Options for round the country trip.

beanmachine

New member
Hello all,
My wife and I are currently in the planning stages for a year long full time round the US trip that will happen between 2 and 3 years from now. We already have an idea of the route, and are looking for some options for comfortable (relatively) long term camper.
Our list of requirements is as follows.

Self sufficient for approximately one week for two adults, one child, and two 60lb dogs.
Must have suitable indoor room for at least four adults, and a space where I could work (computer).
Wet bath/indoor shower
Mild off-road capable (4x4).
Reasonably easy to drive/maneuver, and automatic transmission.
Comfortable for several hours on interstate.
Quick set up and tear down (preferably with a pass through for immediate stop and sleep situations).
~$75,000 budget.

As much as we would love one of those pre-made jobs that cost as much as our house, I believe our budget is going to keep us in the realm of purchasing a used truck and bolting a camper to the back.
We don't mind doing work ourselves, and we have talked about purchasing a truck and refurbishing that. Then a shell and building the inside of that. Probably a 2 stage thing. That leaves me with a few choices I'm attempting to wrap my head around.

3/4 or one ton truck with camper
This would be either a 7.3l F250/350 or pre 2007 Dodge Ram 2500/3500. I'm wary of this option as, though it would likely be the most cost efficient, I'm not sure there would really be enough space here. Also, no pass through, which would be nice.

Class 5 truck
I'm not sure if this options buys us any extra space, but only load capacity? I'm not incredibly clear on the options here.

Bigger
I know many of the Class 6 and up trucks would be enough space, and not much more expensive than the smaller trucks, but the bigger you go the more expensive everything else gets (tires, wheels, etc.)

Military
LMTV - probably the cheapest up front option, but who knows what you're really getting, and I don't think these do interstate terribly well?

MD Ambulance
This seems like it's a great idea, but I am seeing that most boxes aren't over 72" in height? Am I wrong about this? Because I would need at least 75" to stand up.

As we are just in the beginning of the thought process I'm sure half of my thinking is wrong so don't hesitate to throw new ideas my way and thanks in advance.
 

Sisyphus

Adventurer
Considering your budget, I think going the truck w/ camper route likely makes the most sense.

Truck wise, I'd consider gas. The pre-ULSD 7.3/5.9 market is borderline insane, and the 10k premium over their gas counterparts doesn't make sense economically unless you plan on driving/towing a lot. My vote is for the Ford V10/6.2.

Camper wise, your options are limited given your space and off road constraints. Check out Bigfoot/Northernlite, likely your best bet without blowing the budget.

Definitely go 1-ton, dually if you truly mean mild 4x4 abilities. A large TC from Bigfoot/Northernlite can very easily surpass a SRW GVWR. If going SRW, save some money in the budget at the end for sorting out ride quality/suspension upgrades.

Best of luck!
 

Third

Member
Have you considered a 4x4 truck and a travel trailer?

Easily well within your budget and turnkey.

If you're only looking to do mild off-road then you could drop the trailer at a nice spot for base camp and use the truck to venture off further.
 

Fatboyz

Observer
If you're planning to hit Alaska Dalton Hwy, then top of the world and Dempster are a must see. These are not really holiday trailer friendly so a truck and camper at the minimum.
 

windtraveler

Observer
Consider a flatbed truck camper. BundutecUSA will custom build to meet your needs and they build a quality product without breaking the bank. There are several other flatbed camper options but based on my research I think BundutecUSA offers the best overall value.
 

Darwin

Explorer
You are looking at a large truck camper with slides and a 1 ton dually or 5500 series truck to meet all your requirements, but would likely suffer in the offroad department.
 

yfarm

Observer
Agree with Third
1. Used 17ft SD Casita with lift and leaf spring axle pulled by new JLUR or 4Runner will be below budget
2. 1 1/2 ton truck with camper from class C motorhome mounted on truck allows for pass through
3. Used 17 Casita mounted on used Fuso or similar.
 

beanmachine

New member
Ok, I was slightly premature and have done some more research, and my wife and I have done some more discussion.

