Taking a Sportsmobile on a Round-the-World Trip

kng1999

New member
Hi All,

Question for you SMB folks out there. My family is planning on a big trip around the world - down the Americas, ship to SE Asia, drive up to Europe - it's a big and long trip and needs a tough vehicle. And we really like the Sportsmobile - primarily for the setup. It just works for our family of 4. On an extended model, we can actually fit 4 chairs, plus a dinette convertible into a bed, a penthouse bed, kitchen and maybe even a shower pan - all in a one-piece van that is not too big and has 4x4.

We have been researching this since January. And have even bought a 4-wheel camper. But the the divided cabin set-up doesn't work very well with 2 young kids and I really like the walk-through interior of an SMB. Now, why is it in all my research, I have yet to read about anyone using a SMB for a extended multi year trip like this? There are tons of Defenders, Tacomas, Land Cruisers, Unimogs, all sorts of custom campers - but no Sportsmobile. And even on the Sportsmobile forum, I can only find trips that last a few months, primarily in North America.

Do you guys think SMB is a good choice for the trip we are planning? Why and why not? Do you know anyone who's done it?

Thanks for your help!

Karie
 
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twolost

Observer
RTW in an SMB

From the perspective of a SMB Ford E350 owner.
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Let me start out by saying that if it has not been done before... then I would like to be the first. I will even settle for second, third, or fourth :)
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I think without more details of your trip... some answers may be hard to come by. For example is this an off-road adventure? Will you be in Europe in the winter (in places below -20F)? Will any of the places you travel require a Carnet? Will there be water crossings (the kind where they lash together a few canoes and you drive on)?
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I am sure that an around the world trip would be possible... but my guess would be that you would need some US support available at the drop of the hat for most of your trip. For example, the parts availability for an E350 custom Ford 4x4 van anywhere outside of Southern California might make for an interesting challenge... and you will certainly need many parts (more than you can carry).
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  • The pass-through interior is one of the best design aspects of the E350 platform. It makes ALL of the difference for my three person family.
  • My van is heavy (at 12,000 lbs loaded). If I get really stuck, it requires the Army Corps of Engineers and a diesel locomotive to get me unstuck.
  • I think that one potential draw would be to have a van outfitted with many systems - for comfort. Sink, fridge, solar, A/C, bathroom, etc. However, on an RTW trip I would approach every system that I had in terms of fixing anything anywhere and under any condition. The more stuff I had, the more of an expert I would have to be in each and every system and the more redundancy/tooling I might need to bring along. I would also expect more stuff to fail. For example, If I had an empty E350 cargo van vrs my SMB, I would bet that the empty cargo van could go further around the world without incident than my SMB. There is just more stuff to break in my SMB. However, if I told my wife that we would be driving an empty cargo van with a water purifier hanging from the rear view mirror, one plastic bottle, a sleeping bag, a Jetboil, and one roll of tp... my hopes for having her go with would be shot to H***.

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Depending on the type of trip you were taking, how much support you had, and where you were going to be during the fury of the seasons, I am sure success is possible - both the easy way and the hard way. I would love to take my family on such a challenge (aside from the fact that I dont have the time, money, expertise, or approval).
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Best wishes on what sounds like an amazing adventure!!
 
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1leglance

2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Well I guess as a former SMB owner I will chime in...
First of all let me say that SMB West is one of the best companies you can work with when building a vehicle. If you go with a SMB please contact them early in your thought process and let them know this will be a round the world rig.
They are experienced with getting a penthouse top to fit in a shipping container. And that makes a big difference when you are talking round the world.

My thoughts...
Go simple, dead simple.....think about if you really need an Espar heater. Could you travel by season or use a portable catalytic heater and save yourself a bunch of money and hassle. If you do go Espar go with a coolant heater setup vs air only...I can go into that more.

When you are picking your captains chairs looks at the Toyota reclining van seats with the foot rest...amazing seats and can be placed on a swivel base.

Make sure you have lots of window area in your build, it makes a big difference for the kids if they don't have to look through the windshield all the time.

Solar is great, really great.

An awning with bug screens will change a place from unbearable to liveable and give you more room to hang out around your rig.

Go with a top loading fridge like ARB, National Luna, Engel and have it pull out from under a counter top on a slider. Stuff always falls out of a front loader, and the cold air dumps out when you open it.

Keep the tires 33" for fuel economy (although I loved my 35in Nitto Trail Grapplers)

Aluminess bumpers give extra storage for recovery gear and you will love the Baja Box for more gear storage.

Avoid a propane system as filling it in other countries will be a complete hassle.

I am sure I will think of more...make sure to join and post on sportsmobileforum.com also
 

Scott Brady

Founder
The SMB would be a good choice, and can fit in a high-cube container.

We travelled through big chunks of mainland Mexico in one, living out of the vehicle for about six weeks overall. They are a great compromise between performance/comfort/size.

IMG_7346.jpg
 

4x4BNB

Adventurer
What type of fuel will you be using? I would be concerned about a current model diesel getting ULSD in a foreign country. Also I hear quadvan in portland, or is using using stock Ford parts from an f350 for their 4x4 build...might make it easier to get service/parts in other countries?
 

