Bigfoot Industries presents a well-insulated, four-season type C motorhome with a front diesel engine that's ready for all kinds of adventures.
By Jim Brightly, F358406,
Bigfoot Industries is a family-owned company based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in Armstrong, British Columbia, Canada, that has been manufacturing recreation vehicles for 30 years. The company has a reputation as a maker of slide-in truck campers and travel trailers, and these still compose a major portion of its business.
But 10 years ago Bigfoot added motorhomes to its line. It produces two different series of type C motorhomes — the 3000 Series, built on Ford’s E-450 chassis, and the 4000 Series, based on GM’s heavy-duty Kodiak 5500 chassis. I recently tested a motorhome built on the latter chassis, the 31-foot-11-inch 40MH32ST. It is the shorter of Bigfoot’s two 4000 Series models.
Many people who are familiar with Bigfoot products think of them as cold-weather RVs. While this is true, it’s only partially correct. Bigfoot motorhomes are all-weather coaches, and if ordered accordingly, they can be extreme-weather coaches. With the exception of the cab, thermal dual-pane windows are used throughout the coach. Cockpit windows can be isolated with the privacy curtain. Roof vents are also single-layer plastic. With the use of the furnace or dual air conditioners, comfortable temperatures inside the coach can be maintained while outside temperatures may plunge or soar. Bigfoot’s excellent insulation keeps the coach interior very quiet as well, both while in camp and when driving.
To make cold-weather travel even more comfortable, Bigfoot installs a rear automotive auxiliary heater in the subfloor of the motorhome, and a variable-speed fan control in the cab. This system allows the coach owner to maintain constant heat to all the plumbing, tanks, and dump valves while driving. It is also ducted into the living area of the coach and helps maintain a comfortable environment during travel. The system works off the engine and does not require the coach furnace to be left on while driving. According to company officials, the system also helps shorten the time needed to warm up the unit once a destination has been reached.
Bigfoot also installs a motoraid water heater system. A hose line is connected to the engine and loops through the water heater tank, keeping the water warm while the coach is under way. If driver and passengers stop at a rest area and want to shower or clean dishes, they don’t have to light the water heater and wait for the water to warm up.
While I was driving and just walking around the coach interior during our campsite layovers, the Kodiak chassis felt very sturdy and solid. Its heavy-wall C-channel longitudinal ladder frame provides a very secure foundation for the Bigfoot.
Our test coach included the optional Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 turbo-diesel engine, which develops 300 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and 605 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. (The Chevy Vortec 8.1-liter gasoline engine is standard.) Driving it is very pleasurable. Its average zero-to-60 mph time of 21.6 seconds doesn’t really show it, but the Bigfoot felt peppy on the highway. To me, the engine seemed more powerful than its 6.6-liter size might suggest, and perhaps the V-8 design has something to do with that.
The Duramax’s power was especially evident when we climbed the 5 percent and 6 percent grades into Bisbee, Arizona, with a 2 1/2-ton Jeep in tow. The motorhome maintained at least 55 mph all the way up the hills (although it did drop down a few gears on the Allison six-speed World 1000 Series transmission). The coach’s average mileage was 9.1 mpg, which included towing the 5,000-pound Jeep and our gear, and driving up and down mountain roads — not to mention city traffic around Phoenix. We also traveled at 60 to 65 mph, so I’m guessing a solo trip, with no vehicle in tow, while driving an average of 55 mph might garner an 11 mpg rating.
I weighed the Bigfoot while it contained its maximum capacity of fresh water (74 gallons) and diesel fuel (60 gallons), plus two adults and our gear up front. The front axle rating almost reached its maximum in this manner. However, the rear axle still had nearly 2,000 pounds of carrying capacity left. Owners will have to remember to pack the 20,500-pound-GVWR coach with this in mind. Company officials note that an optional 22,000-pound chassis is available for the 32ST (8,000 pounds front GAWR; 15,000 pounds rear GAWR; 245/70R 19.5 load range H tires; 4:78:1 axle ratio).
