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 > Home-made 'Earthroamer' - anyone's thoughts?

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St Johns, AZ (SEMPER FI)

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Posted: 08/31/07 08:22am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

TSJA wrote:

This may be a compromise. It has a utility bed. Add Steve's Outfitter and you'll be able to go a fair amount of places with a little GVW left over. It's probably not the bed you're looking for, but it does store small stuff.
Pretty much all utility beds won't work with an Outfitter Apex (I had considered one as well) due to the Apex's floor kicking out behind the wheel wells. Every utility body I have seen has an inner dimension that is even with the wheel wells for the beds entire length and so won't accommodate this.

I do know the Alaskans will work in this setup since their floor is the same width from front to rear.

2007 F350,SC,LB,4x4,6.0/Auto,35" tires,16.5 Warn,Buckstop bumpers
2007 Outfitter Apex9.5,270W solar,SolarBoost2000e,2 H2K's,2KW inverter,2 20lb LP on slide out tray,4 Lifeline AGM bats,Tundra fridge
95 Bounder 28' ClassA sold
91 Jamboree 21' ClassC sold



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Posted: 08/31/07 08:54am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator


Thanks, that is good information to know...REDESIGN!!!

'07 Lance 1131
'04 Weldcraft Sabre
'06 F-550 PSD-4DR-4WD Rear air-ride and a Gear Vendor


Anchorage, Alaska

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Posted: 08/31/07 08:56am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Yep, I agree with you most folks that want to do that type of travel have a pop up on their truck. That's why I have an Outfitter Apex 8 as well! Still isn't much fun on very moderate trails. ...a Unimog with the radio box and a power producing oil burner, solar and a rack on top, a quality interior built by a good carpenter instead of the plastic rv interiors of today, diesel appliances...sorry just dreaming. (quote)

Check out my Unimog on www.unicatamericas.com , "photos and videos" - the blue one -
It has a Webasto furnace/hot water heater, solar, quiet 3.6kw diesel generator (for the AC on the camper if it's just too hot at night), 160 gal diesel capacity/140 gal water, solar panels, hydraulic winches, diff locks, CTIS, etc.
So far the size hasn't been a problem in Morocco, Baja, Death Valley and Alaska. It obviously would be in heavily wooded terrain.
I started out with a built F350 crewcab with a 4 Wheel Camper. It got wrecked and I thought about a F550 with lift, single 335/80R20 Michelins, hydraulic system (from my old truck) and a frame mounted camper. But the Unimog is what I ended up with and so far I really like it; even my wife likes it. I'm thinking about overseas trips and parts/service availability for Mercedes is the best worldwide.



Shingle Springs CA

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Posted: 08/31/07 11:35am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I wish I could afford an earthroamer, but I can't. I considered building something similar myself; I’m retired, and have experience with automotive, RV and aircraft maintenance. Reality is, I had to compromise. I haul horses on forest service roads and wanted a place to sleep and take showers. As you can see in my signature, I have a heavy, wide and tall rig that will not off-road (that is what the horses are for). My wife and I like to take daily showers, and have cold and hot beverages. I found my f550 used, with a Royal Sport utility bed. I had to have the bed modified to fit the "behind the wheel well" components of my old Bigfoot camper. I love the ability to take tools and extra gear in utility bed. To convert the camper appliances to diesel is just too much work for the limited benefit. My biggest limitation to date is the height of the rig. I just replaced the refrigerator vent cover and repaired the luggage rack from damage in a Wal-Mart parking lot (small, short trees, narrow lane) and worry about back road trees and structure overhangs. The Bigfoot carries 50 gal fresh water and the horse trailer an additional 25 gal, we have dry camped for up to 6 days, taking two showers a day and still had a little water left. I put a microwave in the camper and only use the built in propane generator for it and my wife’s curling iron. Someday if the horses become too much, I want to tow my Landcruiser on a trailer, my rig will handle it.

My wife also uses the rig to take dogs to dog shows, it is a bit over done for that type of event, but it works great, providing all the power and water necessary for fixing up the dogs.

Oh, and I spent less than $30k on the camper and truck.

Good luck on coming up with a solution that works for you.

2001 F550 Crew Cab 4x4, 7.3 diesel 60 hp chip, enhanced auto trans, engine brake, upgraded intake & exhaust, Royal Sport bed, custom Super Hitch, Tork Lift; Bigfoot 10.6 TC w/ enhanced electrical sys; 3 horse slant load bumperpull, Quarter horses

Hoka Hey

Casper, WY USA

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Posted: 08/31/07 09:19pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'll put my $ m37charlies rig!


