From Uniontown, Ohio comes a molded fiberglass trailer company aimed at the premium half-ton truck trailer market. Meet Grumpy Bear Campers and the brand new Koda fiberglass camper.
Last December,D&H RVPresident Dave Hofert sent us an alert about a new manufacturer. Grumpy Bear Campers. Honestly, I thought he was hitting on me. Grumpy bear? All right, Hoffert. Don't drop it. So I clicked onGrumpy Bear Websiteand was immediately impressed by his Koda motorhome. molded fiberglass, CNC-cut cabinets and a host of smart design options. Apparently this Grumpy Bear company was legit and how.
Above: The grumpy bear Koda 2023,all images provided by Grumpy Bear Campers
The more I thought about the Grumpy Bear Koda trailer, the more sense it made. Over the past decade, molded fiberglass truck trailers have dominated the upper end of the hard side anti-skid market. Where one might see a pair of molded fiberglass campers at a big truck trailer rally fifteen years ago, today it's not uncommon to find a dozen. And when you talk to cast fiberglass trailer owners, they are generally satisfied with the reliability, lighter weight and aerodynamics of the fiberglass enclosure.
Unfortunately, molded fiberglass campers were out of reach for half-ton truck owners. too big and heavy or designed for the premium (read: expensive) land market. That left a potential opportunity for a company to come out with a lighter, more affordable cast-fiberglass trailer for half-ton trucks. Enter Grumpy Bear Campers.
To learn more aboutGrumpy Bear Campers, we contacted the founders, William Zantopulos and Andrew Rohr.
Above: Top view of Grumpy Bear Koda
Koda Grumpy Bear 2023 Specifications
The 2023 Grumpy Bear Koda is a non-skid, rigid truck trailer built for short bed trucks. The interior floor length of the 2023 Grumpy Bear Koda is 90 inches, the interior height is 6'2", and the center of gravity is 33.7 inches from the front wall.
Grumpy Bear Koda has a new 15 gallon tank, an 8 gallon gray tank, a custom water heater and no black tank. It can accommodate two Group 24 batteries and has a 20-pound propane tank.
Grumpy Bear Campers list the base weight of the Grumpy Bear Koda at 1,650 pounds. Grumpy Bear Koda 2023 starting price is $36,000. click here to downloadmore information about Grumpy Bear Campers.
What led you to found Grumpy Bear Campers?
William: I worked at Little Guy Worldwide for five years and moved with the company to Liberty Outdoors. My experience with Little Guy and Liberty Outdoors established my involvement in the RV market and my love of campers in general. At Little Guy Worldwide, I was Director of Business Development and was promoted to Assistant Director of Administration at Liberty Outdoors. I also worked at an executive level with the design, production and warranty teams.
Above: Grumpy Bear founders William Zantopulos and Andrew Rohr
Andrew: I have a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). I worked for 20 years in the composites industry, primarily with fiberglass truck cap manufacturers, including ten years at ARE and two years at Liberty Outdoors. At ARE, I was Vice President of Custom Molding and, before that, Director of Engineering. At Liberty Outdoors, I was Director of Engineering and Quality Assurance and Plant Manager for about a year.
From the beginning of our conversations William and I wanted to create a high quality fiberglass trailer. The fiberglass shells we use for Grumpy Bear campers are based on Fibrobec SpaceKaps. SpaceKap shells are of exceptional quality and proven with over twenty years of production.
During my career at ARE, Fibrobec has been both a customer and a supplier and I have a good relationship with Fiberbec's leadership team. When William and I decided to launch Grumpy Bear, I reached out to the owner. This was the beginning of Grumpy Gear Campers.
Where is your factory located?
William: Grumpy Bear Campers is located south of Akron, Ohio. Andrew has ties to the owners of a truck cap dealership and our facility is currently located at one of their facilities. As demand for Grumpy Bear Campers increases, we will look to expand our production space. For now, we're focused on keeping production under control because we don't want to compromise our quality or disappoint customers with long delivery times.
Will you be selling direct from the factory or through a dealer network?
William: We sell Grumpy Bear Campers direct from the factory.
How many units are you currently planning to build?
Andrew: We are currently building one a month. By the end of 2023, our goal is one per week. We are going up.
Where did the name Grumpy Bear Campers come from?
Andrew: During our time at Liberty Outdoors, William and I spent many hours traveling between Uniontown, Ohio and the Liberty Outdoors facility in Pennsylvania. One morning we left very early and another gentleman was in the front seat of the long taxi truck. As a tall guy William was tucked in the back and extremely quiet all day. I said, "You look like a grumpy bear!" The name stuck and we started calling it that. When we were thinking of names for our new RV company, we kept coming back to Grumpy Bear.
