Modifying Your Rig Like an EarthRoamer

The EarthRoamer luxury expedition vehicle—everybody wants one, but at $438,000 for the “base model” few can afford it. If you’re not familiar with the EarthRoamer XV-LTS, it’s an amazing piece of engineering. Imagine a solar-powered 4×4 luxury truck camper on steroids and you’ve got the EarthRoamer. The company calls it an “Xpedition Vehicle,” or “XV” for short. The acronym fits because this rig isn’t anything like the standard recreational vehicle (RV) that you can buy in town. The biggest difference is the EarthRoamer’s design. Unlike the standard RV motorhome, which is pretty limited on where it can go, the EarthRoamer, with its high-clearance and four-wheel drive transmission, can go practically anywhere. Not only that, but the quality and level of detail put into every EarthRoamer is light-year’s ahead of the campers and motorhomes being built by most of today’s RV manufacturers.

For the EarthRoamer, it all starts with a Ford F-550 Super Duty chassis powered by a 6.7L turbo diesel. This chassis, which comes in Ford’s premium Lariat interior trim package, offers a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 19,500 pounds. The EarthRoamer needs this hefty rating because everything in this 29-foot-long, luxury expedition rig is big and packed with first-rate cabinetry and components, including granite counter tops, a large wet bath, a massive 1,200 watt solar power system, four 158-pound AGM batteries, mammoth 41-inch tires, and a 90 gallon fresh water tank. It’s also equipped with a king-size bed, a 1,500-watt induction cooktop, an 8 cubic foot two-door compressor refrigerator, diesel heating systems, an auxiliary 50 gallon diesel tank, a Buckstop front bumper with a Warn winch, and an air ride suspension system that would make any gear-head drool.

“The whole vehicle is like the suspension system, in that no detail is left behind. That’s what really sets the vehicle apart,” explains Tyler Tatro, the president of EarthRoamer. “Everything is very well thought out from a functional standpoint so everything works well, the space works well. The other thing that sets us apart is that we mold our own composite body and we’re able to do radiuses and things you can’t do in a standard construction shell, so that we’re able to get an aesthetic and a fit and finish that I think is unlike anybody else.”

As you’d expect for a half million dollar expedition vehicle, some alterations and modifications are made to the chassis. To facilitate access to and from the chassis-mounted truck camper, the rear window and rear panel of the cab are removed. Aside from the removal of the springs and the dual rear wheels, and enlargement of the front wheel wells to accommodate the 41-inch tires, this is probably the most significant alteration made to the chassis. The rest of the truck, including the powertrain and drivetrain, are left stock to keep the Ford warranty intact. This allows EarthRoamer owners to go to any Ford dealer in the USA, in Canada, or in the world to get service. EarthRoamer also does this so that everything is covered under the three-year/36,000-mile, bumper to bumper warranty, and the five-year/100,000-mile, powertrain warranty.

For those of us who own slide-in truck campers, the electrical and suspension systems found in the EarthRoamer are worthy of a closer look. With an expedition rig so outrageously priced, you may be asking, why? Because these systems, more than any other, can be copied, or at least emulated to some degree, by us regular truck camper folk with regular incomes. If anything, the EarthRoamer lets us know that anything is possible with the right knowledge, know how, and funding. Sure, most of us can’t afford a monthly payment on a $500,000 EarthRoamer and a mortgage, but we might be able to invest $12,000 on a premium air ride suspension system, $5,000 for massive 41-inch off-road tires with premium bead-lock rims, or $6,500 for a top-of-the-line electrical/solar power system. But before you do so, make sure your truck’s GVWR can handle the upgrades and any corresponding increase in weight. It adds up fast.

The Electrical/Solar Power System

Solar power is the foundation of the EarthRoamer’s electrical set-up and has been maximized as much as possible. The solar panels, which cover 80 percent of the camper’s roof, consists of five 12 volt, 240 watt monocrystalline panels, providing an eye-popping 1,200 watts of power. Current flow from the panels is regulated by a pair of Morningstar Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) charge controllers to prevent the batteries from being overcharged. Four massive Lifeline 8D 255 amp hour AGM batteries that produce an astounding 1,020 amp hours of power, stores all the energy being created by the solar panels. On top of that, a Xantrex battery monitoring system keeps a watchful eye on the four, 158-pound batteries to ensure each is working optimally. A key cog in the entire system, the Xantrex Freedom 3,000 watt pure sine-wave inverter, is powerful enough to handle numerous electrical loads at once and has been fully integrated with the rig’s 110 volt electrical system. This means you can access the inverter’s output through any of the rig’s standard 110 volt AC outlets.

