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Old 12-09-2013, 10:09 AM   #11
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

If you are thinking about full-timing in a van, I'd really recommend including a hot water system so that you can take warm showers when you need (sponge baths might be fine for some but being able to really clean up is a luxury), a built-in heater, and an inside stove. There are those who like to cook outside (we BBQ outside all of the time) but when the weather is nasty (and you can't drop the top and go back home), you need to be able to do everything inside. You might also find too that the EB will work better for you going solo since you'll need to pack summer clothes and winter clothes and enough of them to not spend all of your time at a laundromat. We have never had a problem dragging the rear of our EB but so find that parallel parking in small towns might mean picking an end of the block spot...
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Old 12-09-2013, 10:56 AM   #12
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Given your desire to full-time, I wonder if hard top (Voyager) wouldn't be better. It's always up, and you can move around inside on the fly (not like, set the cruise control and go into the galley and make coffee).

We're really considering a Voyager over the PH just for the convenience of stopping somewhere and going into the back for a nap...
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Old 12-09-2013, 11:11 AM   #13
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

For us, the biggest advantage of the van over a truck camper is the easy access in and out of the van. We can sit inside the van with the side door open, and it's almost like being outside. Or if we're sitting/camping outside, it's easy to hop in and out to get things. A pickup camper is more like a motorhome - you go up the stair through a narrow door, and then you're INSIDE.

Another advantage of the van is interior space. You have to get a pretty big and heavy camper to match the lounging area and open floor area of our RB50 design.

For full timing I agree that some plumbing would be nice. At that point a Class C would look attractive.
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Old 12-09-2013, 01:57 PM   #14
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Think outside the box and design your own interior. Keep it simple. The more you design in, the more maintenance you will have.
A pick up & camper has versatility a dedicated van/interior does not have. And potentially better fuel economy.
You could keep your Toyota, stay small, and put an AT FlipPac http://www.adventuretrailers.com/flippac.html or a Livinlite cabover. http://www.livinlite.com/truck-campers.php
I don't think the Toyota V-6 will be underpowered.

I designed folding bed/beds for my van and have versatility not offered by SMB. I think claustrophobic in SMB floor plans (although I am not).
I also do not have dedicated heat/water/bath systems either, and improvise, but then again I do not have to winterize or worry about freezing.
Most all here want everything and the kitchen sink, which makes for a very heavy and complicated rig. Would you like to live simple or deluxe out on the road?
And IMO, a big ass Ford 4x4 does not lend itself well to tight twisty, off camber trails, although many (Like daveb) have been many many cool places in their vans. There could be many trees you might not want to scrape through on your bucks up van..

Good luck deciding!

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Old 12-09-2013, 07:40 PM   #15
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Quote:
Keep it simple. The more you design in, the more maintenance you will have.
maxacceleration is right on with that info. But there are advantages to having stuff built in. Specifically, you don't have to stow stuff that's built-in.

Personally I wouldn't cook in my van. In bear country it seems like a big mistake to have a van that reeks of food, though I haven't heard of any problems in that regard either. Maybe I'm just too paranoid.

Refrigerators are real nice. A solar panel is nice for keeping the battery charged so the refrigerator can keep chugging on an extended dry-camping journey. Refrigerators and solar panels tend to be low maintenance items.


Quote:
I designed folding bed/beds for my van and have versatility not offered by SMB. I think claustrophobic in SMB floor plans (although I am not).
Having had a home-built interior with a center aisle and now an official SMB RB-50, the RB-50 is more comfortable and usable in most respects (IMHO), but the center aisle offers much greater flexibility for other kinds of loading. (Apologies for approaching anything re the religious war about the two interior styles.)


Quote:
I also do not have dedicated heat/water/bath systems either, and improvise, but then again I do not have to winterize or worry about freezing.
This is one of those stow vs built-in issues. My RB50 has on-board water. It's nice, because I don't have to stow water containers. OTOH, I have to worry about how clean the tank is. And I end up hauling drinking water anyway because I don't want to drink out of the tank even if it's clean. So it ends up being wash water mostly for dishes and the occasional outdoor shower/rinse.

My RB50 has built in propane heat. It's very comfortable. If you're going to be in cold weather much, it's great to have. I carried a separate heater that was a hassle in the non-SMB home-built interior. It was way more hassle than having the built-in heat. (Wish I had some kind of built-in air-conditioning for the back, but I guess when it's that hot it's time to head for the coast.)


