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Old 10-04-2017, 05:59 PM   #41
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Thanks AKfire -yup, meet with Charlie already. What a fabricator! Great guy.Wife was not happy as a quick "stop" there turned into an hour and a half. He digs the High roof. While speaking with him about all of this he said he has a customer who had a pop top in Cordova AK, and that he "wouldn't have it any other way". Figures...decisions, decisions though I lean more and more to the high roof every day (and post ).

As an aside, if you are even considering some sort of heavy load with the AC you should consider getting the second alternator bracket from the factory (but I figure you are well aware of this and not keen on the AC anyway).
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Old 10-04-2017, 09:41 PM   #42
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Will you be driving on a lot of roads through dense forest? If so, a high top is subject to more scratches and clearance issues.


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Old 10-04-2017, 10:02 PM   #43
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[QUOTE=BroncoHauler;213415]Will you be driving on a lot of roads through dense forest? If so, a high top is subject to more scratches and clearance issues.


Herb, that was one of the "BIG" issues for us wanting a reg roof with a penthouse as we do travel off the beaten path quite a bit exploring sometimes tight and even scary places. I've been looking at SMB's and now Sprinters for years and one thing I figured out through this forum and my own research is that EVERYTHING is a compromise. My wife will be retiring in the spring and we plan on doing many long distance road trips in the van including driving 4000 miles each way to Alaska each summer. We want the smaller foot print of a 144" but the high top would give us that much more storage and convenience over the reg top. Again, I'm completely on that damn fence again!
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Old 10-05-2017, 02:11 AM   #44
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The penthouse is for sure not available in the high roof for those that asked. As stated there is just a different structural integrity in the low roof that allows it.

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Originally Posted by BroncoHauler View Post
Will you be driving on a lot of roads through dense forest? If so, a high top is subject to more scratches and clearance issues.

Herb, that was one of the "BIG" issues for us wanting a reg roof with a penthouse as we do travel off the beaten path quite a bit exploring sometimes tight and even scary places.
As for height, the CCV top that has the most space is I believe 11 or 12 inches tall. So, with that penthouse/pop top you are essentially at the exact same height as a high roof even with the penthouse down. So, it becomes a moot point for high vs low roof if you go with the aftermarket penthouse from CCV at least because it essentially becomes a high roof. Now, the SMB penthouse is a lower profile. It is not as high (I think 5-6") when closed. However, it does not rise as high as the CCV top, nor is it as wide when open. I think the SMB is 42 or 46" wide and the CCV is I believe 54" wide - but I am not certain those are the exact measures. I am certain that the SMB one is smaller, and many say "tight" or "snug" (see post #5) for 2 to sleep vs the CCV top that has been reported to be "spacious".

Just some things to consider for those going the penthouse route and considering what vendor to use.

The 144" may be "small", but relatively speaking probably not. As a kid we seemed to manage with a family of 4 and an old 4 dr Chevy Caprice. The 144" may not be a Taj Mahal but I think we will "manage" just fine. As has been stated there is always going to be some compromise. I'm thinking "minimalist", but on the larger scale of a 144" ride . It's got to work better than my Trailblazer.
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Old 10-05-2017, 10:09 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by mikracer View Post
Can't you add a pop top on a high roof Sprinter? I feel like I've seen that before. You could get the best of both worlds.
CCV will add a pop-top to the mid-height transit. This is close to both worlds.
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Old 10-05-2017, 11:26 AM   #46
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High vs low is going to be completely subjective to one's usage and location. Here's my thoughts....

We're in Denver, van will be stored in a nearby RV park (inside), typical usage is Friday-Monday for trips to the mountains. Climbing, mountain biking, skiing (touring and resort) is the planned usage. We both work remotely, so longer road trips will happen 2 or 3 times a year. We plan to have fresh water all year (no winterizing).

From my perspective, the only benefit of a penthouse roof is that you get to sleep 4 comfortably. For me, that's where the benefits end. There isn't any place out here in the west where I'd happily take a low-roof, but not a high-roof. They're both tall vans, and as such, will get pinstriped and feel uncomfortable when tripodding or driving through low-hanging trees.

We're trying to get away from tent usage when "car" camping. Backpacking - we love being in the tent. We have a 4-season Hilleberg tent that we love, but for our typical trail head camp or forest road camping, we don't want to feel like we're in a tent. Things we're looking forward to with the van:

1. More protection for the interior from dust. We always have our tent zipped up when not using it to keep the dust out that's kicked up by cars and wind.

2. Not having to pitch a tent, or raise a roof, when we're ready to sleep. Come back from a hard climb - just crawl in and shut the door. Long drive - pull over and go to sleep. No setup needed except to shut a door.

