By John Cappa
It doesn't matter if you travel cross-country on monthlong excursions or only have time to take weekend getaways with the family, your pickup truck can be outfitted for it all. Years ago, we called it camping. Coleman tents, coolers and cooktops were what most of us started with and what many of us still use.
Today, an entirely new vehicle and product niche has been created to cater to what is known as overlanding. It's still the same off-road adventure, but now the compact specialized gear and vehicles make it easier than ever to explore both on- and off-road. One place to see what's new in the off-road camp-gear industry is the Overland Expo. This year we happened upon the Mormon Lake, Ariz., event in May while testing the 2014 Ram Power Wagon and drooling over old trucks and equipment in the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town. During our stroll through the outdoor aisles, we found everything from efficient ice chests that keep food cool for weeks to $500,000 turnkey 4x4 campers ready for overseas adventure. If you'd like to see these items for yourself, a second Overland Expo will be held Oct. 3-5 in Asheville, N.C.
This Unimog U500 featured a Pangea Lifting Roof from Global Expedition Vehicles. The two-story camper has all the amenities of home and more, including two queen-sized beds, a microwave convection oven, teak wood paneling, composting toilet, heater, air conditioner, 140 gallons of fresh water and a flameless diesel cooktop.
Four Wheel Campers specializes in building durable raluminum-frame slide-in pop-up campers for pickup trucks. The top and waterproof fabric walls collapse for travel, offering more overhead trail clearance. There are many different models available that fit mini-trucks; half-, three-quarter and one-tons; and even flat beds.
If you're into rooftop tents, James Baroud offers many models that can be fitted to a roof- or bed-mounted rack. The elevated, collapsible hard-cased tents get you up and away from critters and fold up easily.
The XPCamper replaces your pickup truck bed with a functional utility camper. The company offers campers for full-size and compact pickups. If you want more than just a camper, the company can create a complete turnkey package with bumpers, tires, wheels and more, to make sure your truck is ready for any obstacles.
If you aren't ready to own an overland vehicle but want to give it a try, Tonto Trails will rent you one of several 4x4 campers including this Ram Power Wagon topped with a pop-up camper from Four Wheel Campers.
Aluminess specializes in lightweight aluminum bumpers, racks and off-road accessories for pickups and other overland vehicles. Ultimately, if the rack is lighter, your vehicle can carry more cargo.
Ram made a splash at the 2014 Overland Expo by unveiling the 2014 Power Wagon to the public. Ram also had a restored 1954 Dodge Power Wagon on hand. This truck punched out 99 horsepower from its 230-cubic-inch L-head inline-six-cylinder engine. The original base price was a mere $2,307 in 1954.
Hallmark Campers brought out several models of slide-in pop-up campers. Unlike many other campers, these can be ordered with different interior colors and other options.
If you're out in the wild you often can't easily make it to the local bar, but the Kanz Outdoors Field Bar can bring the booze to you. The portable bar is available in a dark Mahogany (pictured) or a light Baltic Birch. Just like a professional stationary bar, the Field Bar is designed to hold bottles, glasses, ice bucket, condiment tray and more.
Goal Zero specializes in solar panels, power packs, solar kits and accessories. If you're looking to capture the power of the sun for your camp items, Goal Zero likely has something that will work for you.
A travel trailer would likely get destroyed if you tried to tow it through the woods or a desert two-track. Off-road is where Turtleback Trailers shine. The compact trailers are designed to be rugged, versatile and ready for any off-road excursion.
If you are a heavy packer and quickly fill your truck's bed, you'll appreciate the extra storage provided by BajaRack Adventure Equipment. The storage racks can be mounted to truck roofs, camper shells or on top of bed racks. Several accessory mounts are also available.
The all-aluminum VMI Xtender OX trailer has all the amenities of an off-road adventure trailer in a lightweight package. At 740 pounds, it can be easily pulled by large and small pickups on- and off-road.
The Global Expedition Vehicles Turtle camper features a toilet, shower, sink, a dining area and pretty much all the accessories you'd find in a modern day on-road camper. The Turtle can be mounted to the chassis of a Ford F-450 or F-550, Ram 4500 or 5500, or one of several other medium-duty 4x4 trucks.
Lance has been building America's most popular truck campers since 1965. They feature a sturdy aluminum frame with pieces that fit together like a puzzle. The rigid frame makes Lance a good choice when venturing off-road. Many different sizes and floor plans are available.
The Host RV Mammoth triple-slide is a truck camper first, as far as we know. The spacious floor plan leaves little to be desired. At 3,360 pounds, you need quite a truck to haul it around, though. Host RV offers other camper sizes as well.
There wasn't a big turnout of GM vehicles at the Overland Expo, but we did spot the Malayan HT from Tiger Adventure Vehicles. The Malayan HT replaces the bed of your pickup with a camper structure and features more headroom than some other Tiger conversions.
We found this early 1970s Ford F-100 Custom Sport sitting on a trailer hidden backstage. It was just too cool to pass up. Someone had recently installed a lift kit and a fresh set of Toyo Open Country M/T tires.
This ex-military M101A2 made for a great DIY overlanding trailer platform. The M101A2 rolls on 37-inch tires, has a bunch of ground clearance, can carry plenty of weight and can be found used for $400 to $1,000 in great condition. Many even have beadlock wheels.
Cars.com photos by John Cappa