The EarthRoamer needs a robust electrical system because everything, except for the diesel furnace and diesel water heater, runs on it. There are no propane appliances in the EarthRoamer. The rig has three, high amperage AC devices—the microwave convection oven, the roof-top air conditioner, and 1,500 watt induction cooktop. All three require a lot of juice to operate, but don’t think about running a generator, the EarthRoamer doesn’t have one of those either—that’s what the 3,000 watt inverter is for. It does, however, have two 180-amp alternators, which are directly wired to the camper’s electrical system, that can be run in a pinch if the weather gets bad and the solar power system can’t quite keep up with the demand.

It’s pretty evident that the EarthRoamer’s electrical system is pretty capable, but a good electrical system is built on more than just big numbers. The system is well designed and the components within it are well matched. “What sets our electrical system apart is having a cohesive system,” Tatro explains. “You can’t just add solar panels to a traditional RV and expect it to work well. You have to select all of your components very carefully and pick low amperage devices and make sure all of your wiring is sized appropriately. If you have solar, but you have a fridge that isn’t very efficient, the whole system isn’t going to work well. It’s all about stepping back and looking back at the design of the system to make sure it will do what it’s designed to do.”

The Suspension System and Tires

Part of what makes the EarthRoamer XV-LTS unique is its incredible suspension system. When I took a look underneath the EarthRoamer at the recent Overland Expo, I was shocked to see air bags in place of the OEM coil and leaf springs. These air bags are a key part of the Kelderman air ride system, one of the finest, most capable air ride systems that money can buy. The rear axle features a Kelderman four-link air ride system with four air bags (two per side) located between the frame and tires, while the front axle is supported by Kelderman’s two-stage, air ride system. Each air bag is rated for 3,000 pounds. A complex air ride system like this, of course, needs a capable air compressor, and for this, the EarthRoamer employs an Oasis XD3000 12 volt heavy-duty air compressor with a 6 gallon air tank. On top of a 2-inch body lift, the suspension is also outfitted with a complete set of King remote reservoir off-road racing shocks, which work cohesively with the truck’s air ride suspension, and a pair of heavy-duty Roadmaster sway bars that eliminate sway when driving on pavement.

The EarthRoamer’s air ride system has three pre-selected ride heights, but each corner or axle can be controlled individually from the dash using the EarthRoamer’s AccuAir e-Level touch pad. This improves ground clearance and approach/departure angles and allows for easy in-camp leveling. The EarthRoamer’s air management system also has an in-dash display that provides the owner with a vehicle graphic and digital readout on the pitch and angle of the rig to enable the owner to adjust the air ride system as needed. It’s all pretty amazing. There isn’t a suspension system quite like it in the RV marketplace. “What makes the suspension system great is that it improves both your on-road and off-road handling, while also allowing you to change the ride height to combat some tricky off-road obstacles,” Tatro says. “In addition to that you can use it to level the vehicle out while camping, so it’s kinda the Swiss Army Knife of suspensions, it allows you to do multiple things.”

The EarthRoamer’s wheel and tire combination is also first-rate. The rig comes standard with specialized Continental 335/80R20 MPT-81 tires. These 41-inch diameter, 12-inch wide, 22-ply tires not only increase traction off-road, but also increase ground clearance. The military-grade tire is designed to carry a heavy load, even when aired down, is surprisingly quiet on pavement, and is mounted on an Hutchinson military-grade, aluminum, bead-lock wheel. Yes, this tire and wheel combination looks great, but it also boosts the XV-LTS ground clearance to an impressive 12.5 inches. As mentioned earlier, you won’t find dual rear wheels anywhere on this off-road beast. The reason for this, EarthRoamer explains, is because single rear wheels track better in dirt and sand and because rocks can become wedged in between dual tires and cause flats. Hate changing a flat tire? You might enjoy it with this over-the-top rig. The EarthRoamer is outfitted with a full-size spare, which is mounted on the backside of the rig, and a complete spare tire removal system that includes an electric winch and hoist to remove the tire.

What They Cost

Can you modify your truck camper rig like an EarthRoamer? In some cases, yes; in some cases, probably not. When it comes to any electrical/solar power system, space is the limiting factor. You might not be able to build a solar power system as large as the EarthRoamer’s, but at least you might be able to copy it to some degree using the EarthRoamer’s 80 percent roof-top standard. Finding space for more batteries might be your biggest challenge. On the other hand, the EarthRoamer’s suspension system can be emulated 100 percent. Funds are really the only limiting factor.

