Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Ordering the Granby

Just a Granby, but this one has a cassette toilet, the slide-out tank of which is accessible through the rear wall. (That white frame.)

Just a Granby, but this one has a cassette toilet, the slide-out tank of which is accessible through the rear wall. (That white frame.)

The Grandby model from Four Wheel Campers is a specialty rough-terrain, compact pop-up truck camper. It is designed and built specifically for outdoorsmen (and women) who want to be able to camp in places that are not safely accessible to other types of vehicle-based RVs.

The Four Wheel build floor. The four rectangles in the black sidewalls are access holes for tie-down points to the truck bed. Perhaps someday they may progress to three in order to remove a lot of the effects of bed twist on the camper frame, but that is much, much more easily said than done: a complete redesign with lots of problems to solve. Worth it? Not really.

The Four Wheel build floor. The four rectangles in the black sidewalls are access holes for tie-down points to the truck bed. Like all 4-point mounts, this system promotes frame twist when the truck bed flexes, but the frame is durable enough for the 99% of customers that use it, and the mounts are pretty close together to decrease the movement. 3-point mounts are popular in Europe, but I’m not sure that the bottom-up redesign needed would be worth it in actual practice.

This post outlines the options I chose and some of the planned modifications to make the Grandby better suited to become a more workable habitat for an indoor-oriented oldster. Sometimes, plans benefit from change once you start working with a rig, and the Grandby will likely be no exception.

Nice camp. Some owners do this bed overhang thing. Gives me the willies, personally. Get into an emergency lane change at 70, and you'd better hope your suspension mods and shock absorber status are exceedingly hearty.

Nice camp. Some owners do this bed overhang thing, which is usually okay. On this Tacoma TuRD (rhymes with Furd) Toyota decided to trade bed load capacity and loaded handling (safety) for a smaller turning radius and a cheaper way to extend the cab. The camper overhang here exaggerates the problem. The potential for interesting activities on slick pavement gives me the willies, personally. Get into an emergency lane change at 70 dry, and you’d better hope your suspension mods and shock absorber status are exceedingly hearty.

Firstly, buying a Four Wheel camper is a bigger deal than it should be. Considering that Four Wheel serves a tiny niche market, finding used examples poses two difficulties. The first is that my own needs are model and floorplan-specific. Any model other than an 8-foot Grandby with a front dinette floor-plan will compromise usability – for me. Same for not carrying options that I need, or boosting the cost by being option-heavy. Being outdoors-oriented campers at heart, most customers opt for the minimalist approach, which doesn’t do me much good. Grandbys in particular are relatively scarce. The second difficulty is that, for a tiny niche market, used Four Wheel examples are in comparatively high demand, which boosts prices on the used market. The same proclivities for durability and construction quality that inspire a healthy brand loyalty among users also carries over into the used market. That, and the blessings of economic inflation mean that the annual drops in price for them year for year are much less than for pop-up truck campers in general. Buy a real oldie in great shape, and it’s quite possible that you’ll pay more for it than the guy who bought it new did. The above, plus the practical limitations that I have in locating, restoring and modifying a suitable unit within a very tight time frame in the field prompted me to bite the bullet and do serious damage to my savings account. Ow.

This is fairly common, too. A great way to bring along your "adventure gear", but whatever you put on top, you lift when you want to set up camp. Depending on the load, some people use portable jacks inside, and some unload the roof before raising it. The Granby roof is 12' long and supported only at the front and back edges. Get stupid with how added weight is placed and supported, and you can warp the roof.

This is fairly common, too. It’s a great way to bring along your “adventure gear”, but note that whatever you put on top, you lift when you want to set up camp. Depending on the load, some people use portable jacks inside, and most unload the roof before raising it. The Grandby roof is 12′ long and supported only at the front and back edges. Get stupid with how added weight is placed and supported, and you can warp the roof. Shorter roofs (like this one) are stiffer.

On a dollar per square foot basis, truck campers are not a great deal at all. For their size, they are expensive. If all you want is living space, there are much better choices to be had. Four Wheel’s models, aside from their stripped shell models, are particular offenders in this regard. You have to need their toughness, durability, small weight and profile to do what you want to do, or the value just isn’t there. If you do need it, there are few other options to be had without spending even more money. That’s what a niche is all about.

In a regular RV park with hookups, you can the Four Wheel's freshwater inlet and shore power socket. The white hose at the rear is connected to the greywater outlet, and here leads to a bucket, as used in the field. A longer hose would allow for a sewer connection.

In a regular RV park with hookups, you can use the Four Wheel’s freshwater inlet and shore power socket. The white hose at the rear is connected to the greywater outlet, and here leads to a bucket, as used in the field. A longer hose would allow for a sewer connection, but now you have two waste hoses to store instead of one.

