Northwood’s Arctic Fox 990 puts a fully self-contained base camp in the bed of a 4×4 dually truck
Three fat trout sizzle in the frying pan in front of me, as I survey the mountain lake where I’d caught them just an hour earlier. A few feet away, my wife puts the finishing touches on a nice garden salad at the dining table, with its window providing an idyllic view of another alpine lake a few hundred yards from where we are camped and the snowcapped mountains beyond. There’s not another person or vehicle within a dozen miles. This is an outdoor adventurer’s heaven.
What makes our evening dinner even more special is the accommodations. Our backcountry bed-and-breakfast has been a 2017 Arctic Fox 990 truck camper tucked in the bed of a Chevrolet Silverado 3500 crew cab 4×4 dually, an ideal combo for anyone who loves to take roads less traveled and camp in places frequented by few other RVers.
Arctic Fox is Northwood’s premier truck-camper line, and the 990 is designed for maximum comfort. Its signature feature is the curbside slideout where the dinette resides, which really opens up the galley and dining area. The slideout, which has an exterior storage compartment underneath, can be operated by the conventional control located at the bottom of the entryway, or like we did, by using the wireless remote control that also operates the 2,500-pound-capacity Rieco-Titan electric jacks and roll-up electric rear awning, both included with the Fox Value Package.
We’d picked up the test unit at Northwood Manufacturing’s headquarters in La Grande, Oregon, and struck out from there to explore the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, a 218-mile road trip that circles the Wallowa Mountains, also known as the Alps of Oregon. The paved route affords spectacular views of the Snake River, and a multitude of gravel roads reach deep into the Eagle Cap Wilderness and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest of northeastern Oregon.
There’s no better home-on-wheels when the pavement ends and the gravel roads begin than a properly equipped 4×4 pickup and a first-class camper like the upgraded Arctic Fox 990. This kind of setup gives adventuresome RVers the freedom to travel and fully enjoy special areas of the country like the Wallowas. One feature we appreciated from the first moment we moved our gear into the 990 was the Fox Landing, a flip-down back-porch-and-step system that makes getting in and out as easy as walking up steps into a house. Of all the options for a camper going on a 4×4 dually, this would be at the top of my list.
During our first night on the road, we camped at Wallowa Lake State Park, along with hundreds of other RVers and tent campers. It was there that we really appreciated the 41⁄2-inch-thick high-density foam in the roof, the 21⁄2-inch-thick foam in the walls, the residential fiberglass insulation in the walls and floor, and the optional dual-pane windows, all of which helped keep the noise from the surroundings out, as well as allowing the optional 11,000-Btu air conditioner to keep the camper quite comfortable on a 100-degree day.
A few days later, the insulation inside the laminated, multilayer walls proved its worth when temperatures at a rustic campsite unexpectedly dropped into the 30s. No worries, as the 20,000-Btu furnace had to kick on only a few times to maintain a comfortable temperature. With its thick walls, substantial insulation, heated holding tanks and other cold-weather components, the welded-aluminum-frame 990 is a true four-season camper.
While many truck campers create a sense of claustrophobia in the sleeping area, the 990 is bright and spacious, thanks to the 2017 model’s arched roof, which increases headroom in the middle of the camper by more than 4 inches over the previous edition. That added headroom really helps when you’re in the 58-by-80-inch queen bed above the cab and trying to get clothes organized or just tidying up. The ceiling height is also evident when standing in the galley, where even a 6-foot 6-inch chef will feel comfortable.
A skylight power vent and LED ceiling and reading lights enhance the airiness inside the camper. Multiple USB charging ports and 120-volt AC outlets situated on both sides of the bed are new additions, so those who need to power laptops, smartphones, tablets and CPAP devices can do so with ease. The 990 comes with half a dozen speakers and a Kenwood AM/FM/CD player with Bluetooth for dual-phone connection and wireless music browsing. A 19-inch LED TV in the cabover area and a DVD player are optional.
The galley is outfitted to handle whatever the designated chef wants to serve, whether grabbing a quick breakfast, making a light lunch or taking the time to prepare a nice dinner. The test floorplan, finished in the Early Autumn interior theme, had the typical trio of overhead cabinets with hardwood doors above the galley to hold bulky items and a pair of slide-out drawers below the countertop that surrounds the double sink.
The stainless-steel High Pointe 22-inch microwave and Wedgewood Vision three-burner high-output range are easy to operate and powerful enough to get cooking done at all levels. The range hood above the gas stove works well, its strong fan filling the air outside the camper with the aroma of fried fish. Just to the left of the gas range is a vertical pull-out pantry with a wire-rack organizer that we found really handy, as it holds an assortment of kitchen essentials like spices, flour, cereal, sandwich bags and aluminum foil.
Two steps away, on the curbside, the 6-cubic-foot two-way refrigerator-freezer runs off the dual 7-gallon LP-gas cylinders, 30-amp campground power or the optional 2.5-kilowatt Onan generator (generator, solar and satellite prep are standard).
Speaking of meals, the 990’s dinette seats four comfortably, and with just the two of us, it was like eating at a diner — without the waitress or crowd. We had a spectacular view out the window at every meal. If we had needed to accommodate an overnight guest, the table has a quick-release that drops the top to seat level to transform it into a bed.
When it comes time to freshen up, the wet bath is bright and efficient. The sink is molded in, the medicine cabinet accommodates toiletries and the foot-pedal toilet operates quietly. A skylight lightens the already white interior. The 6-gallon gas/electric quick-recovery water heater makes bathing on cold mornings a treat.
Even with the aluminum-frame structure, the Arctic Fox 990 is not a lightweight camper and is not suitable for single-rear-wheel pickups. The base model weighs a little more than 3,000 pounds “dry,” but the test unit came close to 4,500 pounds with its 59-gallon water tank filled, 14 gallons of LP-gas, and the optional rear steps, generator, air conditioner, deep-cycle batteries, dual-pane windows and hook-on step that eases access to the cabover area and doubles as a seat. Add two passengers, fuel, food and gear, and the total combination weight approached the Silverado’s 13,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating.
Driving 400 miles up and down a wide variety of roads and terrain during our Hells Canyon Scenic Byway tour, the one-ton dually proved the ideal truck for carrying the fully optioned 990. The only addition I’d install on the truck would be heavier-duty sway bars to better offset the load’s high center of gravity.
After using Northwood’s Arctic Fox 990 as our backcountry base camp, I can safely say it’s a sweetheart setup for couples that enjoy exploring off-the-grid locations and don’t like limits on where they can go camping.
Northwood Manufacturing | www.northwoodmfg.com/truck-campers/arctic-fox-camper
A respected automotive and RV journalist and longtime Trailer Life contributor, Bruce W. Smith has held numerous editorial titles at automotive and boating magazines, and authored more than 1,000 articles, from tech to trailering. He considers his home state of Oregon a paradise for RVing and outdoor adventure.