A Three-Day Excursion in the Four-Season Lance “Altimeter” Truck Camper
An introduction to overlanding in Lance Camper’s latest project vehicle.
On road trips as a kid, I remember paying close attention to all of the truck campers, RVs, and trailers driving in the slower lanes, moving at the pace of relaxed freedom. Because there was nothing else to do in the car, I'd watch these rigs through the window as a form of entertainment. Wrapped in the not-so-cool graphics of the genre, I'd wonder about the cross-country road trips, national parks, roadside attractions, and gas stations they'd visited. I'd have fun trying to guess their next destination, but the greatest mystery to me was the people. Who was driving these rigs?
Designed for adventure at any altitude, the Lance Altimeter was introduced at the Overland Experience of the 2019 SEMA Show. Built as a one-off special, the Lance Altimeter is a four-season overlanding rig comprised of a heavily customized Ford F-350 Super Duty powered by a 6.7-liter turbodiesel wearing a short-bed Lance 855S truck camper.
Valued at $165,000 and built to prevail on the roads less traveled, the Altimeter is outfitted with numerous modifications for off-road exploration—and has one of the coolest graphic wraps to ever grace the highway.
Off-Road Modifications and Accessories
Upgrades to the Altimeter include an ICON Vehicle Dynamics Stage 5 suspension system, air springs, and sway bars by Hellwig Products, Raceline Defender wheels sporting Maxxis RAZR MT tires, and a Warn Ascent front bumper. To safeguard the Altimeter from running out of power, it's fitted with three 100-Ah deep-cycle batteries by Battle Born Batteries. Torklift aluminum frame tiedowns and FastGun turnbuckles securely attach the short-bed Lance 855S truck camper to the Ford F-350 Super Duty. Other accessories consist of a RotopaX storage container, Zeon 12-S Platinum winch for aid recovery, Sherptek Pak Horse to mount additional gear, and auxiliary LED lights by KC HiLites.
Amenities That Bring It All Together
The Lance Altimeter's floorplan features an attractive galley equipped with all kitchen essentials, a 5-cubic foot three-way refrigerator, slide-out booth dinette, full wet bathroom, and spacious cabover with a queen-size bed. Providing more ways to take advantage of the interior's shelter, the slide-out dinette converts into a bed and has two pull-out drawers that provide plenty of storage space. With regard to storage space, there is an abundance of compartments throughout the camper to store food, beverages, clothes, and all of your overlanding goods.
In the cabover, you get LED reading lights, a headboard, privacy curtain, audio speakers, skylight vent, and two windows with privacy shades. Not that you'd be wasting any of your precious time at Lake Tahoe watching television, but the cabover also comes equipped with a TV, DVD player, and Bluetooth stereo system.
Dimensions & Capacities
With an overall length of 18 feet, the Lance 855S truck camper is eight feet wide and has a dry weight of 2,997 lbs. The 8.11 ft long cabin can sleep up to four people comfortably, maybe five if you add kids to the mix. Interior height measures 6.9 ft tall, which is reduced to 3.5 ft in the cabover. In addition to the two 5-gallon propane tanks, there are also 30 gallons of fresh water on board, plus 20 gallons gray water storage, and 25 gallons black. Some of the other equipment highlights that come standard on the 855S:
- Generator-ready w/auto transfer switch
- Water heater gas/electric/DSI
- Enclosed, insulated, and heated holding tanks
- 12-volt/USB charging port in cab-over
- Systems monitor panel w/battery indicator
- Pre-wired for AC power/wall thermostat/power vent/solar panel
- Electric remote acme screw camper jacks
- Battery charging port
- Wireless remote slide-out control
- Exterior 110-volt patio outlet
- Forced-air 20,000-BTU furnace
Up until I signed up to drive the latest project from Lance Campers, I had no prior history with truck campers beyond my childhood road-trip reveries. The concept of driving an overlanding rig kind of freaked me out, but my excitement to finally take the wheel myself overrode my apprehension. Facing the challenge head-on, I went out for a solo three-day excursion with the Lance Altimeter, driving from Los Angeles to Johnson Valley, California for the 2020 King of the Hammers.
When I first set out, the challenges I feared most were parking, overhead clearance, and maneuvering through Los Angeles traffic. I drove the Altimeter on some of the most gruesome freeways in L.A., including the 605, 210, and 105. Astonishingly, the undertaking did not turn out to be as difficult as I'd imagined it would be. On the road, the Hellwig suspension system did an outstanding job at providing a firm ride quality, despite the occasional bounce from well-worn LA-area freeways.
Halfway to Johnson Valley, I started to feel like a natural at driving an overlanding rig. It didn't hurt that nobody made an attempt at cutting off the Altimeter, certainly due to its imposing appearance rather than any Angeleno courtesy—I was so focused on my mission to make it to King of the Hammers that I didn't have the spare bandwidth to check reactions from other drivers on the road. When I finally made it to the off-roading festival, I parked the Altimeter and felt a wave of anxiety lift off my shoulders.
At nightfall, I connected by phone to the Bluetooth stereo system to stream tunes by Doris Day, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and other jazz music legends.
I opened the skylight vent in the cabover, turned off the lights, and collapsed onto the queen-size bed. That night, I got some of the best sleep I've had in a long time. The following day, I took the Altimeter to a nearby dry lakebed and the Maxxis RAZR MT tires devoured the terrain.
By the end of the long weekend, my three-day excursion in the Lance Altimeter rig no longer felt harrowing and stressful—it felt like a normal routine, one that I could easily get used to. I wouldn't hesitate to do all again.