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Old 08-12-2013, 08:34 AM   #1
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PH rules over Voyager it seems...

Still working out a few last-minute details on a build configuration. While I was leaning toward a power PH, I still am kicking around the idea of a Voyager. I really like the clearance that a PH affords but then again, the Voyager has a lot going for it.

Not looking for a suggestion, but just some individual input from both sides. I've got pro's and con's for both but still want to see what others think.

The SMB will be used for two adults, camping frequently all over the West. 50-floor plan in all kinds of weather. 4WD will be used as much as possible.

PH

PRO'S

Stealth camping
Low-hanging obstacle clearance
Open and airy
More aerodynamic/FE-friendly (does it really matter with a V-10? )

CON'S

Looks like you're camping
Gotta pop it up to stand
Open and airy (subject to additional insulation)
No permanent storage

Voyager

PRO'S

Better insulated (subject to opinion)
Permanent storage when cabinets are added
Stand-up instantly
"Are they camping or are they just parked?"

CON'S

It's always up
Wind resistance
Can't drive through the big redwood tree in NorCal
Maybe stand-up height isn't quite as high as PH

I tried to cover just about everything. Thoughts? I spent several hours reading threads on this topic over the weekend but still wanted to stir the pot some. Read Blackeye's great posts on his van and can see the advantages. But then I also saw a gallery pic of a PH-equipped EB driving under a fallen tree (CA Lost Coast, maybe?) and though "hmmm...
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:59 AM   #2
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

You probably have already seen it, but my thoughts and others can be found here:

viewtopic.php?f=15&t=11425

BTW, how tall are you? I am 5' 10.75" No problem with height until I put my ski boots on, then the top of my head rubs the interior top. If you were much taller than me, I think that the Cruiser would be better. I believe it is 4" or maybe even 6" taller. Which would also let you sleep on top I believe.

PH is for people who like to do stuff. Fixed tops are for people like me who are lazy and tired of doing stuff (especially when we pull into camp late at night). I mounted my microwave on the driver's side gunnel (on top of the old roof and below the fiberglass roof) and the gunnels are good for my wife's clothing and other light stuff, and I store (just push in) our bedding in the rear bulkhead, and put my clothing in the front bulkhead. Nothing needs to be taken down and put away. It is "away" where its put. I don't think I could raise a PH with the solar and other crap I have put on the roof, but I know kayakers who carry their boats on a PH. You will need a ladder with either.

There are some things I really like about the PH idea. But I chose the fixed top because of who my wife and I are and what we do. It seemed to make more sense for the places we planned to go (snow country) and the activities we planned to use the vehicle for.

All of us SMB'ers went through what you are going through when we made our decision. Yeah, it is a big decision. One thing you could do to help your decision process is to think about where you will use your van and what you want to do with it.

So relax and for each choice, visualize your planned place of usage and usage: your packing, driving, arriving, calling it a night, morning, and day usage and breaking camp and driving.

Life is about choices. Choices are about Compromise. Compromise means not getting everything you want. Happiness is found in letting go of Perfection and ultimately making a decision to be satisfied with what you have chosen.

So even before you choose, decide to be Happy with your decision.

(Boy, this got a lot longer than I expected. I hope I don't later have regrets and have to beg or bribe the moderator to remove this post.)
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:24 AM   #3
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

I think the OP covered all the pros and cons except one, which we discovered by actually test driving a PH top van. The roof opening for a penthouse top is considerably narrower than that for a fixed top (probably to make room to mount the lift mechanism). With our fixed top and RB50 design, we can pretty much both stand up and move around between the front seat, back seat, and galley. With the penthouse top, it was really tight. I wonder if those who have penthouse tops hit their heads on the ledge when getting in and out of the van, it sticks out quite a ways?

I agree with E350 that NOT having to raise a top is very convenient. We had a camp trailer and I absolutely hated setting it up and then getting ready to leave. The fixed top is especially nice when stopping for lunch, stopping at a trailhead or tourist attraction, or at the grocery store.

The other huge pro for the fixed top is the overhead storage space. We store our sleeping bags, pillows, towels, coat hangers, solar shower, maps, loose electronics, coats, hats, gloves, purses, knitting bag, plus some misc stuff on the 2 overhead shelves. That leaves the rear part of the bed free for seasonal luggage like ski gear, MC gear, or Christmas presents. I can reach small items from the driver's seat.

Stealth camping sounds nice, but if the van has 4x4 with a lift, knobbie tires, graphics, roof racks, huge bumpers with winches, etc., it isn't going to look much like a delivery van either way. (Stealth camping is out for us, because mrs. dhally won't do it...)

As far as overhead clearance, our top is 24" and we have gone on a few fire roads. So far we haven't scraped many trees. The Fantastic vent does look vulnerable. A 4x4 would add height, which could start to be an issue. We had a Class B motorhome, and it definitely scraped a lot of trees because it was full height for all 8 feet of width.

