Green lane capable camper

Buckshot

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Jan 19, 2004
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Hi

We're thinking about investing in a camper van of some kind for both family getaways and some 'in the woods' stuff perhaps. most of the time it will be nothing worse than slippery grass/ mud but i know that can be a problem for some of these camper vans. i may not have the option of a freindy farmer for a tow so need the option of a certain amount of self recovery.

Criteria is it needs to be pretty much self contained in terms of an on board loo and shower so not a VW small van. I'm guessing something around the 6m length give or take a little. nothing bigger than 6.5m.
Probably need to look at 5 tonne or 7.5 tonne rather than the tiny 3.5t versions.
Not looking for a self build.

I would like 4x4 and decent ground clearance but i know that comes at a price and cost in terms of on road ability etc (I used to own a landy!). probably not a realistic option TBH.

The next option would be twin wheel, rear wheel drive motor home and winch/ sand ladders etc. and the market has a few of them around - certainly more than the 4x4 options which are few and far between. I am a little worried about ground clearance with these though. Are they just a road vehicle with an extra back wheel?

My question is does anyone have any thoughts/ preferences on an 'off the shelf' camper vans/ motor homes (what ever the relevant term is).

Thanks
 

Nomad64

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If you have serious money to burn then there are quite a few companies who will build you a 4x4 or 6x6 etc Land Yacht capable of transporting you and your family across continents in air conditioned luxury.

http://www.actionmobil.com/en/home/philosophy

https://earthcruiser.com/our-vehicles/earthcruiser-exp/

From a practical perspective though, something as big and bulky as that will struggle to get along most UK green lanes more suited to a Defender 90 without leaving a significant impact on the scenery and vice versa (if you can find green lanes that are actually open), and the same issue applies for access to woods.

If you are not as rich as Croesus, you have set yourself a pretty tough design brief if you want to accommodate the whole family inside the vehicle, together with an onboard toilet and shower and have offroad capability and don't want a DIY option! Compromise on one or more of these and life will become much easier.

Is the offroad capability and self-recovery part of the spec really necessary? 2WD minibuses and trucks are the normal means of transport in third world countries where the dirt roads vary between dusty, corrugated nightmares in the dry season to muddy quagmires in the rains. I suspect that most landowners would not thank you for taking a 7.5 tonne truck into fields or woods in conditions which require you to winch yourself out.

FWIW, twin wheel axles seem to be frowned upon for serious offroading as stones get stuck between them and shred them.

Good luck and I hope you find something that suits but as I have posted on the "Ultimate Vehicle" thread, IME too many people focus too much on preparing vehicles for the possible (but unlikely), hazards of adventures they may never have, rather than deciding what they (and any likely travelling companions), are really likely to be doing on their travels and working back from there.:)
 
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Buckshot

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thanks Nomad
I agree those links are lovely but not pratical for here - or in my price range!
there would be 2 of us in it - maybe 3 occasionally
I'm using the term green laneing to explain driving in fields, tram lines in woods and green lanes possibly. not just the type of thing you see in landy mags where the stones are 2 foot diameter and the hedges have to be trimmed before passing.

I actually did think about form the view you say - the likely activities. I'm expecting many of them to be in woods/ lanes/ fields i already have permission for.
Interesting point re stones getting stuck between the tyres. as you say, more of a problem for serious off roading rather than the sort of 'green laneing' I'm talking of
I was thinking about it from the point of view of spreading the weight of the vehicle to a wider footprint and therefore not sinking as much.
i can see ground clearance to be more of an issue. tram line tracks can have quite high mid sections even if the track itself is in good nick. I'm not looking for huge ground clearance but maybe something like a subaru forester or outback, not a 4 inch lifted landy. most of the campers I've seen all look very low slung.
 

Nomad64

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FWIW, although not a legal term, "green lane" has a specific meaning and there is a Green Lane Association "GLASS" (a kind of off-road NRA) dedicated to promoting sensible use of unsealed vehicular rights of way and resisting attempts by local authorities to curtail the routes.

https://www.glass-uk.org

Not sure what the modern VW campers are like but I had a couple of old 1970s VW Kombi campers and they had quite impressive ground clearance and with the right tyres are capable of getting further off road than you might expect. The problem is that as soon as you go up in size to coach built campers which can incorporate onboard toilets and showers, the bodywork does tend to hang down and you can get huge overhangs at the rear.

For two people though, there must be something that fits the bill that is smaller and cheaper to run than a 5 or 7.5 tonne truck. 4x4 Iveco vans and Merc Sprinters have decent clearance make good starting points for overland campers - I'm sure that there are plenty out there that have been converted but are looking for new owners. You have missed the spring Overland Adventure Travel Show at Stratford Racecourse but there is another one in September which might be a good source of vehicles for sale or ideas.

