More on Selecting a Vehicle
We Considered 6 Types of Vehicles:
DIY Conversion Van
In our opinion, larger vans, e.g., long body Sprinter Vans, are a great choice for shorter expeditions. But they lack the space for longer expeditions, including space for a shower and toilet inside the rig, and the space for a comfortable dining/seating area. In addition, to travel in South America, we would have had to buy an older van that could burn high sulfur diesel. These vehicles are hard to find. With all of this being said, if you are handy and can do your DIY conversion, or hire a company to help you with specific projects, e.g., Vanworks in Fort Collins, CO if you live in CO, a van might be a great choice for you. And if you don’t need a van that can burn high sulfur diesel, you can buy a newer van. One of the best DIY vans we’ve seen was built by Steph Davis, a climber from our home town. Steph has an awesome website that describes her decision making process and DIY in a 5-part blog: (https://stephdavis.co/blog/to-van-or-not-to-van-van-living-1/).
Custom Conversion Van
There are some really cool custom conversion vans out there including those offered by Outside Van (https://www.outsidevan.com), but they are extremely expensive. When I first saw the Outside Van Power Station (https://www.outsidevan.com/our-vans/), I got extremely expensive, until I called Outside Van and realized it was ~$450,000! Even their more basic vans start at $140,000. And that’s without a shower, toilet, etc. Custom conversion vans also suffer from many of the weaknesses described under conversion vans above, including small and uncomfortable dining/seating areas. However, if you have the cash to burn, and are going on shorter overland expeditions in countries without low sulfur vehicles,
If you aren’t handy and don’t want to convert your own van, a class B motor home is a great choice. In our opinion, however, there are s problems with Class B motor homes. First, they are expensive. And second, they aren’t optimized for extended overland expeditions, e.g., they don’t meet a number of the criteria above including storage space. The Winnebago Revel was interesting, but it is relatively expensive, has an small and uncomfortable dining/seating area, and is built on a short body Sprinter.
Pop-up, Slide-in Camper
In our opinion, this is great, lower cost option for extended overland expeditions. They aren’t as comfortable as an XPCamper, and they don’t meet all of the criteria above, but they are a much lower cost option than a custom conversion van (or an XPCamper). They have more space than a conversion van or a class B motor home. And they enable you to buy whatever truck you want (and upgrade your truck later if you want to). My gut is that these pop up campers depreciate quickly. And they probably don’t last that long. But the total depreciation (in $s) is not that great, especially if you keep them from a few years. The reason we prefer pop up campers vs. those that don’t pop up is because they are more aerodynamic and, in some cases, secure, than slide in campers that don’t pop up.
SUV (e.g., a Toyota Four Runner, with a tent on top)
There are lots of really cool ways to modify SUVs for overland expeditions. Take a look at the first video in the Expedition Overland Central America series for a great example. Just keep in mind that the Expedition Overland Crew had several of these vehicles, each serving a specific purpose during their expeditions to Alaska, Central and South America. However, these vehicles didn’t meet enough of the criteria above for us to consider. If you are considering one of these vehicles, we’d recommend going to the Overland Expo (East or West) to see examples and talk to experts.
XPCampers (http://xpcamper.com) are pop up campers. They are built on a aluminum flatbed. The shell is made of carbon reinforced fiberglass. What we liked about the XPCamper is the fact that they are really designed for extended overland expeditions, meeting all of the criteria above. However, it’s important to note that XPCamper is a smaller company, and that it takes a long time to get a XPCamper built for you. One good option, which we did not pursue, in large part because there were none for sale at the time, is to buy a used XPCamper. We’ll add a specific post on our XPCamper later.
Overall, selecting and building or buying an overland expedition vehicle is a difficult process. Give yourself a lot of time (at least a year if not more) to make your selection and build or buy your rig. Get lots of advice from other, including on the overland forums (which we will be creating a post about shortly). Speak to owners of the rig you are considering. And be prepared to shell out some cash to fund your dreams! There is no right answer, and you can have several over a lifetime (we are on our third!).