Gear-hungry Ford F-Series RV opens new frontiers for adventure travel
An EarthRoamer alternative for the slightly less exorbitantly wealthy, the Grid Series expedition truck from Wilderness Vans does some things better than the EarthRoamer itself. Its multiple gear garages swallow everything from a pair of mountain bikes to several ski mountaineering setups, not to mention luggage, camping furniture and plenty more. So when the road narrows to a point that makes it impassable to a rumbling, camper-backed Ford F-550, the Grid Series makes base camp and the journey continues deeper into the unknown under muscle power.
The last time we looked in on Canada's Wilderness Vans, it was rolling out vehicles on the tiny end of the RV spectrum. Its Nissan NV200-based West Coast Mini camper van was one of the smallest, most affordable camper van options in North America at the time.
After Nissan pulled the NV200 van from the North American market, Wilderness ultimately had to slide its mini-camper package over to Ram Promaster City and Ford Transit Connect base vans. But with both of those vans not long for the market, the company's focus will soon shift entirely to its larger vehicles, including the go-anywhere Grid Series.
Like EarthRoamer, Wilderness Vans starts off with a Super Duty chassis-cab version of the best-selling Ford F-Series, in this case an F-450 or 550. Wildnerness' angular, crisp-edged chassis-mounted motorhome module isn't quite as pretty or smooth as EarthRoamer's vacuum-infused carbon fiber monocoque, but it relies on a lightweight structural formula of its own.
Wilderness Vans uses a square tube-framed aluminum body construction that it says comes backed by four decades of commercial and emergency vehicle builds. Peer inside at that lattice frame foundation and it's not hard to see why the truck is called the "Grid" and not "Off Grid," which would be just as fitting.
Wilderness' interior is quite nice in itself, but the part of the build that really catches our attention sits just behind the rear axle. Here, the Grid appeals to adventurers who aren't interested in merely exploring on four engine-driven wheels and want to pack up additional gear and tools for taking to fainter paths through stone, ice and timber. The passenger side includes a heated gear tunnel with a slide-out sized to carry two mountain bikes or other large, oversized gear loads. Over on the driver's side, the tall cabinet accommodates the likes of skis, snowboards and fishing poles.
While any old expedition truck can hang a bike rack on back or store gear inside on its long center aisle, the Grid's dedicated gear storage gives it a clear advantage. Dirty, wet gear stays away from the living area but remains completely secure, out of sight and protected from bad weather.
We'd say Wilderness Vans has successfully created one of the best setups for secure go-anywhere gear carry, and it's done so without skimping on its floor plan. The living area still includes everything all-terrain adventurers need to thrive off-grid, starting with an above-cab double bed and additional sleeping options that include convertible dinette, lift-away and expandable beds. Behind the dinette, the wet bathroom houses a hot/cold shower and toilet behind a sliding door.
Across from the bathroom, the tall fridge/freezer stands next to the main kitchen block, where campers will find a cooktop and stainless steel sink with tall faucet and wood cover. The electric cooktop and other onboard electrical equipment are powered by a 540-Ah lithium battery wired to a 3,000-W inverter and 400-W solar charging system. Mobile app control and monitoring make the system easy to work with.
As the combination of ski locker and mountain bike tunnel shows, the Grid is aimed at four-season adventure travel. As such, it includes a diesel heater, 12-V air conditioner and closed cell foam insulation package on its build sheet. A combination of Maxxfan Deluxe 7500K fan, tilt-open windows and opening skylight brings in plenty of ventilation when needed. Fresh water is held in a 68-L tank, and the toilet holding tank is accessible from the outside for dumping.
Grid Series pricing varies by configuration, options and specific truck year/model. The two builds pictured are listed on Wilderness Vans' website at US$350,000 for the blue model based on a 2021 F-550 with extended cab and $270,000 for the bright yellow/green-accented gray/white model atop a 2017 F-550.
Source: Wilderness Vans
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One could build several Fuso box trucks into very nice overlanders for the price of one WV or GX.