Since they are a tiny niche, Four Wheel campers are made to order. Therefore, they are sold at list price. Although they have a dealer network, their dealers do not stock up on them, since their buyers do not tend to load up on option packages as other markets do. Some want skinned-to-the-bone models, some want middle-of-the-road, and others load up. Between the various bed sizes, floor-plans and options, it’s a more difficult market to try to inventory for, and they can’t afford to try. It is possible to find a floor model or show ex-demo for sale here and there, and the odd last year’s model crops up every now and then, but you have to be flexible in what you want and, most likely, be willing to drive very long distances to get it.

Nearly ANY truck camper can take this trail. The issue here is your confidence level toward whatever it does on the other side of that hill. On a trail, what's past is not a reliable indicator of what's ahead.

Nearly ANY truck camper can take this trail. The issue here is your confidence level toward whatever the trail does on the other side of that hill. On a trail, what’s past is not a reliable indicator of what’s ahead.

That leaves ordering a camper to be built, either from the factory in California or via a dealer locally. Except for any delivery charges to a dealer, the costs are the same. Depending on the time of year, the build lead time varies from 8 to 22 weeks. I happened to order toward the very bottom of the slope, right where 12-13 weeks finished dropping to 8-9 weeks – which is almost a problem. That gives me very little time to clear the Ford’s bed of the Tankmin, seal off its bed holes, and sell the Ford’s step-up tailgate, which is actually worth real money these days. I also need to end my association with the macerator and at least three of the four big solar panels. I’d been counting on 12-13 weeks delivery! Much to do, and not much time to do it.

At end of day on a seldom-used trail, just pull off and make camp. No need to hunt for an accessible, usable spot.

At end of day on a seldom-used trail, just pull off and make camp. No need to hunt for an accessible, usable spot. In the morning, move on.

At any rate, here are the specs. The Grandby already includes a 20-gallon freshwater tank (same as the Defiant), sink, electric on-demand water pump, a 12V outlet, outside-vented propane tank compartment, solar wiring from roof to battery compartment, a 30A shore power system, and various interior furnishings. The standard build assumes that you will operate devices off your vehicle starting battery, and that any solar system will replenish same. This is plenty good enough for minimalist camping. The options I chose are:

  • Front dinette floor plan
  • Forced-air propane furnace with digital thermostat. (Once I cross over about 7,000 feet elevation, my Mr. Heater catalytic portable has problems firing and staying lit, which has proven a concern after some 35-degree nights at higher elevations.)
  • 65-liter 12VDC/120VAC compressor fridge/freezer. (No more obsessing about level campsites.)
  • Fan-Tastic power roof vent fan. (Ventilation can be an issue when that flexible wall section starts radiating summer sun heat.)
  • Second roof vent. (Ditto.)
  • Battery prep. (Wiring and battery separator. Keeps me from blowing out the Ford’s starting batteries by being naughty with the solar power system.)
  • Thermal Pack. (A removable poly liner inside the flexible wall section that creates a dead air space to improve insulation somewhat.)
  • External gas strut roof lift assists. (Not as young as I used to be, eh sonny?)
  • Camper jack mounting plates. (In case the camper must ever be removed from the truck bed, God forbid. I’d have to add the jacks themselves, but not now. May also prove useful as device mounting points during modding.)

You may notice that I ordered no toilet, propane water heater, outside shower, or inside shower. On the face of it, this is not a flattering indicator of my personal habits, since all of these options are available. These items posed issues with the use of interior space, and/or exceeded my available resources. That, plus the lack of waste holding tanks and storage space got me to brainstorming about workarounds. What’s a lazy suburbanite to do? Fake it.

Front Dinette. A nice-sized table, benches with decent storage underneath each. Like other floorplans, the dinette converts to a low bed if all you want to do is sleep without having to raise the roof - assuming you haven't clogged up this area!

Front Dinette. A nice-sized table, benches with decent storage underneath each. Like other floorplans, the dinette converts to a low bed if all you want to do is sleep without having to raise the roof – assuming you haven’t clogged up this area!

As shot from the bed area. This one has a max-sized fridge in trade for a storage tray above it, and a cassette toilet at left rear, in trade for less cabinet storage.

As shot from the bed area. This one has a max-sized fridge in trade for a storage tray above it, and a cassette toilet at left rear, in trade for less cabinet storage.

Come on, I know y'all just love toilets, so here's what the cassette toilet option looks like. The bowl rotates at its base for getting it of the aisle, and is then shrouded over when not in use. Some people may wish to also close the entry door!

Come on, I know y’all just love toilets, so here’s what the cassette toilet option looks like. The bowl rotates at its base for getting it completely out of the aisle, and is then shrouded over when not in use. Some people may wish to also close the camper entry door!

