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Old 12-06-2013, 09:06 PM   #1
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SMB or truck & camper

To begin with, thanks to all of you who post on here. In a short time, I have learned a lot and look forward to doing a lot more reading.

At present, I have a Tacoma with an ARE shell. I am a photographer and like the ability to take a dirt road if it looks interesting without worrying about bottoming out or crossing a creek if necessary. I'm looking at retiring in a couple of years, selling my house and living in a vehicle for an extended period (2 years?) while traveling the country. My first question is whether an SMB RB, not a 4x4, would be suitable for this. I like the idea of having more storage space - just have the bed in the pop-up, but I don't want to feel restricted to either asphalt or gravel roads. The other option is to keep the house and buy a big truck with camper and make shorter trips.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 12-06-2013, 11:38 PM   #2
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

If you're going solo you might consider a popup mini for the Tacoma, or upgrade to a Tundra.

Otherwise I'd get 4x4 in a van, even if you have to go older to make budget, because yeah- you don't want to look down a two track and go, "gosh I wonder what is down there". Any of the vans will be comparatively palatial for a solo trip, and it's nice to have the option to sleep downstairs.

Apart from the obvious advantages of a van, you can add a ladder and have a shooting platform with the top down, and the "newer" SMB tops have zip out screens for those early morning shots. I say newer because it used to be an option, then became standard, but I'm not sure when.

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Old 12-07-2013, 10:23 AM   #3
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

We moved from a p/u camper to the SMB. Both work. Both have their advantages.

The biggest advantages of the SMB (for us) were:

- Ability to go from cab to camper without going outside.
- Ability to raise the top from inside (our p/u camper was a pop up)
- Customized floorplan on the SMB to our wants
- Not everyone recognizes it is a camper

Advantages of the p/u camper:

- Can remove the camper and use the p/u
- Easy access to the engine for maint. and repairs
- Every shop everywhere could work on the p/u, not so our diesel SMB
- Our p/u had a manual transmission, not available on a van.

Mike
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Old 12-07-2013, 03:56 PM   #4
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

A couple of other things come to mind by having access to the cab W/O having to go outside.

>>I like to stack equipment on the floor board and seats but still have access to it. I do it all the time and it is nice to clear stuff out of the living area.

>>Being able to reach in and crank up the engine can have its plusses. I guess you can use a remote start and rig a high idle switch in the back when using a camper.

>>Having access to the stereo system is nice. YMMV on that.
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Old 12-08-2013, 09:57 AM   #5
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Mike - Advantages, disadvantages - darn, I was hoping that someone would say, "Here's your solution!" Just kidding.
And Dave, just read your Auto Ramblings post and look forward to reading others. It's great to gain from others having thought/investigated the options.

Perhaps the solution for me is a 4x4. I like the idea of being able to be in the vehicle rather than having to put up a pop-up and definitely like the customization that SMB offers. I've already created a couple of options using the design feature to get a better idea of layout. Having toilet/shower, fridge, stove, as well as a couple of wardrobes would, I think, be everything I need for extended traveling (probably solar too). There are the easy-access places I want to spend time at such as Yellowstone, but also high-clearance drives I'm reading about in Arizona Highways.

Again, thanks for all the help.
Bill
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Old 12-08-2013, 10:17 AM   #6
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Quote:
Originally Posted by BillinOaklandCA
Mike - Advantages, disadvantages - darn, I was hoping that someone would say, "Here's your solution!" Just kidding.

Bill
OK, I'll say it, Here's your solution! Buy a van! You are on the Sportsmobile Forum aren't you? We're sort of biased. Lol.
Mike does make some great points about a truck vs. a van but as most of us will tell you a van is an unbeatable combination of usability and features. Not having to get out to go from cab to living area being the biggest. From a maintenance perspective, van's are pretty bulletproof. There is very little maintenance ever needed, and contrary to some they aren't all that hard to work on. I would choose a van any day over any car made in the last few years that the manufacturer has purposely designed so I practically CAN'T work on it!

Good luck in your search
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Old 12-08-2013, 02:13 PM   #7
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

The best part of a van is the cab doubles as living space. You also get unmatched flexibility for hauling hauling cargo, people, or just camping!

My van spends most of the year setup to sleep 2 or seat 8. If I need to, i can clear out the interior and haul pallets of cargo. Or for large rafting trips or long drives for motorsports events, it can seat 14 in comfort since every seat reclines. And you still have both powertrain and payload to still pull a large trailer.
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Old 12-08-2013, 04:53 PM   #8
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

If I were to do my build over I'd make sure whoever did the van conversion would do a better job in insulating the water system. I love my Espar Hydronic but SMB refuses to install the flat plate inside due to safety reasons. I like cold weather camping and having to drain the water system is not an option. I'm sure SMB has made improvements but I think I've seen better designs by others on this site. Frozen pipes don't cut it.

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Old 12-09-2013, 07:44 AM   #9
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

A pop-up truck camper is something we seriously considered when we decided to get back into camping.

Years ago I had an 80's Toyota short-bed, 4x4 truck with a Four Wheel Pop-up camper. Sure was great sitting at the dinette in that thing on those cold Panamint Mountain nights while friends shivered in tents. My dad and I made hot chocolate and read trail books and magazines, furnace kicking on while others huddled 'round a windy, 18-degree campfire...

While the Tacoma has come a long way, it's still grossly underpowered, IMHO. I had a 2012 TRD V6/auto and even on the flat lands of the Midwest, it's power was lacking. Can't imagine how it would be with a 4WC or similar, loaded with water and gear.

Another issue for us was the bed. While they can be nearly queen-sized now, Mrs. Landshark has an issue with how close the roof is to your head when in the sleeping position. Can't say I blame her. The PH roof of an SMB is higher above the bed than a typical pop-up truck camper (unless custom).

The width and overhang of a pop-up camper bother me too. Even with the overhang of an EB-Econoline, I at least know where it is and the width of the body is consistent. Not sure how that applies to you depending on your off-road needs. Also, not sure how far off the beaten path you plan to go, but I'd want to upgrade the Tacoma with better (OME) suspension and a rear locker if it didn't already have the factory E-locker. The 4WD from SMB, U-Joint OR is pretty much ready to go.

Parking/storage. With a truck camper, the truck would be a 2nd vehicle. The camper needs somewhere to live while not being used. This was inconvenient for me way back when too.

For us, the SMB has it all. It's a single vehicle that's pretty much self contained in one package (save a real shower/toilet but we'll just get the SMB portable inside shower set-up and Porta-Potti).

Anyway, just a couple of thoughts from someone also in the planning stages and veteran off-road explorer
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Old 12-09-2013, 10:09 AM   #10
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Nobody ever asks you to move their refridgerator with a van.
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