Home » What It’s Like Off-Roading And Sleeping In The Bank Vault-Like ‘Off-Grid Trailers Pando 2.0’ Camper

What It’s Like Off-Roading And Sleeping In The Bank Vault-Like ‘Off-Grid Trailers Pando 2.0’ Camper

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Off-road camping trailers are a pretty big deal in the recreational vehicle space right now. It seems every manufacturer wants to sell something that at least looks like it can get dirty without slowing down your capable tow rig. Many of these trailers write checks they can’t cash, as they’re still built out of flimsy materials, only now they have a lift kit and knobby tires. The Off-Grid Trailers Pando 2.0 is not one of those trailers. It’s a woodless teardrop; the box is all-aluminum, featuring a tall 25 inches of ground clearance, eight inches of wheel travel, and even a hot shower and cold air-conditioner.

I got to spend roughly two days towing the trailer and a night sleeping inside its metal walls. I felt like I was sleeping in a bank vault. And off-road? The Pando 2.0 handled the terrain so well that it looked like it was having a smoother ride than the custom Lexus LX 600 that was towing it.

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(Full Disclosure: Overland Expo invited me out to Flagstaff, Arizona to experience Overland Expo West 2023. Afterward, I got to take the Pando 2.0 and a customized Lexus LX 600 out for an overlanding adventure of my own. Overland Expo paid for my lodging for the first night of the show.)

This trailer makes up the second part of Overland Expo’s ‘Ultimate Overland Vehicle.’ For the past couple of years, the team at Overland Expo has collaborated with a slew of show exhibitors to create its vision of the ultimate vehicle for overlanding. Overland Expo also makes an awesome ‘Ultimate Overland Motorcycle,’ too! Every year, literally hundreds of exhibitors gather at Overland Expo events around the country and many of these companies have products for your overlanding rig. The ‘Ultimate Overland Vehicle’ builds show off the kinds of capable vehicles you could assemble with parts sourced from some same exhibitors.

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This year, the 2022 Lexus LX 600 got most of the modding attention. I already reviewed that beast of a rig and you can read that review by clicking here. In comparison, the trailer got just a couple of extra touches. The way I see it, the camper was already great as it was, so Overland Expo made it cooler with a few neat touches.

Off-Grid Trailers

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Something I find fascinating about innovative small camper designs is how many of them have trickled down from Canada. You can thank Canada for cute Boler-style fiberglass campers. Those sleek Mission Overland trailers from last year’s RV Open House? Yep, those are also Canadian designs! Other Canadian names with loyal followings include Trillium, Roadtrek, Escape, and Pleasure-Way.

Off-Grid Trailers joined the list of Canadian camper manufacturers in 2016 when fabricator Mark Badgerow started the company as a passion project. Those early trailers were built in a garage and Off-Grid says that those campers got lots of attention, leading to the builders improving on and expanding their camper designs. In 2018, Badgerow left Off-Grid Trailers to become one of the founders of Mission Overland, leaving Duane Leedell as the president of Off-Grid Trailers.

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Today, Off-Grid Trailers is currently owned by Calgary-based TriWest Capital Partners, which also acquired Northern Lite Truck Campers. Together, the two companies make up what the private equity firm calls the Outdoor Adventure Group. Off-Grid says that partnering with TriWest allows it to have the cash it needs to build innovative campers for years to come.

Off-Grid’s lineup features four different trailers, each serving a different kind of overlander. The Sprocket is modular so it changes depending on your needs. The Switchback weighs just 1,300 pounds while the Expedition boasts a 50-degree departure angle. Then there’s the Pando.

The Off-Grid Pando 2.0

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Off-Grid’s Pando trailers are built with the same all-metal construction as the rest of the trailers in its lineup, but it stands out with its more traditional teardrop shape and what Off-Grid says is “the best all-metal rear galley kitchen.” This trailer has a departure angle of just 29 degrees thanks to the kitchen, but the extra space is filled with amenities to make camping off-grid a bit easier and more comfortable.

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The trailer starts with a CNC laser-cut 4-inch C-channel steel frame. Found at the front of that is either a standard ball hitch tongue or an optional 360-degree Maxcoupler Hitch. My test unit had the 360-degree hitch. You’ll also find the Pando 2.0 featuring a Timbren 3500HD axle-less suspension that Off-Grid says is held on by laser-cut supports.

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Normally, the stock suspension is good for 21 inches of ground clearance. However, Off-Grid partnered up with Fabtech Motorsports to provide what it calls the OGT Evolution Series Suspension, from Off-Grid Trailers:

This new suspension will be an upgraded option to the standard Timbren 3500 HD Axle-less Suspension. The OGT Evolution Series Suspension is an independent trailing arm suspension. Complete with a full 8 inches of suspension travel, powder-coated coil springs, and 2.25″ Dirt Logic Shocks. Built with 0.250″ wall tubing with center gussets for maximum strength, as well as 2.25” axle snub that is heat treated for maximum bend resistance.

