A few weeks back I was sitting in my local café/office, staring out the window, when a Toyota Tacoma rumbled past with a strange-looking camper shell bolted to the back. “Leentu” it read on the side. I’d never seen anything quite like it before. It looked like a lightweight fiberglass shell, with strange windows and a pop-up tent, none of which is that revolutionary, I suppose, but there was something decidedly futuristic about it. I did some digging.
Leentu, it turns out, is just getting off the ground. They’ve just begun taking pre-orders for their shells back in March. I recently met with co-founder Scott Surface, a former construction management pro, to check out his prototype and to find out what Leentu’s all about. Surface had just returned from a multi-state trek, part of a long-term durability and usability test. His prototype shell was dirty, stickered, and clearly well-loved.
Leentu is designed to be light. Incredibly so. They’ll offer two constructions: fiberglass or carbon fiber. The fiberglass model will weigh less than 150 pounds. The carbon fiber just 100 pounds. The whole idea is for the camper to be a full-functional adventure-ready shell while maintaining day-to-day usability and handling characteristics. It will fit in most garages. It won’t destroy gas mileage. It won’t feel like there are 1,000 pounds of camper shell weighing down the bed of the truck.
When popped to full height, the Leentu offers well above six feet of standing room from the truck bed to the tent ceiling. The tent is a weatherproof, marine-grade canvas-feeling material. The whole setup is pre-wired for solar power. The rear is a fully hinged, full-height door. Stepping into the prototype’s voluminous interior, all lit-up with afternoon sun beaming through windows (zippered for weather protection) made me weep a little, imagining the cramped confines of the traditional camper shell on my truck back home. Inside, a lofted bed (an 80″ x 48″ included foam mattress is the sleeping surface) sets up easily and converts to a little lounge seating area. LED lighting illuminates and sets the mood.
Surface says the roof will easily hold a couple hundred extra pounds, enough to pitch some surfboards, skis, a slug full of camping gear, you name it. The whole thing looks lightweight, customizable, and user-friendly. Compelling, to say the least.
Of course, because Toyota Tacomas are seemingly the only mid-sized trucks purchased in this country, initially the Leentu will be offered only for 2005 to current model Tacomas with longbeds. Plans are underway to fit out the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, the new Ford Ranger, and the short-bed Taco in the future.
Now then—are you sitting down? The cost for the Leentu starts around $10,000 for the fiberglass model and $14,000 for the carbon fiber version. Leentu is offering heavy discounts for early adopters to get overlanders on the program. But a customizable, off-road-ready popup camper with way over six feet of headroom? That has my attention.
Leentu hopes to ship the first orders in fall 2018.