Better overlanding 'truck' options in today's market for <$100K (USD)?

Sid Post

Observer
I did most of my boondocking from 1990 to 2003 when I lived out of a '84 Toyota 2wd. Currently building a fairly large camper (nearing the end!) on a long bed Tundra 4wd... that was intended to be for 2 people which is why it's large. When I asked my wife what amenities she wanted, she said nothing more than what we had before (she was camping with me that last 2 years)... which was pretty much nothing... so I thought a 1/2 ton would be adequate. The camper is a place to hang out on the rare bad weather days, and cold nights. Mostly storage (outdoor accessible is best), and places to sit and sleep. Showering, pooping, cooking, etc are done outside. They can be done inside if necessary, but it's more work. No heat except for a couple candles or burner. No fridge, either. Moving with the seasons and camping in remote places makes it so much easier and more comfortable to live this way.

If I had it to do over just for myself, I think I'd be in the cheapest Tacoma 4cyl 2wd with a stick shift, locker, regear, mild lift, bigger tires... and with a smaller camper of course. Better maneuvering and parking, better on the trails. Plenty of luxury and easy living.

I guess what I'm getting at is that when living in a vehicle, the "less is more" aspect is pretty acute, at least for me... even though I'm old. The more "home like" luxury you embed, the more cost, maintenance, weight and size compromises you make. Even stripped down, it ain't backpacking... with >20x the amount of stuff I could carry on my back, and how easy it is. But in the sense of being in the wilderness away from everything and spending a lot of time outside, it is a lot like backpacking... which is what I like.

So....


Hence the dilemma. I don't think I can relate to the desire for more as I age. Even though I could afford it, it isn't worth the tradeoffs to me. I will upgrade to a stool I can sit on while I poop, as my knees are not handling the squatting so well. I might even get a fridge since they are so cheap now... but probably not. Plenty of good foods will keep for a week without cooling, which is enough.

A bit of my dilemma! Less can be a whole lot more which is why I did the off-road motorcycle thing in my younger years instead of a Jeep which was very common where I lived. Later, living in Tucson I also did some car camping to get away from the "cube farm".

Having tent camped in places where my tent froze solid and couldn't be folded, I am more inclined to have a hard shelter today. As noted, having a minimal toilet area is something I appreciate these days as my knees age and, an inside shower is huge for me though, a bucket and wash rag work and are pretty good too.

For me, a Grenadier is a leading contender for the ultralight camping and travel option today, though a good Land Rover or Land Cruiser would be fine too at a reasonable price point. I could always add one of those hardened mini-trailers or one of those Australian "tough as nails" trailers. If a 4x4 MB Sprinter "vanlife" option was >$100K today, I could see that as a viable option as well with some compromises for how far off-grid I go.

Then the practical side of me says, as I get older, I need a bit softer "roughing it" rig. Who doesn't want a better bed and my back is not as good as it used to be so, sleeping directly on the ground is a last resort these days due to the painkillers needed! Having a bit more insulation from cold weather isn't a bad thing either (I'm thinking of you North Rim Grand Canyon and that 20F overnight low in a 3-season tent and sleeping bag! Slept fine but, packing up was a real challenge with everything being hard frozen in position).

Having a better refuge from inclement weather and room for a friend or two is never a bad thing either!
 

Sid Post

Observer
I tend to think the VANLIFE and various 1-ton pickup style options are at a price premium today and a couple years from as the lustre dims for that style of travel for many people, the used market is going to bottom out pretty hard which makes those options less attractive to me TODAY.

The Unimog and similar options I think are pretty resistant to repossessions, job loss, divorces, etc. so, for a big ticket purchase are where I am leaning right now but, I need watch getting a "mobile mansion" and taking crap with me I don't need too.

The Grenadier is another one that I think falls into this category and to me looks like a branch on the family tree when the G-Wagen line became a fashion statement instead of a military and hard-use municipal vehicle.
 

rruff

Explorer
Having tent camped in places where my tent froze solid and couldn't be folded, I am more inclined to have a hard shelter today. As noted, having a minimal toilet area is something I appreciate these days as my knees age and, an inside shower is huge for me though, a bucket and wash rag work and are pretty good too.
I transitioned from a short bed-topper to a sit-up-inside shell when I was in the '84, and that was a huge upgrade in comfort and space, and really the sweet spot for a small truck IMO. Had storage above the cab. I had 3 different roommates in that... for real... from 4 months to 2 years. Mattress was 36" wide for two people. :eek:I built a bigger camper later but it was too much for that truck.

