First Impressions of the Northstar Laredo SC

Northstar Laredo SC Truck Camper

Well, we finally have it! We picked up our Northstar Laredo SC truck camper from the factory in Waterloo, Iowa on September 11 and spent the next eight days in it, driving from Illinois to our home in Mesa, AZ. We took old Route 66 home, a distance of over 1,700 miles. Seven nights were spent off-the-grid in rest areas, truck stops, and in the Sitgreaves National Forest while one night was spent in an RV park with full hookups. The trip home gave us a perfect opportunity to test out all of the systems, drive with it at highway speeds, and have it weighed at a CAT scale. Here are our first impressions of the camper:

The overall appearance of the Northstar Laredo SC exterior is impressive. Northstar’s graphics are very attractive and not as obnoxious and “loud” as those you’ll find on the new Lance and Wolf Creek truck campers. The Dometic thermal pane windows provide a sleek and stylish appearance to an already attractive camper. Indeed, the Ram 3500 and Northstar Laredo combo is such a head turner that we got numerous stares on our trip home. A few even asked us about the camper and where we bought it.

Mounted on our truck, the height of the Laredo’s front roof is only 9 feet, 4 inches, the rear 9 feet, 8 inches. This is a good 8 inches shorter than my old Wolf Creek 850! The camper fits snugly to the truck with very small gaps between the two. This along with the smaller profile means much less wind resistance than our old camper. So much so, that on level highways we were getting a whopping 15.5 MPGs while on the hilly terrain in New Mexico and Arizona we were averaging 14.3 MPGs. These impressive figures are a good 2 to 3 MPGs better than our old camper.

Northstar Larado

Due to the Laredo’s narrow girth (7 feet), loading the camper took longer than usual. This was no surprise and was completely expected. Initially, this narrower width only gave us about 1 inch of play on either side of the truck to back in. Because of this, Rex recommended that side brackets for the front jacks be installed that would provide an extra 2 inches on either side. I wholeheartedly agreed and the brackets were installed before we left the factory. Having this extra clearance will make the process of loading the camper easier in the future.

What did the CAT scale tell us? Combined, the truck and camper weighed 11,180 pounds. Subtracting the truck’s curbweight of 8,200 pounds from that figure means that the fully loaded Laredo weighs 2,980 pounds. With a factory wet weight of 2,300 pounds that was no surprise. Oh, and for those who are curious, the weight of the front axle came in at 5,060 pounds (6,000 pound GAWR) while the rear axle weighed 6,120 pounds (7,000 GAWR). What’s the bottom line? The truck and camper are well under my truck’s GVWR of 11,700 pounds. Nice!

The Torklift rear bumper with the single, pull-down step is very functional, attractive, and makes getting in and out of the camper a real joy. Despite having just a single step, we were able to get in and out of the camper with no problems (having no basement means less height to the camper). Overall, getting in and out of the Laredo is much easier and is a big improvement from the scissor steps we had to use on the taller Wolf Creek 850.

The Northstar Laredo interior is attractive and features rugged, well-made oak cabinets. We love the look of the vinyl wood grain floors and like how this wood grain flooring was also placed on the step to the cabover. The Laredo floorplan is simple yet highly functional and provides more than enough room for two adults. We really like how large the wardrobe is. It fits all of my shirts and my wife’s blouses and even our winter jackets with room to spare. The Northstar digital clock and thermometer adds an elegant touch to the camper’s interior.

Northstar Laredo Dinette - Truck Camper Adventure

Northstar Laredo Dinette

We love the dinette. The dinette is large and roomy and provides more than enough space for four adults to sit around the table. We ordered the new sage green fabric for the cushions and really like how warm it makes the interior feel. The Lagun swing away table system is terrific and really saves on space with its various configurations. Unfortunately, the dinette doesn’t have any 12 volt USB ports to charge our cell phones. That’s one of the first electrical mods I’ll make to the camper.

The kitchen offers lots of storage and features an attractive Atwood stainless steel, three burner cook top. The kitchen drawers are deep and wide, are well-constructed, and are easy to pull-out. The high-quality, push-button airline latches keep the drawers locked in place during travel even on bumpy roads. The cut-ins underneath the kitchen cabinets creates more foot room and makes the interior feel a little larger. The wife really likes the single-handle kitchen faucet with pull-out sprayer. It saves on water and is much easier to activate as opposed to faucets with old-fashioned knobs.

