So you want a big overland expedition truck?

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 exept you in your great big truck….

well, 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.

I had an overland expedition truck for 20 years and I have a few Dakar trucks and I have done many things in expeditions and 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 )

rb44/s75 overland camper truck off roading
Here I am, in Merlin a long time ago but not very far away.

NOTE :: Some of these drivers in the images may be great drivers. remember 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 to have one, then other than maintenance you can happily ignore this article.

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

Myth One

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

They are good , but as will everything off road the weight is the killer, most trucks that are converted to be overland expedition trucks end up at there max weight which 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.

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.

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

This one is stuck on just a flat chott, which a normal 4×4 may not even notice it was soft.

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

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).

when it comes to mud, the weight really takes it’s toll an when it is slippy can be very frightening.

extraction of a truck normally requires help.

a heavy truck will go down deep very quick .

Myth three:

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

Cambers and slippy slopes can be the worst when you are high up. the feeling of 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.( although to be fair its only a 6×4 road truck)
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 will not get into anywhere but a motorway in Europe or an open desert in Africa, forget about getting onto 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, 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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