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Old 10-30-2013, 11:46 AM   #1
Dia
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Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

Hi, everyone!

The hubs and I are 40-somethings with a teenager and two cats. We're tent campers, but DH doesn't want to deal with the hassle of setup and takedown anymore, so that means a campervan.

As you might imagine, we've got a ton of questions.

We started out looking at used Chinooks, but DH didn't want to buy that much vehicle for something that gets used maybe 6 times a year. Then we considered travel trailers, but that means selling my Prius (which I love) to get a TV before we could even think about a trailer. So now we're thinking used Chevy Express van which we can upgrade in phases. We can sleep on air mattresses on the floor to start, and since we're tenters, this will seem like a luxury.

So here are the questions:

1) Does anyone travel with cats? If so, how strong are the screens on those poptops? How's the ventilation with a Fantastic Fan? We spend most of our time in coastal CA and up in the Sierras, so I think the cats would be fine heat-wise with the top up as long as they couldn't get out.

2) The first two mods we'd consider are a pop top and Sportsmobile's W dinette. Does it matter which one we do first? Is there anything about the construction of one that would make the other one harder if it came second? The dinette is cheaper, but I don't think I'd bring the cats w/o the pop top.

3) We're leaning toward CCV for the poptop. Anybody hate/love theirs and want to change our minds? We're looking at extended Chevy passenger vans, btw. Will the pre-existing windows complicate anything?

4) Should we start with a cargo or passenger van? The passenger version seems like a no brainer, but we're newbs, so the no-brainers might be us.

I'm not too worried about storage space. We've done a three week tent camping tour of the great west packed into my Prius with no cargo topper. We travel backpacker light.

OK, I thought I was done with questions, but there's one more. I'm guessing there are car guys (and gals) here, right? See this thing (20 gal parts washer)?



When I look at this, I see a portable camp kitchen. Closed, and with a cutting board on top, it's a prep surface. Propane stove stores on a shelf. Plastic bins for dishes/silverware. Open the lid and I can wash dishes in it? I don't even really need the pump. Tie downs would secure it to a wall during travel, and it looks like an easy carry to set up outside. I don't know how these work, though, so maybe there's something I'm missing - like, how does it drain? Is this a silly idea?

We camp in state and national parks for the most part. We've done FS once, but we've never really boondocked. I could see myself fulltiming, or at least traveling for a month or two at a time, but the DH is more of a homebody. I suppose there's a chance we'd outgrow the rig we're thinking of, but one of the nods in its favor is that the van would pull a small trailer if we went that direction later.

Thanks, everyone!

Dia
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Old 10-30-2013, 11:56 AM   #2
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

Cats........depends on the cat.

We have two cats, one would tear the screens out in short order, the other would be fine. I don't know about your cat.

On this site, YVRR has traveled with their cat, probably others.

Mike
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:21 PM   #3
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

Welcome

The Black Bull is bigger and badder than you think! Going from Prius/backpacker-light camping to managing a "beast" like that parts-washer is gonna be a big change. Big big change... yup, but NOT a "silly" idea.

That out of the way... Cats and automobiles famously do not mix, but then, there's our ForumMaster Jage who didn't travel without his cat. And if you drove and kept them inside a tent at camp before, I wouldn't think a PH top would make much difference. Just so you know, the PH screens aren't tough enough to stop a cat with claws intact... "short order" I think Mike said

Please do video that first day with the cats and the van, 'cause there's sure to be some comedy sometime
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:31 PM   #4
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

I've considered using steel shop furniture (toolbox with flip top like that parts washer) but I realized the noise of everything rattling would drive me nuts.

On the Chevy Express with a pop-top: Keep in mind you lose 5" of width in the pop-top compared to a Ford. Also, I'm not sure how the rear HVAC in the Chevy would be re-routed. Might want to check on that. The HVAC on the Ford gets new vents put in the pillar where the duct runs normally.
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:32 PM   #5
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

I'd be more worried about the teenager!

As Mike said, it probably depends on the cat- if your cat tears the screens up at home you might be fighting a battle with thread and repairs in the van. We kept Scribbles claws trimmed, more for the leather seats than anything, plus she was never much of a screen destroyer. We look forward to the day when we can once again have new kitty pets with us in the SMB, however were I to do it over I'd get cloth instead of leather- at least in the back. Not that it was ever a problem, she never really tried to sharpen her claws in the van (and if so on the carpet), but again it probably depends on the cat.

As far as affording the order, why not buy used? I mean built used, buying a used van and putting full build in at Sportsmobile isn't cost effective. CCV, maybe, but I'd still do the whole build or buy used. If not, I'd do the top first- you can always DIY your own interior, but not many people add their own tops.

Last, I see an expensive heavy metal cart that has no place in my van and sharp edges to boot. I much prefer the door galley, being modeled here by the late Scribbles the Cat. I wouldn't trade a day spent camping with her for the world- the best times are when she was with us.
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:36 PM   #6
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

BTW - I think a Wagon is a great starting point, since it will already have windows and some insulation. Downsides: layout is less flexible, but windows can always be blacked out. Finishing out the interior of a cargo van I suspect ends up costing more than the small extra expense of starting with a wagon.
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:38 PM   #7
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

oh, wow! Thanks, everyone!

The cats have not been informed about this camping thing, yet, and we've never tried them in a tent. The issue is that one of them gets such bad separation anxiety that he ends up in the very expensive kitty hospital if we go away for longer than a weekend, so either the cats come with or we don't leave.

The plan with the van is to do some driveway camping, followed by a weekender, to get them comfortable (ha!) with the idea before do something like head off to Tahoe for a week.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Cheers,

Dia
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:53 PM   #8
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

We haven't bought the van yet, so Ford is a possibility. At the risk of igniting a Ford vs. Chevy war, here are the considerations.

We know we want the extended version. From what I've read, Ford's extended model leaves the wheelbase alone and the extra 18 inches get added to the rear. Chevy lengthens the wheelbase. I've been told that the Ford's increased overhang is something to avoid if we think we might need to tow at some point, and Chevy's longer wheelbase is better.

On another board, I talked with a guy whose day job involves managing a fleet of some 300 or so work vans. Some Ford, some Chevy. He says the Fords spend more time in the shop, and the problems start sooner than on the Express models.

My heart's not set on the Chevy, so I'd be willing to listen to other opinions.

Re: order of construction - yes, we're going to buy used. I've been advised to look from 2010 forward to get the 6-speed tranny in the Chevy (better for towing). A used van will be $18 - 20k. The dinette is around $2k, the poptop is $6 or $8k. We can't do all three in the same year.

If we do the pop top first, the kid sleeps up there and we get an airbed on the floor of the van. If we do the dinette first, the cats stay home and the kid sleeps on the floor of the van.
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Old 10-30-2013, 12:58 PM   #9
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

@jage - awwww! Gorgeous kitty.
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Old 10-30-2013, 02:49 PM   #10
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Re: Newbie intro post with questions (cats in a PH?)

If your cats haven't been declawed, I'm afraid the airbed idea may need revisiting
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