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Old 02-25-2017, 10:43 PM   #301
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When you wake up without a plan...

Friday morning we took off, with no other plan than to look at some of the water that has been covering northern CA these past few months.

One thing led to another and we found ourselves transitioning from rain to snow on what turned out to be a great two-day trip. It would have been three days, but Highway 70 along the Feather River Canyon was closed...

Thinking about it, there are two points I want to make.

First, and mainly for those of you designing your build, think hard about how you plan to use your van and allow for the possibility that your future use may be different from your past use in a different rig. We move around a lot when we are traveling and stealth camping is something we are finding that we do much more than I ever thought we would when we were designing the van. For this use, having the privacy curtain up front, the snug magnetic attachments for the two rear and one side window, and the additional slip-in window coverings for the two awning windows are key as they allow us to easily go into a black-out mode with little to no light escaping to the outside.

As an example, here is where we spent last night in downtown Downieville:



And here is the view out the back windows that we woke up to in the morning:




The two other things that work out really well in this case are the D5 space heater and the additional Extreme Insulation package in the walls. It was 22 degrees last night and we couldn't have been more comfortable. We drove until the end of the day, had dinner at the only restaurant that was open in town, then we retired to our little spot by the river where we listened to the water as we lay in bed. Not bad for having no plan when we left the house in the morning!

The second point I want to make is about the 4wd capabilities of the Sprinter. We all know it's not a rock crawler, but I continue to find out more and more about how capable it is. This trip saw a lot of snow and ice and at one point I thought we were going to have to press the winch into service to haul a truck with a trailer loaded with four snowmobiles out of the ditch (he managed to get out as I was walking over to help, glad he did as I got to stay warm and dry!) In these conditions the 4Hi system really performed well as we saw conditions ranging from wet pavement to loose snow to packed snow to sheet ice underneath it all. I can't say enough about how nice it is when the weather gets nasty to be able to engage 4Hi and just drive. You can run at highway speed if you want in this setting, thus it makes for a very versatile rig on the road in the snow. We run BFG KO2's, and have been very happy with their overall performance in all conditions.

Highway 49 just west of Yuba Pass:

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Old 02-26-2017, 08:09 AM   #302
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Looks like an epic mini road trip. I'm jealous.


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Old 02-26-2017, 10:13 AM   #303
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Herb,

I was trying to keep my comments a bit more build specific, but as long as you mentioned road trip, I thought I'd add a few details. This is one of the reasons I can put up with some of the less desirable aspects of CA... (And besides, everybody likes pictures, right?)

We were out the door by 6:30 am. Three hours later we were in Nevada City (come for the Victorian Christmas!) sitting down to a great breakfast at a little French restaurant (suggest you try the Florentine Benedict!) across from the historic National Hotel. Fortified, we went up the road to the Malakoff Diggins, site of past hydraulic gold mining and a great place to visit and explore. Hydraulic Water Cannons were used to wash away amazing amounts of the hillside, changing the landscape forever and resulting in large quantities of gold being extracted and vast amounts of sediment ultimately being deposited in the San Francisco Bay.



Here's Laura wishing everyone a good day!



One of the many Water Cannons used for hydraulic mining during this era.



The miners built vast amounts of infrastructure in order to deliver water to where it was needed, to this day irrigation districts in the Sierra foothills deliver water via many of the flumes and ditches that were constructed. Of these past constructions, one that I find most interesting is the West Bloomfield Drain Tunnel. We have been there in the summer when the tunnel is relatively dry and I have entered each end. For an interesting hike (yes, it's big enough to walk through) one can go end for end, be sure to bring a good flashlight and spare batteries! The water was raging out the bottom of the tunnel yesterday, I won't include a picture of that (look to Laura's Instagram feed at geologistonboard if you are curious), but I will encourage you to go for yourself and see!



And finally, we went to look at water and we were more than successful. We also saw lots of waterfalls, evidence of flood damage, and quite a bit of road damage. But it was beautiful.

We followed Highway 49 along the North Fork of the Yuba River, I'll close with a typical view along the way, and a reminder to get out and use these great vehicles!

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Old 02-27-2017, 12:00 PM   #304
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
We move around a lot when we are traveling and stealth camping is something we are finding that we do much more than I ever thought we would when we were designing the van. For this use, having the privacy curtain up front, the snug magnetic attachments for the two rear and one side window, and the additional slip-in window coverings for the two awning windows are key as they allow us to easily go into a black-out mode with little to no light escaping to the outside.
Good insight. Anyone know if the penthouse, all zipped up, is light-tight as well? I know it would be a pretty good hint the van was being camped in, but at least not a beacon for all to see...
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Old 02-27-2017, 12:49 PM   #305
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Fitz’ 2016 Sprinter 4x4 RB 150S Build

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Anyone know if the penthouse, all zipped up, is light-tight as well?

It pretty much blocks light out if zipped closed, being the same material used in convertible car tops. You will need blackout curtains though. For comparison, here is a pic of my top blocking sunlight, compared to the GTRV top, which is a sunbrella type fabric:





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Old 02-27-2017, 03:12 PM   #306
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
Friday morning we took off, with no other plan than to look at some of the water that has been covering northern CA these past few months.

One thing led to another and we found ourselves transitioning from rain to snow on what turned out to be a great two-day trip. It would have been three days, but Highway 70 along the Feather River Canyon was closed...