So what do these components cost? After searching for these items on the internet, I was able to find some prices. The Kelderman four-link rear air suspension kit sells for $3,749, while the smaller two-stage kit for the front goes for only $1,395. These are the list prices for the kits made for a Ford F-550. The good news is that Kelderman makes kits for smaller trucks by the big three as well and they all include a sway bar. As for the shocks, any good shock, like those made by Bilstein or Rancho, will work for your truck, but if you’re dead set on getting a set of King remote reservoir shocks, that will set you back another $2,000 for a set of four. The AccuAir eLevel controller with touch pad costs $1,200. For the Oasis XD3000 compressor with a 6 gallon air tank you’ll need to add another $1,800. You’ll need to spend close to $12,000 to match what is found in an EarthRoamer’s suspension system.

For the Continental tires and Hutchinson wheels you’re looking at about $500 for each. Including the spare, you’ll need to spend about $5,000 and that doesn’t include the cost for mounting and balancing, nor does it include taxes.

Getting prices for some of the electrical system components was partly guesswork because EarthRoamer is loath to share anything that’s not found on their website. For a standard 240 watt monocrystalline solar panel, you’re looking at approximately $250 for each. For five panels, you’ll need to spend $1,250. For two 30 amp Morningstar MPPT charge controllers, you’ll need to fork out another $900 for the pair. A Lifeline 8D AGM battery will set you back about $650 a piece. For four of these 158-pound monsters you’ll need to spend $2,600. A Xantrex Freedom 3,000 watt inverter will set you back another $1,000. A roof-top combiner box, mounting brackets, 8 AWG wiring, fuses, breaker, and battery connectors will add additional cost. For accounting sake, lets say another $600 for everything. Finally, a Xantrex battery monitor will cost you about $250. To get an electrical system that matches what’s found on an EarthRoamer will cost you around $6,600, not including tax.

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About Mello Mike 298 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure Magazine. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a truck camper and Jeep enthusiast, and has owned and restored several Airstream travel trailers. He enjoys college football, hiking, travel, off-roading, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years and now works as a project manager for a major banking and security firm. He also does some RV consulting and RV inspections on the side.

11 Comments

  1. There is a good article on the net, title is something like” Is your Overland Rig Overbuilt?” It goes over all the money people spend on the bells and whistles yet never really use them (steel bumpers, a winch, snorkel, roof rack, RTT, fridge, water tank, a second battery, elaborate navigation system, long-reach communications, lockers, compressors, drawer systems, solar panels, slide-out stoves,etc). Sometimes spending more in mods than the actual vehicle value.

    Which leads me to think, how often do the majority of ER owners fully utilize its offroad capabilities vs a large camper/dually option?Yes,its beautiful and cool but is it worth the substnatial increase in pricing?
    I personally prefer to have a propane generator on board than all that solar.

    Another question is why arent other rv manufactures building a 4×4 rv option?

  2. What an incredible total package. I’ve long been a fan of component-system matching. In fact, my book on career search, uses this exact same idea (shameless plug). But this does give regular “Joes” like us ideas on what to do to get something close. With a fully set up rig and using the “systems” approach, you can get a truck and camper about 80% of the way to an Earth Roamer and probably get to 90% of the same locations.

  3. Great article Mike, I have been drooling over these for the past several years and started doing some serious research the past few months to make a “poor mans ” version. My current stock Ram 3500 4×4 leaves more to be desired at times. F550 lariat base is 55k, tires,suspension 20k, flat bed 10k, throwing.a top of the line standard truck camper on it maybe another 50k? What about increasing decreasing air pressure from the cab? Won’t look as good as the earth roamer but maybe a wrap can do the trick.

    • Sounds like a great plan. On top of that, there’s a new truck camper company called Bahn Camper Works that makes fiberglass shell slide-in and flat-bed truck campers. One of those on top of your “poor man’s” version would look pretty sweet.

  4. Wow! 632 pounds of batteries. This rig is the flagship for ‘Expedition Style’ campers made in the U.S.A. Unfortunately, it’s not a truck camper, but impressive eye candy for the susceptible. I note the representative did not talk about their pivoting (in think) 4 point attachment system to keep from pulling that box apart when the axles get twisted up.
    jefe

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