First hurdle is budget. We plan on selling most everything we own to finance a portion of this trip (I plan on working off and on DURING the trip). That being said, the less we spend on upfront costs, the less I'll have to work, and the more places we'll go. We could afford more, but I feel like most anything past $75k is quickly diminishing returns. We also plan on buying used and rehabbing what needs it. If we HAVE to purchase something new to get what we absolutely must have, then so be it.

Second is the actual route. There are a number of things we would like to accomplish on this trip, but are leaving time open to stay longer in places if we want to. First is to hit the most northern and most southern points in the US that we can drive to. The second is also to hit all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico/Baja.

Third is the off road portions. We will not necessarily be going out of our way to find difficult off road trails, but if the opportunity presents itself to see something interesting then we want the ability to do that. We currently have a Landcruiser with 33's and it's capability has been significantly more than we've ever needed. Only used the rear locker once and I think that was just me being chicken. I don't imagine we would ever put ourselves in a situation a 4x4 truck with all terrains wouldn't make it through. I will be putting at least 33's and at least a rear locker in whatever we get just in case, for the money you can never be too safe.


Considering your budget, I think going the truck w/ camper route likely makes the most sense.

Truck wise, I'd consider gas. The pre-ULSD 7.3/5.9 market is borderline insane, and the 10k premium over their gas counterparts doesn't make sense economically unless you plan on driving/towing a lot. My vote is for the Ford V10/6.2.

Camper wise, your options are limited given your space and off road constraints. Check out Bigfoot/Northernlite, likely your best bet without blowing the budget.

Definitely go 1-ton, dually if you truly mean mild 4x4 abilities. A large TC from Bigfoot/Northernlite can very easily surpass a SRW GVWR. If going SRW, save some money in the budget at the end for sorting out ride quality/suspension upgrades.

Best of luck!
I wouldn't go less than a 1 ton, but likely not DRW. I used to drive an overweight F350 for work and hate the DRW. Downsized to a SRW and it's definitely more to my liking. Also, a reason why I would really like a diesel. After driving that gas F350 for several years I definitely don't want to go back, and I think the amount of driving we'll be doing will be worth the premium for the diesel. We will downsize on camper if need be or upsize on truck if the GVWR on a SRW will be close.

Have you considered a 4x4 truck and a travel trailer?

Easily well within your budget and turnkey.

If you're only looking to do mild off-road then you could drop the trailer at a nice spot for base camp and use the truck to venture off further.
Yes, this was what we discussed last night. I think VMI Offroad and Black Series both have nice options that we're looking into.

If you're planning to hit Alaska Dalton Hwy, then top of the world and Dempster are a must see. These are not really holiday trailer friendly so a truck and camper at the minimum.
Would one of the above off road oriented trailers work? If not they're definitely out as this is something we plan on.

Consider a flatbed truck camper. BundutecUSA will custom build to meet your needs and they build a quality product without breaking the bank. There are several other flatbed camper options but based on my research I think BundutecUSA offers the best overall value.
This is kind of the way I've been leaning so far.

You are looking at a large truck camper with slides and a 1 ton dually or 5500 series truck to meet all your requirements, but would likely suffer in the offroad department.
This is also what I'm thinking. Seeing as though I'm not looking for extreme capabilities off road I feel like it is would be worth compromising some of that ability for a bit more space. I'm not so sure how much I like having slide outs, but I think having 5500 size truck with a longer camper to give us the most space, while still being relatively decent off road.
 

beanmachine

New member
Agree with Third
1. Used 17ft SD Casita with lift and leaf spring axle pulled by new JLUR or 4Runner will be below budget
2. 1 1/2 ton truck with camper from class C motorhome mounted on truck allows for pass through
3. Used 17 Casita mounted on used Fuso or similar.
Never thought about this. I have been trying to find a big slide out style premade, and have been coming up empty (max out at 8' bed). I really like the idea of a flatbed style camper, but have been waffling on whether there was enough room for a year long trip.
 

lostih

Observer
We did the dalton this summer in our rig. It’s a 5500 Ram that I built a custom camper on. I ended up building my camper because I wanted a huge slide as we have two boys (8 and 5) that are super active and we were/are thinking of doing some long term travel in it. I also am a Cruiser nut and have done moderate to serious off-roading where front and rear lockers are required.

