Global Overland Expedition Rig Design

I’m really inspired by the global overland expedition rig built by Jason and Kara at the Everlanders YouTube Channel. Their rig is a relatively lightweight DIY camper made from a welded aluminum frame with riveted honeycomb structural panels. Honeycomb panels have a strong honeycomb core made from aluminum or polymer and layers of other materials laminated as skins. The whole assembly is strong, lightweight, self supporting, and provides some insulation.

What I like most is that Jason and Kara built their rig themselves on a realistic budget. Most professionally built expedition rigs like this cost a small fortune.

I like their truck so much, I was inspired to draw my own using the same construction approach. Even if this kind of truck isn’t your thing, consider that honeycomb panels might also be an excellent option for an ultralight tiny house build.

Expedition rig on the road flat-towing a Jeep. Solar tracker folded flat and secured for highway travel.

To climb up into the camper I imagine using a custom fit Torklift brand extending RV stairs. These fold into very small packages and can be stored below the exterior door.

Boondocking camp setup. Jeep is now disconnected from expedition rig and ready to go deeper into the wilderness.
Side view. Solar tracker automatically follows the sun.

In my version I imagine using honeycomb panels with an aluminum skinned exterior, an insulated polymer honeycomb core, and wood veneer interior. The panels would provide much of the shear strength for the wall but the aluminum frame binds the panels all together. The panels would be glued and riveted to the frame like Jason and Kara’s rig. The floor and roof have more framing members to handle roof loads.

Frame Complete
Panel Installation in Progress
Shell Assembly Complete

Typical RV windows and doors would be used for simplicity of construction and weight. The roof would have membrane roofing material on top of the panels for added weather proofing.

Automatic solar tracker has 360-degree movement on a motorized turntable. The panels are tilted by linear actuators to the ideal solar angle and follows the sun as it moves across the sky.

I also played with the idea of mounting an automated solar tracker to the roof. It’s simply a rack that’s hinged on one side with the whole thing sitting on a heavy duty turntable. Linear actuators lift and tilt the frame up and town. Some kind of computer controller with photosensitive sensors would be needed to direct the panels in the right direction. A wind sensor would be used to flatten the panels during windy days. It would also need a quick and easy way to lower and lock the panels for travel. Trackers that function like this are fairly common for ground mounted installations, but I’ve never seen one that folds flat and mounted to a truck or trailer. Shown here are four 425 watt panels for a total of 1,700 watts of power. This solar tracker is far from a fully sorted design, just an idea.

Dinette converts into a bed. The table detaches from the wall and is used as a bed platform between the facing seats.

Inside there’s a tiny kitchen and wet bath. A small refrigerator is located below the cabinets.

Kitchen/Dining/Living space. Cabinet above sink has a drain rack shelf to allow wet dishes to be put away.

In the bathroom, for simplicity sake, I’d use the highly recommended Nature’s Head composting toilet which separates the solids from the liquids and can be vented outside.

Wet bath with Nature’s Head composting toilet, sink and shower.

Over the truck’s cab is a split loft with two twin beds. A divider between them offers privacy, but sliding doors on each side can be opened if those sleeping in the loft want to chat. I designed it like this for my daughters; you may prefer to have a queen bed instead of a divider.

Loft with two twin beds and privacy divider.
View from one of the loft beds with the privacy divider open.

An overland truck like this would be fairly heavy even with the lightweight honeycomb panels and aluminum, so a heavy duty truck would be required. For this concept I chose to imagine using a diesel 4-wheel-drive Ram 5500 chassis crew cab with a super single dually conversion, a lift kit, and Continental MPT tires.

These trucks are built for commercial use. They are not very fast or very good at towing heavy loads but they are perfect for hauling large loads on their backs and are designed for a long life doing hard work at a low speed.

Ram 5500 expedition rig on the road flat-towing a Jeep.

I’d also want to bring a Jeep along for the ride too, and would flat-tow it behind the rig so that when I got to my boondocking campsite, I could keep going deeper into the woods, mountains, or desert in my Jeep.

Jeep could be flat-towed behind the expedition rig.

This was this week’s fun design exploration. It’s just another tiny living option that provides a lot more mobility than a tiny house and could still be built on a reasonable budget just like the folks at Everlanders.