If you’ve spent any time in the woods over the last several years, you’ve likely encountered a whole host of new off-road campers and adventure rigs camped further into the wilderness than ever before. The growth of the “Overlanding” industry combined with more folks getting into camping during the pandemic has given rise to a market of capable adventure rigs that also happen to be perfect for hunters.
The term “Overlanding” is having a moment, but overlapping is really just what most hunters have always done: driving on rough dirt roads and camping off the grid. In fact, I’d argue that hunters likely spend more time exploring back roads and dispersed camping than anyone else.
I test and review campers, trailers, Sprinter vans, and more, and have spent nights in everything from top-of-the-line Black Series caravans to simple, truck-bed setups. Most of my own “overlanding” takes place during hunting trips, and I’ve used everything from an Airstream to a teardrop trailer to live out of for as long as two weeks at a time while hunting. All that to say, I know a thing or two about rigs and have thought a lot about what makes the best adventure vehicle for hunting, in particular. Here are a few options.
Off-Road Campers for Hunters: Table of Contents
- Wants vs. Needs When it Comes to an Off-Road Camping Rig
- 4×4 Camper Vans
- Off-Road Truck Campers
- Off-Road Travel Trailers for Hunters
- The Best Off-Road Campers to Buy Used
- How to Choose an Off-Road Camper for Hunting
Wants vs. Needs When it Comes to an Off-Road Camper
As outlined below, there are several different categories of off-road camper rigs to choose from, and if you’re just getting into this game it can be overwhelming. I’ll break down these categories below and give some of my top picks for each, but before that, it’s important to start the process by thinking about what you personally need in a hunting rig.
It’s very easy to go down the “rig envy” rabbit hole on Instagram or online forums, but really thinking about the type of hunts you do, where you travel, and what your current camp setup is lacking can save you a lot of time and money.
For me, those needs look like this: a comfortable basecamp to come back to at the end of a long day of chasing bugles in September or gobbles in April, plus room to hang out inside if the weather is bad, a heater for cold nights, a sink with running water, and a fridge big enough to store enough food for the duration of the hunt.
4×4 Camper Vans
Let’s start with perhaps the most lust-worthy category, the campervan. There’s a lot to like about a van: they’ve got lots of floor space and plenty of cargo and towing capacities. They’re comfortable on the road and easy to drive, you can access your bed and kitchen without leaving the vehicle, and they’re simpler than a big RV. Examples include everything from classic Volkswagen Westfalias, to Ford Econolines, to the modern day Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Ram Promaster.
The downsides to a van are numerous: they’re not as capable off road out of the box as a pickup or SUV, four wheel drive models are very expensive, and the high roof, long wheelbase models are often too large to get very far down a rough dirt road. Personally, I’ve found that unless they have modified suspensions they ride quite rough on even mild washboard, and because the camper is connected to the vehicle’s cab, the driver is subject to lots of rattling and things banging around in cabinets as you navigate a trail. The other big downside to a van, in my opinion, is that you need to pack up camp anytime you want to drive to a new spot.
You can absolutely find or build a van that’d make a great platform to hunt out of, but it’s going to cost you. For a fully built out, four-wheel-drive off-road camper van, you should expect to pay well north of $130K. Some of the best upfitters for adventure vans include Sportsmobile, Outside Van, Vandoit, Field Van and Storyteller Overland, all of whom have years of experience in van building and can create an incredibly comfortable camper capable of going nearly anywhere you’re willing to drive.
My pick for the best platforms for a hunting rig would be a short wheelbase (or 144in), low roof, four wheel drive Mercedes Sprinter with a pop top conversion, or an E-Series Ford van that’s been converted to four wheel drive. Both of these models can be turned into capable trail rigs thanks to their smaller size. And a simple, modular layout like Vandoit’s “Do Package” would give you all the necessities and plenty of room for bulky gear like coolers, archery targets, or even a dirtbike.
Off-Road Truck Campers
Next up, truck campers. This category can really be split into two: fully featured slide-ins, and simpler camper shells or wedge-style campers that sit on top of your truck’s bed rails. I’ve owned both, and recently built out the interior of a hard-sided truck camper myself. Truck campers of both types have a lot of pros, including simplicity, price, and capability.
With a few small caveats, they’ll go anywhere your truck can go, and typically can be had for significantly less money than an off-road camper van while offering 80 percent of the comfort.
There are a lot of pros to a truck camper setup. First, chances are that you already own a pickup, which means there’s no need to buy an additional vehicle to maintain. You can buy a lightweight, pop up shell model, or a fully featured, hard-sided camper with slides and a full bathroom, and they’re made to fit nearly every make and model of truck on the market. Prices start around $20K for a slide-in with the amenities you’d want, like a sink, fridge and heater, and if you’re willing to buy used there are some amazing deals to be had. Bonus: you can still tow a boat or ATV with one on your truck.
Personally, I think the best slide-ins on the market for hunters are any of the Four Wheel Camper (FWC) models if you’re looking for a pop up, or a Scout Camper if you’re looking for a hard-sided model and want more weather protection. FWC has been making lightweight, durable pop-up truck campers for decades, and Scout uses new composite panel technology to keep their hard-sided campers lightweight and well insulated, while keeping the interiors comfortable yet spartan.