Northstar Laredo SC Kitchen

Heki Skylight

We love the Dometic thermal pane windows and Heki skylight. Ordering the extra-large Dometic windows really brightens the interior and opening and closing them is quick and easy. We also like how simple it is to pull down the screen or pull up the privacy shade. The Heki provides additional fresh air to the cabover and provides terrific views of the stars at night. On our last night on the Mogollon Rim we both saw a shooting star while gazing through it. Very cool!

The bathroom is spacious for a single adult and there’s plenty of elbow room to take a shower comfortably. At first, we missed having a sink in the bathroom, but after a couple of days we were totally fine with it. We like that the floor board in the bathroom can be removed. This provides more head room when removed for showering and provides another void where we can store sandals and other small items. The toilet seat in the bathroom is comfortable to sit on though we found it to be a little high. There is no place in the bathroom to store a roll of toilet paper, so we bought a plastic toilet paper dispenser that mounts to the wall. We also bought some plastic hooks where we can hang wash cloths and other toiletry items to allow them to dry.

Northstar Laredo SC Wetbath

Wet Bath Toilet Paper Dispenser

We really like the Dometic CR1110 12 volt compressor refrigerator. It kept our food icy cold even on a medium-high setting of “4.5” in 90 degree temperatures. Amp drain wasn’t bad at all and measured just 2.6 amps per cycle. Nice! When one considers the lower amp draw and the ability to operate on uneven ground, boondocking will be a real joy with this refrigerator.

Dometic CR110 12 Volt Compressor Refrigerator

The Zamp charge controller and 240 watt solar power system did a great job keeping our two Group 31 AGM batteries charged. As one would expect, I noticed a big difference in how well the system charged our batteries in Iowa compared to Arizona where the sun sits higher in the sky.

We really like the Thetford 5 gallon cassette toilet. Having the ability to dump at rest area bathrooms and pit toilets was a real convenience. We dumped it twice during our eight-day trip and went five days without having to dump. Dumping the cassette is quick and easy. The cassette has wheels on one end and a pull-out handle on the other that makes transporting it a breeze.

Thetford Cassette Toilet

Thetford Cassette

Having the extra-large fresh water tank (39 gallons compared to 30 gallons in the older Laredo models) is great. The extra 9 gallons means two to three extra days boondocking and that’s always a good thing. Having a smaller 14 gallon gray tank, however, took some getting use to and we had to dump it quite frequently to keep it empty. Having just a gray tank to dump also means we need just an old garden hose to dump now, no need to buy a RhinoFlex or a stinky slinky.

The Laredo cabover is narrower and less tall, but the larger Dometic windows and Heki skylight make it seem bigger and less claustrophobic. The coffin storage lockers that flank the queen size bed help keep things tidy and organized. Because of the camper’s lower profile, we noticed that getting in and out of the cabover bed is easier, a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, the OEM spring mattress is lumpy and not very comfortable–an aftermarket 6 inch memory foam mattress is already on order.

IMG_0026

We’ve never seen a camper as well-lit as the Laredo. All of the exterior and interior lights are LED (except for the one in the range hood). There are four lights in the cabover, four in the dinette, and three in the kitchen. Even the wardrobe and battery compartment have lights! The exterior has lots of lighting, too. A light is mounted on each side of the camper and even under each wing. Our only complaint is the brightness of the reading lights in the cabover–they’re blinding. We’ll need to purchase some lower wattage LEDs so we can read comfortably in bed.

Our overall impression of the Northstar Laredo SC is very favorable. The wife and I love it. It’s everything that we hoped for when we ordered it and more. Our only complaint with the camper lies not in its construction but in Northstar’s choice in a mattress. We were able to purchase a queen size, high-quality Sleep Master 6 inch memory foam mattress for only $161 through Amazon.com prime. More and more RV owners are going with memory foam and I think Northstar campers should do the same. In the overall scheme of things, however, this is a very minor quibble. The Northstar Laredo is a great camper and one we have absolutely no regrets in buying. We can’t wait to take it out again.

Stay tuned for a more complete and comprehensive review in spring.