Thinking about it, there are two points I want to make.

First, and mainly for those of you designing your build, think hard about how you plan to use your van and allow for the possibility that your future use may be different from your past use in a different rig. We move around a lot when we are traveling and stealth camping is something we are finding that we do much more than I ever thought we would when we were designing the van. For this use, having the privacy curtain up front, the snug magnetic attachments for the two rear and one side window, and the additional slip-in window coverings for the two awning windows are key as they allow us to easily go into a black-out mode with little to no light escaping to the outside.

As an example, here is where we spent last night in downtown Downieville:



And here is the view out the back windows that we woke up to in the morning:




The two other things that work out really well in this case are the D5 space heater and the additional Extreme Insulation package in the walls. It was 22 degrees last night and we couldn't have been more comfortable. We drove until the end of the day, had dinner at the only restaurant that was open in town, then we retired to our little spot by the river where we listened to the water as we lay in bed. Not bad for having no plan when we left the house in the morning!

The second point I want to make is about the 4wd capabilities of the Sprinter. We all know it's not a rock crawler, but I continue to find out more and more about how capable it is. This trip saw a lot of snow and ice and at one point I thought we were going to have to press the winch into service to haul a truck with a trailer loaded with four snowmobiles out of the ditch (he managed to get out as I was walking over to help, glad he did as I got to stay warm and dry!) In these conditions the 4Hi system really performed well as we saw conditions ranging from wet pavement to loose snow to packed snow to sheet ice underneath it all. I can't say enough about how nice it is when the weather gets nasty to be able to engage 4Hi and just drive. You can run at highway speed if you want in this setting, thus it makes for a very versatile rig on the road in the snow. We run BFG KO2's, and have been very happy with their overall performance in all conditions.

Highway 49 just west of Yuba Pass:

I've poached a lot of camping spots in parks and other areas where you're not supposed to overnight. The common theme I've run across in stealth camping is to not look like you're camping. You can look like a CAMPER, but don't be CAMPING - two very different things. If a cop or ranger walks by your van, it should be obvious that you're inside and not leaving for the night. That means don't pull the awning, don't put chairs up outside, don't have a generator running.

Like you said - keep the light inside the van with blinds, keep the volume down, be respectful. We poached a parking spot in Rocky Mountain NP for a snow climb that we had to leave at 3 AM for. Ironically, we parked next to a massive E350 SMB and we were in a Porsche Cayenne - only two vehicles in the lot with rockstar parking. When we were gearing up at 3AM with coffee and breakfast on the stove, the Rangers rolled up and just chatted about the climb. You could clearly see the sleeping bags in the truck as the hatch was open.

It can feel vulnerable to be in something that looks like an RV compared to a white plumber van, but you can poach just as many campsites in an RV. You're either parked illegally or you're not. In all the places where stealth camping would have resulted in a ticket, any white panel van would have gotten the same ticket.

Nice work getting that site by the river! Parking spots like that are one of the biggest things we're looking forward to.
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Old 02-28-2017, 12:38 AM   #307
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Stealth Camping Window Coverings

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Originally Posted by DWilliamsTX View Post
Good insight. Anyone know if the penthouse, all zipped up, is light-tight as well? I know it would be a pretty good hint the van was being camped in, but at least not a beacon for all to see...
Good question, and it made me wonder. When we stealth camp we leave the Penthouse down and sleep below. Beached showed us some daytime pictures and the difference made by the canvas, here are a few pictures taken at night in my back yard.

PH up, no window coverings in place, four LED strip lights on inside.



PH up, PH window coverings in place above, no window coverings installed below, four LED strip lights on inside.



PH up, all window coverings in place (note that for the awning windows this means both the pull down shades and the inserts), privacy curtain behind the front seats in place.



Pictures taken on a dark night with no stars out and with a cell phone camera.

I know when we button up with the top down no light escapes. I was surprised how little escapes with the PH up and with the window coverings in place. Note also that we used a black black-out fabric on the glass side, not the standard white black-out fabric that SMB told me was the standard when we finalized this aspect of the build.
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Old 03-03-2017, 07:11 AM   #308
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Fitz, quick question about your OBDII scanner. Does it give you any info on REGEN status or next cycle?
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Old 03-03-2017, 08:08 PM   #309
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Blue Driver - DPF

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Fitz, quick question about your OBDII scanner. Does it give you any info on REGEN status or next cycle?
JFlo,

I had to look for this one, there are lots of choices to select from on the Blue Driver.

There are five DPF related readings, here are screen shots of the two screens where they are located:




The way the Blue Driver works is that you scroll through and activate the readings you want displayed, with five the recommended number to allow the information to display.

Here is what the screen looks like with the engine running and the five DPF readings selected:



As you can see, there is a readout for temperature, pressure and average distance between regeneration. As for me, I've only noticed the van regenerating once during the time we've owned it, almost 9,000 miles as of today. I will leave these settings enabled and see how much variation I get with driving.
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Old 03-08-2017, 02:59 PM   #310
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Good question, and it made me wonder. When we stealth camp we leave the Penthouse down and sleep below. Beached showed us some daytime pictures and the difference made by the canvas, here are a few pictures taken at night in my back yard.
Awesome, thanks for doing that!
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