Eco-Roamer - F650 based Expedition Vehicle


Bed tents

OutbacKamper said:
I have been enjoying following your build, thanks for sharing so many details. Now I have a question ....
I noticed you have a fold out tent room. Is this a standard RV part that can be purchased and installed as a kit or assembly, or was this custom built ?


on edit: I just found the answer to my question on page 19, man this is a BIG post.
Glad you're enjoying it!

...And yes you're right, back on Page 19 I talked about the bed tent. We've since mounted it, slept in it and it's fantastic.

The tent itself is from Cascade Designs, and is the same one used by several RV manufacturers. They are not really set up to sell one-offs, but Rick Klug, is a fellow ExPo member and was incredibly helpful.

I hope he doesn't mind, but here are his contacts if you want to order one for your build:
Rick Klug
Cascade Designs
Specialty Sales Manager
888-801-5335 ext 1497

That just gets you the tent, You still need to build the actual door to mount it on. In our case we used Nappanee Windows (who build the same door for several of their RV Manufacturer clients) - but I understand that they are going through some rough times, and I'm not sure if they're choice again at the moment...

There's nothing particularly rocket science about the door though, so I'm sure you could build your own.

Here's what the bed tent looks like deployed:




Prybry said:
had one question on the comp. toilet... is the peat required going to be hard to find were your planning to go?
Just a thought...
Yes, you're probably right...

Geoff at Airhead recommended that we use the compressed Coir bricks, which are made from coconut husks. They come in a highly compressed, dried and sealed in a brick. I bought a case of 24 bricks from Discount Hydroponics.

If they actually last for one month each (as suggested) then the case should last me for a couple of years. If we need more, then we'll just go back online and order more if we have to.

I still don't know how well it will work, but I'll certainly post the results here...



In The news...

The New York Times ran a story this week about a few other examples of people working on eco-friendly camper ideas. Most of them are conversions of existing RV's using veggie diesel.

Still, an interesting read and very encouraging to see other people starting to create this trend.

We've been very excited about the prospect of EcoRoamer like vehicles on the trails someday, exploring nature without destroying it at the same time...

Read on!


Read the original story here.

November 7, 2008
The Green RV

OVER the last few years, Sara and Matt Janssen have been downsizing their life. First, they moved from a 1,600-square-foot home to a small apartment in Montana. Then, wanting to tour the country without harming the planet, they took up residence in a recreational vehicle fueled by used vegetable oil.

They now travel with their 4-year-old daughter, Bella, spreading the word about the sustainable life.

Recreational vehicles, which get about 8 miles a gallon, are often considered the antithesis of low-impact living. But it doesn’t have to be that way, said Ms. Janssen, speaking by phone from her home, a 36-foot, 1998 Western Alpine Coach, when it was parked in Des Moines recently.

Their motor home has a hot water capacity of only six gallons, “so I know how long my showers are,” said Ms. Janssen, a 31-year old photographer who also works for her father, a developer of franchises for Cold Stone Creamery. The RV’s limited space also means “we can’t buy anything because it won’t fit,” she said.

Add to that a comprehensive remodeling, including nontoxic paints, bamboo floors and the waste-grease fueling system, and the Janssen mobile home “is a self-contained lifestyle,” Ms. Janssen said.

Amid growing interest in alternative-fuel vehicles and environmentally friendly building methods, a handful of designers and do-it-yourselfers are taking on an unlikely challenge: reinventing the motor home, with a goal of transforming the typical wide-body gas guzzler into a model of compact green construction and fuel efficiency.

These modern-day RV owners are using their retooled motor homes as vehicles, literally, to promote ecological awareness as they travel.

“If you can make an RV sustainable, you can make any industry sustainable,” said Ty Adams, a Portland, Ore., resident who spent 2007 visiting 25 states and promoting renewable energy in the BioTrekker, an RV powered by biodiesel, a fuel made from refined vegetable oil. Mr. Adams spent $108,000 for the RV and $12,000 more for the biodiesel upgrade and campaign, which he financed by selling his house.

The trend received a boost a couple of years ago when Willie Nelson began powering his tour bus with biodiesel, which he called BioWillie, and later convinced other musicians to do the same. But regular RV owners say that their tours serve another purpose besides sustainable travel, namely to reflect a desire for a simpler, if not entirely bygone, era of road tripping and nature appreciation.

