Exploring the Great Outdoors: A Comprehensive Guide to Overlanding Trailers
If you are a fan of camping where the paved roads end and outdoor adventures begin, you’re in luck. Trailer manufacturers from all sizes, spanning from Australia to North America, are now offering a variety of options. These choices range in price, design, and features, all contributing to the creation of excellent overlanding trailers.
Conventional travel trailers offer many comforts and conveniences. They are like a home on the road. However, most of them are not suitable for off-the-grid camping. This is because gravel roads, Jeep trails, and rocky or sandy terrains can damage these trailers. They are built mainly for use on pavement.
Traditional travel trailers carry a lot of weight. This makes them unsuitable for towing behind smaller vehicles. These smaller vehicles include pickups, SUVs, crossovers, Jeeps, and other 4×4 vehicles. These types of vehicles are popular for those who love exploring the outdoors. They are also too large to tow comfortably on backcountry roads and trails. “Expedition-style” or overlanding trailers, on the other hand, are built specifically for such use.
Overlanding Trailers Are Purpose Built
Overlanding-type trailers are ideal for backcountry camping for several reasons. Firstly, they are typically smaller in overall size and weight than a conventional travel trailer. Secondly, they ride on robust frames with stout body designs. Lastly, they roll on beefy all-terrain or traction tires. These tires provide excellent ground clearance. Many have special articulating off-road hitches that allow the trailer more movement than a standard trailer hitch.
Overlanding trailers come in various body styles. These include teardrop, box, or hybrid designs. Regardless of the style, all these trailers aim to maximize their relatively small footprint. They are designed to carry food, water, fuel, and your adventure gear. These items can be stored or secured in a variety of ways. Options include roof-top compartments, slide-out sections, fold-out compartments, and pop-up configurations. Some of the larger high-end models even have a bathroom inside.
Nearly all overlanding trailers come equipped with a roof-top tent, also known as an RTT. Alternatively, they are designed to accommodate one as an option. This design feature allows adventurers to expand their sleeping accommodations. It is especially useful when they are venturing off-pavement.
Offroad Trailer Options & Pricing
Pricing varies as widely as the trailer configurations and point of manufacture. Options and special packages for overlanding trailers are similar to those for the vehicles towing them. These can significantly increase the base MSRP price. The final cost will depend on how the trailer is specified or ‘spec’d out’.
Manufacturers of expedition or overlanding-style trailers offer a variety of personalization options. Buyers can choose from multiple options in the RTT system. They can also select the type of awnings they prefer. Additional exterior lights can be added based on the buyer’s needs. The type and number of USB outlets can be customized. Lithium batteries and solar packages are available as well. Lastly, buyers can choose from a range of assorted accessories.
Lower-priced campers often have fewer options for personalization. On the other hand, some of the highest-priced models come fully loaded. These models are turn-key packages. Most of their “options” are already included as part of the trailer’s standard features.
Important Towing Factors
Aside from how the camper is equipped, it’s important to make sure the intended tow vehicle is both properly equipped and has the towing capacity to pull it safely. Not every 4×4 or all-wheel-drive vehicle can tow trailers that weigh more than 2,000 pounds. The majority of the off-road trailers are light enough to tow behind many of today’s smaller vehicles.
But to be safe, make sure the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is less than the maximum trailer towing capacity of the vehicle towing it. (The trailer’s GVWR will be listed in the factory specifications and on a metal tag on the trailer itself.) Towing a trailer that is heavier than your tow vehicle is rated will result in vehicle handling, safety, and, potentially, insurance liability issues.
Most of these overlanding trailers are short. In fact, most are under 16 feet in overall length. This makes it easy to maneuver them in tight confines. These small trailers also have narrow wheelbases. They offer good suspension travel and high-ground clearance. This means they can be towed over a wide variety of 4×4 trails and backcountry roads. Conventional travel trailers would have clearance issues in these situations.
Independent Suspensions Replacing Leaf-Sprung
Solid axles suspended by leaf springs have been under trailers of all sizes and types since the horse-and-buggy days. But like today’s cars and many trucks, leaf springs have gone by the wayside, replaced by independent suspensions.
In the past decade, axle-less suspensions have become increasingly common in camping trailers. These independent suspensions use rubber torsion, airbags, or coil springs. They control the movement of each trailer wheel individually instead of using a solid axle. This design is now the norm for trailers intended for overland, adventure, expedition, off-grid, and off-road use.
