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Old 09-08-2019, 10:31 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2019
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Longtime lurker - new member with questions

Hi all,

I've been pouring through threads in prep for buying and outfitting a van. I have a few questions based on my adventuring dreams and I'm hoping you could offer some advice.

I dream about 2 things: 1. standard national parks/nature/backpacking destinations (particularly Alaska) and 2. taking my kaboat (incredibly seaworthy inflatable boat) up and down the West Coast of North America to fish, spearfish, surf, freedive, and photograph the ocean and rivers. Especially interested in Alaska and Baja. I'd like the ability to drive to off the beaten path Alaskan and Baja destinations and launch my kaboat from shore.

My first question is: do I need 4x4 for this? I have no interest in snow or traditional off road trails (like Moab). I like the idea of it for peace of mind and better depreciation, but most of the threads I've gone through with a 4x4-or-not discussion center around snow and rock crawling. I've been to baja several times, but not well off road (just typical dirt roads that lead to a beach). I've been to Alaska, but not driving so I don't know what the dirt roads to get to strange beaches are like - any insights there would be much appreciated.

My other question has to do with salt water and moisture inside. With an inflatable and wetsuits, spearguns, surfboards, etc, I know wherever I store my stuff will be wet and potentially salty if I can't rinse the gear. Do you think a 'wet area' inside the van with some floor vents would suffice? Is taking a bunch of wet things and storing them inside a recipe for mold/disaster?

Thanks - I look forward to learning more from all of you and will update you on what I decide to go with.

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Old 09-09-2019, 05:17 AM   #2
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1. If it is in your budget, I would say to get 4x4. If you are talking about Alaska, you are talking about the potential for snow, even in summer. I guess that could be said for any mountain environment you are considering traveling. If it isn’t in the budget, look into limited slip for the rear.

2. I would store the boat, wetsuit, etc, outside either in a rear bumper box or rooftop box. I would not want to be introducing those on a consistent basis to the interior.
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:40 AM   #3
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Thanks for your input. I've heard a 2wd with LSD would work for Alaska, but not sure about sand in Baja.

If I build out a custom interior rather than stock SMB do you think there is a way to make it work? I think a shower is a must for me (nothing like a hot shower after freezing your ass off in the ocean for 4 hours), so I was thinking of storing everything in the shower... still at the idea-collecting stage, though. I'll look into some outside storage as well. Thanks
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:59 AM   #4
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It might be possible to build to make it work, but then I'd try to cut down on the use of fabric in the interior buildout. I'd still be concerned with that moisture being trapped inside, though.

Others will probably have more specific input for how they store items similar to what you're describing.
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Old 09-09-2019, 10:42 AM   #5
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1- if you have the budget, 4x4 is great. However, a winch and rear LSD or locker will probably get you nearly as far as 4x4 will. Plus, without 4x4 you will be more cautious and probably won't get stuck.

2- I would either want a deep shower pan or large plastic tub that could double as a shower pan. Strip off your wetsuit in that and keep all your wet gear in it. can be used inside or outside. I would probably do a hot shower at the back of the van and use the tub on the ground. Much less likely to end up with water problems.
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Old 09-09-2019, 12:20 PM   #6
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Baja - I find 4x4 necessary there, but *only* for the last little bit of sand driving to camp on beaches. The other backroads don't really need 4x4, unless you're doing some kind of gnarly washed-out streambed crossings. If you've been to Baja and are happy with the kind of adventuring you do without 4x4, it sounds like you're just fine with 2WD.

-- Geoff
2004 Ford, SMB 4x4, RB-50
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Old 09-09-2019, 10:52 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the input. I was mostly looking into ford e series vans (and maybe chevy/gmc), but now perhaps I will consider a ford transit with the LSD. I think a 4x4 transit or sprinter will be out of my price range.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:18 PM   #8
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I have traveled Mexico, Baja and Alaska in a 2w and 4w. 4w gives you a lot more confidence and potential fun as well. I spent 11 hours on a Baja Mt. Road (East rd. to San Juanico) in my VW Westy and the following year, 3.5 hours on the same rd. in my 88 Toyota FJ62! Given your mission, i.e. Alaska, Mexico etc., I'd hold out for 4w.
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Old 09-13-2019, 11:27 AM   #9
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Gramps, you slay me!!! LOLOL! I would have to agree...the 2x will make you more cautious and 4x4 makes you think, "I can do this!" Very funny, but true observation!

Either way, if your "hot shower" is the most/more important part , then a big fresh water tank(inverter to run electric water heater and gray water holding tank can't just let it drain under van unless its an outside shower and brrrrrr in Alaska) and water heater a must! I would build around that....put all that under a gaucho bed...wahtever your final outcome is Good luck and keep us posted...and as I say to all New Members: LOTS OF PICS!!! You never know who you motivate to go somewhere you loved!
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Old 09-13-2019, 12:55 PM   #10
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Thanks for all this input. Yes, I am building around a hot shower. I see that inside showers are more popular in sprinter/tranist style builds and not so much in the econoline builds. I get that roof height is the main reason why, but do you think it could be a similar set up in pop tops or fiberine high roofs on the econoline-style vans?
I'll start poking around threads looking for indoor showers, but please feel free to send along any you see!
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