William: We worked with a local graphics company for the logo. We spent several hours showing them different designs we were interested in for the bear. The logo they came up with later was perfect.
Where did the idea for Grumpy Bear Koda come from?
Andrew: We wanted to build an affordable, lightweight fiberglass truck trailer for half-ton trucks. At first, I wanted to make our own fiberglass shell, but SpaceKap shells have been around for decades, so we decided to use them to develop our product. That's where Grumpy Bear Koda came from.
Do you structurally change the fiberglass shell during construction?
Andrew: We ordered the SpaceKap enclosures with fiberglass plywood ribs on the inner shell. These ribs are used to install our plywood walls. Between these ribs is a combination of fiberglass and closed-cell foam insulation. The ceiling is treated with fiber wall insulation for sound insulation. We added extra insulation under the cabover bed area. We're also thinking about adding a fiberglass interior to the cabin, but that's still a work in progress.
On the outside we added brackets for the caravan sockets, cut out the windows and vents and installed the windows and vents. Roof-mounted solar panels are bolted to pressure-treated wooden blocks. The washers under the solar panel legs are then caulked and sealed. Once completed, we added the interior walls, cabinets, electrical and appliances. It is an extensive building.
Why did you choose glass over acrylic?
Andrew: We use single pane windows because they work best with fiberglass casing.
Glass windows will give us the best seal and long term performance due to the shape and parameters of the fiberglass shell and underlying plywood.
Are there outside storage areas?
Andrew: Just behind the rear double doors is a storage area. When you open the rear doors, the lower cabinet on the driver's side has a vinyl floor that extends forward under the diner.
There, Grumpy Bear owners can store the 30 amp power cord, gray water hose, and other outdoor storage items. Even larger items like folding chairs can fit in this area. That's a lot of storage space.
Above: Grumpy Bear Koda's propane compartment
In the same area is something we have never seen before. an internal propane compartment. How do you make this a secure feature?
William: Andrew designed the propane compartment with two openings at the top and bottom of this cabinet that exit through the side of the trailer. There are fence lights on the propane door itself, as well as a latch, so it's a completely waterproof space. We make sure we get the right size seal and the port compresses it. Before our campers leave the factory, we do propane checks to make sure it's sealed. There is also an LP detector in the trailer.
Above: Grumpy Bear Koda Battery Case
Where is the battery compartment on the Koda?
William: The battery compartment is under the front seat on the driver's side. It has the capacity to store two Group 24 or AGM lithium batteries. The compartment is not ventilated, so sealed batteries are required.
Do Grumpy Bear campers come standard with Happijac camper plugs?
William: Yes, the Koda comes standard with manual Happijac connectors. You can upgrade to Happijac electrical outlets with a remote control.
How are the corner grooves attached to the trailer frame?
Andrew: We design our own props and build them ourselves. Brackets and tow jacks attach through fiberglass walls with 3-inch screws. You can remove the sockets, but that's not how we intended the Koda design to be used.
The jack arms have built-in attachment points for mounting buckles to the frame.
Above: Accessing the arm straps from inside the Grumpy Bear Koda
In 2023, we also added arm straps that will go to the mounting points on the truck body. Both systems are accompanied by our campers. lashing points and straps. With buckles or straps, the Koda loads and unloads like a regular truck trailer.
Can a Grumpy Bear Koda fit in a double truck?
Andrew: Currently, we only recommend our Koda for trucks with a rear wheel. half a ton, three quarters of a ton and one ton. The swingarms should work, but we haven't tested the trailer on a truck with dual rear wheels.
Above: The open-air outdoor shower curtain
In one of the photos we see an exterior curtain on the back doors. What is that;
William: This is the shower rod and curtain. With the rear doors half open, the shower rod and shower curtain are hooked into the attachment points on the rear doors and closet. Once installed you can use this area as a full shower. Inside is a faucet and shower valve connection, similar to what you find on RV trucks.
This is a clean solution. What is the internal height?
Andrew: It's just over 74.5 inches or 6'2”. Please note that this is not a flat roof, so the height of the fiberglass shell changes. It's shallower at the rear and right at the front of the caravan. The height of Cabover is approximately 24 inches.
What materials do you use to make the cabinet, counters, tables, etc.?
William: The bench and table are Thinscape by Wilsonart. It is a solid core composite product.