Umm, yes. The so-called thermal pack. Liberated this from Four Wheel.

Umm, yes. The so-called thermal pack. It’s held on with Velcro. Liberated this from Four Wheel, too.

These help when you want ventilation without having to play with the sidewall fabric windows.

These help when you want aggressive ventilation without having to play with the sidewall fabric windows.

and if the Fan-Tastic is workin', this provides an air source for it over the bed.

And if the Fan-Tastic is workin’, this provides an air source for it over the bed.

Nope, not expansive, but it will have to do. Icebox section for chilling margarita glasses is that white cover on top.

Nope, not expansive, but it will have to do. It has the essentials: the icebox section for chilling margarita glasses is behind that white cover on top.

Technically needed only for camper de-installation, this looks like one of four creative opportunities to me.

Technically needed only for camper de-installation, this looks like one of four creative opportunities to me. What would YOU hang from them or mount to them?

The grandest spots are seldom seen, for a reason.

The grandest spots are seldom seen, for a reason.


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38 thoughts on “Ordering the Granby

  1. Just getting started reading this post, but had to pause to say that out here, at least amongst the folks I know, we call that a dirt road, or sometimes a double-track. Trails are for hiking. But this is very likely region-specific, and I’d like to hear what others call their dirt roads/trails.

    Back to reading this fascinating post, so tempting.

    • Well, that got me thinking, since I do misuse terms more than just a bit. Here’s about as peculiar a definition as you’ll find: To me, roads have a destination and at least occasional traffic, whether they are paved, gravel or dirt. They also have some intentionality in being there, as in gravel or graded dirt. And to me, a double-track, path or trail are practically interchangeable, since they indicate that someone or something has passed only enough to wear the vegetation and compact it so it can’t easily grow back. It meanders, going nowhere in particular, maybe just to a favorite glen or fishing spot, shack or prospecting location. My last stop in Wyoming had what you call double-tracks that simply dead-ended, and this place has those too, as well as Arizona. I can’t bring myself to dignify those as roads. Once a “road” starts to impose demands on the vehicles that can traverse it (other than large trucks) such as high-clearance or 4WD, that’s when I start dropping it out of the roadway category as well. When I think of what was referred to as the Oregon or California Trails that the wagons took, I can’t think of them as roads because they were nothing but worn paths. When I think of the Silver Mountain Loop here, signed as a scenic trail, it’s “almost a road” in my mind because of the occasional grading and maintenance to keep it in service, except that it and its sidetracks lead to nowhere in particular, it loops back to where it begins, and the return half will become impassable soon and be left that way until somebody drops into the mini-canyon. Maybe because it still does have intentionality, I should referring to it merely as a road, half of which is in really bad shape. I just never picked up on a people-only orientation for trails along the way. But I do admit that I tend to use the term “trail” when “road” is warranted, as when I was at Vedauwoo and Green River.

      • That was an interesting breakdown of your thought processes re: roads/trails. Most delightful. 🙂 I do think it might be somewhat regional, and depend too on how you grew up. We (my parents, siblings, friends, and self) grew up outside, in the mountains, away from paved roads as much as possible. So what’s in my head must be what my folks called ’em. And get this: the reason for my post was that a friend recently asked me for clarification when I referred to a local dirt road as a “trail.” I got this directly from you; it has seeped into my brain. I guess I’m impressionable. 🙂

      • I’ve been meaning to ask you what you chose for a laptop; I’ll be buying something along those lines soon. And what are you doing for power, solar or genny or…?

    • Your camper is a beaut 🙂

  2. Sounds great! I will be eager to hear about your new adventures now that you are more ‘light on your feet’ so to speak. PamP

    • Yep, I think it might be a refreshing change of pace to be whining about something other than the usual, for a change! 😉 Seriously, Pam, I am looking forward to the increased mobility for a good chunk of the year.

      • Whelp, now I’m getting ready to abandon my dream of a truck pulling a tiny trailer. I went out to hike to a small section of the PCT, Wet Meadow to Mount Raymond, near Blue Lakes, last week. Trailhead is at the end of a dirt road. Been on this particular road many a time over the decades, always in a jeep or a truck. It’s a breeze, with a few fun sticky spots.

        THIS time, I drove it pretending I was pulling a trailer (under 14′ in my imagination). First 3/4 of the road, no problems. Last part was more interesting: a couple of stream beds, narrow and deep, cutting across the road. First one, I bumped my hitch coming out of it. No problem…unless I had a trailer. Don’t know how that would have worked. I kept trying to imagine that when my nose dipped, the trailer nose would go up, and when my nose went up, the trailer nose would dip. What I don’t know is how much–varies by trailer.

