can be converted to a bed. Lifting the
cabover bed platform (assisted by gas struts) provides access to a 60 x 80 x 6-inch
(approximate) storage area. Northstar units typically are well equipped and the 850SC’s
standard-equipment list includes mechanically operated four-post jacks, the refrigerator
and a 16,000-BTU forced-air furnace. Options include electric jacks, a roof air
conditioner, microwave oven and rear/side awnings. The Northstar structure is based on
5/8-inch premium plywood with 1-inch framing, foam insulation in the body and floor, and
aluminum siding; fiberglass siding is optional. Weight with full water (30 gallons) and
propane (5 gallons) is approximately 2,075 pounds, plus the weight of optional equipment.
Approximate retail price is $10,085 for a unit with standard equipment. The Northstar line
of pop-up campers ranges in length from 6 to 10 feet (floor length) and the company’s
hard-wall units range from 8 to 10-1/2 feet. R.C.
Willett Co. Inc.
, 3040 Leversee Road, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613; (800) 367-3910

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