21 August 2023

Building an "Off-road Camper"

With the lessons we've learned over the last few years with car camping, truck camping, trailer camping, etc., we are currently on a path to build another "offroad camper". I don't want to call it an overlanding vehicle, since this horse has been beaten to death and there is a vast spectrum what people understand overlanding to be.

For us, "off-road camping" means, we can camp in places, where typical cars and vans generally don't venture. Mostly due to ground clearance, lack of proper four wheel drive, tires, etc. We love being away from the RV crowd. We absolutely detest RV parks in the US, they are mostly expensive, disgusting, and filled with huge monstrosities that either have their air conditioning or their heating systems blasting at ear splitting levels. Plus they generally get packed wall to wall – and that's no joke, there sometimes isn't even a meter or two between them in "more interesting areas".

Since we have traveled a bit now with various setups, we have come up with a few requirements and wishes for our travel rig.


  1. Comfortable seating. Given that we often travel long distances, a comfortable cabin and seating is important.
  2. A quick sleeping setup. When arriving late at a camp site, it is important to us that we don't have to deal with lots of work to have a sleeping arrangement ready. A minute or two, not more.
  3. A quick and convenient awning. Setting up an awning should be quick and easy, otherwise we won't use it.
  4. Inside space. In incliment weather and with nasty insects (mostly wasps) around sometimes, we'd like to have a space to sit inside. It doesn't have to be big, just something where we can sit and chat, have a tea or coffee or a quick breakfast in the morning, etc.
  5. No towing. Towing has turned out to be not a good idea for us personally. Turning around on a trail, if it turns out harder than we want to deal with, is a total nightmare. The 4Runner was an abysmal tow vehicle. The engine has zero torque in lower rpm and the automatic gear box was garbage. The Patriot X1 was incredible once it was set up, but it was a chore to get it set up and packed away every day.
  6. Some off-road capabilities. We don't need all that much here, we use this for traveling, not rock-crawling, desert racing, or trail tackling. It's a way of getting just a little farther in on a trail, away from the most annoying crowds. The 4Runner was more than good enough for that.

This didn't leave us with much choice, since the vehicles that could be used for this, are very limited in the US. There are no old Land Rover Defenders or Toyota Land Cruiser Troopies, which could be converted. These vehicles basically don't exist here and while some of them can be imported (as classic cars), we didn't want to deal with that. A converted Jeep Wrangler was an option, but it is very, very small. 

We ended up with a Jeep Gladiator and an Alu-Cab Canopy Camper on the rear. It's not an easy build-out and it's right on the edge of the laughable load limit of the Jeep, but it was one of the very few options for us. We did not want another Toyota, we didn't want a massive truck, so options were limited and we picked the one that fit our ideas best. 

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon – 3.0L EcoDiesel

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