Since moving to Australia in 2001, we have used a number of vehicles for our off-road/outback experience. All of these vehicles were at some stage modified to suit our purpose and to help us appreciate the freedom of off road travel and the joys it can bring.Our first vehicle was a GQ Patrol. Still The Blonde's favourite in fire engine red. This was our first steed to take us off road and open our eyes into the world of experiencing outback/overland travel, firstly on the amazing beaches we have in the south west corner of Western Australia where we now call home.Following David's retirement in 2006 and moving to OZ full time we invested in a new Nissan Patrol 4.2TD which was subsequently upgraded and fitted out with many "off road enhancements" by ARB in Perth...this to include one of the original Simpson roof top tents, very much a "novelty" at that time, but now seen all around the world on all types of vehicles.
Our Nissan GQ Patrol the first true off road vehicle we owned in OZ... hitting the dunes on the south west coast.
....and still The Blonde's favourite...she loved to get her in the water!
The "White Knight" on Tagalong....
Our "White Knight", Nissan Patrol 4.2 TD...pictured here on the Canning Stock Route
The "White Knight" fully deployed!
For our last "outback" vehicle in OZ we turned back to the all new Land Rover Discovery 4, this time adding an Adventure Camper Trailer into the mix. This vehicle took us on two extraordinary journeys, amongst others, across the Anne Beadell Highway and through Arnhemland, as well as a great return to The Kimberleys and the Gibb River Road in northern Western Australia.
What a Disco is designed for....full on muddy after rain on the Innaminka Track
Amazing campsite on a beach in Arnhemland.
Day 1 - Big Henry and The EarthRoamers
When it comes to choosing an expedition vehicle to suit your particular needs, especially one that will likely be your home for the next five years or more and will comfortably circumnavigate the globe, then you quickly realise that there is no one fits all, off the shelf vehicle package. Essentially you need to determine the key components important to you and from there start your research. We spent countless hours surfing the internet, reading expedition forums, studying vehicle manufacturers websites, feeding off of blogs from experienced overland travellers, and then finally applied our key requirements to come up with a short list of manufacturers who could potentially offer what we were wanting. In fact it was this short list that ended up determining where we would start our round the world adventure.
Rather than even try to "educate" you further on all the why's and wherefore's of selecting an overland vehicle, we would refer you to this website, which we found to be of invaluable help to us from a gentleman who has vast experience and a very logical approach to vehicle selection:
So, our key parameters were:
- We did not want to tow (exit caravan and camper trailers)
- A vehicle with good off road capability
- A vehicle that could be easily serviced and spare parts could be quickly obtained
- Good insulation in the camper for both hot and cold weather - with heating and cooling option
- A full time bed set up
- Indoor toilet/shower facilities
- A quality independent power source for long remote/outback stays
There were of course many other "ideals" we had on the list, but the above were, to us anyway, the most important. So having gained all this information and overlaid our key parameters for our vehicle we started the search in earnest. At a certain stage you can find yourself over analysing and there comes a point when you just have to get into decision mode. This took three weeks! Here is a list of manufacturers who came to the fore. This is not meant to be by any stretch of the imagination an exhaustive list of expedition/overland vehicle manufactures:
For us it became a deal to be struck between vehicles manufactured in the USA and those made in Germany/Holland. Availability of parts, price of parts and servicing are really the key factors. Essentially we realised that the world is almost split in two for quality off road expedition campers. In the America's generally it is easier to buy a vehicle set up on either a Chevrolet or Ford chassis. In Europe, Asia and Africa it is Daimler/Mercedes Benz chassis's that lead the way. In the end the decision was made that we would start our journey in the America's. This was mainly because, should we decide to ship our vehicle to Europe it is an easier and cheaper prospect than trying to ship the other way. (In all likelihood though and at time of writing this, our current thoughts are that after two/three years travelling in North America, we would likely sell the vehicle we have purchased there and then re-purchase another vehicle in Europe).
So,.... after much consultation we decided to go for the EarthRoamer XV-LTS. There was no one major reason for this decision, we just felt the EarthRoamer was a better set up vehicle for us and offered the best quality in terms of the build both structurally and also internally. Based on a Ford F550 Lariat Chassis, heavily modified to suit the needs for off roading, the ER has all the bells and whistles you could wish for...and more! In fact the biggest problem was when to say "No", to the extensive list of options on offer.
At this point we should add that the guys at EarthRoamer also helped us make up our minds. Tyler Tatro the President & COO was very focused and inspired confidence in the vehicle and when David met the workforce in October 2013 they were obviously all very proud of what they were building and very keen to offer up answers and explanations. In addition we were lucky enough through the ER Forum to link up with two other ER owners who were having new vehicles built around the same time as us. Both Bob Anderson and Ed McNeil gave us a great insight into the "must have's" on the vehicle and also helped greatly in customising our vehicle so we ended up ordering as near as possible the exact fit we could have wanted to suit our future travel needs.... we remain in their debt!
So, after much debate and discussion, 100's of emails and some sleepless nights...."Big Henry" was born.
Big Henry - From floor plan to the real deal