4x4 Mercedes Sprinter - World Traveling Expedition Vehicle

Build Story

Before we get into the story it is worth noting that this build was by far the most involved, time consuming (1500+ man hours), geometrically exact (within 1/64"), expedition ready (major suspension and liquid capacity modifications), vehicle we at Campovans have ever created. In this vehicle every cabinet, drawer, door, roof rack component, wall panel, floor structure, electrical and water diagram, was created or fabricated custom, from the ground up. This is, without a doubt, one of the most unique 4x4 Sprinter Builds ever made. We do not say this lightly, as we know full-well the extent of creativity and ingenuity the overlanding world has to offer. We were humbled, and honored, by the opportunity to create such a beautiful van for such a unique purpose.

But yes, the story!

This vehicle was built specifically for an Australian couple who planned on traveling North America, South America, and Europe over the course of 2 years. Given the nature of the couple's planned expeditions through parts of South America, this van was built for serious long-term off-grid situations. In fact, we have never built a vehicle so well suited for long-term off-grid use until now.

Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the travel restrictions at play, our client has has sold the vehicle to another happy Campovans owner.

The couple's hope was to spend weeks at a time (a month if needed) without the need to refuel, refill fresh water, empty black water, or restock food. To achieve this goal, the van has been outfitted with a diverse and plentiful array of storage options, electrical and water systems, and suspension/fuel capacity modifications. Every single square inch of usable space was greatly considered, thoughtfully utilized, and beautifully designed. While building the vehicle, our tolerances had to be within 1/64 of an inch in order to successfully execute the layout our client desired.

Let's get into the details!

Exterior Modifications

This roof rack features a unique design achieved by months of testing and serious custom fabrication. The top of the rack accommodates 1080 watts of solar panels, providing 75+ amps of charging power to the battery bank. The top of the rack lifts up with electronic actuators (controlled from inside the vehicle) to not only face the panels more towards the direction of the sun, but also to allow for vast amounts of storage underneath the panels. The entire solar array locks down with electromagnets (activated inside the vehicle) to fully secure the items stored inside the rack. The rack is built out of aluminum and has been powder-coated black.

The roof rack has a structural extension for the 13ft Fiamma awning mounted on the passenger side, allowing for a huge exterior living area while set up off-grid.

Mounted underneath the roof rack are 4 Black Oak LED security lights to illuminate the area around the van, providing more security if camping in dangerous areas.

The keen eye will note there is no ladder included in the build. This, like most other considerations with the roof rack, is for security reasons. A permanent ladder means easy access to valuables stowed in the rack; something our client was adamant about avoiding. Instead, the build includes a collapsible ladder that fits inside the garage area. It can be deployed to reach the roof rack if necessary.

Rear Storage Boxes

These rear storage boxes were custom fabricated by Owl Vans and provide easy access, weatherproof, and lockable exterior storage.

Suspension and Fuel Modifications

This van has been outfitted with top of the line modifications from Agile Offroad. The vehicle was given a 3 inch lift from stock for added clearance, a 5 leaf spring pack on the rear (per side) to handle the extra weight in the build, and Fox suspension all around for superior durability and ride comfort. The wheel wells have also been extended to accommodate larger wheels and tires (275-70r17 BFG K02 E Load Rated).

A 25 gallon auxiliary fuel tank has been added giving the van 50 total gallons of fuel for an 800 mile combined tank range.

This also gives the Espar D5 air and water heater a possible runtime of 13, 24 hour days, on high, without stopping. Assuming the thermostat would slow down the heater to consume fuel only when needed, the runtime could easily be stretched to double that amount of days.

Interior - Wet Bath

As seen in the photos, the wet bath actually serves three purposes.  
It is a comfortable seating area with a fold out table, a bathroom with Airhead marine composting toilet, and a full sized shower with hot and cold water. The shower grate was made custom with raw teak coated in a waterproof finish and assembled with stainless steel fasteners. The grate is made of two separate pieces so it can be easily removed and cleaned.

