DIY ‘EarthRoamer’ Total Composites OAT Rig has Everything but the High Cost

Everyone loves the EarthRoamer LTi Xpedition Vehicle, but with a starting price of $750,000 few people can afford it. Yes, the EarthRoamer’s cost puts it out of reach from most, yet its still an marvel of engineering, the yardstick for those aspiring to build a comparable truck camper rig at a lower cost. Indeed, this admiration for the EarthRoamer has inspired many to build their own DIY rig, a poor-man’s EarthRoamer if you will. Retired air traffic controllers, Craig French and Angela Stalans, who together go by the moniker Retired at Large on Instagram, did exactly that by using a Total Composites Bobcat shell and a Ram 5500 single-cab truck. As you will see, this DIY “EarthRoamer” Total Composites truck camper rig has everything that an EarthRoamer has without the exorbitant cost. To learn more about this eye-popping DIY build, we spoke with Angela.

Tell us about yourselves. Where are you from? What do you two do for a living?

Angela: Craig and I were working as air traffic controllers for the federal government when we met at a training class in Washington, DC. One year later, we married and I moved from Tennessee to New Mexico. During our time in New Mexico, we owned a pop-up camper, a trailer and a 5th wheel, and we loved them all. We traveled extensively throughout the Southwest and loved the desert and wilderness there. Craig and I retired from government service in 2013 and relocated to Georgia to be near our parents and families.

What inspired you to get into truck campers?

Angela: When we retired, we did what most people do. We bought a 36-foot motorhome and criss-crossed the country in it. We even took it to Alaska. But during that time, we always had a feeling of missing out. The motorhome was very comfortable, but we missed all the places we went with our other RVs.

While at a rally in Elkhart, Indiana, we saw a truck camper and were inspired by it. The camper sat on a flatbed with storage boxes above and below the bed. It looked very capable and comfortable. From there, we began looking at truck and camper options. Then we discovered Expedition Portal and I attended an Overland Expo and that was it. We decided to build our own.

Why did you decide to build a DIY rig using a Total Composites Bobcat Camper?

Angela: For the habitat box, we decided to use the Bobcat shell from Total Composites. As we finalized our layout and panel requirements, shipping went a little crazy. We found that using one of Total Composites’ builder partners would save us some money on shipping.

We selected Overland Adventure Truck (OAT) in Littlerock, Washington and in February of 2022, we delivered our truck to them. OAT worked with us to order both the panels from Total Composites and our window/door package from Outbound Motorhome Products. They also worked with us to design/build a custom subframe.
OAT assembled the habitat box, married it to the subframe, and mounted it on the truck. We were able to be present for this process and are still amazed at the work OAT did that week. We drove our completed empty shell home in May of 2022 and began the rest of the build-out.

How long was the build process for the camper?

Angela: We spent the next 14 months creating a livable interior. The cabinetry is framed in 8020 extruded aluminum with bamboo plywood fronts. We used marine grade wire and interior hardware, perfect for something that would be out in the elements. We use an Air Head composting toilet, so no black tank. We even poured the epoxy countertop and table. So far, everything is holding up well.

We love the looks of your single-cab truck? Can you tell us more about it?

Angela: We began our planning in 2019 and in 2020, we sold our 36-foot motorhome. Of course, things slowed down due to COVID and we spent most of the next year doing projects around our home and planning our build. In May of 2021, we ordered the base vehicle, a 2022 RAM 5500 Cab Chassis, 4×4, 84CA with 4.89 gears and as many safety features as we could get.

Closeup of the Kelderman Air Ride components.

Did you need to do anything to beef-up your truck’s suspension?

Angela: We replaced the stock suspension with Kelderman Air Suspension products, in the front and rear. We also installed a FOX steering stabilizer, ADS remote reservoir shocks, a Suspension Max adjustable track bar and CORE4x4 adjustable control arms.

What wheel and tires do you have on your truck and what inflation values do you typically run?

