Yes, the electric vehicle overlanding world is upon us. It seems like not too long ago; the Toyota Prius rattled the vehicle world with its hybrid drivetrain. That was over 23 years ago. Today, we have so many choices to power a vehicle. Gas, hybrid, hydrogen, and electric provide viable vehicle powered options. Over the past few years, the all-electric vehicle market has expanded dramatically. The major vehicle manufacturers offer all-electric vehicle options for the consumer. But, what about the adventurer? What about the overlander? Is there something out there that accommodates the demands of the adventurer and overlander? A vehicle engineered and built to travel over dirt roads, mountain trails, obstacles with the capability of accessing the remote backcountry of the US? Well, the Rivian R1T might just be that vehicle!
“Okay, I will try to remember all of this,” I said while looking at the touch screen and feeling baffled and overwhelmed as I tried to memorize the many features of the R1T. A Rivian spokesperson guided me through the R1T’s features.
“Don’t worry, reassured the Rivian spokesperson, as you drive the vehicle, things will naturally make sense. Soon, you will feel more comfortable.” As I drove the Rivian R1T into the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, I immediately knew that I was driving a unique vehicle. Electric or not. Over the next few days, my goal was to test the Rivian R1T to validate if this is truly a worthwhile overlanding vehicle solution. Would an adventurer and overlander find the R1T a viable vehicle to purchase? Would I?
The Rivian R1T “screams” luxury. The leather seats are heated and cooled; making micro-adjustments makes them comfortable and helps reduce overall driver fatigue.The interior color is warm and inviting with wood accents; creatively, the Rivian logo is hidden throughout. Do you want style and thoughtful design? The Rivian R1T is that vehicle.
The 16-inch screen on the dashboard is easy to read as well as to navigate from one function to the other. Input on the screen appears immediately and responsively. Design features are thoughtfully and creatively. Need a light for a quick look at something? There’s a spring-loaded flashlight inside the driver’s door. The central armrest has room for storage; and; of course, wireless charging happens when the iPhone is placed onto it. The driver’s cluster (i.e., dash) features all electric components. I found the dash easy to read and understand.
The backseat is roomy and offers plenty of space for my 6 feet, 2-inch frame. If someone else yelled, “Shotgun!”, I would have no trouble sitting and traveling in the backseat. That’s a first for me. The LED lighting throughout the interior makes sighting and locating items easy. The only negative that I found inside was the enormous sky light. Almost the entire roof is one, large sky light. I do not prefer large skylights, expecting something to break them; but R1T’s skylight is sleek and follows the body lines of the truck. Overall, the interior is stylish, luxurious, thoughtfully designed, and well-crafted.
I found the truck bed to be just that, a truck bed. However, the built-in air compressor serves to inflate tires once off the trail. The pass-through storage space located in front of the truck bed allows for ample storage of bags and gear. A door on each side provides access to this space. A person can stand on either door to access the roof and gear; as well, someone can use it as a seat. Rivian R1T’s can be ordered with a slide-out kitchen in that pass through, but I like the fact of using the space for storage, etc. The front hood, of course, does not hide an engine but hides plenty of room (11 cubic feet) to store much needed overlanding gear. Honestly, I think you could pretty much store most of a weekend’s trip gear inside the space. I don’t like a couple of things about the truck bed. The fact that the tailgate is manual. With all of the electronics on the Rivian, that tailgate should close with a touch of a button. Also, the truck bed is short, at just under five feet (4.5 feet). Too short in my opinion. I could not sleep in the back while camping, which for me is important.
I most appreciate Rivian’s attention to detail. The yellow styling on the brake calipers and interior features matches the truck’s body color wonderfully. The Rivian logo appears in unique and thoughtful areas. I appreciate the lights from the front mirrors that illuminate the logo onto the ground next to each front door. The Rivian R1T atheistically pleases the eyes; and, let’s be honest, we want our vehicles to look good. Well-done Rivian!