3. High-roofs are quiet. We don't want to hear campground noises anymore. Or traffic if we're at a rest stop or near a highway. We'll have a t-awning window or keep the doors open if we want to hear the outside world.

4. Insulation. We want to remain comfortable when it's -20F. That also means we can install insulated covers over the 4-windows in the summer to keep the heat out. With a pop-top, you're more likely to be at whatever temperature the ambient is. If it's hot out and the top is up, it's going to be hot inside. If it's cold out, you're going to lose a lot of heat. With an insulated van, it's a lot easier to keep the interior at a comfortable temp. Sure - you can keep the roof down, but that negates a lot of the penthouse benefits.

5. Stealth camping. In all the places we've been to where camping isn't allowed, you just have to look like you're not camping. No chairs outside, awning pulled, doors open, etc. If you're just sleeping in a car or van (even one that looks like an RV), that's fine because nobody from outside can tell if it's a parked RV or someone is inside. With a top up, you're camping. With a high-roof, you're parked. That's a big difference from the perspective of a ranger or city cop.

6. Pop tops are complex. We don't want more things to maintain or think about than needed.

7. Pop tops limit the roof usage. We can install a full roof rack that will support a substantial amount of weight and has a lot of space. We can use the roof as a patio of sorts, too. You're limited with pop tops.

8. We're installing 4 full-glass windows and all low-top cabinets to keep the van open and airy. Lighter colors will be used, as well. While we won't be in the van except in harsh weather, and to sleep, we don't perceive a large difference in open feeling between the high and low roof, except in that you get more headroom with the top up.

9. We don't want to take time to dry the fabric. We'll return the van to the RV park, pull the gear out, and drive our SUV home. This whole process of work to van to play should be as quick and easy as possible.

10. This is nitpicking and likely only unique to me, but the sight lines with a penthouse stink. For me, eye level means I'm looking at a wall compared to a high roof where I'm looking out a window.

11. We'll have L-track in the ceiling and walls for vertical ski storage, vertical bikes mounted to walls, ropes and bags attached to ceiling or walls, and our shower curtain will attach to the ceiling when using it. That means you'd have to have the roof down to shower like that.

Again - I'm just giving my *opinion* based on our needs and usage. If we had kids, 3-season usage, and based out of Cali - we would like go a different route. Some of these points won't be applicable to someone who's on the fence. Fitz has a recent conversion with a penthouse top, and they love it. So, I'm sure he could come up with a list like this against a high-roof.
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Old 10-05-2017, 12:30 PM   #47
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Wrinkledpants, we have such similar use cases and yet I made a different decision. I feel compelled to respond. We're in Boulder and do similar trips.

I'll contrast a few of your points with my perspectives but ultimately of course the OP (and all of us) are making gut-feel decisions; and many of your points are simply objectively true: like the complexity of a big hole in the roof! There simply isn't a right answer:

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Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
High vs low is going to be completely subjective to one's usage and location. Here's my thoughts....

[snip, 0] From my perspective, the only benefit of a penthouse roof is that you get to sleep 4 comfortably. For me, that's where the benefits end.
A pop-top also means ability to maintain the factory crew seats. This gives us a level of safety for passengers that is hard to trust otherwise. (Totaling our van with a pregnant friend in the back seat either drove this home or has made me paranoid!).

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[snip]
2. Not having to pitch a tent, or raise a roof, when we're ready to sleep. Come back from a hard climb - just crawl in and shut the door. Long drive - pull over and go to sleep. No setup needed except to shut a door.
This is all so subjective! For us having a pop-top has meant ability to "setup" as quickly as the top pops. No shuffling gear, re-rigging clothes lines for wet stuff, or anything else. The van can be loaded with stuff and a disaster after a full day of fun and yet we always have a clean and dry bed ready.

When you get down to it there is more *volume* in a set-up poptop and we find on an extended trip that volume is well used for functional stuff down below. Limiting how often we re-organize "the garage" is a positive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
[snip]
5. Stealth camping. In all the places we've been to where camping isn't allowed, you just have to look like you're not camping. No chairs outside, awning pulled, doors open, etc. If you're just sleeping in a car or van (even one that looks like an RV), that's fine because nobody from outside can tell if it's a parked RV or someone is inside. With a top up, you're camping. With a high-roof, you're parked. That's a big difference from the perspective of a ranger or city cop.
One has to do the shuffle I'd rather avoid -- but our old van supported sleeping downstairs as well (I'm not sure how easy this option will be in our new rig but the plan is for it to be an option). My thought is that a camper that isn't expanded looks even *less* like somebody is sleeping in it.

As a side note: I got rudely woken by a ranger in Toulomne meadows a few weeks ago. Its a cruddy way to start the day.

