As the delivery truck drove up, the little boy in me felt like it was Christmas morning. I couldn’t stop grinning and my excitement was almost uncontrollable. The fully amphibious Sherp ATV sitting before me on the flatbed delivery truck had been the object of several months of intense fascination and excitement.
Several months earlier, while doing some online research for a work project, I happened across a YouTube video that caught my attention. In this video, the Sherp was making quick and easy work of some particularly deep sloppy mud trails. I was intrigued. Later that evening I found several other videos showing the Sherp crossing everything from massive rock fields to large bodies of water. Having a natural fascination with all things outdoors, I was instantly hooked. Over the next few months, I had watched nearly every YouTube video I could find on the Sherp and knew that I had to get one.
After only two weeks since placing the order, our Sherp delivery day had come and I couldn’t get it off the trailer and into the dirt fast enough.
Over the course of the next few months, I tested its capabilities at a variety of locations throughout the state of Utah and Wyoming. Having done so, I’m happy to report that the Sherp easily lives up to the hype and then some. It completely exceeded my expectations which to be honest were set pretty high. When you take the Sherp over obstacles or through challenging or otherwise impossible terrain, I found that it managed it so easily that it seemed almost uneventful. It calmly crawls over and through it all with amazingly very little effort. Unlike the typical off-roading experience, there was no high-revving engine, no violent rattling or jarring sensation and almost never any loss of absolute traction. Due to the enclosed passenger cabin, there is relatively little dust from even the dustiest of trails and virtually no unwanted exposure to the elements like cold, rain or snow. Since we first took delivery of it, we’ve driven the Sherp through a variety of terrains that I can comfortably say no other vehicle on the planet could have gotten through. I’m also a little embarrassed to admit how quickly I revert back to my five-year-old self when driving. My younger self would stomp in every puddle I could find. Now, I find my adult-self anxiously searching out every mud puddle along the trail just to figuratively jump in it… and frequently more than once I might add. What I didn’t expect was to find out that the Sherp’s unusual ability to access remote terrain wasn’t its only benefit.
As I previously mentioned, the off-roading experience with a Sherp was quite different. You don’t get the familiar shake, rattle and roll that you get with Jeeps, trucks, side-by-sides and nearly every other vehicle on rough terrain… not by a long shot. With the Sherp things are completely different. By dropping the pressure in those massive tires from their maximum of 3 PSI (pounds per square inch) to around 1 PSI, I found that the tires will absorb the bumps and ruts of the trail like nothing I’ve ever experienced. In fact, even after a few months of driving it, I still get a kick out of running over rocks or trees that are one or two feet tall. The feeling is that of just gliding over it. People who ride with me will frequently report that they couldn’t even feel it. One excited passenger repeatedly said to his wife, “It’s as smooth as butter.” Those six passengers in the back part of the passenger cabin typically would never know about the obstacle unless I stop and point out what we just passed over.
Where no Vehicle has Gone Before
Nearly everything about driving the Sherp is a polar opposite of that of driving any other off-road vehicle. For example, instead of avoiding the snow, mud, water, rocks, fallen trees, and other obstacles, with the Sherp we search them out and aim for them.
With virtually every other off-road vehicle, when you come to a hill on the trail, the general rule of thumb is to get your speed and engine RPMs up and use your momentum to get you up the hill. This is due to a general lack of grip that the tires have on the trail. With a Sherp, you take the opposite approach. Those soft monster tires designed specifically for the Sherp provide it with massive amounts of traction. The diesel engine and the low gearing nicely complement the grip on terra-firma with plenty of low-end torque. So, when climbing a hill, you would simply aim the machine uphill, put it in a low gear, usually first or second, and let it go. It will slowly but surely muscle its way up and down hills taking on slopes up to 35-degrees forwards, backward and sideways. Though, I have to inject here that taking on a 35-degree slope in the Sherp does feel something akin to climbing straight up a wall.
With such an impressive and capable vehicle, it’s only natural that it would break a few records. In 2017 the Sherp team partnered with several research organizations and set out on a 10,000-kilometer journey (6,214 miles) crossing in and out of the arctic circle. The main goal of the expedition was to definitively prove that ground transport can provide the needed healthcare, emergency services, and supplies, to those hard-to-reach Arctic regions regardless of rough weather conditions. Their entire route was through some of the most remote landscapes on earth. They used no roads the entire journey and endured the brutal arctic conditions of near-freezing or well below coupled with both rain and full-on blizzards. They successfully completed the expedition on schedule seven months later and set four Guinness World Records in the process.
The Sherp story began in 2012. It was based on the designs of an experienced OHV vehicle designer/creator in Russia named Alexei Garagashyan. The goal was to create a vehicle to take on both rough and soggy remote terrains regardless of the weather. Three years later their creation was presented in the 2015 Moscow exhibition of crossovers and off-road vehicles (Wikipedia). The response at the show proved successful, and later that same year they began production of the Sherp in both Russian and Ukrainian factories.
The resulting product is a vehicle that will easily handle a variety of terrains and conditions ranging from the harshest terrain and weather conditions of the Siberian tundra to the unique terrain of the Florida swamps and the rock crawling trails of Moab, Utah.
The Sherp is an “Expedition Grade” ATV. Simply put, this means that it was designed to reliably cross thousands of miles of backcountry without the constant need to find a gas station or require frequent repairs. This is not a claim that many if any, other vehicles can make. The wonderful upside to such a design is that it is amazingly capable and handles every other terrain like it’s just another commute to the office. Again, that’s not a claim that many, if any, other vehicles can make.
