Camper vans aren’t just for pensioners. Sure, they’re often associated with wearing a Hawaiian shirt as you waft across the country one Home Town Buffet at a time. There’s another side of the segment, though, one that will appeal to hardcore adventurers who want to step away from their desk and explore the great outdoors — for a weekend, a month, or a year. If you fit in that latter category, and if you’re looking for a rig, check out some of the wildest camper vans out there.
That’s right, the very same company that makes luxurious sedans and ultra-quick sports cars also manufactures some of the most bad-ass off-roaders on the planet. The Zetros wasn’t designed for camping, however. Originally, it’s a heavy-duty truck commonly used by the armed forces in various countries, for logging operations, and on trans-Sahara expeditions. It didn’t take long for adventure-seekers to discover its unusually high tolerance to pain, however.
Many aftermarket companies turn the Zetros into a camper, and Mercedes even entered the segment with a factory-approved conversion three years ago. The best ones create a vehicle that’s a lot like the RV your grandparents used to cruise around in, only cooler. Knobby tires, a lifted suspension, and the same genes that produced the G550 4×4² allow it to effortlessly cruise from point A to point B even if there’s a mountain range in between the two. Inside, Mercedes’ world-famous craftsmanship and attention to detail shine through. Work hard, play hard, and sleep well.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter by Midwest Automotive
Maybe going off-road and eating berries to scrape by isn’t your idea of fun. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some seek a camper van that blends the comfort, luxury, and amenities of a mansion with the practicality of a car. If that sounds like you, check out the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter modified by Midwest Automotive.
Starting with a homely Sprinter, the same kind of van that delivers your FedEx packages, Midwest Automotive builds a camper van you wouldn’t trade a night at the Hilton for. The better-equipped models have a fridge, an oven, soft leather upholstery, in-car Wi-Fi, a premium sound system, and even a flat-screen television so you never miss a game. Better yet, you can work directly with Midwest Automotive to create a custom, one-of-a-kind van to your exact specifications. If you can dream it (and fund it), Midwest can build it.
Ford E-Series by Sportsmobile
The Ford E-Series is completely outdated as a delivery van but it makes for a pretty awesome camper. Sportsmobile starts its conversion with the cab-chassis model, which is the only E-Series left in production. While the back part of it looks like sheet metal, it’s actually a custom-designed add-on made with steel-reinforced fiberglass. The van then gets a four-wheel drive system designed in-house and upgraded brakes sourced from the heavy-duty F-550.
If you don’t want to spend money on a new van, Sportsmobile will convert any E-Series built into a 4×4 camper. The company notes the four-wheel drive kit is currently only compatible with the 6.8-liter V10 gasoline engine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Though thirsty, the 10-cylinder has enough power and torque to move you and yours over boulders.
Your local utility company and explorers deep in the Canadian wilderness have one thing in common — a Ford F-750. Colorado-based EarthRoamer started with the Blue Oval’s biggest truck to build a rugged four-wheel drive camper called XV-HD. It accommodates six people in a comfortable environment that includes a full bathroom with a separate shower, a washing machine, a drier, in-floor heating, and a Bose surround-sound system.
46-inch Michelin tires and a custom suspension with Fox shocks let it conquer and tame all kinds of terrain, Raptor-style. 250 gallons of fresh water, a 115-gallon fuel tank, and a 20,000-watt lithium-ion battery bank ensures you can spend weeks without needing to communicate with another human being.
Whether you’re planning a hardcore around-the-world trip or anticipating a full-scale zombie attack, there’s no better option than the MAN Noroader. Its name alone suggests it soldiers on dutifully where other off-roaders get weak knees, turn pale, and turn back. Built in Switzerland, the Noroader rides on a proven semi-truck chassis for peace of mind when it comes to durability, and it’s equipped with a heavy-duty turbodiesel engine that delivers all the hill-climbing torque you could ever need.
The list of equipment reads like a survivalist manual. The Noroader offers LED search lights, satellite-based television and internet, a 4,000-watt diesel generator, an outdoor kitchen, a hydraulic platform for carrying an ATV or a motorcycle, and three separate fuel tanks with a total capacity of 317 gallons. There are three suspension settings to choose from called on road, bad road, and off-road, respectively. It’s tough on the outside, but the living quarters look like a luxurious condo. And, as a bonus, it’s so tall you’re certain to get the best view in the house no matter how far off the grid you end up.
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