Diesel Power - - Contents - By John Le­hen­bauer

Get­ting away

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.

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.

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 twowheel-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 LE­HEN­BAUER jle­hen­bauer@en­thu­si­ast­net­

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.

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.

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