Northwood’s four-season Wolf Creek 850 is a go-anywhere, anytime truck camper at home on the beach and in the mountains
Wolf Creek Pass is high in the Rocky Mountains, which touts itself as having “the most snow in Colorado.” Wolf Creek truck campers, an apropos name for an RV built for all-weather adventures, are designed to handle snow and cold, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t equally suited for camping at the beach.
The opportunity to test a new Northwood Wolf Creek 850 on Cape Cod was too good to pass up, and thanks to Truck Camper Warehouse in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, we were able to grab one in late April and put the truck camper through its paces in seaside temperatures that ranged from near 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime to the low 40s at night. We boondocked on the beach at Sandy Neck in Barnstable and enjoyed full hookups one night at Sun RV Resorts’ Peters Pond campground in Sandwich, Massachusetts.
The 850 is one of two Wolf Creek floorplans Northwood offers in its lightweight truck-camper brand, but less weight doesn’t make it inferior to its big brother, the Arctic Fox. The Wolf Creek lineup shares the fully welded aluminum frame, laminated walls and floor with the Arctic Fox, and is similarly designed for four-season livability, according to Northwood. But Wolf Creek truck campers have less bling and are a little smaller overall, resulting in lighter weights.
The exterior lines and graphics of the Wolf Creek 850 are attractive, with a slight aerodynamic rake in the front and a modern-looking Wolf Creek logo across the cabover nose. The company uses a single piece of fiberglass in front from the roof to the floor to eliminate the problematic bottom cabover seam. The remainder of the seams are covered with traditional aluminum trim, sealed with butyl and caulk.
Although Wolf Creek is Northwood’s lighter truck camper, there’s no skimping on features. All lighting is LED, inside and out, except on the kitchen range hood. Exterior lighting is smartly placed on the rear below the Carefree of Colorado electric awning. The rear entry door features a friction hinge that holds the door in place in any position, eliminating the need for those inconvenient and difficult-to-use door holdbacks. A large steel storage bumper, which is part of the mandatory $4,425 Wolf Pack package (meaning it’s standard equipment) has locking doors on each end with a slide-out tray for storing essentials.
A separate sewer-hose tube on the passenger’s side keeps most of the messiness well contained, and all the fittings and other items can go inside the bumper — providing they can get wet. The doors have no seals, and as we discovered driving through heavy rain, water flows easily into the bumper, filling the tray with water and soaking the contents. Adding stick-on weather-stripping might make this bumper more functional.
The test camper included the company’s optional Fox Landing step system ($1,043), which is a combination folding deck and steps. This is an interesting design, but being cantilevered off the bumper puts a tremendous amount of stress on the bumper and its mounts, and ours flexed more than we’d like.
As part of the Wolf Pack package, the 850 also comes with remote-controlled electric landing jacks, dual 5-gallon LP-gas cylinders, heated holding tanks, and a roof rack and ladder. The test unit included the roof ladder, but the roof rack was deleted by the dealer. The reason was the rear awning renders the ladder unusable because the retracted awning sticks out too far. We’d like to see a much deeper ladder that allows climbing above the awning and attaches to the roof for added stability. A toy-hauler-style side-mount ladder might be another option.
The rear utility door leads to the low-point drains, jack controller, and black- and gray-tank drain valves. The driver’s side of the camper houses the outside shower and the LP-gas cylinder and battery compartments. The LP-gas and battery access doors are vented but insulated for cold-weather use.
The battery box will hold two 6-volt batteries, which are charged by the 55-amp converter, the 20-watt solar panel (with a 10-amp wall-mount Zamp Solar controller) or the charge line from the truck. The solar panel is barely large enough to keep the batteries trickle-charged, let alone bring them up to full charge, which would require a solar array rated at 200 to 300 watts. Roof-mounted solar-panel options from the factory go as high as 100 watts ($1,125).
The charge line from the truck saved our bacon, as it was cold on the beach, and running the furnace, lights, refrigerator and a CPAP device, the single 12-volt battery supplied for our test unit couldn’t keep up. We lost power at 3 in the morning and had to start the truck and let it run for the rest of the night, which took care of charging the battery. Needless to say, this is not a recommended practice, unless the truck is equipped with an engine high-idle control such as those from BD Diesel. We would probably opt for LiFePO4 batteries and an inverter-charger system, as well as adding a larger solar panel or utilizing the port for a portable Zamp solar-panel kit.