Engineered for the Extreme
Its design for rough terrain and extreme weather doesn’t just mean that it has big tires and a heater. It’s so much more. One thing that new Sherp owners learn upon delivery, if not sooner, is that all of the repairs and servicing are done from inside the Sherp. This means that if you’re in a blizzard on the top of a mountain, and somehow break one of those massive chain links or suddenly remember that you need to add oil, it’s all done from inside the passenger cabin where it’s warm and out of the elements. Since all of the mechanical components are accessible from the cabin, there is almost never a need to leave the protective Sherp cabin for repairs.
Sherps have the option to come fitted with a Wabasto heater that heats the cabin and engine compartment and runs on diesel fuel completely independent of the engine. This is a feature that truck drivers have enjoyed for quite some time. The key benefit here is that the occupants can stay warm along with the engine and fuel even in the harshest of winters.
Perhaps the most notable feature of the Sherp is the set of those enormous signature paddle tires. Despite appearances, they are surprisingly durable. These tires have taken Sherps and their occupants through some of the roughest terrain planet Earth has to offer. Yet, despite the obvious plethora of debris, the tire has encountered they continue to perform. As of when this article was written, in the history of Sherp, only one tire has ever been punctured. This was the result of rebar going through the sidewall. The resulting hole was then stitched up using baling wire (included in every Sherp repair kit) which allowed them to drive the vehicle back to civilization. Some might question why is baling wire in the repair kit? If you’ve spent much time off-road and ever had to make emergency repairs to your vehicle to get you back home, you’ll know there are few repair supplies that are as universal as baling wire.
With the Sherp being a fully amphibious vehicle, you wouldn’t be alone if you thought that the tires are the reason that the Sherp can float. The reality is that even without the tires, the Sherp body is designed to be watertight and will float like a boat. That said, yes, those massive tires certainly contribute to its buoyancy allowing it to safely transport up to 2,200 pounds over any type of terrain including across deep water.
Durability and Reliability
While the Sherp is easy to service even in extreme conditions, nobody wants to be breaking down in the middle of nowhere. This is something that engineers of Sherp have spent a lot of time working out. The Sherp is fitted with a Kubota engine which has proven to have exceptional reliability and durability. Kubota engines are one of the most popular and reliable small tractor engines available having sold over 30 million. They are used in all types of construction equipment resulting in thousands of Kubota dealers and service centers worldwide.
Another benefit of the Kubota engine is that it’s fully mechanically driven. This means that it doesn’t rely on any type of computer to run. In fact, the Sherp can suffer an otherwise catastrophic electrical failure while driving and the engine would still run just fine.
You may have noticed that the Sherp ATV has ditched the steering wheel, opting for two steering levers. This steering system is widely mistaken to be a hydrostatic system. It’s not. It actually uses what the manufacturer calls clutch/brake steering. With the Sherp all four wheels are powered all of the time. However, with the clutch/brake steering system when you pull on one of the steering levers it engages a clutch for either the left or right set of wheels. This enables you to take wide sweeping turns. If you pull the same lever further back it engages the break for those same wheels, which allows the Sherp the ability to do what’s called a zero-turn (pivot right on the tire). This ability to pivot right on the tire makes it really nice when you’re trying to maneuver through rough terrain around trees, rocks or holes. However, the key benefit of this type of steering, is that with the prescribed maintenance, this system can be much more reliable and easier to service than your conventional hydrostatic drive system and it doesn’t have any of the breakable components of the more common rack-and-pinion steering systems.
The Wow Factor
In the past few months since we’ve had our Sherp, we’ve found that it draws a crowd everywhere it goes. Even for something as innocuous as driving down the street, we are constantly aware of rubberneckers that are so intent on watching the Sherp, that they are not watching the road around them. We’ve drawn crowds at mall parking lots, gas stations, resorts, trade shows and pretty much everywhere else we go.
From a marketing perspective, the Sherp can be an amazing draw for anyone that wants to capture the attention of the people passing by. Whether it’s in a parking lot, gas station, on the road, or on a trail. People will stop what they are doing and gather around it to ask questions and to get pictures.
This has worked to our benefit multiple times as we were approached by numerous businesses asking us to just park it in front of their place of business, or at an event to act as a draw to bring in more customers. This simple act of parking in front of their place of business was often done in trade for a meal or some other bartered product or service.
By far the most common response we get when people see it is “I’ve been watching these on YouTube and I never thought I’d see one here.” We love to see people’s expressions of awe and amazement as they walk around it, sit in it and check out those massive tires. It literally brings a smile to their face 100% of the time.
Another question we get a lot is “What is it used for?” The correct question should be, “What can’t it be used for?” The Sherp is simply a vehicle like no other. Its applications are as diverse as that of the truck. Whether it’s for commercial or for recreation, the far-reaching capabilities of the Sherp include pretty much all those locations that the car or truck can’t get to.
Whether your interest in the Sherp is for commercial or recreational, the results will be the same. It’s a vehicle that inspires the imagination with thoughts like “Where can we take the Sherp that no other vehicle can go?” It excites the child in all of us to search for the terrain and obstacles that no other vehicle can overcome. Simply put, it’s a very unique machine with some truly unique capabilities.
Considering the extreme environment and conditions it was created for, it’s not too surprising at how easily it handles the bumps and ruts of the trail. After all, it was engineered for so much more.