Adventure cubed: XPCamper carries your favorite gear around the world
By C.C. Weiss
July 11, 2014
XPCamper, builder of one of our favorite campers of 2013, is back with an interesting new design. It drops a pop roof composite cube atop a truck chassis, freeing up room for toy hauling. The XPCube is optimized for taking your boats, bikes and boards as far out there as you want to go.
The XPCube camper is the fruit of a collaborative relationship between XPCamper and adventure photojournalist Bryon Dorr. Via his site Exploring Elements, Dorr has committed to exploring the world and sharing his experiences "through an adventure sports lens." To do so, he was looking for the right camping vehicle to support full-time overlanding trips with his girlfriend Sarah Blessington. The couple found that the original Sportsmobile they called home-on-the-road wasn't quite it for a variety of reasons, chief among them the pop-top roof that required removing roof rack-mounted kayaks and gear boxes.
Dorr wanted a vehicle to conform more closely to his drive and live-in requirements, and he scoured the market high and low, only to come up empty. His requirements weren't outlandish – a capable, easy-service 4x4 diesel platform, small enough size to fit in a shipping container, and the right sleep, office and kitchen layout – but when coupled with a limited budget, they put the kibosh on camper after camper.
Dorr realized he'd need to custom-build his rig and got the opportunity to get hands-on side-by-side with Marc Wassmann of XPCamper. The duo got to work last year, starting off with a 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 5.9-liter Cummins diesel engine, extended cab and 4x4. They ripped the pick-up bed off and began building a panel camper for direct-to-chassis mounting.
The first thing you'll notice about the design is that it's not technically a cube. What started out in renderings as a small, cute cube with a hinged pop-up roof turned into a larger box with full elevating roof. The camper's front wall remains true to the cube design, cutting out the typical truck camper feature of above-cab bed. This keeps the truck-cab roof free to haul Dorr's adventure gear – kayaks, bikes, etc. In back, a pivoting bumper increases the departure angle.
Inside, Dorr's camper, which took on the fitting name EEXP during the build, features a cozy interior with kitchen and living area. The kitchen includes a Dometic top-load refrigerator and a sink. Conspicuously missing is the ubiquitous dual-burner stove; the EEXP saves interior space by relying on portable butane and propane camping stoves for cooking. The camper includes a 255-watt GoSol solar system with roof-mounted panels.
The lounge seating and table in the living area are built to quickly adapt to multiple purposes: dining, work and sleeping mostly. The table's folding leaf and rotating pedestal provide easy ingress and egress to the seating. The table then sets up to accommodate four people. At night, the table drops down, putting the final piece into the full-size bed puzzle. With a foam mattress laid out on top, it's a comfortable bed for two.
"The EEXP is designed to handle extreme off-road environments around the world while still providing comfortable indoor and outdoor living space and amenities," Dorr explains on his site. "It is also designed specifically to accommodate the transport of a wide array of adventure sports equipment in order to fully explore the environment through human movement."
"What sets the EEXP apart from other overland vehicles is its immense storage capacity, relatively small overall form, ability to fit in a shipping container, durable construction, simple solid components that can be field serviced and the overall affordability of the whole package," he adds.
In a market filled with every shape and size of camping box and vehicle imaginable, the EEXP isn't anything groundbreaking, but we like the way it makes use of a small space. We also like the idea of eliminating the above-cab extension so that there's no need to block the pop-up roof or haul a gear trailer when carrying bikes and such. Based on the photos that Dorr's taken so far, the EEXP truck looks plenty nimble when navigating off road.
After finishing up the build in May and debuting the design at Overland Expo 2014, Dorr and Blessington set off on a 25,000-mile (40,000-km) circumnavigation of North America.
"We are currently in the Yukon on our way to Alaska," Dorr related from the road earlier this week. "We plan to drive across Canada after Alaska and end up at Overland Expo East in North Carolina in early October. We'll then head out to SEMA and then guide a trip in Baja over Thanksgiving. After that who knows, but we hope to find a way to fund a round-the-world trip for 2-4 years starting in 2015."
Dorr has found the EEXP to be a solid adventure vehicle so far and considers it a work in progress that will evolve based on his travels. He's already planning to cut a cab-camper pass-through.
Back at XPCamper, the EEXP served as the prototype for the all-new XPCube panel camper, which is available now. The price depends on the customer's specifications, but Wassman provided an estimate of US$40,000 (camper box only) at Overland Expo. The EEXP rides on a Ram, but the XPCube is compatible with a variety of platforms, including the Ford F-350, Toyota Tacoma and Tundra, and Mercedes Unimog. The XPCube isn't meant to be removed like campers such as the Tonke.