“When people talk about conservation, they get so bogged down with recycling and living lightly they forget what they are trying to save," said Brian Brawdy, a 47-year-old former police investigator turned wilderness expert. “I want people to get out there and camp, hike, rock climb."

Mr. Brawdy, a spokesman for Gore-Tex, is on a self-described — and self-financed — “Wonder Explore Believe” tour of the United States in a Lance Camper modified to capture rainwater and use wind and solar energy.

Although hybrid and alternative-fuel RV models have yet to find a mass market, the industry is moving toward fuel-economy prototypes and environmental designs, said Kevin Broom, a spokesman for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, which is based in Reston, Va. Individual RV owners are leading the way, he said. An industry survey conducted last year found that about 18 percent of RV owners are already using solar panels, Mr. Broom said.

“As consumers ask for more green elements, manufacturers will definitely respond,” he said, adding that some of the luxury RV models are already replacing ubiquitous vinyl interiors with hardwood. “It comes in on the high end, then works its way down. ”

Mr. Adams is taking another approach after his BioTrekker experience. An avid mountain climber who grew up in Montana, Mr. Adams, 30, described biofuel as his “gateway drug” but said: “Living in the RV for a year made me realize they are not built well. The focus is on whipped cream and faux finishes.”

So last January, Mr. Adams, a former editor for an RV industry publication, sold the BioTrekker and purchased a 37-foot 1994 Safari Trek — “which in RV years is like 1,000,” he said — and partnered with Joseph Treiber, a retired farmer, and Allison Hintzmann, a teacher, on a top-to-bottom environmental redesign. The fruit of their labor is called the SolTrekker, which is painted in Tuscan reds and yellows and includes solar-powered water and electrical systems, a composting toilet, rainwater harvesting system, recycled denim insulation, LED lighting and bamboo interiors.

Shortly after the SolTrekker was completed in September, the vehicle was featured as part of an annual tour of green homes in Portland.

“Most RV-ers care a lot about the outdoors,” Mr. Adams said. “They just don’t want to sleep on the ground; they don’t want to backpack.”

Instead of demonizing RVs, the goal should be to improve their performance, said Mr. Adams, who ultimately envisions a hybrid electric motor home getting at least 50 miles a gallon.

Similarly, Mr. Brawdy, speaking by phone from Cleveland, said: “People RV because they like that sense of independence. I hope it communicates to energy independence as well.”

Over the last year, he has taken his rig to such remote areas as Death Valley and Zion National Park without worrying about plugging in because of his off-the-grid electricity sources.

Mr. Brawdy, who extols the benefits of reconnecting with nature — “dirt is in our DNA” — during appearances at sporting goods stores and other venues, said a bout of skin cancer triggered his interest in renewable energy sources. “I decided to look at the bright side and harness the power of the sun to protect natural resources,” he said, adding that a storm the night before yielded 40 gallons of water from the camper’s rainwater harvesting system.

He said most of what he knows about the camper’s wind turbine and solar panels has come from on-the-road experience — a fact he hopes will encourage others to emulate his example. “I thought I could show the world: ‘Hey, Brian doesn’t look like the sharpest knife in the drawer, so maybe I can have a rig like that, too,’ ” he said.

Others have hopes of taking the environmentally friendly RV much further. Alexandre Verdier, a 35-year-old from Montreal, has designed a prototype camper that includes a diesel hybrid engine and solar panels that are controlled by a global positioning system to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. The vehicle is an update of the classic Volkswagen Westfalia camper van, which was synonymous with the counter culture in the 1970s.

“I did a lot of trips in the Westfalia, so I came up with the idea of a new green version,” said Mr. Verdier, citing as particular inspiration a three-month trip he took with friends around the United States when he was 17.

The design for the Westfalia Verdier won a 2006-7 Innovation for New Mobility prize awarded during the Caravan Salon Düsseldorf in Germany, one of Europe’s largest caravanning exhibition and trade shows. Mr. Verdier said that he was negotiating with a manufacturer and that the vehicles, with an estimated price of $129,000, should be available next summer.

