What do you get when you combine a Ram Power Wagon outfitted with an Overland Explorer Vehicles (OEV) Aluma Tray and Camp-HBE flatbed truck camper? A very capable off-road rig. We’re big fans of the Powerwagon, but the stock Power Wagon isn’t exactly known for hauling truck campers because of the truck’s soft suspension. Yet, when you employ an expert builder like Boulder Vehicles Outfitter (BVO), this deficiency can be mitigated with the right suspension modifications. Noelin Wheeler, renowned tattoo artist and owner of Tattoo Son Tattoo is the proud owner of this off-road, overland beast. He uses this rig not only for overland adventures, but as a mobile office for his successful tattoo business. To learn more about this impressive Overland Explorer Vehicles build, Noelin was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Tell us about yourself. Where do you come from?
Noelin Wheeler: I grew up in Alaska, from there I made my way to Las Vegas where I had lived for the past 22 years. Now, I’ve recently moved to Austin, Texas.
What do you do for a living?
Noelin Wheeler: I’m a tattoo artist. You can see my work at savageson.tattoo. I’ve had the fortune of finding a career that I love and have been able to travel with it. I’ve even found myself on TV for a short while with Ink Master
How long have you owned your OEV Camp-HBE (Hudson Bay Edition) truck camper?
Noelin Wheeler: It’s pretty new. We picked up the Ram Power Wagon and OEV Camp-HBE in January of 2022.
Can you tell us about your OEV camper and why you chose that particular make and model?
Noelin Wheeler: I chose the OEV Hudson Bay Edition flatbed because of the interior size. I travel with my wife and we spend a lot of time traveling. The HBE gives us plenty of water, fridge space, and a Wrappon electric toilet.
What mods have you made to your truck camper to make it more livable?
Noelin Wheeler: Boy, the truck camper mods just keep growing. Recently, we’ve added a Dometic RTX 1000 AC unit and a couple more lithium batteries. We also had a Guzzle H2O water filter and flexible water faucet. And probably one of the best investments was the Froli bed spring system. Lots of other things to like, including the backsplash and the Fiamma sun shade. The list goes on and on.
Can you tell us about the OEV tray on your rig?
Noelin Wheeler: The OEV Aluma Tray and HBE marry perfectly. In one of the storage bays I have an ARB air compressor and in another I carry all the extra propane.
Do you use solar power or a generator to keep your truck camper’s batteries topped off?
Noelin Wheeler: We have two 200 watt solar panels and four 100 watt deep cycle Antigravity lithium batteries.
Do you use an Alternator DC-DC charger to help keep your batteries charged while on the road?
Noelin Wheeler: Yes, with our Redarc Manager 30 we charge from the truck while on the move or in less ideal solar power days.
The Dometic RTX 1000 is rated for 4,100 BTUs. How well does it keep your camper cool in the Texas heat and humidity?
Noelin Wheeler: When it’s in the ECO mode (18 amps) and with the sun recharging, the batteries can run indefinitely. In the MAX setting, it does a pretty good job keeping the camper comfortable in the Texas summer heat, and we get about 12 hours before I need to run the truck.
We love your truck. Can you tell us more about it?
Noelin Wheeler: It’s a 2022 Ram 6.4L Power Wagon 2500. I went full luxury with this build and chose the highest interior trim, sound system and display. I’ve always been a fan of the Power Wagon and wanted to turn a modern one into a truck camper. The nice part is when I drop the camper, I have a monster Power Wagon to go four wheel driving in.
You have the best of both worlds. What exactly did BVO Adventure Vehicles do to build out your rig and stiffen the Power Wagon’s rear suspension?
Noelin Wheeler: BVO Adventure Vehicles did an amazing job, I can’t say enough about them. From the front we added a couple Baja Designs LP9 amber lights with a couple squadron fogs below. A 16.5-ton Warn winch all mounted to a AEV front bumper. They also installed a Thuren front axle truss, an AEV lift with custom valved ADS shocks, AEV wheels with Nitto Terra Grappler 37-inch tires, Dayton CargoMaxx HD rear coils to support and level out the rear, Daystar airbags, and a Hellwig Big Wig sway bar.
Can you tell us about the custom wrap? Did you design it yourself?
Noelin Wheeler: Yep, the wrap is my design from my shop logo. I wanted to make the truck stand out when we go to tattoo shows and I think I did too good of a job. When we are driving down the road I noticed that people will drive next to us, so they can check out the truck and artwork. It makes it super difficult to pass someone or change lanes, LOL.
Did you need to make any modifications to your truck’s suspension?
Noelin Wheeler: A lot was done to carry this load and it’s still a work in progress. Everything from here on out will get a massive upgrade as it fails or becomes time to replace.
Do you have any regrets in any of your truck and camper choices? Anything you wished that you had done differently?
Noelin Wheeler: I went with the Ram Power Wagon and it only comes in gas and a 6-foot bed. The next build will most likely have a turbo diesel and an 8-foot bed. The longer chassis will allow me to have the garage storage for the spare tire and a floor jack.
What is the longest amount of time you spent in your camper?
Noelin Wheeler: So far only two weeks, but at the time of this interview we are preparing for a six-week trip to Alaska.
Where have you taken your rig so far?
Noelin Wheeler: Living in central Texas doesn’t give us a lot of easy access public areas, so most have been long hauls. States visited so far include Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
What kind of mileage are you getting with your setup?
Noelin Wheeler: On a good day, I’m getting around 10 mpg at 65 mph, 9 mpg is more often, and if I drive it like a normal person, I’m getting about 8 mpg.
Can you tell us about your Power Wagon’s wheel and tire setup?
Noelin Wheeler: I’m running Nitto Ridge Grappler All-Terrain 37X12.50R17 tires on AEV Salta HD 17-inch rims.
What kind of places are you planning to visit in your rig?
Noelin Wheeler: We will be leaving for Alaska this week. We’ve been preparing for this trip since the beginning of the year, and had it in our sights on it for several years before that. One thing my wife (@val2the_w) and I both love is to travel, to go at our own pace to remote unique places far away from the tourist traps and theme parks. So for our honeymoon we decided to take an epic journey up north to Alaska, stopping along the way to some of Canada’s national treasures. Alaska has and always will be my home and I can’t wait to return to her and show my lovely bride all the beauty and wonder that only Alaska can give.
In 2023, we are doing the east coast of Canada for a month or so and Mexico for a couple months.
What are your plans for Alaska?
Noelin Wheeler: For the next five weeks we are going to be on the road finding remote campsites, fishing, kayaking, and simply wandering. We’re bringing along some gear too so we can document our expedition. Of course, we are also bringing @smeagol_the_hairless the cat along with us. He’s already traveled to 20 states with us so far and now he’s going international, and the farther north that any naked cat has gone before.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your rig?
Noelin Wheeler: I feel like we have found the perfect setup, and as all your readers are aware, there are plenty of tradeoffs with any rig build-out. But for us we are able to get off-grid and live remote for weeks on end, but still be able to do our conventions and guest spots. It’s a large and capable truck, but not too big where we would be missing out on some of the trails we’ve gone before in our old mid-size truck.