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Berne Broudy is a Vermont-based freelance writer, photographer, and fierce advocate for outdoor recreation. She serves on the boards of Richmond Mountain Trails, Vermont Mountain Bike Association, and the Vermont Huts Association.
It’s autumn verging on winter when I drive past my local RV dealer. The lot is full of campers parked and destined to remain so until t-shirt weather returns—most campers aren’t made for use in the cold and snow.
Most. But not all. “Loki campers are different,” says Pierre-Mathieu Roy, founder and president of the Loki Expeditions, which makes highly winterized truck campers.
Roy's entrepreneurial story is familiar: he wanted to use a camper in all seasons but he couldn’t find one that fit the bill. That inspired him to pivot his company’s production at the beginning of the pandemic from making trade show booths from shipping containers to designing and building all-season, hardshell campers.
“We’re based in Quebec City, where it gets very cold, so it was a priority to make a camper with robust insulation. We launched Loki as a new tool for adventure, a tool for outdoor living, a basecamp for whatever you need,” says Roy. “We design it to be a mobile condo with the same luxury of home and the ability to take your condo to wherever you want to be.”
To check Roy's claims, I borrowed one of Loki's Icarus campers for 10 days this past October. Temps were cool, ranging from the high 30s to mid-50s, so I didn't get to experience the extreme weather Roy and his team designed the camper for, but I did get a good sense of how this thing could fare on extended adventures across seasons. I used it to explore Vermont's endless backroads, where I camped off-grid with my mountain bike and gravel bike. During a peak foliage season in New England, I cooked in the Icarus and I slept in the Icarus—solo some nights, and, on others, with my husband and three large dogs.
Here's what I learned.
Loki Expeditions Icarus Truck Camper Review
The Big Difference: Insulation
Superb insulation is the not-so-secret ingredient that helps Loki campers maintain liveable inside temps and operational systems. The camper keeps the inside temperature consistent, whether you’re holed up inside in sub-zero winter weather or parked in a sweltering desert. Loki’s first camper, the Basecamp Falcon, attained an insulation rating of R16, which is close to as warm as a well-insulated house, even though its shell is made of heat-conductive aluminum.
The newer Icarus camper is made of fiberglass and aluminum with double-density synthetic composite insulation. Therefore it's not temperature conductive, and Mathieu suspects its warmth rating is even higher. (Loki has contracted a third-party certifier to rate the camper’s warmth; for now, Mathieu says it’s R16+.)
In both campers, piping for all water systems is insulated, as are Loki’s water and gray water tanks. With the heat on inside the camper, the water tanks won’t freeze. When the camper is plugged into shore power either at a campground or in storage or at home in the driveway, a small electric heater in the water tanks keeps the plumbing from freezing. The camper’s lithium batteries, which live inside the camper, are self-heating when the camper is plugged in. So even if the camper is stored in freezing temps, all systems fire up on command.
Two Heating Systems to Choose From
Insulation is great to have, and being able to control the camper’s internal temperature makes it even better. Loki campers have two independent heating systems: radiant floor heating and a Webasto diesel heater.
To warm up the camper quickly, I used the Webasto. It burns more efficiently than a gas heater and there was no smell. Diesel is widely available, and the Webasto heater is the most commonly used RV heating system, so it’s easy to find fuel and get service if needed. And the Webasto heats the Icarus fast, too.
On the other hand, the radiant floor system is slower to warm up. Hot water and radiant floor heating can run on diesel either from your truck’s tank or from a 30-liter reserve tank, depending on how you spec the camper, and a super-efficient battery bank that recharges as you drive powers the 12v radiant floor heating system. At -20°F, the radiant floor heating won’t make the inside of the Icarus toasty warm. But when I had this camper for two weeks in autumn in Vermont, it took the chill off at times when the Webasto would have been overkill. While it didn’t heat the camper instantly, when I left it on overnight the camper was comfortable, not frosty, the next morning.
The Loki Aesthetic
Unfortunately, awesome insulation and heating systems options alone don’t make a great camper. But another place where the Icarus stands out is its modern aesthetic. You won’t find shag carpeting or faux wood inside the Icarus—Loki uses real wood or bamboo for its tables and countertops, and cutout steel bases for its bed, couch, and storage bases. With the cushions removed from the seating areas and stored on the bed, I strapped gear to those platforms, including duffel bags, a bike, and a surfboard.