Angela: We also completed a single wheel conversion using components from Buckstop Truckware. We run Continental MPT-81s (41s) on Buckstop’s single piece steel wheels and Centramatic wheel balancers on all tires. We typically run 55 psi in the front and 75 psi in the rear. We completed the truck modifications with a front bumper and skid plates, also from Buckstop Truckware. Then Craig designed and welded the rear bumper with winch mount.

Can you tell us about your camper’s electrical systems? Do you use solar power or a generator to keep your truck camper’s batteries topped off?

Angela: We did exhaustive research when selecting major components and systems. Ultimately, we decided to use Battle Born Batteries and Victron Energy products. We have 800 amp hours of lithium-ion batteries, 1,200 watts of solar panels wired in series parallel to dual solar controllers. A 3,000 watt inverter/charger handles all our 110 volt needs. We ordered the truck with an additional alternator and use dual DC-DC chargers. Between the solar and alternator charging, we have had no problems keeping our batteries charged.

What kind of mileage are you getting with your setup?

Angela: We get around 10-11 mpgs over all. We generally travel at about 58 mph and 1,850 rpm. This combo gets us the best performance/economy mix. And we wanted to travel at a slower pace.

Have you had your truck camper rig weighed?

Angela: Yes. We are very weight conscious. Weight concerns informed our choice of truck and our placement of heavy interior items, like batteries and water tanks. We weighed the truck as a chassis cab, then with the empty Total Composites box, and several more times during our build. As a finished truck/camper full of fuel water, tools and all our gear, we weigh 18,100 pounds. Our RAM 5500 has a GVWR of 19,500 pounds. We never want to be right up against our maximum weight.

Do you have any particular pieces of gear or truck camper mods that you would recommend to others?

Angela: We love our Starlink conversion by Unique Componentry. The dish is converted to a flat panel that includes all components and is modified to run on 12 volts. Because we don’t have an awning, we purchased a Moon Shade and Moon Wall. It works well and can be moved to either side of the camper, depending on our needs.

Do you have any regrets in any of your truck and camper choices? Anything you wished that you had done differently?

Angela: Amazingly, after three years of planning and execution, we have no real regrets. There are a few things we will change or modify. We originally installed the vent for the sink gray tank under the kitchen window. That line will be moved to the rear of the camper. We also need to improve the ventilation above the refrigerator and above the electrical bay, as these areas stay very warm. And will finish the bathroom with a storage cabinet and door.

Where are you been in your truck camper? What are your plans for the future?

Angela: We are currently on our shake down trip; an 8,000 mile trip around the U.S. visiting family and getting deeper into the national forests and wilderness areas. We are thrilled to be able to access dispersed camping again. In October, we attended the 2023 Overland Expo East and presented our rig in the Showcase and DIY area. We have additional plans in 2024. We look forward to meeting others with similar interests. In the future, we plan to go back to Alaska and across Canada. We would also like to visit the Baja California.

Do you have a website and/or social media channels that our readers can follow?

Angela: You can follow our build on Instagram as @retiredatlarge or on Expedition Portal under 2022 RAM 5500 Composite Super Camper.

What have been the most popular social media posts/videos relating to truck camper life?

Angela: I love that the most popular post on Instagram was simply a reel of the truck camper driving out of the garage. It was the first drive after installing the front Kelderman air suspension, putting on the MPT-81s and moving the axle forward. It was an exciting day for us!

Do you have any closing words of advice for your readers relating to truck camper life?

Angela: Even though we are a different kind of build, we were originally inspired by an amazing truck camper. Truck campers are a perfect way to get back into the woods and be comfortable at the same time. When getting started, we defined where we wanted to go and how long we wanted to stay there. This helped us choose everything for our build. Whether it’s the truck or the camper first, make sure they match up well with your requirements and each other. Being “under trucked” could limit where you can go and the wrong camper affects how long you can stay there. Take your time to choose, and you will have no regrets.

About Mello Mike 880 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply (You Must Be Logged In)