Welcome to another installment of Staff Picks from our Sports and Outdoors team. Each week, we select our favorite pieces out of the gear we’re testing, mainstays in our kits, as well as items on our wish lists. It’s like a sneak peek at the gear we’re testing and what we’re stoked on. Have something you think we should check out? Or just want to say hi? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1989 Toyota Dolphin M-800 Mini Motorhome
In the early 1990s, Toyota stopped making its Dolphin, a camper slapped onto the back of a Hilux, depriving Americans of a glorious road-tripping future. Some still exist, thank goodness. The Hilux (ISIS’s truck of choice, unfortunately) runs forever, and the camper section is tiny but still big enough for a lofted bed, couch, table, full kitchen, and bathroom. It might not look as cool as those refurbished conversion camper vans that are all over your Instagram, and it’s not as absurdly awesome as a converted Sno-Cat or fire truck, but I’d argue it’s a much better option for the reasonable man. That price. I can practically feel its 135 horsepower hauling me, my gear and my gal toward the horizon now.
— Chris Wright, Associate Editor
1969 Tucker Sno-Cat and a 1953 Converted Renault Military Ambulance 4×4
How could I pick just one? One for the winter and one for the summer. The Tucker Sno-Cat is the ultimate winter overlander, allowing you to go deeper and farther to access the best ski and snowboard terrain. This choice is, of course, inspired by pro skier Mark Abma‘s recently converted Tucker Sno-Cat. It’s complete with a rooftop tent; there’s simply nothing else like it.
For summer mountain bike expeditions, I’d need a vehicle just as unique as the Sno-Cat. Inspired by an adventure van spotted by Instagram user @a_van_named_rose, this Renault military ambulance is about as unique as they come. I’m a small guy, so the added space offered by a Sprinter van isn’t necessary. Plus, it has the same vintage appeal as a VW Bus, without the cliché.
— AJ Powell, Associate Staff Writer
Fern the Bus
Not long after receiving a second lease on life, the chubby little short bus was given a name: Fern. Its new parents, Ben and Mande, raised the old schoolie into a bonified Instagram celeb, a vanguard of the #vanlife counterculture. Fern is overtly plush, maybe even a bit yuppie-fied — more four-wheeled beach cabana than adventure-mobile. Normally I’d prefer something more masculine and rough around the edges, like Alex Honnold’s 2002 Ford Econoline E150. But I can’t stop fawning over Fern’s ultra-cozy interior. It has a feminine touch, that’s for sure — and that’s precisely what makes it so liveable. I’d happily spend the rest of my days with Fern.
— Michael Finn, Editorial Apprentice
1985 Mercedes 1113 LAF Firetruck Camper
My current adventuremobile is a 2001 Toyota 4Runner — it’s been across the country five times now and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. But if I were to ever upgrade to a livable machine, I’d pass on the classic Westfalia or Sprinter in favor of a custom job. Take this 1985 Mercedes 1113 LAF firetruck-turned-camper. It’s rigged with eight beds, a living room and a fully stocked kitchen, all constructed with Austrian pine. It’s also insulated and solar equipped, so you could seriously go off the grid long-term in this thing. Of course, I’d also be happy with something much simpler, like this hog.
— Tanner Bowden, Editorial Apprentice
Behind the Scenes
Sightings from Instagram
For a Slightly More Affordable 4×4…
Over the past several months, Gear Patrol’s Editor in Chief Eric Yang has worked with the fine folks at The FJ Company to coordinate style, design and performance details for this unique FJ40 that capture the essence of Gear Patrol. No detail was ignored. Read the Story