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Old 09-30-2017, 05:49 PM   #21
IPT
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Hey Tom - Yeah I am aware of them, thanks. I should be meeting with him soon .
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Old 10-01-2017, 01:43 AM   #22
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My vote goes to 170" 4x4 (which comes as a high roof). Truly I think you'll kick yourself for getting a 144" wb sprinter, with (potentially) two small kids and the idea that you're going to pack bikes and a bike trailer. I don't see it working out well. You'll have a pretty big van that isn't really that comfortable for a family. If you're dead set on a 144, get a high roof. There is some 11" height different between low and high roof, and a penthouse is likely going to add 6"+ anyway so you're not saving much in terms of height and handling, and I'd venture to guess the penthouse is heavier. Plus you have the extra expense, poor insulation factor, no stealth, tiny bed, weak lifting mechanisms that get stuck (think about lifting and closing with a snow load). Stand up room in all weather, all the time is amazing. I still find myself stepping in and hunching over for a few minutes before I realize that I can stand up and move around freely. Plus I'll have cabinets up high for some light weight items, food etc.

I have two toddlers myself (18 months and just over 3 years old), sold my EB E350 4x4 for a new Sprinter 2500 170" 4x4. I'm JUST starting the interior
build process but have about 5000 miles on the van so far. I haven't driven a 144" sprinter but I can tell you that the 170" drives great. In fact I'd say it gets around parking lots as well as my Ford E350 did on 35s, despite the much longer wheel base. The front wheels turn to a very sharp angle which easily drags it around corners. I've talked to others who thought they just couldn't stand the 170" wb on a daily driver but I've been daily driving mine, even around downtown Portland. I honestly do not find it to be an issue at all. The wheelbase is similar to a Ford super duty crew cab long bed, but the turning radius is much much better.

I'm building my van with a walk through floor plan, seating for four (four forward facing seats, driver and pax swivel, rear seats have foot-rests and latch anchors), 3' galley cabinets on each side, a raised bed to sleep sideways 60" x 74" (look up flarespace.com), or front-back up to 7' long with another bed panel. A dinette halfway under the raised bed that will make into a 4'x5'10" bed for the kids. And 3' x 3' x 5'10" storage area in back for bikes and toys. Yes I'll have to remove front wheels but the bikes will be secure and dry. On the sliding door and opposite I have CRL windows with awning style openings (can be open in the rain), a small slider in each of the rear flarespace panels, and two fantastic fans on the roof. This will allow the car seats to remain mounted all the time, it is no fun having to remove and store them (often outside) to make a kid's bed every night. The front seats can all be open for sitting, while both beds are made or occupied, and standing room in the galley area. I know that isn't a very good description, I have it marked out in my van with tape and such but not drawn up.

One of the big things we struggled with on our last truck and four wheel camper, and a sportsmobile EB-51 that we rented was having to re-configure the interior any time we moved, or not have sitting space while someone else is sleeping. With two kids, I don't want everyone to have to get up just because one person is up. Additionally, having to re-configure and pack away beds just to sit down or move around gets really annoying to us. Where do the kids go when you shuffle and reconfigure everything and it's 40 degrees and raining outside? Is the car seat soaked in water? Where are I going to store all of this bedding when everything is closed up? Man I hate setting up the car seat every day. lol

My feeling about being really open (ie penthouse) is that it is nice when the weather is just right, but generally if I want to be outside in open air, I'll just be outside. Otherwise, I want peace and quiet and to be able to keep it dark. You know how it can be with kids, sometimes you want to be able to control their environment better for your own sanity. Don't forget that you can buy screen kits for the huge rear door and sliding door openings too. One thing I love about the high roof is that the doors open all the way to the top, so it really opens up. You could also use the dometic/seitz acrylic type windows that fully open if you want to have more fresh air, heki skylight etc.

I planned to install a penthouse on my Ford 4x4 van. I insulated and made a basic interior, four captains chairs and used it a bit. Somehow I was thinking the trade off of having the shorter wheel base and pop-top would be totally worth it, but every time I got in a high top I was just blown away with how comfortable it was and how open and roomy it felt. Since driving the sprinter, the ONLY time I've wished for the Ford again was trying to pull into some of the coffee shops with low overhangs! ZERO complaints about the wheelbase and driving it around town. REALLY. If you can comfortably drive a 144" high roof the 170" should not be a problem either. It's in your head.

Mocking things up. 10' behind the back of the head rest to the center of the rear doors with the seats in this position. Plenty of room to step in, plenty of room to walk in between the seats. Plenty of room to sit and drink beer (and access the fridge/galley) while the little ones are sleeping in back.
Untitled by Brian Wilson, on Flickr
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Old 10-01-2017, 10:25 AM   #23
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This question has been asked a million times, yet the search doesn’t bring much up! I have PM’d a few of you and exchanged some thoughts, thanks.

High roof or penthouse, in hindsight (or in your current plan) what would you do, and why?

Originally it was about the penthouse for me. Now as I am about to order I am having second thoughts (just see so many high roof conversions!). My goal really is to have a larger transport vehicle that we can camp out in. We have a toddler and hope for another. So, the need for a bench seat eliminates a good walk through design (where I can see the high roof shinning).

We bike a lot and I would really like keep the bikes inside all the time. Lots of gnarly road stuff gets sprayed up on the back of rigs here in winter driving.
In truth, if am camping, how much time am I really spending standing up and walking in my rig? Hopefully this will just be a glorified tent and we retreat to sleep or if the weather is gnarly. We should be outside .

The benefits of a high roof (that I can see) would be: it’s warmer (winter), slightly cheaper, can stand and maneuver inside easier (if I had a walk through design it would have good flow).