The 850 floorplan is one of the most comfortable and useful layouts for truck campers without a slideout, but Northwood ups the ante with a few options that you won’t see everywhere.
A booth dinette is standard, but the company offers a nice alternative, called a roll-over sofa ($315). Instead of having a U-shaped dinette with standard cushions, there’s a quasi jackknife sofa where the back rolls over and rests on the dinette table. The table has two sets of pedestal legs; the short ones are for use when the table is a bed support. The result is a comfortable twin bed and a more open floorplan when the bed is not set up. The table is also on slides that allow it to be pushed back toward the window for a roomier walkway or toward the bathroom wall to allow more room for diners.
The downside is the loss of storage space under the dinette seats, but there is quite a bit of storage elsewhere. Across from the dinette is a tall closet, and there’s a wardrobe next to the refrigerator and two more on the driver’s side of the bed. The remaining cabinetry is roomy and leaves plenty of possibilities for customizing with shelves. The step leading up to the queen bed lifts to reveal another small storage cubby, and floor-level doors lead to the bed of the truck for additional storage of items that can be exposed to the elements.
A full complement of appliances and systems can be found in the Northwood camper. A Dometic range sits atop a functional pan drawer with a built-in knife block behind it. Above the range are a microwave oven and a snap-close exterior vent. The plastic single-bowl sink works surprisingly well and is deeper and wider than many we’ve seen. The optional counter extension ($53) connects with wood and clamshell brackets above the step to the bed and stores neatly in the passenger’s side shirt wardrobe. The 5-cubic-foot Norcold refrigerator has ample space and a separate freezer compartment. A 9,000-Btu low-profile air conditioner with a wall thermostat was included on the test unit ($1,073); an 11,000-Btu high-profile air conditioner is also an option ($953). The 20,000-Btu furnace and 6-gallon gas/electric water heater work well.
What we’d like to see:
Stronger rear-entry step, more accessible roof ladder, sealed dual-pane shower dome, cleaner sealant application, sealed rear-bumper compartment
The one-piece fiberglass wet bath has a molded counter and sink, and is equipped with a Thetford porcelain toilet. Above are a tall skylight and a powered roof vent, so there’s enough room for a 6-footer to stand. However, the skylight is a single-layer unit with no vapor barrier. Considering that this is a wet location and the RV is designed for four-season use, we feel this is a bit of a miss, although there may not be any choice to allow for adequate headroom. Showering resulted in quite a bit of water and condensation on the dome, which ran down behind the trim ring into the ceiling space. Adding a rubber gasket to the plastic trim ring or silicone sealant should fix the problem.
LED lighting is well placed, including two brushed-aluminum articulating reading lamps on either side of the queen bed. A Fan-Tastic Vent fan above the bed draws fresh air from the opposing cabover windows. Three sets of USB charging ports, in addition to the 120-volt AC receptacles, are placed around the cabover, making charging electronic devices a breeze. A receptacle is also available for a 12-volt DC TV or CPAP machine.
Keeping entertained inside on rainy or snowy days is important, and there are plenty of options. A 19-inch LED TV on a swing-away bracket is optional ($563) and can be fed by the standard amplified roof-mount TV antenna, park cable or satellite-TV connection. The 850 comes standard with a double-DIN Kenwood CD stereo with digital device connectivity. A DVD stereo is an option ($450). Speakers above the bed and dinette are OK; however, outside speakers are not available.
Sleeping in the queen-size cabover bed was restful, and the innerspring mattress was more comfortable than most standard RV mattresses. It’s a cozy space, and it’s not possible to sit up at the head of the bed to read because of the low ceiling clearance. There is, though, plenty of headroom to climb up into the cabover to make the bed or stow items.
According to Northwood, the 2019 model will remain largely the same as 2018 but with a few new features. Tables will include marine-grade pedestal hardware, and a stainless-steel kitchen sink will be standard. A NW TruRest mattress will also be standard, along with a TV antenna that’s Wi-Fi-extender-ready. An optional Wi-Fi extender and 160-watt solar panel will be offered.
For folks wanting a smaller RV with all the amenities, it’s hard to beat the go-anywhere flexibility of a truck camper, and the Northwood Wolf Creek 850 fits the bill nicely. It is well built, four-season capable and light enough to go on many trucks, all at an attractive price point.
Northwood Manufacturing | www.northwoodmfg.com
Special thanks to Truck Camper Warehouse in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire.