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Thread: MTBR van life?

  1. #1
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    MTBR van life?

    Is there a van life forum or thread on MTBR? I admit I didnít look thoroughly but in any case I didnít find one.

    These days people are building out their own custom micro homes on wheels like mad ó itís becoming a common lifestyle and mountain bikers are at the top of the list of likely suspects to lead such lives.

    So many trails, so little time.

    Iíd love to see MTBR add yet another forum (sorry, but yeah, Iím serious) for those of us who want to see what mountain bikers have created in order to experience their very own version of van life. Carrying bikes presents its own unique quirks.

    As for my personal situation, my GF bought a 1996 Roadtrek Class B (eg: van) a year and a half ago. We spent 100 nights in it during our first 12 months of ownership ó itís been fantastic. But the Roadtrek is old and weíve outgrown it. Iím 6í2Ē and the ceiling is only 6í1Ē ó that sort of thing. Weíre looking at buying a new or newer high/long Ford Transit shell van and building it out exactly as we want. After owning a camper van for a year and a half, weíre confident we know what this is.

    That said, weíd love to see what other mountain bikers have done, what they love about their creations and what theyíd do differently if starting over.
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  2. #2
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    I'd rather hear people use "Fully Rigid" than "Vanlife".

    I've seen a couple threads in the Car and Rack forum.

  3. #3
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    There's a smattering of stuff in the Cars and Bike Racks subforurm.

    I have met tons of people at trailheads, living this lifestyle, passing through my area. I have ridden with some and yeah, invariably they have all been supreme shredders.

    One comment - the dudes with the MB van have been shocked at the maintenance costs. The first one is apparently a real eye opener.

    This lifestyle intrigues me. I have been pondering taking a short leave of absence from life and doing it myself.
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    There is a "Cars and Bike Racks" forum. If there any good van threads, I suspect that they'd be there. Given the traffic of most general topic forums, I'm not sure if MTBR would think it worth it to add another, but you never know.

    That being said, I love camper van and would love to have one someday. I built a folding platform with storage underneath for my Transit Connect that let me carry 5 and sleep 2. I got a swinging hitch adaptor to clear the liftgate (which then served as a porch roof), cut some mosquito netting to size and sewed in elastic/magnets to cover the windows, and had a cool little travel set up (though it wasn't meant for living longer periods in). I now have a young son, so it is less useful at the moment as it isn't big enough to cram three people in to sleep comfortably, even if one is little, so I have to add a tent anyway. Guess who gets the tent? Yep me. Guess who then always decides he wants to sleep in the tent? My three year old. So my wife ends up stretched out in memory foam padded comfort while my son sleeps on my face.

    Like you, my dream is to do a Transit build. I'm the same height as you, so I'd need the high roof. Do you want the long wheel base normal or long wheel base extended length? If I was building an RV, I'd probably want the extended length, but if I got to do this in the semi-immediate future it would have to function as the families less often used second regular vehicle as well, so I'd want to keep it to the regular length. It would be hard to get a bathroom in there though at regular length.

    At the trailhead a month or two ago, I ran into a couple with an amazing van. It was built by a company called VanDoIt. It was really nicely modular. I'd be aiming to build something with similar flexibility if I were to do it. I like that the Transit now comes in a Crew Cab as I think it would be the ideal start.

  5. #5
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    I'm curious, have you looked at other used class C and B RVs? Personally I'd take a working galley and bathroom, as well as some slide outs, over a van conversion any day. I spoke with someone at a trail head not too long ago who had more money tied up in his van conversion than I do in my 40ft DP. Meanwhile, he still had no shower or toilet in the van yet was living in it full time. IDK, maybe I'm just not meant to understand.
    . . . . . . . .

  6. #6
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    If you're on Instagram, there are lots of cool photos of nice setups.
    These guys have some nice options for bike hauling:
    https://www.owlvans.com/
    A local friend and strong MTB rider sold his house and spent over a year living in a van he built. Upon his return to town, he started a business building these. His Instagram has some nice pix of the build process of his latest creation, and of the finished product:
    https://instagram.com/weathersidecus...=1f7wn8gspx4q3

  7. #7
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    I've been watching this lifestyle from afar. He's a thread I found interesting from way back in 2016. https://forums.mtbr.com/cars-bike-ra...s-1025345.html

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    It doesn't cost any more to purchase, and in fact it very well might cost less to buy a proper small RV with slide outs, a bathroom, and a toilet.
    Have a good friend that crams a family and their bikes all in a sprinter, and it seems terribly uncomfortable to me, and money is definitely not an issue for him.
    Either way, living life on the road sounds like quite a dream really and I wish I could even contemplate it.

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  9. #9
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    Singletrack Sampler on u tube had a van build going on a year or two ago.
    I've seen some nice vans/builds at trailheads, so jealous. Mt bike van living would definitely be a dream of mine, my wife doesn't ride but does like camping so maybe there's hope for me.
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  10. #10
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    A van is just toooooo cramped for me to be comfortable for anything other than really short trips. I have friends who have done almost all manner of these things. I have a friend with a Roadtrek, another with a Sprinter, another using an older Dodge van, and another who works at a company that does 4x4 and camper conversions on Ford Transit vans.

    I currently have a teardrop trailer that gives about as much space as a van conversion, and even though it's a little tougher finding a spot to park it to sleep (especially wilderness boondock type camping), I prefer this over a van because I can park it to store it or to camp and not have to deal with dragging my camping $hit with me everywhere. I can shuttle to distant trails with my tow vehicle, go get food, etc.

    The one I always thought was the more comfortable of the smaller rvs was the small Class C RV another friend has. Of course, short of a big Class A or luxurious 5th wheel (I know ppl with those, too).

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    Quote Originally Posted by scatterbrained View Post
    I'm curious, have you looked at other used class C and B RVs? Personally I'd take a working galley and bathroom, as well as some slide outs, over a van conversion any day. I spoke with someone at a trail head not too long ago who had more money tied up in his van conversion than I do in my 40ft DP. Meanwhile, he still had no shower or toilet in the van yet was living in it full time. IDK, maybe I'm just not meant to understand.
    Pooping in a hole in the ground (with a nice view) is my preferred method of defecation. I'd rather shower outside too, and sunshowers work fine.

    I lived in a '86 Toyota PU for 13 years. For the first few it just had a camper shell on the back. I had two bikes and everything I needed.

    If you want fancy stuff and don't plan to offroad, then the RVs will work. If you do plan to offroad then a truck plus a good quality camper is a better option IMO. The RVs aren't built to hold up and neither are most of the campers. No way would I want a Sprinter, Transit, or Promaster for offroad. A Nissan, GM, or other body on frame style would be better, but a truck+camper would be best.

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    to each their own I guess... I'm 6'3" and trying to live in a relatively small van sounds terrible.. I guess on the upside with a transit or sprinter I could stand upright I guess.. but since most of these vans seem to involve some sort of pooping outside.. no thank you ...

    I think the youtube videos make it seem waaay more fun than it actually is.... i would think the 15~ time you park on the street and have the police banging on the side of your van telling you to move it would get "old"... plus you can't smell them vans on youtube.. I bet the ones with people trying to live in them (wet / muddy mtb clothes, food ..etc scents...) are pretty dank after awhile...

    for me... I would need a RV to even consider it... (trips not living in one full time)... but I'd probably be much more likely to get a hotel near a riding spot and stay there... indoor plumbing / beds you don't have your feet overhang... etc conveniences... way more to like my personal liking.

  13. #13
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    Just this weekend we picked up an old Transit van (2002), came decked out with a bed and storage, pretty well done for someone on a budget, although a bit hippiesh on the interior decorating. Good for us as not totally fitted for living (kitchen etc, so bed and storage in the back, but still enough room to fit a few bikes behind the seats. Not good for actual living in, but good for a night, mostly so the GF can do triathlons, drive down, put bike into transition, then sleep and race in the morning, but also good for me for some of the 4/6 hour race things.
    We'll see how it works out, if we like, then upgrade down the track to something bigger/better/newer.


    I think this thead was the inspiration:
    https://forums.mtbr.com/cars-bike-ra...m-1021494.html

    although i wanted to spend more $$$ as I like the comforts... but the GF she likes the cheapness, so crusty old transit it was.
    All the gear and no idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    Pooping in a hole in the ground (with a nice view) is my preferred method of defecation. I'd rather shower outside too, and sunshowers work fine.

    I lived in a '86 Toyota PU for 13 years. For the first few it just had a camper shell on the back. I had two bikes and everything I needed.

    If you want fancy stuff and don't plan to offroad, then the RVs will work. If you do plan to offroad then a truck plus a good quality camper is a better option IMO. The RVs aren't built to hold up and neither are most of the campers. No way would I want a Sprinter, Transit, or Promaster for offroad. A Nissan, GM, or other body on frame style would be better, but a truck+camper would be best.
    More power to ya. Not into it personally. As you get older things like peeing in the middle of the night, meds, and comfort matter a lot more.
    The wife and I will buy a well used but luxurious RV at some point for about $30k. Enough room for us, the kid, the dog, 3 bikes, and snow gear. Enough room to comfortably bbq, sex up my beautiful wife in privacy, cook a good breakfast, look at mtbr.com, and so on.
    Doesn't really cost much more, and a whole other level of comfort.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Suns_PSD View Post
    More power to ya. Not into it personally. As you get older things like peeing in the middle of the night, meds, and comfort matter a lot more.
    The wife and I will buy a well used but luxurious RV at some point for about $30k. Enough room for us, the kid, the dog, 3 bikes, and snow gear. Enough room to comfortably bbq, sex up my beautiful wife in privacy, cook a good breakfast, look at mtbr.com, and so on.
    Doesn't really cost much more, and a whole other level of comfort.

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    Like one of those ex-rental Class Cs? I always wonder how good they would be. Older class C's always give me pause as we had one and it was always acting up on us. Still, for the price I might give one a try if I had somewhere to store it. It would just be a trip vehicle though. No using it as an extra car.

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    I've done 3 big (7+ months) 23-28k road trips in a van. 2 with girlfriends, 1 with a buddy, and they were all unequivocally the best times of my life. Very simple builds with just insulation, roof vent, beds, and shelving. I think the "living" part means very different things to different people. I only slept and drove in the van and in that it was all I needed.

    For me the footprint of a van is perfect both in it's off-road ability to get you out there and it's incognito ability to park and sleep in a city/town. Never once had a cop knock on the door, and you do laundry/ clean just like any other living space.

    The cost, parts availability, and ease to work on a van is also a priority for me. I had a huge mechanical on the coast south of Bella Coola which is remote. Some ingenuity and my tool kit had me back on the road in 3 days. I currently have a 2011 e150 which I put about 13k on just this summer bouncing around the PNW. Whatever gets you out there but if the point is to simplify and free up more time for the living part of live, well it's #vanlife for a reason.


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    I thought about getting a van, but settled on a much easier and waaay cheaper option in a small toy hauler. Fully self contained, can haul my dirt bikes and keep them secure, and leaves me a 4x4 truck still. Dual axles and surprisingly good ground clearance means I can pull it damn near anywhere I'd take the Tundra.

    I like having a 4x4 truck. Vans are a PITA to work on and I don't pay mechanics, do it all myself.

    I did the van life thing in NZ for a while. Awesome experience but got that out of my system. Definitely recommend it for a while though!


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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    Pooping in a hole in the ground (with a nice view) is my preferred method of defecation. I'd rather shower outside too, and sunshowers work fine.

    I lived in a '86 Toyota PU for 13 years. For the first few it just had a camper shell on the back. I had two bikes and everything I needed.

