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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsVehicle Mobilit...Vehicle Mobilit...How do you car camp, umm, I mean undertake vehicle based overland expeditions?How do you car camp, umm, I mean undertake vehicle based overland expeditions?
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6/30/2019 5:42 PM

If you use this as your camp kitchen:


Or this to store you potato chips:

then you are beyond my aspirations (although I've seen that camp kitchen in person and it is a $7,000 work of art.) I'm not talking about taking your Earthroamer around the world, but more vehicle based travel and camping that may be more weekend to weeks in nature. It may be goal oriented (hunting) or exploring or just getting away from it all and relaxing. Just looking to hear what works for you. Thought maybe we could get a reco list together that could open new avenues or help people get going. Learn from my mistakes if you will.

I've gone through a lot of trial and error over many years with everything from vehicles to recovery equipment to camping gear. Will never have things perfectly dialed in, but feel like I'm getting there within a comfortable realm of fiscal responsibility. What I have come to prioritize is reliability, simplicity and ease of set up so that I can spend more time enjoying/recreating/driving and less time setting up.

So... what type of vehicle based travel have you done? What do you use? What have you learned? Open invite to share with the class.

If people are interested, I'll circle back to specifics (I am an expert on nothing though), but here are a few of the more important things I've learned:

  • As always, what's between your ears is most important
  • Choose companions wisely and don't be afraid to go it alone
  • GVWR matters -- a lot
  • Quality doesn't always mean expensive (e.g. GSI cookware)
  • Good tires in good shape make all the difference
  • You don't need to know where you're going, but you should have an idea of what to expect or at least be prepared to handle a variety of scenarios
  • It's okay to turn around
  • Don't sit around waiting to finish your "build" before getting out. Lots to do and see with all sorts of vehicles rigged all sorts of ways.
  • Stay curious
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6/30/2019 9:09 PM
We throw all our crap in plastic totes, and throw the totes in a 2001 F150 Super Crew 4x4.

Most of our camp kitchen stuff came from the Goodwill.

A $7,000 camp kitchen? The truck was worth more than that before I blew a ball joint and did a bit of body damage. I hammered it back into shape, but you can still see it in the right light.

Somehow we still have a good time...
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7/1/2019 4:05 PM

Over the years, I've done a lot of different types of car (and motorcycle) camping. As I've gotten older, the emphasis has been more and more on making it as easy as possible (efficient) to get out, have the experience I want, and get back. The experience I want doesn't include a bunch of messing around setting things up and taking them down. Either at home or out in camp. The way it breaks out for me these days is:

  • If traveling by myself, I'm probably mostly planning to be on foot so the vehicle is an approach rig or a place to crash at the trailhead before heading out. There are people who travel on foot and people who have capable rigs. There aren't a lot of people with capable rigs who also travel on foot. So I like trailheads that take a capable rig to get to because they cut way down on the number of people I might run into. On some trips I've interspersed nights out on foot with nights in the vehicle. Emphasis on "in the vehicle" because *nothing* beats the simplicity of having a bed in the back of your rig. On my most recent backpacking trip, I didn't put the pre-made bed in the back of the rig because I had no plans to sleep in the back of the rig. But then I changed plans and ended up doing so anyway. It wasn't a huge deal to grab the board I needed to bridge a seat gap at ACE and use my backpacking pad to set up camp in the back of the rig. However, I'll not make the mistake again of setting out without my rig set up with a bed even if I don't plan to use it. That's less work than having to make it happen mid trip.
  • One side note - camping off my motorcycle which happens every now and then is the same as backpacking. I use the same gear in pretty much the same way. The only real difference is I have a rotopax mount I can bolt onto my sissy bar for carrying a 1 gallon water container.
  • If traveling with the family, the easy and enjoyable answer for everyone is a camp trailer. With a flipped axle and 28" tires on an 18 foot trailer, I can have cabin-like comfort just about anywhere I'd want to go camping with the family. I've taken it down all sorts of forest service gravel roads in various states of repair. I don't go down doubletrack other than into a campsite, but neither do most folks with "off road" trailers. The only place I ever see those kinds of trailers in use is in the BLM campgrounds right off of the paved highway outside of Moab. I have been lusting after a timbren axle conversion on the trailer to give me a little bit more technical capability -- or maybe just to go faster on roads with potholes.

We've also got a heavy duty trailer on 33s built on a toyota pickup bed with metal tradesman topper. I wish we had put timbren axles on it instead of standard trailer suspension. I have the idea that it will make a nice little 2 person camper with bed permanently set up in back that can be towed just about anywhere. But right now I'm not doing those kinds of trips. It's either solo or with the family. Maybe in the next year or two I'll do a trip like that.


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6/29/2020 9:15 AM
In Boy Scouts we had basic plywood chuck boxes with a flip down front, and some various shelves/storage compartments sized for dutch ovens, pots and pans etc. I've been thinking of making something like this, the only downside is that they are heavy- both loaded and unloaded. Right now I use one of those fancy aluminum boxes with all of my cooking gear fit in like tetris. It works, but is kind of a mess to repack in the field.

I currently drive a 2014 Tacoma that's paid for, so I have no reason to get another vehicle, and thankfully when solo I am short enough that I can sleep diagonally in the bed. I went to an upholstery shop and got a nice piece of foam cut to the length/width of the bed, so the whole thing becomes a nice mattress. It's not ideal, as the shell lets in a lot of dust and sometimes water, but for trips where I am traveling and need to just sleep between driving, its quick and easy.

Lately I've been thinking about getting a cargo van for my next vehicle - something like a Ram Promaster. I'd hopefully be able to dual-purpose this vehicle as an empty shell van for work/utility, as well as some kind of removable bed setup for trips. I'd lose offroad capability, but a lot of the places I go that I would car camp at can be accessed by almost any vehicle anyway. I really don't like having the vehicle itself built out, as they seem to just become useless for about 80% of what I need a vehicle for. I think the answer to that is a trailer like Evan said, with a vehicle appropriate to get it where you want to go.
HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsVehicle Mobilit...Vehicle Mobilit...How do you car camp, umm, I mean undertake vehicle based overland expeditions?How do you car camp, umm, I mean undertake vehicle based overland expeditions?