Exploring Elements

Supporting Sponsor
I'm currently planning a RTW trip and own a '02 E350 EB Sportsmobile, that I put up for sale today. I think that it could go around the world, but there are better options. It has built in propane systems, which are going to be hard to fill abroad. The EB has a lot of rear overhang that gets hung up offroad. I have the Quigly 4x4 system, which only has 4" of lift. I'd go for a 6" lift and use as many stock Ford parts as possible for the 4x4 conversion. Chris at UJOINT does a great job at this. Even with all that parts are going to be hard/impossible to find abroad, so you have to factor in $ and time for shipping in parts. Out of the E Series engine options I'd for sure go with the 7.3 diesel. Mine has over 285,000 miles and runs perfect. I'm unsure of what my RTW build will be, but for sure I'm considering building a RB E350 7.3L diesel with 6" lift on 35"s with a VERY basic interior and living systems. It would have an extended range fuel tank, stout roof rack, winch, maxtrax, platform bed, removable dust proof storage system (like Frontrunner Wolf Packs or similar), etc...

Best of luck with your vehicle decisions. They can be complex and tough to make. Choose the tool that works for you and the job you want to accomplish. In the end just go! That is what I've learned above all else and what I'm working towards right now.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
The Sportsmobile should be excellent. Dirty secret - driving around the world is not as challenging as many think it is and it certainly does not require Rubicon Trail 4x4 gear. In fact, it probably doesn't need 4x4 at all.

Another option is the Provan Tiger. At least one Tiger has hit an amazing (52) number of countries. If nothing else, the Howe's are charming people and a wonderful resource. http://www.travelin-tortuga.com/Travelin-Tortuga/Home_Page.html

FWIW - The Howe's have found propane to be easy; there are various sources for adapters and, at least with the Tiger, they can plumb in a local tank for emergency use. The big tank lasts for months. Diesel appliances are an option, albeit costly. We have gone the other way, to an induction cooktop, which is dirt cheap. (But to be sure, our truck is also plumbed with an extra diesel line, should be fall back on a diesel stove.)

Edited to add: Sorry was going to provide a link back to another thread and then realized that it was yours. :)
 
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mog

Kodiak Buckaroo
We have gone the other way, to an induction cooktop, which is dirt cheap.
Not to get too off-topic, but I've done a search here on the Portal and next to no info on induction cooktops for expo use.
Would you elaborate here, or in a new thread. I'm sure that would be some great information to have.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
Mog,

Be happy to, but please wait a week until I have actually taken delivery of the beast and had an opportunity to assess the impact on the batteries. I may be eating crow very soon.

Basically, Roadtrek, in their E-Trek (http://www.roadtrek.com/etrek.aspx) and Earthroamer are now offering induction cooktops as basic equipment. An induction cooktop (unlike a conventional resistance cooktop) works only with a ferrous metal utensil and uses relatively little electricity. Winnebago and others offer induction cooktops as well, but those are geared to folk who plug in all the time.

I am using this unit: http://www.trueinduction.com/SingleBurner.aspx Sadly, their two burner model was too large for my counter.
 

mog

Kodiak Buckaroo
Mog,

Be happy to, but please wait a week until I have actually taken delivery of the beast and had an opportunity to assess the impact on the batteries. I may be eating crow very soon.

Basically, Roadtrek, in their E-Trek (http://www.roadtrek.com/etrek.aspx) and Earthroamer are now offering induction cooktops as basic equipment. An induction cooktop (unlike a conventional resistance cooktop) works only with a ferrous metal utensil and uses relatively little electricity. Winnebago and others offer induction cooktops as well, but those are geared to folk who plug in all the time.

I am using this unit: http://www.trueinduction.com/SingleBurner.aspx Sadly, their two burner model was too large for my counter.
Thanks + +. That looks great and talk about cost effective. It sure seems like the benefits of induction justifies adding some more electrons to the power bank.
I look forward to your testing.
 

kng1999

New member
It's Done! Got a diesel RB Sportsmobile. Will be small yes but will be most versatile and fun to drive. ETA takeoff in a year! Thanks for your feedback. Definitely helped in our decision.
 

EMrider

Explorer
It's Done! Got a diesel RB Sportsmobile. Will be small yes but will be most versatile and fun to drive. ETA takeoff in a year! Thanks for your feedback. Definitely helped in our decision.

Congrats and please keep us posted on your progress.

R
 

medicfernando

Adventurer
Sorry to show up late to the party. I think the SMB is a very feasible choice for a round the world trip. We will do a similar trip in the next few years in ours. For most places you might likely travel, the SMB 4wd will be more than adequate. With our EB van, the rear overhang has rarely ever been an issue. It just requires picking a good line in terrain where you might hang up. Gary and Monica Wescott (turtle Expedition) have been traveling the world in Ford diesels for many years and are currently doing so again. Make sure your rig is completely up to date on all services and all perishable parts have been replaced prior to the trip and you should have a worry free, amazing trip. I look forward to reading about your adventure. Cheers and safe travels. Fernando
 

T.Low

Expedition Leader
I always thought that if I were Charlie and Ewan's support crew, (Long Way Round film series) I'd definitely want to follow them around in an SMB. Would have been awesome on the Road of Bones.

http://youtu.be/RWvfL5qetlA
 

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