Rocky Mountain High: A Week in an EarthRoamer XV-LTs

Having spent my entire life exploring the backcountry of Colorado, I have endured a multitude of challenges, but this trip had levied some particularly unique hardships. As we crested our last mountain pass of the week, I realized the wine cabinet had gone empty, the steaks were no more, and I had eaten the last of the cherry turnovers in the refrigerator. Compounding the seriousness of the situation, the remote control batteries for the surround sound system had died, and I conceded a sock was missing, probably at the back of the cedar-lined closet. It was about as bleak as it gets when traveling in an EarthRoamer, but we pressed on undaunted––We’re just that type of people.

 

Kidding aside, my typical camping forays often have me wrapped in thin layers of nylon and plopped in the dirt, my only luxuries little more than an inflatable pillow and maybe a flask of whiskey to soften edges. That should not imply that I’m a troglodyte or bereft of an appreciation for the finer things in life. So, when the offer was extended to take out the EarthRoamer demo truck for a week, I had to pinch myself. Who could turn down such an opportunity?

It all started a few months ago when I was given a tour of the EarthRoamer facility in Dacono, Colorado by company founder, Bill Swails. Those few short hours impressed upon me the passion behind these trucks and the extensive process under which each vehicle is fabricated. [To Build an EarthRoamer] I walked away from that day with an admiration for their efforts, but I still wasn’t entirely sure I understood what living and traveling in an EarthRoamer was all about. It seemed a bit…excessive. Now that I’ve spent a few days in an EarthRoamer I realize they truly are excessive––and I loved every minute of it.

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An EarthRoamer is if anything, a superlative generator. Everything about it exudes the pursuit of refinement and capability. Expressly designed to provide the most comfortable accommodations perched atop a formidable off-road platform, it is a travel experience like none other.

Now, before I continue any further, and beating some of you to the comment box to interject, let me dispense with the obvious. These are not vehicles for everyone––no vehicle is. They are enormous, do not come cheaply, and you won’t be slipping through any tight off-road tracks or using one to take the kiddies to soccer practice. Everything in life demands compromise and this is true for an EarthRoamer. For what it is however, there isn’t likely an equal peer.

Standing in the shadow of one of these behemoths it is impossible to not be affected, maybe even intimidated by the sheer size of it. A Ford F-550 is not a small thing on its own, and the body does tower over it, but with proportions that fall well within the chassis constraints. Big as it is,  it is the minute details that make an XV-LTs so exceptional.

 

Chassis

With its wide track and long wheelbase, the XV-LTs feels stable and planted, even when the terrain gets interesting. The center of gravity is curiously low, reducing body roll and reinforcing driver confidence. What is even more reassuring is how poised it feels when navigating twisty mountain roads at normal speeds. To accomplish this, EarthRoamer employs a very thoughtfully designed air suspension system paired to custom valved King shocks. Augmenting the positive ride attributes are the Continental tires with their stout sidewalls capable of shouldering such a heavy vehicle.

 

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 At either end of the chassis are the hulking black-bits, the bumpers. Made specifically to EarthRoamer’s detailed specifications, these are not just everyday bolt-ons. Both bumpers house Warn winches with the brawn commensurate with a vehicle of this magnitude. The sharp end also includes a full array of auxiliary lights for every scenario. Tucked into the front bumper is a powerful air horn, a feature I particularly liked while lording over the text-driving minions in my way. And with that I may have isolated a personal character flaw, but who cares. An otherwise reserved individual, I found the delivery of a bone shaking honk cathartic, and just good fun.
The details: All of the front auxiliary lights are wired to the high beam switch so they can be quickly dimmed if necessary. The two winches are spooled with synthetic line and capped with Factor 55 machined aluminum shackle mounts.

