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In Pictures: Off-road camping hardware for weekend road trips and apocalyptic escapes

By

September 17, 2013

The 2013 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon had off-road campers of all shapes and sizes

The 2013 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon had off-road campers of all shapes and sizes

Image Gallery (66 images)

The 2013 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon was stuffed hall to hall, wall to wall with RVs, camping trailers, pop-ups and mobile living equipment of all kinds. Perhaps it's the timelessly romantic appeal of conquering anything the Earth puts in your way to enjoy its bounty, but we were particularly impressed with some of the rugged, off-road-capable campers. We've put together a tour of every off-road model we found, designs that range from tented gear haulers to full-blown tactical 8x8s.

Bimobil Reisemobilen

The Bimobil EX 480 on the floor of the 2013 Dusseldorf Caravan Salon

Many of the biggest, burliest, all-out craziest machines of mayhem in Dusseldorf belonged to Bimobil. This German manufacturer builds about 100 campers each year, using everything from small Nissan 4x4s to full-blown Iveco and Mercedes trucks as platforms. The company says that about half of its campers are pick-up truck modules, with the other half comprising fixed-chassis camper cabins.

Bimobil's pick-up models are designed to be fixed atop the chassis, as opposed to the bed, making for a larger floor area, lighter weight, side entrance and passageway between the truck cabin and camper. They use a four-anchor-bolt quick mount system that Bimobil says can be attached or detached in five to 20 minutes.

It's hard not to turn your head when you catch one of Bimobil's massive campers on display - they make the Jeep Wrangler-based Action Camper look like child's play. In fact, Bimobil had us whiplashing around at least three different times inside and outside the halls of the Caravan Salon.

Easily our favorite among the company's rubble-roving mobiles was the EX 480, which Bimobil classifies as a long-distance expedition vehicle. Built atop the Mercedes Atego 1023 chassis, this 10-ton (9-tonne) beast is powered by a 6.4-liter CDI Bluetec engine. It includes a 300-liter (79-gal) fresh water tank, 120-liter (32-gal) waste water tank and 110-liter (29-gal) compressor fridge. It rides comfortably on and off road thanks to front and rear differential locks, comfort driver and passenger seats with pneumatic shock absorption, and an underfloor protector designed to maintain the base vehicle's departure angle.

The EX 480 displayed at the show was listed at nearly €$240K (US$320K) so folks of average means may need to find corporate sponsorship for their EX 480 expeditions.

3DOG Camping Offroader

The 3DOG Camping OffRoader is reinforced for dirt and rock excursions

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Bimobil's EX 480, Hamburg's 3DOG Camping offers what it classifies as a true, through and through off-road tent trailer. "Large shoes don't make a walker. Large tires don't make a 4-wheel drive," 3DOG explains. The Offroader is more than just big, notched tires, and 3DOG says that every component was engineered to stand up to the trials and tribulations awaiting on the dirt, gravel and rock. The trailer employs a torsion-resistant chassis, reinforced box construction, specially manufactured, high-strength axles, maintenance-free rubber spring axes and greased, waterproof hubs. It quickly folds out into a full tent with a shady awning.

Terracamper Volkswagen Terock

The Terracamper VW T5 Kombi Terock

A beefed-up take on the classic VW camper bus, the Terracamper Terock is a full expedition van built atop a T5 Kombi. The one on display here sports a double pop-top cabin roof that opens up extra head space and venting, but standard roofs are also offered. To make the Kombi off-road-ready, Terracamper can check the 4Motion AWD option, put it on a 30-mm (1-in) lift, add shorter gears and fortify it with underbody protection. The one in Dusseldorf even had a snorkel for wading through crossings, and winches, racks and other off-road accessories are on offer.

Inside, the Terock is designed to be flexible and modular. The burly aluminum boxes that hold camping necessities like a two-burner stove and water system are fitted inside with a rail system, as is the rear seat, making them easy to put in, take out and rearrange. The plumbing hardware includes an outdoor shower that can be hung on the rear door.