You can easily add a heater and fridge to my spartan setup, and I can't imagine that I'd ever feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. Unlike trying to live in a SUV, you have the hard shell and everything is already configured to sleep, read, play on the computer, watch a movie, cook, etc. You might have to pull something out of a drawer, but how hard is that?

Don't use a bucket... solar showers work great. With a folding poop seat you can go inside with a bag if necessary, or find a nice scenic spot outdoors. A comfortable bed is no problem at all. I plan to get a 20gal water tank which will be a lot more than I've ever had before (the luxury!), and of course the grey water goes on the ground. I keep different containers for purified drinking water. If you are planning to move with the seasons, I don't know what more you'd want. Being outdoors in the boonies is so nice when the weather is.

Maybe a midsize truck is a little small, but I'd try to make that work first. Nix my earlier mention of a Tacoma unless it's a '24 because the flexy open C frame makes things more complicated. Maybe a Ranger, with some upgrades to suspension and tires. The turbos are nice at altitude. Get or make a modest (light) flatbed (could be 80" wide and 80" long to give you a little more room) with integrated storage and an insulated camper box. Arrange the stuff you want/need... portable when possible, indoor-outdoor. Think I'd put a couch across the front in that case, that you can slide out to make a wider bed for two... ?

Have fun. You'll be way under budget... or could be, even with all new.

My advice... don't "build to suit" for a potential fantasy full time roommate. If that happens, more likely your whole life will change, and the odds that they will like vagabonding and being out in the boonies as much as you will be slim. If they are already doing it, they can keep their rig and you travel together. "Build it and they will come" is BS. In my case even building to suit my wife was a bad idea... ?
 

Sid Post

Observer
My advice... don't "build to suit" for a potential fantasy full time roommate. If that happens, more likely your whole life will change, and the odds that they will like vagabonding and being out in the boonies as much as you will be slim. If they are already doing it, they can keep their rig and you travel together. "Build it and they will come" is BS. In my case even building to suit my wife was a bad idea... ?

First I'm as straight as they come. Being successful in my career and obviously not attached to a wife or kids, I had my share of "honeypot" attempts both domestically and a couple overseas due to my job and my affluence. I don't generally go to bars and live a pretty 'tame' life socially. For religious reasons, intimate relations outside of marriage is not something I would consider. Common law or otherwise is not something I would consider because I'm not giving away 50% of my lifetime earnings to some honey. If I want to give away 50% or more of my estate, I will choose where it goes, not someone else through court action!

So, a "potential fantasy build" to include someone else is less likely than winning a big Lotto jackpot! My dear friends are better off than me so, no worries there either. If anything, I'm a guest in their "rig"!

That being said, if someone wants to be a travel buddy and follow me in their own rig, I'm all for that! Some of that is what I like about Overlanding. I don't want to live a life of solitude but, I also want some "alone time" too!
 

gatorgrizz27

Well-known member
It would seem like your considering aesthetics first rather than function. I like a good looking vehicle myself, but you need to define a purpose and then tailor it to that. Do you plan on living full time out of this thing? One month trips? One week trips? Off grid or city hopping? Supplementing with hotels occasionally?

In most of the America’s, if you aren’t specifically looking for the most challenging route to get somewhere, you’ll run into dirt roads with potholes.

Something like this checks most of your boxes and is dirt cheap. You could have it converted to 4wd if you felt like you really needed it, but heavy trucks to substantially better than 2wd pickups, I doubt you’d have problems anywhere but deep mud.


Build out the box into a comfortable/practical/serviceable camper, as opposed to an RV where appealing finishes are all anyone cares about, and buy an E-Bike for cruising around any towns you plan to spend an extended length of time in.

I’m almost talking myself into picking it up, but I already have too many projects and not enough space for them…

A Grenadier, as much as I like the concept, is one of the last vehicles I’d pick for extended remote travel, simply due to part availability. Can you walk into an Auto Zone and get a radiator hose or wheel bearing for one? Maybe they use a variety of production parts, if they come with a cross reference list, but I doubt most places even have “Ineos” in their drop down menu. I’ve experienced this as a Land Rover owner, where a coolant expansion tank for a modern vehicle is a 1 week order process…
 
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Sid Post

Observer
It would seem like your considering aesthetics first rather than function. I like a good looking vehicle myself, but you need to define a purpose and then tailor it to that. Do you plan on living full time out of this thing? One month trips? One week trips? Off grid or city hopping? Supplementing with hotels occasionally?

