Overland Explorer Vehicles (OEV), premium builder of world-class composite truck campers, has been busy lately. Not only is the Canadian-based company offering a new hard-side model called the High Country, but it’s now offering shell models for its existing truck camper lineup. Soon-to-be released models are also in the works.
OEV, which got it’s start in the oil and gas industry years ago, has embraced the overland market fully. OEV’s current catalog includes several pop-ups campers: the Cross Country slide-in, the Back Country slide-in, the Alpine flatbed, and the Hudson Bay flatbed. OEV’s hard-side offerings now include the new High Country, a flatbed camper for one-ton trucks, and the Summit, a large chassis mounted camper with a 12-foot floor length. The company also offers its very own flatbed called the Aluma Tray, which is primarily used with all of the company’s flatbed campers, but can also be purchased as a stand alone bed.
Gone are the cumbersome “Camp Series” names that OEV used for years. Marketing-wise we didn’t think the monikers resonated well with consumers. Apparently, OEV agreed and made the changes late last year.
“We got rid of the Camp Series names altogether,” explained Arnold Baker, Manager and Founding Partner at OEV. “The old Camp HBE is now simply simply called the Hudson Bay. The old Camp-X is now called the Back Country 6.85 for full-size trucks with the old Camp-M now named the Back Country 5.85 mid-size. The old Camp-XS is now named the Cross Country, and the old Camp-FX is now called the Alpine, it has the same floor plan as the Back Country 6.85.”
OEV’s focus has always been on product development and product choices. Its always looking for ways to make its campers as light as possible without sacrificing quality and strength. Designed and built for off-road use and insulated with the highest quality materials, all OEV pop-up campers are three-season capable, while the hard-side models with the internal grey tanks are four-season capable, and that’s by Canadian standards. This ruggedness and ability to be used anytime and anywhere has made them popular within the overlanding community.
“We advertise our pop-ups as being three season capable,” Baker said. “We know that people are using them four seasons and that some people aren’t completely winterizing them and eliminating the water in the winter, which we don’t advise doing, because it’s going to bite them in the rear one of these days. But people really push our campers to the limits. I think it’s because of the way that we build these things—the product choices that we do, it’s not something we just not everything that we buy is off the shelf. Our wall panels are our own proprietary design. Our soft walls are our own proprietary design for our pop up. So because of the way that we’re building these things, and with the efficiencies that you’re getting from appliances like the Truma VarioHeat and the Truma AquaGo, it just changes everything.”
It’s important to point out here that OEV’s new High Country is already a very strong seller. Released in late 2022, the hard-side flatbed has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Like all OEV campers, the High Country features a rugged exterior with high insulation ratings capable of enduring the harshest Canadian winters. It features 1.5-inch thick composite walls and roof with R8 insulation and a 1.5-inch thick honeycomb polypropylene floor with R5 insulation. All exterior corners are reinforced with powder coated aluminum for extra strength and durability. The 9-foot, 5-inch floorplan is comfortable and spacious and even offers a complete wet-bath and north-south queen-size bed. The removable flatbed requires a one-ton Ford F350, Ram 3500, or GM 3500 truck to carry it. It can be purchased as either a fixed model or removable.
“The High Country offers the flexibility of whether or not you want to have it as a removable or as a fixed. And there’s a distinct difference between the two. Once you decide to go with a fixed chassis that opens up the opportunities for the air heaters, etc., to use the same fuel that the chassis uses rather than propane. We don’t do diesel or gas appliances. And once you’re fixed, you again can also have your chassis’ Glycol system tied into the cabin,” Baker said.
Like most truck camper manufacturers, OEV offers lithium batteries as an option though the company still offers AGM lead acid batteries as standard. But for boondocking, nothing compares to lithium. The Lithium battery, like those made by Battle Born and Expion360, offers twice the number of amp hours at half the weight of a traditional lead acid battery. It also charges faster. The only real negative is that lithium can’t be charged below 32F. They can be used below that temperature, but they can’t be charged below 32F, otherwise the battery can be damaged.
