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Old 06-16-2020, 05:28 PM   #1
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Camping with 2 humans and 2 great danes in one short sprinter

So, I think what Iím hoping for is that someone on this forum will convince me to suck it up and wait on a sportsmobile. For full disclosure, after years of sitting on the fence and completing a built-out plan, I am now eyeing the Storyteller Overland MODE with some dressing up from Agile thatís currently in stock and available.

My wife and I have been looking for quite some time, and thus far have convinced ourselves that car/tent camping is equally suitable to our camping needs and quite a bit more cost effective. One reason for this, is that we travel with our dogsÖ and our dogs happen to be a couple of great danes that outweigh both of us. So car camping while lugging around the Big Agnes 6 person tent has been the solution to date. However, we only recently rescued these two boys, and for the brief interval when we were dog-less we found that sleeping in our Suburban (also purchased to lug around the giants, go figure) made short camping trips possible with less planning.

Our travels tend to involve long drives down gravel forest roads, so we wouldnít want to go any larger than the short wheelbase Sprinter. We would be nearly exclusively boondocking, generally only for 2-3 days at a time. The issue is trying to accommodate all four of us, given that dogs each occupy a bed that is ~35 x 53Ē and Iím 6í1Ē. It seems like the penthouse is the ideal solution, with the dogs taking a platform bed in the rear and my wife and I sharing the upper bed. The only alternative Iíve seen that looks like it might fit all of us in a short sprinter with a high roof is that Storteller Overland MODE, which happens to have a fairly versatile seat that folds into a second bed along the drivers side, assuming we can squeeze at least one of us into the platform bed with the two dogs. Further, the built quality on the Storyteller seems slightly better than the internals on the Sportsmobile although I admit I have yet to see the interior of a sportmobile in person (plenty of them rolling around Oregon, but so far havenít had the chance to check out the insideÖ).

When you add in other factors, like the long wait for a Sportsmobile versus the fact that the Storyteller is available now, already fitting out by Agile, in a dealership nearby with easy financingÖ Then consider the effects that COVID-19 is going to have on travel plans for the next year or two (at least), well it makes it hard to justify the long wait.

So, Iím just looking for advice. Is the Penthouse all that it is cracked up to be? In ideal conditions it seems like the best possible solution, allowing for an easier to drive low roof height while providing a breezy interiorÖ Will there be issues in the rainy half of the year in the PNW? Will high winds on the coast keep us from being able to utilize the penthouse? What about winter camping, I assume we could keep the top down and keep it warm enough to use for an overnight ski trip, although the dog situation is complicated. I also like the idea of having a large lithium power supply that would let us run the AC when we decide to stop in town for a fancy meal and want to keep the dogs from overheating.

Any and all advice is appreciated!

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Old 06-16-2020, 09:44 PM   #2
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The penthouse is everything itís cracked up to be. However, the Colorado campervan top is superior in nearly every way. Plus, they will insulate it for you too.

Iíd go with them.

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Old 06-17-2020, 12:16 AM   #3
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Running AC on batteries? Do the calcs on House bank size required. Also, consider charging limitations w Li when below 32F.
For heat add a diesel heater.
X2 on the CCV pop top vs SMB. Far more stable in winds and lots more room.
Beastie 3: 2002 7.3 EB Cargo: Agile TTB, CCV Mid Top, Custom Walk Through, Lots of stuff added.
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:47 AM   #4
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You should rent a few RV before you buy or build.

2 big dogs like that will take over all soft bed surfaces. Better have a big one!
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Old 06-17-2020, 09:27 AM   #5
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We love our short sprinter Sportsmobile but my wife and I weigh 130 and 155 lbs. We couldn’t manage in this van if we were both overweight much less having 2 big dogs inside.

I would have liked to have a shorter height van with the pop top height. The biggest downside though is that we would lose all of our upper cabinets which is half of our interior storage. I have no idea where we would put our clothes, food, dishes, bedding, etc without that storage and we travel very light.

The best money I ever spent was renting a small RV for 2 days. It completely changed the RV we eventually purchased and saved me thousands of dollars. I would have never predicted I would learn so much in 2 days.
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Old 06-17-2020, 10:19 AM   #6
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I would double check the dimensions of the SMB pop top in a sprinter. I know on the Ford E series vans, its very narrow and 2 average sized adults barely fit up there. It wasn't comfortable for me and my wife.
2005 E350 Chateau - V10 - Agile Offroad 4x4
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Old 06-19-2020, 10:48 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the replies folks.

