An Installation Anew
Yesterday was a big day, what with casting the Defiant to the whims of Yuma’s oppressive summer heat and voyaging on in the Mighty Intrepid toward Prescott, Arizona. The purpose of the trip wasn’t to camp, but to have Adventure Trailer, my Four Wheel dealer, replace the gimpy water pump and reset the Grandby in the truck’s bed. Wellton to Prescott is a four-hour drive, and a prior errand jumped that to five. Amazingly, I arrived fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, arriving at 12:45 PM. The lads started right in and finished the job before I could finish filling my gut with a blend of pulled BBQ pork and macaroni with cheese at an emporium located just one block away.
I then consulted with Martin, one of the co-owners of AT, about what would be needed in order to move the camper back so that a thin spacer could be inserted up front to make the camper rest about a quarter-inch farther back than it presently was. See, my super-duper ground panel storage rack was just thick enough to contact the Furd’s cab under duress, removing some red paint. Ordinarily, this would be a slam-dunk: undo the camper’s bed hold-downs, attach four jacks at the corners, lift it up a bit, drive the truck forward enough to insert said spacers, and reverse the process. For an empty camper it’s even simpler: release the hold-downs and manually shove the camper back without having to jack it up at all. Easy-peasy.
Not quite so easy for my installation, though. I’d tied up the jack mounts to serve as mounting points for the ground panel storage rack, as well as a fishing rod tube. I also had four 65-pound batteries residing inside the two benches of the front dinette, and lifting the camper risked damaging the unsupported floor. They needed to vacate the premises first. It now being 2 PM, there was no way I could disembowel the camper and be done before the end of the day, so they graciously offered me a spot in their parking lot to stay overnight and begin the process the next morning.
So, at 8 AM, I emptied the cargo box contents onto the ground and pulled the whole thing out of the hitch receiver. That would allow the camper to be moved back as far as needed to get access to the front of the truck’s bed. I then pulled the ground panels out of the rack, unbolted the fishing rod tube, and disassembled the rack, sliding the pieces out until the four jack mounts were naked. All items inside the two benches were tossed up onto the bed area. The battery removal was more involved, and this had to be last in order to minimize the downtime of the refrigerator. Pull the solar panel fuse, pull a couple of battery fuses, and start removing cable leads to the batteries, taping them to the battery boxes so I wouldn’t be as likely to screw up the reattachment. All told, it took from 8:15 AM until 10:45 to be ready for AT to do their thing. They took just a half-hour, using two men, and it was done.
As to the spacers, I had brought two HDPE cutting boards to act as spacers, and some leftover adhesive sealant to hold them fast to the front of the truck bed wall. Placed right in front of the Grandby’s two bumpers, they would hold the camper back just a bit further than before. But the shop also had some massive HDPE sheets of the same thickness, and I was tempted to have them cut a board wide enough to simply drop into place. Sized properly, the board would not be able to work its way sideways far enough to miss one of the two bumpers. In the end, I chose to stick with the cutting boards, and they added a couple of strips of 3M VHB tape to each, to prevent any future shifting out of position.
My reassembly took considerably longer, but I was finished by 3 PM. I hung around a bit to negatively impact the productivity of the people on other projects, paid my bill, and departed to the nearest place I could find that might have sweatpants. Reason? The thirty-three degree overnight had demonstrated that even two blankets were marginal comfortable – I needed a close layer of insulation around my legs. I’d set the furnace for a modest fifty degrees – then fifty-five – but the window-like cascading of cold air from the tent walls worked against the perception of warmth. Temperatures of air at the rigid wall below were a good four or five degrees colder than the furnace’s thermostat read, and the bed area has three flexible walls, so some compensation is needed for the cool air flow across the bed. That done, I was dog-tired and had my first meal of the day, then headed for the Escapees’s North Ranch RV park in Congress, Arizona. I got there at 6 PM and set up in the dry camping area. I’m hoping that the guys who have the Smart-Weigh scales are here and available for duty!
I looked at that first picture and told Dave your camper urped.
Our daughter is thinking about buying a Grandby so I have her reading your blog now. No sense in her learning by experience lessons she can learn by reading. 🙂
Absolutely, Linda. Even a bad example can be a valuable instructional tool! 😉
I was thinking more about your lessons in solar as it relates to this unit as I know she would want solar. She thinks what they offer as a option would probably be enough for her, though, so I guess I needn’t have worried she’d plan to put too much weight up top. But, I can see her adding your portable panels and rack if the original is not enough. Unlike me, she is tall enough and strong enough to move those.