So here are my thoughts:

1. You are right...as you go big things get expensive fast. Tires and wheels are what I’m thinking of here. I have MPT81’s on Hutchinson wheels on my rig. Looks awesome but $$.

2. In the west (and my guess is most of the US/Canada) the amount of pavement you will see vs ‘offroad’ on a trip like you describe is probably 95:1. If I were doing it again (which I plan to) I’d sacrifice off-road prowess for on road comfort.

3. Anything can make the dalton in summer. I mean anything. The difference will be speed. I am not a slow driver so my rig was good for me. I was able to cruise at 55-65 the whole way and know that my truck/suspension/tires could handle whatever we encountered. That being said, from point 2 above...I’d go with smaller tires next time and slow down for the off-road bits.

4. For North American travel I really thing the extra two feet of wheelbase and better turning of the newer class 5 trucks is hard to beat. Stay dual wheels. Put a big camper on it and enjoy. For international travel you’d have to go smaller I think. That’s why I’ll build another rig one day (mines for sale because i like building them as much as traveling in them )

5. For gas vs diesel...it’s tough. I have a newer diesel and deleted it. You could do the same for your trip. I didn’t want to delete but ran into problems on the road and had to. Happy I did now that I’m taking it to Mexico next week. I agree with another poster that the prices on the 5.9/7.3 trucks are obscene. But a ten year newer or more gasser truck for the same money and have a world of a nicer truck to drive.

6. I’d definitely consider the trailer and hauler option. Lots of advantages for the travel you are thinking of.
 

Cowpig

new guy + questions
....That’s why I’ll build another rig one day (mines for sale because i like building them as much as traveling in them )

.....
wow selling already!? OP... you may want to talk to him about his rig - it has a lot of what you'd want to fulfill your goals and is road tested and family approved!
 

heimbig

OnTheRoadAtLast
For the size you want you need class 5 at least and not a camper unless you custom build which won't be in your budget. Used 4x4 Class C motorhome seems like a good fit - They are hard to find but for sure around. Pickup with trailer adds some flexibility. In usa tall and wide is just fine. Don't worry about duals i think duals are great in usa. We've been 1 year in our class 5 ford with custom camper: mexico usa europe now in africa. LivingstoneJournal.com or FB.
 

nhlakes

New member
A year is a long time. Have you spent much time with your wife/kid/dogs in a camper? If not I suggest going to an RV show to imagine your day to day life and then beg/borrow/rent a camper for a week to see what it is like.

I've done the cross-country thing with my wife and 2 kids when they were younger (but for less than 3 months). My wife and I still do lots of traveling with a camper (heading out for 3-4 weeks right after the holidays).

We currently have a 21' camper with slide and a Tundra DC 4x4. The 1/2 ton Tundra has twice the capacity needed for the light weight aluminum camper and can drag it any where I need to go. The camper is all welded aluminum with alum roof, so it is less likely to leak and/or fall apart.

A 250/350 is really all you need for most campers of the size you are talking about. I've been dragging stuff around the country for decades and, for long-distance trailering, I like to stay around 50% capacity of the tow vehicle. That way it'll tow all day, up and down mountains, without missing a beat.

You mentioned tire size. When going cross-country you may find yourself driving all day for multiple days. Excessive tire noise can be annoying. I switched to a quieter less aggressive Michelin m/s on my Suburban 4x4 during our cross country trip. Ride noise/comfort improved dramatically.

