Host: Pushing Truck Camper Envelope With Double Slideouts
Dave Hogue and Mark Storch, founders of 4-year-old Host Industries Inc., cut their teeth in the RV industry on the shop floor at Beaver Coaches Inc., a company that their fathers Jim Hogue and Frank Storch founded in 1966.
"We both started working on the Beaver assembly line when we were going through high school," said Dave Hogue. "Mark ended up in engineering and worked for Beaver Coaches for a long time. I became general manager of a Safari motorhome division after Safari (SMC Corp.) bought Beaver."
The pair decided to form Host in 2001 on the eve of SMC Corp.'s acquisition by Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore., bringing their fathers along as consultants.
"We had the concept of double slideout truck campers," he said. "At the time, a double slideout floorplan was unique to the industry and we thought we could bring our experience from the motorhome side of things.
"We saw that existing truck camper manufacturers hadn't figured out how to put the kitchen into a slide. On the motorhome side, many of the floorplans Beaver and Safari had did that, so we knew how to do it."
Although initially constructing Host truck campers with wooden frames and pressed-laminated fiberglass sidewalls, the company began building on aluminum frames in 2004 and this year moved to vacuum bonded sidewalls. "We are trying to get the dealers a broader base by lightening up the unit to get more trucks into our market," Hogue said. "And the vacuum bonding gives a lot better tensile strength."
Unique for 2006 is an 11 1/2-foot single slideout Yukon floorplan with a side entry and a tent-like extension off the rear. "The side entry allows access to the camper without having to climb over the bumper and probably a hitch," Hogue said.
Like other RV segments, slideout floorplans have become an essential aspect to appealing to the contemporary truck camper buyer, Hogue said. "Everybody's doing it," he said, "and five years from now if you try to sell a truck camper without a slideout your unit is going to be a dog," he said.
With Indiana ever expanding as the center of the RV manufacturing universe, managing a small RV builder in Oregon presents some challenges, Hogue concedes.
"The disadvantage is freight – bringing supplies in and sending product out," Hogue said. "But you can always work out with your suppliers quantities that get you free shipping. It ties up more money in inventory, but in the long run it pays off."
Host truck campers are sold through 25 RV dealerships throughout the country ranging from Seattle, to Tucson, Ariz., to Long Island, N.Y. "The dealers that we've picked up on the East Coast all have been truck camper dealers before," Hogue said. "They are experienced dealers who have heard about our product and they've taken us on. The guy on Long Island, we are sending him nine units this month."
A calculator on Host's Internet web page (hostcampers.com) allows potential customers to add options to standard floorplans and provides them with the cumulative weight and retail price of their purchase. "They can decide if they want to add insulated windows, but they know they are going to add 150 pounds to the weight," he said. "The first question customers ask is what the unit is made of. The next question is about weight. Then the consumer starts adding options, and weight is never mentioned again."
Hogue says that besides portability, there are other advantages to owning a truck camper. "A lot of states don't even require licensing fees, and it's still considered a second home, so the interest on a loan to pay for one can be deducted," he said.
While making truck campers certainly is a business, Hogue says it's also a personal passion. "In central Oregon we are right in the middle of the Cascade mountain range and we have the high desert plateau and the rivers and lakes that go with it," said Hogue, who was to leave the next day for the Umpqua River on Oregon's southern coast to fish for salmon. With his wife Kim, daughter Siara, 10, and son Kyle, 8, Hogue was to camp in his Host double slideout truck camper mounted on a Ford F-350 pickup truck.
"The area fits our lifestyle," he said. "I've had Class C's and the like, but a truck camper works better for me. I had to get a little bigger truck than I wanted, but I drive it to work and drive it at home. But when I want my RV, it's right there."
And with Oregon's moderate winters, Hogue uses his Host truck camper year around. "It's not like summer's over and I have to put it away," he said.