    If you want fancy stuff and don't plan to offroad, then the RVs will work. If you do plan to offroad then a truck plus a good quality camper is a better option IMO. The RVs aren't built to hold up and neither are most of the campers. No way would I want a Sprinter, Transit, or Promaster for offroad. A Nissan, GM, or other body on frame style would be better, but a truck+camper would be best.
    Meh. An RV with a truck in tow works fine. Especially if you plan on being somewhere for more than one day. My coach is 18yrs old and holding up just fine. The reason they seem to not hold up tends to be a lack of maintenance on the owners part. If you like digging latrines every time you need to $%!+ then good on ya, but I like having a bathroom. A hot shower. A washer and dryer. A refrigerator. A freezer. A proper bed. An oven. Somewhere comfortable to relax and watch TV when stormy weather hits. I could go on. Of course, having raced out of a Chevy van, then a C cab Winnie when I was younger, and now having traveled the country in a large DP RV with my family I just can't see the appeal of these van conversions. I will admit that it's easy to get sucked into the hype on social media. There was even a guy recently trying to glamorize his life living out of a Tesla model 3. Seriously. I've seen so many of these vans here in San Diego and nearly bought one before I got my Navigator to use as a family/biking vehicle. The prices these homemade conversions were pulling was just stupid; and for those prices you still have to go outside and $#!+ in a bucket. No thanks.
    . . . . . . . .

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by scatterbrained View Post
    Meh. An RV with a truck in tow works fine. Especially if you plan on being somewhere for more than one day.
    ???

    Not if you want to be in the boonies. You need to get far from where the RVs tread. I liked to be places where I wouldn't see another human all week.

    I'm a little surprised by the responses. I expected MTBers to be more rugged I guess. I was more comfortable living like that than I have been in any house. I had near zero camping experience when I started and didn't know if I'd hate it or not. I honestly didn't miss anything. Best time of my life...

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarcusBrody View Post
    Like one of those ex-rental Class Cs? I always wonder how good they would be. Older class C's always give me pause as we had one and it was always acting up on us. Still, for the price I might give one a try if I had somewhere to store it. It would just be a trip vehicle though. No using it as an extra car.
    We looked at a rental C class but then tend to lack the things that make RVs desirable in the first place. There was a decided lack of electrical outlets, no awnings and a few other things that you would assume to be standard in a modern RV. They are basically built with ignorant renters in mind, such that they aren't going to equip them with things (like awnings) that can be forgotten about and hence broken. The big issue I see with smaller coaches and trailers is often a lack of roof maintenance. People seem to forget (or not be told) that there are a ton of seems on the roof that will need occasional resealing.
    . . . . . . . .

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    ???

    Not if you want to be in the boonies. You need to get far from where the RVs tread. I liked to be places where I wouldn't see another human all week.

    I'm a little surprised by the responses. I expected MTBers to be more rugged I guess. I was more comfortable living like that than I have been in any house. I had near zero camping experience when I started and didn't know if I'd hate it or not. I honestly didn't miss anything. Best time of my life...
    I live in Southern California. I've seen quite a few RVers living out in the desert full time. They would show up in town long enough to fuel up and resupply. Lots of smaller A class and C class. I remember being at a DH race in VA many years ago and a guy showed up in a lifted Minnie Winnie with quite a bit of suspension travel and some serious looking tires. It was a pure expedition vehicle at that point. Sounded like damn drag racer. There are quite a few very off road capable RVs these days too.
    . . . . . . . .

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by upstateSC-rider View Post
    Singletrack Sampler on u tube ....
    Was going to say Youtube is awash with mtb van channels. And even more non-mtb vans. The attraction of vans is 'stealth' camping in plain sight but as others have pointed out an RV is ready to go.

  23. #23
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    I like the idea of the nomadic life, but don't see it actually happening. The van seems to hit a middle ground that I don't need. For shorter trips and more remote locations, I am perfectly happy spending a few nights on the ground in my tent or sleeping in the back of my wife's SUV. On the other side of the coin, I've stayed in some really nice Air B-n-B units in Crested Butte, Leadville, Winter Park, Moab, and Rotorua for a small fraction of the cost of a nice van.

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    Iíve been following a number of the YouTube van MTB channels and find it enticing for a week long trip type vehicle. You are going to be staying at a campground or rest stop so bathrooms/etc will be as if you were tent camping. Sure, a pull behind camper would be nice, but then you have to have a more expensive truck to tow it. And space to store it. A well used but mechanically thorough can would be much easier to navigate around with when entering towns, etc.

  25. #25
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    Scatterbrained, you know what you like and thatís great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and self-admitted inability to understand why some people prefer van life.

    Meanwhile I know what I like too. Itís different that what you like.

    Go ahead and keep explaining if you want to, but please know some of us arenít interested in going the traditional motorhome route. Nor the pickup/camper/trailer route. This is the van life thread. Feel free to start the Class A, roof seam maintenance, multiple slide out, mobile bathroom, big screen TV, noisy generator, et al thread

    Meanwhile letís focus on van life in this thread. There are some advantages to van life, regardless of whether or not everyone appreciates them.

    (One advantage: no roof seams.)

    Iím sure Class A-ing has advantages, too. Hopefully thatís another thread.

    Thanks,
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Scatterbrained, you know what you like and thatís great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and self-admitted inability to understand why some people prefer van life.

    Meanwhile I know what I like too. Itís different that what you like.

    Go ahead and keep explaining if you want to, but please know some of us arenít interested in going the traditional motorhome route. Nor the pickup/camper/trailer route. This is the van life thread. Feel free to start the Class A, roof seam maintenance, multiple slide out, mobile bathroom, big screen TV, noisy generator, et al thread

    Meanwhile letís focus on van life in this thread. There are some advantages to van life, regardless of whether or not everyone appreciates them.

    (One advantage: no roof seams.)

    Iím sure Class A-ing has advantages, too. Hopefully thatís another thread.

    Thanks,
    =sParty
    The second you put a vent in the roof, you have a seem . . . .
    .
    BTW, have you looked at RV Trader to see some of the van conversions for there? It may be location dependent, but here in SoCal there were a ton of them for sale when I looked a while back. That coupled with the corporate RV builds can really give you an idea of just what can be done. There is also the Winnebago Revel which was made with MTBers in mind. A power lift bed in the back above the "garage" and the shower is something I've never seen in a DIY build. It's a marine shower that doubles as a closet.
    . . . . . . . .

  27. #27
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    Last summer I went to what was called adventurevanexpo at Lake Tahoe ,it was mostly Sprinters ,there were a few Transits and Metris's a couple one off things . Overall lots of good ideas on how to get a small space to work. They have a web site ,adventurevanexpo.com ,with lots of info.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by scatterbrained View Post
    The second you put a vent in the roof, you have a seem . . . .
    .
    BTW, have you looked at RV Trader to see some of the van conversions for there? It may be location dependent, but here in SoCal there were a ton of them for sale when I looked a while back. That coupled with the corporate RV builds can really give you an idea of just what can be done. There is also the Winnebago Revel which was made with MTBers in mind. A power lift bed in the back above the "garage" and the shower is something I've never seen in a DIY build. It's a marine shower that doubles as a closet.
    True on the roof vent seam.

    Iíve looked at the Revel and would be interested in one if an extended version was offered. At 6í2Ē, I canít sleep in a bed thatís laid out side to side, Iíve got to have a longitudinal bed. My GF & I have looked at many vans and motorhomes and weíre among those funny people who donít want a bathroom or interior shower. We shower on a pallet between the back doors and take care of business outdoors, thatís just the way we like it. Whenever I have to get up in the middle of the night, I employ a Nalgene bottle. We do our laundry in a stream or at a coin-op, depending on whatís available.

    Weíve seen a zillion different van floorplans and layouts and so far only one appealed to us (a full custom, one-of-a-kind van). Even in that case, there are a few changes weíd make. The one we like is owned by a riding buddy, so Iíve got a great resource whenever I start my build-out, which will probably be in about 15 months.

    Of course there are disadvantages to van life ó there are compromises to anything and everything, but after careful consideration and plenty of experience, weíve made our choice. Truth is, I imagine I could argue either side of the Ďwhich RVí debate. We flipped our coin and it landed ďless room, more adventureĒ side up.
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  29. #29
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    This oneís pretty cool:

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  30. #30
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    #vanlife sucks but for road trips oriented around mtn bike rides it's a pretty good way to go.

    And for western BC, ID, and MT I'd much rather be in a hard-shelled rig than a tent or sleeping outside with all the pesky bears around.

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  31. #31
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    Nice rig. Will you please post more photos including close ups of your rear rack? Detailed explanation would be good, too. Thanks.
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  32. #32
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    Cool build for sure but I can't sleep width wise either. To anybody that uses a camp stove often do yourself a favor and ditch the rigid metal angled propane connector. Get a rubber hose style one from Amazon or wherever, they make a big difference in ease and usability imo. I have one with an adapter for 16oz, 3 gallon, and 5 gallon tanks, they're just better.

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    I have a 35' 5th Wheel Toyhauler. It's about twice the size I needed but it's also 20 years old this year. It wasn't that expensive and it totally changed my mountain biking trips to be able to take friends, tools, my dog, and everything else I could possibly need.

    Before the trailer I had a truck camper. It was tiny, but still not as tiny as a van in that it had a toilet, shower, kitchen, and dinette. After having that for 5-6 years, the van thing makes no sense to me. A truck camper can go anywhere a pickup truck can go.

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    Quote Originally Posted by twodownzero View Post
    I have a 35' 5th Wheel Toyhauler. It's about twice the size I needed but it's also 20 years old this year. It wasn't that expensive and it totally changed my mountain biking trips to be able to take friends, tools, my dog, and everything else I could possibly need.

    Before the trailer I had a truck camper. It was tiny, but still not as tiny as a van in that it had a toilet, shower, kitchen, and dinette. After having that for 5-6 years, the van thing makes no sense to me. A truck camper can go anywhere a pickup truck can go.
    Cool that you were able to get what you wanted. I hope I get to do likewise.
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  35. #35
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    WTH is going on here?
    Taking off like life is a vacation and living a postcard scene while biking and enjoying the out-of-doors. What B.S.

    While out there having fun and a grand time, you won't be 'here' to support us whining about pot hole maintenance and super slab life.
    May the squirrels of yonder bless you with Montezuma's revenge leaving presents in your sleeping bags !

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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Nice rig. Will you please post more photos including close ups of your rear rack? Detailed explanation would be good, too. Thanks.
    =sParty
    It's an Aluminess rack. Pretty popular with the overlanding crowd. I use 1UP USA racks to span the overhang over the spare tire. I'll use the hitch rack with an extender if I need to carry 4 bikes. Initially I used the roof rack for the kids bike but it's up too high and tree branches become a problem. I carry a Solaire grill and levelling blocks
    in the box.

    MTBR van life?-hurrah-pass.jpg

    MTBR van life?-little-creek_rack.jpg

    MTBR van life?-yankee-boy.jpg[
    Last edited by rockman; 01-13-2020 at 05:24 PM.

  37. #37
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    Nice setup rockman. Thatís the kind of rig I always wanted to build.
    Quote Originally Posted by mileslong View Post
    I passionately remove rocks and corners and other stuff I find too hard to ride.

  38. #38
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    Super trick! I've been looking at the Aluminess and Owl Vans bike carriers and it looks like the Aluminess may get the nod, but I've got some more studying to do before I get it figured all the way out.

    I like how the Owl Vans rack bolts to the vehicle's rear door hinges (which would save $2700 by not having to buy the entire Aluminess rear bumper) but it looks like the Aluminess system may be more bulletproof overall.

    Anyway thanks for posting your photos. Awesome rig you've got there. Any further advice or tips will be greatly appreciated.
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  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by bachman1961 View Post
    WTH is going on here?
    Taking off like life is a vacation...
    Yo BTO, I retired 4 years ago and time's a wastin'! Now's the time for all the expensive toys and travel, travel, travel. Like I said before, so many trails, so little time.

    Well, the time has finally arrived. And it's flying by at warp speed.

