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The perfect size overland camper?

June 28, 2017 Comments Off on The perfect size overland camper? News

Joining us this September (23rd-24th) at AOS`17 will be Russell & Jane Blackman in their Mercedes Sprinter 316 4×4 MWB Overland Camper. A really good size of vehicle for overlanding, here in Russell’s own words is their story:-

Jane and I have spent the last 15 years enjoying overland adventure travel when we could spare time off work. Initially with a Toyota 80 Series and our children Lloyd and Ben in a Toyota 70 Series, both vehicles having been heavily modified with roof tents travelling to Eastern Europe, North Africa and Iceland. After the children left home and now travelling with Jane, we have had 3 trips to South Africa in hired Land Rover Defenders with roof tents to Namibia, Zambia and Malawi. 

Both of us wanted our own overland camper. Initially we bought a Hilux with a demountable camper body. Although we enjoyed the demount, it was not quite right for us. So the search began for the ultimate overland camper for us and our plans for travelling overland to America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. 

Searching in 2015 for a camper that would meet all our requirements took a lot of twists and turns. Initially we favoured a Toyota 79 Series with a camper body as we love the 79 Series, but in May 2015 Jane and I flew to Denver and hired an American-built Sportsmobile 4×4 Camper to see if it was what we were looking for. We travelled in it to the Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona (a massive overland travel event held annually in May, it’s well worth a visit if you’re around that way! ED) the hope being we would fall in love with an American 4×4 camper. Whilst we loved the Sportsmobile, it wasn’t quite right for us. At the show, we visited the Sportsmobile stand to find that they were building a camper based on a 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter. Alluminess at another stand also made heavy duty bumpers for the Sprinter – all very interesting!

Arriving back in the UK, we felt we had started to have a plan. We bought a Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 already converted into a camper, then spent the next eight months having it modified to our specification as listed below.

Mercedes Sprinter 316 4×4 Overland Camper:

  • 5 Terrafirma off-road wheels.
  • S Cooper Discovery STT Tyres 265/75/16 (Which have been amazing over 5k in Africa and not one puncture).
  • Front aluminium winch bumper incorporating a WARN 4.5T winch and LED off-road lamps.
  • Rear aluminium bumper incorporating a swing away spare wheel carrier and storage box.
  • Body flares to N/S and O/S rear quarter panels to give an additional 6 inches of headroom whilst in bed.
  • Modified interior to incorporate slide-out draws at the rear plus a slide-out Engel fridge/freezer.
  • 135 litre fresh water tank, double skinned for cold climates.
  • Water purification.
  • 80 litre auxiliary fuel tank and a 100 litre main tank.
  • Webasto diesel heater, 8 kw for blown air and water heating.
  • Two 200 amp leisure batteries.
  • Merge relay for emergency jump starting.

  • High level breathers for the differential and gearbox.
  • Engine high-level intake snorkel.
  • 2 x remote control spot lights on roof.
  • PIR controlled external lights on N/S, O/S and rear doors.
  • A 2 kw inverter.
  • Internal and external shower. Cassette toilet.
  • Hard-wired satellite phone power and aerial.
  • Kenwood double din unit, Bluetooth and sat-nav with additional power supply to auxiliary batteries (switchable).
  • New instrument/control panel.
  • Battery, auxiliary battery monitors, fuel and water gauges, lights and fuel pump switches.
  • 220 amp high output alternator.
  • Tyre pressure monitoring.
  • Rear air bags with remote control from dash (as it’s a little heavy when fully loaded and fuelled).
  • On-board air compressor.

In 2016, our camper was ready after a few short trips and sorting out a few issues. We shipped our camper in June by RORO and flew out in September to Port Elizabeth in South Africa and spent the next 3 months exploring South Africa but mainly in Botswana (Central Kalahari, Makgadikgadi, Khutse, Lekhubu, Naxi Pan, Chobe and Moremi).

We shipped back the camper in December 2016. The camper performed well without no serious mechanical problems after 5000 miles throughout very harsh and challenging terrain. The only major problem appeared to the driver – me – after getting stuck 6 times in soft sand in 1 day. Although, after lowering the tyre pressures to 15 PSI, soft sand was never a problem again (the tyres are amazing). 

With any camper you have to compromise in some way, but for us it is as close as we can get and look forward to future travels in The Beast. 



Russell & Jane will be displaying ‘The Beast’ this September at the Adventure Overland Show 2017, so by all means say hello to them whilst there. 

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