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About Mello Mike 298 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure Magazine. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a truck camper and Jeep enthusiast, and has owned and restored several Airstream travel trailers. He enjoys college football, hiking, travel, off-roading, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years and now works as a project manager for a major banking and security firm. He also does some RV consulting and RV inspections on the side.

31 Comments

  1. I noticed that you originally were not going to get the Heki skylight but ended up getting it. What are your thoughts after having it a few months?

  2. Mike, Great looking rig. I was wondering about the difference in mpg you got between the Wolf Creek and the Laredo? Could you give a comparison of mpg empty, with the Wolf Creek and with the Laredo. Also what is the difference in loaded weight between the two. I’m looking at the Loredo but concerned with the grey water tank size and cassette. I know the grey water isn’t hazardous (you can wash dishes or shower outside and it’s ok to hit the ground) but when it goes in a tank then it is much harder to dispose of. We have some friends with an Earthroamer with the cassette toilet and they have told us that’s the way to go but I have seen more and more places with signs not to dump portable toilets in the bathrooms and pit toilets, have you noticed this trend in your area? Looking forward to your detailed review.

    Thanks.

    Dave

    • Hi Dave. Thanks for posting. I’m getting a good 3-4 MPGs better with the Laredo as opposed to the Wolf Creek, same truck, too. The Laredo fits like a glove to the truck. No large gaps between the truck and camper like you find with the Wolf Creek. No issues at all dumping the cassette in public toilets. Gray water dumping isn’t an issue either. Check out my article on Cassette Toilets to see what I mean.

      • Mike, what mpg do you get with your truck empty? I’m wondering about how much of a hit I can expect with the Laredo. We average about 20 empty and 11 towing the 14,000 lb 5th wheel. I’d expect to do better with less weight and reduced windage but not sure what to expect. I’m interested in getting one because of the maneuverability/flexibility of some trips I’m planning.

  3. Hi Mike,

    Your Laredo SC looks to be virtually exactly what I am looking for, I just love it.

    I’m in my late 20’s, single, and my plan is to build-out and then live out of a truck camper rig full-time, boondocking much of the time, as far out in the (high altitude) wilderness as the rig will take me.
    I’m hoping to pair it with a 1-ton Cummins Ram SRW truck similar to yours, although I am still figuring out the best truck/camper configuration for my specific needs…
    I’m wondering if a Long-bed truck/camper combo would be better suited for accommodating a custom motorcycle carrier, since it could be installed closer to the rear bumper (and higher up for maximal exit angle?) than a short-bed truck/camper (e.g. your ram/laredo config) for carrying a heavy BMW F800GS Adventure motorcycle that weighs around 500lbs.
    It would also be killer if there was juuust enough space for my skinny butt to slip inside the camper with the bike still on the carrier.
    I’ve seen large short-bed campers with motorcycle carriers, but even on a dually, to my eye it just like too much weight and/or volume behind the rear axle…

    Any insight and advice you have for me is deeply appreciated pertaining to the specific type of use I’ve described…full-timing off-grid as much as possible, battery/solar configs, etc…and incorporating a motorcycle carrier into the rig in the most well-balanced way possible…
    Infinite gratitude!

    Sincerely,
    Jacob

    • Hi Jacob,
      Yes, you’ll probably be better off getting a long-bed pickup truck and the long-bed version of the Laredo. The only possible alternative to a carrier would be a small trailer to haul your bike and gear around. Check out Bryan Appleby’s article here on this website on how he hauls his bikes and equipment. He makes it work and so could you. As for solar, the more the better. For full-time living, I would recommend at least 300 watts.

  4. I am planning to get a Laredo so reading your site is wonderful! I just thought I’d mention one issue with a memory foam mattress- the type of foam cells in memory foam can burst if frozen. I live in Canada so always avoid memory foam for anything that will remain outside unheated in winter. You may find the mattress becomes lumpy as soon as it thaws. In my current camper I purchased an Ikea foam replacement mattress without memory foam. Perhaps it doesn’t freeze deeply where you live but that is why many RV manufacturers don’t install memory foam mattresses.

    • Thanks, Michele, for responding. That’s great that there will be another Laredo owner out there soon. I didn’t know that about freezing temps and memory foam cells. Freezing temperatures aren’t a problem in the desert where I live, but that’s good info for others to have. Thanks for letting me and everyone else know.

