Ah, the Ram Power Wagon. When it comes to a full-size, purpose-built, off-road truck, there’s nothing like it. It comes with everything including front and rear lockers, electronic sway bar disconnects, skid plates, a winch, and the factory 4:10 rear gears. The Power Wagon’s modified 6.4L gas HEMI is no slouch either. The only thing the Power Wagon lacks is payload. At only 1,564 pounds for the latest model, you’re pretty limited on what you can carry. That’s why were excited when Four Wheel Campers released the Project M. The lightweight truck topper weighs only 420 pounds, perfect for the Ram Power Wagon. We’ve seen several Ram Power Wagon and Project M combinations the last few years, but nothing as impressive as Corey and Danielle Ryan’s Power Wagon-Project M combo. We saw the rig up close at the 2023 Overland Expo West, and enthusiastically gave it a top 10 ranking at the show. To learn more about this, eye-popping combo, we spoke with Corey.
Thanks, Corey, for talking with us. Can you first tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
Corey Ryan: I started getting into camping at a very young age while in Boy Scouts. I ended up joining the US Air Force and did 10 years active duty. During that time, I deployed to Iraq and Turkey, where our living conditions were like camping hahaha. From this point forward I vowed to camp in comfort versus the “roughing it” mentality. I started out with various Jeep wranglers over the years and my primary focus was rock crawling with camping/overland just being a part of that hobby. I soon separated from the military and became a police officer in New Mexico. I got married to Danielle who also enjoyed the hobby as well. After Danielle and I started having children (we have three), I knew the days of rock crawling were coming to an end since our little ones found it too scary, but we all decided we really enjoyed the overlanding hobby and would continue that. While outfitting my last Jeep for overlanding another reality was setting in, not enough room for gear and passengers. A small overland trailer worked for a little while, but I never was happy pulling a trailer on the trail. The vision for a self-contained overland vehicle fully capable of taking us to almost anywhere started to materialize. After a few different trucks and overlanding set ups, our current 2019 Ram Power Wagon with a Four Wheel Camper Project M was born.
Why did you decide to go with a truck topper like the Project M rather than a standard slide-in?
Corey Ryan: Basically because of the weight. We had been contemplating the Four Wheel Campers Project M for a while but had not been able to see one in person since there weren’t any in our home area. In 2022 we were finally able to see the Project M in person and we knew we had to have one. The main selling factors for us were the straight pop-up style top (not a wedge), the king size bed, the all-aluminum construction, the light weight of the unit, and the “blank canvas” of the Project M that we could customize to our liking.
Does your Project M topper have anything unique or custom about it?
Corey Ryan: As far as unique and custom goes, I guess that would pertain mostly to the interior build out. When it came time to build out the interior of the Project M, I took the truck to AVS Outfitters in Albuquerque to build the design I had in my head. Our family is a fan of the Frontrunner Wolf Pack storage boxes. In my head I envisioned a sleeping platform in the truck bed area of the truck along the driver’s side. This area would store our Frontrunner boxes as well as contain our lithium battery and RedArc power management system. I started by picking up a Goose Gear base plate for the bed of the truck to mount the new interior build to. AVS was able to make our vison come to life using extruded aluminum material from 8020.net. We have a decent size lower bed area for my daughter (almost a twin size bed) which doubles as a bench during the day. Under the bed we were able to get three of the Frontrunner boxes to stow away safely and securely. My lithium battery and RedArc system was also successfully stowed out of sight and out of the way.
What are your favorite Project M features?
Corey Ryan: There are tons of features on the Four Wheel Camper Project M that make it such a great unit, however, I’ve just picked a few to talk about here. Some of my favorite features of the Project M would start with the sleeping bed, it’s a huge King size sleeping area! With 90 percent of our time spent in the sleeping area while in the camper, having a large comfy place to sleep each night was a major priority. Next, I would say a favorite feature would also be the exterior gear tracks offered by Four Wheel Campers. This option allows you to mount all types of gear to the exterior. With living space at a premium in truck campers, anything I can move to the outside and mount to these tracks is helpful. Another great feature is the thermal liner. This extra layer of fabric along the interior portion of the camper’s cloth pop up section is great for keeping heat out in the summer and heat in, in the winter. The thermal liner works by creating an air gap between the layers of fabric which acts as insulation.