Whichever one decides... we're on a two week road trip in Crested Butte while my van is getting its new pop-top and let me tell you: either approach is way better than cramming all our wet/muddy bicycle gear into an old subaru forester during a fall snowstorm.
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Old 10-05-2017, 01:10 PM   #48
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Pardon IPT, I've also followed this thread as I'm also working on the same decision and hope not to hijack rudely. I'm new to this forum, and new to campers as I've always tent camped. I'm mentally reviewing my past camping locations to feed the major decisions enough to get the right chassis on order. I want to ensure that a new toy doesn't bog down the freedom of destination choices. Because of that, the focus is on 144RB 4X4 to maximize departure angle and reach backwood camping spots, and I don't know yet if that requires a suspension lift. Another is stand-up space.

I've shrunk to 6'1" and crept up to 180#, a lifelong Coloradoan, go rock/ice climbing, mountain biking and fly fishing. A big appeal is to make a mobile getaway office to do my laptop + telephone consulting work from the road, and that needs a good table (liking the dinette style). It should accommodate a couple together and great if it also works sleeping separately for a bro-mance. There's value in stealth camping during long drives, boondocking, short lunch stops and storm refuge, but not in KOA-style campgrounds. My only kid is a coupled adult.

The appeal for a pop-top is to add a sleeping level without subtracting from bottom floor utility space, and give it a spacious feeling. The detractors are the fuss of operation, fuglyiness, cost, and complication/durability.

So far, a walk-thru floor plan appeals (that probably conflicts with forward-facing seating), likely without a bathroom (?), and bike rack on the outside back door. I think it's ok to berth only two for sleeping, and any third or forth pulls out a sleeping pad bag and crash on the kitchen floor. I'm cognizant of the effect of concentrating people in a small space... that the first person to get up might need everyone else to get up to start the coffee, etc.. When tent camping one person leaves the other sleeping in the tent when they get up to the camp kitchen and get breakfast started, and the same inevitable goes at night for the when one person is tired and wants to retire early.

The SMB penthouse "sounds" too small for me?? I would really like to scare up some local Colorado owners happy enough to show me theirs (Pritikin? Wrinkledpants?). I live less than an hour from CCV.

Cheerio - Ralph
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Old 10-05-2017, 01:59 PM   #49
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We were in the same boat in (from an office perspective), hence the idea for us to go with a dinette. But, we've since realized that if we're working, we need stable internet and space. So, that likely means a coffee shop or other place like that. The liability of not having the internet speeds (outside of urban centers) would impact our ability to be productive. I think when we really thought about how we use our living room and how we work, that a platform bed would work just fine. We never use our kitchen table, and are usually sitting on the floor at home with the laptops in our laps. This also solved the problem of having to physically make your bed every night. We have the two swivel seats up front for a seated place to work and can do small tables off that if needed. Or, we'll work in bed like we frequently do at home.

At this point, I think the biggest point to doing a dinette is for passenger seats. They'll be sideways (not as safe as forward facing), but better than nothing? We've accepted the fact that we simply won't have passengers in the van other than the two of us. If people want to camp in the van at night, that's fine. But, it just became too much of a design consideration to factor in the occasional friend that would come with.

If you have kids, then I think it's hard to argue with a penthouse top. I would not trust anything other than factory seats for anyone I cared about. The platform bed we're doing slides out the back of the van so we can still sleep under the stars. The forward half of the bed can be flipped back to give more walking space, and access to to side storage. This reduces our garage space, but we have no plans to store bikes in there anyway. In this configuration, we get more walking space than with a dinette, ability to sleep outside if we want, and with the bed slid out, we have space for a 3rd person at the foot of the bed. The 4th will sleep on the floor or in a swivel chair. Obviously, this is fair weather camping.

Back to the original point of carrying people - if that's an important consideration for you, then I really think a penthouse top + something like the RB50 layout is hard to argue with. Or, factory forward facing seats. I just don't see how you're going to comfortably sleep 4 and drive 4 without that penthouse top - at least with a 144 WB. For us, if we're sleeping 4, then it's just to sleep. The bulk of the day will be outside doing stuff, and it's simply to avoid them having to pitch a tent at night. They'll drive themselves to the TH.

If you're in Colorado - check out my tourig's website for the bed idea. It's the Lazy R Ranch build. Custom Sprinter Van Conversions Built to Meet All Your Needs
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Old 10-05-2017, 02:50 PM   #50
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great thoughts and contributions! I will add that my solution for sleeping 4 is going to be a RIB set/bed (with the standard platform in the rear). Spoke with the builder up here and showed him another install and he said it was "overkill" so I feel good about the safety aspect. he was even familiar with the seat and had it in another install. Seat comes with factory shoulder belts and lays out to a 6ft + bed. Now I just need to jump through the hoops to get one imported.
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