This is a brief introduction to the expedition trailer type of RV, intended to provide essential information for choosing the best RV type.
Not sure if this is the right RV type for you? Please take a look at our RV Types Pros & Cons Checklist.
What Is an Expedition Trailer?
Definition of an Expedition Trailer
An expedition trailer is a high-end cargo utility trailer with kitchen, bathing, storage, and propane facilities. It does not have any living or sleeping space (except for perhaps a rooftop tent mounted on top). Most are marvels of storage engineering, essentially a fancy cargo carrier on wheels.
An expedition trailer is not actually an RV. It is considered a utility trailer or cargo trailer and is not subject to RV rules and regulations.
Synonyms: Other names include adventure trailer, off-road trailer, 4×4 trailer, and overlander trailer.
Don’t worry! You don’t generally need a special license to drive one! Because expedition trailers are classified as utility trailers, no special regulations apply.
Expedition Trailer Specifications
- Lengths range from 6 to 16 feet, with 8 to 12 feet being the most common.
- Width ranges from 3 ft to 8 ft, with 4 to 6 feet being the most common.
- Height varies from 3 to 7 feet, with most ranging between 5 and 6.5 feet.
Towing a trailer for the first time? Check out our guide to what you need to know about length, width, height, and weight!
None. Expedition trailers have no living space.
Expedition Trailer Description
Again: Expedition Trailers are not true RVs! They are not covered in-depth on this site. They are typically built by small, independent manufacturers on a bespoke basis. However, we’ve included this model introduction on our site to introduce you to the “other side” of travel, where asphalt gives way to grass, dirt and rock.
Expedition trailers are flat-out cool. Everyone wants one. Everyone. They are the definition of over-built and over-engineered, often built with independent suspensions, box steel chassis, welded steel roll cages, and other tough-as-nails construction methods.
Expedition trailers haul your stuff: rooftop tent, propane, freshwater tanks, mechanical gear, gas grille, satellite internet antennae, surround-sound stereo system, TV, and whatever else you can imagine.
Who Might Want an Expedition Trailer?
If you’re ready to spend as much money on your trailer as you spent on your Jeep, you’ll love an expedition trailer!
Because these trailers are designed for hardcore overlanding, away from named roads, they are designed to be small and agile. Most are 4-5 wide in order to follow the footsteps of the tow vehicle’s wheel track. They have cutaway corners in the back to improve the departure angle. They have articulating couplers so the coupler never binds, no matter the slope angle.
But all this comes at a cost. Expedition trailers cost $15,000 to $50,000. If you want some idea of what’s out there, check out rallies and shows hosted by Overland Expo.
Note: You can’t spend much time in this space without hearing about Australia. Australia is the preeminent destination for overland travel and camping, and their RV manufacturers have it down to a science. In fact, a lot of “new” North American technology was imported from Down Under!
Expedition Trailer Pros and Cons
- Carry all your gear out of your tow vehicle!
- Set up base camp in a matter of minutes.
- Typically, very high construction quality.
- Trailer protects gear from animals, high water, theft and the elements.
- Will likely with a custom a builder to develop your dream.
- Great pick for vehicles that can’t tow heavy campers.
- Easy titling and registration.
- Most badass camper within 50 miles.
- Can become extremely expensive!
- No living or sleeping space.
- Great for boondocking, not developed campgrounds.
- Limited showering and bathroom facilities.
- Resale value depends on finding the right buyer.
Key Features in an Expedition Trailer
The running gear includes the chassis frame and suspension. Typically, adventure trailers used welded tubular steel chassis frames for maximum strength and rigidity.
You’ll rarely see a leaf spring axle on a serious overlander trailer. Not even a torsion axle! If you see either of these suspensions, it’ll often be an extreme version, such as a flipped solid axle with shock absorbers, or a torsion axle with lift blocks and a steep starting angle.
Instead, most overland trailers use independent suspensions such as the Timbren Axle-Less system, airbags, or multi-link independent suspensions. These are typically paired with articulating couplers and 32- or 36-inch tires for maximum ground clearance and agility.
Half of an expedition trailer is on the outside! That’s where you’ll commonly find roof racks, roll cages, propane bottles, solar-heated showers, water tanks, spare tires, awnings, and other mechanical gear.
If you plan to use your expedition trailer as base camp, you should plan on at least an awning and a rooftop tent. These will vastly increase your “living space”!
Some trailers have dedicated exoskeletons, which may do quadruple duty as a roll cage, roof rack, awning mount, and gear rack.
It’s not a proper expedition trailer without a badass kitchen! When the rear hatch door open up, the grille slides out, the table pops up, and the 12V compressor fridge rolls out – it’s a thing of beauty.
Be aware that galley kitchens can easily become the most expensive part of the build. Think carefully whether you actually need gray water storage, hot water on demand, or plumbed low-pressure propane!
- All-Metal: Adventure trailers may use all-welded skeletons for the body frame. These may or may not be welded to the chassis frame as well. All-metal construction is heavy but incredibly stout.
- Composite: Advanced expedition trailers may use fiberglass and composite materials throughout, such as a fiberglass exterior or laminated sandwich wall panels.
- Wood: Traditional expedition trailers use plywood throughout the structure. Plywood is quite strong and durable, but it is relatively heavy and prone to water damage.
Expedition Trailer FAQs
Does a bear poop in the woods?!
They excel at stealth camping since they can be parked and towed almost anywhere, urban or rural.
With their incredible ground clearance, expedition trailers can access any out-of-the-way location. You’ll have room for lots of fresh water, extra propane, or extra batteries, or a generator. No limit on how long you stay.
Although most don’t come with toilet facilities, so you’ll be digging a cathole.
Expedition trailers are also good for base camping since you don’t need to tow a second vehicle. Just use your tow vehicle as a daily driver!