Homer’s Odyssey is widely regarded as one of the most significant works in Western Canon. In it Odysseus, king of Itchaca, encountered many perils during his epic, 10-year adventure. When Rory Willett, CEO of BundutecUSA, released the Odyssey in 2018, we were intrigued with the design and name. The flatbed camper offers all of the features that one would want in a good, off-road truck camper. Kevin MacAfee and his wife, Linda, were the very first ones to buy a Bundutec Odyssey. Why they bought an Odyssey for their overland adventures makes sense. The well-traveled couple have owned three campers and explored several continents including Africa, so they know what works and what doesn’t. Their adventures haven’t been as perilous as those of King Odysseus, but they have been fun. To learn more about their travels and truck camper adventures, Kevin was kind enough to answer a few questions in this interview.
Thanks, Kevin, for talking with us. Can you first tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Kevin MacAfee: We met in college and after living in Virginia for a few years, moved to Minnesota 30 years ago. Linda’s career has always been in technology and she retired from Delta Airlines after 20+ years. I was a police officer for a time before changing careers and spent 30 years managing retirement plans and teaching other people how to retire successfully. Linda’s job came with flight benefits, so we’ve been able to travel extensively both here and abroad. Our daughter and her family live in Vermont and they are passionate about travel as well.
My parents were avid travelers both for work and pleasure so that wanderlust gene was passed down. I was born in Africa and spent the first few years of my life traveling there before living in Europe for a few years. Linda’s family would take extended vacations every summer in a pop-up camper visiting National Parks and state capitols. Now that we are both fully retired, we want to visit more national parks and explore parts of the country we’ve never seen.
How long have you two been interested in truck camping?
Kevin MacAfee: It was an evolutionary process. We had a Honda Element fitted with an ECamper followed by a Tacoma which only had a shell initially. As we got older and wanted a few more creature comforts, we purchased a used Four Wheel Camper Eagle. That truck camper was a game-changer for us, and it was used a lot, but as we and the truck got older, we wanted something a little roomier. We also needed to up-size the truck as our granddaughter was getting older and there was no place for her to safely travel with us. We sold the truck in 30 minutes and the camper in three hours, so we had some decisions to make.
With so many great truck campers to choose from, can you tell us why you chose the Bundutec Odyssey?
Kevin MacAfee: We had settled on a flatbed camper which limited our options a bit. In 2018, there were only a few companies making them and we visited the few that did build them. The challenge was that there were several things we wanted specifically and the companies we visited really did not customize—it was their way or no way. Living in the Midwest, having access to the manufacturer for issues after the sale typically meant a long trip west and leaving the camper for long periods of time.
We visited Rory Willett at BundutecUSA in Raymond, Iowa and were immediately impressed. He had a long history of building truck campers for Northstar before branching out on his own. Both he and Jenn Crooks were very open to whatever features we wanted, and he was excited to build this first-ever side-entry flatbed camper. His facility is only a 3.5-hour drive from our home, which made the choice easy if we had any issues.
We took delivery of our Bundutec Odyssey in October 2018. We own Odyssey #001. It sits on an AlumLine aluminum flatbed and conveniently, they are also located in Iowa. The design is loosely based on FWC’s Hawk flatbed model and incorporates a big rear dinette with a large window, a Thetford cassette toilet, a two-burner stove, and tons of storage. One of the custom features we wanted was a way to incorporate our National Luna chest-style refrigerator into the design and Rory was able to build a slide-out mechanism under the bed, so it is easily accessible when needed, but doesn’t take up under any counter space.
What is your favorite feature of the Odyssey?
Kevin MacAfee: Hands down, the rear dinette. We can eat or just hang out and be able to have a great view, especially when boondocking. The Truma Combi would have to be a close second.
Being a flatbed camper, how is the Odyssey secured?
Kevin MacAfee: A lot of flatbed campers are bolted down to the bed itself. It’s challenging to line up four bolts while lowering a 2,000-pound camper, so we wanted something simpler, especially since we would remove the camper a few times a year. Since we never travel with our jacks on, we decided to use Torklift Fastguns hooked between the camper jack plates and the flatbed itself. I also installed some side plates to keep it from shifting from side-to-side. It never moves, even off-road and is easy to load and unload when needed.
What modifications have you made to your Odyssey since you bought it?
Kevin MacAfee: We’ve added some additional USB charging ports, hung some net storage racks on the walls and installed a custom table that depicts the Grand Canyon. We also have a satellite radio system that’s great to have. I built a rear rack that is attached to the jack plates that we use to carry bicycles, extra water, and fuel, MaxTrax boards and outdoor cooking grills.
Do you use solar power or a generator to keep the camper’s batteries topped off?
Kevin MacAfee: Solar. We have 340 watts charging two AGM batteries. I purchased a package from AM Solar and Rory installed it for us.
Can you tell us about more about your truck?
Kevin MacAfee: It’s a 2015 Ram 3500 in Laramie trim powered by the 6.4L HEMI gasoline engine. I researched diesel, but given the long stretches of cold weather we get in Minnesota and the times the truck would not be driven regularly, a gas engine made more sense for us.