If the suspension feels a bit mushy, with the air-bag assist on the suspension, the driver can adjust the air pressure to improve the ride. Increase the air pressure for a stiffer ride and reduce the air for a softer ride.
The Kodiak chassis makes it possible for any medium-duty GM truck dealer to perform all the chassis maintenance and repair duties that might be necessary on the Bigfoot during its lifetime.
The 32ST I reviewed measured 8 feet 4 inches wide and 11 feet 3 inches high. Actually, all Bigfoot motorhomes are the same width and height; it's only the length that varies. They are equipped with a cab-over bed measuring 30 inches by 80 inches, or buyers can choose an entertainment center in that location as an option.
Both models of the 4000-Series motorhomes offer two slideouts, one in the living area behind the driver and one in the bedroom on the curb side. In my test unit, the living area slideout contained a 60-inch-long love seat, plus the part of the galley with the stove and microwave-convection oven. Opposite that, behind the passenger seat, the test coach included the optional dinette. (A freestanding table with two chairs is standard.) The dinette is equipped with four seat belts — two on each side of the table — but it's wide enough to seat three adults on each side. Actually, all six could easily play cards, although they’d have to be careful not to show their hand.
And their cards, chips, and rule books could be stored beneath either of the dinette’s bench seats, as both are equipped with storage drawers. All drawers in the Bigfoot slide on metal runners and are held securely during travel by a center-mounted catch. You needn't lift and pull in a Bigfoot; simply pull or push, and the drawer is secured automatically.
The coach's electronic entertainment items are located in the cab-over area: the television, DVD player, surround sound system, and antenna booster. The motorhome has an excellent sound system, with five small RCA box speakers on the ceiling (three above the television and two near the rear wall of the living area) and two dome-shaped speakers above the love seat. Speaking of the TV antenna, I looked all over the ceiling for the crank-up and rotation controls, but found nothing. I even climbed the rear ladder to look for the antenna on the roof, and still found nothing. I later learned that this motorhome has an omnidirectional antenna that is buried inside the Fibercore roof at the factory (more about the Fibercore walls and roof later).
Above the dinette is a 2-foot-by-3-foot skylight, which we really liked. It provided plenty of light for the area, so that on bright days we could leave the window blinds down and still have enough light to read. For those days when the sun is just a bit too bright, the skylight is equipped with a pull-across daylight shade.
Speaking of light, in my opinion, the interior designer must be an avid reader, because there are numerous lights in the Bigfoot 4000. Other than in the cab, fully adjustable, cone-shaped reading lights are placed strategically throughout the coach. The lights are controlled with individual switches. There are two over the love seat, two over the dinette — plus a decorative mini-chandelier over the table — and two over the bed. In addition to the directional reading lights, the coach has a plethora of non-directional lights.
Turn off the lights, push up the day-night accordion shades, and you’ll see that the windows feature a crank-out jalousie design that allows them to be opened even in wet weather. Two large windows are behind the love seat and two smaller ones are adjacent to the dinette.
As you walk back through the galley, be careful not to bump a hip on the fold-up counter extension to the left of the double sink. The extension does come in handy, though. A small window is on the right-hand side of the counter, and a microwave-convection oven is situated above the three-burner stove just forward of the window. The galley can be used to make light meals without deploying the forward slideout, but movement is somewhat restricted. (The living area affords plenty of room to move about whether the slideout is open or closed.)
Bedroom of the Bigfoot 4000 type C motorhome
Directional reading lights provide ample illumination above the head of the bed, which rests in a curbside slideout.
A split-aisle bathroom lies between the galley and the rear bedroom. A water closet with a toilet and a shower stands behind a lockable door on the driver’s side, and a sink, cabinet, and medicine cabinet are on the curb side. A skylight makes the shower tall enough for many NBA players — and the ceiling in this motorhome is already at the 6-foot-6-inch level.
