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Talmadge Mooseman

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Talmadge Mooseman

I'm driving a front-wheel drive car right now, and as I get more into this research thing I realize I need a better vehicle for navigating rugged terrain.

 

I don't really care if it is an SUV, pickup or other, but any suggestions?  I don't want a real big vehicle, but big enough to lie down in (I'm 6'2").  Thanks.

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SWWASAS

Depends on where you live but in the National Forest in the West, road maintenance is terrible to none.    I have a full sized 4 X 4 pickup and at times have needed the 4 wheel drive to navigate the roads that are washed out, have huge water/mud  filled potholes,  etc.    I in the winter of course I deal with some snow although I avoid going out in storms.     Some sort of 4 wheel drive is good but not necessarily something very big.    It need not be new, and probably better it isn't because getting scratched up with blackberry bushes and brush is common.    But if used you want something reliable.   While they are not 4 X4 I have thought about getting a smaller old Uhaul box truck or van.   That would allow sleeping without the hassle of a tent.   I am starting to see surplus military vehicles in civilian hands.    Not sure of the reliability and suspect they get terrible gas mileage.      A camper is overkill,   expensive, and unstable on side sloping roads.   A simple shell allows sleeping and shelter    I mention reliability because many areas I go have no cell phone coverage.    If you break down you will have a long walk to either get out or up to where there is cell phone coverage to call for help.    A lot of factors at play:   where you are,   what you want to do,   and how much you intend to spend out at night.  

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Redbone
SSR Team

I have a 99 Suburban that is well suited for this. I bought a foam tri-fold mattress which fits nicely when the middle seats are folded down. I've slept about 4 nights in it already and Unlike my camper I can see out in many directions as I lay there. Wind and rain don't bother my sleep. I calculated and a Tahoe would also be long enough to fit my mattress and myself, just have to be sure the seats fold flat. The 4wd is plenty capable of handling some of the "not roads" that we go on. It has third row seating but I leave it at home to make room. Plus it's old and ugly so getting scratches from tree branches does not bother me.

 

Hill Climb.jpg

Edited by Redbone
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Talmadge Mooseman

Thanks to both who have replied thus far.  I am looking for something that I can drive around town, too.  So, a Suburban would work as would a pickup.

 

Are all 4WD vehicles created equally as far as getting through the mud and stuff.  I'd assume bigger tires would be better than smaller ones, though more expensive.

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SWWASAS

If you intend to operate in snow you need ground clearance.   I have a Subaru Outback I do not take out but when I bought it, even though all Subarus are 4WD, the salesman did not recommend a couple of their vehicles if I intended to drive in snow very much.  They have low clearance and in deep snow have issues with snow scraping the bottom and impeding traction.  Bigger tires not needed but you need some good aggressive tread mud and snow tires.   Makes a big difference over the ones I ran before that came with the truck.       

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Airdale

If you don't otherwise need a pickup, I'd recommend a Suburban type. A pickup will need extra weight in the box for good traction from the rear tires; even with a limited slip differential or traction control the rear end will break loose on corners regardless of road surface or weather conditions with an empty box.

 

Our first "camper" was a 2WD '68 Suburban purchased from my father-in-law for $500 right after Linda and I married in '77. It was originally a Mountain Bell fleet vehicle, olive drab with the 292 straight six and compound low. It was a 3 door, having a rear door on the passenger side only, to access the back seat. I pulled the back seat out, installed 2" foam on the 6' rear deck with carpeting on top, put 1" styrofoam on the walls and ceiling then panelled the walls, added a nice headliner and built a wooden cabinet with a door, 2 shelves and a 3 place rifle rack opposite the rear door.

 

I took that rig a number of places that scared Linda and a couple that left me questioning my sanity. After a couple trips to Lost Lake in the Bitterroot Mountains, the brush scratches gave a kind of mottled camo vibe. Once I mastered double clutching to drop into granny gear on the fly, it took me everywhere desired and back again. With chains, it cut trail through 12" plus of snow for more than one Christmas tree. When we started trailer camping with the kids in '91, it hauled a 17' Shasta, then a 19' Wilderness with ease. We had that truck for 18 years, finally selling it for $300 in 2005. The folks that bought it drove it daily, and I'd see it periodically over the next 3 or 4 years. We've had 2 Suburbans since, nice outfits, but nothing like the old green beast for sheer guts.

