Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

State of the Intrepid – Floor Plan

Could'a used a wider lens on this - which I don''t have. Anyway, the Grandby front dinette model.

Could’a used a wider lens on this – which I don”t have. Anyway, the Grandby front dinette model.

[This post is a look at the Four Wheel Grandby’s basic features which inherently come along with the front dinette floor plan. Several more posts about other of the Grandby’s aspects will follow. Caution: neat/clean freaks may experience some degree of trauma due to the graphic nature of the photographs used throughout this series, which were taken after some 5 months on the road. The camper is in active camping condition, not display condition. You have been warned.]

In general, the Grandby itself has worked out very well, without regrets. The front dinette model can sleep four adults, the second pair sleeping on a platform created by stowing the dinette table between the two side benches. Of necessity, the seat foam is markedly stiffer, and coin-tossing for sleeping location may be advised. Obviously, I didn’t select my floor plan for that capability, and I wouldn’t expect the head count after a long 4-person weekend camp out to be the same returning as it was departing. Whoever sleeps on this lower platform is likely to be stepped on when nature calls someone sleeping on the upper bed platform. This “second bed” feature can also be used while the roof is kept lowered, but there isn’t much else you can do or use inside the camper in that situation. Thus, I don’t consider the floor plan in this camper to be applicable to urban stealth camping. I suppose that an argument could be made that the stripped shell model might be such, especially since a pop-up truck camper with the roof down visually connotes an unoccupied vehicle. But it connotes that because of the reasonable assumption that no one would be crazy enough to hunch over and/or crawl around for very long inside one. An overnight, okay, but for a long stretch, not so much. There are better options.

The dinette area converts into a two-place bed, when necessary.

The dinette area converts into a two-place bed, when necessary.

I happen to find the front dinette floor plan to my liking, and not just for the abundance of storage under the 4-place bench seats and under the floor between them. That footwell area is actually a shallow bin topped with two sturdy hinged doors, and is handy for clothing storage. Sitting at table, I have the option of lounging, legs up, along one bench and pulling the swiveling table over my lap. Or, I can sit normally but rest my feet on the opposite bench cushion. (Keeping feet off the floor keeps them from mild swelling in my old age, but is advisable for most folks who sit for long periods of time anyway.) The unoccupied opposite bench cushion is handy for things that should fall readily to hand – or are otherwise a nuisance to keep digging for under a bench. They are then packed away only for travel.

One likes to think that getting into a bench bin is just a matter of lifting a cushion and a lid up to gain access. Not so. Bench storage access is best done with the roof raised. That’s because the seat and back cushions are large and weighty enough that removing and finding a place for them with the roof down and table in place can be an awkward affair. Possible, but awkward. Both cushions are just long enough that they sleeve into position on a firm fit, and the seat cushions are best lifted at their rearward end to maneuver them out of position. Otherwise, the forward end of the seat will try to drag part of the front window curtain around with it, which is not the best. The back cushion can technically stay in place, but you can get the process over with sooner by clearing out both cushions.

A trapped curtain is no big deal, but does show the side effects of using a universal design and then adding a new floor plan to it.

A trapped curtain is no big deal, but does show the side effects of using a universal design and then adding a new floor plan to it.

As a detail, my Grandby was delivered with the seat cushion and the bottom of the seat back edge resting on the bench top. Two things result from this positioning, both probably valid only for the front dinette model. The first is that both of the seat cushions overhang a handy central front-wall storage bin lid over the water tank, preventing access to it until the seat cushions on both sides have been pivoted up or removed. This positioning also places the cushions over the central compartment’s piano hinge. Since the seat cushions squirm around when sat upon, this interference causes wear to a bottom corner of the seat cushion, damaging the fabric.

The seat cushion and back, as delivered.

The seat cushion and back, as delivered.

