After more than two years of travel all across North America behind the wheel of a 2001 E350 EB 4×4 Sportsmobile it was time for a change. After many hours building and studying spreadsheets, talking with industry/overland travel veterans and an invite from Marc at XPCamper to help him prototype a panel construction camper, I decided to design and build the EEXP. My minimal budget, the opportunity to design and be hands on with a unique camper build, and the quality of the products that I’ve seen come out of XPCamper, all lead to this path for the next Exploring Elements Adventuremobile.
This path started because I really wanted something more capable off-road, with an overall smaller form factor, a more comfortable bed, a more durable interior, as well as a vehicle and camping system that are better suited for RTW travel than my Sportsmobile. From that desire, I looked into quite a number of custom overland vehicle builds that included: Land Cruiser Troopy and 100 series, Defender 110 and 130, LWB Range Rover Classic, LR3, E350 4×4 regular body vans, Delica vans and full size American pickups with various truck campers. For my style of full-time overland travel for two people, myself and girlfriend Sarah, I have a few requirements: full size or larger bed, must be able to get from driving position to the bed without exiting vehicle, must be able to cook/eat/work on computer comfortably indoors, must have a large fridge, must have an air heater in the living quarters, must be able to haul all my adventure sports gear, the vehicle must fit in a shipping container, have over 600 mile range and it must be able to handle relatively extreme off-road travel. I know, a long, pretty specific list and one difficult to make happen in one vehicle!
In the end, the build went from and idea to an on-the-road rig that debuted at Overland Expo 2014 in under 5 months, which was quite the task with such a unique and custom build! The crew at XPCamper are a talented bunch, with an extremely strong work ethic. Not much of a builder or mechanic myself, it was great to work along side them to create my new home on wheels. I’m sure the skills and information gained from this experience will prove invaluable when maintenance and repairs are needed in some remote parts of the globe.
There is a long list of things that still need to be fixed, changed and built on the EEXP, as you’d expect from any prototype fabricated in this tight time frame. The most major thing still to be done on the build is the construction of a pass through from the cab to the camper. It was specifically designed for this feature, but time and money have delayed its construction. There are a ton of little things that we are working on daily to organize, refine, and make more comfortable on the truck and camper. I have a feeling this list will get shorter and less pressing, but really never end.
The second half of 2014 has us shaking the EEXP down with a circumnavigation of North America. We’ll be at the NW Overland Rally and then press on to Alaska, the only state I have yet to visit. Afterwards we plan to drive east across Canada and attend Overland Expo East in October, before driving back west for The SEMA Show in November. After SEMA, we will be guiding a Baja Overland Adventure with Xplore Baja over the Thanksgiving holiday. Then the mission turns towards heading south on a multi-year RTW overland adventure.
The EEXP build was full of its share of blood, sweat and tears, and I’m sure there will be plenty more of all of the above. Lots more to accomplish with this rig, both in terms of the build and travel. Excited for the world of opportunities that the EEXP opens up to Sarah and I. The Exploring Elements overland adventures have just begun!
A lot more details on the camper, truck and travels coming soon. Keep up with all things EEXP HERE.
HUGE shout out to the many supporters of the EEXP build: XPCamper, GoSol Power, Buckstop Truckwear, Warn, Xplore Baja, General Tire, Icon Vehicle Dynamics, PIAA, Hellwig, Hi-Lift, Canby Graphics, Edge Products, Outback Proven, ARB USA, Roto-Pax