Andrew: The cabinets are a combination of laminated plywood with Wilsonart and Azdel composite panels. Inside the cabinets is cabinet-style plywood.
Why did you decide not to take a woodless camping approach?
Andrew: We wanted our shell to be 100% fiberglass for longevity. About 50 years from now. Plywood gives us the best options for cabinets.
William: At Liberty Outdoors, we experiment with water seepage in plywood enclosures and have learned that it takes a significant amount of water to damage plywood enclosures. Unless there is a catastrophic leak, plywood cabinets will dry without watermarks. We decided to focus on high-quality fiberglass enclosure and combine it with more traditional enclosure materials.
"We decided to focus on high-quality fiberglass enclosure and combine it with more traditional enclosure materials."
Is there any provision for shading or covering the rear doors for light control or privacy?
William: There are black Velcro blinds on the back doors and all the windows. Velcro shades are used throughout the trailer on all windows including the cab.
The cabinet in Grumpy Bear Koda is quite complex. How was all this planned?
André: I have experience in SolidWorks and with CNC. Fibrobec provided us with a CAD model of the shell. We designed the inner cabinet in SolidWorks and CNC cut everything on our CNC machine. This approach allowed us to use all available spaces.
William: The design of this trailer has gone through many revisions. It started two years ago. There were several redesigns. A lot of design work had to be done to fit everything in this space. We could use every inch for storage and appliances, but it took forever to get things right.
Why do you use mesh for the storage pulls instead of rigid doors?
William: We use a combination of rigid doors and netting in the caravan. Our hammock saves weight and allows us to maximize the use of available space.
Above: Excel's custom tankless water heater
What water and furnace heating system are you using in Grumpy Bear Koda?
Andrew: Our 2023 campers have a custom tankless, ventless propane water heater. It uses a low oxygen sensor to not put too much CO2 into the trailer. The oven we use is a Suburban NT-20SEQ.
Above: The Elwell AIR8 indoor air conditioning system
We saw an 8,000 BTU Cabinet Air Conditioner listed. Tell us about this feature.
William: It's an Elwell AIR8. The AIR8 is a compact indoor unit that requires no side wall penetration, offers ducted air distribution, has a multi-function wall thermostat, quiet low fan operation and auto cooling function.
Andrew: We started with a traditional air conditioner and we didn't like the weight. We also don't like the front ventilation design of the roof mounted units, which are all oversized for our trailer. AIR8 goes under the cabover and we love how simple it is. There's one vent there and two in the cabin.
This is a brand and model that we cannot find. Is the Elwell AIR8 110 volts or 12 volts?
Andrew: It's 110 volts and is recommended primarily for land-based power or with a 3,000-watt portable generator.
Where is the water pump located on the Koda?
Andrew: If you open a cupboard door in the kitchen, it goes under a shelf. The most difficult part of accessing the water pump is removing the drawer. It's very easy to access.
The double sink and single propane burner are an efficient use of space. Why did you choose this unit over a separate sink and stove or a two-burner stove?
William: There were two reasons. First, we like the aesthetics of the sink-and-stove combo unit. We also needed something that would fit and not take up the available counter space. On our 2023 Campers, the sink is moved to the left and closer to the fridge.
Tell us about the refrigerator.
William: It's a 12 volt, 2.8 cubic foot two-way compressor model from Dometic. We wanted to maximize the cooler's size without cluttering up the internal layout. The fridge door opens just right so you don't have to go around the fridge to open the door.
Two peaks face to face dinner is amazing. How big are the seats?
William: Big enough for me and William to sit on. We are both 6'2" and experienced it as a diner. It's easy and comfortable to sit and have lunch there.
The small diner also converts to a 63-inch-long, 19-inch-wide bed. For children or pets, it makes a convenient bonus sleeping area.
Tell us about the single seat dining system.
William: It's a marine product called the Garelick EEz-In Adjustable Table Base. It's a simple adjustment and locking system. And it's very stable.
Andrew: We also have a Lagun that we've tested that we can use in the new floor plan. The Garelick EEz-In feels like it's sitting on an ordinary kitchen table. Lagun is more flexible, but not as stable.
There is no toilet in a Grumpy Gear Koda. Is there provision for a bathroom?
William: Yes, there is storage for a 2.6 gallon Porta Potti in the back seat of the table.
How big are the holding tanks on the Koda?
