Off-road warrior, city slicker, or both?
If you're looking for a real-world off-road adventure, you don't want to be parked 5 feet away from your neighbors. Your passion is to go find that picture-perfect backdrop on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) or a National Park and get away from it all. However, most of us aren't looking to be the next contestant on Survivor or Naked and Afraid, and still want all the comforts of a cozy high-end Airbnb. Why can't we have peace and quiet AND a hot shower and fresh coffee in the morning?
If you're a smart shopper, you won't have to compromise. You can have an all-terrain RV complete with luxurious options and four-season comforts.
Here are 10 things I recommend you look for in a truly off-road-capable trailer:
1 - Quality First
First and foremost is quality. I always start with quality because it reveals an RV's successful off-grid and off-road experience. No matter what off-road name is on the side of an "off-road camper" -- think Adventure Seeker -- if it's not built with top-quality products and craftsmanship, then it's not going to last when it matters most.
It may look rugged on the outside, but when you're towing that new RV on rough roads, a poorly designed and constructed trailer will be compromised, and worse, the damage may not be covered under your warranty. Remember, even driving on a highway at 55 mph, your new home on wheels experiences a 7.0 earthquake.
Luxury and style are important, but a quality foundation is critical.
2 - Travel Trailers vs. Motorhomes
As your off-road camper search begins, you'll undoubtedly be looking at various types of luxurious motorhomes, trailers, and pop-ups on the new and used market.
If you're looking at full-time or extended-use luxury options, you'll likely consider a motorhome, as the smaller trailers are better equipped for roughing it over a weekend than comfortable long-term stays. When it comes to getting off the beaten path, it's important to consider the limitations of a motorhome.
A motorhome is severely constrained when it comes to off-road performance since they are very large and built for on-road use, only. When you hit the road with a motorhome, you're getting a very limited-use, very expensive vehicle, you may not actually drive very often. With a motorhome, you're also not going to get the level of customization you can with a custom truck that pulls a travel trailer.
Travel trailers that can leverage the power of a specially outfitted off-road tow vehicle or truck with raised axles. Plus, a 4x4 truck hitched up to a travel trailer gives you ultimate flexibility and opens you up to enormous benefits with the best of both worlds. Read on to see what I mean.
3 - Off-Road Tow Vehicles
My favorite part of acquiring a travel trailer that's built for off-road is you get to pair it with the rugged robust elegance of a beautiful off-roading truck! Today's trucks have stunning features, such as enhanced suspension for a smooth ride, luxurious cabins, and large display monitors.
I've owned several trucks, including the Dodge RAM 2500 and 3500, Toyota Tundra, Ford F250, and 350. Currently, we have a RAM 2500 and a Ford F350. Both are excellent candidates for towing off-road campers for a real adventure.
What you'll discover about these trucks when towing an off-road trailer is how they get out to their ultimate destinations. Start by creating a base camp with the trailer depending on the size of the trailer you want You just can't get that with a motor home.
So my opinion, the best off-road combination is a truck and a travel trailer.
4 - Custom Truck Upfitting
One beautiful excellent thing about off-road trucks is there are loads of aftermarket accessories to elevate them into a four-wheel-drive masterpiece purpose-built for true off-road adventure. The list of add-ons is seemingly endless including multi=sport racks, halogen off-road lighting, or lifted heavy-duty suspension extras.
Custom truck up-fitting is a solution that takes some of the best technology and elevates it into an all-terrain vehicle. What's beautiful about this is you can outfit a truck to your heart's content. We're talking about the customization that fulfills your needs with the quality of industry-savvy manufacturing using all the latest tech.
5 - Cold Weather Performance
When it comes to features that enhance off-road cold-weather performance, you need to consider how the camper is built and ensure it has the capacity to travel in all seasons -- in extremely hot or cold weather.
A great off-roading RV is designed to get you out safely of a genuine nature experience. Whether it's air conditioning, radiant floor heating, or off-road mobility make sure you're considering an RV that is built for all-weather performance.
Subfreezing temperatures can wreak havoc on your trailer if it's not properly insulated and has water systems protected from freezing. And I've seen RV owners lose their entire investment when their trailer's water system froze solid.
6 - Off-Road Tires & Wheels
One of the most critical considerations of a truck and travel trailer is the points at which they touch the ground -- are the tires and wheels. Think all-terrain tires. These need to be built, specifically for off-road use.
Something wonderful about trucks is you get to customize the wheel package. Depending on your needs, you may want a mixture of on- and off-road use because a great deal of your towing may occur on the road, so it needs to fit both worlds.
7 - Aluminum Frame & Chassis
When considering a vehicle built for traveling off-road, you need to consider all the drivetrain components such as electric brakes that are reinforced to accommodate rough terrain. Be sure it's built for smooth highways and rugged roads.
The chassis is the core or foundation of every off-road RV, so I highly recommend aluminum because it's lightweight and very strong for its weight. And aluminum doesn't rust, so it's capable of lasting a lifetime, even multiple generations.
If your home is going to experience a seismic earthquake as it rolls down a rough dirt road, it needs to be built on a rock-solid foundation.
8 - Off Road Camper: Energy & Solar Power
An off-road RV isn't just built to get you where you want to go, it also needs to allow you to stay there in comfort. If you're traveling into the Great Outdoors for adventure and relaxation, the last thing you want is to be hampered by running out of power.
Although energy-producing resources are plentiful in our world, the earth's fossil fuel supply is limited and will eventually be exhausted. Dirty emissions are another reason to move away from oil-based energy in an off-road camper.
Thanks to the invention of solar panels, we're able to capture the sun's energy right from the roof! This inexhaustible energy source is an excellent way to create energy while you're out in the middle of nowhere. Solar power is extremely effective and can provide ample energy to a Lithium battery bank and can power the entire trailer's appliances for days, weeks, and even months.
9 - Backup Fuel & Redundancy
When traveling into remote environments, it's critical to have multiple backup options. You don't want to be reliant on just one source of energy for critical appliances and systems. For example, if you depend solely on solar power and it's cloudy for a couple of days, or you're in a forest with limited sunlight you'll need another energy source.
Diesel fuel and propane are two excellent redundancy fuel sources, and a built-in electric power generator can be a lifesaver backup system. A good quality generator is off-grid gold. Simply by keeping an additional supply of diesel or propane, you simply push a button and plug in your trailer's power cord as if you were plugging into shore power, and voila! Your trailer's electrical system is restored to full functionality.
By the way, I don't recommend a portable generator because when exposed to rain and snow, it can be damaged and difficult to operate. Unfortunately, portable generators are often the target of theft and tend to walk away even with the security of a good cable lock.
I've noticed that most travel trailers don't include a generator, either. The main reason is they add extra weight and manufacturers want to keep them as light as possible so a wide variety of tow vehicles can pull them. But when it comes to your powering your trailer, redundant sources are key and should not be dismissed in off-road RVs.
10 - Off Road RVs: Functionality & Liveability
An off-road trailer that's thoughtfully designed to be functional in various conditions allows you to enjoy the unexpected, such as sudden changes in the weather. Functionality leads to liveability. For me, this means being prepared with artfully-designed luxuries such as a hot shower, plenty of window and door openings to bring the outdoors inside, and allowing for plenty of natural ventilation. Quite the luxury.
Thoughtful touches such as large windows, a quality mattress, and ample storage are essential features. Two living spaces that are especially key to reducing on-the-road stress are the RV's bathroom and kitchen -- they must be spacious and easy to move about.
If you're looking to explore this magnificent country but want all the comforts of home, I encourage you to consider these 10 off-road RV features to create your ideal experience.