    That said, I still plan to live forever. So far, so good.
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  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    I'm a little surprised by the responses. I expected MTBers to be more rugged I guess. I was more comfortable living like that than I have been in any house.
    Heh - me too! Right now my very old POS Suburban is my #Vanlife and it does the job, I guess better than anything I had before. This type of use is my only reason for a car at all. Some of my friend have gone soft - for various reasons- and let me tell you: RV and Trailers are a huge pain in the rear. Setting up, powering, tear down, cleaning grey/black h20... but the kicker is limiting access to locations I now miss when we get together. I'll grant that the toilet is nice - esp in the desert where you need to be more eco with your poop. It sort of sucks that if I want to get communal with my friends we are limited to pedestrian areas because of their vehicles - not really what I like.

    There are a lot of ways to skin this cat and many people have different priorities. For me: reliable transportation, ability to haul the needed gear in a practical manner, ability to traverse into remote areas (aka clearance and 4WD/AWD), then finally sleeping accommodations and general organization. Things like: sink, refridg, seating area, toilet are generally not attractive to me and in some cases, diminish the quality of being in the environment. The insides of your rig are going to look the same no matter where you are - so I try to maximize the outdoor time.

    Rockman's rig is nice and I might land on something like a 4x4 conversion or Sportsmobile... I'm kinda waiting for #vanlife to die it's death and clean up on a post-craze purchase... many, many people discover its not for them.
    Working to stomp out redundancy, I repeat, working to stomp out redundancy.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Suns_PSD View Post
    It doesn't cost any more to purchase, and in fact it very well might cost less to buy a proper small RV with slide outs, a bathroom, and a toilet.
    Have a good friend that crams a family and their bikes all in a sprinter, and it seems terribly uncomfortable to me, and money is definitely not an issue for him.
    Either way, living life on the road sounds like quite a dream really and I wish I could even contemplate it.

    Sent from my SM-G892A using Tapatalk
    That's not nearly cool enough. Too much comfort, not enough roughing it factor and "ingenuity".

    I think we all dream of packing up and just living the vagabond lifestyle from time to time. But I'd go with an offroad capable towable. Hell, most of those vans never go off the road or, at worst, a dirt road, so a regular RV would do the trick, even. And, like you said, a shower and toilet vs a outside enclosure and bucket would make it far more enjoyable.

    My only complaint with them is they take these long ass vans, many with a rack in the hitch and cram themselves into tiny parking spaces at the trail head, making it nearly impossible, sometimes, to navigate around them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post

    Iím sure Class A-ing has advantages, too. Hopefully thatís another thread.

    Thanks,
    =sParty
    The irony here, you realize, is that a Class A is just a super-sized - and super luxurious - van.

  42. #42
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    I'm planning to buy a van in a couple of months for full time living. I'm not committed to model yet, but looking at the 2020 AWD, medium roof (I'm 5'8"), extended Transit.

    I'll be parking at my work. There is a gym with a shower there for me to use. I can also use the restrooms in a short walk across the parking lot, as well as other conveniences. I'll slowly build it out as I find my needs.

    I'm currently living in an old camping trailer with no facilities. No propane means no heat or stove (40 degrees inside when I woke up Friday). No easy way to drain the tanks so I basically only use the sink to brush my teeth right now. It's actually LESS convenient than what a van will be like for me, so it's a good test to see how I like the lifestyle, so far it works.

    Right now when I go places I sleep in the front seat of my Ford Fiesta. If weather is mild and I can openly camp, I'll use a tent. Nice weather = under the stars with a cot. I divorced a couple years ago, and have slowly been figuring out that I'm just a dirtbag. I'm rarely in the trailer now, basically just to sleep. I'm either working, riding, at the gym climbing (new to me, planning to go outdoors with it next season), spending time with my horse at my ex's place, or anything NOT in the trailer.

    I like the idea of building out a van for my needs. I know an RV is a simple as turn the key and go, but they don't see to hold up well long term without a lot of investment. And I like the stealth aspect of the van. Shouldn't be an issue at my work (large factory), but a motorhome just seems like I am pushing it.

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    When I win the lottery, I will buy earth roamer expedition truck

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  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    ......

    Iíve looked at the Revel and would be interested in one if an extended version was offered. At 6í2Ē, I canít sleep in a bed thatís laid out side to side,.......
    ......
    =sParty
    Have you looked at the high roofed Sprinters with pop tops where the bed is in the ceiling? That might give you the headroom while giving a longitudinal bed that doesn't occupy any valuable floorspace.
    . . . . . . . .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Mega View Post
    For me: reliable transportation, ability to haul the needed gear in a practical manner, ability to traverse into remote areas (aka clearance and 4WD/AWD), then finally sleeping accommodations and general organization.
    4WD is actually not so necessary; I didn't have it. But then I was able and willing to avoid adventurous driving in snow and mud. Just air down for sand. I'd put ground clearance, low gearing, good suspension, and limited slip or locker, as more important. I only say this because of the dearth of decent 4wd vans unless you spring for a $15k upgrade on one of the older ones. The newer unibodies suck, including the Sprinter (even in 4wd). If you are using a truck or SUV then 4wd by all means, since it's ubiquitous.

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Mega View Post
    Things like: sink, refridg, seating area, toilet are generally not attractive to me and in some cases, diminish the quality of being in the environment.
    I thought living in my "spartan" setup was the opposite of a hassle. Less junk to maintain, break, and futz with. I'm an old man and I certainly don't need all the modern niceties to be "comfortable". Surprisingly it wasn't hard to find women that felt the same way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scatterbrained View Post
    Have you looked at the high roofed Sprinters with pop tops where the bed is in the ceiling? That might give you the headroom while giving a longitudinal bed that doesn't occupy any valuable floorspace.
    I really like what Hymer (European RV builder) does with their pop tops. Rather than open up the whole roof, they basically just cut a hatch and you crawl up into the sleeping area (which is basically a hard shell roof tent). Keeps the vans structural integrity intact and the full space open for whatever you need it for while minimizing loss of chassis rigidity. It also means that you have a hatch with raised seams in the middle of the roof with a full, seamless shell covering it, so water leakage is less of a worry (though if you put an impossible fan right over the hatch so it can be used while closed, then obviously you're facing the same situation).

    I like Hymer's layouts in general and if I had a LOT of time/effort to put into a build, I'd try to build a more modular version of the Hymercar Free, with no internal shower and everything aft of the second seats able to be removed.

  47. #47
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    I also think the pop top is the way to go. As said it puts your sleeping quarters out of the way effectively doubling your living/storage space all the while solving being able to stand. Furthermore you can still stealth park/sleep on the couch or floor in town. But the greatest advantage imo is overhead clearance. I have a lot of awesome overlook and river camp stashes high roofed vans can not make it into.

    The Sportsmobile forums are a great resource for research. I think most guys in there would advise to stay clear of add ons that bolt to door hinges etc. The aluminess stuff is generally regarded as very well engineered.

    Sent from my moto g(6) forge using Tapatalk
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  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    I'm planning to buy a van in a couple of months for full time living. I'm not committed to model yet, but looking at the 2020 AWD, medium roof (I'm 5'8"), extended Transit.
    Sounds like you've got a solid plan and a clear road map, good on ya. 40į at wakeup -- whoa!

    I'm looking at the 2020 Ford Transit, too. Highest roof due to my height, extended length due to my need for a longitudinal bed. I don't often wish I was shorter, but occasionally there would be advantages.

    I'd prefer 60/40 cargo side doors over a sliding door (we have cargo doors in our current van), the cargo doors are an option on the Transit tho they may be difficult to find. If I have to go with a sliding door, I'll consider the electric option (available on the '20 model). My friend's Sprinter's manual sliding door is noisy as well as heavy. When camping, his door wakes people up regardless of whether they're inside his van or outside it.

    My Subaru Outback will be paid off next month, I plan to keep it as my daily driver. An expected rent reduction (to $zero!) in May will allow me to start saving about $1200/month toward the van at that time. I expect to have around $15,000 in my pocket for a down payment when I start van shopping in April or May, 2021. Will do my best to pay as I go while building it out, but I expect the build will cost another $15,000 or so (not to mention I'll have a van payment then). Target date for first camping trip in the new rig = October, 2021.

    Sounds so far away. It's not.
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  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    The Sportsmobile forums are a great resource for research. I think most guys in there would advise to stay clear of add ons that bolt to door hinges etc. The aluminess stuff is generally regarded as very well engineered.
    Good to know, thanks WHALENARD. I'll have solar panels on the roof.
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  50. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by skiahh View Post
    That's not nearly cool enough. Too much comfort, not enough roughing it factor and "ingenuity".

    I think we all dream of packing up and just living the vagabond lifestyle from time to time. But I'd go with an offroad capable towable. Hell, most of those vans never go off the road or, at worst, a dirt road, so a regular RV would do the trick, even. And, like you said, a shower and toilet vs a outside enclosure and bucket would make it far more enjoyable.

    My only complaint with them is they take these long ass vans, many with a rack in the hitch and cram themselves into tiny parking spaces at the trail head, making it nearly impossible, sometimes, to navigate around them.



    The irony here, you realize, is that a Class A is just a super-sized - and super luxurious - van.
    Probaly cause I peruse this thread, my FB feed got hit with local marketplace RVs for sale this morning.
    $9.5k asking for a well appointed 2001 RV with slide outs and 30k miles popped up. Way less than my buddy has spent rigging up his Sprinter.
    I want to go to ski resorts and bike trails so offroad needs don't suit me.
    My whole family rides and I'm hoping my daughter will be doing the NICA thing all around Texas in another 4 years and I would buy an RV at that point. What are you guys doing to secure the bikes and protect them from inclement weather and theft? Thinking I can weld up an Aluminum hitch rack that encloses and locks and has everything inside, maybe just removing the bike wheels.

    Sent from my SM-G892A using Tapatalk

  51. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by Suns_PSD View Post
    Probaly cause I peruse this thread, my FB feed got hit with local marketplace RVs for sale this morning.
    $9.5k asking for a well appointed 2001 RV with slide outs and 30k miles popped up. Way less than my buddy has spent rigging up his Sprinter.
    I want to go to ski resorts and bike trails so offroad needs don't suit me.
    My whole family rides and I'm hoping my daughter will be doing the NICA thing all around Texas in another 4 years and I would buy an RV at that point. What are you guys doing to secure the bikes and protect them from inclement weather and theft? Thinking I can weld up an Aluminum hitch rack that encloses and locks and has everything inside, maybe just removing the bike wheels.

    Sent from my SM-G892A using Tapatalk
    Two things to think about:
    1. Make sure everything checks out with an RV dealer independent of the seller. Things like slideouts add complexity and most of those type of campers aren't exactly built to a bombproof standard.

    2. Taking a standard RV skiing can be tricky (depending on where you're going). The water tanks and sewage lines aren't generally very well insulated and so if it's below freezing, they can freeze - at best plugging up, at worst cracking. They have some with "all season packages" but most require a heating element for the tanks (which takes a power hookup) and how well they heat/insulate all the pipes is questionable. If I were going to be doing a lot of winter camping in an RV, I'd look into getting a composting/cassette toilet.

    On the other hand, driving around TX for NICA events seems like pretty much the ideal use of an RV.

  52. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Yo BTO, I retired 4 years ago and time's a wastin'! Now's the time for all the expensive toys and travel, travel, travel. Like I said before, so many trails, so little time.

    Well, the time has finally arrived. And it's flying by at warp speed.

