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.
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
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
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
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.
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. Unicat MXXL 24 AH 8x8
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.