No great overland adventure is complete without a vehicle. The choices seemed, initially, endless, but it didn’t take long to hone our requirements. Initial research had comfort and convenience battling with minimalism and mobility and that was before we considered?cost.
At one end of the 4 wheel-drive spectrum, we have the minimalist. Usually some kind of smaller SUV, packed with camping gear and a tent – preferably of the roof-top variety – covering your sleeping arrangements. Claire nailed the coffin lid firmly shut on that idea at a very early stage; after all, tents don’t have heaters and Claire feels the cold like a naked octagenarian in an igloo. There was also the general feeling that multi-year?sleeping arrangements suffered under canvas should be the result of severe financial hardship rather than something to aspire to.
Swing the needle to the other end of the off-road spectrum and you have the large, aesthetically impressive and somewhat intimidating ‘big rigs’. These guys look like they’d survive the occasional holocaust whilst comfortably sheltering the population of a small country. One concern was that these gruff looking beasts may cause some issues getting to and from places we wanted to go. They also look like they are about to start a holocaust, as well as being able to survive one. Chugging up to a town in deepest Africa resembling the scout for an invading army may not be the best way to ingratiate yourself with the locals; some of whom have likely suffered that ignominy?in the recent past.
Engaging the gears of common sense rather than raw emotion is a great practice with this kind of project. As much as the chunky ‘condo on wheels’ or the svelte off-road SUV with rooftop tent appealed to us, they were not ticking the boxes. We wanted it all. The outdoor camping feel but the ability to withdraw into a home when required. The mobility to get where we wanted but comfort when we got there. Enough muscle to get ourselves into trouble with the landscape, but not enough to get into trouble with the locals.
The middle ground of the overland world. As with anything ‘middle ground’, truck campers don’t really do anything best, they do most of it pretty well. A capable 4×4 truck partnered with a quality off-road inspired camper should provide enough mobility and comfort to make a multi-year journey both adventurous?and comfortable.?The choice then becomes a balancing act of quality vs available funds.
Even in this middle ground arena, the budgets can vary significantly from budget to Rockstar. A cheap Toyota?half ton truck with a small used camper can likely be packaged for a few thousand dollars, and would likely get you from?A to B reasonably well if you weren’t asking too much of it. The trouble with most campers is they have a ‘recreational vehicle’ build quality. Our trusted and much-loved travel trailer held up well traveling Highway 5 from Canada to San Diego, but drag it off-road onto anything chunkier than gravel and the stapled softwood frame would be have been pulled apart. Move up the budget range and the campers become sturdier, their off-road muscles flex and life start to get interesting. We found that there was a threshold between off-road sturdiness and the addition of luxury. That threshold seemed to be the XP Camper. A robust option with ample solidity for off-road, enough comfort for a lengthy trip and yet wedged neatly between the budget and rockstar options. For the quality and price point it has little competition, a sentiment echoed by several owners and bloggers who settled on the XP Camper after much research.
The XP concept is simple. To craft expedition?campers that easily cope with the rigors of off-road travel whilst maintaining an element of comfort. There were three options, all of which are truck based and require the removal of the original truck bed, which is replaced by a well-crafted aluminum (aka aluminium) flatbed. Our choice was the XP Camper V1, designed for a full ton truck with a Dodge Ram 3500 seemingly the truck of choice. The V1 looks more like a traditional camper with a motorized popup roof extending the height to an ample 6’5″. Inside is often likened to a boat, with white?molded carbon/fibreglass composite giving it an airy and bright feel. It’s not spacious, but it feels roomy. The flatbed allowing a less traditional side entrance into the camper, with a dinette table and seating to the rear, sink and cupboards mid-ship and a spacious bed towards the front jutting out over the truck cab. There is a ton of storage and a significant list of features to make life of the road that little bit easier.