There are many vehicles from which to choose when driving the Pan American Highway. After much research, we bought and chose to customize a truck camper to fit our specific travel wants and needs.

Image of Zion welcome sign

While many people will drive the Pan American Highway in vans or vehicles with rooftop tents, we required a little more customized comfort.

Our primary concern was accommodating for Lindsay’s comfort when it comes to treating her Crohn’s Disease. 

As such we wanted to ensure that our vehicle had a full bathroom so that we would always have a restroom for Lindsay.

We also wanted to have a kitchen where we could accommodate most of our healthy eating habits. 

While many vans and vehicles with rooftop tents have primitive solutions for both the restroom and kitchen, we wanted to have a reliable source for each. 

Additionally we knew that we would be traveling to places where the weather could make living unbearable.

Having a pop up tent or other external shelter would not suffice for our journey to drive from Alaska to Argentina. 

After several months we refined our decision to either outfitting a Sprinter van or purchasing a used truck and camper combination. 

When we weighed the pros and cons, customizing a truck camper became the best decision for affordability, comfort and durability. 

THE TRUCK: “Rocket”

But before we could customize a truck camper we had to choose the right one.

After researching a variety of vehicles driven along the Pan American Highway we decided on an older-model truck capable of consuming diesel fuel of varying quality. 

Our Criteria:

  • *Reliable, even at high mileage (our budget!)
  • *Can run on subpar fuel
  • *Has power to consistently haul weight of camper and additional storage
  • *Long bed, to provide additional storage between cab and short-bed camper
  • *Flatbed, to allow for customized storage 

Our Decision: We purchased a 2002 Ford F-250 Crew Cab Flatbed 4 x 4 with a 7.3L Diesel Engine.

The truck has nearly 500,000 miles on her. But she continues to run strong with her 7.3L diesel engine, which is known to reach 1 million miles.

Because she is a flatbed, we were able to build custom storage beneath the camper where normal trucks would lose space with their bed siding.

We have added a winch to the front, airbag suspension to the rear axle and beefed up our tires to the largest, most reliable all terrain style.

The truck also has a “long bed” so she is able to comfortably carry either short-bed or long-bed campers.

Major Modifications: [LINK TO EACH SPECIFIC POST] Flat bed storage / Custom Storage / Winch / Airbag Suspension (rear) / Tie Down Brackets / Battery Bank / Tire Upgrade


THE CAMPER: “Tree Trimmer”

You can’t customize a truck camper without the right combination of truck and camper.

Because we wanted to have enough space for additional outside storage, we decided to search for lightweight short-bed campers.  

Our Criteria:

  • *Light weight, to allow for mobility on the road
  • *Short-bed, to leave storage space between truck cab and camper 
  • *Wet/Dry Bathroom (to accommodate Lindsay’s Crohn’s Disease)

Our Decision:

We purchased a 2005 Lance 845 slide-in camper. It has an 8-foot floor, whereby 6 feet fit on the truck bed and approximately 2 feet hang off the rear.

We intentionally bought a short-bed camper for our long-bed truck so that in addition to adding storage beneath the camper we also have additional space between the camper and the truck cab.

In addition to the cosmetic upgrades and convenience items, we have added an additional battery, two 100-watt solar panels and an inverter in order to provide us “off the grid” reliance on renewable energy.

Major Modifications: [LINK TO EACH SPECIFIC POST]
Solar Panels / Inverter / WeBoost / Microwave Storage / Generator Bank / Battery Bank 


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