Pop-up Camper Expedition Prep

In four months traveling down the PanAm, we have seen a range of vehicles from rusted Econolines to Defenders equipped for safari.  Noticeably absent is is the perfect overland vehicle, “the one.”  The monster truck equipped with more amenities than a Hilton Garden Inn suite, prepared for anything mother nature or wily banditios can throw at it.  Extended travel budgets have been exhausted in many a garage.  Most people making this journey are on the road because they dismiss the very idea of a perfected ride.

The places you'll go

Our acquisition of the Palomino Bronco 800 happened accidentally on purpose.

We waited nine months for the perfect aluminum-framed Four Wheel Camper (FWC) to come up on Craigslist.  I used every technological tool available to ensure I would be notified instantly when they were listed.  Nonetheless, each inquiry yielded the same response, the camper has already been sold.  We were down to the wire and started formulating plan B.

The Bronco came up for sale only two months before our departure and the $5,000 price tag was half what we expected to pay for a FWC.  With it’s AC unit and large fridge, the camper was better equipped for a retiree en route to Florida than the back roads of Latin America.  We were warned of the limitations of the wood-frame and upon first glance we immediately contemplated necessary modifications to reduce the weight and compensate for it’s shortcomings. When we peered out the Bronco windows we found not the drizzly bay area driveway before us, but the magnificent landscapes of faraway destinations. More importantly, we realized the time was now and we could make this home on wheels our own.

The 2007 Bronco 800 (with the Dakota package) had a sticker weight of 1,200 pounds wet, but in reality weighed 300 pounds more.  Going with the Palomino wasn’t all compromise.  Amenities such as a full door, mechanical crank top, queen-sized mattress, 3 cubic foot refrigerator, and AC were not even options on the more spartan FWC campers.

If you want a camper that you can pass down to the next generation, you definitely want an aluminum frame.  Otherwise, get something and get going!  No matter what flavor of camper you get, here’s a list of expedition modifications to get you started:

  • Jerrycan & mount
  • New house battery (AGM DieHard Platinum Group Size 31M)
  • Digital battery monitor (voltage reader)
  • Shower Option (sun-shower or similar)
  • DC-DC 7.5 amp Power Stream battery charger (runs off the truck alternator and offers staged charging profiles)
  • Rubber truck bed mat
  • Spring-loaded and cushioned turnbuckles
  • Torklift Front tie-downs (bumper button on the rear)
  • Re-caulk roof and side seams (instructions here)
  • Spray Wax to maintain rubber roof and siding
  • Camper lights converted to LED (big power saver)
  • Air dam under cabover made of 4×4 vinyl posts (better MPG and reduces wind noise)
  • Shackle paddock for rear door with eye bolts
  • Garden hose
  • Water filter (Pre tank)
  • Axe, and shovel
  • Mag light

This is part two of a series we are doing on overland tech.  Stay tuned for a 5,000 mile update where we go into what we would have done differently.

Also check out Tundra Expedition Prep.