Fuel and water

As an avid bicycle and motorcycle traveler, I have always been fascinated by rigs with massive range. This is one area where the XV-LTs shines. Despite a seemingly restrictive fuel consumption of roughly 10 to 11 miles per gallon, it has a whopping tank volume providing a very feasible 800 to even 1,000 mile reach. With 90 gallons of water on board and our desert-dwelling appreciation for conservation, we didn’t use more than 25% of our water stores in a week’s time. With moderate daily mileage goals, it is not impossible to stay out for a couple of weeks at a time. That is an attractive bonus for those with a genuine desire to get away…far away.
To manage fresh water, grey water, and fuel levels, there are two dedicated instrument panels located on the driver’s console and on the main control panel in the living quarters. I found every readout to be accurate and easy to understand. After realizing I had added fuel to the 40 gallon auxiliary tank and not the 50 gallon main tank, the truck simply corrected my error and moved the fuel for me.
The details: The main control panel on the driver’s console contains a small rocker switch that activates the rear view camera. Not to be outdone, that camera also projects a rearward facing FLIR thermal image for nighttime use. It also activates a camera under the vehicle so the driver can assess terrain beneath the truck. A separate panel of switches control the suspension airbags to either elevate the truck or lower and level it for comfortable camping. For those with a penchant for comms, a HAM radio is positioned for easy access.

Storage

The issue of storage is of critical importance for any overlander regardless of their mode of transportation. Whether slipping out for a weekend reprieve, or crossing multiple continents, keeping one’s supplies and personal inventory organized, secure, and at the ready is a top priority. With a predilection to carry only the minimum, my wife and I unloaded our gear into the many drawers and cabinets of the XV-LTs and barely consumed a fraction of the vehicle’s total capacity.
What I notice immediately was how accessible every storage compartment was, and how quickly and easily any single item could be located and removed. The massive storage boxes at the rear of the truck swing away with one hand and a simple tug on a large handle. The smaller left-hand box is an ideal locker for wood, tools, or other items needing a tough and accessible position on the truck. The right hand box contains something quite special, but I’ll save that for later.  At the rear of the truck are two full-sized cabinets, one horizontal, one vertical. Both are cavernous and swallow tools, recovery gear, and cleaning and maintenance supplies.
The details: Opening either of the two storage cabinets on the body of the truck automatically lowers the two rear steps. Each of which has its own dedicated LED light. The cabinets are also locked and unlocked with the main key fob for ultimate convenience.

The outdoor galley

Although it’s easy to climb into an EarthRoamer and swim amidst its fine interior and never go outside, there is a compelling reason to do so––the outdoor galley. Contained within the right-rear box, and accessed with the simple twist of two levers, this is a beautiful cooking station complete with full size sink, shelved storage, a Cook Partner propane stove, and even a swing out gas grill. I particularly enjoyed cooking steaks accompanied by the sounds of a nearby stream. The outdoor galley also swings far enough outward to be positioned near the entry door and main indoor galley.
The details: The outdoor galley’s sink is joined to the outdoor shower port located next to the main entry door for easy cleanup. The efficient cooking appliances are fueled by small propane canisters for simplicity, but can be connected to large volume propane canisters.

The living quarters

This is where the experience of traveling in an EarthRoamer becomes something––surreal. With every appointment found in the most well designed homes, and larger than my apartment in Paris, the interior of the XV-LTs is sublime. A wine cabinet houses a set of four wine glasses and each cup, bowl, and plate has its own padded shelf. The main closet is backed with cedar planks, and naturally there is an air conditioning unit paired to a diesel-fueled heater. Other climate controls include ceiling fans located in the bathroom and above the main living area. A full size retractable hatch over the sleeping area offers star-gazing views with a sliding shade and bug screen.
The details: The level of craftsmanship applied to the design and construction of the living quarters is nothing short of incredible. Nothing rattles when trundling down corrugated tracks and the use of space is superb. The flooring is easily cleaned and everything is in reach.

The two leather couches are extremely comfortable and with the flick of a switch can be electrically adjusted to afford the most comfortable seated position. Pushing the switches forward even more closes the gap between the two seated surfaces making for an additional sleeping quarters for two.

The details: The three main lighting systems include recessed LED lights at the ceiling and more rows of LED lights along the floor and ceiling. Each of the three light systems can be dimmed to create the ideal amount of light.