Benefits of a low roof/penthouse
: more space (when top is up), like having a second floor, can sleep more people comfortably, better use of rear area for bikes and “stuff” since beds are up top, better ventilation, can have a killer view, has a “cool” factor for kidos.

Cons High roof: fixed, need to dedicate the rear area to sleeping (this is big for me). If stacked beds to sleep 4 people could be tight, unless windows in rear no view, bikes would most likely have to be outside, not as good of ventilation (yes fans will help but not like 4 open panels on a penthouse).

Cons Low roof/penthouse: more expensive, need to go out of state to get it, may not be good for windy conditions, won’t be as warm in winter, lower inside unless top popped, no stealth, attracts attention.

I’m sure there is more, and of course it is all personal and based on individual needs and desires. Still, I am curious to hear your thoughts and perspectives. It’s tough because I have no spent much time in avan. We tent camp or occasionally sleep in my trailblazer. Therefore our wants and needs are not fully articulated yet. Yet, I need to make some decision to move this dream forward.
I was thinking of buyin a Mercedes high top 4x4 originally before I bought my ford class b but this is what I was thinking,with a high top I could install a 120 volt heat pump that could provide air conditioning/heating with a couple of Honda eu-2000 quiet generators or plugging in at campgrounds with power(which I think you can't do on pop up roofs because of weight).i also planned 0n installing a happy jack bed system (longways) which are usually installed sideways in the back of toyhauler trailers that are 8'6" wide.the great part about these beds is they raise with a small D.C. Motor and you can keep bed all the way up for massive room during day or hauling big cargo items.
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Old 10-01-2017, 10:28 AM   #24
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When I googled it I found that I wasn't the only person that thought of it haha
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Old 10-02-2017, 12:12 AM   #25
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V=Brian you have some very good points. I am interested in how you mounted those seats? What did you secure the L Track with?
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Old 10-02-2017, 12:13 AM   #26
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Zappo that is very cool. I am going to research that.
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Old 10-02-2017, 12:48 AM   #27
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The Winnebago has that lifting bed (these are nothing new), but couples it with Flarespace bump-outs. A section of the mattress remains in the bump-out while the main section lifts. Take a look at their video. You could place roll out pads and sleeping bags under the lift bed for the kids to sleep on. Roll the kids beds up and lift the upper (adult) bed when putting the bikes in back.
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Old 10-02-2017, 09:29 AM   #28
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V=Brian you have some very good points. I am interested in how you mounted those seats? What did you secure the L Track with?
It isn't secured yet. I'm going to make a new floor and the L track is out for anodizing right now. That is recessed/flanged L track with 5/16" mounting holes every 4". The plan is use use minicell foam in the valleys under the floor, another 3/8" across the top, with a 1/2" plywood floor (the depth of the L track) and loncoin covering it. The L track isn't going to run full length, but enough to be able to move the seats around, and secure the front of the cabinets mounted behind them. More L track in the rear "cargo" area.
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Old 10-03-2017, 06:24 AM   #29
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"I know no matter what I do it will be a compromise one way or another" Please forgive a Grandpa for this response. Your concern for your family shows clearly through your questions. Bravo! It's obvious that you will make a good decision by listening to your thoroughness. Grandpa says when making the compromise skew it strongly toward the needs of mom. I know, I know, ha. Just saying.
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Old 10-03-2017, 11:09 PM   #30
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I'm stuck too! (Penthouse vs HighTop)

Sorry IPT, I don't mean to hijack your thread.... My wife & I are getting ready to pull the trigger this week on ordering a 144" 4X4 Sprinter as well and are on the fence again with high top vs penthouse. We had lived full time in Alaska until I retired last year and moved down to HOT Sedona AZ. However, we still spend summers in the cooler climes of Alaska.

I've been going back and forth between high top vs penthouse for well over a year. I was originally set on the penthouse for ventilation, openness, lower profile, better maneuvering in tight off road areas, etc (we rented a SMB E350 penthouse in CO and traveled around Moab UT in the past). This past summer we borrowed a 144" 4X4 Sprinter high top from a friend in Alaska and traveled up to the Yukon for 10 days and loved the handling of the Sprinter (we had limited off road except some basic dirt roads). The weather was cool & mild so the high top worked out great. We were impressed with the build and the ample overhead storage the high top provided. In our future van we plan on bringing bikes and a fair amount of stuff so that we can be on the road for a month or more at a time. It will only be my wife & I along with our 70 lb lab.

I was all set on ordering a high top this coming week. Even though we are not going to have any AC in the rear (as we plan on being off the grid quite a bit), we do plan on having 2 roof top fantastic fans for airflow. After reading Fitz's and others comments about the penthouse and ventilation I am back on the fence again.

Since I do not have any experience with traveling in a high top in hot weather my question is this:

What are other folks experiences with the high top Sprinter in the hot weather of the desert SW? It was still in the 100's after we returned down here in mid August and will be in the low 90's to 100's in places around here still in Oct. I know my truck and car gets hotter than hell down here and I can only imagine the Sprinters would be similar or worse. Yes, I know we can open (and screen) the rear & side doors while stopped and camping but while traveling and just being parked it seems like the van would turn into an oven. Do others find that the high top Sprinters are ungodly hot while traveling or parked around town and if so, do they cool down reasonably well with 2 roof top fans? Are there other types of solutions besides rear AC?

Typically while traveling around down here in our truck or Jeep, my Alaskan dog needs the AC on or the ability to stick her head out the window (which does not seem possible in the back of a Sprinter). Any insight on the high top in the heat of the desert would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
Paul
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