Take advantage of a smoother ride and longer travel to ensure the longevity of your trailer and its components. Increased strength within your suspension while loaded or unloaded. You will get a smooth and comfortable ride while dealing with rough terrain.

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Mounted on top of that frame is a box with an interior length of 80 inches, a width of 56 5/8 inches, and with headroom of 46 1/8 inches. That’s good enough to fit a queen bed, a ceiling fan, and an upper shelf. The walls are made of 0.90-inch aluminum outside skin and 0.064-inch aluminum inside skin with rigid foam insulation in between. That box rides on a 1.5-inch by 1/8-inch aluminum tube subframe. The floor is a sandwich consisting of a 0.050-inch aluminum subfloor, rigid foam insulation, and 5/8-inch composite Thermo-Lite board. Rounding out the box is a one-piece metal roof.

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The aluminum inside is thin, but as a whole unit, the camper feels and appears to be sturdy. Those walls and even the doors are very thick and said doors close with the kind of heavy thunk you’d expect from something like an old Mercedes-Benz. The Pando isn’t a rolling nuclear bunker like that wild bear-spraying trailer we wrote about earlier this year. Instead, it left me feeling like I was towing a bank vault.

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It’s a welcome change from the flimsy fiberglass sheet-backed plywood walls of the typical camper. The Pando is not a trailer that feels like it’s going to blow over in a stiff wind.

In addition to the solid build, you get just enough amenities for a comfortable night wherever you take the trailer. Inside of the camper is a metal storage cabinet with plenty of space for gear. Attached to it is a command center panel with a vent for the optional furnace, two residential outlets, 12V sockets, a battery monitor, a dimmer for the lights, and more. In the corner over there is a Zero Breeze Mark 2 Air-Conditioner.

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Optional on the Pando 2.0 is the prep work for an air-conditioner installation. The actual Zero Breeze is sold separately. It’s a 2300 BTU air-conditioner that runs $1,499 with its own battery, which is included in the Pando.

In terms of electrical power, the Pando 2.0 has a pair of group 31 deep cycle batteries, a Xantrex sine wave inverter, and a port for solar power input. Weirdly, solar panels do not come with the trailer, not even as an option. The Ultimate Overland Build version of the trailer also didn’t come with solar.

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Out back is a huge kitchen that continues the all-metal theme. That galley houses a 57-liter Dometic fridge, a stainless steel prep surface, a sink, a Dometic two-burner stove, and all kinds of storage places. The Pando came ready to rock with a metal dish and bowl set as well as a Front Runner Outfitters utensil set.

Feeding that sink is a 14-gallon main water tank and a 19-gallon tank mounted below and protected with a skid plate. Sadly, there is no gray tank. When you wash dishes, the water just dumps out right in front of your feet. That said, you can easily re-route the sink’s exit or perhaps mount your own gray tank. Also included is an outdoor shower with an on-demand water heater and a privacy tent.

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Other neat features include a roof rack with a 1,000-pound capacity and metal fenders strong enough to stand on. Nick Jaynes, Director of Communications of Overland Expo, told me that the themes behind this year’s Ultimate Overland Vehicle were off-road capability and luxury. The Lexus gave a cushy, luxurious off-roading experience. To add a dash of fun luxury to the Pando, the build team added a Pi Pizza Oven from Solo Stove to the camper’s slide-out compartment. Normally, this compartment would hold a second Dometic cooler, but a pizza oven is way better. This oven hooks up to the trailer’s propane tank.

Towing The Pando 2.0

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Hauling this 2,200-pound (dry) trailer was an experience in itself. Despite the trailer’s relatively low weight, the Ultimate Overland Vehicle Lexus LX 600 definitely felt the camper back there. However, the trailer never unsettled its tow vehicle. And since the Pando is just 89 inches wide with a small box, the Lexus didn’t need tow mirrors.

On my first day with the trailer, I took it down the interstate. At highway speed, the camper tracks straight without even a hint of sway. Even in a strong crosswind, the trailer is rock-solid. I’m sure many readers have seen campers careening down the highway, barely able to stay in their lane. That’s not a problem here.

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With that said, the Pando isn’t the most aerodynamic thing out there. If you enter into a strong enough crosswind or headwind, you’ll feel the wind beating on the trailer. It doesn’t slow you down and the trailer doesn’t sway, but you will probably notice it. The tow vehicle also notices it. On the highway, the Lexus LX 600 gulped down fuel at a rate of about 11 to 12 mpg, assuming the mileage estimator could be trusted after the modifications. Again, it’s not a huge deal, but it’s something to be aware of. This trailer can be towed by a variety of crossovers, but expect your fuel economy to take a hit.

