It’s early on a Monday morning and the sun is rising over the distant reaches of the Mexican desert. On the horizon, the dirt two-track I am parked on fades into the distance like a thin ribbon of chocolate over the carroty foothills. The far-off mountains beckon.
This feature was originally published in 4x4 Australia’s July 2009 issue
I’m not really sure of my exact drive route today, but I know my destination, and it’s nowhere near the frenzied and chaotic disorder of the freeways near my home town.
Today, I won’t have to dodge any SUV-wielding soccer-mums who drift into my lane, I won’t be jockeying for a parking spot near the office, and I won’t be standing 20-deep in the queue at Starbucks. In fact, I won’t be dealing with any of that crap for months to come.
The air is crisp and a cool breeze heightens my senses and awareness of my surroundings. I’m in the middle of nowhere and heading south to Central America, Belize, Guatemala and points south.
Breaking camp is never more than a 10-minute affair. Just hit the button to close the electric top and snap down a few latches. Clicking on the GPS, I turn the key and slide the transmission into drive. But something is still wrong … it’s a persistent and blaring noise coming from outside my door. Crap, it’s my alarm clock, and I hastily reach over and hit the snooze button.
It is still Monday, but the time clock and traffic await, not my dream expedition rig and a year-long kitchen pass. I want to go back to my dream, to that road less travelled, the distant horizon and what lay beyond.
We’ve participated in numerous campfire debates about the perfect expedition rig. Should it be a behemoth lux-machine such as a Unimog or Unicat, or something smaller with a few less amenities but more manoeuvrable? And what are the must-have features: solar power, a navigation system, hot water, shower, comfortable bed for two, a potty, fridge and room for gear? And lastly, what platform do you build it on?
Following the 2008 SEMA show in Las Vegas, we headed to Prescott, Arizona, to check-out what one man, Scott Brady, thinks is the perfect world travel rig. As an ex-technology executive and now publisher of Overland Journal magazine, a book dedicated to vehicle-dependant overland travel, Brady found everything he needs in the EarthRoamer XV-JP. We think he might be right.
It is clear that attention to detail was a priority when designing the Earth Roamer. Security and safety are addressed with an on-board GPS, Tuffy Security centre console and lockable glovebox, and a Spot global emergency transponder.
Everything from the Isotherm DC cold-plate fridge/freezer and Espar heating system, to the solar panels, Loftop air-frame and heat exchanger hot water, is designed with weight, function and efficiency in mind.
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We took the Earth Roamer out for a spin and even tried to talk Scott out of the keys for a month. He wasn’t too keen as he and wife Stephanie are heading south towards Panama. From there they will ship the EarthRoamer to Ecuador and traverse the spine of the Americas all the way south to the tip of South America. So, it’s back to the office to keep dreaming of the day when we can build the ultimate overlander and check out of the rat-race for a year … or more.
In typical Yankee style, the base platform for the EarthRoamer is a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. It rolls from the factory with Dana 44 axles and electric lockers, an NV241 4-to-1 transfer case, electronic swaybar disconnect and a 3.8-litre V6.
From there the Jeep was fitted with an Nth Degree three-inch suspension lift from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), heavy-duty rear springs, and BFG KM2 Muddies on 17-inch AEV beadlocked rims.
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Up front, an AEV front bumper cradles a Warn 9000i winch spun with Viking synthetic winch line. And when the sun goes down, Lightforce HID 240 driving lights provide plenty of illumination. Out back, a Wilderness rear bumper carries the spare tyre, a pair of jerry cans and shovel. Rounding out the upgrades are a Kilby compressor, AEV snorkel and three AGM Lifeline batteries.
Room to manoeuvre
The interior is nothing short of luxurious; with the camper’s top up, there’s enough headroom for even the loftiest of basketball players, and the innovative plastic-spring, queen-size bed is lightweight and long enough to stretch out on after a tiring day.
The passenger side sports a comfortable bench seat that conceals an Isotemp solar-powered fridge, toilet and shower. To starboard is a sink with hot/cold water and a flip-down counter, and a bank of canvas storage bins for sundries, clothing and gear.
With a 95-litre fresh water, 38-litre grey water and 17-litre black water tanks, setting up camp for a few days should not be an issue. For cooking, or that weekly shower, hot water is provided via a 15-litre heat exchanger hot water system (you’ll need to run the motor for four minutes to get it hot). When it’s cold, the shower sets up inside, but when there’s no frost on the pumpkin, it can be routed outside for an open-air affair.
The extra weight and noise of a generator is dispensed with by the addition of an 80-watt solar panel and a 160-amp alternator which charges a bank of three Group-31 AGM Lifeline batteries. To insure against running your batteries flat, a 200-amp relay connects the auxiliary units when the engine is on, and isolates them when it is off. On chilly nights, the Espar 6100btu ultra-efficient forced-air unit, which draws from the main fuel cell, will keep things warm.
The shell of the Earth Roamer is crafted from a composite material and built in sandwiched layers to maximise structural integrity while keeping weight in check. The top opens via a 2.5hp Leeson electric winch with the push of a button, and the Loftop tent assembly is supported by a featherweight airframe (which automatically inflates via the Kilby engine-mounted air compressor).
If all this isn’t enough, Brady added an Adventure Trailer Chaser fitted with matching BFG tyres and air suspension, a Baja rack, an Eezi-Awn awning and additional work lights.
Amazingly, the Earth Roamer measures just 4.7 metres in length, about 2.2 metres tall and less than two metres wide.