Rear shelf with luggage net
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:35 AM   #4
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

lndshark,

You didn't mention exterior storage (as E350 touched on):

PH:
pros - it's lower
cons - you most likely have to remove things before raising

FIXED:
pros - you can leave stuff on the roof
cons - it's a helluva way up there

Regarding ladders, I don't have one and can easily access our Yakima box by standing on the rear tire. However, I do hope to eventually get a ladder.

Cheers,
Brent
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Old 08-12-2013, 03:47 PM   #5
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

This whole though would not have crossed my mind if I hadn't stumbled across Railvan's photo of this:



Granted, it's an older body style, but it appears to be an RB50, Baja Tan, Voyager, etc., etc...
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Old 08-12-2013, 07:26 PM   #6
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

Have they updated the Voyager top since 2005? It must be the picture, but mine looks taller and more boxy. But mine must cannot be taller because SMB's website says the Voyager interior height is 6', which is what my 2005 Voyager is.

A picture is not enough. If you haven't been in a PH and a Voyager, it will be worth your trip to find a member near you or to travel to your nearest SMB. Like they say about skis, demo, demo, demo!
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Old 08-13-2013, 12:56 AM   #7
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

If you are two adults before kids, seriously consider getting a PH. You will eventually be glad to be able to sleep up and down. If kids are in the past (or otherwise not in the future), the Voyager has one additional advantage over the PH if you live in the rainy northwest. It is dryer and less prone to mold and mildew. I camped with some friends this weekend, one with a SMB PH and one with a Westy. Both had slight mildew growth on the fabric, and the Westy's fabric was just replaced last year.
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Old 08-13-2013, 05:11 AM   #8
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

I've only seen a PH in the flesh. The only experience I have with a hard-topped roof harkens back to my youth (which is why I kinda dig the Voyager top van above). My aunt and uncle had a '72 Econoline with a Gypsy conversion. Of course, when you're 6 years old, anything and everything out of the ordinary seems cool.

I didn't even think about the moisture thing. We'll be living in western WA soon and this too is a valid concern. With a PH I guess regular opening and airing-out will have to be put on a schedule.

My only big reservation of a Voyager top is roof clearance when in the forest.

vwteleman: Thanks for mentioning that. While exterior storage isn't a consideration now, it just may be in the future.

dhally: Your van came out great!

E350: I'm 6'5" so I'd still be slouching in a Voyager top. I REALLY don't want to go to a Cruiser II...the Voyager is already one step backwards (sort of) in my worry over roof clearance and the Cruiser would make me a babbling idiot...but I too am lazy I appreciate your thoughtful reply though - this is a big decision and something we're going to live with for a very long time.
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Old 08-13-2013, 08:28 AM   #9
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

One other thought on the fixed roof - it does affect the handling and road presence of the van. The weight up high and the sail area combine to accentuate the Ford's tendency to wander down the road. I've never driven a PH top for any distance so can't compare.

The visual effect of the tall roof seems to tell other drivers that I'm a slow motorhome. People pull out in front of me in traffic. They speed up so I can't pass on straight stretches. They pass me, then slow down. They do this when I'm driving my car too, but not as much. I could see that if you live in a city or drive the freeway a lot and your van will be a daily driver, the PH top would offer more advantage for driving.
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Old 08-13-2013, 09:02 AM   #10
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Re: PH rules over Voyager it seems...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhally
The roof opening for a penthouse top is considerably narrower than that for a fixed top (probably to make room to mount the lift mechanism). With our fixed top and RB50 design, we can pretty much both stand up and move around between the front seat, back seat, and galley. With the penthouse top, it was really tight. I wonder if those who have penthouse tops hit their heads on the ledge when getting in and out of the van, it sticks out quite a ways?
The only time that I have even noticed the ledges is when I rest my elbows on one of them while looking out the windows. But your statement about not being able to stand up and move from the front seats to the rear with a PH is true. (I'm not sure how a driver could stand up with a Voyager top and move to the rear with the steering wheel in the way.) But we rarely do that unless maybe it is raining outside. When camping, my wife will usually get out and spot me while we back into the camping site and put ramps under the tires where needed. I then get out and turn on the propane before we get in the van from the side doors and pop the top.

Brent mentioned needing to remove stuff from the roof before raising the top...true with a manual penthouse (we originally needed to do that when we carried our kayak) but not necessary after re retro-fitted an electric top.

Being able to have lunch without raising the top and the additional insulation while snow camping are pluses (although raising the top isn't that big of a burden with an electric top...it was a bigger deal with the manual top). However, I can recall a number of times that a voyager top would have been a problem while off-road. We have brought down a lot of branches up to 3/4" around while traveling off-road, especially along the northern California coast. On the way to Charlie Manson's ranch in Death Valley, we cleared a large (6-8") limb by a couple of inches. After crossing Imogene Pass between Telluride and Ouray, the road ducks under a rock ledge for 50 yards which was so low that that I'm not sure a Voyager could get under it.
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