Victoria, B.C., Canada

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Posted: 09/03/07 04:41pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Well, after reviewing the fantastic feedback here, and going around and round in my muddled head many times over, here's what I'm thinking:

An F-550 can carry a pop-up as well as an F-350 can, so whether the camper ends up being little more than a cardboard box, or the latest Hilton hotel, a 550 will look good under it. An FX-4 doesn't seem to have anything that can't easily be added to any other trim package. So, whatever the final bundle looks like, it could just as well be built on an F-550. Further, buying a chassis cab gives unlimited scope for adding a custom bed, and that gives the opportunity for some nifty storage space for dirty stuff, tools, self-rescue gear, firewood, rock samples, you name it.

I figure a bed can be built that would take any long-bed camper, even if the fit isn't sleekly exact in the end. A customized bed could easily take account of the differing width of the camper behind the wheel wells. I get the truck, I off-road it a bit, I bolt on a custom bed, and then I decide on the camper.

It also seems to me, having read a little bit about various people's three-point mounting systems, that it would make sense to mount the utility bed that way. Hope folks on this forum will tell me if I'm totally off the mark on that. From what Jefe writes, I take it that's his vision too.

Every time I step into a regular truck camper, I feel kind of like I have to round my shoulders (and I'm not a particularly big guy). Then, whenever I get into one with even a single slide (like the biggest Bigfoot), I feel like I can breathe again. So at this point, I'm still open to the idea of a Hilton hotel, though my ideas literally shift every day. Partly that's because, like Eagle River Bob says, the wife has to be on board, and she really likes her luxury bathroom, and all the luxury trim.

I guess the point is, it would be a rig that would work up to a certain point. The question then would be: what's the point where we have to stop, or turn back? Perhaps I'll make myself a guinea pig, and find out. Figure if there's some sort of small rock crawler trailing behind, we're not going to get too frustrated. If we do, well then, the big Okanagan, or Host, or Bigfoot, will have to go on the block, and be replaced by a pop-up, or a cardboard box...

Having looked at Bigfoots and Okanagans, I would say that the fit and finish of the Bigfoots is far superior. Haven't seen a Host "in the flesh" yet, but I may take a drive down across the Line before long to do that.


Surf City, CA

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Posted: 09/03/07 10:01pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Here's a link to a 4wd sportsmobile full-timer. Interesting comments on what works and doesn't.

'07 Lance 915, '98 Chevy 3500 CC SRW, SS, Helwig SBs, Rancho 9000, air bags, Torklift, 8mpg



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Posted: 09/04/07 10:28am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

im enjoying the thread and it dovetails with some of my ideas for a project down the road. ive been thinking about the possibility of converting a goose neck type horse trailer, or having one built into a cab over truck camper to sit on a flat/utility bed. from my limited experience with horse trailers and campers i belive the trailer would be a stronger and more waterproof platform. no 2x2 frames in those trailers. the shell could then be insulated and customized into a very sturdy rig that would hopefully not need to be replaced in my life time.
out of curiousity what would you consider the benefit of disiel appliances over the more common propane? the marine/live aboard indursty would probably be a good source of these.

* This post was edited 09/04/07 11:34am by j_d *


Victoria, B.C., Canada

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Posted: 09/05/07 08:59pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

j.d.: the reason I was looking at getting into diesel appliances was not so much about good diesel stuff as bad propane stuff. The only mechanical problems I've ever run into in an RV (not that I've had that much experience) was with the propane. And I don't much like having open flames in a camper in winter, mainly because of the condensation and fumes. As I understand it, a diesel stove top is exhausted to the outside. In rigs like the Earthroamer, where the camper is a permanent part of the truck, the diesel taps right from the truck's fuel tank(s). I'm actually not sure what would be involved in tapping in/pumping/connecting/shutting off diesel from a pickup for diesel appliances in a slide-in camper, but I'm sure it could be done.

One big concern is that these things are generally intended for use on boats. The exhaust goes outboard, and of course there usually isn't anyone sitting out there. Bit different with an RV, where the exhaust from the wife's supper cooking might be right by where you're just settling in (you lazy bugger) with your first coldie of the evening, in your folding chair under the awning...

I understand there are actually diesel/kerosene substitutes that will work in these devices, that are formulated so as not to be smelly when burned. If that turned out to be the solution, there would have to be a separate tank in the camper, refilled occasionally from a can.

I don't know, maybe it's like most of the rest of my "vision" - kind of off-base...


San Diego

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Posted: 10/08/07 01:52am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Here is my input after building our Mitsubishi Fuso FG 4x4 / Bigfoot TC based expedition vehicle (Hackney BEV).

