How did we get here? This brand spankin’ new Tundra with a brand spankin’ new Four Wheel Camper is a far cry from our vanlife roots. There’s no short answer to this question so we’ll do our best to explain in this little essay (MLA format and all).
After Amelia went up for sale MAK flew out to Seattle to attend Northwest Overland Rally with our friends Jorge and Jessica so that she could do some field research for “Operation New Rig”. While out there she got to look at wedge campers for pickups, slide ins, vans, troop carriers, and the flatbed four wheel campers. The good people of Mule Expedition Outfitters showed her around their beautiful flatbed FWC that they have mounted to a Chevy Colorado (check it out, it’s super sweet). MAK also got some quality time in an imported Toyota Landcruiser (owned by Jorge and Jessica). After her weekend out west she narrowed our search down to the FWC and the Toyota Landcruiser.
With these two options in mind we set out doing more research to see what going these routes would actually look like. The Landcruiser, and in particular the “Troopy” is an amazingly reliable and capable platform. It is THE ultimate overlanding vehicle (just ask Expedition Portal). There is one huge problem with this for people in the United States though. It isn’t sold in the US and therefore to import them they need to be at least 25 years old. That was an arrow through our heart because we LOVE these vehicles. We were really trying to avoid an older vehicle this time around after our previous failures with old cars. This was the major turning point in this battle. With the FWC we could choose whatever truck we wanted (even new ones!). This meant more research, but not THAT much because we’re big Toyota fans. The other benefit we saw in the FWC was that if we wore out the truck or just didn’t like it we could always switch it out and keep our “home”. Of course there are negatives for the FWC as well. It’s not as pretty as a Troopy, but in the end that’s actually not THAT important. We want a vehicle to be functional more than anything else. Nothing is as sexy as functionality ;). The other negative is price. Going this route we needed to buy both a truck AND a camper. That adds up. In the end, we decided that we’d head over to the bank and get ourselves a big, fat loan and chalk it up to “rent”.
When MAK arrived back from Seattle we finished up the work on Lando (our Tacoma) and hit the road. I was very much on board for the FWC, but I had never actually seen one in person and we were a little hesitant to jump in without me getting to experience one first hand. On our way up the east coast we stopped by Main Line Overland and checked out the Four Wheel Campers. We both loved the setup and the guys that run Main Line, so shortly after our visit we put down a deposit.
After an amazing summer in the Northeast and Canada we arrived back in Florida. Since we put down the deposit there was nothing to do but wait, but now FWC was finishing our camper and then it would be on a truck to Main Line. It was time to get down to business. We headed over to the Toyota dealership in Orlando and picked up a new truck. We opted to go with the Tundra over the Tacoma for the substantial increase in power. We had heard from multiple sources that when the Tacoma was fully loaded with the camper and everything inside that it was a little underpowered. The beefier Tundra should also handle better with the added weight/height. We really had hoped to stay small with a Tacoma but it just made more sense to go with a full size truck. Side note: we opted to go gas over diesel for the sake of traveling in South America where we had heard modern diesel engines have trouble with the diesel available there. We got big plans y’all!
A few days after purchasing our new truck we packed some bags and drove to Philadelphia. We dropped the truck off at Main Line and went through some of the other parts we would be getting for the truck. Then we caught a plane back to Orlando where we waited patiently (not really) for it to be done. Just a few days after we dropped off our truck, the FWC arrived at Main Line. There was still one more part that needed to arrive, but this one was coming all the way from Australia.
It takes a long time to get from Australia to Philadelphia by boat. So to the surprise of no one the Norweld tray was a little late to arrive. This tray replaces the bed of the truck and is what the camper is attached to. Without it, nothing could really be done. Around January 21 it finally made it to port and shortly there after Main Line got their hands on it. They sent it out to get some black paint and when they got it back, work was finally able to commence.
On the last day of January we flew to Philadelphia to pick up our new home.
We did get a chance to swing by Main Line and take a peak at the work in progress. The truck was still pretty pulled apart and the tray hadn’t arrived from paint but it was great to see the transformation that had already occurred. After we left we felt really happy with our decision even though it wasn’t done yet.
When the day did come to pick up the truck we had butterflies in our stomachs.
She is everything we had hoped for and we’re so excited to begin the next chapter of our lives in this new home. It’s really hard to describe just how great of a feeling it is to end up with something like this. With everything put together what we have is:
2019 Toyota Tundra 5.7L SR5 base; TRD Pro Grill Swap; Black-Painted Norweld 6.5ft Deluxe Lite Tray with Toolboxes; Smooth Charcoal Gray Metallic FWC Hawk Flatbed Camper with Black Fiamma Awning, 160w Rooftop Solar, and Custom Back-Rack; Raised-Air Intake; Dobinsons Suspension; Adjustable UCAs; Anthracite 200 Series/ Tundra EVO Corse Dakar 17x8 Wheels on E-Rated 12.5 x 35 BFG KO2 Tires; ADD Front Bumper; Baja Designs OnX6 Arc Dual Control Light Bar; ComeUp 12.5 Winch with custom C4RS synthetic winch line; ComeUp Hawse Fairlead with Factor 55 Flatlink Multimount; Rear Air Locker, and Tray-Mounted Twin Air Compressor.
The MLO guys did an amazing job putting this truck together. As we pulled away it was a surreal feeling to finally be in our new home on wheels. We had a celebratory dinner with Megan and Mike that night and the next morning we drove off towards Florida. There’s still work to be done and we’ve got a fur baby to pick up!