Q: How did you get started in overland travel?
A: I lived in Colorado for about 2 years and then had to move home. I went from living at 8,000ft with trails, biking, backpacking, hiking and rafting right outside my door, to being back in a small busy city. I had a really hard time trying to figure out what or where “home” was. I just needed to be outside. I also realized how little I had seen and explored in Costa Rica, so I decided that’s what I had to do until I figured out what was next in my life. I had a vintage ‘68 VW camper (the money-pit kind) and a little hatchback, I traded them in for my first truck and began camping in it. Little did I know I’d be hooked.
Q: Do you have any special training (medical/offroad/recovery/etc.)?
A: Unfortunately not, but I’ve been learning as I go, joined a few workshops through the local Nissan truck club so I know a few basics in case of an emergency. Living in Costa Rica and traveling mostly alone, I never really take crazy off-road or technical trails. I focus more on discovering new locations and finding safe camping spots where I can park, make some tacos with a great view, stay the night and find cook hikes or beaches to explore.
Q: Are you traveling solo? If so, are there times that you are frightened or lonely?
A: I do mostly and it’s a huge issue that I often share online, in conversations and in my blog. Traveling solo as a woman can be tricky in itself, even more in a country that doesn’t have a big camping or overlanding culture. It’s rare, even weird to some, for a woman to travel alone here, much less explore by herself and god forbid sleep alone in her truck. There’s been a few times yes that I’ve been frightened but I travel with a yappy ankle-biter dog who’s good at waking me up if anyone or anything is lurking around the truck. Lonely, some days yes.
Q: Why did you choose your current vehicle? What other 4WDs have you owned?
A: My first truck was a Nissan Xterra with a 4L engine, I had a love/hate relationship with that beast! It was great for camping because I could sleep inside (turn the AC on when it hot piping hot) but gas was a huge issue and the automatic transmission on such a heavy truck was not reliable when it came to certain dirt roads. Driving up north I fell in love with the Nissan Frontier NP300, it was a turbo diesel engine and quite affordable at the time. My Xterra was breaking down almost every other week so it was time. I decided I’d take a chance on a loan, if it came through - wonderful. If not, I’d buy an old van and live in it!
Q: What do you call your rig?
A: Lotus. Other than being my favorite flower, it has such a powerful meaning. No mud, no lotus. The lotus grows from yucky ponds and it’s a symbol of new beginnings and rising above obstacles.
Q: How long have you had it?
A: 2 years now! If someone would have told me that at this point I’d have a custom camper on my truck with all the fixings, I’d never believe them. I really had no plan at the time, I just wanted a truck that was reliable and I could camp in.
Q: How many miles have you put on it?
A: Currently it has just about 22,000 miles, which might seem little but I work from home. So all that milage is pretty much from road trips - whenever I’m in town I don’t drive around, I’m mostly looking to get out on the road again!
Q: What is your favorite route you have taken?
A: Although lately I’ve been focusing on exploring Costa Rica, I have traveled extensively in the United States and Canada. That’s a really hard question. When I lived in Colorado I was out west in a small town named Ridgway, the view of the San Juan mountain range never got old, no matter the season. And Costa Rica in itself is an amazing route, it’s such a small country, in a day you can drive from beaches and rainforests and end up on a volcano wearing a down jacket. Any road with a spectacular ocean view or surrounded by miles of rainforest certainly tops my list!
Q: Where would you like to go next?
A: Crossing some borders is huge on my list, which is quite easy distance-wise here but not traveling alone. Given the current situation in Central America, I’m thinking Panama would be a great place to start. I’m working on it, building up confidence, the truck and doing research. I also want to do a big volcano trip, Costa Rica has 8 volcanos, 5 of them are active. The idea of doing one long road trip to explore and camp them all is extremely attractive.
Q: What were the first changes that you made to your rig?
A: The first thing on my list was a soft top for the bed, which I purchased the moment I got my truck. I knew I needed that covered space to start and I made sure it was done asap!
Q: What is your favorite modification?
A: Other than my camper, my drawer kit is possibly my favorite, mostly because it’s been the most useful part of the entire setup. I really like to keep camping simple, when you camp by yourself, every single chore is on you. The drawers took away the entire deal of hauling boxes and constantly shuffling through them every time I needed something. I’m crazy organized and my drawer kit is always packed with everything I need, from my kitchen to hammocks, hiking gear, beach stuff, food and all my personals - all ready to go, any moment of the day.
Q: What is your least favorite modification?
A: I really don’t have one. As a single mom it’s not easy to rig a truck so everything is really well thought out!
Q: Were there any compromises made during this build?
A: There sure were! My camper is pretty new and it’s the first wedge camper designed and built in Costa Rica, so it was a process. A long one. I sold every item I had on my truck, from my soft top, roof flatforms, rooftop tent, water tank, you name it, all to cover costs. It took 6 long months of no camping. Although, I did try to sleep once in the back of my truck on the drawer kit - not a good experience! The compromise was basically that it was a test camper, so I had to be open to having issues with the build at some point.
Q: What spares do you carry (for repairs)?
A: Although I love to be always prepared I really keep it as simple as my travels. Basic tools, safety gear, basic recovery kit, pump and tire repair kit are all I carry.
Q: What is the most difficult trail repair you have performed to date? How were you able to get back on the road?
A: I’m embarrassed and happy to say that none - so far! [Editor’s note: That’s a good thing, isn’t it? :)]
Q: What systems do you use for navigation?
A: I mostly use my phone with Google Maps and Waze (which is a must have in Costa Rica). I also keep offline maps on my iPad just in case I run out of juice or service.
Q: Any advice for budding overlanders looking to build their first rig?
A: Work on it according to your own needs, do and build what makes you happy. Living in a country where there’s little to no overlanding culture, I get a lot of grief about being a woman and what I’ve chosen for my build. Hardcore off-roaders pick on me for keeping my truck basic, mall crawlers with overloaded rigs question me about not having technical gear, the latest radio system or the newest winch. I love my rig, it’s a work in progress, I do what I can and it works for me - so should yours.
Q: Since overland builds are never done, what modifications do you have planned for the future?
A: I just got my TJM suspension kit this week so yay to that! And that’s the million dollar question. Right now I’m still finishing my electrical and I’m missing a solar panel, that’s on the short list for sure. I’m also trying to figure out a shower situation, I just can’t decide what would work best for me. Front bull bar is also big on my list but first I need to replace tires. It really is never ending isn’t it?
Owner/driver name: Ann Brampton
Occupation: Social Media Manager
Vehicle (year, make, model): Nissan Frontier NP300 turbo diesel 2017
Overall length: 5335 mm
Approach angle: 31.4
Departure angle: 26.0
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Engine: YD25 2500 cc
Transmission: 6 speed manual
Dampers: TJM XGS Series 4000
Springs: Heavy Duty Raised Coils 350kg
Rear bumper: Safari Line w/side bars
Custom wedge aluminum camper by Fort Overlanding
Alternate power setup by TJM Costa Rica
Suspension kit by TJM Costa Rica
Drawer kit by Fort Overlanding
Awning by Smittybilt
You can follow Ann’s adventures by clicking the links below.