Our North American Rig

Our big Dodge Ram when we first got it.
Dodge Ram 5.9 litre Turbo Diesel Dual-cab Pickup and Four Wheel Camper

Back in 2014 we bought a second-hand 2005 Dodge Ram, 5.9-litre turbo diesel dual-cab pick-up. It had done about 140,000 mile when we picked it up for US$20G. What a great truck!

It had a few accessories we didn't really love too much as the young buck who owned it previously thought that a truck like that had to sound loud, sit on big wide tyres and have a suspension that was lifted but the ride was rough, especially before we put the camper on it.

The straight-through exhaust was way too loud, so that was the first thing we had done – now we can talk to one another across the vast expanse of the cab without yelling too much!

We changed the rims and tyres to something a bit less radical and fitted 285/70R17 Cooper ST Maxx tyres (
http://us.coopertire.com) on 17x8 'Fuel' alloy rims.
While we were near Sacramento to pick up our camper, we fitted an ARB steel bullbar (www.arbusa.com ) and a set of IPF driving lights to the Dodge. This was done by Shaffers Offroad (www.shaffersoffroad.com) - an ARB dealer in the area and the place is a specialist 4wd place with lots of race buggies and rock crawlers being built and modified.

At the same time we got ourselves an ARB compressor, a set of MaxTrax recovery tracks (
https://us.maxtrax.com.au) and a few other odds and sods for the big rig. 

Back at Flagstaff in Arizona, where we had bought the vehicle, and at the local Flagstaff 4x4 Centre (www.flagstaff4x4.com) we had a big service and a set of wheel arch flares fitted. Then more recently we have lowered the truck - it's still 2-inches above normal, and that is with it loaded. We've fitted Rancho shocks all round (a fair but not great shock, I reckon) and fitted Firestone airbags to the rear to keep the rig level, without upgrading the rear leaf-spring pack.
The Aluminess Rear Bar fitted to the back of the Dodge with its MaxTrax recovery tracks.
In early 2015 we were back in the USA and had fitted to the Dodge an Aluminess rear bar (www.aluminess.com) and swing away tyre carrier and full size storage box. These are a beautiful bit of kit but they are bloody expensive! We had them fitted at Adventure Trailers in Prescott, AZ (http://adventuretrailers.com), who not only make great equipment and trailers, but also done a top job with the fitting of the rear step.

These Dodge Rams, I've since found out have a great engine, and an almost indestructible transfer box and diffs. The auto boxes aren't great (only good for 200,000 mile by all accounts) and the front end steering and linkages leave a lot to be desired. We've spent a fair amount of money doing the front end up while the gearbox at the 165,000 mile mark is still doing fine.
Inside the spacious cab we haven't done very much. We run an iPad running Hema US Maps, or Pocket Earth Pro, the latter being a favourite with us as it includes detailed world mapping down to street level. 

Cruising at 60-70mph on the freeway we regularly achieve better than 16L/100km, or around 18mpg (imperial) or around 15mpg (US gallons), out of the big Dodge with the camper on the back. Wish I could get that performance and economy out of the Patrol!
Our Four Wheel Driver Camper being fitted to the Dodge.
Four Wheel Camper 'Hawk' slide on
We opted for a 'Hawk' pop-up model, which has a floor length of just 6'6" and suits a short bed pick-up. This unit fits on the bed of the Dodge without very much overhang and weighs less than 900lb (408kg) dry.

The Hawk features front dinette seating, quite a bit of storage, and has a 110-litre fridge/freezer, a 2-burner gas ('propane' as the Yanks call it), which is fine for small meals and the occasional times we use it – we cook outside on a Coleman stove generally. A gas/elec water heater system and an external shower and a powered roof vent to name the major features. To keep all the electrics running, we had fitted two deep cycle batteries, an axillary battery charger system along with a 100-watt solar panel. We also have a 'porta-poti' for those times we need a chemical toilet and a very useful 'Fiamma' awning on the side.
There is a 20-gallon water tank and two 10lb gas bottles so we can be 'off the grid', as the Americans like to term it, for a fair while. I think we'd need a back-up solar panel to keep the fridge/freezer going for more than three days in hot/cloudy situations.
A fabulous camp on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
There are plenty of bigger, heavier slide-on campers around and there are bigger units in the Four Wheel camper range than the hawk we bought, but we are used to camping and campervans and this is luxury. We do most of our cooking and living outside, but when the weather is cold or there are heaps of insects we retreat to the inside of the camper where we are pretty snug but can work, cook, eat and sleep without any great issues.

It is perfect for the travel we want to do and after 25,000 miles we haven't had an issue with it and it still looks as good as new!

See you in the bush.

Ron and Viv.
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