    That said, I still plan to live forever. So far, so good.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarcusBrody View Post
    Two things to think about:
    1. Make sure everything checks out with an RV dealer independent of the seller. Things like slideouts add complexity and most of those type of campers aren't exactly built to a bombproof standard.
    2. Taking a standard RV skiing can be tricky (depending on where you're going). The water tanks and sewage lines aren't generally very well insulated and so if it's below freezing, they can freeze - at best plugging up, at worst cracking. They have some with "all season packages" but most require a heating element for the tanks (which takes a power hookup) and how well they heat/insulate all the pipes is questionable. If I were going to be doing a lot of winter camping in an RV, I'd look into getting a composting/cassette toilet.
    On the other hand, driving around TX for NICA events seems like pretty much the ideal use of an RV.
    Point 2 is a good one and I'll just mention I've bumped into some RV How To's that were well done covering winter season. A husband / wife of 'middle age' do a nice one showing how to insulate lines, pipes, etc.... and have some good detailed info on power consumption / economizing and heat level/methods needed inside for comfort that isn't over doing it.

    Always love to see this stuff even though it won't be for me very likely, seeing the adventures and rigs vicariously is so cool.
    Best of luck to all endeavoring. There's lots of info to peruse so it's nice to be able to nearly jump in with both feet and yet learn form others before doing so.

    Getting it right or mostly right the first time around will be considerably more fun and less costly !
    "Before you criticize, you should walk a mile in their shoes. You'll be a mile away from them and you have their shoes"

  53. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Suns_PSD View Post
    $9.5k asking for a well appointed 2001 RV with slide outs and 30k miles popped up. Way less than my buddy has spent rigging up his Sprinter.
    Buying an old motorhome is a terrific way to learn the necessary lessons to be successful at motorhoming. That's what my GF & I did -- the one she bought for $14,500 was 25 years old when she bought it. The learning curve is steep and this can be a relatively cheap way to get one's feet wet, although at times you may think a lot more than your feet are getting wet. Sometimes you might even think you're getting hosed.

    No one could explain it. We had to experience it to get it and I'm glad we did. Time well spent and we have many great memories of grand adventures. One more year and we'll move on to just what we want. Inspired layout, our own interior design, modern vehicle safety features, modern conveniences like 110 power, a vehicle warranty, personalized priorities & compromises.

    Quote Originally Posted by Suns_PSD View Post
    I want to go to ski resorts and bike trails so offroad needs don't suit me.
    My whole family rides and I'm hoping my daughter will be doing the NICA thing all around Texas in another 4 years and I would buy an RV at that point.
    I don't intend to offroad my rig either. As for ski resorts, I've done that. As well as camping in Prescott in February (can you say 19įF). I learned a lot about built-in water tanks (both fresh and gray) and winterizing them. I've learned better ways to do it. Learned about onboard propane tanks, their pluses and minuses and better ways to deal with fuel.

    Elevation, temperature, quality of materials that went into the vehicle's original build, electrical systems -- any or all of it may force the vehicle's owner to learn the hard way. It was worth it in our case. We now know exactly what we want and why we want it that way. I wouldn't trade the past year and a half of extensive motorhome experience for anything.

    So you're in Texas? My GF & I are in the PNW. So our experiences will most certainly be different. You'll primarily deal with sun & heat while we're dealing primarily with rain & cold.

    Oh, by the way, it can be expensive. Especially in an older motorhome. Dang, just when we thought we were saving money.

    Quote Originally Posted by Suns_PSD View Post
    What are you guys doing to secure the bikes and protect them from inclement weather and theft? Thinking I can weld up an Aluminum hitch rack that encloses and locks and has everything inside, maybe just removing the bike wheels.
    Two couples we ride with have Sprinters. Both chose to put their "garage" under their elevated beds and keep their bikes inside their vans. Meanwhile my GF & I don't want to devote that much valuable interior space to bike storage. We employ a hitch mounted bike rack and invested in serious locks. While the bikes are indeed exposed to the weather, it hasn't been a problem. I've been a self-trained bike mechanic for 40+ years, I'm comfortable doing everything down to frame bearing replacement if outdoor exposure warrants it.

    The Aluminess system I dream of (rear bumper with swing-away storage box and bike racks above, see rockman's 4WD van below) costs around $4000. Not sure I can justify spending that much but we'll see. My philosophy is buy once, cry once.

    Meanwhile we just roll the bikes inside if we go on a hike or leave the van unattended for any other reason for an extended time. We have down days when we go to town. The laundromat, grocery store, etc. can't be denied. Typically one of us will stay with the van (read: bikes) while the other shops.
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  54. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Suns_PSD View Post
    ...
    .....What are you guys doing to secure the bikes and protect them from inclement weather and theft? Thinking I can weld up an Aluminum hitch rack that encloses and locks and has everything inside, maybe just removing the bike wheels.

    Sent from my SM-G892A using Tapatalk
    Fortunately for me I can take the wheels off and fit my bike in the basement of the coach. I have been considering getting one of these though as my girls are getting old enough to start riding with me.
    . . . . . . . .

  55. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Picard View Post
    When I win the lottery, I will buy earth roamer expedition truck

    Sent from my SM-G965W using Tapatalk
    Watched a video on the Winnie Revel, very impressive, so just for sh1ts and giggles I looked up msrp for a 2020. My guess was about $125k, nope...$168K!
    Niner Jet 9 RDO, Scalpel 29, XTC 650b, 04 Stumpjumper FSR Pro, Trek Rigid SS - No suspension, no gears....no problem

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    Quote Originally Posted by upstateSC-rider View Post
    Watched a video on the Winnie Revel, very impressive, so just for sh1ts and giggles I looked up msrp for a 2020. My guess was about $125k, nope...$168K!
    RV's are like boats. Never buy them new. Buy one that's a few years old with low mileage for 50% of MSRP.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scatterbrained View Post
    Fortunately for me I can take the wheels off and fit my bike in the basement of the coach. I have been considering getting one of these though as my girls are getting old enough to start riding with me.
    So many RVs have horrendously wimpy hitches, and the arrangement of the vehicle puts a lot of strain on things mounted there. Pretty sure those hitches are mostly intended to be used for lower tongue weight cases like pulling an extra vehicle in a dinghy arrangement. I've lost count of how many I've seen with bent bike racks and cargo platforms hanging off the back, and outright trashed hitches (and the bumpers those hitches are often part of or bolted to).

    The friend of mine who owns a small Class C has a cargo trailer she pulls with it that's her bike garage. She's got a tool box in there for all her bike tools, workstand, and storage to transport quite a lot of bikes if she needs to. It's a rather nice setup. You can certainly do similar with a toyhauler type RV and lose the trailer. And that's a big part of the point of having a "garage" inside a van conversion. One of these days, I'm going to buy a pickup truck to be the primary tow vehicle for my teardrop camper so that I can use a camper shell and have a "bike garage" of sorts for out-of-the-weather bike transport and out-of-sight-out-of-mind security. IMO, there's definitely value to the ability to transport bikes that way when you're on the road. Right now I use rooftop carriers on the subaru when towing the trailer. It works, but there are drawbacks to it.

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    I'm just starting step two of my baby step's into #vanlife.

    My wife still works and likes too (???), and will for the next 5 years. I'm into my 3rd year of retirement. We travel together (Europe and places but clean, comfortable, warm, NOT roughing it etc.....) I like the simplicity and low cost of camping, boondocking etc.

    I usually go for 1-3 weeks at a time. Myself or a buddy.

    Step one was an SUV that I used for work/travel, I built a sleeping platform and storage in it and used it for biking adventures from homebase (Northern Ontario) to lots of the U.S. and Canada! (woohoo!) I always had a tent because it was cramped (6ft2, 220)
    Sleeping inside the SUV was great for convenience, safety, and stealth. Did I say it was cramped?

    At 300K the engine died on the way home from a trip north of Quebec City.

    Enter Step 2.
    I just finished a sleeping storage platform for my new (to me) Dodge Grand Caravan. (70K, $15K Can) I'm excited about the size and the kitchen/cooking and storage drawers I built in.

    Bike storage: I built my sleeping platform in the SUV to allow my bike to be stored inside for safety, stealth. (did I say cramped?) I still used the hitch for convenience in good weather/safe areas.

    I did the same with the van (I'm the only one sleeping in it) so 33" width mattress, but this also allows me to sit up in the back of the van!

    I haven't tried it yet, haven't even packed it! Really excited to escape the snow and cold (I tolerate fatbiking, while dreaming of warm singletrack)

    OFF TO South Carolina and FLORIDA tomorrow!!! I'll give a good test, camping in Alafia and Santos, with a couple of days of boondocking.

    If I ever figure out how to get a picture up here. I'll post.

  59. #59
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    Wow! Some of these builds are amazing and amazingly expensive!

    https://www.maxim.com/rides/10-styli...re-vans-2018-3

  60. #60
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    I'm going on my 10th year of owning a 1991 VW Westfalia. We use it for week-long MTB trips to UT/CO and weekend trips closer to home. We have it just as much because we're long-time VW nerds as we do because it's an almost perfect camping machine for us. It's a 2WD but has a LSD so it's actually quite off-road worthy. I do really miss using a more modern car/tent at times though and maintaining an almost 30-year old quirky vehicle can be frustrating.

    I have no interest in "living" in it or any other vehicle full time. I like my job but often can't do it remotely. I like my house a whole lot too - it's where my veggies grow, where my pets live, and where my hot tub is installed. I'm also a 60-minute drive from Big Sky so my ski itch is scratched perfectly well from my house.

    IMO, a high clearance trailer is a pretty hot setup. The problem with vans or pickup bed campers is that you need to break camp anytime you decide to drive somewhere. It's fine if you're always going to access rides etc. from the same camp but what happens when you want to be at a trail head 10 miles from a camp that you hope to return to? It can be a bit of a hassle.

    Around here, the Sprinter van "culture" is becoming the butt of jokes since many are used for day trips to the ski hill or trail head. Why do you need so much space just to put your ski boots on? They're becoming the symbol of conspicuous consumption that the Hummer H1 was.

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    I never "break camp" until I'm done with the spot. I leave a folding table, camp stove, propane, all my cookware, camp chairs, hammock, etc. etc. Never an issue since 1993 or so. This past year in Moab I saw side by side after side by side...by the train load packed with children staring at tablets or a phone, bizarre.

    Spent some time on the Sportsmobile forums last night looking at ideas for my own van. It looks like a fair amount of people do actually have issues with that Aluminess rear bumper set up. Seems some develop cracks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    I never "break camp" until I'm done with the spot. I leave a folding table, camp stove, propane, all my cookware, camp chairs, hammock, etc. etc. Never an issue since 1993 or so. This past year in Moab I saw side by side after side by side...by the train load packed with children staring at tablets or a phone, bizarre.

    Spent some time on the Sportsmobile forums last night looking at ideas for my own van. It looks like a fair amount of people do actually have issues with that Aluminess rear bumper set up. Seems some develop cracks.

    Sent from my moto g(6) forge using Tapatalk
    If you haven't found it already, the other places you might look for well-built adventure van inspiration are the forums on Expedition Portal. You have a lot of guys DIYing vans and little campers for rugged travel.

  63. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarcusBrody View Post
    If you haven't found it already, the other places you might look for well-built adventure van inspiration are the forums on Expedition Portal. You have a lot of guys DIYing vans and little campers for rugged travel.
    Cool, thanks. I don't think I've checked that one out yet

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  64. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    Cool, thanks. I don't think I've checked that one out yet

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    Much like here and bikes, it can be a bit of a rabbit hole, so let that be fair warning!

  65. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    I never "break camp" until I'm done with the spot. I leave a folding table, camp stove, propane, all my cookware, camp chairs, hammock, etc. etc. Never an issue since 1993 or so. This past year in Moab I saw side by side after side by side...by the train load packed with children staring at tablets or a phone, bizarre.

    Spent some time on the Sportsmobile forums last night looking at ideas for my own van. It looks like a fair amount of people do actually have issues with that Aluminess rear bumper set up. Seems some develop cracks.

    Sent from my moto g(6) forge using Tapatalk
    Indeed. Mine cracked and broke. They've since gone to a stronger, square tube design and will upgrade older versions with a gusset. Great company to work with, albeit an expensive bumper for sure. Most of the failures are from over loading. Folks will run two boxes, bikes, a generator, water jugs, blah blah. Spec weight limit is 150lb.

