Your typical RV is taken for weekend regional trips as well as longer vacations, traveling between RV parks and campgrounds. Dry camping is possible to some extent, but the energy and water demands of the typical RV have their limitations. That's fine for most RV owners, who consider themselves "travelers." But what about those who would like to get off the beaten path to see and experience areas not attainable by the typical RV? These people are true "explorers" and they need a vehicle capable of transporting them to these areas and providing suitable living accommodations at the same time. This opens up a whole new class of RV, called Expedition Vehicles.

Expedition Vehicles are a major departure from your basic RV. They are designed to be able to traverse terrain that is inaccessible for most RVs and need to be durable enough to hold up under the stress of driving over punishing terrain not suitable for most vehicles. Expedition vehicles generally don't utilize campgrounds either, so they need to be self-sufficient to a greater degree than other RVs. These requirements dictate a whole new way of thinking when designing and building expedition vehicles.

The leader in this field is Global Expedition Vehicles. GXV produces a wide range of vehicles that can be customized for your specific travel style.

Think Green

GXV rigs are extremely environmentally friendly. Compared to the typical RV, GXVs use less fuel based on equal hours of usage. Every GXV body is highly insulated and features energy efficient windows. Solar panels provide power to lithium-ion battery banks, which can also be recharged via wind-powered generators. The water heater, cooktop, and furnace are all powered by diesel fuel, which is a more efficient source of fuel than propane and readily available worldwide. Bio-diesel can also be used. Wastewater is minimized by the use of composting toilets or cassette toilets. GXV also uses cork flooring, bamboo interiors, and other renewable materials whenever possible.

Chassis Options

Vehicle selection depends on where you want to do your exploring. If your overland travel is basically limited to North America, a domestic chassis would be the best choice. Smaller units built on a Ford F-250/550 or Dodge 4500/5500 chassis will let you get into tight areas with ease. If you want more room, the Patagonia can be built on a heavy-duty Freightliner or Navistar chassis. These can be 4x4 or 6x6 and configured with single-, extended-, or crew-cab configurations. The Pangea takes it a step further and offers a lifting roof that can be raised to expose a huge loft sleeping area while still allowing use of the main living area. If you plan on traveling abroad or doing an around-the-world expedition, a chassis such as DAF, MAN, or Mercedes would be a good choice due to better service access when traveling abroad. Chassis like the Mercedes Unimog offer the ability to burn high-sulphur diesel fuel, as well, which can be a boon when traveling in less developed nations. Basically, GXV will build your unit on whichever chassis is best suited for your travel plans.

Safari Extreme

The vehicle we spent the most time with was the Safari Extreme, which is built on a Mercedes Unimog chassis. This chassis is nothing short of amazing. Three locking differentials allow you to lock either axle from left to right, as well as a center differential to lock both axles together. The electronic shift transmission lets you select the desired gear and range. When you stab the clutch, the transmission automatically shifts to that gear. The forward control cab has a deep windshield that lets you see the area immediately in front of the vehicle. When driving a Unimog chassis, I was surprised to find how it handled. It stuck to the road on curves like a sports car, yet when it came time to go off road, it escalated to simply amazing. As a passenger, all I saw was sky climbing a steep bank. Cresting the bank was effortless and going down the other side I was so close to vertical that all I saw was the ground ahead of me and had to place my hands on the windshield to keep from leaving nose prints on the glass. The vehicle was truly unstoppable.

The Unimog chassis is designed for universal travel. Simply release a few locking levers and the entire instrument panel, steering wheel, and foot pedals can be slid from side to side to accommodate lefthand drive or righthand drive. The chassis has numerous power take-off options. A front mechanical PTO can be used as a drive source while a number of hydraulic connections allows use of hydraulic accessories. Winches and auxiliary lighting are all standard on GXV vehicles. Spare tires can be mounted on the front bumper or on the rear of the vehicle with a lowering mechanism. A cargo carrier is mounted to the roof of the cab for carrying bulky cargo, water cans, food storage, etc.


Now that we've established that GXV vehicles can get to out-of-the-way places, the next issue is durability. The stress of overland travel creates unique requirements on this type of vehicle. GXV begins by mounting their coach to the frame with a proprietary Kinetic Mounting System that prevents the coach from flexing by allowing the frame and suspension to articulate and twist but isolates those dynamic forces from the expedition body. This system also helps to isolate the coach from road vibration and noise when driving. Every GXV design is rigorously tested for articulation and stress with a cross test.

The sidewalls are constructed with a structural composite sandwich panel. This eliminates thermal conduction paths by eliminating any aluminum tubing required in normal stick-framed construction. The fiberglass-reinforced polyester outer plies are vacuum-bonded to the inner foam and finished with a gelcoat. Typical wall thickness is 60 mm and provides superior strength to handle the flexing, wind, and extreme temperatures of overland travel. The 110mm floor structure is similar but also includes an integrated welded-frame structure.