The downside to a slide-in is you really need a ¾-ton truck like an F250 to haul them, especially when loaded down for hunting—it’s just too easy to overload a half ton with a camper in the bed. They also typically require at least some basic suspension modifications, like airbags to level the truck, have very limited storage space, and also require you to break down camp whenever you need to drive somewhere. The biggest downside to me is that you lose your truck bed, which is often absolutely vital for hunters and keeps a lot of the mess that comes with harvesting game relegated to an area you can spray down with a hose.
A new category of ultralight, shell-based truck campers has emerged in the last five years that addresses a lot of the downsides I mentioned above. Companies like Go Fast Campers, Topo Topper, OvrLnd Campers and Four Wheel Campers offer basic off-road campers that blur the lines between a traditional truck topper and a slide in. These models clamp to your truck’s bed rails like a fiberglass topper, but pop up like a rooftop tent to offer some additional sleeping space above the bed of the truck. They allow you to retain use of your truck bed, have room to stand up and change clothes, and have a comfortable place to sleep without removing all your gear from the back.
I love this category of camper for a hunting rig because it makes the pickup you likely already own even more versatile. They’ll go anywhere, and still let you use your truck as a truck. You can keep it simple with a water jug and a cooler, or build out the interior with as many creature comforts as you want. My favorite right now is the Topo Topper Badlander, which gives you more room inside than a wedge-style pop up. It’s also sleeker and, with a starting price of $8,950, more affordable than any of the other full pop models on the market.
Off-Road Travel Trailers for Hunters
In my opinion, a travel trailer makes the best adventure rig for hunting, for many reasons. First, they come in literally every size and shape you can imagine. Looking for something that’ll sleep your crew of six hunting buddies? A trailer can do that, but good luck sleeping six in a van or the back of your truck. Want something small enough for your Ford Maverick to tow? Get a teardrop.
Trailers offer far more space and amenities for the money than you get with a truck camper, let you keep your truck bed for hauling gear, and, most important for hunting, allow you to set up a basecamp so you can stay mobile and hunt new areas each day if you need to without breaking camp. That means you get to spend more time hunting, and less time packing away sleeping bags and camp chairs.
No matter what brand you go with, there are a few things to look for in a trailer you plan to take hunting. First, keep it small. I think a trailer 19 feet long or less gives you more than enough space while staying maneuverable. Second, make sure your vehicle has enough towing capacity; I like to keep the trailer’s GVWR within 70 percent of the truck’s towing capacity because I travel out West in the mountains. Third: do your research and buy a trailer that’ll last. A lot of trailers are poorly built, and won’t stand up to even light off road use. Fourth: off grid ability is more important than off road capability. Look for trailers with large fresh water tanks, solar systems, and long lasting batteries.
If you’re concerned a trailer will limit your ability to get way off the beaten path and won’t hold up to rough dirt roads, I’d encourage you to look at something like an Australian Off Road Sierra, Opus OP4, or Off Grid Pando 2.0. Each of those rigs can withstand being dragged down the roughest roads imaginable and emerge completely unscathed.
If you want something purpose-built for hunting, it’s tough to beat an Enzy Camper. I tested a Western Big Game edition and loved the versatile, open floor plan and hunting specific features like a built-in boot dryer, space to load your ATV, and locking gun cabinets. They’re well built, and have just enough amenities to keep most hunters plenty comfortable.
My top trailer pick for adventures of any kind these days is the Arkto G12. With an exterior length of 16’2”, a GVWR of 4500lbs, Timbren axle-less suspension, and a 360 degree articulating hitch, it’s small and capable enough to be taken just about anywhere. Amenities like a slide-out outdoor kitchen, plenty of storage space, sleeping room for four, an outdoor shower, hot water heater, and a furnace mean you’ll stay incredibly comfortable, no matter how far out you are.
The Best Off-Road Camper Brands to Buy Used
Many of the rigs I’ve listed above cost a lot of money—the price of entry for an “off road” or “overland” style camper of any kind is quite high these days. With that said, if you’re willing to buy used, you can save a lot of money and find a great deal on a quality rig that’ll last a long time. There are certain brands that clearly stay on the road longer than others, like Airstream, Four Wheel Camper, Alaskan Campers, and many of the fiberglass trailers like Oliver, Escape, Casita and Scamp.
How to Choose an Off-Road Camper for Hunting
I’ve camped in many, many different rigs over the years and have owned lots of them myself, including a Go Fast Camper, a Total Composites Slide-in, a Hiker Trailer EOR 5×8, a 17ft Casita Freedom Deluxe, and my current rig, which might come as a surprise: a 2005 Airstream Bambi 19CB. For my style of hunting, which typically means camping for anywhere from four to 14 days during a Western big game hunt, I’ve consistently found that a travel trailer works best. It allows me to set up a base camp in the general area I plan to hunt without being locked in to one spot, explore new areas or drive my truck to a different trailhead without breaking down camp. It has enough space for all of my gear, and sleeps several hunting buddies comfortably. If I’m going to tow anything, I prefer to have standing room inside, which rules out a teardrop, and I also want the ability to cook inside if the weather is bad.
You can certainly accomplish a lot of those goals with a van or a truck camper, and your personal needs might make one of those options a better fit for you. The key is to really examine what your typical hunting trips look like and be honest with yourself about what kind of rig works best.