Guzzling fuel is worth it because this trailer seems entirely unfazed by off-road environments. When I took the Lexus through the off-road course at the Overland Expo West grounds the trailer followed through, staying nearly flat and level. When I drove the Lexus over a ledge that sent two tires airborne? The trailer’s long travel suspension flexed right through it with the trailer looking like you were pulling it through a parking lot. In the mud? The trailer didn’t slide around or feel like a boat anchor. Instead, it rolled through almost as if it were on dry ground.

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This was a recurring theme with towing this trailer. When the Lexus hit washboards, the trailer looked smooth as the suspension took the brunt of the hits. When I hit rocks that sent the Lexus bouncing, the trailer seemed to skip across, totally unfazed. Motorcycle maven, survivalist, and adventurer Eva Rupert joined me on this journey and like me, she was wowed by the ease that the trailer seemed to get through everything. The terrain that had us holding onto grab handles? The trailer remained level.

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This trailer came equipped with a nifty 360-degree hitch. This allows the trailer more movement; so much movement that I was warned the trailer could roll over entirely if I got into a really sticky situation. The hitch was really put to the test only once during the off-road course and it was neat to see the trailer able to move about on the hitch in ways a standard ball cannot.

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The excellent suspension didn’t harm the trailer’s off-roading capabilities, either. The Pando maintained gobs of clearance through everything we put it through. Inside, I forgot to zip up my suitcase. Normally, this results in a small mess when I get to a campsite, but the Pando was smooth enough that all I had to do was put one shirt back into the suitcase. By the end of my roughly two-day test with the Pando 2.0, I was convinced that it could handle far more than any mere travel trailer that calls itself an off-roader. So, major props to Fabtech Motorsports and the OGT Evolution Series Suspension.

Camping In The Pando 2.0

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Due to a technical glitch in the Lexus LX 600, I wasn’t able to do two nights of camping in the Pando as planned. Still, I think I was able to get a good feel of this unit in the one night I did stay in it. At the end of my first day of adventuring, I was so tired that I didn’t feel like decoupling the trailer from the Lexus. I just wanted to park, cook myself dinner, then go to sleep.

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As I was expecting to use the pizza oven on the second night, I bought myself my normal Gambler 500 fare: Chef Boyardee and beer. Canned pasta is quick and easy to cook while not dirtying up too many wares and utensils. Chef Boyardee is hardly Instagrammable food, but it does the job of filling you up. The galley was nice to have. I got to prepare my dinner under the massive hatch door with bright LEDs lighting everything up. Everything was intuitive to use, important when you’re a cold snack or two in and want something to eat.

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I have just two complaints about the galley and both can be worked around. Given the trailer’s 24 inches of ground clearance, the kitchen was a bit too high for me to comfortably use. I’m five feet, six inches tall, so it’s not like I’m super short. For example, the lip of the sink was just under shoulder level, which made cleaning it out a little difficult. This is rectified in two ways. You can park the trailer so that the galley sits on top of a mound, giving you a natural “stool,” so to speak. Or, you could just use an actual stool.

My other complaint is with the sink, which drains into the ground. If you’re parked on an incline, this can mean the sink drains dirty water into your shoes. This can be solved by parking on that incline in the opposite direction. You could also give the trailer a gray tank and not worry about getting your feet wet.

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Once you’ve had your dinner, the Pando’s hatch kitchen closes up and you can hop inside to start sawing some logs. On my night in the Pando, outside temperatures started out in the mid-60 degree range, which is about the temperature I keep at home. Since the forecast called for the temperature to drop into the 50s, I closed both doors, the ceiling vent, and the door vents. The trailer retained the heat so well that in the middle of the night, things started feeling a bit stuffy. I ended up opening the vents on the doors to try to balance things out and that worked.

The only part of the trailer that concerned me was its bank of two batteries. When I shut down the Lexus, the batteries read 12.1 volts. If this were a car, I’d be saying those batteries were weak. I used the trailer’s batteries to charge my phone, charge my laptop, and for lighting while I was cooking. Despite that light use, the batteries got down to 11.7 volts on the first night.

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I’m not entirely sure what went wrong on that night. When I towed the trailer the next day and shut down the Lexus, the batteries held steady at 12.3 volts. One clue could be from the Lexus, as the vehicle voltage gauge needle randomly dropped toward the bottom during my drives. Maybe, for whatever reason, the Lexus wasn’t always charging the trailer as it should have been.

Sadly, due to the glitch that stopped my trip, I never got to test out the awnings on the roof, the stabilizer jacks, the air-conditioner, or that sweet pizza oven. At any rate, the morning after, I woke up, set up the shower tent, and took a steaming hot shower.