As far as the camper goes, if you plan on converting a dinette to a bed for your kid every night, that will get old quick.

I'd check out at a bunkhouse at least 21' long with a slide, but would try to go not much longer than that. End to end, that'll be around 25' and in parts of the country where dispersed camping is harder to find, you don't want something that will be longer than some state parks allow which are cheaper and nicer than the private campground/parking lots.

Also, most new campers will have lots of problems. The RV industry has just come of multiple years of near record breaking sales. Production went up and quality went down for almost all manufacturers. Be prepared to deal with that. A few months ago I considered buying a new Arctic Fox, Lance, or Outdoors RV, which are all quality brands. I took a trip to the west coast just so I could see lots of them. I was so disappointed in the quality that was being shipped to dealers that I decided to stay with what I have. Hangout on the owners group/forums for the brands you are considering for a couple months and you'll learn a lot.

Finally, most campers do not come with adequate batteries, solar, surge protection, etc... You'll likely also want a small generator... There very will likely be a few thousand dollars (min) of stuff beyond camper, truck, and WDH that you'll want in order to setup for a year long trip.

Once you get all fitted out, it'll be an awesome trip!
 

beanmachine

New member
We did the dalton this summer in our rig. It’s a 5500 Ram that I built a custom camper on. I ended up building my camper because I wanted a huge slide as we have two boys (8 and 5) that are super active and we were/are thinking of doing some long term travel in it. I also am a Cruiser nut and have done moderate to serious off-roading where front and rear lockers are required.

So here are my thoughts:

1. You are right...as you go big things get expensive fast. Tires and wheels are what I’m thinking of here. I have MPT81’s on Hutchinson wheels on my rig. Looks awesome but $$.

2. In the west (and my guess is most of the US/Canada) the amount of pavement you will see vs ‘offroad’ on a trip like you describe is probably 95:1. If I were doing it again (which I plan to) I’d sacrifice off-road prowess for on road comfort.

3. Anything can make the dalton in summer. I mean anything. The difference will be speed. I am not a slow driver so my rig was good for me. I was able to cruise at 55-65 the whole way and know that my truck/suspension/tires could handle whatever we encountered. That being said, from point 2 above...I’d go with smaller tires next time and slow down for the off-road bits.

4. For North American travel I really thing the extra two feet of wheelbase and better turning of the newer class 5 trucks is hard to beat. Stay dual wheels. Put a big camper on it and enjoy. For international travel you’d have to go smaller I think. That’s why I’ll build another rig one day (mines for sale because i like building them as much as traveling in them )

5. For gas vs diesel...it’s tough. I have a newer diesel and deleted it. You could do the same for your trip. I didn’t want to delete but ran into problems on the road and had to. Happy I did now that I’m taking it to Mexico next week. I agree with another poster that the prices on the 5.9/7.3 trucks are obscene. But a ten year newer or more gasser truck for the same money and have a world of a nicer truck to drive.

6. I’d definitely consider the trailer and hauler option. Lots of advantages for the travel you are thinking of.
For the size you want you need class 5 at least and not a camper unless you custom build which won't be in your budget. Used 4x4 Class C motorhome seems like a good fit - They are hard to find but for sure around. Pickup with trailer adds some flexibility. In usa tall and wide is just fine. Don't worry about duals i think duals are great in usa. We've been 1 year in our class 5 ford with custom camper: mexico usa europe now in africa. LivingstoneJournal.com or FB.
Definitely going to be going with at least a class 5 truck.

wow selling already!? OP... you may want to talk to him about his rig - it has a lot of what you'd want to fulfill your goals and is road tested and family approved!
If only we were ready to buy today. We'll likely be waiting until this time next year to purchase a truck. It sure is a nice truck. I think we'll be doing something similar.

Bundutec has the owner’s camper / demo for sale. Great price with all the bells and whistles.
We've decided something like this will be too small for a year long trip.

