Oregon-based EarthCruiser has been on a tear lately with several new offerings. Last year the company released its first slide-in truck camper called the GZL, a high-end, pop-up for mid-size and full-size trucks, and this year came out with a modular, low-cost version of the GZL called the Adventure MOD. In addition, EarthCruiser released a larger, chassis-mounted/flatbed camper this year called the EXD, a derivative of the larger EarthCruiser classic, the EXP. With cutting-edge technology, impressive tank capacities, and a clever interior layout, the EarthCruiser EXD is the most ambitious product that the company has produced in years. To learn more about this brand new camper and how it was designed, we recently spoke with Lance Gillies, founder and owner of EarthCruiser.
Thanks, Lance, for taking the time to talk with us about the EarthCruiser EXD. But before we do so, can you tell us how EarthCruiser got its start?
Lance Gillies: Thank you, Mike! TCA is a great information source for people to figure out if this lifestyle is a good idea for them. Excellent question, the easy answer is because Michelle and I love to travel, and we share a passion to experience as much as the world as possible. We met in Malaysia on an extreme 4×4 rally in the Malaysian Jungle, we know what it is like to be away for extended periods of time in interesting places.
There was really nothing to buy in my native Australia that offered the key ingredients we wanted. First and foremost, a reliable 4×4 chassis that has plenty of weight carrying capacity and is really capable. A comfortable full size bed, a real shower, a real toilet—happy wife, happy life. It goes without saying, systems designed for extreme use in extreme environments.
We saw we would have to start from scratch. Thus, EarthCruiser was born, we built it for us, and seems there is more of us than we first thought. The company has since grown significantly internationally to include a full range of expedition vehicles on a number of platforms.
What is EarthCruiser’s signature product?
Lance Gillies: The EarthCruiser EXP is what I would call the original EarthCruiser. With the trademark shape and lifting roof that can be easily containerized for international travel. We love all the product that we make, but I will always have an extra soft spot for the EXP. They’re just so much fun to travel in, so many fabulous memories.
What campers and expedition rigs do you currently offer?
Lance Gillies: Let’s start with the Adventure MOD. The Adventure MOD is a one-piece fiberglass slide-in truck camper for mid-size and full size pick-up trucks weighing at a real 800 pounds. The MOD gives our customers the option to configure the interior of their camper to suit their adventure. The price is very appealing too.
Then we have the GZL. Same one-piece fiberglass shell design as MOD, so it too is a slide in camper. Our GZL is fully fitted out with top shell systems and appliances more familiar in very expensive expedition campers. GZL is a class act.
Up next is our new EXD. The EXD fits what we think is growing space in the overland market place. More on that latter.
We now move into the cabover or dedicated trucks, the FX. Fixed roof EarthCruiser that has everything you need for that extended overland trip, we have many customers who full-time in their FX EarthCruiser.
Then rounding out our product range is the original EarthCruiser EXP, truly a home in any country. All of our vehicles are true, four-season. Our customers are comfortable in the Sahara or pulling into that parking lot to dine at fine restaurant. It really is about the journey and not the destination, it’s not a test of endurance.
Tell us a little about the EXD. How did the concept and design start?
Lance Gillies: Glad you asked! I think there are a few things going on in the overland industry at the moment. Most of your readers already know that campgrounds are crowded and can be expensive.
The United States is blessed with so much public land owned by the people for use by the people, but the people also want to enjoy the journey not just the destination. We wanted to give our customers some options on how they can reach that destination, the EXD, we hope, will provide that.
EarthCruiser EXD although having many of the features of the EXP model it is not chassis dependent, from the very beginning it is made as a unit body for many applications. Meaning our customers can have their chassis of choice, we have provided a system that is incredibly capable and comfortable that could fit just about any make in the correct weight class. Think of the EXD as a fully self-contained unit, just as happy and comfortable fitted to a Unimog or a 2018 Ram 3500.
The key difference for our customers is we will offer more features such as EarthCruiser kinetic mounting and pass through for the 2017+ domestic pick trucks. For a customer with a Unimog, as an example, all you need is a flatbed and it will bolt on.