  66. #66
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    rOCktoberfest 2015 pt I here
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  67. #67
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    So many options, so little $$$
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  68. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    I never "break camp" until I'm done with the spot. I leave a folding table, camp stove, propane, all my cookware, camp chairs, hammock, etc. etc.
    It's all that little stuff that lives inside the vehicle that needs to be stowed before you drive that I'm talking about.

  69. #69
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    The nice thing about van camping is I can break camp in 15 or 20 min and I do all of my cooking outside. Most of my trips are about mountain biking and getting to trailheads. It's rare that a trailhead makes for nice camping but occasionally it does happen.

    My trips are also 1 to 3 weeks in length. I like to travel to different places and trails. So, the time spent getting out of camp is a premium and the day is less about the camping experience. For others hanging out and chilling is what meets the prime directive.

    But #vanlife and living out of a van is an entirely different "thing" and it's not for me. The van is a tool and a means to an end.

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    It's "vanlife" about *living* in your van? Taking trips is not the same...

  71. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    It's "vanlife" about *living* in your van? Taking trips is not the same...
    The thread title is about MTBR van life so I presumed it was about living in one's van for months if not years and mountain biking. Like this dude and his thousand day mtn bike road trip. https://runutsadventures.com/bike/

    His original mtbr thread which created a bit of a stir at the time was titled "my life is better than your vacation".

    What most find is that the #vanlife glamorous lifestyle of living in a van is not for them and they end up selling it, often at a loss.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dir-T View Post
    Around here, the Sprinter van "culture" is becoming the butt of jokes since many are used for day trips to the ski hill or trail head. Why do you need so much space just to put your ski boots on? They're becoming the symbol of conspicuous consumption that the Hummer H1 was.
    I see a lot of full sized pickups with campers/rooftop tents sporting "Not another Sprinter" bumper stickers around here. Which I think is amusing. I sold my truck and bought a Promaster, it's my daily driver, so it comes to the ski area with me. It's the same size as my truck was, cheaper than a truck/camper combo and gets better milage.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harryman View Post
    I see a lot of full sized pickups with campers/rooftop tents sporting "Not another Sprinter" bumper stickers around here. Which I think is amusing. I sold my truck and bought a Promaster, it's my daily driver, so it comes to the ski area with me. It's the same size as my truck was, cheaper than a truck/camper combo and gets better milage.....
    I'm not really the target audience for this article as I don't have a desire to live full time in a van, but this is my feeling too. So many people out there driving pickup trucks, but vans have the same footprint and are more useful in most situations (for me at least). Obviously if you're hauling dirt/hay/etc. a pickup is better, but having grown up doing work with both, I prefer vans for most things.

  74. #74
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    The nice thing about a van especially with kids is that you can freely move from the front seats to the living area. That's a pretty nice feature.

  75. #75
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    As far as I'm concerned a van is the most utilitarian vehicle there is. I've owned all sorts of vehicles but since buying my first van I've owned nothing but. Other than being self contained my #1 priority is access. The tranquility and beauty I can access with a van, even for a weekend, really goes a long way toward keeping me half sane. The ease, simplicity, and the proverbial getting away from it all is the closest definition to freedom I've experienced. In this evermore frenetic world it's no wonder (to me) this has caught on in a more main stream way.

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  76. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    The ease, simplicity, and the proverbial getting away from it all is the closest definition to freedom I've experienced.
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    One of my favorite movies:

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  78. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    ...the proverbial getting away from it all is the closest definition to freedom I've experienced...
    Oddly many feel they need to bring it all along with them...

    I "got away from it all" on weekends for a long time. It wasn't enough. I needed to get rid of everything to experience real freedom. No job, no residence, no wife/gf. No plans. No phone. No computer. No one knew where I was. Nothing to do, nothing to think about, nothing to be.

  79. #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockman View Post
    What most find is that the #vanlife glamorous lifestyle of living in a van is not for them and they end up selling it, often at a loss.
    Indeed...LOL


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  80. #80
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post

    That said, weíd love to see what other mountain bikers have done, what they love about their creations and what theyíd do differently if starting over.
    =sParty
    I have several friends who got bit by the #vanlife bug pretty hard, and all have done the Mercedes/Transit/Promaster conversion on their own for cheap. I pull a 37' toy hauler and our family of 4 (and 5 dogs) camp in luxury (king bed, 2 bunks, full size sleeper pullout) but it is a beast to tow and camp. My son will be 16 in June and we are starting to travel a bit for his High School MTB events, as well as racing all over the west. So I've been looking a bit and might go to the Denver RV show coming up here next week.

    If I were to do it all over, I'd look at a gently used 2017/2018/2019 FOREST RIVER FORESTER MBS 2401WSD. Put that into your google machine. Full length slide, 12-17+ mpg, diesel pulls in the mountains, etc.. Vanlife luxury edition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    As far as I'm concerned a van is the most utilitarian vehicle there is. I've owned all sorts of vehicles but since buying my first van I've owned nothing but. Other than being self contained my #1 priority is access. The tranquility and beauty I can access with a van, even for a weekend, really goes a long way toward keeping me half sane. The ease, simplicity, and the proverbial getting away from it all is the closest definition to freedom I've experienced. In this evermore frenetic world it's no wonder (to me) this has caught on in a more main stream way.

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    I prefer a truck for all this.

    But I don't want to LIVE in a truck, that's the only issue.

  82. #82
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    Several posts have discussed the use of a slide in camper on a pickup truck which is a common camping solution. However, these posts seem to imply that a pickup with a truck camper can be used in an off road situation. I have a 1993 four wheel pop top camper on its second pickup truck. It is on a 2500 HD duramax truck with 3500 pound air lift bags. The truck is a big 4wd and I run aggressive tires. Note that the four wheel camper differs from most truck campers by having a welded aluminum frame instead of undersized 2 x 2s but still requires slow and careful driving on rough backcountry roads.

    While my set up is about the best possible with an off road capable truck camper, it is still limited in where it can go. Leans (off-camber surfaces) limit us even with the lower center of gravity. With a big, say, Lance monster with slideouts etc you will not be doing any four wheeling. The truck poptop camper combination, while lighter by far than full sized truck campers, still weighs enough to need air bag suspension added. You can count on this for the big truck campers.

    Note also that most of the truck campers (and campers in general) are really poorly built and the tie downs are susceptible to ripping out of the side of the camper. When on rough roads, the campers sway and pitch violently and alarmingly. Even my poptop is tossed about on rougher roads. And, an F150 half ton will not do. For the poptop, I wouldn't think of a half ton and a big full sized truck camper will really require a one ton truck like an F 350. Tires? You will need to go several load ranges beyond what the truck came with. Campers are very heavy when filled with stuff and driving off road will kill stock tires asap. Add $400 or so when you buy tires.

    If you go with a truck camper, you also need a swing out rack to allow access to the rear door. I've had a few of these rack setups now and I've never found one that is rigid and stable enough for off roading beyond simple dirt roads. If I'm traveling alone, I can put my bike inside but then is has to be totally padded with pillows because the camper can really move around on a tough road.

    As for trailers, that fifth wheel the size of an aircraft carrier may be great to camp in, it doesn't drive well and it doesn't park well. Few backcountry camping sites are accessible to huge trailers and you're kind of relegated to RV campgrounds.

    I have a 20' travel trailer also and use it when staying a campgrounds for more than a few days at a time. After the poptop, even a 20 footer is luxury! If you're planning a real road trip with few stays longer than a day of two, a trailer is a huge ball and chain attached to your truck and a self powered camper is best.

    If I were looking for a new camper, there is no question that I would look for a 4wd MB sprinter with some lift and real tires. It would have a bike garage, a heater, a refrigerator, and solar setup. As for a toilet and a shower, it takes up a lot of interior space but can be a necessity for many campers. Like others posting in this thread, I use a 5 gal bucket with a toilet seat for poop and just anoint the trees with pee. A solar shower is great most of the year. I the winter, we do occasional sponge baths but will also stop at truck stops that have pay showers a few times a week if it is not swimming weather.

    Edit: My credentials. I've owned a 1961 and a 1976 westphalia, a diy 1973 chevy van camper, a popup tent trailer (total junk), a travel trailer, and the 4 wheel pop top. In 72 years, I've camped in tents, snow shelters, campers, trailers, backcountry cabins, sailboats, power boats, and even just outside when we didn't' make it out in the afternoon. Never had a motor home or a monster trailer though, not my style.
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    Quote Originally Posted by telemike View Post
    If I were looking for a new camper, there is no question that I would look for a 4wd MB sprinter with some lift and real tires. It would have a bike garage, a heater, a refrigerator, and solar setup.
    How offroad capable do think that would be? All the negatives you mentioned for truck campers will still be there, with less options for decent lift, suspension, tires, etc. Plus I've read a lot a bitching about the Sprinter engine... enough to scratch them off the list.

    I agree that the typical POS campers are not suitable for offroad (too heavy, cheaply built), but you can find ones that are... or build your own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2melow View Post
    ... might go to the Denver RV show coming up here next week...
    I think it was last week...
    What, me worry?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    How offroad capable do think that would be? All the negatives you mentioned for truck campers will still be there, with less options for decent lift, suspension, tires, etc. Plus I've read a lot a bitching about the Sprinter engine... enough to scratch them off the list.

    I agree that the typical POS campers are not suitable for offroad (too heavy, cheaply built), but you can find ones that are... or build your own.
    The 4wd sprinter would suck at tough off road - it would definitely be less capable than a lightweight camper on a big diesel truck. I do think it would off road better than a pickup with a 5,000 pound lance on the back. But, there are other reasons why I'd be willing to go sprinter. Like, the front seats can rotate and face backwards giving convenient and comfortable seating - think more space. There is no fabric portion between the camper body and roof like the poptops. That means they are warmer and much quieter to sleep in. Even if the neighbor is not the most courteous person in the world. And, the bikes would live inside and would be cleaner and safer. Dirt roads and bikes on the back of the truck means lots of bike cleaning and wear on the drivetrain.
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    You can get all that in a camper on a pickup (except for the swivel seats). You don't need to buy a little popup. The one I'm building has a internal storage for 2 bikes in back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    As far as I'm concerned a van is the most utilitarian vehicle there is.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    I prefer a truck for all this.

    But I don't want to LIVE in a truck, that's the only issue.
    Everyone has their needs, reasons and justifications for whatever they choose as their travel vehicle. For me, I often prefer access to the more remote locations and for that, I much prefer a truck. I defiantly don't wish to live in one, but I have spent multiple months traveling all over the U.S. in trucks with camper shells. Another preference is a roof deck above the camper shell. This is the primary sleeping deck and elevated party spot perfect for watching the sunset with a beverage of choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cleared2land View Post
    Everyone has their needs, reasons and justifications for whatever they choose as their travel vehicle. For me, I often prefer access to the more remote locations and for that, I much prefer a truck. I defiantly don't wish to live in one, but I have spent multiple months traveling all over the U.S. in trucks with camper shells. Another preference is a roof deck above the camper shell. This is the primary sleeping deck and elevated party spot perfect for watching the sunset with a beverage of choice.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I agree, I think the vehicle of choice is user dependent.

    This trailer I am temporarily living in is a good experiment on what I want and need for van living. Having had a truck (ex kept it), camping out of my car, and working as an HVACR contractor with a van, I do think the van is the way for me to go. And a van I can stand up in. As for trail access, I don't think I am going to go remote enough that I will need anything more than AWD or a rear locker. I learned a long time ago to always carry self extraction supplies (4x4 was an old hobby).

