Editor’s Note: This piece was in partnership with our friends at Wonderland Expeditions, a great resource for planning your next adventure.
Not all road trips are created equal. Depending on how long you plan to be on the road, how far you intend to go, and what you’ll be doing along the journey, there’s certainly no one size fits all vehicle for every type of trip. A weekend surf and camp trip is certainly going to require a lot less planning and preparation than a summer-long adventure along the Pacific Northwest coastline, or getting lost in the mountains for a week.
You get the picture, and as such, it’s necessary to know which off road vehicle, sprinter van, or even off road trailer hitched to your truck is going to suit your needs best. The seasoned road trip warrior may have their own personalized rig decked out with everything they need, all built to accommodate their favorite types of trips. But for everybody else, there are folks like Wonderland Expeditions, who specialize in setting travelers up with the ride and gear needed for their given trip. They equip their fleet of vehicles with upgraded suspension and all-terrain tires that’ll be reliable off the beaten path, then they send travelers on their way with camp gear like chairs, stove and kitchen equipment, bedding, lanterns, beer, kombucha, and coffee.
So what kind of vehicle is best for your given trip?
This is the epitome of #vanlife. The idea is pretty simple: if you’re taking an extended trip — say, a summer-long journey with no set end date or final destination — a sprinter will be your best option for bringing anything and everything with you that may be needed to live comfortably.
A home on wheels (or a hotel on wheels) is basically what you’re getting with a fully outfitted sprinter, from a comfortable sleeping space, storage for food (and kitchen appliances to prepare it all), space for skis, surfboards, bikes, or whatever outdoor toys your adventure calls for, and the list goes on. No need to spend extra cash on hotels because, well, you’re basically driving one.
You’re not going to be doing any hardcore off-roading in a vehicle like this but you can always find one with all-terrain tires, some decent ground clearance, and yes, four-wheel-drive if the road gets slippery. Still, if you’re using a sprinter to execute your trip then most of your stops are likely going to have access to paved or forest service roads.
Trucks + Campers
Camping along the coast and hunting for secret waves? This is probably your best bet.
A 4×4 truck with a camper is obviously going to be significantly smaller than that sprinter, meaning you’ll have to be more intentional about what you do or don’t pack for the journey ahead. The positive payoff to that, however, is that you’ll have far fewer limitations on where you can go. Wonderland Expeditions’ “Caballo Blanco,” (yes, they name their rigs) for example, is a 4×4 truck built for getting as far off the beaten path as possible. You’re not confined to finding established paved campgrounds and parking lots when it’s time to get a good night’s rest.
Meanwhile, you still get the comfort-basic necessities like a queen-sized bed, an extra seating area that converts into a single bed, and a few kitchen appliances as well as a water tank and furnace (think heated nights in a ski resort parking lot). You can also still pack a decent-sized crew of friends into a 4×4/camper combo.
A pop-up tent on top of your truck or SUV is going to follow the same basic premise as the pop-up camper, just with less room dedicated to your sleeping/living needs. It’s a versatile option if you’re not taking a long trip and like the idea of sleeping on top of your truck’s roof for a couple of nights. Or better yet, if you just want to take your sleeping arrangements day-by-day and night-by-night then the rooftop tent can be an option in your back pocket at all times. The Spartans weren’t big on amenities, and you don’t need to be either (unless that’s your style). Plus, consider the added value of having a lighter haul, meaning there’s pretty much no place you can’t go with a rooftop tent perched on top of a reliable four-wheel drive truck.
Pop up tents tend to be pretty easy to assemble at the end of the day and break down the next morning, so this is a great option for on-the-fly trips where you don’t intend to stay in any one place for too long.
The Off Road Trailer
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill U-Haul trailer we’re talking about. Towing a trailer may limit some of your travel options when it comes to terrain, but off-road trailers are often heavy duty and reliable enough to minimize that little speed bump. Hitch one to the back of your four-wheel-drive vehicle, hit the road, and enjoy the luxury of not having to sleep all cramped up in the bed of your truck or back seat. Few things can hamper a road trip like traveling on bad sleep, cramped up in an uncomfortable or small space. If you’re traveling with a small group, already have a reliable four-wheel-drive vehicle, or want to drop the trailer, claim base camp, and then venture out from there, this can be an ideal option.