State of the Intrepid – Floor Plan
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.