Even for those RV owners already on the road, being a pioneer has its challenges. To fill their 100-gallon tank with used cooking oil, Sara and Matt Janssen scour the landscape for fast-food and mom-and-pop restaurants willing to give away an increasingly valuable commodity. The fueling process itself takes about an hour, Ms. Janssen said, adding that the couple invested in an on-board oil filtration system, which strains the “batter and chicken chunks” before the oil reaches the engine.

It’s a laborious process and “not soccer-mom friendly,” she said.

The Janssens’ current home represents a sort of second chapter to their journey. When they began their trip in September 2007, a venture that they called the Live Lightly Tour and that they documented at, they were traveling in a 1994 Fleetwood Flair.

Having traded up to their 1998 Western Alpine Coach in September, they figure that they have traveled about 20,000 miles in all and resorted to diesel fuel just once, outside of Austin, Tex.

“It was our fault,” Ms. Janssen said. “We didn’t start looking early enough.”

She estimates that they saved about $25,000 using the kitchen grease instead of conventional fuel. “We wouldn’t have been able to do the tour if we had had to pay for gas,” she said.

Although the family will live in Bozeman, Mont., for the winter — in their RV — they are contemplating whether to continue the road trip next spring.

But their work, and their old RV, lives on. Last April, the Janssens spent a few days in Plano, Tex., with Jeff and Kim Harrison, who had been following the Janssens’ tour online. The Harrisons, who have a 3-year-old son, Parks, were inspired to buy the Janssens’ original RV and start preparing for their own trip on the road next spring. That means storing used vegetable oil in a 50-gallon barrel as they find it, and testing the RV on weekend trips to visit family in West Monroe, La.

“To be able to travel and not take up more resources than you have to — this is a great way to have it all,” Mrs. Harrison said.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company



It's been awhile since I have been on but I must say how much I enjoyed and learned from reading this build so far. That sure beats running around in some modified tour bus. I hope we get to see nore about the electronics, heating, cooling, furnishing, etc. Absolutely an AWESOME vehicle.

Pete Wilson
Ottawa, KS

Every Miles A Memory

Expedition Leader
boblynch said:
Long term expedition travelers are probably not heating/cooling large homes, sitting in traffic for hours a day in our v8 luxury SUV, shopping endlessly to fill our house and garage with crap we’ll later donate to charity, watering our large chemically treated lawns to keep them greener than the neighbors, ignoring our kids while they play video games on the big screen TV, and flooding the world with security lights so the “wrong kind of people” don’t intrude on our manicured lifestyle. Don’t look down on these folks at least they recycle their water bottles and are better than the neighbors 10 feet away who drive the dreaded H2.

Thanks for all the PMs, encouragement, and inspiration. Best of luck on the build!

I love this rant right here. My wife and I live in a 25' Travel Trailer pulled by a F-250 PSD. I get yuppies yelling at me all the time that I'm buring too much fossil fuels by towing this camper around all these miles!

My usual responce is "Lady, my wife and I havent bee plugged into shore power in almost 2 years, we live off of Solar Power and use a total of 40 gallons every 10-12 days. How much does that off-set the tank of diesel that takes me a few days or weeks to get me from Point A to Point B?"

They're usually saying this to me while they're filling up their car that is idling in a station while they ran up to grab a pack of gum or something that probably wasnt needed to beging with.

Jeesh, enough with the bantering already. If you can live in 200 square foot of space for a few years, you cant burn enough diesel fuel to compare to what you'd be buring by living in a stick house.

Personally, I think this build rocks and am totally jealous/envious at the same time!


Pat thanks for the kind words. Welcome to the ExPo site, your recent posts and pics are a great addition.

Jay, if newcomers are referencing my year-old rants, it means your build thread needs an update! Post new pics so we can all be jealous...


Every Miles A Memory

Expedition Leader
Thanks Bob, I cant believe it found me this long to stumble into this wealth of Overland Knowledge!!

Cant wait to see this rig finished and rolling down the road!


Nice work! Thanks for sharing your experience as there are many ideas and details to "steal".:arabia: I was hoping you could point me in the right direction to a supplier for the rounded exterior corner aluminum pieces.
Please keep up the interesting build posts........I can't wait to see the electrical/plumbing/interior build.
Thanks Again! :bowdown:


Nice build. I'm impressed by the patience! Just big enough to live in, small enough to move wherever you decide home is, or should be. Any recent stages completed? I can't believe I stayed up until 3am, I was determined to finish reading this one once I started it!