Caretta 1500 Off Road

Carreta 1500 Off Road

The €12,890 ($17,200) Caretta 1500 Off Road, which goes on sale in October, looks like the perfect little teardrop camper for everything from 4x4ing to cross country concert/sport tailgating. Unlike many of the other camping trailers we saw in Germany, the Off Road's interior is left totally open for its 120 x 200-cm (47 x 78-in) mattress, along with an available AV system. The trunk serves to hold all the other camping gear, including the available fridge and sink/shower. Caretta's catalog doesn't mention a stove, but it would be easy enough to throw your own two-burner on the counter in back and cook whatever you desire. Up front, there's an additional trunk for miscellaneous storage.

Unicat MXXL 24 AH 8x8

Caretta makes on-road campers and cargo trailers, along with a line of specialized trailer gear, such as an open-topped cabriolet hitch carriage and pop-up mobile vending trailer.

The MXXL 24 AH includes a 440-watt solar system and a four-cylinder diesel generator

It's difficult to make the Bimobil EX 480 look puny, but if there was one vehicle at Dusseldorf that could do it, it had to be this massive Unicat 8x8. Based upon the MAN TGA 8x8, this bomber, go-everywhere wheeled shelter is powered by a 480-hp diesel engine and has a 12-speed ZF transmission, center, front and rear differential locks, drum brakes, and parabolic leaf springs. A full kit of special equipment, including remote-controlled search light, hydraulic winch, connections for pneumatic and hydraulic tools, and CB radio make the MXXL ready for all kinds of missions.

While its exterior and mechanicals are all hard-nosed business, its interior is surprisingly elegant and relaxing. The living room has enough space for up to seven people to gather around the 46-inch HD TV. The entertainment system includes a 4TB hard disk for music and movies, a PlayStation 3, a background music system, a Blu-ray player and two 42-inch displays for internet browsing and surveillance. Its network combines GSM, UMTS and an auto-tracking satellite antenna and offers a Wi-Fi hot spot for all onboard devices.

The entertainment system in the master bedroom is nearly as complete as the one in the living room, and even the four-bunk guest bedroom has a 20-inch TV, music, PlayStation 3 and Blu-ray player. Food and beverage amenities include two 12-gallon (46-liter) refrigerators, an espresso maker, and a foldable, electrically-lowerable dining table in the living room. You may be at the ends of the Earth, but damned if you'll feel like it inside.

Not surprisingly, Unicat has the MXXL 24 AH listed under "special" vehicles and we shudder to think what this equipped-for-all-contingencies beast would cost.

Have a look through our gallery to see the other off-road living hardware that was on display at the show.

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
11 Comments

MAN TGA 8x8 - If I was driving around Australia, I would love one of these! Much better for off-road outback driving than an overpriced, over-blinged Winnebago. All I need is a big Keno win (sob)

The Skud
18th September, 2013 @ 02:39 am PDT

can i get that gunsafe couch found here http://www.gizmag.com/couchbunker-gun-safe-furniture/28758/ with it? Just saying, lets do this right

Isaac Mark Hanninen
18th September, 2013 @ 04:05 am PDT

"and apocalyptic escapes" Please, These are some pretty vehicles and campers but how far do they go when gas stations are closed. References and other comments like that make me chuckle. Come on deluded dreamers, can't you see having a "bug out bag" in your car is handy to have but what are you going to do when your car or camper runs out of gasoline and your 3, 5 or 14 days of food are gone? I enjoy dreaming too but healthy dreams are best kept closer to reality than unrealistically distant and not completely disconnected from reality.

offthegrid
18th September, 2013 @ 09:02 am PDT

I don't EVER want to camp next to one of those. Being boxed in by the conventional 'Begos are bad enough.

Satweavers
18th September, 2013 @ 10:44 am PDT

offthegrid - it's hard to tell whether you're being cheeky or plain deluded. Most people live with the presumption that the world as we know will not end on any given Thursday without notice and have to spend the rest of their days in an armoured vehicle for survival. Lets assume that it does go down that way...

A tank full of fuel will get you far enough away from any densely populated urban center to offer relative isolation. With a vehicle like this, you now have a decent parked (still potentially mobile) base camp. If you happen to be one of those folk certain the world will end in some sudden outbreak, alien invasion, or zombie proliferation, you'll have a respectable arsenal and solar panels stuffed away in said vehicle. Your posts are starting to sound more and more like "that computer guy" who berates all those who ask for assistance with their tech problems.