        Then there were the various downed trees and inconveniently-placed boulders: I had to wriggle my way through, barely getting by with just the Cherokee. No way with a trailer unless I trash the sides of it, scraping through. Doesn’t sound like a sensible option, although, if I got a really nasty old trailer, who would care? (“Me,” a little voice pipes up in my head.)

        So, I’m thinking no-trailer will be better for me. Am now shooting for a Class B–it would have to be old and ugly since Class Bs tend to hold their value. Or, the smallest Class C I can find–I saw a DARLING little one yesterday, a really short little thing, cute. I know from driving the big RV (can’t recall the length, around 30′) that it will be able to handle most situations–as long as I stay sensible–with 2-wheel drive. (Even when I have a 4×4, I never use it on dirt unless absolutely necessary, such as 4-low when needing to go super-slow on a very rough surface on a steep hill, and I won’t be doing that. Darn.)

        Doug, I don’t know if I mentioned it but I like your idea of leaving a trailer somewhere for winters in the Southwest. This still might work out for me, depending…on a lot of things. For one thing, I won’t be renting a spot year-round for it. But yeah, we are seeking two extremes in one perfect package, within a budget. Calls for imaginative making-do.

        It’s frustrating, exciting, and a bit scary, but…I keep reminding myself it will work out, one way or another.


        • That was a very good idea to try: drive a trail you like, with the mindset of having a trailer. I was horrified as I read along. If this is a boxy little standard issue 80s-90s Jeep Cherokee and you bumped your hitch -or much worse, empty hitch receiver – against something below, then there’s trouble in River City. Attention usually centers on how much ground clearance and overhang the trailer has, but here, that’s rendered moot. The problem is the tongue jack on the trailer, the foot of which is always significantly lower than the tongue itself. Paranoia is your friend: Move optimistically and confidently ahead, and you risk rendering the jack inoperative as it hangs up on something. The slower you were going at the time, the more significant the indicator. Then there’s that width issue you realized along the way. The Cherokee is narrow, and even a short, narrow trailer will not track perfectly behind. It always trails to the inside, trying to straighten the turn the Jeep takes. People seem to have two ways of reacting to ground contact. One is to hit the gas and hope it goes away. The other is to get a sense of what’s going on under there, and figure out how to minimize any possible ongoing damage. With a trailer, sensing and warding off such issues is more difficult. You’re fording streams? How deep is a “deep” stream bed? Tiny trailers with tiny wheels dunk their hubs early.

          Since your goal is to live in rather than around your rig and don’t plan on building out a cargo trailer, I won’t suggest any temporary camping-oriented approaches. A small Class B/C may be more appropriate, but you will have to develop a feel for what situations you’ll have to back down on for width and roughness. Seems a shame to lose a perfectly good Cherokee, though, assuming that it really is in decent shape. I’m just glad I’m not you! – All that past trail experience running solo, with no point of reference for towing a trailer of any type. Increases the odds of arriving at the destination with the trailer gone missing! 😉

          • Hahahaha, I can just see a cartoon of me turning around to see…NO TRAILER!!!

            What you say is true…and I’m the sort who keeps on rolling, hoping it’s all okay because it HAS to be okay. I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I am determined to temper this attitude, which is, frankly, ridiculous (the “keep on rolling,” pushing the limits attitude, that is). It’s difficult to change because I have always been that way, it’s not a conscious decision, it’s default mode.

            However, the ’05 RV year taught me many things, one of which is that it’s not fair to rely on friends & family to rescue me. They have their own lives and a right not to toss away precious free time by dealing with my issues.

            Not to mention the minor detail that I’ll be way too far away from them most of the time.

            One time I got the RV stuck in a giant slimy red-mud mess, about 50 miles from Tahoe. My brother had to find me, which, since I was way back on nameless logging roads, took time. Amazing that I had a cell signal, albeit a weak one. He got me out quick and easy–I’d known it wouldn’t take much, and if I’d had a winch might have been able to do it myself–and drove slowly out ahead of me. Now, my brother loves me, so don’t judge him too harshly: He stopped next to a fallen oak and started cutting rounds. Yes, he has a chain saw in his truck. As I helped him load the wood, he muttered, “At least something good came out of this.” My heart sank, but then he flashed me a grin and a wink.

            Therefore, I take this seriously. I probably won’t be able to spend much on a rig because I need to retain a decent stash of cash to be able to tow/repair/replace it when needed. (If only buying a newer rig guaranteed no breakdowns, I would do it. And of course, I’ll get as new, and as low-mileage, as I can. But I have to assume anything can happen, mechanically, to any rig, no matter how shiny.)

            Reading you is helping me. You are thoughtful, as in mindful of realities and possible problems, things I often ignored in the past. You also do due diligence in research and planning, another good influence on me.