A year is a long time. Have you spent much time with your wife/kid/dogs in a camper? If not I suggest going to an RV show to imagine your day to day life and then beg/borrow/rent a camper for a week to see what it is like.

I've done the cross-country thing with my wife and 2 kids when they were younger (but for less than 3 months). My wife and I still do lots of traveling with a camper (heading out for 3-4 weeks right after the holidays).

We currently have a 21' camper with slide and a Tundra DC 4x4. The 1/2 ton Tundra has twice the capacity needed for the light weight aluminum camper and can drag it any where I need to go. The camper is all welded aluminum with alum roof, so it is less likely to leak and/or fall apart.

A 250/350 is really all you need for most campers of the size you are talking about. I've been dragging stuff around the country for decades and, for long-distance trailering, I like to stay around 50% capacity of the tow vehicle. That way it'll tow all day, up and down mountains, without missing a beat.

You mentioned tire size. When going cross-country you may find yourself driving all day for multiple days. Excessive tire noise can be annoying. I switched to a quieter less aggressive Michelin m/s on my Suburban 4x4 during our cross country trip. Ride noise/comfort improved dramatically.

As far as the camper goes, if you plan on converting a dinette to a bed for your kid every night, that will get old quick.

I'd check out at a bunkhouse at least 21' long with a slide, but would try to go not much longer than that. End to end, that'll be around 25' and in parts of the country where dispersed camping is harder to find, you don't want something that will be longer than some state parks allow which are cheaper and nicer than the private campground/parking lots.

Also, most new campers will have lots of problems. The RV industry has just come of multiple years of near record breaking sales. Production went up and quality went down for almost all manufacturers. Be prepared to deal with that. A few months ago I considered buying a new Arctic Fox, Lance, or Outdoors RV, which are all quality brands. I took a trip to the west coast just so I could see lots of them. I was so disappointed in the quality that was being shipped to dealers that I decided to stay with what I have. Hangout on the owners group/forums for the brands you are considering for a couple months and you'll learn a lot.

Finally, most campers do not come with adequate batteries, solar, surge protection, etc... You'll likely also want a small generator... There very will likely be a few thousand dollars (min) of stuff beyond camper, truck, and WDH that you'll want in order to setup for a year long trip.

Once you get all fitted out, it'll be an awesome trip!

This is sort of what we decided yesterday. We taped out a few squares in the garage and decided there was no way we would be happy living for a year in a slide in camper. We decided that a 12' box would be the absolute minimum.

I am really trying to stay away from a trailer just because we plan on moving quite frequently and like the ability to just stop and sleep, and the maneuverability of not having a trailer. On the other hand, being able to unhook the truck and drive around is nice, so a trailer isn't in the trash yet. Also, I agree with having a trailer around 50% of the capacity of the truck for everyday long distance towing (my wife was questioning why we would have to buy a new truck if my Land Cruiser could tow 5k lbs and that's what a trailer weighed lol).

Tire size I don't plan on going that big anyway. I've been fine with just 33's so far and don't expect needing anything over 35's with the longer truck, BUT, if we go the way we are thinking we will likely end up with a larger size just due to vehicle choice (more on that later).

The kid isn't around yet, so will not be older than 2 when we start this trip, but yes dedicated space for him is a must. One of the reasons why we decided to go larger is because we don't want to be converting one thing to another thing every day.

What the plan right now is, is to build custom (ourselves). Either by purchasing a trailer and modifying it to mount to a truck or to build a custom box outright. I have this great idea in my head (don't we all) if I can find the right base truck used. I'll post a picture of what I'm thinking later.

Truck will be a class 5 or larger medium duty truck or ex-military truck (prices an't be beat even with some rework cost).

Budget, uh.... That will be reconsidered, lol... but we are definitely attempting to stay around the original $75k, but decided that long term comfort would be worth the extra expense (if needed).
 
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