Starting Friday, May 12, an assortment of rugged, off-roading explorers and industry experts alike will gather in Flagstaff, Ariz. Among them will be Rory Willett, a man who’s been a part of the RV industry since the 1960s, and owner of BundutecUSA, a truck camper company set on taking the RV experience from “small to micro.”
“Every time I apologize for my product being different,” said Willett, 60, “people tell me, ‘No, that’s why we’re here.’”
Willett stood out because of his incredibly minimalistic approach to camping. For example, here’s what Bundutec could pack into one of its 6 1/2-foot truck bed campers (averaging $15,000 to $20,000): a Norcold pull-out fridge; electronic roof lift system; L-shaped dinette; queen bed; sink; two burner stove; exterior shower; Shur-Flo water pump; toilet and several other amenities … All of it packed onto a half-ton pickup.
“They’re all pieces of a puzzle, and you have to fit them in,” he said. Otherwise it would be like jamming mismatching jigsaw pieces. But for the past two years since BundutecUSA began, Willett has been working hard in his Raymond, Iowa, warehouse – at times seven days a week, 10 to 11 hours a day – to fulfill customized orders for his truck campers while trying to keep the weight to an absolute minimum. Essentially, he’s become a master puzzle craftsman.
“You really have to watch your weight,” he warned. Batteries, water heaters … All components are finely tuned and selected to match a client’s needs for venturing on rough terrain. “You’ve got to warn people instead of a 17-gallon tank, you’ve got a 35-gallon tank. A gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds. Always have to be cautious of that – the floor space it takes up and the weight that it adds.”
Fortunately, Willett “lives for” problem-solving, and hails from decades of RV experience, growing up around them with his dad’s Texson operation up through the 1970s. (He was even taught how to shoot arrows at the Minneapolis Sports Show by Ted Nugent.) Eventually, Willett switched to Northstar Campers, becoming president. He thought that’s where his career would end when he retired in 2013. “But I didn’t want to retire,” he said.
He sought change.
In 2015, an Australian business associate put him in touch with Martin Rautenback, the original creator of Bundutec. Rautenback invited Willett to Johannesburg, South Africa, to give his truck campers a firsthand try through the Kalahari before becoming a manufacturer. Willett wanted to see what Bundutec was capable of before going all in, so they spent eight days in the bush traveling to Namibia.
“It opened my eyes to a whole different style of camping,” he remarked. “Here I was in a Defender 110 with a rooftop tent, and literally nothing! … The concept of being so compact and minimalist left me not needing anything.”
Willett was sold. He began manufacturing a series of pop-top and hard-walled truck campers like the BunduKort ($15,400), BunduVry ($16,200), and BushCamp ($13,500). Each welcome an endless cycle of customization with new parts.
While BundutecUSA operates mainly as a factory-direct manufacturer, the company has expanded into several dealerships outside of its own in Iowa: D & H RV Center (North Carolina), Polar RV Sales (New Hampshire), AutomotorUSA (Washington).
BundutecUSA is also taking applications to meet the already 24 units Willett is facing on his own.
His list of dealers may expand after Overland Expo West, as will Willett’s innovative approach to combinational optimization.
“That crowd out there,” he said, “is a network of ideas.” He may even gain insight to strengthen his skills at combinational optimization. “I still have to figure out a way to a BunduTop rooftop tent on top of a truck camper,” he said, laughing, “and just call it the ‘mother-in-law spare bedroom.’”
For more information, visit www.bundutecusa.com.