Our “Thankful for ___” theme has so far covered EarthCruiser Pets, Veterans, and now we’d like to take a moment and express our thankfulness to EarthCruiser owners: far and wide; past, present, and future. You are what makes this crazy adventure worth it.
For this month’s EarthCruiser Owner profile we caught up Glenn Capachin, a highly active EarthCruiser owner that’s always off on some trip of another. He’s quick to offer his help, and valuable advice, to fellow EarthCruiser owners, having put his own rig through a lot of paces and bringing a lifetime of experience with big rigs, car camping, and engineering know-how. Thank you Glenn!
Glenn and his wife Jeanne exemplify common character threads we see in all EarthCruiser owners: fiercely independent, adventuresome spirits, and kind hearts who help others on the road, and off. We caught up with Glenn to hear his story about finding his way to EarthCruiser, how experiences as a kid influenced his outdoor-driven lifestyle, advice for fellow owners and those considering a purchase, and favorite hacks – not to mention some killer pictures from his and Jeanne’s travels.
Hi Glenn, thanks for taking the time to share your story. Did you grow up camping and enjoying the outdoors?
My parents bought a 24-foot motorhome in 1968 when I was 12 years old and had one most of their life. My father was an early member of the Family Motorcoach Association and when my father passed away 8 years ago my mom went and bought a sprinter van home she could manage herself. I’ve been involved in mobile-home camping my whole life.
I’ve always been a mountain guy and skier. I’ve hiked mountains in snow, kayaked water rivers, and spent a lot of time outside so motorhomes never did it for me. I spent 45 years on a tent in the ground, and a series of pickup trucks, before I bought my EarthCruiser.
We are very much a skiing and camping family. I took the portable cribs [with my two sons] and set-up while camping. We’re outside all the time. One son is a master arborist and the other has climbed all over the place and is going into his 7th year as a ski instructor at Vail. My wife and I are also both certified ski instructors.
So, from a tent straight to an EarthCruiser. How did that happen?
I say, overlanding is car camping with more money. I saw an article on a UNICAT, a German vehicle similar to an EarthCruiser, so I kept my finger on the pulse of that industry. When Lance uploaded a video of the EarthCruiser prototype to YouTube about 12-13 years ago in Australia, I thought, that’s the size I want and what I’m looking for. I started keeping up on EarthCruiser and watched the iteration process and how they evolved.
About nine years ago we moved from the East Coast, where I’d lived my whole life, to come to Colorado after my son came out for college. I said, if we’re moving, I’m having an EarthCruiser parked in the driveway. My wife asked, what is that? And I told her, It’s an off road motorhome.
Around 2011 or 2012, Lance had a few outside of Australia and I looked at how to get one in the United States. Four years ago I flew out to take a look. At the core, I’m a mechanic and engineer, went to Northeastern University for mechanical engineering and grew up in the East Coast construction industry. I’m one of those people who can do anything with my hands, like build cabinets or weld, and have worked on sailboats and understand the systems, so I was curious to check EarthCruiser out in person.
They’ve done a good job. It’s a remarkable machine. We picked up #34 three years ago.
Why did you decide on an EarthCruiser?
The main thing was the form factor and the cab over which took 5 feet off the length of the vehicle with no sacrifice in living space. The only sacrifice with a cab over is climbing up into it is more of a hassle but that was something I was willing to trade off on.
A lot of people will live in BLM land or big forestry service roads where you can fit an EarthRoamer but in the mining trails in Colorado you can not fit anything bigger than an EarthCruiser. I looked at everything else out there. The EarthCruiser is the right size of a Ford F350 pick up and a tighter turning circle. I have stuffed the EarthCruiser where it will fit.
A couple months ago I came down JQS Road (a 7-mile dirt road adventure 3,000 feet up the side of the Bookcliffs to the top of the Roan Plateau in Rifle, Colorado), a shelf road where on the passenger side my mirror is 8 inches off a shale wall and my tires are 18 inch wheels from a 1600-foot with a number of switchbacks. Anything bigger than an EarthCruiser wouldn’t fit.
I also bought it for winter because I ski out of it. When we first got it we were doing weekly ski trips to Vail or Breckenridge and being able to go over 11,000 foot passes in raging snowstorms. My wife drove down Vail pass in a snowstorm and the EarthCruiser was passing cars and trucks in the road. We do use it all year round. I have never winterized my EarthCruiser, it’s like my house with the fridge and heat on 24-365 because I take it out so often.
In a normal year we try to use it every week. I live in a place that in 40 minutes I can be in the mountains and down a trail. It’s a wonderful area surrounded by national forest and BLM land and that’s one of the reasons my EarthCruiser sits outside the house full of water, heat, ready to go. I could jump in it right now and go for 600 miles and that’s the way it’s been ever since I owned it. This is an outside cat.
Do you have a favorite feature?
One of the things I love about it is the driving position on the trail. I’ve driven nothing with a better driving position; I stuff it in places. My EarthCruiser is dirty and scratched, this is not a garage queen at all. That’s one of the things I really appreciate is the driving position and its size for what it is.
The other thing I love about it is I can carry 60 gallons of water, fuel, and food to be really remote, really remote. That is wonderful. A third thing is, I was an early adopter with the lithium ion batteries (600W of solar) and I invested in the solar array because I knew I’d use it a lot in winter. I love the electrical system and I’ve spent a lot of time running the heat, hot water, stove and they run reliably.
