Camping and wheeling go together like a connecting rod and crankshaft. As a matter of fact, many wheelers can talk camping, campers, and camping gear with the same detailed knowledge as they can disseminate the pros and cons of specific 4x4 modifications. Cruise through the campground at any 4x4 event and you’ll see a fascinating collection of camping paraphernalia, from the most basic off-the-shelf stuff to gear that is as one-of-a-kind and custom as the 4x4 towing or hauling it.
In the September 2013 issue of Four Wheeler, we highlighted a camping story in the Trail’s End column. The story, published in October of 1962, told of one man’s repeated attempts to drive to a remote town in Mexico. He finally succeeded while driving a ’62 Dodge W200 4x4 pickup equipped with a Roll-A-Long Sportster camper. At the end of the story we asked you to tell us about your 4x4 campers. You responded, and sent us a fascinating collection of campers, camper-equipped 4x4s, and even a few unique, one-of-a-kind rigs. What they all have in common is that they’re like wheeled motels that are ready to hit remote areas. Hence, we’ll call ‘em remotels.
Baja to Big Bear
Tom Struble sent this photo of his Volkswagen Westfalia camper. Struble has a long history of off-roading and camping, and he met his wife in 1969 while off-roading, surfing, and camping in Mexico. The wheeling and camping continued prior to having children, and one of their favorite places to go was near Big Bear, California. After kids arrived, the couple hit the dirt in this Westfalia. Sadly, Struble reports that the Westfalia burned to the ground due to a fuel leak.
This LBZ Duramax-powered ’07 GMC 2500 HD is fit with an ’11 Outfitter Apex 8 camper, and the combination belongs to Terry Rey. The truck has been upgraded with a number of items to improve the vehicle’s capabilities on- and off-road, as well as make it more durable for off-road travel. The list includes items from Banks, Firestone, Rancho, Cognito, Air Lift, Torklift, EBC Brakes, AFE, and Roadmaster. The self-contained Outfitter camper only weighed 747 pounds in stock form, but gear, extra fuel, and accessories add that much weight plus a few more pounds. Cool stuff includes solar panels to charge the electrical system. Rey says that the total weight of the rig, including passengers, is approximately 11,500 pounds. Fuel mileage is said to average about 14-15 mpg. This rig has been on numerous trips and Rey says, “The structure has held up very well to some pretty rough off-road travel, from 4-Lo with visual truck frame flex to severe washboard, with nothing broken, loose, misaligned, and so on.” The truck/camper combo measures almost 22 feet in length, 7½ feet in width, and 10½ feet tall.
Big Wheeler 2
Dave Rodgers, friends with Terry Rey, drives this Duramax-powered GMC, and it’s fit with an Outfitter camper similar to Rey’s. Rey provided Rodgers’ info and photo, and Rey says that although he “boondocks” and off-roads, what he does is nothing like what Rodgers does. “He has the same truck and camper as I do, but does much more extreme truck camping than I do,” Rey says. Like Rey’s rig, Rodgers’ rig tips the scales at nearly six tons. We saw some online photos of Rodgers’ past off-road trips and were impressed at where he has coerced the large, heavy rig.
Ron Brookens sent us this photo of his diesel-fired ’06 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 that’s equipped with a Lance camper. Brookens says, “I love to go camping and off-roading. This truck and camper has been from southern California all the way to Alaska and back twice now, every night staying in a new camp spot wherever we find along the way. It has been to Yosemite National Park, Death Valley National Park, the Sierra’s, the Redwood’s, Glacier National Park, the high Rockies of Colorado including Silverton and Ouray, Vancouver Island, the Yukon, British Columbia, and many other beautiful places throughout the western U.S., western Canada, and Alaska. Its length makes it a bit tricky at times getting it into good camp spots though. I am not afraid to put it into places most people would think I’m crazy for, sometimes having to use four-wheel drive to get there. Usually my ‘85 Jeep CJ-7 is right behind the truck being flat-towed to wherever I’m going. That way I can really go wheeling when I get to wherever I’m going.”
Built Not Bought
No manufacturer made what he wanted, so Charles Speyerer built the rig you see here. He bought a new 200-inch-wheelbase ’99 Ford F-450 cab/chassis with a 7.3L Power Stroke turbodiesel engine, six-speed manual transmission, and four-wheel drive. He then designed and crafted the camper over the course of 1½ years. The body of the camper has preformed corners and a 0.060-inch aluminum skin. It is self-contained and sleeps two people. Speyerer says he has about $110,000 invested in the rig and he and his wife travel in it for about four months each year.