The walls and ceiling of the wet bath are high-grade hardened plastic for easy cleaning, extreme durability, and so they do not carry the cheap RV feel.

The wet bath also has its own dedicated Maxxair roof vent and adjustable air heater vent to dry the space quickly.

Different configurations of the bathroom shown above.

Shower head, temperature adjustment, and shower curtain rail shown below.

The shower curtain, shower curtain rail, shower pan, and b-pillar cover have all been custom fabricated out of stainless steel to maximize durability, functionality, and usable space.

The Airhead Marine composting toilet sits on locking and heavy duty drawer slides. It will not move in heavy off-road situations yet will easily slide when needed.

Interior - Galley

The galley cabinet has a double burner propane stove with a 5 gallon propane tank (stored in the garage of the van). Depending on frequency of use, a double burner propane stove and 5 gallon propane tank require refilling roughly every 30 days (3 meals a day).

Our client opted for a smaller sink simply because all necessary dish/pot/pan washing can be done in a narrow sink, allowing for the maximization of usable counter and cabinet space.

The galley has a total of 6 drawers of varying sizes. The two lower drawers are deep to accommodate larger pots/pans.

On the slider side of the galley you’ll notice a folding leaf so cooking can be done outside the van, on an induction or propane cooktop.

Interior - Various Storage Options

There are 3 fully lockable storage options inside the van. One under the passenger seat (with a 110v outlet installed) and two very large lockable storage areas under the bed.

There are 5 overhead storage cubbies of various sizes with positively latching hardware and gas struts to hold the doors open. The storage cubby over the driver and passenger seats has two 110v outlets (one on the driver side and one on the passenger side) specifically designed for laptop charging stations when the vehicle is configured in the living position. The storage cubbies over the foot of the bed have 110v plugs as well.

There are 10 drawers installed in the floor to ceiling cabinets, specifically designed to hold dry food items.

There are two refrigerator units in the vehicle. There is the black, residential sized fridge with small freezer that runs off DC power for optimum efficiency.

The second refrigerating unit is a top-loading fridge by Dometic. This was specifically designated for frozen foods, as the temperature can be lowered to second as a freezer. This unit is on heavy-duty, lockable drawer slides so it can be extended into the living space for easy accessibility. The Dometic fridge also runs off DC power, giving it maximum efficiency as well.

Garage storage is a key component to any expedition vehicle. The garage can accommodate long and slender items, as well as multiple bulky items placed further towards the back of the vehicle.

Collectively there are 24 separate storage areas with positively latching drawer/door hardware throughout the vehicle, some of which have built in 110v and/or USB plugs.

Interior - Bed Area

The bed area was constructed using Flarespace flares so our clients could sleep sideways with 6’4” of head to toe space.

In the bed area there are two map lights with a white setting and red setting, two overhead lights, 4 double USB plugs (8 plugs collectively), and two Sirocco fans with 360 degrees of variation in wind direction, 3 speed settings, and built in timers.

Ventilation and Windows

Our client opted for Arctic Tern windows wherever they could fit. There are 5 total in the van: 1 large in the slider door at the galley, 1 small in the wet bath, 2 small (one in each rear door) and 1 installed in the driver side flare. All of these windows have an awning openable function so they can remain open in rain, and all but one (the smallest Arctic Tern window in the flare) have built in bug screens and insulative black out curtains. The windows themselves are double insulated for added sound deadening and air temperature control. The smallest Arctic Tern window in the flare on the driver side, and the CRLaurence window in the flare on the passenger side have magnetic bug netting and black out curtains so the entire van can be closed off from light.

There are two Maxxair fans with smoke-black lids, rain covers, multi-directional motors, and built in thermostats. One is in the wet bath and one is in the bed area.