Would a demountable camper attachment for a 4x4 pickup work?

https://www.practicalmotorhome.com/advice/43282-ever-considered-a-demountable-camper

As I mentioned on the “Ultimate Vehicle” thread a 130 Pulse Ambulance is a great starting point for a camper conversion which can include toilets and showers and converted vehicles do come up for sale from time to time and there are companies who will do the job for you.

http://www.foleysv.com/land-rover-defender-sales.html
 
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Billy-o

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I am not sure if you get them designated like this in Europe, but look up RV vehicle. You see them all over north america, sometimes as big as a tour bus, often towing a SUV, with a motorbike strapped on too. I have seen them parked in the most unlikely and tricky spots. These can cost three million and have a Mazerati tucked underneath but there are way more affordable options in there.

If mud is the only problem it might be that you can get away by just fitting more brutal tyres to, well, anything you fancy really.
 

Paul_B

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Looks like you need a japanese import then get a conversion done. Might not be big enough but would a Mitsubishi delica be suitable? I've seen a few rather rugged examples over the years. Full time 4x4 with all the genuine off road trick bits either as standard or aftermarket.

Seriously japanese market has a lot of vans that come with 2 or 4 wheel drive factory fitted. Using an import company like Algy's motors you can get a base van at very reasonable prices.

Size is a bit small but I did see a motorhome based on a small ducato that had a cupboard which was really a toilet, sink and shower unit. I wonder if something like that is available to van conversion companies?

Personally I think you'll need to compromise. Ditch the shower and accept a pop top, porta potty loo and a smaller van and you'll get a 4 wheel drive campervan.

I did see a rather utilitarian German camper earlier this year. Based around a Mercedes van (box not panel) it had seriously chunky off road tyres. No idea what the base van was because it had no vehicle model references only the Mercedes three point star logo. Check out German/Mercedes van/truck conversions online you might see something.

Saw another serious off road capable motorhome / camper conversion about two years ago in Scotland. Think it was a unimog with a serious box van back to it done out as a camper. Definitely large enough for your needs. Looked a homemade job too, but I'm certain a good van converter would solve the issues associated with non-standard base van options.
 

Billy-o

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A slightly souped up Toyota Previa might do you .. htough on reflection it might be a bit small. FOr camping, they are popular with the youth :) Cheap and accomplished for the outdoorsing.

Delicas are big in Australia and heavily modded. Several people I have spoken to about theirs said they got them from Aus.
 
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It is many years since I did my off-road driving courses so the principles may have 'moved on'.

I was taught :

When driving in mud you want 'skinny' wheels so that they can cut thru' the wet stuff and get down to harder ground. Spreading the load too wide (fat tyres or twin wheels) means that you are 'floating' on the top of the mud, the treads get full of wet mud and you are basically driving on 'slicks'.

When driving on peat or sand - you want 'fat' wheels and to let down your tyres to increase the width even further.

Tyre tread pattern will have a huge impact of where you can go - cleated tyres (like tractor tyres) will suffer less from 'blocked treads', by throwing the mud out on every revolution be very noisy on the road and will wear quickly, standard road tyres will clog up very easily.
You need to find a compromise tyre that actually reflects what type of motoring you will be doing, not what you would dream of doing.

Damp grass, on a slope, is actually one of the hardest surfaces to drive on

I currently have 60/40 M&S tyres on my ML270 (60% road use, 40% off road use)
They take me and a 3 tonne trailer across fields without problem and have pulled me thru' light-mud' without problem.

Has the teaching of off road driving changed since those days ?
 
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Janne

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Wet grass on a slope.... brings back memories, that one. When I did my off road training, that was an excellent opportunity to use the skills of anchoring vehicles and winching.

(Some of us overturned the vehicles)

Sometimes reversing up ( or down) a difficult slope is better.

Most 4x4 vehicles are hugely capable in the correct hands, even the Fiat Steyr Panda 4x4.
Doing a course is a fantastic idea!
 

Paul_B

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There was an interesting series on TV presented by that TV baker guy. He went round one country per programme looking at the nation's cars made around the country. I only saw the Italian programme and different cities / regions had different famous, cars of the people. From the city that made three wheel vans with many configurations that helped Italy rebuild after WWII by helping mom and pop companies to grow. Like the laundry business that's big in the city that still uses these same three wheeled, motorbike engined vans.

My point is that in the mountains around the fiat plant the most popular car was the fiat panda 4x4. It got a reputation for just getting through whatever conditions it encountered. I had also heard that they were good cars for country use. Plus panda cars are known for longevity too. Dear John column in the DT when I was a kid asked for readers with high mileage cars to write in with mileage and model. In the top 5 fiat panda counted 2 or 3 iirc.

