Once you decide you want to live like a nomad, one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make is which vehicle to live in. We all have certain expectations of what we want from our new vehicle home:
- very comfortable and roomy
- get good MPG
- be powerful enough to carry all our stuff quickly up hills
- be easy and pleasant to drive
- not cost much to buy
- not be difficult or expensive to maintain
- be able to take us into remote places
The problem is most of these things are exact opposites from each other and it’s literally impossible for any vehicle to do them all. If its big enough to have plenty of room and comfort (like an RV), it’s going to get poor MPG, be big and cumbersome to drive and not get into remote places. If it gets great MPG like a Prius, or even good MPG like a mini-van, it’s going to be smaller, more uncomfortable and not get into remote areas as well.
The perfect live-aboard vehicle, doesn’t exist, they all require lots of compromise.
The result is that you have to chose your highest priorities and be willing to sacrifice some things to get it. If MPG is your top priority, you have to give up room, comfort and back road ability. On the other hand, if you want all the room and comfort you can get you must sacrifice MPG, easy drive-ability and being able to get into remote places. The key is to decide what you need to be happy as a nomad and make sure you get it; then be willing to make the sacrifices it requires.
In today’s post I want you to meet a friend of mine, Will and his choice of a nomadic vehicle, a Toyota Tacoma 4×4 pickup carrying a slide-in camper. I’ve got to say, if your emphasis is on MPG and the ability to get into the backcountry, with the most comfort you can have, this is one of the very best choices I’ve ever seen!
Do you really need 4×4? Most people will tell you no, it just adds weight and complexity to your rig and causes more problems than its worth. For most people that might be true, but certainly not for everyone. If you are a photographer, nature or adventure lover and want to be able to get off the beaten path and further back than the normal crowd, then this is the perfect rig! I boondock 99% of the time and because I don’t like camping with crowds I generally try to find an area to camp in with no one around. Having a high clearance 4×4 like the Tacoma would make that much easier for me because RVs won’t even consider going where it can easily go! I’m not talking about hard core 4-Wheeling, just being able to go past where the crowds hang out. If it gets a little rough the 4×4 will make that easy and if I get stuck (which is unlikely because I don’t go really bad places) then 4-Wheel Compound Low will get me right out.
Let me tell you why I think it’s so great:
- The Tacoma is legendary for its reliability and durability. It’s unlikely to leave you broken-down and stranded.
- The Tacoma 4×4 is equally famous for it’s off-road capabilities. It’s true 4-Wheel Drive with 4-Low and very good ground clearance give it excellent ability to get into remote areas.
- With the camper he gets a surprising amount of comfort and room (especially headroom), more than most vans offer.
- Once he takes the camper off, he gets pretty good MPG and its a very pleasant daily driver.
- Without the camper, it’s outstanding off-road and in snow, sand and mud. Even with the camper it’s still very good with all of them.
- Best of all it’s affordable! I might prefer a 4×4 van, but they are much too expensive and too hard to find for me. The Tacoma is so popular that there are lots of them around and reasonably affordable.
Now let’s look at the numbers on his nomadic home:
- It’s a 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 with a V6 and he paid $8000 for it.
- The camper is a Travel Lite 690 FD Slide-In Camper that weighs an amazingly light 1100 pounds dry. He bought it brand new in 2015 for $9000. See it’s website here: http://www.travellitecampers.com/models/690/690.htm
The features he got in the camper include:
- Standing room height.
- Comfortable bed in the cab-over
- Propane System
- Furnace (that he’s very happy with)
- 3-Way fridge
- Hot water heater
- Stove top
- 8 gallon fresh water tank with sink and outside shower
- Jacks to raise and lower the camper
- It doesn’t come with a shower, toilet or black water tank, but that isn’t an issue for him, he just uses a bucket and warms water for a sponge bath
As you can see in the pictures, it really is a very comfortable home to live in. Of course it’s small but as long as you can adapt to a small space it’s an extremely pleasant way to spend the time. Most boondockers spend much of our time outside, but during bad weather it’s very important that you have a place you like being in because you may have to spend quite a bit of time in it riding out a storm. This camper does that for Will.
His normal pattern is to travel for awhile with the camper loaded on the truck, and when he finds a place he wants to spend time in and get to know better, then he drops the camper as a home-base and takes the Tacoma to explore and really get to know the area. That allows him to live in a lot of comfort and yet also get to see many places fairly economically. It also lets him get back into the backcountry where he prefers to be.
If you too have a hunger to get away from the camping hordes in comfort and relatively cheaply, then this is a combination you should consider!
I’m making Videos on my good friends James and Kyndal’s YouTube Channel. See them here:
We made a video interview and tour of Wills Tacoma camper, you can see it here:
If you don’t see the video above, either click here or cut and paste it into your browsers search bar.
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