    If I had somewhere close to work I could safely park this trailer, I would buy it and my ex's truck (both would be project vehicles) and continue living like this. Best of both worlds!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    As for trail access, I don't think I am going to go remote enough that I will need anything more than AWD or a rear locker.
    IMO, if you are in something large enough to stand up in and live in comfortably, 4WD or AWD is a luxury unless you are planning to be in snow, ice, and mud regularly. If you are traveling in the west and moving with the seasons, that stuff is easy to avoid. I'd much rather have good ground clearance, tires, suspension, low gearing, and a locker. That's one reason I dislike the "modern" vans... they are too low to the ground with wee tires, and it's difficult and expensive to make them offroad worthy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    IMO, if you are in something large enough to stand up in and live in comfortably, 4WD or AWD is a luxury unless you are planning to be in snow, ice, and mud regularly. If you are traveling in the west and moving with the seasons, that stuff is easy to avoid. I'd much rather have good ground clearance, tires, suspension, low gearing, and a locker. That's one reason I dislike the "modern" vans... they are too low to the ground with wee tires, and it's difficult and expensive to make them offroad worthy.
    Strictly for my personal purpose, I'm not moving with the seasons (I am in the west), I'll be parking at work. Stealth is more important. And I would like to be able to access snow and mud places, though not insane conditions. I recently started rock climbing, and see myself getting into other hobbies where I will want to access, and exit, other places besides just MTB trails.

    I'm not looking at "off road worthy", I'm looking at something I can live in, and get me to places where I can enjoy my hobbies. Everyone's needs and wants are different. Clearly, mine and yours are not the same. I am in a union job with a pension and good vacation time, I don't intend to quit to get away from it all for weeks at a time and rough it. I'm just going to take trips, and save up more money to hopefully retire sooner than my pension kicks in. My Ford Fiesta can get me to most of the places I want to go now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    Strictly for my personal purpose, I'm not moving with the seasons (I am in the west), I'll be parking at work. Stealth is more important. And I would like to be able to access snow and mud places, though not insane conditions. I recently started rock climbing, and see myself getting into other hobbies where I will want to access, and exit, other places besides just MTB trails.

    I'm not looking at "off road worthy", I'm looking at something I can live in, and get me to places where I can enjoy my hobbies. Everyone's needs and wants are different. Clearly, mine and yours are not the same. I am in a union job with a pension and good vacation time, I don't intend to quit to get away from it all for weeks at a time and rough it. I'm just going to take trips, and save up more money to hopefully retire sooner than my pension kicks in. My Ford Fiesta can get me to most of the places I want to go now.
    I agree with Sidewalk here. I wouldn't plan to take my camper off roading no matter the type. I've been all around India and Central America in subcompact cars. You can get a lot of places with a little motivation and decent driving ability. Certainly most places I'd want to use as a biking basecamp. The only real reason I'm interested in the newer AWD Transits is because I also love to ski and would want to use a van as a basecamp for that too. Which means driving in the snow a good deal and dealing with slush at slow speeds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarcusBrody View Post
    I agree with Sidewalk here. I wouldn't plan to take my camper off roading no matter the type. I've been all around India and Central America in subcompact cars. You can get a lot of places with a little motivation and decent driving ability. Certainly most places I'd want to use as a biking basecamp. The only real reason I'm interested in the newer AWD Transits is because I also love to ski and would want to use a van as a basecamp for that too. Which means driving in the snow a good deal and dealing with slush at slow speeds.
    I agree with Sidewalk, too. One of my biking buddies has a 2WD Sprinter. Considering 4WD on my upcoming Transit, I asked him whether he felt 4WD is worthy. He told me that in his experience, whenever the road gets rough enough to need 4WD, his van is too huge and cumbersome to navigate such terrain.

    So the only reason I'd consider having 4WD is for traveling up & over local mountain passes between the valley I live in and Central Oregon (Bend, etc.) I'm not a skier; I'm retired so there's little motivation for me to get 4WD. I'd prefer to just wait out better traveling conditions. I've got the time.
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    Nobody in a 4x4 van is having much fun when 4wheeling. It's a means to an end like getting to a cool campsite. You have to work harder these days to do that. The reality for me is that my van sees 90% hwy miles vs 10% off road. But I do have that option and also a bail out. Say it rains all night or whatever, there is a less chance of getting stuck and much less stress when not in cell coverage or my family is on board.

    On the other hand a lifted 4x4 van hurtling down the highway is about as aerodynamic as a cinder block. It's all a tradeoff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    He told me that in his experience, whenever the road gets rough enough to need 4WD, his van is too huge and cumbersome to navigate such terrain.
    Roughness isn't where you need 4WD, rather lack of traction. The things I mentioned earlier are more important for traveling on rough surfaces. If you are on the road and living in town then it's not important, and AWD is good for snow and ice. 4WD isn't nearly as good for those conditions, as the steering suffers and it's hard on the drivetrain in turns if the surface isn't that slippery. My wife's Subaru is way better in that stuff (on the road) than my truck.

    My priority is getting to beautiful places in the boonies that are far from the crowds, and having enough space for two people to live comfortably. So lots of rough roads, ruts, ditches, sand, etc. But even if you just want to live and camp on BLM or NF land you're likely to be on crappy dirt roads quite a bit. A large vehicle won't be able to negotiate tight trails or thread through trees, and you need to be careful about tip-over... though people tend to way underestimate how far they can lean (avoid sudden movements!). Of course you need to have everything inside buttoned down tight also. A large vehicle can work but there are always tradeoffs.

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    Imo, avoiding mud and maybe even snow in the mountains is not all that predictable. Another thing not mentioned is pitch. It doesn't take a very steep pitch on a dirt or pea gravel road to turn a heavy converted van into the proverbial one wheel wonder and only takes 5 feet of road to ruin your day. Another thing I like to do with my van here in the PNW is drive to the middle nowhere on the beach. Build a nice fire, bbq, drink some beer and watch the sun set....in the clouds. From there it's a real short walk back to my bed to be lulled to sleep by the surf. Waking up on the beach and taking a stroll at first light along the ocean edge is amazingly calming. Again for me it's about the freedom these things afford, the more capable the better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    Roughness isn't where you need 4WD, rather lack of traction. The things I mentioned earlier are more important for traveling on rough surfaces. If you are on the road and living in town then it's not important, and AWD is good for snow and ice. 4WD isn't nearly as good for those conditions, as the steering suffers and it's hard on the drivetrain in turns if the surface isn't that slippery. My wife's Subaru is way better in that stuff (on the road) than my truck.

    My priority is getting to beautiful places in the boonies that are far from the crowds, and having enough space for two people to live comfortably. So lots of rough roads, ruts, ditches, sand, etc. But even if you just want to live and camp on BLM or NF land you're likely to be on crappy dirt roads quite a bit. A large vehicle won't be able to negotiate tight trails or thread through trees, and you need to be careful about tip-over... though people tend to way underestimate how far they can lean (avoid sudden movements!). Of course you need to have everything inside buttoned down tight also. A large vehicle can work but there are always tradeoffs.
    I was on this road in basically the Indian version of a Toyota Yaris with standard street tires. This wasn't the worst section of the road, but it's the only picture that I can find that features it.
    MTBR van life?-roughroad.jpg

    Anyway, I think people vastly underestimate what you can drive a regular car on. I agree that if you're going to be on sand things get tricky and 4wd becomes more important, but a rear locker and dropped air pressure will get you through a lot. Any of the modern vans with a set of decent tires will do the vast amount of forest roads I've been on. I also agree that given size constraints, such exploration would be more fun in a Jeep, but an extended wheelbase Transit only has the footprint of an F150 and I've driven those on similar roads. They're not gigantic vehicles even though they seem it just because of how much of the space within their footprint they take up.

    If I was just choosing an offroading/exploration vehicle, I wouldn't choose a van. But if I wanted a base camp, I wouldn't hesitate to drive even an unlifted version on the vast majority of NF and BLM roads I've ever been on (though I'm not from the desert SW, so I'm not sure about the surfaces there).

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarcusBrody View Post
    I agree that if you're going to be on sand things get tricky and 4wd becomes more important, but a rear locker and dropped air pressure will get you through a lot.
    I lived in my 2wd with open-diff truck for 13 years (starting in 1990) and encountered that a lot. Often the "road" to get somewhere was a dry ravine (sand wash). I was usually too lazy to air down to "sand level" (<10psi) since I could usually make it at "washboard level" (~25psi) if I kept the momentum up, and I had a crappy pump. The few times I got stuck, airing down and a bit of digging were enough. Once I also had to scrounge for stuff to stick under the tires. Anyway IME, 4WD is a luxury for most sand, not a necessity. A good pump would be more important.

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    THat's why I think it really just comes down to your needs and wants. I don't think there is a right or wrong vehicle, or way of doing it. Just the best for the individuals purpose.

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    Absolutely! That's why I think it's great for people to share their different experiences, so people starting out can get an idea of what they need.

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    I have traveled many miles on "4x4 only" roads and never used four-wheel drive. With the exception of mud, snow or deep sand, vehicle clearance is your most needed requirement.
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    There is a huge difference between 4wd on one hand and awd and 2wd on the other hand. To me, the most important feature of my big 4wd pickup camper when offroad isn't traction and isn't even clearance. Its the ability to put the truck onto 4wd low and creep. Until you've creeped a rough section of road, you won't understand just how valuable that ultra low gear is.
    My mantra: Hike, Bike, Paddle, Ski

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    You bet, having a granny gear can be an asset in rough sections. You can just idle through.
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    Torque converters have infinite crawl ratio

    I used to be into rock crawling, definitely abused that low range a lot

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    Quote Originally Posted by telemike View Post
    Its the ability to put the truck onto 4wd low and creep.
    This is true! Very nice feature. You can use momentum (done it countless times), but that's more risky.

    If you only have 2wd it's good to gear as low as possible and have an engine with enough torque to go slow, but it will never be as good as a typical low range.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarcusBrody View Post
    I was on this road in basically the Indian version of a Toyota Yaris with standard street tires. This wasn't the worst section of the road, but it's the only picture that I can find that features it.
    Truth! Growing up I had a 1984 Volvo 240 GL wagon, my buddy had a 1984 Totota 4Runner. While his was sweet and had solid front axles front/rear, 4wd, etc. I seemed to go everywhere he went. Literally. Never got stuck. It's all about picking the lines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rockman View Post
    The nice thing about a van especially with kids is that you can freely move from the front seats to the living area. That's a pretty nice feature.

    Hard to overstate this.

    I have a van that I converted to be a mtb/paddling roadtrip machine. I have zero interest in living in it, but spend 3 out of 4 weekends in it more or less year round, plus a ~week per season using it as a basecamp to explore a new-to-us zone.

    I *love* the idea of having 4wd for snow, but can't afford a 4wd Sprinter and the idea of going to a pickup-based setup and losing the ability to step out of the driver's seat and into the living room and beyond that to the bed -- all in my fuzzy slippers -- is so, so unappealing.

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    ^I'd also agree with that 100%
    A swiveling passenger seat makes that utilitarian aspect of a van even better. Not only can you park and simply walk into your sleeping living quarters but the swivel incorporates that driving space into very usable living space.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    ^I'd also agree with that 100%
    A swiveling passenger seat makes that utilitarian aspect of a van even better. Not only can you park and simply walk into your sleeping living quarters but the swivel incorporates that driving space into very usable living space.

    Also hard to overstate how much living space a swiveling passenger seat opens up in a van, especially on rainy/cold days when all doors are closed and everyone's inside.

    This is the first van I converted. On my second one now, with only minor changes. KISS was my guiding principle. I'd lived 8 months/year for many years in a ~30' class A RV during my pro racing days. Those RV days taught me a lot about what I didn't want to deal with, worry about, or have to maintain in my campervan.

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    The simplest way is always the best way imo. Simple has a pleiotropic effect in innumerable ways when it comes to boondocking out of a vehicle. In my line of work it never ceases to amaze me the lengths people will go to overcomplicate a process to which there are very simple and proven ways to accomplish the same goal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Also hard to overstate how much living space a swiveling passenger seat opens up in a van, especially on rainy/cold days when all doors are closed and everyone's inside.