Vince Pack
18th September, 2013 @ 11:24 am PDT

Like the Unicat & Dusseldorf RV models best

EZ to add armor to hulls, (alas hurt gas milage).

Stephen N Russell
18th September, 2013 @ 05:35 pm PDT

@Vince Pack

If the world was turning pear shaped, why would you actually want to get away from civilization?

For months or possibly years after the 'event', cities would be the source of gas stations, food and water reserves, not to mention ample shelter.

The notion that you can 'escape' into the wild is a concept created by people that never leave their comfort zone and 'camp' for a few days with all facilities provided.

On topic, if any of these vehicles are actually destined for sustainable out of city living, I would have expected to see solar panels, electric drive (as backup to combustion) or a diesel serial hybrid.

You would need water sterilization modules, and modular room designs, and a waste processing module.

Less wood and more steel/aluminium in the enclosures, and better ventilation in the cabins.

I second Isaac Mark Hanninen on the gun safe under the seat, as well as additional cool room/refrigerated containers to hold the equivalent of 2-3 sheep or equivalent mass.

You would also need storage for enough tools to maintain the vehicle itself, fold-able ramps, including compressed air tools, and fire proof chemical storage bins for lubricants and paints.

The vehicle would also need a hefty communications module on different bands from HAM upwards, to keep in contact with other groups.

Beyond that, a hefty supply of large canvas tarps to expand covered living quarters if the number of people in the group expand, or if you need additional coverage against the harsh elements (different seasons).

And unless the vehicle engine could not fulfill the task, a dedicated 3-4KVA diesel generator. Diesel because you can make more fuel from plants in the area, or modified cooking oil. Plus diesel is lower maintenance, longer life.

Nairda
18th September, 2013 @ 06:11 pm PDT

@nairda

I'm glad I won't be around watching you trying

to make biodiesel from "plants in the area".

Think before you type.

If anything,

convert a gas engine to run on biomass.

There's videos and sites on it all over the web.

There will be organic trash,that's for sure.

As for these machines,

anyone that can afford these things is not your typical "prepper".

The big ones can run a campsite for a month or more on their fuel&septic suppliesand have solar panels&windmills for moderate long-term usage.

You could live in one of those things the rest of your life as long as you were parked in a decent climate with good water where you can fish and manage a garden(preferably a greenhouse).

Griffin
19th September, 2013 @ 12:41 pm PDT

Hi Griffin,

I actually have made bio diesel (or equivalent of) from olives. Not that hard, and prefer it to capturing ethanol or methane from plant matter decay.

Regarding preppers, the article lists a large number of vehicles, to which i was referring to a cheaper trailable one.

Referring strictly to the big one, yes that would not be what the standard person would purchase unless they wished to be outdoors for extended periods. Even the four wheel truck variety would likely be around the EU150K equipped making them non-viable for the weekender.

However in saying that, in my neck of the woods there is a yearly spring 'grey nomad migration' (retired people caravan convoys), and you can definitely tell a good portion of them have spent their kid's inheritance on their mobile homes. And while most are caravan configuration, I have seen the odd truck type.

To refer to your notion of advanced cashed up preppers, I've spoken to a number of these caravan families and I can tell you wealth does not buy common sense. Most were exactly the kind of people that would perish by their own hand if left unsupervised.

But I do agree with your comment about sustainable living with the right extensions (solar, septic supplies, water purification). Its just not highlighted in this article.

Nairda
19th September, 2013 @ 10:07 pm PDT

I came across a convoy of these and similar vehicles in the Taklamakan Desert oasis city of Turfan out in the western China desert back in 2007. A group of Germans and Austrians were driving overland from "Berlin to Beijing" and back - that's what they are made for!!

Anthony Maw
22nd September, 2013 @ 06:02 pm PDT

That would be great if gas/diesel was 17 cents a gallon like in 1968 but insane today.

joe1946
23rd September, 2013 @ 03:26 am PDT
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