The High Country comes standard with two 200 watt roof-mounted panels, a Victory Battery Monitor, a Victron 30 amp MPPT controller, two Victory 100 amp hour lithium batteries, a 2,000 watt inverter, and Victory Orion DC-DC charger come standard, but as Baker explains, the camper has been designed to accommodate up to 640 amp hours of batteries (two Lithonics 320 amp hour batteries) and 800 watts of solar. Air conditioning options include a split system that works in conjunction with your truck, or a DC model like Dometic RTX1000 or the Nomadic 1000.
“Honestly, we are getting quite a bit of interest in the Nomadic products as of late. Within the last year, a lot of people are going in that direction. Compared to other makes and models, the Nomadic a little bit more money, but it’s a much simpler system to install than the Dometic RTX. And we’re always looking for something that has lower BTUs. Wherever it gets down to 4,000 3,000 or 5,000 BTUs, the 5,000 BTU unit is going to win the day,” he said.
Another option that’s starting to resonate with customers is the induction cooktop. The recent advances in lithium battery technology has made induction cooking and DC air conditioners possible.
“Propane is going to be completely replaced probably within the next two years,” Baker opined. “You probably won’t see propane cooktops anymore. With the advances in battery technology, it just doesn’t make sense to have the propane cooktops anymore. Propane uses a lot of energy, so anytime that you can remove propane, one of the appliances out of the loop, out of the systems that are used in the camper, we consider that a win. With the advancements in battery technology, for 2024, for example, all of our units will be offered with the induction as an option. I’m pretty confident that the majority of users are going to probably opt for the induction, even though they have to go with an inverter, but I think they’ll probably do that.”
“Look at Winnebago, for example, they recently bought Lithionics, so you can see which way it’s going. They bought that battery plant for a number of reasons, but mainly because with induction cooking and with the big switch over to 12 volt fridges in the regular RV industries is a big reason why they made the switch. I think the three-way fridges will be a thing of the past,” he added.
Of course, with OEV’s new shell models, the sky’s the limit on what can be built by DIY builders. Essentially a “blank canvas,” OEV’s shell models allow owners to build out the interior in any way that they like. These are true shells, DIY customers get only a door. Depending on the model, the weight ranges anywhere between 250 and 600 pounds.
“The shell models are something that we’re just kind of playing with right now. We’re putting it out there, kind of sticking our toes in the stream just to see if there’s any interest there. So, it’s too early to tell at this point if there’s a big interest,” he said.
The Cross Country Shell offering, however, comes with more than just a blank slate. OEV outfits each Cross Country Shell with propane plumbing, a furnace, lighting, controls, a fuse block, battery storage, a mattress and window. The full-size model weighs only 980 pounds while the mid-size models weighs about 700 pounds.
“Over the years we have had several requests to produce a shell model for those who wanted our technology but not fully loaded. After our dealers started getting inquires as well, we knew that we needed to take a closer look,” Baker said.
There’s no doubt about it, the Overland Explorer Vehicles team remains busy building campers to keep up with the current demand, which remains high. So are there any plans at OEV to release something new in 2024?
“We have a new product that will be released in 2024 tentatively called the Trans America. It is a 14-foot body designed for the Ford E350 Van cutaway cab chassis. I think the folks who like the van models, will really gravitate towards it because they can still access to the driver’s seat, passenger seat without exiting the camper or the cab. So I think it’ll definitely appeal to them and I think a lot of other people, I think they’ll really take a second look at it and go, wait a second, hold on. This thing’s got a 14 foot floor plan. It’s got a wet bath, and it’s got this and it’s got that. We’re taking the high country floor plan and we’re extending it from 9.5 feet out to 14 feet and that way there will be two different versions of it. One with a vertical garage, much like our Summit, and then the other one with a bed platform at the very rear, and then underneath that a very large pass through cargo storage area, and I do mean large,” he said.