Full-time: No
most trips will be 2 to 4 weeks in length
No big city hopping - drive-thru if I encounter one
Hotels are possible but, post-COVID I have had too many bad experiences at a price point I'm willing to pay to consider this being a factor. Sometimes I don't have a choice but, if I do, I normally camp right now. I even camp at my sister's house but, I do enjoy indoor bathrooms!

In most of the America’s, if you aren’t specifically looking for the most challenging route to get somewhere, you’ll run into dirt roads with potholes.
After 15 years of living in Tucson and running my motorcycle all over the place, I went to many areas where I would not want to be with a normal AWD SUV or stock 4x4 pickup or SUV. Yes, there were other route options and destinations but, those weren't my primary destination points.

Alaska is on my bucket list as well. Sure I could do it on a scooter or in a Subaru but, personally, I want a better vehicle to start with.

Something like this checks most of your boxes and is dirt cheap. You could have it converted to 4wd if you felt like you really needed it, but heavy trucks to substantially better than 2wd pickups, I doubt you’d have problems anywhere but deep mud.


Build out the box into a comfortable/practical/serviceable camper, as opposed to an RV where appealing finishes are all anyone cares about, and buy an E-Bike for cruising around any towns you plan to spend an extended length of time in.

I’m almost talking myself into picking it up, but I already have too many projects and not enough space for them…

Hell no! I have a lot of experience in that type of truck and mud roads and sand are not its friend! Tough hard pack, sure but, not where I want to go. On hard surfaces in AZ with small rocks on it or a "staircase", a truck like that won't go far. KOA to KOA or National Park to National Park, sure but, not what I think of overlanding to remote locations.

They can be a handful on icy roads as well. I don't normally think about this but, I have done ice with a tractor on my trailer (non-commercial). Then there is Canada to think about as well. Even got snowed out in Arizona along the Southern Interstate route once.

A Grenadier, as much as I like the concept, is one of the last vehicles I’d pick for extended remote travel, simply due to part availability. Can you walk into an Auto Zone and get a radiator hose or wheel bearing for one? Maybe they use a variety of production parts, if they come with a cross reference list, but I doubt most places even have “Ineos” in their drop down menu. I’ve experienced this as a Land Rover owner, where a coolant expansion tank for a modern vehicle is a 1 week order process…

Fair but, Unimog owners have the same or at least a similar issue. The BMW/ZF powertrain should be a no-brainer at a normal retail parts store. Carraro axle components are something I would throw in the parts kit. Radiator hose, fuses, and similar stuff are easy to throw in the parts kit or limp home with a poor cross-fit. What else besides tires do I need to limp home or at least limp into a town somewhere to wait for FedEx or UPS to drop a package at my feet?
 
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Sid Post

Observer
On an unrelated note, I ran into a family with 5 kids in a Dodge 4500 with a Morgan landscape box on it that were home-schooling and going from National Park to National Park.

If a box truck looks good to you for a build-out, A Ford F-450 or Dodge Ram 4500 with a box on it will be a lot cheaper to own and run. Plus, they are a lot easier to drive on various roads and are definitely easier to park in a Walmart parking lot!
 

nickw

Adventurer
Full-time: No
most trips will be 2 to 4 weeks in length
No big city hopping - drive-thru if I encounter one
Hotels are possible but, post-COVID I have had too many bad experiences at a price point I'm willing to pay to consider this being a factor. Sometimes I don't have a choice but, if I do, I normally camp right now. I even camp at my sister's house but, I do enjoy indoor bathrooms!


After 15 years of living in Tucson and running my motorcycle all over the place, I went to many areas where I would not want to be with a normal AWD SUV or stock 4x4 pickup or SUV. Yes, there were other route options and destinations but, those weren't my primary destination points.

Alaska is on my bucket list as well. Sure I could do it on a scooter or in a Subaru but, personally, I want a better vehicle to start with.



Hell no! I have a lot of experience in that type of truck and mud roads and sand are not its friend! Tough hard pack, sure but, not where I want to go. On hard surfaces in AZ with small rocks on it or a "staircase", a truck like that won't go far. KOA to KOA or National Park to National Park, sure but, not what I think of overlanding to remote locations.