Back Again

Hello All,

I hope that everyone is doing well, and that the January blues aren't getting you down too much!

Well, Bob is absolutely right, I am WAY over due to post an update on the progress of the EcoRoamer build, but it has been a bit of a crazy few months. Here's what has been going on...

My Mother-in-Law (who is an amazingly strong and loving woman/mother/grandmother) has unfortunately gotten quite ill, and so we made the family decision to relocate to be closer to her. Which means that after 14 fantastic years in Singapore, we've packed up our lives and moved to New Jersey. (I know, huge upgrade!)

That meant that I spent most of December madly scrambling in Singapore to (sniff!) sell my Jeep, sell my Land Cruiser, and pack our entire existence into a shipping container to go across the ocean.

Of course on the other end, there was house hunting, mortgage arranging, and container unloading.

So needless to say, it has been pretty busy and the truck got put on the back burner for a little while.

However, our amazingly dedicated group of guys in Sturgis have been working away on the project (Thanks Jeff, Matt, Scott & Bob!) and so it hasn't been a complete waste of time. Also, now that I am "closer" I've been able to work more easily with them and so things are starting to accelerate.

Over the next few posts I'll update you on what's been going on. Aside from the truck itself though, the other big news is that I've been spending my evenings working on the NEW website, and I think it is finally ready to reveal to all-important ExPo community. If you have the chance, please stop by and visit:

Like the rest of the project, the site follows our philosophy of 'open source' so it is built (by me) using the free Drupal platform, and all of our project documents are on there for you to use in your own future endeavors.

Thanks to all of you for your great support and comments / questions over the past few months. Sorry to have been so silent. We're back now though, and you should be hearing a lot more about the project over the next few weeks.



Thanks for the update and welcome to the East Coast! If you pick up a trail - oriented vehicle and ever want to go play at Rausch Creek or the Pine Barrens, drop a wishes on dealing with your ma in-law's health.


Departure Angle


About 3 weeks ago I managed to get out to Sturgis, to work on the truck and meet with the guys for some updates.

Those of you who live / have visited Indiand/Michigan in January will not be surprised to hear that it was -17'F and looked like this:

I can't believe I left a life in the tropics for this!

However, we did get some good work accomplished, and I thought you guys might be interested in some of it...


If you were at the ExPo trip to the U.P. in August, you will have noticed that our departure angle was less than fantastic due to the rear stair entrance. A great example of something looking better on AutoCAD than in real life.

So, we cut it off, shortened it up and remounted it with great effect:



We also built out the box to include storage cubbies for boots and things behind the riser on each step. It was dead space that now has a purpose. Almost every inch on the truck now suits at least TWO different purposes, some of them 3 or 4.

Here's an older picture of the stairs:


The other thing we learned in the U.P. was how prone the Seitz acrylic windows are to get scratched up my the foliage along the trails. We had mounted the windows recessed before, but it was not enough.

In order to preserve the windows a little, and to add to our 'cargo truck' transformers camougflage, we added aluminum shutter flaps to all of the windows. These will eventually be painted to match the rest of the body and should blend in very nicely.

Special thanks to David, Iris & Travis Hammond and their Mercedes truck from Germany for the inspiration for those!

Now that our cargo truck disguise is almost complete we've been joking around about painting fake business names on the side of the truck. While this should make the border guards less likely to believe that "we're a motorhome, not commercial", it will have the benefit of making the average yabbo completely ignore us.

We were trying to think of the most universal names we could come up with, which would appeal to the largest group of 'baddies'. Something like:

"Mustafa Garcia's Halal Meat Supply"

"Tan Teck Kiang Furniture Company" (written in Chinese & English)
(completely joking of course...)

Now the work begins on the interior. We've already finalized some of the designs for:

The stairs / storage / entrance to tent:

(with deference to Unicat & Host Campers for their inspiration on those)

...and the dinette / chest freezer / clothing chest-of-drawers:

These are now being built by Matt Sutter and his great guys at Michiana Laminates, out of Plyboo (bamboo wood boards) and SierraPine's Medex (recycled material MDF boards).

Stay tuned for more updates...

I've seen your website. It looks really good. Do you have any info on the tires/wheel setup I see pictures of. They look like the new Earthroamer wheels.