I started my research into this lifestyle of uber RVing just about a year ago now, at the end of 2013. The site that kept coming to the top of my searches in looking for driving around the world and camping offroad was expeditionportal.com. I have found the ExPo to be invaluable, and really my go to source for finding more info about any expedition campers or Overlanding in general. So what really is Overlanding, According to wiki:
The concept of the journey being the destination really appeals to me and what I have been striving to get out of my life. And doing it with vehicle dependent travel to out of the way places just sounds great to me. There are several different manufacturers out there for making these supersized RVs on steroids that I found. Bizarrely I found that most of them are based in Europe.
Unicat and Action Mobil are the premier manufacturers in the world and they also build some of the biggest rigs out there. Unicat is based in Germany whereas Action Mobil is Austrian. They both seemingly routinely build Million dollar plus offroad expedition campers. Action Mobil really puts some amazing detail work into their rigs(and onto their website) including the hydraulic lifts on the back for spare tires, motorcycles and even this entire car swallowed up in the back of the rig!
Here’s a list of several other European expedition camper manufacturers:
And there are several other minor smaller players, mostly German. Every summer they all come together at the Abenteuer Allrad show in Bad Kissingen, Germany. Hopefully I’ll be able to convince Joanne we should go, if not 2015, maybe 2016? Here’s some examples of manufacturers form the 2013 show.
There seems to be a much larger market for these type of vehicles in Germany and Europe in general. I think the reasons for that include closer location to poor road conditions in Eastern Europe and North Africa, and just in general a much larger land mass to go exploring all across Asia.
That being said, the market in the US appears to be growing with new manufacturers coming online and becoming more prolific. The US leader in the category appears to be Global Expedition Vehicles (GXV) based in Nixa , MO. They are the only American based company building these large scale Semitruck size rigs. My favorite is their Pangea lifting roof models with an International Durastar Crew Cab.
There are several other US builders, but their specialties are primarily Heavy Duty Pickup truck based rigs, which although amazing vehicles, they’re just not big enough for a family of 5 to live in. Those are namely Earthroamer and Tiger Adventure Vehicles or even Xpcamper. I especially would like this one in red if it was a crew cab.
There are some larger Mitsubishi Fuso Chassis expedition camper rigs out there from a few Australian companies. And while bigger than the super duty truck models, they still come in just a bit too small to fit our family of 5 for extended duration trips.
So here’s the rub, due to EPA rules and regulations, only vehicles authorized for sale on the approved EPA list are alllowed to be sold in the United States. The only way to bring in a vehicle not on the approved list is if the vehicle is more than 25 years old. The implications for expedition camper buyers is that as an American Citizen registering a vehicle in the US, none of the new MAN Chassis trucks, or Mercedes Benz Unimogs, Zetros, or Actros trucks are allowed, nor are any Iveco chassis trucks or 4×4 Fuso Crew cabs as available in Australia. This leaves the domestic buyer limited to domestic manufacturers in Ford F-550, 650, or 750 trucks, International Durastars, or Freightliner M2’s. None of those have major support networks around the world or are known for their offroad prowess like a Unimog. But those are the laws we have to live with as Americans.
Those are all of the major worldwide players in the Expedition camper market for a new vehicle. The next option is to buy used. Again unfortunately with the US being such a small market historically for these larger vehicles, there’s not much available but if the search is expanded, there’s a world of possibilities out there through Expedition Truck Brokers. Their selection of used trucks is pretty impressive, but again, unless the truck is more than 25 years old (<1990) the EPA regulations make it impossible to import to the US.
Beyond just used rigs, there are a large number of people out there building their own rigs. Once again Expedition Portal is the place to go to find where these people choose to document their builds with their own build threads. These have been my inspiration and as I said earlier, my go to forum for surfing the web for entertainment for dreaming how to build your own expedition camper with some very impressive results:
Shachagra with his International Durastar Tandem axle land yacht build (Pictured)
Never Enough with his International Durastar 4×4 Crew Cab build in Utah
Spudboy with his MAN Crew Cab build in Australia
Jay Shapiro with his F-650 4×4 Ecoroamer
These are just a few of the multitude of builds available to read up on through the Expedition Portal discussion forum.