EarthCruiser shrinks off-road expedition camping down to Tacoma size
When you build some of the world's largest, meanest six-figure off-road adventure trucks, at some point you must come to a realization: only so many people are going to buy these things. If you're so inclined, you build something smaller to appeal to a different set of buyers. In the case of EarthCruiser, that something smaller is the new GZL, a pickup truck camper that turns the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier into a capable expedition rig.
When we checked in on EarthCruiser last year, the Australian company with American operations in Bend, Oregon was revealing its FX, a big, Mitsubishi Fuso-based fixed-roof off-road motorhome that joined the pop-top EXP in the lineup.
The GZL is a rather radical departure from those two vehicles, a slide-in pickup truck camper that transforms a mid-size pickup truck into a full-blown expedition vehicle. While full-sized off-road motorhomes are made to wander the world for months and years at a time, the GZL is imagined around shorter jaunts taken by more casual overlanders.
The 140.4-in (357-cm)-long GZL slides into the short or long bed of a Toyota Tacoma or the bed of a Nissan Frontier, adding about 850 lb (386 kg). The monocoque fiberglass cabin shell is insulated with 20-mm insulation.
The GZL features a cabover profile that pops open at the back with help from gas struts, providing 6.9 feet (2.1 m) of headroom at its highest point (29 in/74 cm from the top of the upper bed mattress to ceiling). This pop-up design gives it a lower profile than other slide-in campers, and the smooth, rounded edges of the fiberglass only help in creating a sleek look on the road.
Campers enter through a hatch with claw-like upper and lower strut-supported doors, creating the feel of boarding some kind of spacecraft. The lower door has an integrated set of steps, making it easy to get up to pickup bed level.
The interior is simple but cozy, with a few innovative features that help maximize space – sleeping, seating, feeding and washing four. The main 55 x 77-in (140 x 195-cm) upper bed extends out from the alcove over the driver cab, and the four-person, two-bench dinette converts to a second 45 x 65-cm (115 x 165-cm) bed.
The upper bed folds away into the alcove to provide more headroom for the dinette, and the removable table can swivel to help occupants get in and out of the benches. There is storage under those benches, behind the seats and at the end of the bed.
The model we saw at Overland Expo East earlier this month split the usual kitchen combo of stove and sink up, putting the sink, countertop and 40 L fridge/freezer on the main kitchen unit against the driver-side wall and moving a drop-down stove to the other side of the doorway, allowing it to stow away neatly in the wall when not in use. This design provides more permanent countertop space and gets the stove out of the way when you don't need it.
EarthCruiser also shows photos of a stove built atop the kitchen block counter and mentions an indoor/outdoor propane stove, so there's some flexibility in layout and cooking. An included folding tripod lets campers use the dinette table outside.
You might not guess from looking at it, but the GZL has both an indoor shower and a toilet. There's no separate washroom, so a removable shower curtain serves to partition the corner of the camper for washing, a 6.5-foot (2-m) shower hose connects to a hot water hookup on the kitchen block, and a floor drain keeps the water flowing onward. The portable chemical toilet pulls out from below one of the benches when needed.
The GZL includes a standard 12 V electrical system with 55 Ah AGM battery, and a more power dense lithium-ion battery pack is available optionally, as is a roof-mounted solar panel. LED lighting appears throughout. A 78 L fresh water tank, 6 L water heater and automatic pump provide the hot and cold water.
The GZL starts at US$36,000 with the standard specs, and options include additional LED lighting, an exterior awning, an induction cooktop and an inverter, along with the solar and lithium electrical add-ons mentioned above.
EarthCruiser's interior walkthrough below provides a better look at the interior layout and equipment.