            I plan to know my rig as well as a non-mechanic can know it. Changing tires and minor maintenance are doable, and I will do them. (Note to self: get a winch.)

            PS: The Jeep is old (’91) and beat up. Runs great. Driver’s side door fell off last year and a friend managed to weld the hinge back to the spot it broke away from.

            • (This comment represents the limit of the blogsite, so you won’t be able to reply to it w/o starting a new comment.)

              In time, you’re likely to have some interesting tales to tell! That’s the good news. The bad news is that tow services like Good Sam’s and Coach-Net won’t touch you if you’re stuck more than something like 300 feet from a “maintained roadway”, and they get to determine their own definition of that. Your “default mode” will actually bail you out of situations where I might still be back there, wringing my hands and inching forward, if at all. But it can also endanger either you or your wallet. Innately being oriented toward pushing the limits is what keeps explorers and overlanders out there. It’s worth noting though, that pushing the limits guarantees that they will be crossed, and such people equip and prepare for the inevitable consequences. Tools, repair experience, spare parts most likely to fail, extra food, water, satellite communicator, etc. There are usually alternatives to forging on ahead, and hopefully you are doing so out of impatience rather than some kind of fatalistic panic of not knowing what else to do. “As slow as possible, and as fast as necessary” is one off-roading mantra I’ve heard. I know of hands-on driving/extrication classes that are expensive, but they are cheaper than a single tow out of the mud at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I don’t know that any of us can change our “default mode” by ourselves. Time and circumstance sometimes wear in a change. Until then, you may wish to bulk up on as much knowledge as you can, in preparation for dealing with the situations you see as most likely, like mud or breakdowns. Expedition Portal comes to mind, but I’m sure reader Papa and others would have better advice.

      • You’ll have so much fun with your new ability to go further out. I love it that it called out to you so irresistibly.

  3. Linda Sand on said:

    Looks to me like the best compromise available. I could live in that. If I could climb up into it to start with.

    The bracket made me think clothesline.

    I didn’t see a microwave. I’d rather have a microwave than a stove top. But then I’d need enough solar/inverter/battery to support that. Which I’d want anyway for my computer, right?

    With no upper cupboards and few lower ones I’d soon have at least half that dinette filled with bins. I’d never be able to sleep there since I’d also have to keep the path to the toilet clear at night.

    Maybe I couldn’t live there?

    • Sounds to me like a hardside truck camper would be more your speed, Linda. Pop-ups pretty much sacrifice everything just to be able to do what they do, and more modest hardsides are not all that far behind for driving access. In a pop-up, if you could find the space to stow a trucker-style mini-microwave, you’d also be loading the low storage with enough batteries to run it, plus trying to avoid loading the lift-up roof with enough solar to recharge them. And as you say, pop-ups are substantially tougher to get in and out of thanks to that low door perched up in the air. That solar/battery thing also tends to limit computers to either very limited usage or newer laptops with very low power draws, especially if you’re already pounding them with a compressor fridge/freezer, as I will be. Pop-ups are not naturally suited to being “living spaces”, so I’ll be attempting to bend this minimal niche version to my will in an attempt to build a “livable space” instead. And, you’ve got that bin thing nailed. I’m hoping to use some of the dinette footwell and seat-tops for bins, but without compromising that critical nocturnal access to a porta-pottie!

      Here’s the deal. If I didn’t feel so strongly about accessing some of the more difficult spots I’ve seen first-hand, I’d be dropping back to a hardside camper, or even punting with a small TT. Lacking four-wheeling experience, and the mods and extrication equipment needed to get myself out of jams, I’ll tend to be fairly conservative about asking more of the big Ford than it can deliver. In other words, I’ll tend to get creeped out earlier than the rig does. That’s a good thing. However, I don’t yet have a lock on what it absolutely can and cannot do, and definitely do not want to lower the bar on those campsites that I have successfully accessed with it already, solo and with the bed loaded. If I’ve made it with the truck alone, I want to be able to do the same with the camper loaded on. My dread would be to load in the usual top-heavy camper that maxes out its suspension capacity, and have to deal with that on the types of trails I’ve been over. They are tippy, and I do not want that sensation either on or off-road. The whole goal is to avoid exploring the edges of control and performance while still getting over trails that are not the Ford’s forte. I’m willing to sacrifice for that, and most campers understandably are not burdened with that orientation.

      I think once I get my hands on the Granby, do my few mods, and hit the road with the thing, you’ll get a pretty quick impression of whether such a minimalistic pop-up would be for you.

  4. Very, very nice Doug. I think that you will be very happy with it, increasingly so as you adjust to the size. You have already accepted that you would have to compromise space for agility. And if it makes you feel any better it is not any smaller than what we travel in…and there are two of us 🙂
    I also think you will be surprised at where the Furd will take you, with that on its back, whether by choice or necessity. (I ended up going through Valley of the Gods with my dulley with a hard sided TC. (That was out of necessity, not knowing what I had gotten myself into).