William: The Koda has a new 15 gallon tank and a gray 8 gallon tank. The fresh tank feeds the kitchen sink and outdoor shower. The main use of the gray tank is also the kitchen sink. There is an adapter to connect the gray tank to a garden hose and drain it as needed.
Where is the low water drain located?
Andrew: There's a water drain in there. You can connect a hose to the low point drain and lead it outside. We also have a set of valves for putting antifreeze in the winter.
The cabover outcrops in a north-south bed. How big is the cabover bed?
William: The cabover bed extends to a 74-inch by 58-inch bed. That's a little smaller than an RV Queen. The bed platform pulls out to the end of the cooler at the rear. Homeowners can climb onto the dining table seat and bed. It's easy to climb.
The cabover features upper closet storage, two large cubicles on each side, and vents for the air conditioner. In the head area there is a 110 volt outlet as well as a 12 volt outlet.
How tall is the cable?
William: The cabover is 24 inches tall. You can lie down, but not sit.
There are at least two layers of LED lighting on the Koda. Tell us about it.
William: The cabover has an all-LED lighting system. There are two strips of LEDs running along the cabinets that create a bright ambient light. There are also lights located throughout the main area near the sink, fridge and dining seats. These offer a warmer light color. There are two switches in the cab that control the two lights, or you can turn them on through the doors. There is a ceiling accent light in the main space. It's a little brighter. Throughout the trailer we give you options for how much shine you want.
Outside, we have two LED patio lights above each window. We also have two puddle lights on the bottom rear corners of the trailer. If you need to leave the trailer at night, the puddle lights will illuminate the area without blinding anyone.
What options are available for Grumpy Bear Koda?
William: There are just a few options, like remote-controlled electrical outlets, two 100-watt solar panels with solar controllers, and the air conditioner. That's it. Almost everything is standard on Koda.
What solar controller are you using on the Koda?
William: We used a Renogy Adventurer Li-30A PWM lithium-capable solar charge controller and a Renogy BT-1 Bluetooth module. The Bluetooth module connects to the Renogy app so you can monitor your solar panel and batteries on your phone.
How much does the Grumpy Bear Koda 2023 weigh with standard build specs?
William: Base weight is 1,650 pounds. Fully loaded, it would be around 1,830 pounds.
What is the MSRP for the 2023 Grumpy Bear Koda with standard build features?
William: The base price is $36,000. Fully loaded without any custom work would cost around $42,000.
When you place your order, we require a $1,000 non-refundable deposit to place your build in our queue and begin the process of communicating with our customers. Once your design selections are complete, we require a 30% non-refundable deposit to secure your parts and materials.
What is the deadline?
Delivery time is currently three to six months. For customers who don't want to wait, we have a used and two new Koda models for sale.on our websiteright now. We prefer that customers pick up their campers at the factory, but we do have an RV freight option for shipping.
What is the warranty on Grumpy Bear Campers?
William: The Grumpy Bear Koda comes with a one-year warranty that includes the frame and fixtures. We prefer that you bring a Grumpy Bear back to us for any warranty work however we are willing to work with dealers to carry out this work if you are unable to return it to us.
Can our readers see a Grumpy Bear Camper in your factory?
Andrew: Absolutely! We will need to coordinate the schedule as we may not have a completed unit when you would like to visit. Call ahead, call ahead. Of course, you can checkOur sitefor detailed photos.
You mentioned another model in development. Will we see additional Grumpy Bear models in 2023?
Andrew: We are working on a new plant that goes in a different direction. We are looking at removing the kitchen and water completely. It will have reduced cost and weight. Which will have a 12 volt refrigerator and will have space for a potty holder. When this trailer is ready, we will announce it in Truck Camper Magazine.
For the Koda, we are changing the on-demand water heater for the 2023 campers so there is no opening of the external water heater. This will make wintering even easier. We also increased our new tank to fifteen gallons from the original eight. We will also go to the Garrett See Level tank monitors. The See Level system will contain the water pump switch, a battery level indicator, and new and gray tank levels. There will be no water heater exchange because of Excel's on-demand water heater.
"We want to stay small, maintain high quality and connect with our customers."
Our goal is to remain a small company. We want to stay small, keep quality high, and connect with our customers. We don't want to grow too fast and lose control of quality and customer relationships. We can't wait for Truck Camper magazine readers to see Grumpy Bear Koda in person. If you're looking for an affordable, high-quality molded fiberglass motorhome with half-ton capacity, you'll love the Koda.
For more information about Grumpy Bear Campers, visit their website atgrumpybearcampers.com. Click here to get onefree Grumpy Bear brochure.
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