A trip to Prescott yielded a quick once over for the Intrepid-to-be. The goal was to pay for the thing, measure some critical storage for planning purposes, get a sense of the packrat’s hell I’d be dealing with, and talk over a planned modification that needs to be made. The unit is not yet washed or prepped for installation on the truck, and the truck is certainly not ready for it either.
My first impression is:
- Space. When you first look in with the roof raised up to walk-in height, it looks like living in it will be a claustrophobic trial. It’s just too short! Then once you step in and begin moving around, you start realizing, “Hey! Not bad! This thing is actually pretty darn livable! I like it in here!” It feels compact and efficient, obviously, but that expected “confined” aura just isn’t there. You like the thought of getting out to see what’s going on, but also like the thought of settling in to nap or get some work done at the ample table. It’s inviting, and that’s quite an accomplishment.
- Build quality. Absolutely outstanding. I’d expected a little realism here and there: slightly misaligned cabinet doors, or voids in the edges of the plywood pieces used in its construction. Maybe edging trying to work its way off. Nope. Every piece is perfectly sized, fits like a glove, and is as smooth-edged as a river stone. Unlike being in the Defiant’s bowels, you cannot possibly hurt yourself by sliding your hand heavily along an exposed edge. It kind of helps explain the pricey nature of Four Wheel’s products. You can see and feel the quality, not opulence. There’s a difference.
- Wowza on storage space. Although most storage cabinets are seriously compromised by necessary devices and equipment, the sheer number of cabinets, bins and hidey-holes lurking inside the front dinette Granby is much more than expected. There isn’t a whole lot of dead space in this cozy box. What’s robbed from Peter is used to pay Paul. My inspection to scour it for all there was sounded basically like chanting, “Holy crap, there’s another one!” Sorting out which space to use for exactly what may become a nightmare, but that’s a different issue.
- Using stacked bins will be an issue, because getting at all storage forward of the cabinets requires sliding the table out of the way and removing a seat cushion, or clearing the foot-well floor to allow its doors to be raised. Using bins would need to be carefully thought out to avoid having to disembowel things to retrieve a mixing bowl or fresh box of matches. I dislike having to do that. Persnickety, aren’t I? It’s what I do.
- Cabinet latches are also better than expected. Of course, everyone says that their catches will prevent floor dumps when the going gets rough, but these effortlessly open, click and latch easily, and lock securely. You might not like what you see inside at the next stop, but that door will not accidentally swing open to puke it all out. Incomplete latching is easily observed, since the loop handle is no longer flush.
- If my grandson ever gets in here, there will be no getting him out. Ever. It will seem to him like the ultimate treehouse.
The black plate you see in front of the sink caught my eye as seeming out of place. Nicely-labeled solar and battery wires are behind it, though I can’t help but assume that it’s mainly an access point for servicing the sink drain and sink attachment points. If necessary, it can also become a handy mounting point for add-on switches, fuses or outlets. The two sheets hanging down are a flap covering a screened window in the pop-up section, and another in the thermal cover.
A common complaint with the front dinette floor plan option is that each seat back blocks off the side windows, ruining any view out. True enough, each side window is completely out of sight. Fortunately for me, I will have no one to glare at me when I take the offending seat back and rest it on top of the bed to enjoy the view. The side dinette model has no such issues, making one’s floor plan choice quite important. After all, the front dinette looks like a four-place table and technically is, at 36″ wide. But 36″ is more of a two-adults-with-children thing – four adults would pack like sardines, and if you didn’t intimately know who you’re sitting beside, you would by the time you finish dining. As seating for two people, the dinette is luxuriously roomy, with a generously-sized table. For one space hog like myself, it is roomy, the table being just large enough to comfortably spread out books, papers, and laptop. The table mount is a marvel of sorts, having two smooth friction mounts. One allows positioning of the table center between the two benches, while the other allows table surface rotation. I did not test it out, but the dimensions suggest that it will be possible to sit along a bench, legs up, and still have the table in a workable side orientation.
The cabover bed mattress is plenty firm, despite some hints by Four Wheel that a softer foam is now in use. That will pose some issues for me, as I expected. It’s not as simple as swapping in softer foam, since foam this thin will never get supple no matter how mushy you go. At first blush, it looks like there’s the roof-down vertical room for a topper of some type, which should help a lot. Since the bed platform slides rearward to create a queen-sized bed, the extra “mattress” inserts are stored on top of the main section of foam, for travel. Whether they can be put to use to double up the mattress or serve in some other way will be seen later.
At first blush, it looks as though there certainly has to be enough storage space for one person to reside for seven or eight months, at least in the desert, where looking clean and civilized is not an expectation. Then I recall the “pack list” I’ve begun, and the true challenge for me surfaces. I’ll need additional external space, sure, but the challenge will be to make daily or weekly items conveniently accessible. I’ve found that I dislike having to tunnel in to retrieve something, digging into one pile and creating another. Then when you finally find what you’re looking for and know that it will have to be out for awhile, you really can’t do anything else until you shuffle everything back to its original place. When you’re done with the item, the tunneling repeats once more. Emptying a cabinet to get at what’s in back is just necessary now and then, but it can get bothersome to do the same in major storage compartments. I had planned to load up the Grandby’s dining area with plastic bins, but it seems quite apparent now that if this is done, it must be done well or I’ll be moving and piling just to lift a lid and take a look. A truck camper like this one already requires all “daily living” items to be properly stowed each time the vehicle is moved, so I’ll need to be careful in the details of how not to make that requirement more onerous or time-consuming. The cleanest solution is to avoid taking enough with me so that any bins would be needed at all. Perhaps there is some parallel universe in which that could happen.
My impression as I walked away and climbed back into the Mighty Furd was, this is definitely going to work, and likely work much better than I’d initially hoped. Oh, I’ll panic a few times during the packing and stowing process in the Spring, trying to find the most sensible places to put what where, and lamenting whatever I’ll be denied for months at a time. But the combination of quality, features, space efficiency, light and color seems to remove any hint of squeezing into a dark cave. That, despite its suitability for true 4×4 travel. I can’t speak for the various shorter models offered for short-bed trucks, but the Four Wheel Grandby should prove quite workable indeed.