    You are going to love it, I envy you for the places you will have access to.. again, welcome to the world of TC.

    • Now that’s the true test of a relationship: end-of-trip without any bruising around either person’s neck! – though it may help if neither has any big life insurance policy.

      I had a fair amount of trauma downsizing to the Defiant from a house, but the Intrepid will be more like settling on what I can do without for over half a year. It likely comes down to figuring out where things like cookware can fit, and not trying to stow so much that accessing it becomes an ordeal.

      I’ve heard two dually owners complain that traction is not too good off-road. That “not knowing what I had gotten myself into” will likely come into play frequently for me. I mostly tour with the e-bike, but many’s the time when I’ve driven a trail solo to come to some daunting point that makes you say, “Oops…” and stop to get out and evaluate what-all’s going on. The fact that anything I contact the ground with apart from tires can get pretty expensive, plus the lack of a spotter, cellphone signal or “four-wheeling buddy” behind me tends to replace bravado with due diligence. That 156″ wheelbase makes for quite a barge, canceling out a lot of ground clearance! As Yoda said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” When I decide that turning back is the better option, I feel relieved. And when I decide to press on and don’t hear any metallic scraping or contact sounds, I feel quite the adventurer… and relieved.

      Thanks for the welcome David, and I hope to be able to convey in some future posts not only the campsites, but a sense of the access it took to get to them.

      • From my experience that is correct “dually’s have poor traction, In my case it was a case where there was no turning around, I was towing a trailer and had gotten so far in I had no choice but to keep going, hoping it would get better, it didnt…oh and my truck is 2×2….I just hope I never get in a situation like that again 😦

        • And trying to back up a trailer – especially a narrow trailer – has got to be impossible when the camper in the bed completely blocks your view of it. Would have been interesting if you’d been wearing a blood pressure monitor while you forged on ahead with your 2WD Wide-Ride! Good thing that camper was on there!

  5. Hi Doug, I’m looking forward to seeing how you trick out the new beast and to reading about your new adventures! When you write them up, could you say whether or not you needed to engage 4WD? In the interest of fuel economy, I went with 2WD knowing that I would be doing some long trips with my truck. You have more dirt road experience than I have, I look forward to reading about your learning curve. 🙂

    • Thank you, Ming, I’m looking forward to it myself! I will definitely mention/brag paths that require touches of 4WD, but that will actually be seldom, I predict. Some of it will be valid, since the diesel engine makes the Mighty Furd unusually nose-heavy, which makes it break rear traction sooner than most other pickups. The camper in the bed should help that. Some engagements may not be technically needed for traction, but done to ease the stress on the torque converter and trans on uphill crawls. It’d be nice if it had a 2WD-Low selection, but it doesn’t. There’s only 2WD-High, 4WD-High, and 4WD-Low. I try to avoid 4WD to slow the wear on the front driveline, so if I do mention that I had to kick it in, that will be significant.

      Take comfort and enjoy that extra fuel mileage. 2WD will get you around most trails without any problems at all. I’ve basically engaged 4WD only to get through sand/gravel (with momentum) around Quartzite AZ, and up two steep rocky slopes near Paulden and Wickenburg. Much of the climbing problem went away when I switched out my original All Season tires for some aggressive Coopers. Given a choice, I’d still avoid mud and bottomless sand/gravel. With 2WD, I’d also try to not ask too much on really uneven terrain where one of the drive wheels is left hanging with not a lot of weight on it. Without a limited slip diff, it will be prone to spin, and there you are. The Ford allegedly has the rear LSD standard, but that pretty much gave up the ghost after the first 20,000 miles. They’re notorious for that. Their more recent electronic locking diff actually works, but that’s another story.

      I suspect that most places that I go, you’ll be able to get there (as long as the rest of your rig can stand it). My intent is to methodically impress myself with what it can do, rather than to discover the hard way what it can’t do. The difference is money and stress. 🙂

      • I’m in complete agreement on the stress and money angle! Thanks for the assessment of the trails you have taken so far. More aggressive tires are on the list of things to save up for.

        I remember now why I was not a fan of the forward FWC dinette – I will be spending a lot of time in the camper with the top down in the city, and that configuration has the back of the seats blocking the windows, ditto the couch configuration. The side dinette is so tiny and I like to laze about on a bed/ couch when working… none of them are perfect for me. When the time comes, I will have to decide what I can do without.

        • The tires were a comparatively easy decision, since the OEM Continental AS tires were literally coming apart from aging and exposure. They had not been very good at anything in particular from day one, so although I was forced to ante up while they still had plenty of tread left, it wasn’t all sorrow when they came off. Not an inspiring thing to barely tip in the throttle on a wet entrance ramp and have the back end try to swing around and lead the way!

