How will you camp in the apocalypse?

This is NOT the ELE, pictures of which apparently have not made it onto the company’s website, but at least it’s comparable in size.

We know of five mass extinction-level events in the history of the planet, the last occurring 65.5 million years ago. That one supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs, although there’s some question on that score, given recent political trends.

But I digress. The more pressing question right now is when we can expect the sixth, or even whether it’s already underway, and what we can do to prepare ourselves. This is of special concern to the people who build RVs, because these are the folks who—like fundamentalist preachers milking their followers by extolling a “prosperity gospel”—disguise their mercantile grasping by promoting the many benefits Mother Nature would like to bestow on us. Yes, nature can be icky and even downright nasty. But thanks to human ingenuity and a relentless repackaging of creature comforts into ever smaller spaces, any of us with sufficient financial resources can plunge into the great outdoors with as little thought as when we go to a movie theater or sports stadium.

And yet: is that enough? Is all that whiz-bang technology and clever packaging enough to meet the challenge of Mother Nature’s biggest “ick” factor—the next extinction level event? How can the RVer heading into the deepest, wildest outback adequately prepare for an all-out assault on his or her continued existence? When the smoke (or radioactive dust or volcanic ash) finally clears, who will be left standing?

No worries, bro’—Mammoth Overland has your back. The Washington-based company announced yesterday it is taking orders for the Overland ELE (yes, ELE—for Extinction Level Event—which the company says should be pronounced “Ellie”), “the first off-road trailer designed to survive the apocalypse or anything campers might encounter.” Comparing Ellie to an armored car or a rich person’s “safe room” on wheels, the company boasted that the trailer “features an onboard air purification system, water filtration system, gas-powered generator and solar-power systems, enabling overlanders to explore fearlessly.”

But wait—there’s more! In addition to a drone launch and night-vision camera system, plus exterior flood and underbody lights to afford maximum surveillance capabilities, the ELE is equipped with weapons storage, front armor, an underbody skid plate and optional Level 3 bullet-proofing (a $25,000 premium). The pressurized entrance doors are submarine style, each equipped with four pins that extend into the walls with the turn of a lever. But the ELE’s most stunning feature may be a defense system that can engulf the entire trailer in a 10-foot by 25-foot cloud of bear spray, “potent enough to repel even the largest bears or most desperate bandits.” No worries about bear spray backwash: that onboard medical-grade filtration system can purge and refill the pressurized cabin in less than three minutes.

Okay, so maybe there’s a bit of hyperbolic marketing going on here, because you’ve got to lay it on thick to justify a $67,000 price tag (without the bullet-proofing upgrade!) for 14 feet of trailer. “Mammoth” it isn’t, despite the company name: if the ELE’s specs are comparable to its base model ($29,500), the cabin’s inside dimensions are just 6.7-feet wide by 9 feet long by 4 feet high, which would be claustrophobic in the event of a mass extinction—those events drag on for hundreds and even thousands of years. And then, of course, there’s the little problem of this being a trailer, which means it has to be towed by another vehicle that presumably won’t have all the survival bells and whistles.

Then again, Mammoth isn’t exactly an RVing powerhouse and is, in fact, a subsidiary of Vashon Aircraft, which makes light sport aircraft—little two-seaters that actually weigh less than its overland trailers and have a service ceiling of 12,000 feet, which is lower than the trailers can reach when towed by a beefy truck. The company’s diversification into back-country trailers, on the other hand, is symptomatic of the feeding frenzy that swept over the RV industry with the onset of the pandemic, prompting all kinds of new entrants into the business. Now that the fever has subsided, look for some of those late entrants to call it quits—or to scramble for a distinctive niche that no one else has claimed, and what’s sexier than the end of all life as we know it?

But Mammoth Overland will have to step up its game if it hopes to survive the apocalypse. Although its press release yesterday announced that more information about the ELE could be found on its website, the site was barely crawling this afternoon—perhaps because of overwhelming survivalist interest?—and in fact has not one word about or picture of its rolling safe house. It does claim, however, that the ELE will make its debut later this month, May 19-21, at the Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona. And it’s taking deposits now for promised delivery late this year, so let’s hope Armageddon can wait that long.

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Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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