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Detonation: Getting Away

Getting Away

John Lehenbauer
Aug 1, 2018
Photographers: John Lehenbauer
I enjoy being outdoors: going on camping trips, off-roading, and just getting away from the traffic, people, and bills that seem to engulf our lives. Taking off on a road trip is the best way to mentally unwind.
There is just something peaceful and refreshing about nature that helps clear the brain of the foggy haze that comes from dealing with life’s daily ordeals. Being around a lot of people in a fancy resort-style campground is not what I am talking about.
I look forward to the type of camping that puts you in the middle of more animals, trees, and plant life than people—a spot that’s off the beaten path (typically referred to as a dry camp, with no hookups like sewer, water, or electricity).
While dry camping with a self-contained recreational vehicle (running water, electricity, and holding tanks onboard) makes it easy to stay in places that have no amenities, an RV is not a requirement. Enjoyable, simple camping can be done with a tent or under the stars.
Photo 2/3   |   My friends Mary Jane and Jeff Curry have been cruising throughout the U.S. in their Roadtrek RS diesel Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, seeing the sights and visiting family. The rig’s compact size gives them the ability to get into places where bigger campers cannot fit and provides great fuel economy, while still having the amenities of home.
Camping in all its forms can be a great adventure. It offers the chance to get out and see new places or visit old favorites. It can also be more than what you expected or planned for when the weather changes abruptly and you’re not really prepared. Tents (or lack of) can sometimes leave you a bit soggy when it rains. This is when staying in an RV is handy.
I owned an old gasser motorhome I used to tow my toys and as a place to stay out of the elements. It was nice for the way I used it but was also a pain in the butt. Between the maintenance on the drivetrain, the coach’s amenities (refrigerator, stove, plumbing, and such), and keeping up with its slowly decaying corpse (the wooden structure was deteriorating), I always seemed to be working on it. In addition to all those issues, the worst thing about the rig was it was pretty gutless when loaded down with water, supplies, and a trailer.
I would have loved to own a motorhome with a diesel engine in it, but when I bought mine, most of the used diesel rigs available were built on bus and high-end, heavy-duty truck chassis, which were all way out of my price range. There were a few home-built bus conversions floating around, but those were a gamble. There were other options, like a diesel pickup with a trailer or a camper mounted on it, but those setups either didn’t work for me or were too pricey.
Photo 3/3   |   The overland camping movement has sparked a lot of interest in diesel platforms. All the torque and added fuel economy are a huge plus when you plan on being off the grid for extended periods of time. EarthRoamer builds some impressive, capable units that allow you to camp just about anywhere.
Things have changed a bit since then. The RV market is now flooded with diesel-powered motorhomes of different sizes, configurations, and prices. I have to say that some of these new houses on wheels are pretty nice. Of course, some are also ridiculously priced, over-the-top rolling palaces. I’m looking more at those which are a bit more affordable, like the two-wheel-drive van conversions (Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and older Ford E-250/350 Econoline) that are cozy but practical and easy to use and get around in. People who are into overlanding covet the four-wheel-drive versions of these vans, which makes them a bit more expensive.
Overland camping has gained popularity in the past few years, so there is a lot of desire for vehicles that fit the niche. Campers and equipment are designed to be more capable for the adventure seeker than your average 40-foot motorhome or camping trailer. Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Hummer, Ram, and Chevrolet truck chassis are being used as platforms for diesel-powered off-road RVs because of the performance, capability, and fuel economy they afford.
The mainstream motorhome builders now offer more diesel options than ever before, largely due to the increased availability of chassis equipped with compression-ignition engines. Also, the demand by consumers for powerplant options other than gas has increased.
The rising popularity of diesel-powered RVs is great for anyone in the market for a new or used one. It doesn’t matter whether you want to camp inside a 40-plus-foot luxury motorhome or with a bit more simplicity—there is now a broad selection to choose from. I would love to get a new-to-me diesel motorhome someday to take on adventures.

-John

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