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.

3 thoughts on “Pop-up Camper Expedition Prep

  1. awesome ride you guys have there! we just bought a 1991 toyota previa for $2000 and got going. we’re in colombia and though we’ve had some problems (like a busted brake master cylinder on day three while driving down the pacific coast highway, no a/c which we only discovered months later in arizona and a dented oil pan courtesy of a mexican topes) she’s still going strong! her name is suzie wong and she’s all woman!

    but yes, you guys got a great deal and i bet you sleep in your vehicle a lot more than we do (limited by climate often, but we use our tent!) and we would love if suzie was higher clearance. plus either diesel, biodiesel or veggie oil next time we embark on such a trip.

    if we can ever afford it, we’re going for an earthcruiser.com.au for sure .. we can dream right?

    hope you have an amazing journey south and let us know if you want any info on anything, perhaps we’ll cross paths at some point! i also have lots of info on shipping vehicles (which kristin at DTA has posted most of on the site).

    happy trails, overlanders! xo

  2. My husband and I have a 2015 Tundra and are planning on doing the Pan American when we’re finished with the army (in 6-8 years). A couple questions for you. Have you had any issues with your camper “sticking with” your truck? We’ve been told truck bed campers like yours will rock and knock on the hood of the truck. Has this been your experience at all?

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