I did notice that the handle on the door to the shower-toilet area was rather close to the wall, which made it a bit difficult to open.
On the aft side of the bathroom sink is a bank of light switches, some of which control the bedroom lights and over-the-sink lights.
You can still use the bed if the rear slideout is closed, but when it is, the foot of the bed rests flush against the combination makeup/TV desk, which is flanked by his-and-her cedar-lined shirt closets and drawers. With the curbside slideout deployed, you can lift the bed and find under-bed storage. This area is broken into compartments to help keep contents separated and secure. The spring-filled foam mattress is very comfortable and should give years of solid service.
Access to and from the cab area is a bit restricted with the front slideout closed, but it's negotiable if you’re able to bend at the waist. Flexsteel leatherette seats grace the cab, and the driver’s seat has a six-way power-adjustable control. The passenger seat is manually adjusted.
I would have preferred that the steering wheel, a GM feature, be a bit thicker to accommodate my rather large hands, but it should be fine for most people, and there’s plenty of room for the driver. Adjacent to the driver’s seat is a mini console that holds two cups and has a spot for a notebook, maps, or a paperback novel. The book slot is a bit too small for magazines, but plenty of room is available on the floor behind both cockpit chairs for road atlases, magazines, or even a camera bag.
A gauge on the dashboard, mounted below the heater and air conditioner controls, monitors the pressure in the suspension system’s rear air bags. The driver can increase or lower the pressure to adjust ride stiffness. Also on the dash, visible from the passenger’s seat (but not the driver’s seat) are two outlets that provide 12-volt-DC power for laptops, navigation systems, etc.
This coach was equipped with an automatic hydraulic leveling system. Find a campsite that’s as flat as possible; set the parking brake; shift to “park”; turn the ignition key to “ACC”; and hit the "Auto Level" button. A very loud warning siren sounds if the key is turned on while the jacks are down. The system on the test unit may have needed a final adjustment, because even on what appeared to be a very level campsite, the monitor read “excessive angle.”
A large, circular, high-intensity light is positioned on each side of the coach. I remembered that a Bigfoot rep referred to them as “Scare Lights.” They are controlled by a switch near the door and another next to the bed (both switches control both lights). The lights are for those dark, quiet nights when you hear something but can’t see anything through the windows. Just flip on the Scare Lights and anything or anyone caught in the light will momentarily freeze, and then (one hopes) leave rather rapidly.
As I stepped out of the driver’s door, I noticed that between the doorsill and the seat is a small compartment for items that might be needed while the coach is stopped, such as flashlights, an additional fire extinguisher, record books, etc. Inside the passenger's door is an identical compartment.
Just aft of the driver’s door are two bins that mirror two storage compartments on the curb side. However, these street-side bins are actually dummies, covering the spare tire, the LP-gas tank, and the hydraulic leveling system control box, and the bins’ doors slip out with the slideout. Continuing rearward along the driver’s side, we come to the sewer hose storage compartment, which is just forward of the “water closet” (which contains the outside shower, fresh water tank drain, and the sewer lines’ knife valves). Just below this bin is the sewer connection. Near the rear corner of the driver’s side, behind a panel, resides the optional Onan 5.5-kilowatt Quiet Diesel generator, and just forward of the gen set is another storage area.
Around the back, on the rear cap, you’ll find a very secure, heavy-duty ladder, made from heavy-walled aluminum tubing. Even though the ladder bolts directly to the bumper, it extends slightly below the bumper and is close enough to the ground to be easily reached by most folks. In addition, heavy-duty steel rollers are hard-mounted on each side of the hitch receiver, and they do a big job protecting the chrome bumper on steep driveways.
Two good-sized storage areas are situated behind the right-rear wheels, plus a smaller one just in front of the wheels and adjacent to the entrance door. Two additional storage areas are located in front of the door. The flip-out door handle really helps negotiate the three-step automatic steps when entering or leaving the motorhome.