Systems - Electrical

This vehicle is equipped with 4 100ah Lithium Ion Battle Born Batteries stored in a custom fabricated spare tire storage area (heated with heat pads when necessary), a Victron battery monitor with gold plating and bluetooth menu, a Victron Multiplus 12 / 3000 / 120 inverter/charger, 1080w of solar, a Victron 150 / 85 - Tr SmartSolar MPPT charge controller with bluetooth menu, a Battery Isolation Manager built specifically to 2019 Sprinter alternator output/lithium battery charging specifications, two Blue Sea high amperage bus bars, two 100amp 12 terminal blade fuse boxes, weatherproof breakers and oxygen free copper wires and connections. All of these electrical components seamlessly create the most efficient and reliable off-grid system money can buy. These components also allow for extreme and extended power draw for 110v appliances like water boilers, blenders, induction cooktops, power tools, and more.

There are 11 110v outlets spread throughout the van, placed where there may be a desire to charge a 110v device (computer, camera batteries, etc.).

Systems - Water

Four individual water tanks with custom and high volume connections can accommodate 70 gallons of fresh drinking water. These tanks have pressure release valves and can be filled to total capacity, with no outstanding air bubbles inside. There are cut-off valves located between tanks that limit potential water sloshing and momentum shift in extreme 4x4 situations. The tanks have shared out-ports creating an equal distribution of water as it is pumped out of the tank.

It is recommended to have 2 fresh gallons of drinking water per person, per day, for comfortable and extended overlanding journeys. This includes dish sanitization and drinking needs. At this rate, the 70 gallon water capacity can last up to 17.5 days if necessary. In extreme circumstances only one gallon of water per person, per day is needed. This allows for up to 35 days of fresh drinking water for two people. If just one person, 70 days of extreme off-grid living can be achieved with the water supply on board, if necessary.

There is also a built in water filtration system so, in extreme circumstances, water may be pumped from a natural body of water into the tanks for extended stays.

Systems - Heating

Water and air heating is achieved with Rixen System’s Espar D5 hydronic heating system. The Espar D5 hydronic heater uses minimal electricity and minimal diesel fuel to heat coolant, which is pushed through a system of heating components. One heating component is a fan with an attached radiator. When the fan is turned on, air is pushed through the radiator, creating hot air. The other heating component is a copper heat exchanger. Hot coolant runs through one side of the heat exchanger while cold water runs through the other. The heat is exchanged from the coolant, through the copper, and into the water, creating hot water. This system has been the industry standard in overlanding rigs for many, many years and it was only fitting to include it in this build.

Systems - Cell Booster

The van is equipped with a WeBoost cell service booster mounted on the roof rack. If desired, a switch can activate the booster, adding to cell reception inside the vehicle. This is essential in 4x4 recovery situations, where cell service may be limited.

This Build Was Made Possible By:

Our Australian Friends

Our Team Of Talented Craftsman

Agile Off-Road - agileoffroad.com
Unreal Suspension Improvement
Lift Kit and Auxillary Fuel Tank

Nocturnal Welding
Clean Beads

Battle Born Batteries - www.battlebornbatteries.com
Batteries and Unbelievable Customer Support

Victron - victronenergy.com
Electrical Components

Flarespace - flarespace.com
Extended Sleeping Area

Owl Vans - owlvans.com
Custom Storage Boxes

Rixen's Systems - rixens.com
Hot Air and Hot Water Components

Black Oak LED - blackoakled.com
LED Security Lighting

West Marine - westmarine.com
Tons of Miscellaneous Components

Dometic - dometic.com
Top-Loading Fridge/Freezer

Santa Barbara Fasteners - sbfasteners.com
For Stocking The Unimaginable

McMaster-Carr - mcmaster.com
For Everything, Always

Black Rhino Wheels - blackrhinowheels.com
Stellar Looking Sprinter Wheels

BFGoodrich - bfgoodrichtires.com
BFGoodrich KO2's