  5. Is the 6″ mattress comfortable? Does it lay on the flat floor or did you put something under it for more comfort?

    • Hi Charlie,
      Yes, the mattress is very comfortable, much better than the OEM one. We did lay it directly on the cabover floor like the original. Look for a full length article in a couple weeks on the details of this upgrade/modification.

  6. Congrats on your new camper Mike. I’ve followed your blog for a while and really enjoy the articles. As a coincidence, I picked up my Laredo SC from SCATT recreation (Roseville location) on Sept 18th that I ordered back in July. Everything you mentioned is spot on. I really like the overall quality of the camper. The cassette toilet system is great. My last dump was at home, no need to hunt around for an RV dump on the last vacation day.
    For me the big plus was the wood construction and insulation. I spent 4 nights at Tuolumne Meadows campground Yosemite NP. Nights dipped into the low 40s with a few lows in the 30s. I managed to keep the inside comfortable without having the furnace cycling too many times.
    Enjoy your travels.

    • Hi Tom,
      It’s always great to hear from other Laredo owners, especially new ones like yourself. Where did you have your batteries placed? Did you get solar? Are you planning on getting an inverter? I am, just not sure where to put it yet.

      Mike

      • So for batteries I ordered the dual battery box and SCATT squeezed in two group 24 12V AGM batteries for a total of 150 AH. I didn’t realize the battery box was so small but so far these batteries have worked out. Getting the battery box meant losing storage under the sink. I did get solar, 150 Watt panel. I tend to camp in the Sierra Mountains so I’m looking into a portable Zamp 80 Watt panel. I do want to get an inverter but I haven’t scoped out a good place to locate it. Since I have the battery box I’m thinking somewhere near it.
        Tom

  7. Actually, I guess I wasn’t very clear but we haven’t bought the camper yet. We’re looking at the Wolf Creek 840 and some of the Lances. We’re not so sure about the cassette toilet in the Northstar…any advice from you would be very appreciated. Thanks for the fast reply!

    • Diane,
      The cassette toilet really makes things easy. It’s light, easy to pull with the wheels, and has a light indicating when it’s full. Also, there’s no need to leave your campsite and dump if you own a cassette toilet. Just remove it from your camper and pull it to a nearby toilet and dump away. Not only that, but there’s no need to go to a dump station anymore. Gray water can be dumped in many locations safely and legally.

  8. Congratulations on your new camper. My husband and I have been following your adventures for awhile and being new to the truck camper world, we have learned a lot from your site…thank you. We recently purchased the almost exact same truck that you have except the 2015 version. We live off a 3 mile dirt road and the ride is so rough that we can hardly have a conversation until we reach the pavement. Did you do anything to smooth out your ride? Does the weight of the camper help? My husband has been researching the Kore modification to the Leaf springs…do you know anything about that?

    • Hi Diane,
      Congrats on your new camper. Glad to hear that you’ve found my site useful. I’m pretty happy with the ride of my truck. The only things I’ve added to smooth out my ride is a set of Bilstein shocks. Love them. You might want to try a set of those out. Haven’t heard of the Kore leaf spring mod. Sounds interesting. I’ll have to look into that. BTW, love your name. Same name as my mom. What camper did you buy?

  9. Great to hear Mike, I just placed an order for a nearly identical Laredo.
    I’ve been checking the site daily for an update since you picked yours up. Looking forward to hearing more.

      • No TV/radio, or AC but ordered just about everything else including the factory double group 31’s. Also, opted for the glass top stove so the kids cant reach the knobs. We are a young family with two small kids so we got the bunk. We’ll be using this year round in Montana for skiing.

  10. What a great write up on your new camper and road trip. Loved reviewing your photos and marveling at the attention to detail that Northstar installed in your new Truck Camper. I’m looking forward to seeing it close up and in person at some remote location, soon. Enjoy and always, Mike, safe travels!

    b

    • Thanks, Mark. I did take it to a CAT scale, but I want to verify the numbers first by taking it to another before I publish the results. I’ve had inaccurate CAT scale readings before and won’t get burned again. Yes, I’ll be posting many more pics in the future.

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