Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the tag “Four Wheel Campers”

Hoo Boy…

Somethin’s happenin’ here. What it is ain’t exactly clear…

I just discovered that Four Wheel Campers has been sold to a San Francisco-based private equity firm, Salt Creek Capital, as of September of last year. That is ordinarily the death knell of a company where the assets are perceived as more valuable than the operating business and its potential profitability. Most such firms basically gut the company, selling off assets and laying off employees until the business is no longer viable and is forced to either close or merge with another firm that can use the name for token goodwill. It seems that Tom Hannigan, owner of Four Wheel for some 15 years, began to give some thought to retirement and, being a businessman, decided to cash out. I’d met him in May of 2016, and he struck me as a sincere and stellar individual. He as owner has been responsible for taking Four Wheel Campers from an okay Read more…

State of the Intrepid – Solar Power Mods

You want trauma? Try drilling and sinking sheet metal screws into a pristine, seamless 1-piece top.

You want trauma? Try drilling and sinking sheet metal screws into a pristine, seamless 1-piece top sheet, where every screw must intercept a supporting thinwall rib somewhere underneath. And it’s up to you to figure out exactly where those aluminum ribs might be.

The Grandby by default came with an electrical system intended to be powered off the Ford’s twin starting batteries. This is not a bad way to go if you travel a little each day, don’t use much power, and preferably swap in some Optima AGM deep cycle batteries under the hood to deal better with the dual-purpose stresses. Lots of overlanders do this, but it starts to make less sense once you begin to stay planted, use more power, and/or don’t care to lug along a generator and gas can. Stranding your own vehicle by depleting its starting battery is seldom advisable.

I recommend wiring an inexpensive digital DC voltmeter to your battery to get a rough idea of its state of charge. This one is simply perched on top of a Samlex 150-watt pure sine inverter, which allows even sensitive electronics to run safely. It uses less than 6 watts at idle by itself. Since Samlex recommended 10-gauge wire for my length of hookup wire, that's what I used. No unpleasant surprises.

I recommend wiring an inexpensive digital DC voltmeter to your battery to get a rough idea of its state of charge. This one is perched on top of a Samlex 150-watt pure sine inverter.

I was already sitting on five 3-year-old AGM batteries, as well as a suitable solar charge controller and four 200-watt solar panels. Whoops, overkill! Right? A distinct lack of storage space and roof acreage prompted me to keep just four of the batteries and the controller. Couldn’t I make do with fewer batteries? Yes, definitely. Just two 104Ah batteries would possibly Read more…

State of the Intrepid – Options & Standards

The built-in propane stove is pretty handy, and a flush-mount model is also available.

The built-in propane stove is pretty handy, and a flush-mount model is also available.

Options are always an individual thing, and some equipment has been made standard since I ordered my Grandby. The standard two-burner gas cooking range works well, and its diminutive size does not compromise cookware that can be used on it. Only if you use two huge pots at a time or need more than 10K BTUs per burner will you need to go a’campin’ with an outside stove.

Yup, it's filthy. I use a screen in the drain to put less food waste into the tank, and to slow clogging of the line out.

Yup, it’s filthy. I use a screen in the drain to put less food waste into the tank, and to slow clogging of the line out.

The deep stainless steel sink is a mix of blessing and curse. To the good, it’s stainless, and cleans up easily. Its Whale faucet has good controls as well as a spout which can be twisted side-to-side and adjusted from spray to steady stream. This adjustability to task decreases water usage quite a bit – nearly halving it, in fact. And the water pump supplying it has quite a wallop, if you need it. The water pump in my unit was Read more…

State of the Intrepid – Camper Bed Mounts

Camper mounts may be the least glamorous part of any truck camper, but are functionally the most important.

Camper mounts may be the least glamorous part of any truck camper, but are functionally the most important.

“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is a saying that also applies to truck camper mounts. The camper does not wedge tightly into the truck bed, but has plenty of clearance. It’s then effectively strapped down tight to the flat bed surface. In the case of Four Wheel campers, the goal is to keep it pulled fully forward so that slamming on the brakes affects nothing, and keep it centered and otherwise down tight so it can’t shift around. Fortunately for me, the Mighty Furd is wearing a Line-X urethane bed coating that has a rough surface which helps friction. The camper is pretty easy to slip-n-slide on painted metal, but mine took three guys and an incline to coax it to move when it had to be reset in the bed. I recommend any such urethane spray, or a much less expensive full-width rubber mat on the floor only. Plastic bed liners should not be used.

I had some early problems with the camper shifting in the bed, with damage to one Read more…

State of the Intrepid – Introduction

Once you start hanging extras onto your rig, it can get sizable indeed! Note that the e-bike just clears the path for mail delivery, and the rear cargo box can't be swung out without opening the garage door.

Once you start hanging extras onto your rig, it can get sizable indeed! Note that the e-bike just clears the path for mail delivery, and the rear cargo box can’t be swung out without opening the garage door.

I thought that it might be high time to say what it’s really like to live inside my FWC Grandby, with as little cognitive bias (the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has already selected) or buyer’s remorse (no definition needed) as I can muster. After all, such sources as The Sales Blog notes, “Buyers don’t make logical, rational buying decisions. They make emotional decisions and then justify those decisions by rationalizing them after the fact. This is true even if they use a spreadsheet to evaluate suppliers and solutions.” Sadly, I’ve found this to be true. Much like scientists, we vote with our hearts or when hemmed in by circumstance, and then rationalize like crazy to convince ourselves that our decision was sound.