The reason is these types of suspensions provide more ground clearance, longer suspension travel, and a smoother ride for the trailer they support than leaf-sprung solid-axles. That’s why manufacturers of overlanding trailers around the world are quickly shifting to independent suspension under their offerings.
Axle-less suspensions are continually morphing into more sophisticated versions, too, much like the aftermarket suspensions available for the 4×4 pickup and SUVs towing these types of trailers.
Next-Gen Axle-less Trailer Suspensions
A good example of this evolving overlanding trailer suspension technology is found under Canadian-built Off Grid Trailers, which went to Fabtech Motorsports, a leader in top-shelf aftermarket 4×4 vehicle suspensions, to design OGT’s optional Evolution Series Suspension.
OGT claims their new Evolution Series Suspension increases ground clearance by four inches when compared to their standard Timbren 3500 HD Axle-less suspension. Paired with a 2-1/4 inch Dirt Logic shock, Fabtech engineers were able to achieve an incredible eight inches of wheel travel under whatever OGT trailer the new suspension is applied.
This shock and coil spring combo offers several benefits. It provides higher ground clearance and longer suspension travel. It also absorbs impacts from the road and trails more effectively than a standard axle-less suspension. As a result, it increases the longevity of the trailer. This is particularly beneficial for the trailer’s electrical and plumbing components.
Air-bag independent suspensions, like the Cruisemaster XT and ATX systems, are also on the rise on off-road trailers. Airbag systems provide the added benefit of being able to not only adjust the height of the trailer to fit the height of the tow vehicle but also level the trailer when camping on uneven terrain.
When shopping for your first or next overlanding trailer, pay attention to the type of axle-less suspension it uses. This is an important feature to consider. Next, choose the overall trailer design. Make sure it suits the type of off-pavement travel you plan to undertake.
What all these off-the-grid camping trailers have in common is once you’ve spent a weekend or week enjoying the outdoors in them, you’ll be planning many more “off-grid” camping adventures.
TOP CHOICE: Best Overlanding Trailers 2024
2024 Bruder EXP-8
Base MSRP: $195,000
When only the best will do, explore, and camp with the family in style anywhere in the world with the Bruder EXP-8. This 7,716-pound GVWR expedition-style Australian-built camper exceeds the demands of extreme terrains and climatic conditions without compromise.
A fully enclosed climate-controlled interior that operates off-grid without the need for a generator or plugged-in power. The kitchen is positioned as a centerpiece of the entertaining area. It boasts generous counter space and storage. The kitchen comes fully equipped with a twin-induction cooktop. It also features comprehensive refrigeration and large storage capabilities. Gallery windows allow a complete vista of the environment and open fully to connect the inside and the great outdoors.
The Exp-8’s unique chassis and air suspension systems offer a softer ride. They also provide nearly three times more usable wheel travel than its nearest competitor. You can calibrate the ride height to suit different tow vehicles. This feature also allows you to level out on virtually any sloping camp spot with the touch of a button. There are options available, including up to 1,680 watts of solar power with 20kW of battery storage. A dual A/C system is also available for cooling when needed.
Base MSRP: $43,990
The Utah-built Escapod TOPO2, a one-piece-fiberglass-body teardrop, has a lot of innovative design features honed over years of the designer’s actual off-grid camping experiences. The one-piece body, 2,000-pound camper comes fully loaded, insulated, and ready for four-season adventures.
The TOPO2 has a 100 amp lithium-ion battery, 140W solar panel, two wireless chargers, LED lighting, an onboard battery charger with shore power hookups, a propane heater, and a heated mudroom. Inside, it’s bright and comfy with a big opening “stargazer” window, two side doors for easy entry, a queen-sized memory foam mattress, an angled headboard, and a MaxxAir fan.
The rear galley has a big sink, stainless steel countertop, an ENO 2-burner stove (8000 BTUs), and a YETI 75L cooler. Up top is a ROAM awning and a Thule roof rack system. Other features include a 21-gallon insulated water tank, water heater, external shower, independent Freeride Suspension, and 23” of ground clearance thanks to 31-inch General Grabber tires. Options abound.
Xpedition Trailers Voyager
Base MSRP: $47,000
Utah-based Xpedition Trailers’ Voyager now comes standard with an in-house-built X-Ride Independent Suspension, a four-season package (all water lines run internal, water tank heated via the furnace and water tank heating pad), and a Truma Combi furnace and water heater.