The cabinets in the kitchen/living area are sleek with latches that stay closed no matter how rough the road is. And the stainless steel drawer-style refrigerator is understated and classy, and it doesn’t pop open when driving. While the fridge does have limited capacity, it maintained its temperature at all times, and the temperature control knob didn’t get bumped or inadvertently adjusted while driving, which is a problem with some other campers.
Instead of building out a standard RV kitchen with a propane range, which would have added another fuel system to the camper while taking up valuable counter space, Loki equips the Icarus with a plug-in conduction cooktop. This also lets you use it inside or outside the camper (I did both). Loki also put mounts for the modular steel platforms that form the bases of the couch, seat, and beds on the camper door. Transitioned to those mounts, a platform became a food prep and cooking table. Thanks to plugs throughout the camper including one by the back door, I didn't even need an extension cord for the cooktop.
Access to most truck campers is through a small back door. The Icarus has van-style doors that open outwards, blurring the line between inside and outside and making the camper feel more spacious than it is. The camper I tested had a magnetic screen door that kept out bugs and let air in when it was warm enough to keep everything opened up.
All the Bells and Whistles
While systems aren’t sexy, per se, dialed systems make for great camper trips. Loki is the only camper I know of where the air conditioning works off-grid. It’s powered by the camper’s batteries, which are recharged by the solar system and the truck’s alternator. With the Icarus on a Ford F-350 Super Duty, the 400 amp alternator charged drained batteries to nearly 50% in about 30 minutes, effectively turning the car into a generator for the camper.
The camper I tested had a cassette toilet that tucked into a cabinet when not in use. It also came with a shower pod that let me bathe inside the camper while keeping water contained. For showering outside, a hot water outlet near the back doors and a mesh net that held the shower hose kept everything where I could find and use it quickly, easily, and efficiently.
And one more thing: the kitchen sink had a fold-down faucet for washing dishes as well as a UV-filtered faucet for drinking water. The camper carries 15 gallons of fresh water and 13 gallons of gray water.
How Big Is the Loki Icarus?
Even with all these features, the Icarus is compact. It has a double bed, not a queen bed like its sister camper, the Falcon. That said, its roof is strong enough to hold a rooftop tent, so families could still make use of it (it's also a good option for anyone who wants to sleep under the stars). The camper I tested had solar panels covering most of the roof. Put those panels on a stand that you move around to follow the sun, and you'll have real estate up top for a tent, a roof box, or just hanging out. For a couple, it’s the perfect rig. Add kids or a pack of dogs and you might want something larger.
Even though the Icarus makes good use of its less space, it rides best on a super-duty truck to transport it. In a super-duty vehicle, the 2400-pound camper barely impacted the truck’s handling, even on meandering Vermont back roads on a windy day. The camper sits inside the truck bed rails and it didn’t rock or get buffeted around. The Icarus’ gently sloping sides flow neatly into the truck bed, giving the illusion that the truck and camper are one.
New Updates Since Our Test
Loki has refined the Icarus' layout since they built the one I tested. New Icarus campers have more storage underneath the seating area and under the bed. The kitchen has more storage. And if you want even more storage—storage is an important thing to talk about when talking about truck campers—you can order this camper on Loki’s custom flatbed, which has cabinets and compartments along the full length of both sides.
New Lokis also come with a bat wing awning that blocks both sun and rain. Windows are larger, but still with screens and blackout screens, and the newest Icarus uses a GPS-connected Garmin system to manage heating, cooling, electricity, and more from a tablet, phone, or internal display. The Garmin system adds robust mapping and track-back to the camper’s capabilities too.
New in 2023, Loki will also offer the Icarus Max. While the Icarus has enough inside clearance for campers who are 5’10” and shorter, the Max has a higher ceiling. All new Icarus campers will have 24 additional inches of cab-over, which means you won't have to compress the double bed to use the full living space.
Also, knowing that shiny new EV trucks might be in many of our futures, Loki has begun testing the Icarus on Rivian's R1T. Ford has advised customers they should not put a camper into the bed of the Ford Lightning.
Prices start at $69,000 for the Icarus and $100,000 for the Icarus Max. Every unit is custom-built.