There’s no doubt about it. The truck camper overland industry is healthy and strong. Evidence of this health comes in the form of not only sales, but new companies. The newest company to throw its hat into the expedition vehicle ring, is Wolf Rigs out of Englewood, Colorado. The brand-new company just constructed a prototype called the Patton, named after famed U.S. Army general George S. Patton. The name fits because this overland rig is built on a military-grade, Humvee H1 chassis, giving the rig a distinctly military look. But you won’t find a fixed machine gun or grenade launcher anywhere on this 5-ton beast. What you’ll find instead is an expedition truck camper rig outfitted with all the camping luxuries one could want, including a queen-size bed, a small dinette and kitchen, a rear garage with spare-tire storage, and a large residential-size shower with a hideaway toilet.
Built by AM General and officially known as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or colloquially as the Humvee), the first 55,000 Humvees were manufactured for the US Army in 1985. The company continues to produce the Humvee for both the US Army and Marine Corps today. In the early 1990s, AM General began producing a civilian version of the Humvee, calling it a “Hummer,” but by the late 1990s, AM General had sold the Hummer name to General Motors. Since its inception, the venerable Hummer has made its mark not only on battlefields of the world, but in the backcountry here in the United States.
“I was in the military (Army 11B) and drove the Humvee quite a bit and always loved how they could drive over and through anything,” explained Reed Gerdes, Wolf Rigs co-owner and CEO. “It was partly why I loved building and four-wheeling Jeeps later in my adult life. With the low center of gravity and the new innovations of Humvee re-manufacturers, it was literally the perfect platform to build our dream rig on. It’s just as wide as a Ford F450, and yet so much more agile and light. Our rig weighs in at 8,700 pounds dry. The Humvee is, in my opinion, a much better choice for overlanding. They just look cool, too.”
The choice to go with the “Hummer” makes sense. Aside from the relatively low weight, the military-grade, 4WD chassis not only offers a shorter wheelbase than most expedition rigs, but also a wider platform for greater stability. It features a 3.9L Cummins diesel with a Allison 1000 6-speed transmission and Falken Wildpeak size-37 mud-terrain tires. The vehicle also offers 16 inches of ground clearance, which means it has the clearance to travel over some pretty rough terrain, while the rear garage houses necessities like a spare wheel and tire, additional fuel, a winch, and propane.
“We were going to start building 4×4 Sprinter vans to sell,” Gerdes recalled. “I was on my way back to Denver from a trip where I met Mike King who is now my business partner. I stopped in Moab on my way home and I quickly noticed how no 4×4 Sprinter van could go up the trails I was used to driving with my Jeeps. I spent the better part of my adult life building and fourwheeling Jeeps of all kinds. However, it was almost disheartening how incapable the 4×4 Sprinter was. That and I always thought—and still do–that they looked goofy with the tall top and skinny profile. After a short conversation with my buddy Jax Austin he again gave me inspiration. ‘Why don’t you build an overland vehicle on a Humvee chassis?’ I immediately thought the idea was the best I had ever heard. I raced back to Denver and started drawing, looking at ideas and came up with a CAD drawing. A few months later, I purchased our first Humvee and started building. This was February 2021.”
The military-grade chassis is a great starting point, but in order to built a great expedition rig, you need a great camper—one that’s neither too big nor too small. After getting a personal tour of the rig at the 2022 Overland Expo Mountain West, we think Gerdes got the size of the Patton just right. The camper features an all-aluminum frame and shell with a surprisingly spacious interior with a queen-size, east-west bed, a L-shape seating area, direct driver access, Arctic Tern dual thermopane windows, a rear garage with spare-tire storage, and a large residential-size shower with a hideaway toilet. In keeping with the rugged, military appearance, the Patton is also built incredibly strong.
“We use a 1/8-inch aluminum plate with a 14-gauge strap that’s panel bonded and riveted all around, using 3,300 rivets for the main body,” Gerdes explained. “No other manufacturer uses that strong of a skin and no one can claim the damage protection we have standard in our builds. I designed this rig to be able to hit a tree or rock with little to no damage. All other tops are either a carbon fiber or fiberglass and will sustain major damage going up the trails where I love to camp, which is why I built this rig. To be able to go where no one else can and set up camp is what our rig is all about.”
“The inside is a nod to my interior contracting days. I wanted something where the outside looked so tough and is, yet the inside was so inviting, you’d forget the toughness that got you to the top of the trail. Yes, the other builds are impressive and they are pretty, but they will never be as tough as what the Patton is. Meshing the toughness with the elegance was a design goal and I think we hit it out of the park. It seems we are not alone in our thought on that,” he said.
We are happy to report that the Patton is more than capable off-grid. It features a Battle Born 500 amp hour lithium battery bank, an 800 watt solar power system, and a 2,000 watt inverter with a built-in transfer relay. Heating is provided by a Webasto Dual Top 8 furnace and water heater, which is fed from the vehicle’s main diesel fuel tank.
So how much will you have to pay for all of this military-grade goodness? The Patton lists for $350,000, which seems like a lot, but when you consider all that you get for the money, the price is reasonable, especially when you compare it to the $600,000 price tag for the EarthRoamer.
“When I set out to design this rig, I had the blessing of the people who helped me create the ideas around the necessity of systems and design. I have a lot of friends who full time on rigs. So there is a lot of stuff that other manufacturers put in their builds that really don’t make sense and create an engineering failure point. I wanted to build something that was tough, practical, easy to use, tons of fun and could go anywhere you want to go. We are shorter, yet as you saw in person, there is no skimping on room inside. You feel like you’re home. The outside was designed to be tough, practical, light weight and darn near bullet proof. The weight is kept low for a reason. The height was a major consideration, yet we have a 16-inch ground clearance and only run size-37 tires. No other build can claim our specs and that’s largely due to the Humvee platform,” he said.