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Old 03-23-2019, 05:30 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2019
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Hi everyone preplanning

Hi everyone I just joined, Currently a sportsmobile wannabe and getting finances in order. So early early planning, I have ordered the packet and studied options until my eyes cross. I was wondering is there a good place on this forum to ask questions and brainstorm ideas about set up? I was initially looking at a hymer but given their recent troubles Iíve switched my sites to SM. So many options while exciting are also a little overwhelming.

Currently iím thinking about a standard body 4x4 with loft for me and the dog. Have read the debates on loft vs high top and currently leaning towards loft. Interested in both stealth and ease of maneuverability. Anyone else have a setup like this? Love it, hate it?

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Old 03-23-2019, 05:33 AM   #2
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Welcome. You might try searching for whatever subject you have a question for as many many things have been discussed. If you can't find something, ask a question in the appropriate subforum.
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Old 03-23-2019, 06:01 AM   #3
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Thanks - that was part of my question - i looked over the sub forums and wasn’t sure which one to pick. Have been searching and found some interesting ideas already
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Old 03-23-2019, 08:07 AM   #4
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While the high top stands out a bit, I believe it is more stealthy than a pop top because you canít tell when itís in ďsleep modeĒ. The pop top is awesome if you drive the van around town a lot, but if youíre living in it, I think a high top is the way to go.
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Old 03-23-2019, 08:09 AM   #5
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Whimsicalone - Welcome aboard. As you've undoubtedly discovered the search function isnt the easiest to utilize, but just keep arranging/changing words until something pops that peaks your interest.
Sounds like you've already resolved one of the big questions to help narrow your search (high-top vs pop-top). You planning to build yourself, or going to be looking for a vehicle that meets most of your needs?
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Old 03-24-2019, 06:14 AM   #6
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I agree with Grampswrx. Hard to be stealthy with a penthouse up. On the other hand, it would be easy to be stealthy with a hightop. Regular length van is more maneuverable, but of course has less space. Any length van will be much better than a Class C RV and bigger.

People have lofts in hightops, but the head room is much less. Others build a bed about 3-4 feet from the floor which provides plenty of headroom and storage underneath.
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Old 03-24-2019, 08:59 AM   #7
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As long as you plan the layout to allow for "down-stairs" sleeping when needed, I don't think a lowered top will stand out much. Left plain (without fancy racks and lights), a pop top own't stand out more an aftermarket raised roof. But still... a high-roof van could be any contractor/shuttle bus/expeditor so it still gets the nod for being the most stealth.

I'd say other components stand out more, such as non-OEM style windows, and exterior cutouts like fridge and furnace vents.

Have you decided on a chassis yet? The differences in roof heights and wheelbases are pretty dramatic. The "RB" 144 wheelbase Sprinter high roof is pretty close to the Transit "EB" 148 high roof, but that's about the only configuration that matches up (and probably is the best for most camper vans).

The SMB website does have a good comparison for dimensions. Just ignore the technicals specs. Seem to be a lot of discrepancies on that sheet (obsolete powertrains, incorrect turning radius numbers etc).
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Old 03-31-2019, 11:28 AM   #8
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Hi top vs.

I loved my high top, extra long SM. I slept in the back..I wouldn't like to sleep in a loft because it may impede me from seeing something around me. I like the ability to leave in a flash if anything is amiss. My cat also liked it. :-)
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Old 04-01-2019, 10:00 AM   #9
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I would develop your use cases and then design the van around them. I'm assuming you are looking at the Mercedes, not waiting for the 2020 Transit AWD since I don't think anyone on this forum has driven one.

The standard body drives great. I have a high roof and the turning radius is better than my Tacoma. I haven't done any suspension work yet, but once the van was built out, it rides fine on the road (washboardy fire roads is another story).

I went back and forth on the penthouse vs high roof. High roof is more stealthy than a popped penthouse, but you can always just leave the penthouse down if stealth requires it. My primary reason for high roof was to not have to deal with snow, and the ease of setup/tear down. I have two solar panels and a large cargo box mounted on an aluminess rack. Even without the rack, it doesn't take much snow to hit the 200# lift limit of the electric pop top. I've woken up with two feet of snow on the roof and it's nice to know that I don't need to worry about it. Other nice things about the high roof: more insulation (went with the extreme insulation which included the headliner), more cabinet storage, less points of wear and failure (on the pop top).

Biggest downside of not having the penthouse is not having a second sleeping area. We planned our van around just needing to accommodate my wife and me, as well as an infrequent +1. Our +1 strategy right now is an air mattress on the floor on the rare occasion it's needed. We have 55 nights in the van, and the +1 situation has only happened twice. Other assets of the penthouse that come to mind is better ventilation, extra space, a couple inches lower (~5-6" compared to the penthouse I think), ?

If it was just me and the dog, I would have stayed with my decision of the high roof. If it was a spouse + kid + dog, I would have thought more about the penthouse.
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Old 04-01-2019, 04:44 PM   #10
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Unless you've camped in both, it's hard to imagine all the subtle differences of hightop vs poptop, or even specific cabinet placements and couch placement, etc. Your needs on a sunny trip vary greatly from a rainy one. Stealth vs campsite. Do you sleep a few hours in a truckstop occasionally? Do you like to cook inside or outside? Do you hang out inside or outside? Are you a road tripper? Or a week in one spot? For us the questions keep changing over the years.

We had a VW poptop, which I loved, EXCEPT, when camping a lot of stuff had to move to make out the bed. Our favorite trips are road trips where every night is spent in a different spot, and that constant shuffling of bags of stuff became tedious. Add in our Doberman camps with us and she's underfoot while moving stuff around.

Our current van is now a hightop, and everything has a permanent place with no need for shuffling stuff around at all. Setting up for sleep means parking the van semi level. No more pulling off the highway because I'm tired only to be wide awake by the time the van was ready to sleep in.

But I will admit, if we were to do more camping where we didn't move for days, I did love the air flow of having that top popped. And I haven't found a drive through I can fit in any longer.

The best thing to do though is find out what you like. If you get a chance, go to some shows where vans are available to check out. Ask if you can get inside and get the feel for it. Some floor plans feel open and airy, others cramped and claustrophobic. At a recent show I was in, every person looking at my van that didn't have one yet was invited to step inside and set on the couch. See if van life was a tolerable compromise.

My daughter and her husband just bought a Jayco 26' slideout travel trailer this past weekend. Lady Shadetree and I were standing inside it marveling at how much room they would have when camping. Then we stood outside of it shaking our heads at the size of it when travelling. We'll keep our van.

It's really about which compromises you can live with. We each have different criteria for what we prefer to put up with. The trick is finding what that is for yourself without buying one of each. Over the years Lady Shadetree and I have camped in a tent, a tent trailer, a travel trailer, a pop top van, a low roof van, and now our high top van. Each of them had their advantages. Each of them have their compromise. The succession of Shadetree Dogs never seemed to care one way or another...
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