Hard-Sided Camper Revolution

The AT Overland Aterra XL Camper

Story and photos by Bryon Dorr

After years of development, the AT Overland Aterra XL Camper has finally been “released into the wild.” The world got its first look at this flatbed hard-sided camper system at Overland Expo West. Of course, I had to dive deeper, so I took the AT Overland display build out for an adventure with its creator, Mario Donovan, in some remote and rugged Arizona terrain.

Trail size is about the only thing that will stop this expedition truck, because it’s not small but is capable.

AT Overland started way back in 2001, making off-road-capable overland trailers and a variety of other hard goods for overland rigs (such as jerry can holders). Over the years, the company has gone through a few transformations and is probably best known today for its full line of pop-top truck topper campers—Habitat, Summit and Atlas. Based in Prescott, Arizona, AT Overland is a well-respected overland industry manufacturer and vehicle builder.

The Aterra XL camper is a departure for AT Overland and is quite a unique setup, especially for the U.S. market. It’s designed for two adults and a pet to comfortably travel full-time, but it can also easily accommodate a child added to the mix.

Hard-Sided, Flatbed Truck Camper

AT Overland is best known for lightweight, pop-top truck topper campers. So, why build a full-featured, hard-sided, flatbed truck camper?

It all started with a conversation about three years ago between David Soza, CEO of Tern Overland, and Donovan (both companies are based in Prescott). They talked about a geometric design and combining some top construction methods to create a lightweight, super-strong, four-season, hard-sided truck camper.

Adventure is calling, and this truck camper is ready for the call.

The original inspiration was driven by the lack of durable, low-weight, thermally efficient, hard-sided campers on offer for half-ton trucks. It had been Soza’s dream to bring this concept to market, and AT was the perfect manufacturing partner to realize this vision.

“Our specialty is engineering and design, so when we went looking for a manufacturing partner, AT Overland was at the top of our list,” Soza explained. “AT Overland has a long history of excellence in manufacturing, innovation, customer support and marketing. Through our partnership, AT Overland will be assembling, outfitting and exclusively marketing the Aterra.”

Aterra Shell Construction

Soza and his team at Tern Overland—a premier supplier of windows, doors and other camper construction components—first dove deep into the research-and-development phase of the camper’s shell. After a lot of engineering, the team came up with a fiber-reinforced honeycomb with specialty film, coatings and additives that could be assembled with adhesives. This combination of construction methods, combined with the trapezoidal shape of the walls, has created an incredibly lightweight, super-strong, extremely durable, impressively sound and thermally efficient camper shell.

The inside of the Aterra XL is a space that’s bright and feels bigger than it is. This is mostly because of the opening, double-pane acrylic (with integrated bug and sun shades) Arctic Tern windows throughout. There are three in the back, two up top and one big skylight. Add in a wide Arctic Tern entry door that features a window and security screen door, along with a MaxxAir Dome Fan, and you have an open and airy camper setup for sustained four-season travel. The ceiling in the Aterra XL is 6 feet, 3 inches high.

The passenger got a huge storage garage, while the driver’s side got a spare tire carrie  to handle the big 40s.

The only real downside to this shell construction is that it doesn’t easily accept things such as roof racks. Even so, the optional rear accessory rack does provide some exterior bulky-gear mounting options.

Aterra XL Camper Features

Over the years, AT Overland has built out a wide range of self-contained overland vehicles and has sold a variety of pop-top truck topper camper brands. The knowledge gleaned from the decades of crawling around, building, installing and repairing these different overland setups has allowed AT Overland to build out the Aterra camper with systems that are reliable and field serviceable, provide great comfort and allow for maximum storage space.

“The Aterra XL camper is a departure for AT Overland and is quite a unique setup, especially FOR the U.S. market. It’s designed for two adults and a pet to comfortably travel full-time, but it can also easily accommodate a child added to the mix.”

The Aterra XL features a side door on the passenger side, a rear dinette with integrated Wrappon waterless toilet and a shower, a driver’s-side kitchenette with sink and stove, queen-sized mattress on top of the super-comfortable Froli Travel Modular Sleep System up front and an integrated top-load 90L National Luna fridge/freezer. The bed is on an ingenious pullout system with steps that pull out from the storage area for easy access.

There’s also a massive amount of storage on offer throughout all 35 cubic feet of the Aterra. The main storage organization system comprises a plethora of Step22 Stingray storage cubes that each have their own little cubby, along with a securing pin/key for each to keep everything in place when the Aterra is bouncing down rough roads. There are also three underbed drawers, three underbed hidden compartments, seat storage under the dinette and a small wardrobe closet.

Necessary Amenities

A 20-pound propane tank fuels the Dometic two-burner cooktop, as well as a Truma Vario furnace and Truma AquaGo on-demand water heater. A 30-gallon freshwater tank feeds the inside sink and both inside and outside showers. A 105-amp-hour lithium battery bank is charged by a National Luna NLDC 40-amp DC-to-DC charging system with an integrated MPPT solar charge controller and a 400-watt array of roof-mounted solar panels. All of the camper’s electrical is controlled by an sPOD BantamX Power Distribution System. The sPOD offers control through a touchscreen and remotely through an app.

