Defenders as Campers: to Convert or Not to Convert

The Land Rover has always been on the short list of expedition vehicles of choice.  It’s not only famous, it’s legendary! Over sixty years of production, without much change to the form, and the reputation of this esteemed truck continues to grow.  The Defender is a particularly tough, go anywhere, no nonsense 4×4 vehicle.

Today, as the overland expedition travel industry grows, several aftermarket products have been developed to further accommodate this vehicle for tough, long haul, often off-road travel.  A seemingly endless list of modifications can be done to create the perfect expedition vehicle: heavy duty suspension systems, additional fuel tanks, electrical fridges, security boxes, winches, GPSs, etc….  This article focuses on what is likely the most significant modification that can be undertaken: converting your Defender into a camper!

Considerations:

An implacable rule applies to all modifications to a 4×4: the more stuff you add on (past the basic 4×4 enhancement package: suspension, bumper, diff-lock, winch, tires), the heavier and more cumbersome your truck becomes. That, in turn, means loosing 4×4 capabilities, autonomy, speed, flexibility, clearance, etc….  Loosing some of the original capabilities of the truck may or may not be of importance.  What is very important, however, is to consider it BEFORE modifications are done.

Conclusion: any modifications beyond the aforementioned basics cannot be taken lightly (literally!).  Needless to say, adding a camper to your Defender classifies as making your beloved Land Rover “heavier and more cumbersome” so… read this paragraph again and let it sink in!

Another important consideration is the issue of conspicuousness.  The Defender has the peculiarity of being a work truck in most of the world.  It is used by military, police, aid agencies, utilities, contractors, fire departments, etc….  Driving a “stock” Defender, therefore, can make you part of the scenery, while a large visible camper added to the Rover likely turns the vehicle and you into a “tourist”, with all the implications therein.  This may or may not be an important factor for you.  That being said, some options out there only minimally affect the character of the truck such that most of the locals you’ll encounter on your expeditions might see your Defender as simply a “normal” middle of the road truck with foreign plates (can’t do anything about that!).

How much money you want to “invest” in your Land Rover is another important consideration.  Some modifications are pricier than the Defender itself!  Consider the intended usage of the truck.  Decking out your Defender for a two-year, around the world expedition will probably require a higher level of vehicle preparation than if you are looking for a weekend solution.

Home-made verses aftermarket kits: as you will discover after a quick search, there are numerous camper conversion options out there!  Depending on your level of handiness and your specific needs, the do-it-yourself option might be the way to go.  Most camper conversions will require some level of involvement on behalf of the vehicle’s owner anyway.  It might even be part of the fun!  Also, being the architect behind your truck’s modification project might give you an intimate knowledge you will sooner or later need once something brakes down in the middle of, let’s say, the Mongolian tundra!

Do your homework: the options out there are numerous!  One is bound to fit your specific needs, you just have to find it.  The web is one quick, inexpensive way to begin your quest for the perfect camper modification, but certainly not the only one.  Physically checking out other Defenders (and other modified vehicles) will increase your knowledge and make you “see” things you were not looking for or deemed not important.  That can be done on the road, at vendors’ sites, or at industry trade shows.  Listening to others’ experiences is an invaluable asset!  The extra effort will pay off when you make a decision on such a transcendental modification of your beloved Defender.

Some Options:

With these important considerations in mind, here are a list of options to get you started.

Some are relatively inexpensive and simple, but are at the bottom of the spectrum as far as the level of comfort achieved.  Others are very pricy and/or very heavy, but turn your “car” into a virtual mobile home.  This is by no means a list of recommendations.  I’ve not tested these products (save the one I have).  The following is just a list of sources and companies to help in exploring the possibilities of a Defender camper.  I would recommend using it as the basis for further research.

Happy surfing and good luck!

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Staff writer and photographer, Cyril Meschler, has a 110 converted by Dormobile, pictured here.

4×4 CAMPERS REFERENCE:

RENTAL:

rvlinks.com (Defender camper rental in S.A.)

AZALAI:

psi-azalai.com (manufacturer)

DORMOBILE:

dormobile.co.uk (manufacturer)

eastcoastrover.com (manufacturer)

EVO:

evo-camper.de (manufacturer, German Language)

EXTEC:

extec-gmbh.de (manufacturer, German language)

FOLEY SPECIALIST VEHICLES:

foleyspecialistvehicles.co.uk (manufacturer)

INNOVATION CAMPERS:

innovation-campers.de(manufacturer, German Language)

MULGO:

mulgo.com.au (manufacturer)

RESOURCES:

semashow.com (trade show)

overlandexpo.com (trade show)

landroverexpedition.com (resource page)

landrover-motorhome.com (resource page)

landroverclub.net (resource page)

dormobile.org.uk (club and forum)

expeditionlandrover.com (resource page)

abenteuer-allrad.de/ (trade show)

 

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