So you want a big overland expedition truck?

Overland trucks are fantastic and look amazing, But are you sure it’s what you want?

Here are four myths about these overland homes explained in full.

you have seen them everywhere and they look cool, you can imagine yourselves sat by a lake with all the sides out and the table and the barby, looking at the map working out what far off place to visit where no one else can go except you in your great big truck….

This blog post was not written to put you off but may warn you it isn’t all it roses in the world of a big truck.

What do I know ??

I had an overland expedition camper truck for 20 years and friends with everything from Iveco 40wm10 to MAN 6×6 and Unimogs, and I also have a few Dakar trucks and I have done many things on expeditions and especially on Dakar that you would never even believe a truck could do, so I know I thing or two about where they will go and what is good /bad about them. ( my wife loves them and still wants a 6×6 )

rb44/s75 overland camper truck off roading
Here I am, in Merlin a long time ago but not very far away.
Yes this is a Kenilworth articulated truck crossing the Egyptian desert !!
Although it was towed a few places by the T4 race truck, it did remarkably well in the soft sand.
My wife Milly with her extra Dakar medal . 52 trucks started only 18 finished, A Dakar medal well earned.

NOTE :: Some of these drivers in the images below may be great drivers.

BUT — Remember this – when off-roading,

At some point everyone gets stuck

And everything breaks,

The images are just for illustration on what can happen.

If you are buying a big expedition truck just to look cool or you just have scratched the itch and to just have one, then other than maintenance you can happily ignore this article.

however, if you think you’re going to go to seriously tough locations then you better get some training and support.

It’s part of the fun… 🙂 let’s go

Myth One

They will go anywhere. ….. No they will not.

They are good, but like everything off-road the weight is the killer and you cannot ignore the laws of physics, most trucks that are converted to be overland expedition trucks end up at or above their max weight especially if the base truck was a 7.5 tonne to start with , this weight is not good for off-roading and they also usually being top heavy. Unimogs tend to be the worst for feeling like they will fall over even on a small roundabout.

This Blissmobil is very close to falling over and is barely off road.
edges of the road breaking away can be a quick way to a heart stopping moment
testing lean over angle on unimog overland truck expedition vehicle
This is how far you can go, which looks a lot, but its very frightening and easily exceeded
This one is stuck on just a flat chott, which a normal 4×4 may not even notice it was soft.

The weight also means they sink real easy, if you have a great big 8×8 then they also sink, but the word stuck is on another level, I have seen six Kamaz 8×8 service trucks stuck in the Mauritanian desert up to there axles, took them 7 days to get themselves out and I have seen a 8×8 Mercedes fall over in a flat wadi when it hit a little soft spot !!

Things can get very soft ,very quick when you weigh 7.5 tonnes.
Range rover overland camper expedition vehicle
Sand is always soft, remember to deflate deflate deflate, before your stuck
mercedes truck stuck on salt flats ::Range rover overland camper expedition vehicle
Range rover overland camper expedition vehicle

Update Dec 2021:

here is an example of how the weight can be an issue, the Unimog collapsed the sand track and fell onto the beach, look what it took to recover it. It was lucky that they did not have a high tide, the damage was minimal, but they could have been having lunch beside it when it fell!!

looks silly doesn’t it, but it’s easily done.
Unigog overlander camper fallen over, on it's side, by sea on beach crash
Unimog expedition overland camper recovery from beach
Even when on its wheels it needs the huge Hiab to help get off the beach.

The centre of gravity is very high on some trucks, especially on Unimogs.

These trucks all got stuck on what will have looked like solid ground from the cab.

Most of the time people buy them just so they can get in that nice little place to camp, not really off roading but just getting out of the way. We do it all the time, hiding around the back of a dune or just driving a hundred meters to the side of a river, then you are out of sight ready for a peaceful night, but be warned this can catch you out. I bet that these drivers thought they were driving through/ over was nothing.

trying to get to that nice flat spot can catch you out
even getting around the well gravelled campground can be difficult sometimes

but maybe you will not do that and just stick to graveled roads at worst, this brings me onto the fact that even a road can be lethal to a heavy vehicle.

when it comes to mud, the weight really takes its toll and when it is slippy can be very frightening.

extraction of a truck normally requires help.

a heavy truck will go down deep very quick on terrain that a normal 4×4 wouldn’t even notice.

This is a Dakar race truck stuck going down a dune !!

Myth two

They never break. well sorry, but yes they do and they are bigger and harder to fix on your own.

Granted a well maintained truck is not like some normal 4×4 they are built to last, but at some point they will break.

If you are lucky then the worst problem you have is tyres. You still have to change tyres , and the bigger the truck the bigger the tyre, a steel 22″ wagon rim will take two strong men to pick up, add a tyre to it and you …. well you get the idea, even if you don’t get the puncture in a tough place like this its’ still a big job.

I had two blowouts on the front when we hit this dune. health and safety are top of the list when working here and not just for the heat.
a simple tyre swap involves cranes and sweat.
even the dakar guys get it hard
If it looks like this then you have to really know your stuff to fix it. , Western desert ,Egypt 2012 ( after this truck did Dakar three times for KTM T4 it was converted to an overland camper and travelled the world for two years, before we turned it back into a racer).
careful underneath the dakar race truck and expedition camper overland beady
Double puncture
when your spring pack weighs around 150kg, you need help to change it. the anti-roll bar just got ignored and the spring got a custom-made setup in Nouakchott.

Myth three:

you feel like nothing can hurt you and you are the king of the terrain.

Cambers and slippy slopes can be the worst when you are high up. the feeling of being out of control is a fear you have to experience to understand.

rb44/s75 overland camper truck off roading

Myth four

You are the biggest thing on the road.

You may think that your massive truck is the biggest thing on the road and well..

dakar support truck iveco next to massive dump truck
This is our 4×4 Dakar support truck in Chile with a small dump truck .

The Iveco is a 18 tonne Euro tracker, no small truck itself. These dump trucks can run into town in the Atatcama mining areas.

And big can bring its own issues. remember saying just add another meter onto the rear and it will be Ok.

This is dragging half the dune with it, on a really mild climb.
the wheelbase on this one is the killer, this is how easy they can get stopped.

This list is not exhaustive to the downsides of the big trucks, we all buy them with our hearts and normally find are big heart purchase will not fit into anywhere but a motorway in Europe or an open desert in Africa, forget about getting into any tight Moroccan village or mountain track.

remember this.

There is no correct expedition vehicle, everyone has different needs and different vehicles, I know someone who cycles the world and never ever takes a car bus or train and has never used a campsite, and I have a friend with an 8×8 CAT that travels just Africa’s wide open spaces , and many people in between.

Share your joy of knowledge with the world..

One thought on “So you want a big overland expedition truck?

  1. So you want to build/buy a big expedition truck? - Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

    […] If you are considering a big truck here are few tips on the downsides to these fantastic beasts. What could possibly go wrong with an overland expedition truck? Have fun and dont let me put you off your dream. […]

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