Of course, there are even more options on offer: more camper batteries, more solar, a king-sized bed, fresh air replenishment system, camper jacks, an exterior awning, exterior shower curtain and a rear accessory mount that’ll accommodate Maxtrax and Wavian can holders. The Aterra can be fine-tuned with upgrades requested by individual owners, but it does come with a lot as standard. You can even color-match the camper to your vehicle, so you don’t have to get a white vehicle to make it look great.

The interior of the Aterra camper is clean, comfy and functional. It feels way more roomy then you might think when looking at it from outside.

“The Aterra XL is going to be the lightest-weight, fully equipped camper in its class that you can buy—period,” Donovan pointed out. “We’re at 1,250 pounds. Nobody can touch that.”

Keep in mind that with a dry weight of only 1,250 pounds, the AT Aterra XL was designed specifically for any full-sized truck with a 6.5-foot-or-longer flatbed. The Aterra XL will fit on any 80×80-inch tray, which is a common size offered by companies such as AlumaTray, FiftyTen, Ute, Norweld and Alumalite.

Display Truck Build

The AT Overland display truck is a 2018 Ram 3500 cab chassis regular cab with a 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel motor. The truck was spec’d from the factory with an ambulance package dually that was converted to singles. The 4.10 gears drive the 40-inch Toyo Open Country M/T tires with ease, and the 74 gallons of fuel capacity give this truck a 1,000-plus-mile range.

“Fully laden, the truck with camper and fuel weighs 10,800 pounds, putting it 3,200 pounds under its GVWR.”

The suspension is all AEV. In addition, AEV fender flares allow the 40-inch tires to fit with a mild, 3-inch lift, keeping the overall center of gravity low. Front protection is provided by an AEV bumper that houses a WARN 16.5ti winch with synthetic rope. Hidden underneath the flatbed is an Oasis XD3000 compressor that provides ample air supply to take care of those monstrous 40s, as well as power air tools.

Fully laden, the truck with hard-sided camper and fuel weighs 10,800 pounds, putting it 3,200 pounds under its GVWR.

The optional accessory mount on the back of the hard-sided camper is a perfect place for traction boards and extra fuel.
The AEV-tuned Bilstein suspension is impressively compliant and uncomplicated.

The Price Tag of Adventuremobile Awesomeness

If the Aterra camper is the right home-on-wheels for your upcoming travels, you can expect a hefty price tag. Quality costs money. However, in this case, you do get quite the value.

“If the Aterra camper is the right home-on-wheels for your upcoming travels, you can expect a hefty price tag. Quality costs money. However, in this case, you do get quite the value.”

The front AEV bumper looks brawny, provides quality recovery points, a winch mount tray and additional driving lights.

The base Aterra XL will set you back $69,000. A flatbed system will range from $12,000 to $15,000. Truck pricing ranges widely based on whether it’s new or used, as well as its engine, trim level, brand, size, etc. So, expect to pay around $75,000 for an outfitted truck (as seen here).

All in, that means an Aterra XL adventuremobile such as the one seen here will set you back about $145,000—that’s not inexpensive, but it’s a considerable value when you consider the current overland camper vehicle offerings on the market.

Future Aterra Camper Evolutions

You might have noticed two Aterra campers on some smaller Toyota Tacoma trucks in the Tern Overland booth at Overland Expo West. Those units are the original prototypes, which verified construction methods for the shell and are built by Tern Overland. However, these aren’t currently available for purchase.

Hard-sided camper-flatbed
This AEV RAM flatbed with AT Overland Aterra camper looks right at home on the remote backroads of Arizona, its natural habitat.

For now, the only option for this camper is the AT Aterra XL, which is a flatbed model designed for 6.5-foot-or-longer beds on 1/2-ton-or-larger truck chassis.

AT Overland is the exclusive manufacturer of the Aterra camper and is considering a variety of other iterations of this unit; specifically, an 8-foot XL option, a smaller unit for midsized trucks and possibly even some slide-in-style campers so that customers don’t have to convert to a flatbed.

An AT Aterra model for midsized trucks that will weigh around 600 pounds has already been prototyped and is expected to be available in 2023.

For more information on the Aterra and all things AT Overland, visit www.atoverland.com.

UPGRADES

Truck: 2018 RAM 3500 Tradesman Chassis Cab with 6.7L Cummins

Truck mods: AT flatbed w/forward storage box and spare tire carrier; AEV front bumper/fender; flares/snorkel/wheels/suspension. WARN 16.5ti winch; 40” Toyo Open Country M/T tires; Oasis Air XD3000 air compressor. Maxtrax; 2 Wavian fuel cans; BajaDesigns OnX6 light bar; WeBoost cellular booster

Hard-Sided Camper: AT Aterra XL

Camper systems: Froli Travel Modular Sleep System; National Luna 90L Legacy Fridge/Freezer; Step22 Stingray Boxes; Truma Vario Furnace and AquaGo On-Demand Water Heater; Dometic Two-Burner Sink/Stove Combo; 20-pound Propane Tank; 30-gallon Freshwater Tank; Wrappon Toilet; Inside and Outside Showers; 105-amp-hour Lithium Battery; 400-watt Solar System; National Luna NLDC 40-amp DC-to-DC Charging System; sPOD BantamX

AT Overland RAM Flatbed Aterra Camper


 

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