 

 

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wiiawiwb

I'd reconsider the requirement to lie down in the vehicle.  That would open up a number of other vehicles particularly a Wrangler. If you're set on the sleep option, a Suburban style vehicle would work. I've had three 4-Runners and could sleep in all of them with the back seat folded down. An older pickup truck with a cap is another option.

 

I have a new Outback which I had outfitted with skid plates. It will never be a Wrangler but has gotten me to places I was very surprised it could go. I can sleep in the back of it although not fully stretched out.

 

In the end, if you want to be able to fully extend your 6'2" frame your choices are limited. Unless you'll be out every weekend in the vehicle, I'd compromise the stretch-limo criteria in favor of a more practical vehicle.

 

If I were starting fresh, and wanted off-road capability, I'd get an FJ Cruiser with killer tires.

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MIB

"Nothing is created equal."   You're asking questions about stuff I've researched pretty hard.   You may not like some of my conclusions.

 

If you want hard sides at night, you're going to need a truck with at least a 6-1/2 foot bed and a shell.   At 5'9", I bash my head and feet both inside a 6 foot bed.   If you don't mind a bit more exposure, then a 6 foot bed with a shell can work ... there are a couple of "tents" on the market which enclose the open end of a canopied truck with the tail gate down.    This means that though tight you might get away with a compact (if you can still call a Nissan Frontier or Toyota Tacoma compact ... they've grown) truck with a shell.   Otherwise, plan for a full size half ton or bigger truck with a shell.   

 

I was not quite able to lay out comfortably inside one of the 4-door jeep wranglers with the back seats down / forward.   If you're 5 inches taller ... forget it. 

 

I'm contemplating what to do next.   I've got a 4-door Tacoma with the 5 foot bed.   No real way to make it work.  I find a couple trees, suspend one end of a big tarp between them, and stake out the other end to the ground, then put a backpacking tent under one edge so I can get in and out dry.   That may prove a better solution than any vehicle but I still have to walk around it and look for improvements.   One of the things I'm considering is trading the truck for a 2 door jeep wrangler (back to my roots) and a pop-up trailer but the jeep is limited to 2000 pounds towing.   Another option is just to go big, get an F250 short bed, flat bed it, and get one of All Terrain Campers' flat bed models.   

 

There is no truly right answer, you're going to have to juggle issues / tradeoffs and find the best compromise for you.

 

MIB

 

 

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norseman

Top tent?

8F8341D0-6341-42BF-B841-330884117E2F.jpeg

 

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SWWASAS

Let me throw out an idea that has been churning in my head for a while.    After I make a confession.  Confession first:   When I decided that some areas were so remote that I needed to camp to not spend half of my life going back and forth to a research area, I researched and found a small hard sided pop up trailer.    Alpine Expedition,  well equipped,  high clearance, intended for back country camping,  and 20 + grand.   It only weighs 2058 lbs so can be towed by a smaller vehicle.     I have camped in it but have not done remote off road camping.    I might if I had research partners.    After some of my later experiences with BF, the thought of being solo in the remote woods at night with resident BF who might not want me there is terrifying to me.    OK I am a chicken!  But I have heard an adult BF coming right at me.      Just the thought of taking a trailer down some logging roads I use where you have to go miles just to turn the truck around only gets worse when I think of needed to turn around pulling a trailer.    These are for the most part one lane roads.    You meet a logging truck going the other way and you are the one they expect to get out of the way.   I have ended up backing up for a long ways.  

 

On the other hand it would be good to have some sort of sleeping arrangement in the back of my truck should I choose to.   Camper is too heavy and unstable.    Camper shell is better but sleeping in one is a problem due to the 6.5 foot bed and low height.   Looking at my pop up camper there has to be a way to get some sort of thing that pops up in the back of the bed of the truck and when under way is folded down flat like my trailer does.    Hard sided is heavy and some campers like that exist already.     TV commercials tout some latex products that are water proof.     How about a coated canvas cover,  over a light wood frame,  that normally rides flat in the back of the truck allowing visibility out the back window?  When you want it up,  you fold up a covered wagon type hoop frame that makes a roomy waterproof shelter in the back of the truck.    Could even have windows.     No ropes, ground cloth, rain flys,  or dealing with a wet tent that usually manages to leak.    Anyway I doubt I will ever make the thing but some clever  and tool handy person might for the fraction of the price of a pop up trailer or in the bed camper.   