Ready? You better be. The Rivian R1T is a blast to drive. The immediate response as I stepped on the skinny pedal threw me back in my seat and simultaneously plastered a smile on my face. Yes, the R1T excels and drives more like a high-end sport’s car rather than a 7,000-pound truck. It brags of a 3.3 second from 0-60 miles per hour time. I didn’t officially time anything, but it’s fast. The 20-inch all-terrain Pirelli Tires handle well and feel balanced on the truck. Once up to speed, the truck handled with ease and steering was immediate and responsive. The one recurring problem while driving is that I forget I am driving a truck. No, the R1T does not drive like a sport’s car, but the immediate throttle response is addictive. Overall, the drive and ride feel compliant and stable. The different drive-modes make a noticeable difference on and off pavement. The air suspension makes a somewhat noticeable noise when lowering and raising. To me, it is a nonissue. The regenerative braking takes a while to get used to, but I love it! Driving the Rivian R1T is purely pleasurable.
Sitting in the R1T high in the Wasatch Mountains, I set the drive mode to “Off Road” and watched the vehicle raise to almost 15 inches of ground clearance. Impressive to say the least. The R1T crawled up and over the large boulders impeding my progress. The general ride stiffened; and the vehicle drove up and over the obstacles without issue. Head roll was minimal, and driver posture remained stable as I drove through the quaking aspens of the Wasatch Mountains. Most noteworthy: during the drive, quiet prevailed, and I listened to the birds and nature with my windows down. Simply an enjoyable experience. No engine noise. No muffler sounds. Big deal? Yes, in my opinion, it’s a standout feature of the Rivian R1T (all electric vehicles, too).
As I returned to the pavement, I lowered the truck and filled the tires with air. While returning home, I questioned the viability of the R1T to the true adventurer and overlander. The deciding factors to me are the range, 300 miles, and the availability of chargers. I could literally care less on how a vehicle is powered. So, will the R1T work for you? Overall, the R1T is the nicest vehicle I have had the pleasure of driving. Period. The features and build quality are top notch. The creative and subtle ways of styling are unique and gorgeous. The truck is built with a purpose. For the adventurer and overlander in mind? Indeed!
Consideration and Hesitation
For me, the hesitation to fully put money down on this vehicle and buy it is three-fold. First, the range of the vehicle, roughly 300 miles (other variants offer more), is tough for me to overcome with the remote backcountry places I travel in the West. Secondly, the range would not concern me if there were numerous charging stations. To Rivian’s credit, Rivian is installing the infrastructure as fast as possible. Fast chargers are in place along major highways and interstates. Rivian is placing chargers in the national parks. So awesome. However, in the many places I travel, chargers are simply not available. The lack of range and chargers would make me nervous as I adventure in the wilds of Utah’s Robber’s Roost or Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Lastly, Rivian is a new company. With any new vehicle company, determining the company’s long-term reliability is impossible. Is the Rivian R1T a capable, well-conceived adventure vehicle? Absolutely! Would it be a worthwhile and viable vehicle consideration when purchasing your next adventure/overlanding vehicle? Definitely! As always, check and map the infrastructure/chargers in place to lessen potential headaches. The R1T is a revolutionary truck and adventure vehicle. One to seriously consider for your next vehicle.
In-field contributors: Michael and Lilly Holland
Michael Holland is a professional educator and freelance adventure writer based in Park City, Utah. He travels with family and friends in and around the Western United States. During the spring and fall, they canyoneer through the slots of the Colorado Plateau or hike to remote rock art sites left by the Ancient Ones. In the summer months, they chase trout in the rivers of Wyoming and Idaho, mountain bike the single track of Colorado, and explore the backcountry landscapes. Mike’s passion is finding remote locations and the adventures there. Currently, Mike drives Abbey (named after author Edward Abbey), a fully-equipped 200 Series Land Cruiser.
Lilly Holland is entering 10th grade this fall. She loves exploring and adventuring outdoors in her home state of Utah. Her parents “drag” her to many natural wonders around the western United States. Her favorite activity is canyoneering through slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau.
Photo credits to: Michael and Lilly Holland