Originally Posted by lc3920
do you have a post on your switch from the Taco/FWC to the Van and the plus/minus of it all?
No, but I can toss a couple out while I have a few minutes. For context, I had 130 nights in the FWC which I bought in Jan 2017. I now have 33 nights in the SMB which I picked up in Sept 2018.
I loved my FWC, and the only reason I sold it was because of dealing with the pop top with snow. Cold temps were not an issue, but trying to pop the top late at night in a snow storm sucks. Waking up and having 500lbs of snow on the top you can't reach sucks even more. People have collapsible ladders and other tricks, but it was a fight I was tired of fighting.
Because of that, we bought a high roof sprinter. I think the penthouse is more versatile (2 beds and great ventilation), but it's only rated to lift 200lbs so I would still have snow issues.
I could never go back to the FWC after the SMB. Here are the key stand outs for me:
* No popping the top. No dealing with snow and ice. No trying to pop the top with dead arms after surfing. No dealing with latches with frozen fingers. No smacking my head on the lifter bar over the bed.
* Pass Through. This is the luxury of van life. Need something from the fridge? Just reach back. Need a quick nap when traveling? Done. Want to make a quick lunch instead of grabbing some crappy fast food? Why not, it's all only a step away.
* Storage / Space. I had a FWC Eagle (prev version of the Fleet). On solo trips, there's plenty of space. With two people and a dog, it's tight. My layout was with the roll over couch (which is still my favorite configuration). The drawback is the bed pulls out over the sink. That means I can't go to bed until everyone has finished with the sink, and it also means I can't make coffee in the morning without pushing the bed in. Got old. Also, the SMB has a crazy amount of space compared to the FWC.
Now for the drawbacks.
* Off road capability. The Sprinter is surprisingly good, but it's not going to win against the Tacoma/FWC. I can get the Sprinter to most of my campsites, but there are a couple which I'm not going to try. But these are truly 4x4 only.
* Cold Camping. This has only been an issue when it's really cold (that's like <10F here on the West coast). The FWC battery was on the inside so not really affected by temperature. The SMB is outside so it is affected. Not a problem for one night, but for a long weekend with poor solar because it's puking snow, power becomes a concern when you lose 30% of your capacity due to the cold. Also, the Espar furnace uses a lot more electricity than the propane furnaces in a 2016+ FWC. Espar has a fuel pump, glow plugs, and is much louder. I also learned the hard way about diesel gelling when the Espar stopped working one night. Woke up to frozen water lines, a half frozen dog, and a less than happy wife. We are making adjustments and it will all work out, but we never had to think twice with the FWC.
* Complexity. The FWC is so simple compared to all the fancy SMB systems. Not much to go wrong. Now I have a 4" manual. It's not rocket science, but just different.
* Build Quality. SMB is built quite well. But the FWC? Top notch. That thing was bomb proof and unbelievably well made. It's like the difference between an A and an A+. The A is more than good enough, but the A+ stands a notch above. I notice a difference in quality in some areas like the cabinets and the head liner.
Bottom Line: SMB is a much better fit for me. Easier in the snow, easier to take the dog, and easier to move around in. Worth loosing a bit in off-road capability and learning to work with the new systems. However, the FWC/Taco combo was over $70,000 cheaper than the van setup if that matters...