I have seen those Norseman.     Think Subaru has one for their vehicles.      It is pretty handy for BF.   It does not even need to stoop over to mess with you.   Can look straight in.  :D   That cannot be good for the top of your truck.  

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MIB

So .. RTT .. roof-top tents .. pretty good idea with a couple cautions / caveats.   First, you need a place to set them up so they're fully dry before storing them because wet tents mold and rot.   Second, access is often via ladder.   Certain older, less flexible, heavy, or less nimble people are at risk of falling injury.  


At the moment, I don't have a space to dry one.   My "new" GF has a 3 car garage, plenty of space, BUT ... I don't think she is nimble enough to be on a ladder.  :(   I've been studying RTTs for 4-5 years.  My situation has both improved and worsened so far as choosing one.

 

At one point, CVT out of Bend, OR made a hard-side pop up RTT.   Would have been an interesting option.  I believe there are a couple similar units still imported from Australia / New Zealand.  

 

Real truck campers are not that bad .. if selected wisely.   The pop-up campers like All Terrain Campers (and a couple others) fold down to near cab height and the center of gravity is low, between top of the truck bed and top of the cab depending on features.   For anything that was ever a surfaced road .. gravel or pavement .. should not be an issue.   The full / fixed height campers are more top-heavy especially those with top-mounted A/C uits.  

 

Another option ... do a web search on Flip-Pac shells.   Essentially a slightly heavier shell which folds forward and over the cab once you're at camp.  

 

I don't think there is an ideal one-size-fits-all solution.    What's going to work for me probably isn't best for you ... shoot, it's likely that what works best for me in summer isn't going to work all that well for me in winter.  

 

MIB

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NathanFooter
20 hours ago, Talmadge Mooseman said:

Thanks to both who have replied thus far.  I am looking for something that I can drive around town, too.  So, a Suburban would work as would a pickup.

 

Are all 4WD vehicles created equally as far as getting through the mud and stuff.  I'd assume bigger tires would be better than smaller ones, though more expensive.

 

 I have done research out of a truck, a car and an SUV.  An SUV is the best choice as you can sleep in the back with your audio and video systems mounted to the car and should you leave to hike or investigate, your items are more secure.

 

 Also you have room to respond should something come into camp.  The space in the back allows you have the rear windows down about 4 inches for thermal observation.

 

I would suggest AWD or 4X4 if you can put the cash into it,  the majority of prolonged  encounters happen at the last most difficult to access campsite in the valley along a river pathway or powerline..

 

 Some models to consider would be Toyota rav4, Toyota 4runner, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep grand Cherokee and the Ford Explorer. 

 

 All of these vehicles have enough space and the off road capabilities for research can be made into great glamping/car camping rigs. The Toyota are great across all years, jeeps from 1999 and up are fairly good and the Ford explorer is great from 2004 and up.

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Airdale

If you're looking at a newer full size SUV, check out a 2017 or later Nissan Armada. They're now based on what Nissan sells as the Patrol in the rest of the world. If you aren't familiar with the name, it's what you're likely to see, along with Toyota Land Cruisers and Land Rovers when roaming places where a sat-phone is the only method of communication. They seem to be quite popular in Australia, and the photos from there generally show them with snorkels and brush bars.

 

They are the lowest cost of the full size group, starting about 46k new with AWD. Tow rating is 8,500 lbs. We're getting back into trailering to take the grand-kids out and found a 2017 with 21,750 miles in Idaho Falls for $32k. We're pairing it up with one of the back country built trailers from Outdoors RV in Oregon.

Edited by Airdale
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BC witness

For the last 4 years, I used an '05 Chev Trailblazer EXT (extended 7 seat model) for my outings. With the 3rd row seats removed and the 2nd row folded, there was enough room for me, at 5'10", to stretch out in the back. It was a good backroad explorer, made even better by adding a 2.5" lift kit and 31" tires. These were made from '02 through '09, and decent  low milers are in the 6 -10K range.

 

Just a month ago, I traded it in on a Mitsubishi Outlander plug in hybrid SUV, which I can still  sleep in with the rear seats folded, but only diagonally in the flat area. The up side to the new rig is vastly improved fuel mileage, up from about 16 mpg  in the Chev, to the high 40s in the hybrid. The downside is somewhat reduced rough trail capability due to lower ground clearance.

 

More later, gotta go now.

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PBeaton

Well...never did learn how ta drive...so I'd go with this set up...minus the rifle. 

bigfoot mobile.jpg

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