          Yep, it’s a choice of evils when it comes to all the characteristics that one might want in a Four Wheel. I almost never sit with my feet on the floor, even in the Defiant’s office. Hard on the feet and lower legs. The side dinette model does have a very nice window beside the seats, making for a pleasant view while seated. When I was considering it, I liked to think that I could sit on one seat and put my feet up on the opposite one, but I don’t know how the dimensions work out for that, or whether the opposing seat back flips forward in a way that may also help bridge the gap. Two Happy Campers own a shorter Hawk with the side dinette setup, and seem to be open to answering singular-issue questions. (They are on my Blogroll list as recommended reading.) Eyeballing in person at a show is very helpful, considering the money involved. Going stealth with a pop-up in metro areas will pose some issues, so you’ll obviously have to do some soul searching as well as some heavy lifting to research what’s on the market. I’m sure that you’re way ahead of me in what’s needed to live in a rig without it looking like anyone’s residing in it, so that it looks like just another parked vehicle. It’s a difficult complexity to add into the mix of decision making, and the good side of not having the money to pull the trigger now is that you will have the time to sift through the issues involved. Not easy at all!

          • yes, I remember your post about choosing your new tires. Hopefully I will find it again when it comes time to buy mine, though if I can’t remember what to get, BFGR AT’s should work well, serious 4WD folks seem to like them.

            I did wonder too, if the side dinette could be made into a lounging area by flipping one of the seatbacks down. Though if I have need to have a sleeping area for 2 when the top is down, it may limit my choice to the side rollover couch.

            Stealth in the city is a fun thing. I still can’t get over being in my canopy and hanging out, using the potty… you name it, while the world breezes by without a clue. People just don’t think to look inside for occupants when they pass by a truck canopy.

            • Yes, go with what the four-wheelers swear by. I only mention mine because the price was right, they work well, and I haven’t had a lick of trouble with them so far. I did no forum searches.

              And you’re right, sleeping for two with the bed unavailable wipes out the side dinette as an option. The rollover couch seems a bit narrow for comfort for two of me, so a first-hand look might be valuable. Since you do a lot of stealth, only you can decide whether the big uptick in cost is worth it. A lot of folks go for the shell model and build in what they want. As time goes on, I’d like to find out what you plunk your money down for, mainly because I don’t do stealth and can’t predict which way you’ll go!

  6. Doug I had T.A. mud tires on my Dodge. They were factory upgrades with heavy sidewalls. I was extremely happy with them both on and off road.

    sorry I can’t give more information but I’m sure you can figure out what your Ford would need……I got 75k out of the first set.

    Got to say I was a bit suprised to see your downsizing. I remember when you started out how important the solar system and office were to you.

    Years ago I was the Utah 4 wheel drive association president and rather active in the off road community. One of my fellow officers had a similar set up on a Blazer. It added little weight over the fiberglass top, had the same seating copasity for passengers and made all the trails he wanted to travel around Moab.

    I’m sure you have greatly improved your travels.

    If the downsizing was a bit too aggressive, there are some great options using a small off road able trailer.

    • Thanks to the forced replacement, I’m pretty happy with the Copper Discoverer S/T Maxx tires I got, which are now mid-line off-road tires in their lineup. The lugs are a little tall and so it doesn’t feel as tightly connected to the pavement as A/S tires, but they’ll do. The trail performance is very nice, a huge improvement. I didn’t know tires would make that much of a difference in the rough.

      In fact, the Defiant’s office is still very important to me, which is why I’m not swapping out rigs. But since I can’t have the glorious photo/video/audio writer’s den in a tight 4×4, I’m willing to give it up for part of the year, in trade for mobility. What I’m opting for is an alternation of two extremes, rather than a blend into one rig. I’ll be glad to explore come April, and glad to get back to the familiar comforts come November. Since the mechanical needs of the Intrepid conflict with the boondocking & towing needs of the Defiant, something has to give. Because I can’t afford to outfit to boondock in both, the solar must transfer (as much as possible) to the Intrepid, the Tankmin must vacate the truck bed, and the Defiant thus needs to be planted semi-permanently amid yappy dogs. Mechanical weaknesses aside, if push came to shove, I suspect I’d give up the Intrepid first. Can’t tell until I plant my petute in it for awhile and “life the life”.

      There are some fab off-road trailers, but I’ll never be hitching one up. First is the cost, and second is the practical crimp they put on off-roading. The big Ford is bad enough in maneuvering as it is (seriously), and with the camper in the bed, I’d never be able to tell what a trailer was doing should I need to back up. If forced to give up the Defiant in the future, I’d be relegated to taper back on the four-wheeling and literally drag a cheap, wide cargo trailer along behind me, or pay to leave it somewhere.