The main galley

With a tile backsplash, an induction cooktop, stainless steel sink, and a touch-sensitive faucet, the main galley is a culinarian’s dream come true. With a soap dispenser and separate faucet for filtered drinking water, cooking in the backcountry has never been so elevated. There is ample storage space for food stores and cooking tools and two additional wood prep surfaces can be accessed from behind the right side couch cushions. The convection oven is also a microwave to conserve space and the high volume refrigerator accommodates enough food and drink for more than a week’s travels. The real gem in the galley is the built-in coffee machine.

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Nothing beats press-button coffee on a cold and early morning. Scrabble with a glass of Bourdeau at 10,000 feet in the Rockies was a nice alternative to our usual tent camp. Knowing it was 27 miles up a dirt road made it all the better.

 

The detail: The slide out shelf for the coffee machine stores coffee supplies and cleverly hides the cord to the machine itself. In fact, there isn’t a single cord or wire exposed anywhere in the living quarters adding to the cleanliness of the space.

The cedar closet is a nice touch. The head includes a sink, shower, and mirror. The touch-sensitive faucet produces hot water on demand, and it is hot, not just a warmed attempt at hot water.

 

Entertainment

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t particularly see a need for a full assortment of entertainment goodies, but for those on protracted travels, these are not unworthy additions. With full satellite connectivity, the XV-LTs has WiFi, Direct TV, and a full compliment of surround sound speakers paired to a swing-out HD TV that is, because why not, 3D. The various Bose speakers produce excellent sound quality and are built into the interior walls.

With every electronic feature afforded the most finely appointed brick and mortar homes, the XV-LTs defies the wheels beneath it.

The details: As amazing as it is to believe, there is an unexpected surprise located on the exterior of the right side of the living habitat. With the flick of a switch, an outdoor television is exposed. Watching your favorite movie in the wild open air has never been easier.

 

The refinements

It genuinely took a full week with the XV-LTs to completely comprehend its seemingly endless bells and whistles. Bill and his team have done an incredible job of addressing every possible travel scenario and providing the solutions needed to make this vehicle the proverbial ready for everything platform. From the twin compressor outlets on either side of the truck to the winch used to lower the full size spare, nothing was overlooked and proves their team not only builds the product, but uses it extensively. In speaking with Annie, their sales manager, and Spencer, their service manager, they take every opportunity to put their trucks to use. From these real world trials, they learn how to make their offerings better, more capable, and ultimately more livable.

(Clockwise) Every time you open a door, the retractable steps deploy. The dual compressed air ports are positioned mid-ship for convenient access. The cassette toilet repository is easily accessed on the left side of the truck and can be emptied in any standard flush-toilet. No more searching for sewage treatment facilities. The front windows not only allow for added light, they import fresh air for comfortable slumber.

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The main entry stairs retract automatically when the primary entry door is opened, and retract when closed.

 

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The off-road performance

This is the attribute of the XV-LTs that some overlanders, mostly crotchety nay-sayers, will want to dispute. In doing so they will only expose their own bias against this impressive vehicle. An EarthRoamer will conquer more terrain than anyone would dare believe possible. The wheel articulation is better than expected, the traction is almost bizarre in its effectiveness, and the turning radius is impossible to comprehend. However, it is a large vehicle and there is an obvious compromise made when you bolt a refined apartment to the back of a big pickup. This is obviously not a rock crawler. It is a travel platform designed to best the terrain befitting of its design purpose. On our trip we plowed through drifts of snow as high as the door sills, with nary a moment’s hesitation by the truck. Try that with your Winnebago.

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In conclusion

The EarthRoamer XV-LTs is not for everyone, but for those who are looking for the apogee of travel comfort and off-road performance you need look no further. More road worthy than many RVs, more off-road capable than some vehicles built for that end use, the EarthRoamer is for lack of a better word––astounding. We have heard tales of these trucks traversing some of Colorado’s rugged trails like Taylor Pass and reaching the far ends of the globe. There are certainly better vehicles in the dirt and RVs with more opulence, but few if any combine the two attributes as well as an EarthRoamer.

 

I will forever be changed by our week in the XV-LTs. The next time I go camping and prostrate myself in the dirt for a long night’s nap, I will dream of fresh brewed coffee, a steak on a gas grill, and wine plucked from a padded shelf. If I’m lucky, maybe Bill will give us another go in their next demo truck. Until then, I’ll have to content myself with walls of nylon.

 

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Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.