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To catch sight of the moon passing in front of the sun for the annular solar eclipse, I headed south from Portland, Oregon, on a Friday in October. I left my personal camper van behind for the weekend and borrowed a rig that’s much better suited for getting close to the sky. The Super Pacific X1 Switchback Truck Tent is both a rooftop tent and a contractor-grade truck topper. Combined, the whole thing converts from a roomy living room to a lofted bedroom in seconds. I wanted to learn what that actually means first hand.
Launched in the City of Roses in 2020, Super Pacific designs and manufactures lightweight campers for full and mid-size trucks using components sourced locally and domestically. The canopies are made out of formed and riveted aluminum, a fabrication method modeled from the aerospace industry, that’s super strong, light, and flexible. And the hard-shell tent has T-slots for mounting solar panels or racks. Lash points, slots, and rivets make it highly customizable.
This wouldn't be my first time camping in a truck—far from it. Camping in the bed of my husband’s Tacoma under a topper was the precursor to us building out our own RAM Promaster camper van and living in it for two consecutive summers. Now we venture near and far in it on weekends and weeks-long outings. In our travels, I learned that efficient design is crucial to life on the road. But it was my first time sleeping in a roof-top tent. As a result, I was curious how the Super Pacific X1 Switchback would compare to my other experiences. Here’s how it went.
Truck Camper vs. Rooftop Tent vs. Truck Topper
First, a quick refresher on the different types of campers out there. There’s truck campers, which slide into the truck bed. With their own little door out the back, they’re built like a mini RV. Some larger models even feature a kitchenette and bathroom as well as the sleeping area.
A rooftop tent, on the other hand, mounts to the top of a vehicle, either straight to the top or to a truck topper. They come either hard- or soft-sided and pop up when you’re ready to sleep. Other than using a ladder, the experience is pretty similar to what you’d get from a ground tent.
Then there’s the classic sleeping under your truck topper, usually on a DIY platform with gear storage underneath. Super cozy, but restrictive, sort of like sleeping in a coffin.
Super Pacific X1: Specs and First Impressions
Built for four seasons, the X1 Switchback is a modular truck topper and a rooftop tent. Instead of functioning as two separate compartments, it features a convenient pass through. Once the tent is popped, its base slides open over the truck cab to create a room you can stand in. And when you’re ready to sleep, you simply slide back the platform to create a queen-sized bed that’s spacious enough for two adults, plus a dog, kids, or both. Living room mode to bunk mode.
It’s the scenario Peter Williams envisioned when he and two other co-founders started the company. Williams was working as a product designer at Nike when he began tinkering with the idea of making his own camper that could withstand Pacific Northwest conditions so he could take his son out on adventures all year round, like surfing and skiing. But as a DIY guy and former contractor, he still wanted to use his Tacoma as a truck without having to unload the camping setup every time he headed to the hardware store.
Not only is the X1 Switchback aesthetically sharp thanks to the designer’s eye, every component is carefully considered, from the ribbing over the tent flaps and rain gutters around the windows that deflect rain to the dual side access windows of the topper. The frame’s box beam construction creates built-in chaseways for threading water and electrical lines for all sorts of customization, and two modular floor panels in the tent pop up.
The Super Pacific X1 Switchback camper fits Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Tundra, Ford F-150, Ford, F-250, Chevy Silverado, Dodge RAM, and Jeep Gladiator truck models, among others, and Super Pacific is currently prototyping a rooftop tent for vans. You already know I’m excited.
Just our luck, the rain started as soon as we pulled into our lakeside site at the Crane Prairie Campground near Bend, Oregon. By the dim light of our headlamps, and by the good grace of the gear gods, my husband and I managed to set up the tent for the first time in under 10 minutes. Williams told me that everyone in the wedge camper game claims their camper can be set up in under 30 seconds, which Super Pacific claims as well. But that’s only for popping up the tent, not fully setting up. All it took was unlatching the tent latches, lifting a handle, and letting the gas struts do the rest of the work. Then we quickly zipped shut the storm doors and bug netting, and rolled down the insulation kit (one of Super Pacific’s newest soft good products for 2023).
The next challenge was hoisting our very confused 45-pound dog into the bed above through the expandable gap between the sleeping platform and the truck bed. She settled right into our sleeping bags, fluffed over a plush Exped Megamat Duo LW+ mattress set up inside. We used the suspended gear loft to stash our books, keys, socks, and headlamps within reach.
Meanwhile, I crouched down below in the bed of the truck to make a quick dinner while drizzle turned to downpour outside. In the van, I’m used to standing at our kitchenette for meal prep, so this below-deck position was a change. I had to rearrange our gear to make space to squat. But the 12-volt outlet and dual USB ports routed through the canopy’s chaseways provided the power I needed. We plugged in an extra battery bank to charge a Dometic CFX3 55IM fridge, and Williams installed lights that were just bright enough to illuminate the truck bed.
We drifted off listening to the pitter-patter of the rain on the canopy that night, and woke up to mostly clear skies in the morning—perfect conditions for the eclipse happening just after 9 a.m.
Our pup stayed cozy in the tent while we cooked breakfast on the campsite’s picnic table, and with the tent windows rolled down, we ate our breakfast burritos up there with a view of the lake. Then, the skies darkened, and we spotted a sliver of the sun behind the moon. The last time I viewed a solar eclipse was in 2017 in a parking lot, so this was much better. A few other campers were watching nearby, and the smell of campfire wafted over the campground.
Our slow, scenic morning ended, and we packed down the tent and into the truck—which took a tad longer than setup because we fumbled with our gear organization (more on this later in the pros and cons section)—to head out for a hike off the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway before it closed for winter.
X1 Switchback Pros and Cons
Let’s get the cons out of the way first—and there are few. Hoisting yourself up and down through the narrow portal between the truck bed and sleeping platform takes some getting used to and could be limiting for some users. You also have to close the tent whenever you need to head to town or to a trailhead, but the same goes for any rooftop tent.
That means your gear management system in the truck bed must be dialed. You want enough space to store gear down below, but you also need room for meal prep, changing, getting down, and storing things from above when you break down camp. Super Pacific’s modular molle panel mounting systems can help you play expert level truck bed gear tetris, and Williams has a packing system I aspire to adopt.
Onto the pros. If you’re looking for a lightweight truck camper with finessed design, this is your match. The tent is super easy to set up and take down, even with the insulation kit and mattress inside. We had no issues clamping it closed and popping it back open. The dual side access doors stayed secure and allowed us to toss our packs in the back without opening the tailgate.
Because it’s so customizable, this could be the ideal setup for almost every kind of camper. From a small family getting away on weekends to the hardcore overlander spending summer weekends exploring backroads and winter weekends camped in ski hill lots. From the handyman looking forward to hunting season, to the solo cross-country traveler with reservations at National Parks. From the tent camper wanting to get off the ground, to the van dwellers who miss owning a truck.
At $13,495, the X1 Switchback is an investment. The price includes installation at the Portland HQ, but you can pay an extra $1,350 for installation at partner partner locations in Colorado, California, and Nevada.