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Old 07-14-2014, 02:27 PM   #1
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Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

Hey Everyone,

New to the forum, not quite a SMB owner...yet. But just wandering who is out there off roading and camping with little ones with these big SMB beasts?

I see a lot of threads about suspensions being pretty rough sitting in the back, so I am wandering how that is for kids in car seats.

Also, hoping, trying to see pics of the sleeping arrangements and how families of 4 work that out? Kids in the penthouse parents below? Or other way around? Or do you stick the kids outside in a tent and tell them to Sink or Swim.
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Old 07-14-2014, 08:47 PM   #2
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Re: Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

We've got a 4 and 6 yr old. Kiddos up top in PH bunk and us down below on folded out sofa EB51 layout. 6yr old in a booster with 3 pt seatbelt and 4yr old in a full blown car seat that's still locked in with a lap belt. Most likely getting a lap belt 'harness' for the 6yr here soon. Drawing a blank I the name but it is here if you search
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Old 07-14-2014, 11:34 PM   #3
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Re: Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

3yo and 2 month old here. In our '50 floorplan, the carseats get hooked up on the bench seat using LATCH anchor straps I bought from Britax. Older kid sits outboard (so he can see) and baby sits rear-facing next to the pantry. There's just enough room for my wife to sit and buckle up in the middle position back there when she needs to.

At camp, the first thing that happens is carseats get stacked in the driver's seat. I sleep up in the PH with the 3yo in our sleeping bags and wife sleeps downstairs with the baby. For now... Eventually I see the boys sleeping up top.

We haven't driven any gnarly trails with the little one yet, but the older one has been bounced around a little. He's strapped in pretty good so he probably bounces less than sitting on the rear bench seat alone (which is pretty bouncy). The little one's carseat straps have pads that keep his head pretty stable from side-to-side which is where most of the off-road bouncing happens. I am very careful and take things slow on and off road when I think there might be bumps that jar the little guys.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:06 AM   #4
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Re: Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

Bajasmb fixed my poopy ride. His shocks and springs on my Quigley are a must have. No more bumping the top of your head with the ceiling of the van going over speed bumps.

I have a 3 and 1yo. Wife and kids sleep bottom and I'm up top. Wouldn't trust kids sleeping up top. Its a long drop.
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Old 07-15-2014, 07:28 AM   #5
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Re: Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

Quote:
Originally Posted by purana182
Hey Everyone,

New to the forum, not quite a SMB owner...yet. But just wandering who is out there off roading and camping with little ones with these big SMB beasts?

I see a lot of threads about suspensions being pretty rough sitting in the back, so I am wandering how that is for kids in car seats.

Also, hoping, trying to see pics of the sleeping arrangements and how families of 4 work that out? Kids in the penthouse parents below? Or other way around? Or do you stick the kids outside in a tent and tell them to Sink or Swim.
We've been traveling with 3 kids and one or two dogs for nearly a decade. With all now aged between 10-16, sleeping inside the van is no longer a viable option. We put two in the penthouse and the rest of us outside in a tent. I also redid the interior of the van to get more storage and comfortable seating. No more on board water or lower bed.

On the trail, a smooth and comfortable ride in a vehicle like the SMB is like trying to find a golden unicorn. Ain't gonna happen. It is a 10k pound truck. But IMHO, the SMB is a very capable rig on the trail and our kids (and dogs) get a kick from the bumpy ride and always enjoy the journey.

Last weekend, we spent the weekend in the Sequoias and hit the Monanche 4x4 jeep trail on the way up to the meadows. A great 8 mile trail with some fun challenges.

IMHO, SMBs are great family vehicles and can really make getting into some remote off-road areas possible. But they are too small for more than 2 people to be comfortable sleeping inside, especially with lots of gear.

Good luck

R
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Old 07-21-2014, 12:48 PM   #6
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Re: Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

Quote:
Originally Posted by alta825
6yr old in a booster with 3 pt seatbelt . . . .
Can you elaborate on this? I have a 7 and 11 yr old and neither my wife nor I are too crazy about the kids being in just lap belts. We are considering captain chairs but they seem to take up a lot of room.
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Old 07-21-2014, 02:40 PM   #7
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Re: Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

A 3-pt would be a regular shoulder harness, with the booster seat getting the shoulder belt in the correct position on a shorter person (kid).