The front bumper has two steps molded into it so you can climb closer to the engine while servicing or checking it. Ample room is available between the open hood and grille for a person to stand there and inspect the belts, connections, fluid levels, and hoses. The hood and front fenders consist of a single piece of molded fiberglass that tilts forward on two hinges behind the front bumper.
Speaking of fiberglass, that’s exactly what the external surfaces are made of on all Bigfoot RV products. But that’s only the visible surface. Bigfoot has developed the Fibercore wall system, which is a patented and trademarked Bigfoot product. Fibercore is assembled with an insulated tubular aluminum-framed structure, which is then injected with a polyurethane material for excellent insulation properties. Even the aluminum tubes used in the framing of the walls, roof, and floor are filled with a rigid insulation material. Interior wall surface panels are finished off with a vinyl wall covering, while the external surfaces are constructed of a lauan panel covered by 1/8-inch of fiberglass and a gel-coat finish.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys sports activities — whether they're the cold-weather type, such as skiing or snowmobiling, or warm-weather ones like waterskiing or sailing — the versatile, well-insulated Bigfoot should be on your list of motorhomes to investigate. It's a sturdy, well-powered diesel "puller" that has quite a few well-thought-out touches, solid construction, and plenty of potential.
The base suggested retail price of the Bigfoot 40MH32ST is $124,770. The as-tested price of the unit I reviewed came to $165,280 with the following options: Duramax diesel chassis; power driver's seat; 13,500-Btu air conditioners in bedroom and galley; booth-style dinette; LCD TV in bedroom; bedroom décor package; interior entertainment center; Fan-Tastic Vent fans in bathroom and galley; sliding battery tray; 5,500-watt diesel generator; Optima leather command chairs; painted skirts; raised oak refrigerator insert panels; rear-view camera; slideout topper awnings; surround sound system and DVD player; self-storing awning; 27-inch flat-screen television; LP-gas/120-volt water heater.
Bigfoot Industries, 4114 Crozier Road, Armstrong, BC, Canada V0E 1B6; (250) 546-2177; www.bigfootrv.com
Chevrolet Kodiak 5500 Series
6.6-liter Duramax V-8 diesel, optional; 300 horsepower @ 3,000 rpm, 605 pound-feet torque @ 1,600 rpm
Allison World 1000 Series six-speed
4.56 to 1
Michelin LT225/70R 19, load range F
19.5-inch Alcoa aluminum
four-wheel antilock hydraulic
tapered leaf springs; rear air bags
Power-assisted variable speed with tilt wheel
chassis — (2) 750 cca Delphi Freedom heavy-duty; coach — (2) deep-cycle RV27 series
Onan 5.5-kilowatt Quiet Diesel, optional
31 feet 10 inches
8 feet 4 inches
11 feet 3 inches
6 feet 6 inches
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)
Gross Vehicle Weight Ration (GVWR)
20,500 pounds (22,000-pound chassis, optional)
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
front — 7,000 pounds; rear — 13,500 pounds
Wet Weight As Tested
front axle — 6,560 pounds; rear axle — 11,460 pounds; total — 18,020 pounds
Payload As Tested
steel and aluminum
injected polyurethane (R-12 walls, R-16 roof)
Fresh Water Capacity
Holding Tank Capacities
gray water — 32 gallons; black water — 45 gallons
Atwood, 10 gallons
(1) 35,000-Btu Atwood; automotive heating system
(2) 13,500-Btu; heat pump optional
Dometic 8-cubic-foot two-way (AC and LP gas)
Base Suggested Retail Price
Price As Tested
chassis — 2 years/unlimited miles bumper to bumper, excluding tires; engine — 3 years/36,000 miles; coach — 1 year, no mileage limitation; structural — 5 years, no mileage limitation