Over the years, Jay Baldwin has studied with Buckminster Fuller, served in the U.S. Army’s ski troops in Alaska, and worked as an editor at the seminal Whole Earth Catalog. The maverick industrial designer, who still rides a mountain bike at the age of 77, has designed and built a prototype for what he calls the Quickup Camper, a collapsible camper top that transforms a standard-sized pickup truck into a fuel-efficient, highly maneuverable recreational vehicle.
Baldwin built the Quickup Camper in the barn of his Northern California home, with the help of students from California College of the Arts, where he teaches. His wife, Liz Fial, made the interior cabinets, counter, bunk bed, and seating out of Finnish plywood.
The Quickup Camper takes about 60 seconds to open into an 8’×8′ living space with 6’4″ of headroom. It has hot and cold running water and a solar-powered refrigerator. About the only problem he’s had is finding a heater small enough not to overheat the interior, which is enclosed in a shell of carbon fiber-covered structural foam insulation.
Don’t get him started on traditional RVs, which he refers to as “petro pigs” with the maneuverability of a “condo-on-a-skateboard.” He gets 20mpg at a speed of 70mph with the Quickup Camper bolted to his Ford’s bed — double the gas mileage of most RVs. In fact, the Ford gets better gas mileage with the 800-pound Quickup Camper attached than without it. That’s because, folded, it fits within the contour of the truck’s bed and improves aerodynamics.
“One of the beauties of this Quickup Camper is I can take it into downtown San Francisco and park it in a municipal garage. It fits just fine. On the street it’s perfectly legal. It’s no bigger than a pickup,” he says.
The Quickup Camper made an appearance at the 2008 Maker Faire Bay Area. But until he finds a manufacturer for his camper top, Baldwin will be driving around with the only one on the planet. He figures it would cost between $10,000 and $12,000, in addition to the cost of the truck itself.
A New Breed: quickupcamper.com