Better to place the seat cushions back away from the central lid and its hinge, and then rest the seat backs on top of them rather than on the bench top itself. This allows easy access to the central compartment at all times, and because the seat cushion is deep, also makes the seat a little more comfortable for those of us with normal-length thighs. In use, the seat cushions will slowly migrate toward the centerline of the camper, so cushion positioning is not a “set it and forget it” affair. All of this seems like a nitpicking detail – until you notice the cushion fabric fraying, or it’s time to access the central storage compartment.

With the seat cushion shoved back and the seat back riding on top, the central storage bin is accessible.

With the seat cushion shoved back and the seat back riding on top, the central storage bin is accessible.

The front dinette floor plan in a Grandby offers a great deal of internal cabinet and bench space as well as ample counter top acreage, and a more typical (and less retentive) camperperson may well find no need for more. Me, I’m dragging along 3.5-season clothing as well as presentable casual dress in addition to the usual week’s supply of T-shirts, shorts and hiking shoes favored by most folks. What is appropriate and presentable in the boonies of the Great Southwest is not such in Midwest Suburbia. I’m hauling around a lot of crap on my 7-8 month cross-country journey but, then again, there isn’t much of it that I haven’t yet broken into in the few months since the start. The front dinette floorplan is pretty adaptable to this.

There is an escape hatch-type window behind each bench seat back. These are screened and openable for ventilation, the one on the passenger side being louvered for use in rain. Getting decent ventilation in hard rain is iffy, since the large openings in the fabric walls must sometimes be kept completely closed, as should the roof vents. When there’s a wind present too, one can often improvise some workable combination. I’ve found these small glass side windows to be more of a liability than a blessing, though. They must be there as a safety measure. However, they also serve as a potential source for funneling hot air up along the interior wall, and are too low to act as much of a scenery viewer when the seat back is folded down. But I have to admit, they sometimes come through in a pinch when poor weather shuts down other ventilation options.

Seat cushions removed, the passenger-side window appears. Significant storage space remains above the two AGM batteries I added, and a forward storage well is narrow but deep.

Seat cushions removed, the passenger-side window appears. Significant storage space remains above the two AGM batteries I added, and a forward storage well is narrow but deep. In the darkness are three sizable carry bags and a plastic bin for miscellaneous electronics and cables.

Insulation in the hardwalls is quite effective, that being obvious after closing up the camper for a travel run on a hot day. Leave it closed up, and heat gain by the end of the day is negligible. It’s when you raise the roof to set up camp that you quickly get the urge to open up all the ventilation you can.

Once all four upper windows are open, you've got some serious ventilation going for you.

Once all four upper windows are open, you’ve got some serious ventilation going for you.

Though not specific to the front dinette floorplan, the Grandby’s long 12-foot roof has worked well, even burdened with 75 pounds of solar and perforated with dozens of screws. Though it’s hard to fall asleep on a windy, stormy night, the lift panels at each end aren’t going anyplace, and the tarp walls may bulge, flap or even snap taught in high winds, but hold resolutely in position. The combination of fabric ends doused in adhesive sealant and then pinched behind a screw-held aluminum frame bodes well for the tarp’s integrity in adverse conditions.  Given a choice, I’ll still park heading into a strong wind, but short of a tornado, the camper prompts no special concerns once the roof is raised. Just hang onto the back door when opening it, to prevent surprises in high winds.

The days of the entry door slamming shut in a brisk wind are over. The updated door catch cannot release without manually allowing it to.

The days of the entry door slamming shut in a brisk wind are over. The updated door catch cannot release without manually allowing it to. The white valve below it is the petcock for draining the entire water system.

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14 thoughts on “State of the Intrepid – Floor Plan

  1. Interesting comment concerning “normal size thighs”. As I recall, you may have used yours for dental floss when needed.

  2. Linda Sand on said:

    Thanks for the home tour. I always enjoy those.

    • You’re welcome, Linda. “But wait! – There’s more!” There are several more articles on other aspects of the camper itself yet to come, so the punishment isn’t over yet.