I figured out how to get the grey water system to work in cold weather and have been in my EarthCruiser at 15-below in Yellowstone in January. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time in it in the winter. In the summer it gets hot here at the edge of the great plains so we’ll just jump in the EarthCruiser and head to a higher altitude until we’re comfortable. We have valleys here that are 9,000 feet high.
What’s the longest trip you’ve taken in your EarthCruiser?
Six to seven weeks. This summer we were going to be gone for 2-3 months and head into Canada and Alaska but that didn’t happen for obvious reasons. I’ve been up through Jasper and done 140 mile crossing of the Canadian Rockies on forestry service roads where you only pass a few vehicles. It’s a great vehicle to get remote.
One of the things I love about it now is driving in COVID times. I can provision my vehicle so the only thing I need to put in it is fuel. I can pack for two weeks and carry what I need and be comfortable and not see another person for two weeks and be fine. It’s a blast to travel with friends. I’ve got a friend up the road who also has an EarthCruiser and we have a great time traveling together
Do you have a favorite trip that stands out?
They all have their own personality. We spent 3-4 weeks out in Idaho and I was impressed at how remote it was and how many hot springs there were. You could be in a hot spring every day. We’ve done trips to the Canadian Rockies and Jasper National Park, and gone down into Florida wilderness, which is great because there’s no one there because it’s not air conditioned.
We do a lot of remote camping. I’ve been to commercial campgrounds three times in 45,000 miles of travel. We just find some place in the woods and camp there. We’re always with bears and mountain lions, and you get used to their behavior.
I’m 65 and not going to take a 45 lb pack over peaks for several days but the EarthCruiser allows me to have some of that experience with a day hike to a peak. It’s one of the things that’s wonderful about the EarthCruiser. I can step out my door and even if it’s 10 degrees outside, strap on snowshoes and tromp around the snow.
Any close calls?
I’ve had them on trails that I should not have been on. I got up a trail and we were going to a ghost town at 12,000 feet in CO. It was the roughest trail I’ve been one. At one part I had to take three attempts to get through. It was such a steep trail if I had met someone I could not have yielded. There was a section every quarter of a mile that was just maybe wide enough to pass vehicles. I gave my wife the two-way radio and she’d walk down and let me know if it was clear.
How do people avoid getting themselves into that situation?
In that instance, we now know we were using a ghost town guide book and the trail had deteriorated since it had been published. Be sure and check online guides and turn around sooner than later if you’re feeling unsure. Know that it’s not going to get better.
In Colorado it can get bad fast. We were camping in an area called Peru Creek. We were on an easy trail but quarter mile up it became difficult, then ¼ mile up after that, if you didn’t have a jeep, it wouldn’t go through.
Also, a trail could have changed in a last heavy rainstorm. The best thing to do is talk to someone. That JQS trail I mentioned is a shelf road. I talked to a guy who was 30 minutes down from the trail who had driven up it in Tacoma before I went up.
The EarthCruiser community goes on a lot of group trips, have you gone on any?
One thing my wife and I really enjoy doing is a group trip for like three weeks and then take the slow road home and spend a week with just us and the dog. Both aspects are fun and it’s fun being together cooking and figuring out where to go. Because my wife and I get along so well together, there’s such a richness to traveling together.
I was the third person to buy one in Colorado and now I know of half a dozen. We try to put together group trips. We’ve lived in Colorado for three years and are getting to know the state better which gives us the ability to put together trips and take people places. Colorado is an unbelievable place to travel in an EarthCruiser. Here you can head out and see four ghost towns on one trail.
You connect with a lot of other EarthCruiser owners and people looking into them, what advice do you often give?
A common question when people are looking into purchasing is the performance and how it works. We are used to cars that perform unbelievably well, even a mundane car performs well, but loaded trucks perform differently and don’t stop on a dime. You do have to get used to driving the EarthCruiser and understand it’s a loaded truck. A 13,000 lb vehicle is like driving two pickup trucks, with respect to weight. For most owners if they don’t take that into consideration they can find themselves in hot water coming down a mountain pass with too much speed.
That said, I had a VW bus growing up that was an awesome off road vehicle, you can’t believe where I put that thing. When I got in the seat of the EarthCruiser in the FUSO cab and I started driving it, it was just like driving my bus, sitting on the front tire. Also, I grew up in the construction industry and have driven all sorts of trucks and heavy equipment so it is very comfortable to me.
Any favorite products or hacks you’ve figure out?
One of the favorite things we bought is a collapsible electric teak kettle that gives us hot water in about 2 minutes that we use with a Melitta pour-over coffee filter I’ve had since I was 18.
The other thing I am enamored of in the cab is my RAM Mounts that hold my iPad, GPS, Garmin inReach and phone, all where it needs to be and I’ve done everything but tip my EarthCruiser and they’ve never fallen.
What advice you have for someone looking at getting into overlanding (car camping)?
I’ll tell you what we did, a guy out here in Golden CO rents a Tiger off road camper built on a Ford 350 chassis. We rented one of those as a proof of concept. If you can find an opportunity to rent one, do that. You can talk with anyone but until you get there and realize: I’m camping and it’s me, mountain goats/bears/lions, and am I comfortable with that? You might not be, you can’t find that out in conversation.
You won’t get the flavor of being able to travel as far and as long as with an EarthCruiser but it will get you the flavor of being remote and alone. This is an important thing to know because as a concept, it’s cool, but there’s a reality when you hear bears, mountain lions, and have to go out there and do it.
My EarthCruiser is dirty and messy and that’s the way they should be. If you’re going to treat it like it’s precious, you need something else. They are meant to get out there and be used.