Did you need to make any modifications to your Ram 3500 to carry the Odyssey?
Kevin MacAfee: Yes, several things. Modifications include re-arching the rear springs, adding an additional leaf, and installing heavier shocks and SumoSprings. I recently had the front suspension rebuilt using Thuren Springs and added new Fox Shocks to both the front and rear. The front bumper is an aluminum model made by Aluminess.
Do you have any regrets in your choices? Anything you wished that you had done differently?
Kevin MacAfee: None. BundutecUSA has been great to work with both before and after the sale. We might have installed Battle Born lithium ion batteries initially, but when I researched it in 2018, the fact that you cannot charge them below 32 degrees was a huge factor given where we live. Today, that has all changed and we might make the change in the future.
Have you made any mistakes relating to truck camper life that would help our readers?
Kevin MacAfee: We forgot to latch the top down once before leaving camp and the wind started to push the top up. Fortunately, we caught it before doing any damage. We’ve also forgotten to unlatch all the latches before raising the roof. Come up with a checklist and do a final walk around before leaving camp and you’ll be able to catch things like that.
What kind of mileage are you getting with your setup?
Kevin MacAfee: Depending on wind and terrain, 9-13 mpg.
What tires do you have and what inflation values do you typically run when driving off-road?
Kevin MacAfee: Cooper Discoverer AT3’s. Off-road, I typically lower the front to 20-30 psi and the rear to 30-40 psi.
You’ve been to so many great places. What has been the most difficult and challenging?
Kevin MacAfee: Anza Borrego State Park in California, the Grand Staircase in Utah, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon are all pretty amazing. We have made two trips to Africa where we did self-drive trips and traveled the length of Oman while visiting family. Africa is challenging due to its remoteness and crossing borders, that is always an adventure. Oman was extremely remote and traveling near Yemen with its ongoing civil war was a little scary.
If you were to rank the top ten trails where you’ve taken your truck camper rig, what would they be?
- Ice Fields Parkway—Banff to Jasper
- The Alcan Highway—Dawson Creek to Delta Junction
- The Dalton Highway—Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay
- The Mojave 4×4 Road—Bullhead City to Barstow
- El Camino del Diablo
- River Road, Big Bend National Park
- The Burr Trail – Capital Reef National Park
- The RimRocker Trail—Moab to Montrose
- The Grand Canyon North Rim—no set route, just meandering through Kaibab National Forest
- The TransAmerica Trail—North Carolina to Oregon. NOTE: I have driven it from Bartlesville, Oklahoma to Virginia and all of the state of Utah. It’s still on my short list to finish it.
Are there any areas or trails that you think are overlooked by others?
Kevin MacAfee: The focus always seems to be on the American West, which is understandable give the amazing scenery, trails, and abundance of public land. But the Midwest and east coasts also have some wonderful spots—the upper peninsula of Michigan, Montana, the Dakota’s, and New England, (especially Vermont and New Hampshire) have large networks of lesser-maintained roads that offer some great challenges. Canada and Mexico offer some spectacular opportunities as well.
If you were to buy a brand-new overland rig and price wasn’t an issue, what would it be?
Kevin MacAfee: That’s hard to say. One of the big Mann or EarthRoamer vehicles are certainly intriguing, but would be too big for many of the areas we like to explore. My vehicle philosophy is KISS—keep it simple stupid—so I’m not sure I would deviate much from what we have. Instead, I would like to have a few well-appointed vehicles in storage in Australia and Africa that could be used for exploration, without the shipping hassle.
What’s the most worrisome or scariest moment you’ve experienced during your travels?
Kevin MacAfee: We were camped in a remote section of Anza Borrego State Park and people came through our campsite very early one morning. Nothing was disturbed, fortunately, but it did make us much more aware of the need to have ways to protect ourselves.
Have you had any notable run-ins with wildlife on any of your travels?
Kevin MacAfee: We’ve had some near misses with deer and moose in our travels. On one of the Africa trips, we were camped inside a fence line at a national park and could hear lions roaring and crashing through the bush close by. A near miss with a Zebra was also exciting.
What things do you like to eat when you’re out exploring?
Kevin MacAfee: We normally cook outside using a TemboTusk Skottle or BBQ grill. Chicken, stir fry and burgers are some of our regular menu items. Bagged salads are a great invention and also convenient. We recently purchased an Omnia Stovetop Oven and have been experimenting with making baked goods.
Do you have any other hobbies as they relate to the great outdoors?
Kevin MacAfee: We are both lifelong cyclists, enjoy lake and river kayaking, and really enjoy hiking with our dog, Raven.
This has been great talking to you. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us. Do you have any final advice for our readers?
Kevin MacAfee: There is a great line in the movie Nomadland, “don’t leave your sailboat in the driveway.” So get out there now and enjoy traveling while you can.
Where are Kevin, Linda, and Raven now? Follow them on Instagram to find out.