      • if I had $$$, I’d put lightweight flexible panels on top, maybe demountable so they could go in the sun while the camper stayed in the shade, add lithium batts, and be way ahead in the payload game.

        • Yeah, at the Overland Expo, the owner of Adventure Trailer (also a Four Wheel dealer) was taken aback by my “need” for beaucoup amp-hours, and suggested a lithium pack to save weight and space. But then he noticed me involuntarily shudder and whimper at the cost. Hey, I’m a retired weeble, not a CEO! Except for cycle life, which is not proven out yet in my mind, lithium batteries would theoretically be the perfect approach for a truck camper. I think he was looking for a sporting early adopter. Actually, I have not yet come across a charger for them that doesn’t operate off of 110VAC. Maybe after you win the lottery, you can let me know how they work out? 😉

          • I do hope to attend the RTR some day, and maybe meet you, Bob and some other bloggers I follow/ chat with online. It should be fun to chat and visit in person and discuss gear options at length. Various health issues with me or family are making that hard to do up to now. I have fingers crossed for winter 2016-2017.

            I’m finding that stealth hanging out by myself by day is easy, but stealth sleeping with 2 in a tight space brings its own challenges, many of them psychological. I don’t have the hang of the dance of finding the right spot for the night yet. One spot may be too hot early in the morning, then there is outside noise, or there is being too close to a house and setting the dogs to barking, another may be too slanted, it’s definitely an acquired skill that some bloggers make look so easy!

            Yes, lithium batts are certainly exorbitant in price! I keep reading though, that investment in solar, renewables, and electric vehicles is driving down the price of solar and improving the storage tech. I wonder if I can hold out long enough to see the prices plummet for lithiums, and when that might be.

            Starting out with a Fleet shell and building it out like I am doing with the canopy is high on my list. Then I won’t feel so bad if I don’t like it and have to rip it out to try something else!

            The need to have more indoor space that I can heat and keep dry will probably lead me to try and build a shelter that I can pack up when it’s time to go. Have you considered something like that for your own inclinations to stay indoors?

            • I’ve been to an RTR a few years ago, and although reactions vary, it tries to be a community/tribe thing and is informative. I have no plans to go to another though, as there are exceptions as to who is welcome in camp. One ideally needs to fit within the blog’s ideology, though the attendees themselves are quite inclusive and accepting. I’ll most likely be planted near Yuma, should you pass through that area as well someday. If you can work your way out from under the press of ill health, I’d be honored to meet you.

              Near as I can figure, success at stealth is an acquired skill, as well as a bit of an art. Those who succeed at it have been at it awhile, and have worked out their spots and routines. They make it sound easy because it’s not their first lap around the track. You rarely get to read about what didn’t work out so well, but I doubt that many just jump in and pull it off. To do it with two people onboard has got to be quite a feat. And stressful.

              So far, the most cost-effective deal for lithiums I’ve found is offered by the guy who runs Tesla Motors, intended as a residential charger and battery pack. Still a killer on cost, but it may start the ramp downward on costs. There are other sources, but they are more experiment-oriented for people who want to be the first to try new things. It’ll take awhile.

              Building out a covered truck bed would be a minimal-waste way to develop workable mods for a truck camper shell. Seems like a really good idea to me. To this point I have never considered any add-on outdoor shelter, and I’m even reluctant to add an awning. A] I’m too lazy to add to my unpack/pack & go routine, most especially with a rig that is also used to get to town, and B] the places I go have winds that make their use occasional only. There’s usually just enough room on the shade-side of the trailer, so I just set my chair there and look as happy as I can. People seem to try various approaches and seem pleased enough, but they are willing to set up camp and stay as long as they can, which I don’t plan on much for the truck camper. Some are willing to go through quite a pack-up ordeal. In short, I can’t help you much there, except to once again harp on a show like the Overland Expo, which may have some idea generators scattered about. Shelter is their #1 thing, and not just for buying something way too elaborate. The main thing is to simply look around and get ideas for what you might be able to cobble up yourself. They had many rooftop tents with attached ground-rooms just like you describe, and I’m wondering if anyone offered a similar setup usable without the tent that would be easy to fold up & stow. Sleep in the truck bed, and fold out the room from the rooftop or side-mount rack. That kind of thing. A few traditional freestanding canopies offer add-on walls, but its a hassle, and you tend to stay in great condition chasing them down or bending them back into shape when the wind kicks up and all those weights and stakes go with it.

  7. I can’t believe you mention Tesla, I just met the guy who is designing and writing the software for their new robotic assembly line for their new SUV. Small world, eh? 🙂

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