Vehicle Selection Dilemma


I have a vehicle selection dilemma. :oops::)

If I won the lottery (I guess I have to actually buy a ticket to win!) I would buy a diesel Sportmobile. I had a couple custom vans back in the 70's and have always liked them. I like the ability to just be able to park and get into the back without getting out of the vehicle. I think the size is good as it will be just me and my dog traveling.

I want to do local overlanding and I also make occasional trips to Colorado from northwest NV where I live to visit family and camp. I am planning on an around the country trip this fall (may postpone though because of COVID) and would like to tow my aluminum flatbed trailer with my Harley sidecar rig although not 100% sure on doing that. I would also like to make a trip to Alaska soon.

I currently own a 2008 Chevy 2500 Duramax crew cab 4x4, tuned and deleted, 6" lift on 35's, 51 gal fuel tank, air bags with compressor, Banks engine brake (works amazingly!), LTZ so loaded with heated seats and all the nice features, 225K miles. My intention was to build a flatbed and custom camper.

It is set up pretty well.
Comfortable for long travel.
Tons of power and decent fuel mileage.

Size (it is a bit large and with a camper, will be even bigger) and weight.
Outward visibility isn't great. It has huge A pillars and the rear view mirrors can block things. A camper will hinder rear visibility too but I will install backup cameras.
No pass through to the back. This is a big issue for me. I did buy a Breazer removable back window for it and I'd build the camper so it opens to the truck window but crawling through isn't the same as being in a van where you can just get up and walk to the back.
I have thought about cutting the back of the cab and building a permanently attached camper so it would have a full pass through but that is a pretty big non-reversible commitment and makes the vehicle more single purpose. I use this truck to pull heavy loaded trailers and need to able to do that.
Another easier option would be to keep the stock bed and build a customer slide/out camper. The flat bed would give me the ability to have side boxes for storage and also more room in the camper.

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I also have this old Ford F150 4x4. It's a 1990 with 90K miles, fuel injected 300 six banger and 4 speed manual trans. Pretty basic truck with p/s, p/b and a/c but that's about it. It will get decent gas mileage but won't win any drag races! I thought about pulling the bed off, cutting the back of the cab and building a dedicated camper like a small class C RV. I'd probably want to swap out the trans with an overdrive unit for better mileage and engine life. The biggest con of this would be lack of creature comforts. I'd also want to go through and replace worn suspension bushings, shocks, etc and new clutch/flywheel when I do the trans. Even with all that work, it would still be a relatively inexpensive build. And, I like that it is bit older and I'd probably build a log cabin/wood side type camper on it for that cool funky factor, something along the lines of this; The size would also be about right. Big enough to be comfortable in back but still maneuverable enough to get to good dispersed camp sites.


I also have this 1979 Blazer. It has a fresh built carb'd 350 and 4 speed manual trans. I'd probably convert it to fuel injection (or maybe LS) and also an overdrive trans but fuel mileage would still be marginal. I'd add a/c but like the F150, is pretty bare of creature comforts. I have seen some really neat campers on these too. Size would be excellent and it is very capable off road. It would also be the coolest choice.:cool:


I perused CL looking for vans and found a nice 2002 AWD Astro van for $4K. Doesn't list miles so I'm assuming high but it is in really good condition. with good options. They are a little small and I'd prefer a full size van but full size 4x4 vans are hard to find and usually quite pricey. I could build out the interior to fit my needs pretty easily. They also make lift kits for these allowing for larger more off road tires. The down side would be it is a little small and it would be yet, another vehicle to register, maintain and insure although if I went this route I'd sell the F150. I also have a really nice Jeep Grand Cherokee that I use as a run around vehicle which I would sell and use this van instead.


I could also look for full size vans in 2 wheel drive but I'm very used to having 4x4 vehicles and I think I'd miss having it. I could do a 4x4 conversion but it would become a large project and I have a few hot rod projects I'm doing and don't want to get too side tracked.

One last option is I have two enclosed trailers, a 20' and a 5'x8'. The 20 footer is a bit big but I though the 5x8 could be converted to a nice little camper. I could tow it behind the diesel truck or even the Jeep. This would be the quickest, easiest and cheapest option but would not have any pass through capability. Also, towing even the small trailer makes for a bigger rig and can be a pain at times. However, it does give me the ability to set up a base camp if I want to spend a few days in one location.


So, I've been debating these options for some time now and have reached a point of paralysis by analysis! Would like some input to helpo me decide.



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I lived and traveled in my truck for 13 years and never thought it was a hardship to walk outside and open the door to get in the camper. Even in town... when camping in the boonies, it's a complete non issue.