The body is built from 99-percent aircraft-grade aluminum and weighs in at 4,200 pounds GVWR. In addition to a comfy queen bed, 48 inches of interior height, and lots of interior storage space, the rear kitchen boasts 100 percent usefulness in every configuration with absolutely no feature of the kitchen blocking or obstructing another in order to use it.
Placing the cooler slide on the street side and the cook stove slide on the opposite side of the trailer really helps maximize cooking space.
A 360-degree Max Coupler hitch (Receiver and Tow Vehicle Adapter) makes towing over rugged off-pavement situations smooth on both the tow vehicle and trailer. Lots of options are available, from lithium batteries to RTTs to 35-inch off-road tires.
Kimberly Kampers Karavan
Base MSRP: $93,306
Kimberley Kampers, the leading Australian manufacturer of off-road caravans and camper trailers, celebrates their 30th anniversary with an Anniversary Edition Karavan that comes with a range of exclusive features, including the new 48V power system, remote reservoir shock absorbers and state-of-the-art composite walls and flooring made with recycled PET.
A 48V system is much lighter and more efficient than 12V when it comes to running the A/C, induction cooktops, and microwaves, all the while saving up to 20 percent in weight compared to a 12V system. The new 30th Anniversary Eco-Suite Karavan hybrid has a 5,000W 48V battery, with an optional 5,000W battery doubling the off-grid power capabilities.
The 5,500-pound GVWR pop-up camper can sleep 6, and comes with a Queen Airsoft mattress with individually set levels of firmness on each side, 50 gallons of freshwater tanks, a solar array, a unique slide-out side galley, and independent suspension. Options abound. Click here for US dealers.
TetonX Outdoors Hybrid
Base MSRP: $38,999
Few overlanding trailers have room for a 6’6” RVer to comfortably stand inside. That’s what makes the TetonX Hybrid, a pop-up roof-tent camper, different from many competitors of this Utah-built, 19-foot expedition trailer. The Hybrid is a compact powerhouse with an ingenious kitchen design, private hot shower, room to stand inside, custom mattress, and indoor eating, all achieved by building over the fenders to gain living space inside without compromising the small exterior footprint.
The trailer can comfortably accommodate a family of five, offering a standard Queen bed, a front storage area usable for sleeping (24×76), and a 48-inch-wide upper bunk. Its galley has optional front and rear slide-outs housing the integrated fridge, sink, Cook Partner stove, and pantry.
Inside you have full use of a U-shaped dinette with a fast setup. You can also use the enclosure around the outdoor shower to provide private bathroom facilities. As for its off-road prowess, TetonX’s 3,500-pound GVWR Hybrid has a rugged trailing arm suspension, generous approach and departure angles, and 21-inches ground clearance that allows you to find the perfect base camp away from the crowds. Options abound.
Off Grid Trailers Sprocket
Basse MSRP: $23,500
On a budget but want to enjoy camping off-grid? The all-new Sprocket by Off Grid Trailers (OGT) is a very base model camping trailer built on the company’s popular Expedition chassis. This 3,500-pound GVWR, all-metal, off-road capable camping trailer is built with the same quality craftsmanship and engineering you would find in our other OGT models.
As the adventures change and develop, you can purchase OGT accessories for the trailer at your own pace, including kitchen components and onboard water storage. When the kids require their own sleeping space, you can add a full-length roof rack to support a rooftop tent. When you decide to opt for more storage, you can install additional side boxes. If you choose to tackle tougher terrain, upgrade from the standard Timbren 3500 HD axle-less suspension to the OGT Evolution Series Suspension for eight inches of wheel travel and an additional four inches of ground clearance.
Imperial Outdoors XploreRV X195
Base MSRP: $142,500
Imperial Outdoors is a new kid on the high-end overlanding trailer block with five great offerings. Experts in building ice-fishing houses, the company used that knowledge in building the all-weather, all-terrain XploreRV X195 overlanding trailer. The 9,920-pound GVWR X195, which sleeps up to four, is comfortable down to -40F degrees as well as the hottest desert heat.
The 26-foot trailer measures 6’3” inside and 6.5 feet interior width, providing plenty of space for rest and relaxation between off-road adventures. Sixty-gallon fresh and grey water tanks, along with a 240W solar array on the roof, 270-degree awning, full bathroom with dry-flush toilet, and nicely appointed galley, help make extended off-grid stays pleasant.
The Xtreme Package includes a Cruisemaster articulating hitch, onboard air system, Cruisemaster ATX air suspension with up to 23-inches ground clearance, thermal windows, heated tanks, custom roof rack, and a 360aH lithium battery. Options include up to 1080aH Lithium battery pack and 1240W solar panel system. Click on Features/Packages to learn more.