They can be a handful on icy roads as well. I don't normally think about this but, I have done ice with a tractor on my trailer (non-commercial). Then there is Canada to think about as well. Even got snowed out in Arizona along the Southern Interstate route once.



Fair but, Unimog owners have the same or at least a similar issue. The BMW/ZF powertrain should be a no-brainer at a normal retail parts store. Carraro axle components are something I would throw in the parts kit. Radiator hose, fuses, and similar stuff are easy to throw in the parts kit or limp home with a poor cross-fit. What else besides tires do I need to limp home or at least limp into a town somewhere to wait for FedEx or UPS to drop a package at my feet?
A Unimog is built to a standard that FAR exceeds that of a Grenadier, while a Mog may have a hard time sourcing parts, the chance a failure is very very low relative to any consumer grade vehicle.

I wouldn't be too sure about the BMW/ZF stuff, we have a 2018 X5 with the same/sim drivetrain and BMW always needs to order parts, it usually takes special tools to do any repairs and it seems like half the rig needs to be disassembled to do anything.

I think @gatorgrizz27 is spot on.....you'll need a huge cross referenced parts list. I've tried walking into a parts store and getting a cross compatible part, it's a PITA. If you have the proper BMW number, you'll may need the year due to minor differences / updates. I get skunked 50% of the time (they have to order) when I go in unless it's for a modern (last 2-3 year) domestic rig.

And lets be honest, if you have an issue with anything major on that rig you are not going to be fixing a ZF transmission or replacing wheel bearings on the side of the road unless you've done it before, know your way around that rig and the tribal knowledge has been passed down over years to know the right way to do easily....
 

Sid Post

Observer
...
And lets be honest, if you have an issue with anything major on that rig you are not going to be fixing a ZF transmission or replacing wheel bearings on the side of the road unless you've done it before, know your way around that rig and the tribal knowledge has been passed down over years to know the right way to do easily....

In terms of fixing something unexpected on the side of the road, been there, done that, with something I never considered previously without the proper tools. Hydrostat on the combine was a pull-and-haul-off with a loader to pick up that 3,000lb unit and install the new one. In terms of wheel bearings, been there and done that on trailers in the past along with wheel studs and other stuff. I could go on ...

A bit like learning how to drive in challenging conditions. You probably don't want to go from an imported sedan to a hardcore overlander in a very remote location in terrain you have never seen without some real-world experience. I wouldn't call myself experienced in this sort of travel, however, I'm not a total noob either!
 

Sid Post

Observer
I wouldn't be too sure about the BMW/ZF stuff, we have a 2018 X5 with the same/sim drivetrain and BMW always needs to order parts, it usually takes special tools to do any repairs and it seems like half the rig needs to be disassembled to do anything.

That drivetrain is well-known in Europe. I would not equate a consumer image vehicle like a BMW X5 with an unrelated "power pack" using that BMW straight-6 and transmission. My friends have run mainly V-8 5-series sedans from BMW and all of their problems were with systems unrelated to the motor directly. My personal experience with ZF transmissions has been very good too!

The Grenadier is going to be 'tuned' more like an irrigation motor than a BMW X5 and that will affect reliability and what is apt to 'break'. The "state of tune" matters a huge amount in a vehicle like this.

To me, this is a bit like comparing an AUTOBAHN missile to a MB G-Wagen.
 

nickw

Adventurer
That drivetrain is well-known in Europe. I would not equate a consumer image vehicle like a BMW X5 with an unrelated "power pack" using that BMW straight-6 and transmission. My friends have run mainly V-8 5-series sedans from BMW and all of their problems were with systems unrelated to the motor directly. My personal experience with ZF transmissions has been very good too!

The Grenadier is going to be 'tuned' more like an irrigation motor than a BMW X5 and that will affect reliability and what is apt to 'break'. The "state of tune" matters a huge amount in a vehicle like this.

To me, this is a bit like comparing an AUTOBAHN missile to a MB G-Wagen.
Is the drivetrain known in Europe? What do those axles and tcase come in? I'm curious....

I think you are mixing reality with Ineos marketing - the Grenadier uses the exact same engine and transmission as a 3 series sedan and Supra. So if you are comfortable working on a modern BMW on the side of the road then more power to ya.

The difference between a Gwagen (excluding the hi performance ones) and the Gren is the Gwagen was designed from the ground up in house, engine, Tcase, axles and transmission with years of R&D whereas the Gren is using / relying on parts designed for a completely different vehicle. I am sure what they are doing is doable but I think this falls cleanly in the "prove it before I believe it" category.