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Once you take a hot shower next to your teardrop trailer, you’ll never want to return to tent camping ever again. The Pando has convinced me that all of these tiny campers should have showers, even if they are just shower heads crammed into chests hanging on the side of the trailers’ boxes.

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A Great Companion

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I had a blast using the Pando 2.0 as my mobile hotel room. It is great as an off-roading companion and I felt comfortable and safe sleeping in it at night, which is the experience a good camper should provide.

The price for an Off-Grid Trailers Pando 2.0 is $34,750, but this specific example will be a little different. Later this year it’ll go up for auction on Bring a Trailer in a separate auction from the Lexus. When those vehicles sell, 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Overland Expo Foundation charity. If you don’t get this one, you can also pick up the Pando 3.0 for $36,750. That trailer is largely the same but with an upgraded on-demand water heater, a better furnace, a relocated propane tank, and other small updates.

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The Off-Grid Trailers Pando 2.0 does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an all-metal teardrop that at least to my eyes, may end up being more capable than your tow vehicle. The Pando will go anywhere your tow rig will go and do it without turning into a pile of broken plywood. It’s one of a few campers I’ve played with the kind of heft you’d expect from a well-built car. Add the suspension and those amenities and your tent might end up gathering dust.

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(Images: Author)

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Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
9 months ago

An ORC (Offroad Campers) dealer opened up this year in my small town. Will be interesting to see if this is a viable business. Wish them luck.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

I have to say, this trailer looks amazing to me and I want one very much.

Carter Young
Carter Young
9 months ago

It seems extremely strange that there isn’t even an option for solar charging. Is it because of the batteries and/or inverter? Other’s have mentioned that lead acid batteries are not the usual choice for overlanding.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
9 months ago

First off… at 2200 lbs for a trailer that small? It’s a real porker for the size. A Boler-style camper would be substantially lighter.

And they equipped it with Lead Acid batteries? That’s ridiculous. They should be using some form of Lithium batteries or nothing.

And Air Conditioning in a Camper??? Really? Honestly if you need A/C that badly, just give up on the idea of camping and just stay in a hotel/motel.

Turkina
Turkina
9 months ago

As long as there’s enough electrons in the battery, why not have a tiny A/C? Summer nights, especially in the East are moist and icky. Summer days, especially in the West, turn a camper into an oven even with the vent fans going. If I wanted to steam in the outdoors during the summer, I’d sleep in a tent.

Totally agree with the battery situation. All that lead-acid space should be used for higher energy density units and easier solar integration. But, just like Toyota sneaks in non-lithium batteries in some of their AWD hybrids, the compromise could have been made to increase cold weather performance.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
9 months ago

Having taken other types of trailers not just off pavement but also considerable distances into places they probably shouldn’t have gone, all as part of my job, I will say that that’s a much more useful-looking hitch than anything we had.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

Those are some THICK walls. 0.90 inches or 0.09?

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

So it’s a 0.90 inch thick sandwich comprised of 0.064 thick skins with insulation in between, because a 0.90 inch thick outer skin of aluminium would weigh more like 22k pounds. See what I’m saying? I know you made a correction, but it still says the outer skin is 0.90 inches thick.

Yes, I am a Correction Jackal (tm Seth Meyers).

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
9 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

That or maybe aluminum honeycomb panels? I had the same thought, there’s no way the outer skin is nearly an inch of solid aluminum and this thing comes in at 2200lbs. Or only costs what it does and not several times more.

A. Barth
A. Barth
9 months ago

This brings to mind the discussion we had on here a little while ago about using the same wheel/tire combo on the tow vehicle and on the trailer. They were listening! 😉

This looks really nice. I wonder if they could offer removable (canvas? nylon?) extensions for the galley. It’s got the excellent roof when the hatch is open, but there might be wind or rain coming in from the side; the cook would probably appreciate some protection.

Did the Lexus get a more powerful alternator as part of the upgrade package? I revisited the review and didn’t see anything.

A. Barth
A. Barth
9 months ago

Interesting – that must be a pretty stout unit. Thanks for the legwork!

Ben
Ben
9 months ago

Someone’s going to start a true crime podcast to catch this battery serial killer. 😉

Something was definitely wrong with that electrical setup though. The battery should not have started at 12.1 (which is approaching the lowest voltage you ever want to see from an SLA battery) and a pair of group 31s certainly should not have dropped to 11.7 from that little use. And even if the Lexus wasn’t charging it, that low a voltage suggests to me that it wasn’t fully charged when they gave it to you or there was some sort of vampire load sucking down a lot of power while you were driving.

Also, totally with you on the shower thing. Having a hot, or even hot-ish, shower available when you’re camping is so nice.

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