Another option that keeps from having to install the 3-pt belt is the 86Y harness that is discussed in this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5036&hilit=kid+seat+belt+harn ess

We are currently using this with our 4 year old and I feel comfortable with it. For a longer trip, we incorporate this with the full back booster seat as well to make her more comfortable.
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:18 PM   #8
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Re: Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

We travel with kids as well, and have always camped and taken long road trips with them, so ours are pretty comfortable being in the sadde. Really any saddle! Keep in mind that safety and comfort are completely in the eye of the beholder, so I'll share my experience knowing full well many won't agree.

First, as for traveling ON road, we have had 3 vans with 4 captains chairs and went through car seats, then boosters and now nothing......Ahhhhh.....to not have to drag all that crap around anymore is nice! OK, back on topic. When they were in seats we weren't offroading much, but what keeps ours sane is forcing them to get up and stretch and expend a little energy at every opportunity. We never stop long, but we stop at least every 2 hours or so during trips, sometimes just for 2 or 3 minutes to run to a bathroom or walk to a scenic overlook. We have a porta-potty on board but having everyone get up and go in keeps us all moving and blood circulating. Ours stay entertained the way we did as kids: games, books, and of course video games and stuff on the iPod or tablet, but we don't let em watch much TV. We just returned from a 24 day trip and they watched maybe 3-4 movies. Oh, music. Lots and lots of good music, but we're musicians and music buffs, so that helps. I hate to rant here but what's the point of Sportsmobiling with the kid's heads glued to a seatback TV. What is out the window is a helluva lot better than what's on TV!

Now that ours are 8 and 11, we do NOT enforce seatbelts all day every day anymore. Here's why. We have a SMB with sideways benches/couches that face eachother and make in to a bed. I think that it is pretty useless to use the lap belts sitting sideways, and by law it is an RV anyway so we're not worried about being ticketed for this. I don't know every state but in ours rear passengers in an RV are NOT required to be belted at all times. The kids are much happier being able to move around, sleep, stand and stretch, etc. but I know most people won't agree with this. That's fine. We're safety conscious parents and any new parent is going to think we're horribly irresponsible for allowing this. That's fine too. I've been a commercial driver for 20 years. I don't get in a hurry. I don't drive tired. It take every precaution I can but refuse to make everyone miserably uncomfortable all the time. When we're in traffic, rain, etc. they buckle up. If they had forward facing buckets with seatbelts like us up front they would certainly be belted at all times. My kids don't have to be told to buckle up in any vehicle except the SMB. OK, end of rant.

Offroading: We own a Jeep as well as the SMB and we rented a Jeep a couple times before we bought a 4x4 van. What the kids hated more than the bouncing was the dust and the sun. Both of those problems are solved wheeling in an SMB. When it's dusty we roll up the windows and turn up the AC and they are happy. Sideways benches actually keep them pretty happy offroad because their heads aren't jostling sideways, but forward and back, which is much more natural in a vehicle.

Sleeping: We have a double down below and the penthouse. What works for now is one adult and one child on each bed. Not for some, I know. My wife and son are calm sleepers and the lower bed is small so they sleep below. My daughter is pretty restless and I'm 6'2" so we've both been moved upstairs by default. It's whatever works for you and your family. The biggest thing is to get out there and expirement. There are a few givens. Mostly, it's just going to be trial and error for you on everything involved: road travel, camping setup, camper setup, etc. Plus it's always evolving. Having camped for 20 years with wife and now kids we try something new almost every trip. Eventually we WILL have to boot both of our tall children out in to a tent. I hate that, but they will probably want to go sooner than we want them to.

Enjoy the ride!
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Old 08-22-2014, 05:14 PM   #9
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Re: Kids, car seats, 4 wheeling...???

I have 4 children. They are very experienced in off road travel. When the road conditions get to the point that the seat back could become an instrument of the Spanish Inquisition every one unbuckles. The driver has the option of leaning forward (away from the seat back) and holding onto the steering wheel for stability and the front passenger can hang onto a grab bar and let their hips prevent any serious whiplash. If the kids are strapped in and immobilized in the back seat they are continuously jostled or slammed from side to side.

Everyone needs to be able to minimize the impact of the van's pitch, yaw and roll as much as possible. A loose lap belt can hold them in the seat if the driver hits the brakes too hard but they should be allowed to lean slightly forward when conditions get rough. Tell them to keep their buts planted in the seat and allow their torsos to move freely as the van crawls over boulders and drops down ledges. Placing a pillow next to the cabinetry or side wall for the kids to bounce off of would be a merciful act. In extreme conditions a helmet may be needed.

If there are complaints (many are justified) the kids can get out and walk. They will be glad to run around outside and should be able to outpace the van when it is in low/low range.
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