This unique off-road camping trailer belongs to Chris Hufstetler, and he designed it to handle extreme weather and trails. It’s a ’70 Alaskan pop-up camper chained to a M101A2 military trailer and he tows it with his M1009 truck. The camper is equipped with everything Hufstetler needs, including a three-burner stove, 2.5-gallon propane tank, 30-gallon water tank, cassette toilet, sink with fresh water faucet and manual pump faucet, propane radiant heater, a table that converts into a two-person bed, three-way refrigerator, AC/DC lighting, and fresh water hookup. The top is lifted via a hydraulic jack, and the camper itself has sliding glass windows.
It’s not too often you see a Toyota pickup with a slide-in camper. This rig is owned by Patrick who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, and he tells the story of how it came to be.
“Last year I bought my first 4x4 and I’ve been loving it. It’s a ‘88 Toyota pickup with a 22RE engine, five-speed transmission, worn-out 31x10.50R15 tires on Pro Comp steelies (getting BFG all-terrains for winter), and 200,800-plus miles. My wife and my black lab love to be at the lake with it. I started out with a topper and a bed platform I made myself. Hung a heater in there for cold nights. But remembering to pack the heater when camping at Indian Caves State Park in January is important. We discovered that the small bathroom building was heated and ended up cooking our dinner in the ladies’ room (way cleaner then the men’s). It was hilarious, but it didn’t matter because we had the whole park to ourselves! And it’s those times that make the best memories. This summer I figured out how to mount a window A/C on it too, which I was quite proud of because I had never seen anyone do it like that and I searched a lot. But the wife was getting claustrophobic in there, so I managed to find a ‘88 Six-Pac slide-in camper on Craigslist for $500: Had to have it. It weighs about 900 pounds and the truck hauls it fine. It needs some work. I’ve re-sealed the roof seams already and we’re planning to take it four hours away to Lake McConaughy in west Nebraska the end of this month! So that’s my little story.”
This ’75 Toyota Chinook belongs to a reader who wants to remain anonymous. If it was us, we’d be bragging it up, because this rig is cool. The owner has converted it to four-wheel drive using ’85 Toyota parts including a front axle, leaf springs, transfer case, and five-speed transmission. Other mods include a Toyota IFS steering box, crossover steering, a ’01 Toyota rear axle with electric locker, 4.88 gears, Sway-A-Way shocks, 31-inch BFG tires, and ‘70s-era turbine-style magnesium wheels. The truck is powered by the stock 20R engine with a header and Weber carburetor, though the owner is considering a powerplant swap to a 3.4L V-6 Tacoma engine or a 4.0L V-6 Lexus engine. The interior of the rig is under construction, and current features are limited to a couch that folds into a bed. “We camp at the lake, sand dunes, races, weddings, barbecues—anywhere we may be spending the night,” the owner says.
Utility Bed and a Bed
Scott Lideen says he camps out in his ’68 Bronco and his Hendrix buggy, but when it comes to actual campers, this massive Lance camper-equipped rig is what he calls home on the road. Lideen says, “This is a true ‘04 F-550 4x4 with 6.0L Power Stroke diesel. It gave up the ghost in 2011 on the way back to Phoenix from the Arizona Classic Bronco Club Rubicon trail run, so I had to stud the head bolts after that. The truck has factory 4.88 gears, a Gear Vendor overdrive, a 15,000-pound Warn winch, and a custom utility bed that holds two spare tires, which I’ve had to use before on the same trip. The truck gets 8-9 mpg and I always have a trailer, either the small enclosed shown, boat, or car hauler. The camper is bolted to the truck and is never removed, except to rebuild the 6.0L.”
Bruce Meredith sent us this cool photo and a description of his rig. Meredith says, “My wife and I are avid campers and over the years have progressed from a ground tent to a back-of-the-truck tent to our present setup, a 15-foot Travelite slide-in camper. Knowing your love of old school technology, I think you will appreciate our truck. We have a ‘04 F-350 Super Duty 4x4 SuperCab with 8-foot box, V-10, six-speed manual tranny, 3.73 gears, leaf springs front and rear, and BFG 295/75R16 tires. It hauls our home on wheels around effortlessly and still manages double-digit gas mileage.
“Our camper is really well equipped. It has a bathroom with a sink and shower, clothes closet, dining table and bench, counter with a double sink, three-burner propane stove, a large fridge, a sleeping loft with storage, air conditioning, a propane furnace, and an outdoor shower. What more could you ask for?
“We live in Toronto in southern Ontario and head north every year to explore our favorite spots in the remote wilderness of northern Ontario. We have travelled down east all the way to Newfoundland—a 4,000-mile trip that includes a five-hour ferry ride across to Newfoundland. There is nothing like having your home in the back of your truck and knowing you can go almost anywhere you can think of.
“The picture I sent you is one of our favorite campgrounds, on the shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. We will be heading up that way this fall— really looking forward to it!”