I'd also point out, with the commercial/military Gwagens, there is engine/trans crossover with the sedans......but it's the reason the sedans are known for going 500k+ since they were massively overbuilt and simple to work on, like the OM lines of engines and even the petrol M series.
In terms of fixing something unexpected on the side of the road, been there, done that, with something I never considered previously without the proper tools. Hydrostat on the combine was a pull-and-haul-off with a loader to pick up that 3,000lb unit and install the new one. In terms of wheel bearings, been there and done that on trailers in the past along with wheel studs and other stuff. I could go on ...

A bit like learning how to drive in challenging conditions. You probably don't want to go from an imported sedan to a hardcore overlander in a very remote location in terrain you have never seen without some real-world experience. I wouldn't call myself experienced in this sort of travel, however, I'm not a total noob either!
Some things you NEED special tools to fix - no workarounds.
 

Sid Post

Observer
I have a MFWD axle from the same company that does the Grenadier axle and it is super nice. They are also one of the best options for that component in Europe and they sell to most of the big automotive names because they build a much better product than the OEM can at even greater expense.

I have spent enough time in Europe to recognize a lot, not all, of the components Grenadier is using. I'm not much of a BMW straight 6 mechanic but, I know a few folks that have worked them over for various applications that speak highly of them and I trust their opinion.

Regarding specialized tools, for major maintenance, that is a reasonable expectation. For most general roadside issues, I think chances are good they won't be needed assuming you left in a good mechanical state. If I had to remove a fender to install a new car battery or pull the block to change the sparkplugs in the back, I would say Grenadier FAILED BIG TIME!

To be honest, though, any vehicle that suffers a major mechanical breakdown is going to be out of the scope of most seasoned people without a mobile shop anyway so, I have no illusions of rebuilding a ZF transmission trailside or dealing with a major mechanical failure of the engine. Driveline components, wheel bearings, hubs, studs, etc. are all doable for me so far with what I routinely drive. Could I do a ring gear and pinion at the side of a trail, yes. If I had to, I would say I failed my pre-trip checks.

In terms of @#$^! happens, I can't predict or fix all possibilities. When I can't really fix it, I can generally patch it enough to LIMP out to somewhere where I can get support.

At this point, I'm inclined to bow out a bit on the Grenadier and will wait and see because we don't know enough to make definitive statements and this is becoming way too speculative. From what I can see from the website and my limited experience at the display in Colorado during the Overlander convention, I still tend to think it is more legacy G-Wagen and Land Rover than BMW/Porsche/etc shopping mall SUV. Good Overlander and rough-use vehicle? ?
 

rruff

Explorer
Full-time: No
most trips will be 2 to 4 weeks in length
No big city hopping - drive-thru if I encounter one
I don't know why I thought you were full-timing... guess I just assumed you wouldn't be thinking of a monstrosity otherwise.

I'd definitely lean towards a smaller rig for trips of a month or less. Smallish camper on a pickup is easiest. You can upgrade the truck to make it capable offroad and take off the camper to use the truck at home as well.
 

Sid Post

Observer
On a related note, I'm looking at a Unimog U2150 that is eligible for the USA in October as a primary target but, I have seen a couple of others in Europe that I am looking at as well.

Other than the Interstates, which I will try to avoid generally, ~60MPH sustained speed looks like it is achievable without anything too exotic. Off the Interstate, I am much more comfortable with that sort of travel speed around other traffic.

Having broken THREE seatbacks from rear-end collisions by drivers 'dead headin' and crashing into me, I am cautious about being a rolling roadblock on fast roads. With the right tires and the right gear ratios in the drive train, assuming adequate power, low 60's seems achievable with at most, a tire change.
 

nickw

Adventurer
On a related note, I'm looking at a Unimog U2150 that is eligible for the USA in October as a primary target but, I have seen a couple of others in Europe that I am looking at as well.

Other than the Interstates, which I will try to avoid generally, ~60MPH sustained speed looks like it is achievable without anything too exotic. Off the Interstate, I am much more comfortable with that sort of travel speed around other traffic.

Having broken THREE seatbacks from rear-end collisions by drivers 'dead headin' and crashing into me, I am cautious about being a rolling roadblock on fast roads. With the right tires and the right gear ratios in the drive train, assuming adequate power, low 60's seems achievable with at most, a tire change.
Honest question - if you are cross shopping a Mog, why not something like this?


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