This digression is really just to say that what vehicle you go for really doesn't have to be an out and out offroader unless you really do need it. A lot of vans, with the right tyres and knowledgeable drivers can probably cope with a lot of terrains other than metalled roads. Even with snow I've driven home past off road vehicles abandoned by the side of the road. Range rovers (not sport models), discovery 4x4s, even a Landcruiser in one occasion. My car (actually one of my favourites I've ever owned) was a simple 1.7 TDi vauxhall Astra estate. Much better than. My bigger engined seat mpv it got replaced by.

As for vans I've driven transit minibuses on wet grass, mud and some rough-ish ground before now. However if you need 4x4 van then I think Mercedes might do one for much money. A lot cheaper is to Google Algy's Motors (other similar companies are available) who will source good Japanese mpv/vans with 4wd then import them, register them plus mot them in line with UK requirements. Even put in a pop top lid if you want.

Vans / MPVs such as Mitsubishi Delica, Toyota Alphard or Nissan Elgrand are available as 2wd or 4wd. The first one in that list is available with full off road requirements such as (IIRC) diff lock, low ratio, etc I believe. If you can't get one like that then certainly its a van known for being heavily modded for rough roading and converting to campers.

One downside is the engines are petrol and often 2.5 - 3.5 litre engines. Another is that some look a bit poncy. By that I mean aero kit such as front and rear spoilers, several cameras (rear and side), plus loads of gadgets and electronicery that I'm guessing the Op has no interest in. Positives sometimes includes nice extras like second set of OEM alloys with snow / winter tyres on included in the deal. Plus they're bigger than the popular but discontinued mazda bongo.
 

Janne

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It is cheaper to bypass the importer into UK and do it yourself.
All he does is look online, buy it, then take it from the British port, register it. And charge you good money for his services.

We have imported all our cars from UK and US. Organized pickup, delivery to the port, container shipping, importation, duty here.
Everything outside this country done by email.

A quick search gave me:
www.japanesevehicles.com
www.stbjapan.com
www.japanesecartrade.com
 
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MrEd

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Wet grass on a slope.... brings back memories, that one. When I did my off road training, that was an excellent opportunity to use the skills of anchoring vehicles and winching.

(Some of us overturned the vehicles)

Sometimes reversing up ( or down) a difficult slope is better.

Most 4x4 vehicles are hugely capable in the correct hands, even the Fiat Steyr Panda 4x4.
Doing a course is a fantastic idea!

Doing a 4x4 course was the best thing I ever did, did mine 10+ years ago

Key things are:
- picking your line/reading the terrain
- appropriate gear and speed
- appropriate tyres at an appropriate pressure
 

CLEM

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It is cheaper to bypass the importer into UK and do it yourself.
All he does is look online, buy it, then take it from the British port, register it. And charge you good money for his services.

We have imported all our cars from UK and US. Organized pickup, delivery to the port, container shipping, importation, duty here.
Everything outside this country done by email.

A quick search gave me:
www.japanesevehicles.com
www.stbjapan.com
www.japanesecartrade.com
Some REALLY nice Hilux Extra cabs on there waaaaaaaaaaaay out my budget sadly otherwise I'd be on it
 

Nomad64

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something like this? 4x4 Sprinter van?


The OP is a bit hamstrung by the requirement for an onboard toilet and shower - lose that and accept that a toilet tent is a necessary compromise and a whole range of options opens up without the need for a 7.5 tonne truck with all the associated costs and limitations.

Personally, I can see the sense in having onboard toilet and maybe shower facilities if a lot of discrete lay-by and car park camping is envisioned but not for “wild” camping in fields and woods.

[Warning “C” word alert!]

If the OP is only looking for Subaru Forester levels of ground clearance and off-road capability then a smallish “caravan” plus a Forester ticks most of not all off the boxes - if not the “bush-cred” ones! Overhangs might be a problem with bigger caravans but with no diff etc. ground clearance a caravan (maybe with bigger tyres?) should be ok for tramline tracks in fields and woods - just have to remember to not go full.....

[Warning another “C” word alert]

......“Clarkson” when towing it.


More ruffty-tuffty caravans are available at a price but still without the onboard ablution facilities!

https://www.conqueror.co.za/commander.php

An idea of the OP’s budget and whether the onboard toilet and showers is a must have or nice to have criteria would help giving constructive suggestions. :)
 

Nice65

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Not terribly practical, but pretty awesome.
 
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moocher

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Just skimmed the thread ,whilst sat in car waiting for kids to leave school,
I wouldn’t want to greenlane anything over 3,5 ton
My preference would be for a load hauler that if it got bad a sleeping mat/matteress could be put in the back ,
We just got rid of a Toyota lucida that was nice an they do a 4x4 version , I know in oz and nz they and Toyota hiaces are popular .
 
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