    This is the first van I converted. On my second one now, with only minor changes. KISS was my guiding principle. I'd lived 8 months/year for many years in a ~30' class A RV during my pro racing days. Those RV days taught me a lot about what I didn't want to deal with, worry about, or have to maintain in my campervan.

    How are you still liking the Promaster?


    I'm leaning towards a Transit. I really want the new AWD (and the 10 speed). But I find the price tag hard to swallow, being such a cheap bastard. I'm just afraid I will regret not buying one the first time around as I plan to live in it full time.


    I'm going to go with a slow build out process, just building things as I feel the need for them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    How are you still liking the Promaster?

    Love the mileage. Love the torque in the hills and mountains. Love the size.

    It has some quirks. Like any vehicle I guess.

    Honestly my only real complaint is that my local CJDR dealer is so clueless that the warranty is all but useless. Common to take it in for some small covered-under-warranty thing and get it back with that thing not fixed, and something else now broken, bent, or otherwise not the same as when I dropped the van off.

    Not sure how you can effectively do this, but find out about your local dealer (whether Ford, Ram, whatever) and specifically their service dep't reputation before committing.

    The next closest dealer for me is 60 miles, one way. I've used them a few times, and been happy I did. But it basically means taking at least half a day off work to do that. Suboptimal, and for some a total dealbreaker.

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    Great subject.

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    Parking in remote areas how do you keep your bikes, kayaks and equipment from getting stolen?

    And have you had issues with safety/security?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rajflyboy View Post
    Parking in remote areas how do you keep your bikes, kayaks and equipment from getting stolen?

    And have you had issues with safety/security?
    I've never had a problem parking my car in remove places. Even leaving my tent setup, no evidence anyone has taken a look. And that was in not too remote where some questionable folk might go.

    I would be more concerned with security in the city.

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    I found the awning for my upcoming van -- awesome!
    SURESHADE
    Available in either electric or manual (pull-out). Inasmuch as I'll have a high van, guess I'll have to spring for the electric option. I'm tall but not that tall.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    I found the awning for my upcoming van -- awesome!
    SURESHADE
    Available in either electric or manual (pull-out). Inasmuch as I'll have a high van, guess I'll have to spring for the electric option. I'm tall but not that tall.
    =sParty

    Looks veddy nice. Any idea on pricing? Mandatory to hang it off of a rack, or can it run standalone?

  117. #117
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Looks veddy nice. Any idea on pricing? Mandatory to hang it off of a rack, or can it run standalone?
    Dunno. SureShade was purchased by Lippert Components this past October plus they recently built/moved into a new manufacturing facility, I'm not sure their feet are all the way on the ground just yet. SureShade comes from the marine side of outdoor products which is good -- marine stuff is way better than RV stuff.

    I did a little searching through their website and saw one model SureShade starting at $2300 retail but I think that one fit on a boat and I don't know which size it was or anything. They have a lot of different marine models and they're just getting into RV shades.

    I did find this video which shows how to install on a pickup cap if that helps.

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  118. #118
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    Interesting.

    I have a Fiamma awning on my van. Manual, and it takes ~3 minutes to deploy, from the time I turn off the key until I'm standing under shade.

    I paid ~$1100 including shipping, and installed it myself. I thought that was *a lot* for an awning, but I wanted it to be easy to deploy (see above) so that we would use it more often.

    And even though I live in a place with 320 days of sun per year, and use my van ~3 weekends a month on average, I probably still only use the awning 8 or 10x per year.

    The takeaway? Hell, I don't know. Maybe that I spent too much for something I didn't need. Maybe that I'm out riding or paddling during the day when the shade is needed, and too cashed to bother with it when I get back.

    Or maybe it's just to give you reason to think harder about how, where, and how often you'll use your van, to lend weight to (or against) whether you really need to spend that much $ on it.

    Separately, I have a buddy building a van out right now and he wants an awning. He mentioned 270* awnings as being super cool and I had to google them because they were new to me. And holy crap do I wish I had gone that route instead of the boring/analog awning that I have.

    Check 'em out. And dig deep to find some of the lesser knowns. I saw one (on insta, IIRC) that was super easy to deploy, and yet so burly that there was a pic of a dude in a hammock hanging from it, even though it didn't/doesn't have any support legs. Almost all of the others aren't even rated for light breezes, even with support legs.

    Edit: Bam.

  119. #119
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    Thanks for that -- until I followed your link, I wasn't even aware of 270* awnings. Very cool.

    We currently have a '95 Roadtrek w/Fiamma awning. As for actually employing our awning, we don't use ours all that much, either. In fact, living and camping as much as we do here in the PNW, we use our awning more when it rains than to hide from the sun as we're often camping in shady forests. But whenever it's raining, it's nice to be able to step out of the van into a dry, covered space.

    For this reason, I consider an awning a piece of van life gear that I'd prefer not to employ but wouldn't want to do without, similar to the way I look at say, leveling blocks. Good to have whenever needed.

    Anyway, thanks again for pointing me at the 270* awning option, Mike. I don't expect to acquire my new cargo van for about another year, then spend ~6 months building it out. I'll consider awning options available at that time. Maybe prices will have come down by then? Yeah, right.
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    Part of living in my van and slowly building out is to learn some of these lessons. But I can say that of all the times I have taken my car out on multi day trips, I never thought I was missing shelter when sitting out in my chair. So I imaging an awning will be a VERY low priority.

    Now I just have to figure out when, and what, to buy. The time is approaching.

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    I've been waffling on an awning as well. If I lived in a desert zone I would 100% own one. It makes a huge difference in boondock comfort in the sun vs here in the PNW imo. Another thing I wrestle with is strapping accessories to my van. I feel it can really stand out for a potential break in vs a plain Jane van. I want to mount some auxillary lighting and am very mindful of placement and sizing with that in mind.

    One thing I am a huge fan of though is a roof rack. I currently have a system one and absolutely love it. It makes mounting stuff like an awning for example really simple amongst many other uses. Here in the PNW you can find barely used high end awnings on CL for about 1/4 retail. When I #vanlifed it jobless I followed good weather. Bit different needs etc. than the wknd warrior I guess.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    Part of living in my van and slowly building out is to learn some of these lessons. But I can say that of all the times I have taken my car out on multi day trips, I never thought I was missing shelter when sitting out in my chair. So I imaging an awning will be a VERY low priority.

    Now I just have to figure out when, and what, to buy. The time is approaching.
    I hear you. The van itself is simply one item on the continuum of camping conveniences. So many compromises and priorities to consider -- exterior size/interior room, costs(!), "too much stuff" syndrome, etc.

    It's interesting to hear comments from different people as they reveal their personal priorities. Some say a van is too small or inconvenient, others feel it's too big or too much convenience. We each have to make our own way on this. Two years ago I was sleeping in a tent and cooking outside. I was not unhappy.

    Today I've been spoiled by van life.

    Best of luck as you make your decisions.
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  123. #123
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    I would be more concerned with security in the city.
    Same here. When I'm camping out of my van I'm either riding my bike or hanging out in camp with it. It's when we're stopped in towns for something that I worry about theft. If we're going to be away from the van for a while in those places we put the bikes inside where they can't be seen.

    In fact, it's pretty widely known in VW circles that Vanagons get stolen A LOT around PDX and Seattle. I'll probably never take my van to either place for that reason - but then again I never intended my van to be used in cities. The whole point is to be self-sufficient once we leave the house, stopping only for gas and maybe a brewery/distillery now and then.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Some say a van is too small or inconvenient, others feel it's too big or too much convenience.
    Just got back from a 12 day trip in the desert and it's amazing how few shits I give about pretty much everything when I'm out there. I didn't even bring a bike . One thing I do really care about is being able to get to remote places without destroying my vehicle. So 4WD (with low) high clearance, good tires, not too tall and nothing mounted on the roof (would get destroyed by tree branches), are all good. Simple, ample storage with convenient access, have just what you need...

    When I lived in my truck full time I had three setups; a little shell that was just enough to hold all my stuff (including two bikes) and sleep in (bed was 20" wide), a taller shell I made that high enough to sit up in and would fold out to a 36" wide bed (to accommodate a roomate) and a camper I build that mounted to the frame and was tall enough to stand up in. I think #2 was the sweet spot for height. If I want to stand up I can go outside, which is where I am nearly all the time anyway. The interior is just for bad weather and storing stuff. Cooking, cleaning, pooping, sleeping... all outside... unless there is really inclement weather then they can be done inside. But I moved with the seasons, so great weather was the norm.

    Anyway, I'm rambling about this because my wife decided she was of like mind, so I'm going to toss part of the camper I've already built and redesign it with less height and length and fewer "comforts".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    ...an awning will be a VERY low priority.
    If you are in the desert and it's hot and sunny, an awning can be very nice. I point my truck south and the rear door/hatch creates a big awning when it's up, so I've never felt the need for one. In the morning and afternoon the camper creates enough shade.

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    1995 E350, 7.3 PSD, Type III MiniMod

    Picked up my #VanLife "van" last week. It is a project, needs a lot of work. But the mechanicals seem pretty good. I'm going to start the mechanical inspection here this weekend and ordering parts for repairs and upgrades. Once I am satisfied that it is fully mechanically sound, I will start living in it part time to see what I need.

    I've been living in a travel trailer with no running water or heat since December, so I am figuring out what I can do without. Hard part is finding time to spend on repair work, as all my time is spent doing stuff I like to do already (besides work)

    Half hoping to get laid off due to the downturn so I will have spare time
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    Nice! If you leave the exterior as is, youíll be able to make good time while driving.

    My GF & I are in a Ď95 (Chev 3500 van) and it sure feels dated. Lousy suspension, bad handling, poor fuel economy, zero modern safety features. But weíre having fun with it anyway. Currently at Whiskeytown, CA, weíve been on the road for 3 weeks and thinking about staying out in the woods until a vaccine is developed.
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    Great project. Only issue I have is that those would be much less enjoyable to drive around the country than a van. Better than a Skoolie though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    thinking about staying out in the woods until a vaccine is developed.
    2 years?

    I traveled with a friend for awhile, he had an old Chevy camper van and I had an old 2wd Toyota truck with a shell I built. It might have just been our temperaments, but he refused to drive fast on rough roads... said his van could not take it. Seems like the van should be fine with some good shocks and upgrades.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    Nice! If you leave the exterior as is, youíll be able to make good time while driving.

    I'll keep the wig wags, just put in yellow


    I did want to name the van "Amber Lamps", but ended up with June.


    Quote Originally Posted by Andrewphoto View Post
    Great project. Only issue I have is that those would be much less enjoyable to drive around the country than a van. Better than a Skoolie though.

    They aren't so bad. My ex wife drove an "animal ambulance" years ago, I spent a lot of time behind the wheel. I don't remember it being any worse than the E250 I drove.


    Quote Originally Posted by rruff View Post
    said his van could not take it. Seems like the van should be fine with some good shocks and upgrades.

    I'm already planning on new aftermarket shocks and springs for mine

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparticus View Post
    ... thinking about staying out in the woods until a vaccine is developed...
    My dad was sent from NYC to stay at farm in PA during the 1918 pandemic. He was 5 at the time.

    I'm thinking maybe I should try to catch it sooner rather than later, before the hospitals are overwhelmed.
    What, me worry?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    My dad was sent from NYC to stay at farm in PA during the 1918 pandemic. He was 5 at the time.

    I'm thinking maybe I should try to catch it sooner rather than later, before the hospitals are overwhelmed.
    I just avoid the stupid virus.
    I do not like the orange color side effect.

  133. #133
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    I'm thinking maybe I should try to catch it sooner rather than later, before the hospitals are overwhelmed.
    Sooner is better than the peak... but after it's mostly over is best.