Can you tell us about your Ram Power Wagon?
Corey Ryan: To carry our Project M, we chose to go with a 2019 Dodge Ram Power Wagon due to the factory off road options offered with the power wagon such as front and rear locking differentials, electronic sway bar disconnects, additional skid plates, Warn 12,000 pounds winch, and the factory 4:10 gear ratio. We got our Power Wagon fully-loaded except for the “Ram Boxes” offered by Ram since we knew we wanted a camper of some type, and these boxes would be useless. The Power Wagon is also a 6.4L gas HEMI motor which appealed to us since gas tends to be cheaper than diesel and requires less maintenance.
What are your thoughts about the Ram Power Wagon? Is the truck worth the extra cost?
Corey Ryan: It is. The Power Wagon is a purpose-built vehicle. The front and rear factory lockers, factory skid plates, electronic sway bar disconnect, and factory winch are vital off-road if that’s where you plan on going. It’s kind of like why people buy the Jeep Rubicon versus the other trims. Having grown up by the Boy Scout motto “be prepared,” the Power Wagon is just that. You may not need all those factory off-road extras, but when you do, you will be grateful.
What upgrades, if any, did you make to your Power Wagon?
Corey Ryan: We knew when we got the Power Wagon, we wanted to upgrade the suspension and that’s what we did next. In front, we added Thuren 1.5-inch lift coils, King 2.5 shocks, a King steering stabilizer, and a Carli front track bar. In the rear we added Carli 1-inch lift HD coils springs, King 2.5 shocks, AirLift 5000 airbags with the Daystar cradles, a Thuren rear track bar, and Carli extended sway bar links. After the suspension was sorted out, we started looking at other practical and useful additions to the truck. S.O.B. Fabrication in southeast New Mexico took on the challenge of fabricating the front and rear high clearance bumpers on the Power Wagon.
The rear bumper features dual swing outs, one of which is for our spare, since our 37-inch tire won’t fit in the factory spare location. Both front and rear bumpers ended up beautiful and is the most asked about item on the truck. To protect the sides of the truck we leaned on AVS Outfitters again who created the rock sliders that double as a step and are solidly mounted to the trucks frame. More protection was provided with a pair of AEV differential covers.
To help the engine breath better and cleaner, an AEV high Air Intake was added. Lastly, all of this would have been for nothing if we couldn’t see the trail or navigate at night. Baja Designs off-road lighting covered us in this area. Starting at the bumper we have a pair of LP6’s, a pair of LP4’s and a pair of Squadron Pro’s. Moving up to the A-pillar on the truck we have a pair of Squadron Pro’s. Lastly, we have a pair of S2 Pro’s mounted in the rear bumper as reverse illumination. The light these Baja Designs products put out is amazing.
Seeing how the Project M doesn’t have a dedicated electrical system, what provisions did you make for power?
Corey Ryan: When it comes to the electrical system, we wanted to do it right and wanted the best, so we went with RedArc products to take care of our power management needs. In today’s day and age lithium batteries seem to be the standard for the power demand overlanding requires. Lithium also requires no maintenance and can be depleted and recharged thousands of times without damaging the battery. We went with 170 amp hour Renogy lithium battery. To handle the charging and discharge of the battery, RedArc takes over. The RedArc Manager 30 boasts 30 amps of power output and is a state-of-the-art management system designed to charge and maintain our auxiliary battery by incorporating AC, DC and solar management.