There are always compromises. I think if your 2500 is in good shape (and it looks it), go that route. Get a used slide in camper and see how that works for you. You'll get a better idea of what you need and what you don't after you've had some experience. I'd suggest erring on the minimalist side of things to start... don't haul a bunch of extra junk along.


Spent a year and a half traveling the country and living out of a truck + truck camper with wife and 3 dogs. No regrets, would choose the same setup if we were hitting the road tomorrow. There were only a couple of times where getting out and walking to the back was a nuisance, though mostly because of shepherding dogs through the rain. Would have loved a flatbed with storage boxes all over, that setup + truck camper is ideal IMO.

I'd be hesitant to tow a trailer around the country, especially up to Alaska. Plenty of people do it, but we saw a fair share of trailers broken due to rough road conditions. Not to mention it will limit where you can go/camp; there are a ton of good camping spots that we stayed at that wouldnt accomodate a trailer.

The van would be nice, but unless you are 4' tall, you are going to want a taller roof. Stooping over and shuffling around will get old fast. Again, plenty of people do it, but that would be a deal breaker for me.

Also, I second the minimalist philosophy. Dragging a bunch of stuff will just weigh you down and be more of a bother than boon whilst traveling.


To Infinity and Beyond!
Instead of trying to pick your travel vehicle FIRST why not pick the living situation you can "Live" with FIRST when traveling and then pick a vehicle that will accommodate that particular living experience?

Set up a 8 ft x 6-8 ft living area with tape on the floor in your home with a 4-5 foot ceiling height and then a 6 foot ceiling height. See how long you might survive living in that small confined space. Decide what sleeping, eating, cooking, bathing and storage design limitations you can accept when living in that small space. That should help you decide rather easily if a van, PU truck with camper, pulling a camper trailer, RTT or a truck bed topper living space is right for YOU based upon wants, needs, total living area and ceiling height for your long-term travel goals.

Also think about what your really need with you when traveling and all the crap you don't need that you can leave at home as stated above in other posts. Remember that all vehicles has GVWR limitations therefore you can't take everything you might want with you.

You will find out real quick which of these different type of living experiences you can accept when traveling and those living experiences that really suck a big one if you were on the road.

With that living space information decided choosing a vehicle that will accomodate the type of living experience you can endure will make choosing the right vehicle a whole lot easier along with a much better chance of gittin it right the first time.

Something to consider trying that won't cost you much of anything out of pocket to help you make a better vehicle purchase decision for your future travels.
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Viking with a Hammer
Beef the Blazer. One ton axles and lockers. Bushwacker Cutout fender flares. Install a bed in the back to sleep. Outlaw black inside and out. Add a rear bumper tire carrier. I'd even consider RV rooftop AC and a generator box mounted on the rear bumper. For camping. Windows down while traveling.

If the engine truly is fresh. Leave it alone. Grab a spare carb, starter, alternator. An LS is worth more than the whole rig, so I wouldn't waste time with that. Not when GM crate engine 383's are so cheap. Fuel is cheap right now. Burn as much as possible with the Blazer until it goes up.

Pass throughs suck. Campers rattle, and rattle, anD RATTLE. Every mile off road, the rattling gets louder and louder anD LOUDER. You'll end up crazy like me. I'll never ever do a pass through or motorhome for overlanding ever again. Even 'lil regular cab trucks rattle too much.
Buy an older used RV and throw a solid axle under the front and a transfer case unless you don't need 4x4.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Okay, so we have votes for every option. I guess I'll just have to build them all! :oops: :)

I've been camping out of the back of the diesel truck camper shell for the last couple years. I'm tired of "crampmig" in such a small shell with no headroom.

I've been looking at used slide in campers but they are all too large for what I want. A pop up Four Wheel Camper would be just the right size I think but they are so crazy expensive and I still wouldn't be able to use my Breazer pop out rear window pass through without modifying the camper.

I think the best choice for now is to either build my own slide in camper for the truck as is or go the flat bed route. I may convert my 5x8 trailer as well to tow behind my Jeep and see how that works for local trips to the mountains.


Well-known member
We have traveled all sorts of different ways. Our current build is planning to be the best of both welds. Full sized truck (F250) with 17’ off road built Trailer. We plan to add a RTT to the truck as well.

We can access a ton of good locations with the camper in tow. Then, when we really want to get out there, we can drop the camper off somewhere and then head out with just the truck/RTT to get to the more desolate locations (or to scout better places to bring the camper).


Truck with camper . you can always pull the camper off if the truck is needed for something else or if you want to setup a base camp at a epic camp spot and explore around without having your house with you .

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