Oregon Trail’R FronTear ALPHA
Base MSRP: $24,000
The FTA is a cross between the classic FronTear, combined with many of the robust features found in the heavy-duty TerraDrop Alpha. This 13-foot, insulated, 1,500-pound overlanding teardrop rolls on a tubular steel chassis with independent suspension, and sports a durable ALPHA coating over a marine-grade, custom Baltic Birch body.
“Our trailers are essentially built like giant custom cabinets,” says co-owner Jon Christianson, “We use dado and rabbet joinery everywhere possible to create an ultra-strong and stiff body. We also borrow a lot of our processes from the boat-building community, like using void-less plywood, waterproof glues, and sealing all end-grain with penetrating epoxy. To us, one of the most important aspects of overlanding camper production is water-proofing.”
Patriot Campers X3
Base MSRP: $57,790
Very few pop-up off-road tent camp trailers are as well-built or well-equipped as Patriot Campers X3. It’s a turn-key camper. It comes standard with a push-button, remote-opening CS3 tent system, ExoRack roof mounting system, and integrated awning.
It also sports a diesel hot water and tent heating system, 35 gallons of fresh water, dual AGM batteries, a twin-burner gas stove, Cruisemaster X-Cruise independent air suspension, 33-inch mud-terrain tires, and a laundry list of other features.
This high-end, Australian-made camper has unique storage systems, which allow you to access clothes, coffee, and other items from inside the tent. Rear access via a drop-down step is also unique among camp trailers. The 3,5000-GVWR of the heavy-duty X3 makes it easily towed by most crossovers, Jeeps, SUVs, and pickups.
Mammoth Overland ELE
Base MSRP: $67,000
If you are planning to flee to the mountains when the living conditions get really rough or camp off-the-grid where bears and other life-threatening two- and four-legged creatures prowl, the Mammoth Overland ELE would be a great trailer choice. That’s because this Washington State builder has taken this Extinction Level Event (E.L.E.) 3,500-pound GVWR overlanding trailer to a new level with built-in bear spray dispensers mounted outside, a Geiger counter, ICOM dual-band radio, and a weather station inside, plus built-in medical grade E.L. Foust air filtration and water purifying systems.
The camper is equipped with “submarine-style” pressure doors that lock with four pins and allow E.L.E. to be pressurized to .25 psi in order to keep the repellant, smoke, and other irritants and pollutants out of the cabin. This “mobile command center” has a roof-top observation platform, a Starlink satellite system, and a boom-mounted surveillance camera. Inside is widescreen TV, a workstation, all controls to the electronics, and plenty of outlets to keep laptops and phones charged.
The rear galley door seals well against dust, and it swings out to reveal a fridge, a two-burner cooktop, and a stainless sink. Solar power and four 100aH Lithium batteries handle the power needs for weeks of camping off-grid.
Boreas Campers EOS-12
Base MSRP: $79,990
With a full 6’6” of headroom when the roof is open, Colorado-built Boreas Campers EOS-12 is a heavy-duty, luxury off-road trailer with a queen bed, accommodations to sleep five, a wet bath, cassette toilet, and shower. The composite-and-metal constructed off-road trailer has an exterior slide-out galley with a three-burner Furrion cooktop, 96L Truma Dual-zone fridge/freezer. It features Truma Combi ECO Plus forced air heating, a 23Zero 270-degree awning, tons of gear storage, a rear entry, and an auto-leveling Cruisemaster independent suspension.
Off-grid electrical comes from 540aH in Battle Born lithium batteries and 300 watts of Zamp Obsidian solar panels to provide plenty of juice for off-grid camping. Fifty gallons of freshwater and 40-gallon grey water tanks, 30-amp shore power, Victron Multiplus controller, and onboard water filtration system add to this 20-foot, 5,200-pound GVWR camper’s versatility.
Choosing Your Ideal Overlanding Trailer: A Summary
In summary, the realm of overlanding trailers offers a broad spectrum of options, fitting various budgets and adventure styles. Key considerations when choosing a trailer include weight, size, suspension, and your vehicle’s towing capacity. From budget-friendly models like the Off Grid Trailers Sprocket to luxury options like the Bruder EXP-8, there’s a trailer for every outdoor enthusiast. Remember, these trailers are not just vehicles but gateways to unforgettable off-grid adventures. Choose wisely and let the journey begin.