Well, if she gets a DC compressor fridge, she’s going to want the dual battery option. Those can survive with FWC’s 160w roof panel, but excursions outside the perpetually sunny Southwest would justify around 300 watts of total panel power, the extra being via ground panel(s) of some type. Though I’m often unintentionally repetitive, I don’t intend to repeat the same types of blog posts, so she may want to search “solar” on this blog if she wants more misinformation and opinion presented as fact. 😉
We’re exploring Four Wheel Pop-Up Campers, and came across your site—thank you for the wealth of practical advice! I am curious about a couple of things with the FWCs:
• Are the walls (either the solid ones or the plastic ones) insulated at all? I’m wondering about how comfortable the FWCs are in either really hot, or really cold, weather? We wouldn’t plan on spending much time inside except for sleeping/eating/waiting out bad weather, but still, you want to be comfortable.
• I’m also wondering about those plastic walls during high winds–any experience yet with that? Noise, or worry that something will give way?
• Is the sleeping orientation “north-south” or “east-west” (not sure what else to call this?)
• What about camping with these FWCs in bear country? We come from a tent camping background, so we’re used, in that case, to having a clean camp & properly storing food (not in the tent!) But I’m wondering about having the food stored in something that is technically soft-sided in that top area? Your thoughts would be very appreciated!
Thanks so much, will keep reading more as you post!
Glad you found this repository of misinformation, Celia, so here’s more:
The hardwalls and ceiling have an inch of foam panel insulation. I don’t know about the floor, but you can call or email FWC to ask. When the roof is down in travel mode, it insulates as well as a really large cooler, which is what it resembles. I spend a lot of time inside mine, so comfortable temps are very important to me. Once the roof is up, it becomes a cooler with a tent upper section, so anything goes. I equipped my Grandby front dinette with FWC’s Artic Pack and two roof vents, one with a fan, so I can only answer to that combo.
So far, hot weather in full sun nets an interior heat gain of 0-5 degrees, depending on use of the reversible fan, any wind and how you have the windows set for air and/or to ward off direct sunlight. You need to actively pursue the best airflow for conditions, rather than guess the temperature and alter nothing. The Arctic Pack is worth its high cost in that regard. The fabric sidewalls facing the sun do radiate a lot of heat inside, and the additional layer of the Arctic Pack chops this down quite a bit. On cold nights, it tempers the cold air cascading down off the fabric. Nothing is eliminated, but it is improved very noticeably. The Arctic Pack is not really insulative on its own – it forms a rather leaky added air layer. If the furnace is left off on a cold overnight, I’m getting about a 5-degree lag in temps outside to inside, and temperatures at the furnace thermostat in the aisle have lagged about 5 degrees warmer than temps recorded at the inside wall below the fabric. I have not yet been in temps below freezing and can’t answer for plumbing (which all appears to be interior), but the furnace is certainly quiet and powerful enough to make up for many sins. But parked sideways to the sunrise after a cold overnight, considerable heat is available from that same fabric by opening the Arctic Pack windows and window shades, no furnace required.
I have only faced high winds nearly head-on so far. My limited experience with side winds have slightly bowed the center of the 12-ft roof, owing to the billowed fabric pulling at it on one side. Then again, I have over 70 pounds of solar on the roof, which doesn’t help. At this point, my impression is that the fabric is not going to dampen wind noise any, but there’s nothing going with the camper to add its own noise with it. I strongly suspect that you could drive down the Interstate with the roof raised, and apart from watching the fabric do its thing in a sidewind, I’m confident that it will not in any way pull out of its attachments or be damaged. Others have reported it does just fine in overnight windstorms which, out here, can be frightening. Nothing will give way but my nerves. The “fabric” is actually a coated weave that is tough and strong. Between that and the belt-and-suspenders retention system top and bottom, it’s going nowhere.
The upper bed or bunk area is meant for an east-west orientation, so somebody potentially gets to be the victim when potty time finally arrives. The front dinette area sleeps two more in the same way. Other floor plans may orient the lower sleeping arrangements differently, but not the bunk area.
Bears are technically a concern. I think it’s Yellowstone NP that does not allow pop-ups, including pop-up truck campers. I suspect the bears there are too numerous and too conditioned to pursue food aggressively. And they have no reason to fear humans. Seeing as how the FWC’s fabric starts at nearly 8′ from the ground, I’m not very concerned in other locations because I like to think that the bears are more wary and less educated by experience. That’s not to say that I don’t keep countermeasures available, but I count myself as inherently better off than I would be with no hard sidewalls. I’d suggest the StowAway cargo box I have as a food locker, but if bears can tear into a car, they can damage that too, especially if swung out. The box itself may well prove successful in a test, but the swing-out frame would not, and Park regs demand certified boxes, not best guesses. If I intended to spend considerable time in areas where bears were regularly sighted or signs were unmistakable, (as opposed to being last seen a generation ago), I’d probably think twice about a pop-up truck camper, or toward using tent-style food storage practices, one or the other.
You may want to go back a bit in time on posts here, too. I tend to not repeat the same details, so something back there pertaining to the Grandby/Intrepid may be useful as you try to explore your own options. Keep the decision process enjoyable as you juggle all the trade-offs of one truck camper type over another!