Adventure, like everything else, is too expensive these days. Tell an overlander you’re interested in getting past where the pavement ends and they’ll send over an itemized list of $70,000 worth of equipment, including recovery gear from Australia, portable refrigeration from Sweden, and a brand-new truck on back order from your local Toyota dealer. It’s enough to scare off any average American. Enter the GFC Maverick, the new overlanding truck market’s minimum bet.

The Ford Maverick starts at $23,690, including destination charges. As any potential Maverick buyer will tell you, however, that base model effectively does not exist in any attainable form. Dealer allocations from headquarters are misweighted, with a production trim split pushing people into the more expensive, all-wheel-drive EcoBoost models. Our particular Mav, as configured, sits in the low-$30,000s range with EcoBoost power and all-wheel drive. Add in the $7700 Go Fast Campers (GFC) Platform Camper and a Dometic powered cooler and we’re out the door for around $40,000.

That isn’t cheap. But if you insist on new metal or already have any one of the dozen or so pickups GFC supports, a Platform gets you locking bed storage, a pop-up sleeping area off the ground, a pass-through between your cargo and your sleeping area, and enough flexibility for a two-person camping adventure.

Perhaps more important, you get something assembled in America with a largely domestic and ethical supply chain. A a few legacy parts, like the latches on the topper, are still coming in from suppliers in China, but GFC says it’s working on weeding them out of the process. Once that’s done, it’ll have something to be truly proud of. In fact, it already does. A visit to GFC’s headquarters and factory in Belgrade, Montana, revealed a team of relaxed, outdoorsy types spending 35-hour workweeks supervising sophisticated, bespoke-software CNC and fabrication machines. The company pays entry-level workers around $50K per year, provides Bose noise-canceling headphones for podcasts or music in the droning warehouse-sized buildings, and has just expanded distribution to Sacramento, San Diego, Denver, and Orange County, California.

Economic productivity is what gives people power in the United States, GFC co-founder Graeme MacPherson tells Road & Track. His operation, which employs dozens of Montanans in high-wage jobs building a nationally revered product, is the reason why he has access to the governor and state legislators. Ultimately, he argues, playing the moneymaking game is the best way of pushing positive change in areas he cares about, like conservation, workers’ rights, and public land exploration. Even a hardhearted cynic must admit it’s nice to see a company creating good jobs in small markets and treating workers well.

The result speaks to the honest enthusiasm of the GFC team. The Platform Camper is a great camper in the way that a base F-150 is the best multitool on earth. Like other great tools, neither focuses on gimmicky technology or marketing-friendly add-ons, instead prioritizing raw capability. A Rivian may have more camping-oriented features, and a drop-in RV-style camper may provide for more comfortable sleep, but anyone who actually uses their rig will tell you that flexibility and durability trump all. So for less money in this setup, you get not a curated experience but a pack mule for your adventurous dreams.

What you don’t get is any sense of luxury. Whether or not you opt for the $525 tent side doors and enter through a ladder or climb up through the cargo area, getting into the bed-top-tent is never graceful. The sleeping space is as bare as a ground tent, save for a foam sleeping pad that provided plenty of support over three nights in Yellowstone in October. Waking up, climbing down, and dressing for the day all happened in the cold.

That may scare off some potential newcomers. It should. The Platform Camper is more like the ultimate rooftop-tent solution than a replacement for a cozy RV. It’s designed not for people who want to bring the indoors out, but for people who want to experience the outdoors plain and simple. Instead of custom fittings and built-in electrical systems, GFC gives you a giant, covered, secured workspace. Filling it is up to you. With a competent truck underneath, wiring up electrical for solar, putting in a fridge, and installing a drawer system all are within reach of the aspiring handyman.

The Maverick seems up to the task. The crew cab gives you a second lockable storage location in the rear seat, and the bed of our loaded model had plenty of cargo tie-downs and even in-bed electrical power. With up to 1500 pounds of payload, it also has more than enough hauling capacity for a two-person expedition. Even a Tacoma isn’t rated to haul so much gear.

