The time has come to begin the extensive process of building a camper body for overland travel. Whether choosing a large chassis like a Unimog U-500 or something more tame such as a Toyota Hilux you will face many of the same challenges. For starters, there are a number of materials available to craft the camper of your dreams yourself. Everything from wood to aluminum sheet to extrusions can be used to build a box or ‘habitat’. Wood is a little hokey for the most part, but there are some incredible people such as @jay on Instagram who are doing incredible work with wood. Aluminum seems to be the most reasonable substrate as it’s easy to source and, although more expensive than wood, not entirely cost prohibitive to the common builder -ie. Amatuer.
Pinzgauer or ‘Pinz’ as it’s affectionately called is a 4WD or 6WD all-terrain vehicle developed in the 1960’s by Austrian company, Steyr-Daimler-Puch. It’s driven by an air-cooled gasoline powered engine with dual 36mm carburetors and dual oil pumps. It is capable of up to 68 mph and has a range of 250 miles on a single tank of fuel -with the 125 liter extended range fuel tank. The engine and transaxle are mounted to a tube frame powering a set of portal axles.
The International Harvester Scout is one of the most iconic off road vehicles in US history. Aside from the early Ford Bronco, very few classic ‘SUVs’ are as recognizable and loved. With a removable hardtop and folding windshield, the Scout had many of the quirks found in the Jeep Willy’s -albeit a spot more comfortable, depending on who you ask of course.
This 2001 Toyota Tacoma SR5 is located in Vacaville, CA. It is a 4WD model with solid front axle swap. A set of 17" Raceline beadlock wheels with 35" Nitto mud terrains are suspended by 12" Fox remote reservoir shock absorbers. The bed is covered by a Snugtop soft camper shell with custom LED lights, and has a large custom center drawer.
Toyota Land Cruiser Pickups are not readily available to American Citizens. This is mainly because they're simple, reliable design could never meet the emissions requirements of vehicles sold in the United States. New Land Cruiser pickups are harder to acquire still. However, after years in foreign nations around the world witnessing first-hand what these vehicles are capable of, I knew I had to have one.
From the start of this build, I knew I would need a dual battery system. For this, I selected a Genesis Dual Battery kit with Dual Odyssey Group 34 PC1500's. This would provide more than enough power to handle the auxiliary lights, inverter and a fridge. Thanks to Genesis' YouTube video, installation went smoothly.
Heavy duty camper trailers and off-road vehicles are a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. Unfortunately, they often require a substantial financial investment. Luckily, you can experience joys of backcountry camping at a fraction of the cost, and without mortgaging your house. Renting is also a great way to see if a particular platform is a good fit before shelling out loads of cash. We have compiled a list of companies that rent off-road vehicles and campers -with a few light-duty honorable mentions.
I got the idea to build a 4WD ambulance after seeing a Unicat Terracross, but they were far too expensive. So, I did a lot of research on what would be a good donor vehicle to base my build off of. I ended up looking at older ambulances with the 7.3L turbo diesel, a true workhorse that could run on pretty much anything, and get serviced practically anywhere in the world. On top of that, ambulances have a full 2.2" thick aluminum box on the back -perfect for building off of.
Camping beyond the confines of a traditional campground requires lugging every item that you will need to support yourself for days or even weeks at a time. Of course, the duration of the trip will dictate which items need to come, but all too often many find themselves taking everything “just in case”.
Whether you call it DIY, built-not-bought, or run-what-you-brung, the absolute best way to become intimately familiar with a vehicle is to build it yourself. Hours spent wrenching in the garage or driveway will not only save hard earned cash, but the knowledge gained by doing it yourself may save your bacon when Mr Murphy shows up deep in the backcountry.