  3. ahh, such useful information on the nitty gritty of design put to real life usage. Thank you for this, it will come in handy when I build in the under seat and bed storage. So many details to consider in ordering my Tufport, but they are amazingly willing to work with me to customize hatches and windows.

    • All it takes is money, no? Aren’t you heading into a bit of a tight time schedule now for taking delivery and then modding a Tufport in time to escape the eventual cold? Maybe your mods list is short? It’s those ordering option details that can make or break camper happiness later, so I hope you can try to take your time with what you will order.

      • I did waffle for a while on ordering the Tufport, with the busyness of a move, my health concerns and finances being the bumps in the road. I have been mulling over and discussing options with the company for months now so what is left to decide is which hatch/ skylight dome and fan to put in the ceiling. They will start work on it next week and I will pick it up at the end of September.

        After that, construction will be in stages as time and money permits. It likely won’t have a battery/ solar system for a year or 2 as I pay off the camper. I am thinking of putting a yellow top under the hood to run fan and lights. I’ve been using a portable 27W panel to recharge AA’s and phones. I’ll have to see if it can handle small laptops as well.

        I can build the bed/ dinette setup in a rudimentary fashion for now and have basic functionality without frills for this trip. Insulation will wait. I will have a Buddy heater – a big step up from the canopy. I will build in a counter for cooking, also a big step up. Some shelving and boxes will provide way more storage than before. I already have a composting toilet and cooler that I can use.

        Then I’ll go to warmer, drier climes for 2 months and come back to do more construction before the cross-Canada trip. That’s kind of how the build went for the canopy – bit by bit with tweaking after each trip. If time and limited energy permit, I will do more before taking off in mid-December.

        Any comments on my plan? What is your opinion now on the yellow tops? I decided on them based on something you wrote a while ago.

        And oh yeah, I might need some air bags and better tires. Lots to do.

        • My comments may not tie in directly with reality, but about yellow top Optimas, some overlanders use them because they always drive the next day and don’t expect too much out of them. They are rated at something like 300 cycles, which isn’t much, but that assumes full use and high underhood temps, which will cripple any deep cycle in a similar fashion. Some folks don’t like Optimas and prefer Odyssey. You may want to closely monitor discharge voltages and/or carry a handheld emergency starter battery like the Micro-Start XP family that I saw at the Expo. A fan and LED lights seem very reasonable to me. I have two yellow tops on the front of my trailer that were recovered from several years of inactive storage, dead until I desulfated them back to life. They made a surprising recovery. After once again being stored in Yuma’s heat for what will become 9 months, I’ll be surprised if they aren’t comatose. I’ve never used them as starter batteries, so I can’t help you there. Optimas seem overpriced to me, per rated AH.

          Laptops seem to come with 60W-90W power supplies but actually use less. Considering that 27W is the max panel rating, I’d assume it’s too weak to run the laptop but might charge its battery when turned off if you can find a 12V car adapter for it to avoid an inverter. I assume that you do not power devices straight from the solar panel output. You may need to plumb a wire to the Optima and run the laptop off that instead, or just use the Optima as the basis for a solar panel system.

          It sounds like your Tuffport is going to be a double-wall construction, but not have insulation, or not have extra insulation? I’ll be curious to see how you fasten wood to the walls. Going out with a “prototype” may be a little rough, but you’ll be livin’ the high life though, compared to your bed canopy. As you say, there’s potentially a big advantage to do your build-out sequentially, because it’s tough to develop knowledgeable preferences without using it for awhile. Lots of work indeed, but it’s still cheaper than physical therapy.

          • Hi Doug,

            thank you for your thoughts, I will check out Odysseys too, as I’ve come across less than stellar reviews of the Optimas by some users.

            I do travel with an AGM battery booster but am looking to replace it some time with a lithium one like Micro-Start. I did try to buy one from Schumacher, but it was DOA, something I found out on a trip when I tried to use it for recharging electronics, very annoying.