But I don’t think you want to simply hear how great or awful this Four Wheel product is, as in evangelizing for the brand. I can wax ecstatic and propagandize as well as the next guy, but I think you want to get an idea of what about it works well, what’s okay, what’s a nuisance, and what’s a flaw – at least in one person’s opinion. Perhaps of good value is to find out how the Read more…

Wandering the Overland Expo 2016

When the weather goes bad, equipment choice and deployment make the difference between dependability and dumpster fodder. Sometimes it's best to learn from others' experiences.

When the weather goes bad, equipment choice and deployment make the difference between dependability and dumpster fodder. Sometimes it’s best to learn from others’ experiences!

As you may have guessed, the above scene was taken in the area I was camped in. The wind advisory yesterday was for gusts up to 50 MPH, and the tall trees blocked some of it, but not all. The one camper I’d talked with in the Expo camping area on Thursday was not aware of what was forecast, and when I returned to see the show on Friday, even the canopy used at the day pass sign-in checkpoint had been blown away. I’d assumed that they had taken it down as a precaution, but the volunteer there told me, “Nope, it took off.” Fortunately, the tight pack-together and a line of tall pines at one edge of the display area broke enough of the 25 MPH average that the vendors seemed to be doing well – even the awning people.

Biking further down towards town showed this classic overlanding combo.

Biking further down towards town showed this classic overlanding combo. it looks appealing, but considering the nightly lows in the high-30s, it’s for hardier stock than I am.

What follows is not at all a comprehensive overview of this year’s Expo. It’s just the few things that drew my attention. Read more…

Propane Run Gone Wild

The Mighty Evelo Aurora, ready for duty.

The Mighty Evelo Aurora, ready for duty.

Thursday morning, one of the Grandby’s two 10-pound propane canisters finally ran out, and I figured that was my excuse to mount up and get it refilled in the little village of Mormon Lake. Occasional sprinkles of rain marred the departure, but it finally departed for good and I took off on the e-bike. That in turn gave me an excuse to tour the parking/camping area set aside for the Overland Expo that starts the next day. The parking this year is more orderly, being set along parallel rows.  However, it also seemed to cut capacity, and by the time I got there about 2 PM, they were already nearly full. Between that and the forest area where I am, I suspect that Read more…

Climb Mount Niitaka!

The top section of the ascent.

The top section of the ascent.

Well okay, what I’ve nicknamed Mt. Niitaka is actually a high hill on the outskirts of the Hassayampa River Canyon Wilderness at Wickenburg, Arizona, where Rincon Road plays itself out into other dirt paths. The lower approach going up the hill is actually the worst as far as pitching and heaving goes, mainly because it looks flat, but isn’t. You don’t know it’s coming, and a walking pace is way too fast. Then, suddenly, the truck is tipping left and right with a vengeance, and for no apparent reason.

This is the basic approach up the mountain, which I previously wasn't able to climb in 2WD on all-season street tires. Now, with the camper in back and some serious Coopers, it's do-able, with slippage. 4WD low makes it much easier all-around.

This is the basic approach up the mountain, which I previously wasn’t able to climb in 2WD on all-season street tires. Now, with the camper in back and some serious Coopers, it’s do-able, with slippage. 4WD low makes it much easier all-around.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This “day of the climb” began an hour and a half north, in Prescott AZ. My delivering dealer for my FWC camper, Adventure Trailer, was to reposition the camper in the bed of the Ford Super Duty, A.K.A the “Mighty Furd”. It’s rearward end had somehow Read more…

Intrepid Solar, Part 1

Roof beams marked in pen, the first solar panel is taped to protect paint, and placed about where it is planned to go.

Roof beams marked in pen, the first solar panel is taped to protect paint, and placed about where it is planned to go.

Technically, the Intrepid’s solar system is fully up and rolling. I’m calling this post “Part 1″ because there’s still no place to stow the two Renogy 100-watt ground panels.

This is a long post. The executive summary is that three Aleko 100-watt solar panels and one 60W panel are now roof-mounted on the Four Wheel Grandby, using four pairs of 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 31″ aluminum L-angles that each span three structural roof beams. #8 x 1/2” self-tapping stainless steel screws were used as the fasteners. The roof panels feed a Morningstar TriStar MPPT 45A charge controller liberated from the Defiant, while the ground panels supply an Outback Smart Harvest MPPT 20A controller. A Battery Life Saver desulfator is wired in as well, controlled by an LED-lighted toggle switch. Four 104Ah Sun Extender AGM batteries have been stuffed into the Grandby’s bench seats. A rather complex wiring scheme has been used to minimize unequal draw and charging among the four batteries, with equally elaborate fusing to protect all positive and some negative cables running between the two benches. A 150-watt Samlex pure-sine inverter handles all AC power needs. There you go.

For those of you who are gluttons for punishment, here’s the nitty gritty. I was originally going to install one of Read more…

The StowAway Cargo Box

This cargo box is mounted to the rear hitch receiver. How am I going to get in and out of the camper? Good question!

This cargo box is mounted to the rear hitch receiver. How am I going to get in and out of the camper? Good question!

One of the big laments about using a Four Wheel pop-up camper for anything other than traditional camping is the limited storage space for long-term live-in arrangements. Traditional camping with these things involves enjoying the great outdoors, which in turn typically involves propane stoves and/or BBQ grills, lanterns, chairs, table(s), canopies, propane cylinders, showering equipment, and what-have-you. That’s a good thing, but imposes a regimen for the FWC that does not appeal to me: emptying out the floor of the camper before you can enter and use it, and then packing everything back inside in order to leave a campsite. It’s fun in the short term, but wearing for extended trips.

Since the FWC alone can technically be fully set up for camping in maybe three minutes and accommodate a furtive quasi-stealth sleep-only overnight with only a rearrangement of cushions, it seems a shame to clog up that inherent ease and speed with the need to scatter equipment all over the ground at every stop. So, many people who are going to be out there for awhile will add dedicated storage space, whether that may involve Read more…

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