The Right Automobile for Every Type of Road Tripper
The open road is calling–and the answer, for today’s intrepid road-tripper, comes in many forms. Do you need a fully stocked “adventuremobile,” fit for backroads and off-roads, with room for an extended cast of characters? Traveling solo, wanting to feel the wind whip past your face? Looking to commune with nature in select company? The Wildsam team has compiled a roster of some eye-catching rides, expedition engines and mobile habitats for all these needs and more.
The Counterculture Classic
Volkswagen’s Westfalia vans haven’t been sold in North America in 20 years (which is going to change soon). Yet, they remain a wildly popular cult favorite, center of a global circle of meet-ups, Reddit threads and specialty websites–many of which talk about maintenance headaches… it’s the price to pay for retro-cool styling that pairs with generous interior space and road versatility.
The High-Tech Teardrop
Escapepod Topo 2
Space explorer vibes are strong here, in this modernist, towable teardrop of style and practicality. The compact sleeping area is ringed with smart storage, while rear galleys instantly boost the adventurer’s campsite culinary game to pro levels.
The Daily Explorer
There’s a reason why Subarus have become a trusted vehicle of choice for adventurers. The Outback features standard all-wheel drive and 8 inches of ground clearance, allowing the rugged wagon to tackle mud, sand, and snow with ease and without the sheer bulk of a standard SUV. Subaru drops a big rethink of this mainstay outdoorsy vehicle every five years. For 2024, only minor changes hit the line–the Wilderness gets a new bumper and fog lights, for example. Regardless of model year, expect dependable performance on and off-road, and an all-time high score on the odometer.
Image via Brinkley
The Talk of the Sales Lot
The Brinkley Model Z
Started by a team of industry veterans and launched as the road-trip/outdoor living/remote work trend turned up loud in 2022, this upstart company brings a refined touch to the towable “fifth wheel” genre. Short track record, but already a strong rep for flexibility, supporting weekend jaunts as well as full-time road living.
The Pop-Top Tent
The Roofnest Sparrow EYE 2
No, no wheels on this thing. You supply those, in the form of a Jeep, Land Rover or the like. Throw this rugged and highly engineered rooftop tent up there, and your ride has converted to palace. Do we exaggerate? Well, the EYE2 is noted for comfort, ease of install and set-up and its handy power ports and lights.
The Nostalgic Teardrop
Happier Camper HC1 Studio
Those seeking to live out throwback dreams–with, maybe, a cocktail shaker involved–look no further. This iteration of Happier Camper’s cozy pod, towable by most cars, goes heavy on early ‘60s mod aesthetics, but with of-the-moment adaptive gear inside. Style and flexibility come built in. Cocktail shaker must be supplied by the user.
The Sprinter Chassis
Storyteller Overland Mode
Searching for a mobile base camp to support any expedition? Look no further than the Mode camper van from Alabama-based Storyteller Overland. Built on a Mercedes Sprinter platform, this ride deftly blends off-road capabilities with sophisticated styling. There’s a bed that converts to a work surface, 11 power outlets, six USB ports, a heating system and ample onboard storage for all of your outdoor gear.
The Modular Trailer
Lightweight and versatile, the Taxa Mantis is a fantastic camper designed for boondocking. The travel trailer has room for four adults and a reconfigurable interior space. All-terrain tires, flexible suspension, steel gravel guards and NASA-inspired design allow it to go just about anywhere.
The Off-grid New Kid
All due respect to the world of “Class C” recreational vehicles, it’s not a phrase that immediately gives chiseled explorer vibes. Winnebago aimed to change that with the 2021 debut of this rugged, off-grid-ready Class C. Sleek within, burly without, the Ekko brings camper-van funk to the category, without sacrificing storage or roominess. A rabbit hole of after-market mods with even more intrepid adventures in mind is long and winding.
The Roving Workstation
The Heartland Milestone 333MB
Two big trends: working from home, and working from the road. One all-encompassing solution: this expansive fifth-wheel, outfitted with a generous built-in desk and optimized for wireless roaming. Seriously, the Milestone 333MB comes with wireless charging, as well as a 14 cubic-foot fridge, full kitchen, solar-powering capabilities and a study desk. Work and play anywhere you’d like in this hefty vehicle.
Image via Rivian
The Early Adopters’ Delight
Rivian made a splash with the 2021 debut of its all-electric pickup truck, but the company’s SUV is equally impressive. The R1S features 14.9 inches of ground clearance, a quad-motor all-wheel drive system, and a 7,700-pound towing capacity. If that wasn’t enough, it can also navigate three-plus feet of water, rock crawl a 10-percent grade, and accelerate like a sports car on the highway. Which is to say we think you should map out some charging stations and give all-electric a chance.
The Lite Heavyweight
The Scout Tuktut
If you’ve roamed the backstreets of an outdoorsy urban neighborhood lately, odds are good you’ve spied this sub-700-pound number atop a midsized pick-up. [Bonus points if your specimen had a “The Mountains Are Calling …” bumpersticker.] From the outside, you do wonder how it would feel as a habitat. Inside, clever space allocation and customizable, DIY-ready design feel more than welcoming. Check out the collab model with Goose Gear.
The Future-Forward Camper
Admittedly, this one is more “oh, interesting” than road-tested. The Detroit-based all-electric start-up just announced the G2, and its 250-mile range, this fall. But the story’s intriguing: ex-Starlink tech guy goes on a road trip, awakens to the call of the journey. And the ride, developed at a Motor City incubator hub, looks very cool. With customizable, modular floorplans, an app to run onboard systems and multiple charging options, this one could change the world of the road.
Image via Triumph
The Two-wheel Powerhouse
Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally Explorer
Fast, light, and fun, the Triumph Rally Explorer is perfect for those seeking two-wheeled adventure. This bike weighs more than 55 pounds less than the model’s previous generations and features a smooth, powerful 1160cc engine as well as a scrappy, durable look engineered for all roads. Ricky Bobby fans can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about three seconds.
The American Icon
Old School Muscle
We do love digging into the back catalog. From the early ‘60s through the mid-’70s, Detroit manufacturers produced some of the most legendary automobiles to ever roll. With their burly engines and distinctive looks, those same iconic American rides continue to stir a thriving collectors’ market today. Nothing can turn heads quite like a vintage Pontiac GTO, Plymouth Road Runner, Chevrolet Camero, or Ford Mustang. You won’t look cooler gliding down the freeway in anything else either.
The Silver Bullet
The Caravel is arguably the model that folks picture when they close their eyes and think “Airstream.” The revived [and design-juiced] modern versions of this brand classic have been called “a studio apartment on wheels” complete with A/C, leather seating and blackout curtains. Not a bad prospect for one of the most compact and affordable models in the company’s line of silver surfers. How many products originally launched in 1956 do you actively covet? This isn’t just a trailer, it’s a whole vibe.