With management handled we needed something to monitor and control the truck campers power supply, enter the RedArc RedVision. The RedVision acts as a central hub that allows you to control multiple on-board devices. I can turn on my inverter, lights, fridge, and fans with a push of a button on the RedVison Screen or using the Bluetooth connected mobile app. Our RedVison also allows us to monitor inside and outside temperatures and give us live data on the state of charge and consumption on the battery. AC 110 volt power is provided to the camper by RedArc’s 2, 000 watt pure sine wave inverter also wired into the RedVision for easy monitoring. In addition to the DC charging from the truck’s alternator, our auxiliary battery receives a solar boost from a Lensun 100 watt hood mounted solar panel and a 200 watt Renogy solar panel mounted on the roof of the Four Wheel Camper Project M.
Does your rig feature any other accessories or features worthy of note?
Corey Ryan: Some additional accessories on the truck that haven’t already been mentioned would be an AR style rifle rack on the interior headliner, a dash mounted Ham radio as well as a separate Midland GMRS radio, a Alamosa Aussie style 2M HAM radio antenna, Mountain Hatch tailgate cover. Mounted on the exterior of the Project M camper are two 3 gallon Roto Pax, a pair of ARB Tred boards, a 23Zero 270 degree awning and a 23Zero shower room. Mounted on the other rear bumper swing out I have a 5 gallon propane tank, 5 gallon NATO water can, the DMOS Delta Pro shovel (let me just say this shovel is amazing) and a Fiskers full size ax.
Are there any plans for future upgrades or modifications?
Corey Ryan: As far as future plans for our build I’m not sure. I mean there’s nothing on my list really left to do however things change every day and in the overlanding industry something new and better is always being created. That being said I’m 100 percent happy with everything we have done and don’t feel we would change anything at this point.
What kind of mileage are you getting with your setup?
Corey Ryan: Regarding gas mileage on my truck with the camper. First off, the Four Wheel Camper Project M can be removed, mine does not and the truck and camper is our dedicated exploration rig. I get on average 12 mpg combined city/highway driving.
What wheels and tires do you have and what inflation values do you typically run when off-road?
Corey Ryan: Tires and wheels are like the shoes of your vehicle. Choosing these items has proven to be one of the most difficult build decisions over the years. No matter how much research you do, any choice you make could be incorrect. The good thing though is if you do make a mistake selecting tires and wheels, it can be corrected the next time you need tires, and you walk away with some knowledge to make a better decision next time. I’ve bought hundreds or sets of tires over the years, so going into this build I felt good about my choose in tires and wheels. I picked the Nitto Ridge Grapplers in 37×13.50r17 with the 17-inch AEV Salta wheels. This combo has been great so far and proven to do everything we want and expect out of a tire/wheel combo.
Where have you taken your rig thus. What are your plans for the future?
Corey Ryan: Our rig has taken us to some amazing places across Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. We personally believe that some of the most amazing places to see are those that may not have been found yet. We enjoy venturing down the paths less traveled and spend 99 percent of our nights out in dispersed/boondock locations away from everyone else (except for some good friends). Some of the areas we would like to explore in the future would be Montana and Wyoming. We are trying to set some time aside to do the Rim Rocker trail as well as find some amazing beach camping locations at some point.
Can you tell us about your overlanding organization?
Corey Ryan: A few years ago, some friends and I started New Mexico-Expedition and it quickly became the largest overlanding group in the state. It’s a free overlanding community gathering place on social media where encourage conversations about gear and trips. We also organize and lead group trips with people ranging from novices to experts. New Mexico Expedition has a website, YouTube channel, and Instagram page.
Do you have any social media channels where we can follow you and your adventures?
Do you have any shout-outs on your build before we close?
Corey Ryan: The last thing I would like to add about the build is the fact that none of it would have been possible with out the support and fantastic work provided by a lot of great companies. One of those companies being AVS Outfitters who is responsible for bringing my build ideas to fruition.
Any words of advice before we close?
Corey Ryan: Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you and your publication and I will leave you with the following tips. When getting started in overlanding or considering a truck camper for your truck, focus on your goals and truly what you want and need while seeking the outdoors. Once you take the time to answer that question you will have a path to follow to make wise choices in your build. Also, make sure you enjoy the ups and downs of adventure as they both educate.