Flying along 80-mph Montana highways and through the winding roads of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost Maverick seems unperturbed by the weight of the camper, powered cooler, power system, chairs, cooking gear, tools, and clothes we’ve packed for our four-day trip. Even accelerating uphill, the unibody-truck-that-could inspires no serious complaints, but I’d be wary of trying a four-person adventure in a hybrid Maverick carrying so much equipment. Weight is an unrelenting burden.

So too is the delicate, low-slung bodywork of the Ford. Even with all-terrain Toyo Open Country tires and all-wheel drive, the Maverick feels no more adventurous than a Subaru Outback. Its big chin and low height make serious trail work almost impossible, though I’m sure the aftermarket will soon come up with aggressive suspension setups that put more within reach.

With that capability, the GFC Platform would be hard to beat. Even on the short-bed Maverick, we have plenty of space for anything we’d want in the backcountry. And if you fit it to a proper off-road rig like a Chevy Colorado ZR2 or a Tacoma with upgraded suspension, you’d be an awning and a drawer system away from a truck capable of weeks-long off-the-grid excursions. A longer truck with organized cargo would also provide more room for standing up inside the bed, solving our biggest gripe with the setup as it sits: Changing in the Maverick proved to be a consistently irritating chore.

That illustrates the broader peculiarity of the Maverick–Platform Camper combination. As a beginning adventure vehicle, the stock Maverick is tough to beat. It offers seating for four, payload for whatever you need, all-wheel drive, robust aftermarket support, and a flexible cargo area. What it doesn’t offer is a covered way to sleep in or on it, which is where the Platform comes in.

Trouble is, the Platform is built for a different customer. Beginner adventurers are more likely to seek out expert-designed solutions for common problems; they want to cut a check and have their discomfort solved. A custom Sprinter, with built-in electrical and running water, is the everyman dream. The Platform Camper can’t provide that.

Instead, it provides a toolbox that experienced pathfinders can fill with whatever they need. One employee had his on a custom Ford Ranger, with externally mounted propane storage, a drop-out table, an awning, a Dometic fridge setup, all his recovery gear, hunting equipment, and more, with plenty of room left to stand and work inside the camper shell. He removed his rear seat, set up the rear half of the cabin for his dogs, and roams from Bozeman to Baja without prep work.

With an unlimited budget, that’s the dream. A Platform Camper atop a proper truck is an unlimited access card to America’s unbeatable public lands. To get there, though, you’ll have to rely on your own planning and ingenuity. There’s no one-check solution here. Instead, you get an opportunity to learn what an adventure rig nearly needs.

That won’t appeal to everyone. Even among those who find it enticing, most can’t afford a rig prepped with the care of the super-Ranger in the GFC parking lot. What a Maverick with a Platform Camper provides is a taste, a minimum viable product of a company built for bigger aspirations. Buy one and you can wander the country in reasonable comfort. A three-day fully off-road trip will require no other purchases beyond a high-quality cooler (budget around $500 for one), a pair of sleeping bags, and a second vehicle or a satellite messenger.

Being comfortable on the trail and relaxed at the campsite, however, will require far more investment. Real adventuring will require adding bits of gear over time, from recovery gear to emergency tool kits and spare parts. It’s a daunting, tough-to-access world. If you don’t want to cut corners on your way to discovering what it’s really about, the Platform Camper is an easy way to give yourself nearly limitless options. But if you’re going to drop $7700 on a truck-mounted accessory, we recommend that anyone looking for a serious long-term adventure rig start with a more capable truck. Luckily, GFC offers Platform Campers or tents for just about every model we’d recommend.

Looking to purchase a car? Find your match on the MSN Autos Marketplace

2022-12-28T17:37:50Z dg43tfdfdgfd