All of the water tanks etc. are all internal, no fooling around with waters lines, external batteries, it’s done and ready to go.
The EXD we think will provide more choice and some significant advantages to the growing overland community.
What makes the EXD different from other rigs in the overland market?
Lance Gillies: There really is nothing to compare it to. We have been building molded composite expedition trucks for some time now. We know what works, we know what does not.
The key difference for the EXD is uncompromising structural integrity with intelligent systems and functionality and wide choose of chassis options. In addition, we outfit the camper with proven systems, that normally would be seen as premium options from other manufacturers.
What is the MSRP of the EXD?
Lance Gillies: The EXD is very competitively priced at around $110,000, depending on options. Combining the self-sustaining camper with the price of a chassis, you’re right in the ballpark of a high-end sprinter van conversion, but with a chassis that can do a lot more.
What does the total price include? Does the price include the truck and any modifications done to the truck like the suspension?
Lance Gillies: No. We do not supply the chassis like we do for other models. For 2017+ domestic one-ton long-bed pick-up trucks, we offer a turn-key “Expedition Package”, customers supply the chassis.
So is the EXD a flatbed camper or a chassis-mounted camper?
Lance Gillies: Both. The easiest/cheapest way is to mount it to a flat-bed, or you can upgrade to our expedition package, which we install the camper directly to your chassis and build side skirts around it.
What is the total weight of the EarthCruiser EXD?
Lance Gillies: The first one we completed came in sub 3,000 pounds.
What are the tank capacities of the EXD?
Lance Gillies: It’s equipped with a 48 gallon fresh water tank and 12 gallon grey water holding tank. The diesel heated hot water tank has a 2.9-gallon capacity.
How many batteries does the battery compartment hold?
Lance Gillies: It comes standard with a 180 amp hour lithium-ion system. You can upgrade this to 360 amp hour if you wish.
Can you tell us about the EXD’s heating, cooking, and refrigeration systems?
Lance Gillies: Air and water heat is the Wabasto dual top diesel heater. Cooking is induction cooktop that can be used inside or outside. With the increasing fire restrictions, we think this makes sense. The refrigerator is an Isotherm 4.2 cubic foot compressor refrigerator.
Is the bathroom a wet-bath or dry-bath?
Lance Gillies: We employ a classic EarthCruiser walk through shower, so I guess it would be a wet bath. The advantages of our walk-through shower system (most people have no idea they “walk through”) the shower is huge particularly with pets that get muddy paws.
How many people can the EXD accommodate and where does everyone sleep?
Lance Gillies: Ideally two, there are options for sky beds for kids. Many customers are considering roof top tents (rear entry type), they can enter the RTT from inside the camper. Makes sense to me, kids are having a ball and mum and dad get some privacy.
How durable is the roof on the EXD? How much weight can it support?
Lance Gillies: No issues walking on the roof, 4 inches thick of lightweight composite material. Designed to lift with snow on the roof. With the four worm-drive actuators lift and lowering the roof is at the push of a button and takes about 18 seconds, there is a manual override.
What are the advantages of going with a rig like the EarthCruiser EXD rather than going with a flatbed slide-in truck camper like those made by other companies?
Lance Gillies: Freedom of choice and its unique structural integrity is my best answer. The EXD can be fitted on a one-ton pick-up truck on a flat-bed and can just as easily be fitted to a LMTV on a flat-bed. If you’re ready for a dedicated expedition vehicle, no problem to fit your EXD o a 2017+ one ton with a pass-through and all the extra outside storage goodies.
The EXD is designed for these different applications, it is not being modified for these applications, it is a world of difference. Plus the way it has been designed and constructed will look good on any truck even after years of off-road use.
I assume standard solar panels and roof racks can be installed on the roof. Is that correct?
Lance Gillies: Solar system is standard, when I say system I do mean system. It’s not anything like you would see on a typical RV. Roof racks are an option.
What innovations does EarthCruiser incorporate into every EXD build?