  134. #134
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    I have a 2017 Ram Promaster that I am building out DIY slowly and cheaply. Similar to Mikesee's (I even have his old rear view mirror, thanks again)
    It is not for #vanlife since I am not giving up my house, but we take long trips in it.

    Originally the whole point was so we could leave our dog in the vehicle while going for rides. That and I just don't sleep well in a tent. I love camping, but it just means that many nights of no sleep.

    The van has solved both issues. I sleep great and the dog stays uncooked. Last fall she was in the van while we did the Whole Enchilada. Van was parked in that City Market parking lot, so no shade. Outside temps were mid 80's by the time we got back, van was cool as a cucumber.

    To address some things I have read on this thread:

    No issues with cops banging on my windows, but love just being able to pull over and sleep especially when it is dark and you are tired.

    No issues with theft (knock on wood). Everything is inside the van. No external racks or anything. No additional windows besides the normal front windows and out rear door windows are heavily tinted and then have storage racks over them so you cant see in.

    No 4wd or awd issues. It is front wheel which is better than the MB or Transit since they are RW. I live in CO so it gets driven in the snow. It isn't the greatest, but when the AT tires I put on it were new it handled just fine.

    Ground clearance hasn't been an issue yet and if it is then I probably shouldn't be on that road with 8' tall narrow van.

    All and all I love the van. It is easier and cheaper to work on than the other two options, gets better mpg than my 4th gen 4runner I had.

    If I was 5'10 or shorter it would even be drastically more amazing.

  135. #135
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    I got stuck in the backyard.

    I guess my desire for AWD/4x4 was confirmed. First 10' I try and drive it, I get stuck

    I will be getting a locker and better tires. Also won't normally be driving it questionable locations, like back yards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    I got stuck in the backyard.
    I think airing down and putting on chains for mud would help... but I just avoided mud. Pretty easy to do in the US west.

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    Remember that your license plate needs to be fully visible so nothing like a bike rack and bikes on it to block a clear vision of the plate. Seems all too common and should be a hefty fine.

  138. #138
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt4x4 View Post
    Remember that your license plate needs to be fully visible so nothing like a bike rack and bikes on it to block a clear vision of the plate. Seems all too common and should be a hefty fine.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dwight K. Schrute.

  139. #139
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    Lol

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  140. #140
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    I just saw this the other day and think it should be shared with this thread:

    MTBR Posting Guidelines
    calories>electrons

  141. #141
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    I just saw this the other day and think it should be shared with this thread:

    That thing will scramble your eggs, no doubt.
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  142. #142
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt4x4 View Post
    Remember that your license plate needs to be fully visible so nothing like a bike rack and bikes on it to block a clear vision of the plate. Seems all too common and should be a hefty fine.
    Depends on the state. I got pulled over for it in Washington, but in Utah there is a specific law to protect you for having bike racks blocking the license plate.

  143. #143
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    I'm not sure of a justification for a heavy fine, but I've blocked my plate many many many times over the years and, fortunately, never got stopped or fined.
    What, me worry?

  144. #144
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmmUT View Post
    Depends on the state. I got pulled over for it in Washington, but in Utah there is a specific law to protect you for having bike racks blocking the license plate.
    I have a hitch rack and haven't been pulled over so far (knock on wood). Here in WA, there's a movement to allow racks that block the rear plate not being a violation. Not sure of its status right now.

  145. #145
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    Just go to a sticker shop and have them make a copy of your license plate. Then stick the sticker on a flat piece of metal or a flat spot on your carrier.

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  146. #146
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    Color copy and clear tape. Compare costs.
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  147. #147
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    I got stuck in the backyard.

    I guess my desire for AWD/4x4 was confirmed. First 10' I try and drive it, I get stuck

    I will be getting a locker and better tires. Also won't normally be driving it questionable locations, like back yards.
    Definitely curious on which direction you go for a locker and how much you end up spending as I'm waffling on the same decision.

    Lots of talk on capabilities in here but a loaded van with high load tires and 60-80psi will turn into the proverbial one wheel wonder right quick. Again on a gravel road it doesn't take much pitch to start spinning. As of now I'm a big fan of Cooper AT3's. Remarkably quiet and extremely well mannered on pavement for an all terrain mountain/snowflake rated tire. 60k tire to boot.

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    Hey RealDad, is your Promaster gas or diesel. I'm in the used market and would really prefer the diesel but they are hard to come by. So what do you have and how do you like it? Thanks.

  150. #150
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jing View Post
    I'm in the used market and would really prefer the diesel but they are hard to come by.
    I have a diesel Promaster, already built out with a bike-specific cook/sleep/thrive setup.

    Might not be exactly what you need, but I'll be selling it in ~4 weeks.

    Love it to death, but we just bought a new house in snow country, with a steep-as driveway, and while the PM is great in the snow this driveway is 4WD-only all winter. Gotta get something 4WD.

    Ping me if interested.

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    Mike, thanks for the offer, I've seen your PM and your build-out is along the lines of what I would do. However, I think I would enjoy the design/build process too much to miss out on it.

  152. #152
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    Lots of talk on capabilities in here but a loaded van with high load tires and 60-80psi will turn into the proverbial one wheel wonder right quick. Again on a gravel road it doesn't take much pitch to start spinning. As of now I'm a big fan of Cooper AT3's. Remarkably quiet and extremely well mannered on pavement for an all terrain mountain/snowflake rated tire. 60k tire to boot

    My Promaster is ~7k pounds when loaded for our average ~week out. ~3900# on the front axle. Front wheel drive.

    59k miles and I have yet (touches wood) to get stuck in snow, mud, or sand. Some of that is being cautious about where we pull off of maintained roads. Some of it is being delicate with the throttle when things are soft. Some of it is surely luck.

    And some of it is undoubtedly that this front wheel drive vehicle with a *lot* of weight on the front axle is suprisingly capable. I've gotten stalled out behind Civics and Accords and other FWD sedans that have spun out on icy/snowy climbs. Parked the van, got out, helped push them off to the side, their front tires spinning all the while. Got back in my van, put it in first, and (delicately) crept right up what had stopped them cold. This happens with some regularity every winter. Point simply being that I don't think all 2WD vans are equal.

    I tried BFG KO2's for ~5k miles -- after finding some reason to choose them over the Cooper's. Lost over 5mpg across the board. That still put me in a few mpg's higher than a Sprinter gets with street tires, but still -- that loss seemed completely unacceptable/irresponsible, especially given that I couldn't tell any difference in performance anywhere. I liked the way the KO2's looked but that was the only tangible (?) benefit.

    So I had the tire shop swap them for some Michelin LTX's. I run 'em at 55psi to give a smoother ride. I still get ~23-26mpg in average/mixed driving conditions. I've gotten as high as 31mpg on two-laners when keeping it around 60mph. I never once got above 19mpg with the KO2's.

    Point simply being that unless you're getting a specific snow tire like a Blizzak I'm not sure it matters much for traction, but holyeffingholy does it make a difference with mileage.

  153. #153
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jing View Post
    Mike, thanks for the offer, I've seen your PM and your build-out is along the lines of what I would do. However, I think I would enjoy the design/build process too much to miss out on it.

    Careful what you wish for...

    It was intensely satisfying to build this one out, no doubt. But man -- it takes so much longer than you think it will. If you're the patient type that enjoys the process this just makes that process last that much longer, which is its own gratification.

    I'm the type that would rather be out riding, or boating, or simply sleeping under the stars. For me it took way too long...

    Good luck with it!

  154. #154
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jing View Post
    Hey RealDad, is your Promaster gas or diesel. I'm in the used market and would really prefer the diesel but they are hard to come by. So what do you have and how do you like it? Thanks.
    Mine is gas. I was originally looking at diesel MB and the maintenance costs on them was ungodly. Additionally, I don't have anyone in my valley who really works on diesel, so if something did go wrong I would have to get it towed pretty far away.

    Lots of people have diesels and like them, but they are hard to find and I could be wrong but I think they stopped making a diesel version in 2020, so that tells you something.

    I like my van greatly and it gets great gas mileage IMO for what it is. I get about 18-20mpg combined on a somewhat loaded 159 High Roof van. Again better than my 4th gen 4runner.

    If you are having problems finding vans near you, do a nationwide search and buy last year or a few years ago model from a dealer. I was able to get a 2017 at the end of 2017 with low miles and a better than new warranty for about $15k less than a new van. I hopped on a plane, picked it up and drove it home. Pretty easy. I think the important part is to get it from a reputable dealer with a solid FCA warranty. My friend did what I did but bought it private party and got burned.

    Oh and try to buy at least a 2016 on up version. Earlier versions were new and so had some problems that got ironed out.

    Here is a little thread to go over, but I would check out this forum and read through it if you haven't already.
    https://www.promasterforum.com/threa...cate-me.56130/

  155. #155
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    I know all about taking longer than you think it should. I started building a house last July and hope to move in a June. Not only does it take longer, but it costs more than you think it should.

    Realdad, thanks for the info. I'm generally a big diesel fan, but like I said they are hard to find. How is the gas version for powering up hills?

  156. #156
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    It is great. I live on one side of a mountain pass and my family is on the other. It goes over it just fine

  157. #157
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post

    And some of it is undoubtedly that this front wheel drive vehicle with a *lot* of weight on the front axle is suprisingly capable.
    I'm going with that, at least vs a pre Transit Ford van with an open diff. Speaking of which is that what's in the Promaster? I'm guessing it has at least some anti-slip brake lock tech?

    Those LTX's are damn nice tires as well. I can't speak to them regarding mileage vs the Cooper's. In 15k on the Cooper's my average is 15.4 mpg with mostly city driving. I got exactly 17.2 on my Moab trip this past summer. Coincidentally 17.2-17.4 is what I got in my 93 with a 6cyl and 2001 e250 with a 5.4 over 24-27k respectively on big xcountry trips with different tires. Conservative all terrain tires seem to be of little consequence on van generations predating the more efficient drivetrains. Though my 2011 is much heavier than my past 2 full size vans.

    With all that said I'd still prefer a more aggressive tire for the adventure portion of life my van sees. So in that regard I agree with you. The Cooper's were a big improvement to what I bought it with though, and highway comfort is truly impressive.

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  158. #158
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    People frown on others living out of their vehicles. How can one beat free rent! The only issue for some is taking a dump, but a home depot bucket is good enough but what about the females in da house, simple cushioning around the top edge is not sufficient to calm their nerves. Go all out for an actual toilet seat that wont wobble or break off. As for #1 for the guys in da house, the bottles with the wide opening, like Gatorade bottles. It always amazed me that no matter how much I drank I could never get 1L full on one go.

  159. #159
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    probably too big a file size...?
    All the gear and no idea.

  160. #160
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    Earth roamer is best

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  161. #161
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    ^^^^ The best for what?
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  162. #162
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    Draining your bank account and small penis compensation.

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  163. #163
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    Draining your bank account and small penis compensation.

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    Leave Picards small penis out of this.
    DAAAANG...that was janky

  164. #164
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    So a combination of "commitment issues" and Covid, my van has been slow moving. Took forever to get the registration paperwork sorted, got that now. Now I am trying to get insurance.

    Unfortunately as it looks like an ambulance, and I am not doing a full strip down conversion of the interior, insurance might be a hassle. What have you guys done?

  165. #165
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    So a combination of "commitment issues" and Covid, my van has been slow moving. Took forever to get the registration paperwork sorted, got that now. Now I am trying to get insurance.

    Unfortunately as it looks like an ambulance, and I am not doing a full strip down conversion of the interior, insurance might be a hassle. What have you guys done?
    As soon as COVID hit my intentions to buy a new Ford Transit long & high to convert got put on the back burner. Gonna stick with the olí Roadtrek for a while longer.
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  166. #166
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    A lot of people without a permanent residence will register their motorhome in South Dakota. My understanding is this is quite easy and makes insurance and plate issues really simple.

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