Two votes for CCV as far as the popup is compelling, especially considering my wife and I would be the primary users. It's basically just coming down to designing something that's essentially all bed + a sink/fridge vs. going pop-up. The advantages of designing a high-roof all-bed van would be going lithium and having A/C to be able to leave the dogs for hours at a time during travels, nice for stops at restaurants along the way, etc.

Storage is certainly a concern, less for us, more again for the dogs. My wife and I traveled to Europe for two weeks sharing a duffle bag, but they're not so convenient. Food either means needing more freezer space or needing a lot more water to rehydrate freeze dried. The two boys go through ~6 lbs a day of raw food. However, we've managed so far with a cooler and a suburban car and a tent until now, so I know the storage problem is solvable.

Just so you can all see how comical this tetris puzzle is, these are the two of them at roughly minimum floor space:
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Old 06-20-2020, 02:43 PM   #8
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Hey Broccoli! Got a kick out of your post(s). Iím all too willing to talk anybody into anything they want.

But, in this case, as much as I dearly love Sportsmobile, I donít think itís what you need. The Mode appears better suited, though you may have other, better options. My thoughts:

1. The Sportsmobile is pretty built out, though you can get it simpler. If I had one Great Dane - let alone 2 - the simpler the layout, the better. The Mode seems to fit that bill. These vans are pretty small. You want all the room you can get.

2. Poptops: The Sportsmobile poptop is quite small, both in surface area and height. I have a CCV Poptop because of that. Two adults can fit completely comfortably up there, not always true in the SMB. Plus, you can sit up in the CCV, a nice feature. Itís huge. I have multiple pics in my photo album here, take a look. I love the poptop for so many reasons... itís aerodynamic when down, breezy when up (think cool in summer), great view, etc. I live in PDX too, so I was originally concerned about rain, mold, wind, etc., none of which have been a problem so far. Havenít had it up in wind on the coast yet but it could be a problem. I can only think of one place Iíve camped there, though, that wasnít protected from wind. YMMV. Definite limitations there.

3. Bed length: at 6Ē1í, youíll want to evaluate your sleeping style relative to bed layout. Looks like the Mode is crosswise and somewhere between 72 and 77 inches (varying specs?). Iím well under 6ft but sleep really stretched out and wouldnít be comfortable in anything restrictive. If you havenít already, go really test out the Mode bed - and more than two minutes. Will it suffice?

4. Dog sleep space: our pup is small, but we often have reason for an extra bed. The Mode seems to offer two possible dog sleeping spaces: under your bed (in garage) or on the lounge. If your dogs can fit on the lounge, all the better. Youíll likely want your garage for camping supplies. If you get a poptop, the dogs can sleep anywhere. Our plan includes a removable crosswise platform bed for smaller sleepers.

5. Iím not a big fan of Sprinters but they are ubiquitous. I mostly donít care for the dealer servicing for them and all the ďfancyĒ electronics. But thatís just me. My ideal new van would be a Ford Transit with a CCV high poptop. Standability - and possibly 2-level sleepability - when down.

6. Agile 4x4: you canít go wrong here. I may be prejudiced because itís what I have but many others agree: itís a great system, smooth riding, and Agileís quality is second to none.

7. Price: If you decide against SMBís poptop (I did), thereís little reason to have them fit out your van unless you particularly like the plan available and the price is really good. If youíre looking at new Modes, it seems price is not that big a deal to you. If it is, you could fit out a similarly simplified build through any number of upfitters for a lot less than the Mode. Iím honing in here on where youíre coming from - a tent and/or suburban - so your needs are relatively simple. Wayfarer vans, for example, cost a lot less and you could take it to Agile for the 4x4 conversion.

In all, Iíd say if you have the money and the dogs-sleeping issue is a fit, then Iíd go for the Mode. If you need to save some bucks, find an upfitter for less.

Hope this is helpful. I have lots of photos in my album and my build thread if theyíre useful. Best of luck and enjoy whatever you choose. Best thing I ever did in our rainy environment was to get out of a tent. Canít even count how many times I rolled up a muddy tent and stuffed it in my pickup. Sure donít miss that.

"PhoTo" - 2014 Ford E350 5.4L RB - Agile 4x4 - CCV Poptop
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