Lance Gillies: We need a separate interview for this one. EXD is only available with a lithium battery system, Bluetooth touch screen interface for all systems management with manual over ride, all water tanks are inside, yacht-build interior, walk-through shower, 360-degree view, and the option for so many trucks.
Your interiors are light and airy with white cabinetry. Do you offer any options in cabinetry like wood finishes?
Lance Gillies: Ahh, no.
What are the most popular options ordered by your customers?
Lance Gillies: So far with the EXD it has been the “Expedition Package” where will turn-key your 2017+ one-ton pick-up truck into something very special.
Can customers order an inverter that’s fully integrated with the camper’s 110-volt electrical system?
Lance Gillies: Yes. The Master 2,500 watt inverter charger is standard on all EXD. We also offer 240-volt system for our international clients.
What’s the largest solar power option that you offer for the EXD?
Lance Gillies: Up to three Solbian 154 watt panels, shatter proof and recessed into the roof.
What entry step system is provided with the camper?
Lance Gillies: Either two or three steps, electrical with override, no silly ladders for the EXD.
How many 12 volt/USB charging outlets come standard with the EXD?
Lance Gillies: Six inside and two in locker boxes, all standard.
What options, if any, do you offer for awnings?
Lance Gillies: We use the manual bat-wing type.
Can you tell us how the EXD is constructed?
Lance Gillies: It’s constructed using a molded, structurally insulated, fiberglass walls and floor—1 inch thickness. This is what you read in the sales material. It sounds simple enough, but there’s so much more to it. We are first and for most off-road adventures, we understand that ANYTHING that outside the body line of the truck is a HUGE liability. It will at some point get broken off or rattle off. The EXD will follow the body lines of a pick-up truck, if the cab fits the body fits. Great care has been taken to get the body lines of the camper correct, the angle of the walls is not a random accident. They will help you miss trees as you’re going around that off camber corner of a tight track, they will also lesson wind noise and the effect passing semi-trailers have on your truck will be much more pleasant.
These are some of the many reasons why we don’t purchase off-the-shelf flat pack walls and glue them together.
The lament schedule (what composite materials are used, resins and weaves of matting and where they go) is a science in itself, we spend a great deal of time and resources to achieve maximum rigidity and light weight. We build things to last in extremes conditions around the globe, this is what we do.
Is there anything unique about the EXD that you’d like to point out?
Lance Gillies: Yes, there is. I have been fortunate to be able travel internationally for fun and business in the overland industry for some time. I can say there really is nothing out there like the EXD in terms of flexibility and what you get in a distinctive package. When it comes to systems and functionality we match it with the best from German manufactures, when it comes to clearing define as a made in the USA EarthCruiser rather than a square box on the back of truck well we are clearly not a square box like all the other square boxes.
Is the EXD a true, four-season camper?
Lance Gillies: Absolutely!
Why should customers go with an EarthCruiser EXD rather than going with something else like an EarthRoamer XV-LTS or a Global Expedition Vehicles Adventure Truck?
Lance Gillies: I’m a big fan of EarthRoamer, great people who make an excellent product. Can’t say I have any experience with the other manufacturer.
My advice to anyone considering investing in this lifestyle is go and see them all and talk to owners and get their experience.
The EXD is a terrific overland expedition camper, one of the best we’ve seen in years. If readers wanted to order one how would they do it, factory direct or through a dealership?
Lance Gillies: Presently, we’re only offering the EXD domestically direct from our manufacturing facility in Bend.
What is the wait time if somebody wanted to order an EarthCruiser EXD now?
Lance Gillies: Four to six months.
|EarthCruiser EXD Specifications|
|Width||6 feet 7.5 inches|
|Travel Height||63 inches|
|Interior Height (Top Up)||6 feet 8 inches|
|Interior Height (Top Down)||5 feet 1 inch|
|Floor Length||10 feet|
|Interior Space||66 square feet|
|Fresh Water Tanks||48 gallons|
|Black Water Tank (cassette toilet)||4.75 gallons|
|Dry Weight||2,500 pounds|