Dual Use
Your primary logic fork is the requirement to use the truck for other purposes. That means you have to have a camper you can slide on/off or a swappable component system.

Take a look at the Simpson Truck Transformer. It is made for exactly that requirement.

Fuso FG
If you use the Mitsubishi Fuso FG 140 4x4 as we did, you will find the chassis is very, very capable. It will certainly go anywhere you describe and a lot more. As you noted, what we piled on top of it limits us for the type of pure off-road work that you set as your goals.

Our decision criteria took me down a path where we chose comfort and convenience almost every time over pure off-road capability. But, and this is a big but, we were designing and building a vehicle for use overseas in developing economies. We've spent time there via motorcycle, so we know what to expect in market roads and village roads.

We ended up with a vehicle that will be primarily limited in its target use area by its width and height rather than its ultimate off-road capability. The dirty little secret of world travel is that unless you go looking for places to feature it, you don't need the kind of capability you outlined to get to 90% of the planet's interesting places. For the remaining 10% we chose to carry a couple of dirt bikes.

Bottom line, the Fuso chassis can go about anywhere you would ever want to take it. The chassis will be limited by what you put on top of it.

Design Criteria
Our rig is a good bad roads vehicle. It will not go down a Jeep trail. A stock to well optioned/aftermarketed 4x4 anything will leave it far behind. It meets our design criteria, and that is the most important thing for you to learn from our experience: establish a firm set of design requirements and build to that, not to what your wheeling buddies, your vendors, your sub-contractors or the forum guys wish they could build with your money.

I think you are placing too much emphasis on diesel appliances. They really don't work any better or worse than Propane at sea level on boats. They have known and significant issues at altitude. From the spousal standpoint, they are smelly, dirty and finicky. You are traveling in North America where you can always get Propane. It is a clean burning, convenient fuel. In North America, if your propane appliances break you are probably never more than 3-6 hours max from a place where you could get it replaced or repaired, based on your described usage area.

We've been in this thing for four straight months, full time, in nights down into the high 30s and low 40s. We have had zero problems with condensation. I suggest you re-think the diesel lust. Especially when viewed against the spousal ease of use criteria.

If you build something, or even put together a big camper/truck combo, think about getting a real suspension/chassis engineer involved early. I didn't consider it until the end. We came out OK, but could just as easily have built the 4x4 RV version of the Vasa, a Swedish warship that was so top heavy it sank a few hundreds yards out on its maiden voyage.

As it is, this chassis/camper combination will go a lot farther over than we will probably ever push it (knowingly) in a non-emergency situation. (In fact, the whole combination is a lot more capable off-road than we will probably ever push it.)

Whatever you decide on, do a lot of testing, meaning continuous and repeated testing and weighing as you build up your project.




Buy vs. Build
If you can afford it, consider an Earthroamer. Or something like Charlie's Unimog. If you really, absolutely need to get your camper back into the tough stuff before you get the toys out, then they are the only things that will get you there.

Building something custom involves so much more than a high limit Visa card and a stack of catalogs or web sites.

Beyond the design work, the research, the procurment, the building, the re-building, the re- re-building, there is the stress and strain of a project of this type.

Assuming you want to build a quality vehicle that you can trust and feel safe in, everything, and I mean everything, takes a lot longer than you think it will. And I mean a LOT longer.

The upside of building it yourself is that you know how everything went together so that if you need to fix it, you can. If you are going to subcontract major systems, especially electrical, water, propane, electronics, etc. then I don't see any advantage over buying something factory.

If you can buy quality, buy when you can, build when you must. The hurdle for build should be very, very high, given your scenario. Since you're going to be in the NA market for utilization, it's hard for me to see a set of criteria that would require you to build.

I don't have enough four wheel off-road experience to be able to recommend a specific solution if your absolute requirement is to take the camper the last 1 to 5 miles before you get out the toys. Short of that, get the most factory built, fully integrated, under-warranty solution you can and drive it as far down the road & trail as you feel comfortable. Then get the toys out and ride/drive to where you want to play.

It's just like racing, "how fast do you want to go?" The last 5% of speed costs 90% of the money. Why spend the money for an Earthroamer or Unimog solution when you can spend so much less for a factory NA solution and use your toy(s) to go that distance?

Hope we see you out there somewhere and we can compare desert pin stripes.

be well,

BEV buildup site: http://www.hackneys.com/mitsu/
Main travel site: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/

* This post was edited 10/08/07 01:59am by dhackney *

2007 Mitsubishi Fuso FG 140 4x4
2006 Bigfoot 20C10.11FR
Rig buildup site: http://www.hackneys.com/mitsu/
Main travel site: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/index.htm

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