            I do have a large lithium external battery from Anker that has a 12V output that will run my inverter for the macbook air (no reliable 12V adapter for that one) that can run while being charged by the 27W panel. I am also asking them to put in a 12V outlet in the camper from the Optima. I’ve been successfully running and recharging phones directly from the panel, as well as my external usb batteries. It even works a little on cloudy days.

            If I can scrape up the cash by the time the truck gets air bags and better tires, I will spring for a flexible 100W panel to use on the Optima.

            The Tufport will be single wall, but will have wood framing glassed in at strategic spots and around windows and vents so that I can put in my own insulation later. They recommend several layers of reflectix, as in their experience the styrofoam insulation I was considering shakes itself to bits on rough roads over time. They make ambulances for use on pickup trucks by logging companies as they can be transferred from truck to truck as needed and regular ambulances were not able to handle the rough logging roads.

            I will indeed be living the high life compared to life under the canopy, I am springing for a large skylight, something I’ve wanted for years to brighten up the dark, dark, rainy winters around here.

            BTW, I’ve been following the discussion on your upcoming traumatic surgery. Ouch! Best of luck to you, I’m glad that you got a good surgeon, and if you were interested in trying out homeopathic remedies to speed recovery and help manage pain, just send me an email and I can arrange to mail you some. I am a homeopath and do this for my patients all the time. I have very much enjoyed our gear discussions and would be happy to help you get back to tinkering around on the road.

            • I’ve been using a Cybertech Magsafe car adapter for my Macbook Pro, and it has worked out okay with less heat than is typical. But as you mention, they too do not seem to make one for the Air model.

              As for insulation, there are better panels than styrofoam-based ones available, but since Reflectix is basically bubblewrap with a metallic skin, it usually pays to take the manufacturer’s (Tuffport’s) advice seriously on what to avoid doing. However, I’d recommend plowing through the Reflectix website for application info since they indicate that an airspace (closed or open) on the “active” side is required to make it work well, and that simply packing layers of it together without an airspace is not good. If nothing else, it’s interesting reading. Plastered up against the glass side windows of the Intrepid, it tended to act as a heat sink inside, with plenty of hot air rising from it – which was using it against their guidelines. Whatever approach you take, you will also want to research what promotes and discourages condensation in enclosed wall spaces, just to try to evade mold growth. The best and easiest way to do this is not practical in an RV, so I found it a challenge back when I was planning on converting a cargo trailer.

              I haven’t been thrilled with Schumacher car battery chargers I’ve had in the past either, and would use one now only for emergencies rather than frequent use, and certainly not on a deep cycle battery. You mention recharging your phones directly from the solar panel. (I’ll caution for the sake of other readers that some devices may not do well using the 18V+ output of a “12V” solar panel to power them directly, particularly on more powerful panels properly wired, where voltage sag doesn’t occur. Let your wallet be your guide.) Ming, does this Anker lithium battery you have has some kind of built-in charge controller as the intermediary for when you hook it up to your solar panel? How do you control its recharge?

              Thanks for the offer! Once I get the lay of the land in Feeblesville, I may contact you for recommendations.

  4. I looked at Technomadia’s long term reviews of mac 12V adapters. They seem to short out after a while and they now recommend using an inverter.

    Yes, I think that Tufport is using the Reflectix as a stiff bubble wrap. I agree that you lose radiant heat insulation when you sandwich it tightly. I will definitely read up on it before I proceed. My interim solution will be to hang fleece blankets cut to fit my walls at night until I get the time to do it right.

    Good point about condensation within walls, part of the reason for the Tufport is the fiberglass clamshell construction which is much more leak proof than your average RV. I’ve had enough of my axes rusting and my gear mildewing over the rainy winters.

    I use a cigarette lighter adapter on my panel for my 5V USB charging electronics. Do you see a danger with that? I was trying to skip the hassle and losses of charging the external batteries first, etc. The Anker takes 19V to recharge. I believe that it has built in circuitry to control its charge, as it comes with what looks like a dumb 19V wall wart.

