Outdoors

EarthCruiser shrinks off-road expedition camping down to Tacoma size

EarthCruiser shrinks off-road ...
The GZL accommodates up to four people
The GZL accommodates up to four people
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EarthCruiser shows the GZL at Overland Expo East 2016
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EarthCruiser shows the GZL at Overland Expo East 2016
EarthCruiser offers an optional awning
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EarthCruiser offers an optional awning
Instead of the typical door, the EarthCruiser GZL has a distinct split-door hatch
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Instead of the typical door, the EarthCruiser GZL has a distinct split-door hatch
The pop-up roof gives the GZL a lower drive height and nearly 7 feet of headroom at camp
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The pop-up roof gives the GZL a lower drive height and nearly 7 feet of headroom at camp
The main bed is located in the upper cabover section
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The main bed is located in the upper cabover section
Kitchen area with stainless steel sink, counter and refrigerator
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Kitchen area with stainless steel sink, counter and refrigerator
One of the interesting features of the GZL, the standalone stove is hinged to fold  up and away
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One of the interesting features of the GZL, the standalone stove is hinged to fold  up and away
The dinette without the removable table
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The dinette without the removable table
The GZL comes standard with a 40 L Waeco fridge
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The GZL comes standard with a 40 L Waeco fridge
EarthCruiser shows the GZL at Overland Expo East 2016
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EarthCruiser shows the GZL at Overland Expo East 2016
With a Tacoma or Frontier as a base, the GZL is designed to adventure on and off road
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With a Tacoma or Frontier as a base, the GZL is designed to adventure on and off road
The GZL accommodates up to four people
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The GZL accommodates up to four people
Kicking up dust in a GZL-equipped Tacoma 
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Kicking up dust in a GZL-equipped Tacoma 
EarthCruiser shrinks down to pickup truck size
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EarthCruiser shrinks down to pickup truck size
EarthCruiser GZL camper
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EarthCruiser GZL camper
EarthCruiser GZL camper
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EarthCruiser GZL camper
The chemical toilet stores below the bench
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The chemical toilet stores below the bench
The upper bed folds up to make more room inside
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The upper bed folds up to make more room inside
You can see the shower drain on the lower left. A shower curtain hangs from the ceiling and teams with a hose shower for a hot indoor wash-up
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You can see the shower drain on the lower left. A shower curtain hangs from the ceiling and teams with a hose shower for a hot indoor wash-up

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.

EarthCruiser GZL camper
EarthCruiser GZL camper

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.

The pop-up roof gives the GZL a lower drive height and nearly 7 feet of headroom at camp
The pop-up roof gives the GZL a lower drive height and nearly 7 feet of headroom at camp

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 main bed is located in the upper cabover section
The main bed is located in the upper cabover section

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.

One of the interesting features of the GZL, the standalone stove is hinged to fold  up and away
One of the interesting features of the GZL, the standalone stove is hinged to fold  up and away

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.

Source: EarthCruiser

Inside look of the EC GZL - Part 1

3 comments
SteveRoberts
$36,000!!! Good luck with that. I'll pull a teardrop like a Tag or Tab for half or less.
trestlehed
Quote from article: "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." This is just like when VW came out with the Eurovan version of the Westfalia pop-top camper... Surfers and hippies can't afford to buy an $80k camper van. I would like to see someone, like Winnebago for instance, come out with a modern remake of the Toyota truck based Chinook pop-top camper. I had one for 8 years and loved it. The only real drawback was the under-powered 4 cylinder engine. Rich people can afford any ridiculous price tag. Please start making campers that are affordable for the rest of us.
Calson
A camper van built on the Mercedes Sprinter 4WD platform is a far better choice. The 5-cylinder diesel provides roughly 23-26 MPG on the highway and so will go at least 50% further on a gallon of fuel than the Toyota mini truck camper. Range on a tank of fuel is very important for this type of vehicle and unfortunately the range of a Toyota mini truck has steadily decreased over the past 30 years to the point where I get comparable MPG with my 1-ton diesel pickup off road and on the highway. Better pickup platform for this mini camper would be a Chevy Colorado with the diesel engine.