    Feeblesville – you are funny! If you do decide to give it a try, do get the first remedy before the surgery and start it as soon after as is practical. I kept flummoxing my nurses by telling them that I had no pain when they came by to administer my meds. I did need to take the Tylenols very occasionally, which helped convince them that I was not trying to be stoic about it. 🙂

    • I’ve had problems with PC 12v car adapters in the past, and have only been using this one for my Mac for a year. So far, so good. I can use the OEM adapter with the inverter just as easily, but am going for the theoretical efficiency gain. Makes me wonder if it’s actually there.

      On the USB adapter, I have no idea whether the adapter is more at risk than the USB device plugged into it. I don’t know if it passes through the higher voltage or converts it to heat. It’s one of those things where you’ll find out when something fails. On the good side, many 12V car use gizmos are designed for 15 and maybe 16V. 18+ is pushing it, but it all comes down to taking the gamble and finding out the hard way for each device. The more expensive the device, the more hesitant you may become. Superb news on the Anker unit, as I assume that the adapter converts to DC current.

      • Yes, the Anker adapter converts to DC current.

        I have a gizmo that gives me the readout on my USB charging ports, both voltage and current. I vaguely remember that it reads 5.15V or so when unloaded? What would be a dangerous number for the electronics? I will double check that number on my upcoming trip.

        Could you direct me to the relevant reading material for learning about condensation in insulated walls?

        • Ming, I think that the high voltage limits for USB gizmos is device-specific, and I couldn’t even guess as to how high is too high in general. The official answer would be “the measured output at the time when the device you’re operating dies”. Out of curiosity, I’d plug the same voltage reader into the same USB charging port while it’s plugged into the truck’s cigarette lighter (both engine running and off) and compare that to when it’s running from the solar panel. That doesn’t give you an answer but may be a comfort if they match, which would mean that the USB charger is absorbing the high solar panel output.

          It’s now been well over four years since I researched condensation control, so I’d Google “wall condensation” that mostly deals with residential construction and fake it from there. That fiberglass outer wall is going to be a pretty good vapor barrier, for better or worse. But vapor travels from warm to cold, so that’s not the best for cold nights, but is preferred when you’re running A/C on a hot humid day – which you don’t have. Anyway, the goal is generally to highly insulate the inside of the outer wall to stop humid air from condensing on the cold wall at night. The inside surface of the insulation is warmer, which discourages condensation and hopefully the insulation type is a material that moisture won’t degrade. I suppose a layer of Reflectix could then be laid on to radiate energy back out through the insulation and reflect furnace heat back in to some degree. A vapor barrier right in back of the interior wall material would normally be called for to block your humid propane-fired humidity and cooking humidity from permeating into the wall and condensing on the cooler Reflectix or insulation, but since any humid air leakage can’t permeate out through the fiberglass, a vapor barrier here is debatable either way. If your interior wall construction is going to be a kinda leaky for one reason or other, a vapor barrier should limit water vapor ingress to reasonable levels. Maybe the Reflectix itself can serve as a vapor barrier. The general practice in an RV is to crack open windows/vents when generating extra humidity anyway.

          The FWC is renowned for heavy condensation on the flex fabric, for obvious reasons, also on the bed platform under the mattress since to my knowledge there’s no insulation underneath it – it’s single-wall and can get cold. None of that applies to you, but you have an opportunity to be the one guy in camp that has no issues. Goal #1 seems to be to prevent all direct interior humid air contact with the inside surface of that cold outer wall, and limit it to the much warmer inner surface of the insulation, at minimum. If your modding plans allow it, you could leave the Tufport walls as-is for a season just to see what level of condensation you have to deal with and where, then take it from there. RVs of all types can develop some pretty impressive dripping and mold issues, since their main concern is claims within the warranty period. Unfortunately, somebody is going to disagree with whatever approach you decide to take, but it’s your baby and your time and money, so you may as well do some research, consider your exact situation, and have at it!

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