Quote:
And IMO, a big ass Ford 4x4 does not lend itself well to tight twisty, off camber trails, although many (Like daveb) have been many many cool places in their vans. There could be many trees you might not want to scrape through on your bucks up van..
Equipment is important. My non-SMB van had lockers and was able to keep up with D90s, Rubicons, etc, on a Moab run. My RB50 doesn't have lockers yet and I've been on trails where I had to turn around without them.

Regarding off-camber, I'm not too fond of it regardless of what I'm driving. There is definitely an extra pucker factor in the van vs a jeep.

My previous lockers were electric and I liked them. I'm debating putting air lockers on the RB50, partly to justify having an onboard compressor, which means I won't have to stow my portable compressor for airing up my tires.



Those that argue for the Voyager top have a pretty valid position. The pop-top is nice, and provides a degree of stealth when needed, but the Voyager-style top makes the interior much friendlier for regular use -- and adds additional storage cabinets up top, if desired. But then you don't get the elevated tent-camping experience available with the pop top.

There are quite a few choices and each one has pros and cons.


I thought long and hard about going the truck camper route. The van won. The ability to hop into the driver's seat without exiting the van seems like a safety factor to me. Plus, as has been pointed out, the front seat area adds to the living space.
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Old 12-09-2013, 09:25 PM   #16
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Thanks everyone for your input. One of the many things I hadn't thought about was the ability to open the side panel and have an indoor/outdoor feel. I like that. Max, although I like the open look of your van, I figure that I would rather equip it for comfort since I plan on living in it - thus, fridge, stove, sink, heater, bath and as much storage as possible. The only real reason I was thinking about a truck/camper was the clearance issue. From the photos I've seen, everything other than a 4x4 is pretty low to the ground. Is it possible to get higher clearance without going 4x4? I don't plan on climbing mountains with it, just being able to take back (dirt) roads now and then. And thanks for the comment about the EB rather than the RB. With that in mind, I may rethink the RB. Parking a bit farther away from something isn't an issue and the added space would be welcome. Also, regarding the hardtop, I've thought about that and although I like the convenience, the issue I came up with was the wind shear factor. Once in the desert in SoCal with major wind gusts, I saw a van like that and was surprised that the wind didn't knock it over. Perhaps I am overthinking it?

Again, my thanks and appreciation to everyone for your contributions. Reading the experiences of everyone else is helping. Having never done this before and not being able to afford buying something else if I don't like what I finally choose, the more information the better.

Here's why I'm so excited about the potential to travel the country - http://billhead.smugmug.com/. The idea of being able to spend a month in Yellowstone and places like that make going to work so much easier.


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Old 12-09-2013, 11:44 PM   #17
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

I have a 2wd E-350 RB SMB with limited-slip, penthouse and center aisle/gaucho build. I would consider it appropriate for your stated use. I have good clearance for WV backroads getting to whitewater kayaking river access points. 4wd "would be nice" but, based on my previous 2 4wd pickups, is not really needed for my use. CLEARANCE is more important. Per Stephen Stewart (below), departure angle is also more important. Better fuel mileage likely is more important, too.

There are several PU-vs-Van threads that can be searched for (try "pickup camper"), also many build alternative threads. Also, several people here full-time and have separate websites with a lot of info (e.g. http://www.advanturetrek.com/ http://www.badgertrek.com/ http://davidelmore.com/Sportsmobile.php)

- where do you want to go/in what kind of weather/how do you plan to use the camper?
- do you really "need" 4wd to go where you want to go/do what you want? Clearance, good tires (and low pressure) and limited slip or ARB locker will get you a long way. Recovery gear will get you out of most stucks (shovel, HL jack, sand ladders, winch) and would be needed anyway with 4wd. And you can add 4wd later if you need it while saving fuel costs in the mean time.
- How tall can you go? 4wd and/or Voyager-style tops add a lot of height. This can be limiting on woods roads, parking garages, etc.
- How handy are you? Can you do an interior build yourself after a SMB penthouse install?

Although it is focused more on expedition campers, Stephen Stewart's excellent article on is worth reading for anyone in the market for an off-pavement camper http://www.xor.org.uk/silkroute/equipment/choosevan.htm Some of the other equipment articles are useful too http://www.xor.org.uk/silkroute/equipment/index.html

Stuff to think about With respect to your existing house: What will you do after 2 years? How attached are you to this house? How much stuff do you have that you want to keep? Would a storage unit near an apartment (rented only when lived in) work for you? Do need to have a 'Home' somewhere while traveling? What if the travel vehicle gets destroyed (crash, crushed by tree, etc.)?
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Old 12-10-2013, 08:34 AM   #18
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Thanks much for the links. I will check them out. The 4-wheel drive isn't necessary. I'm not that adventurous that it would be needed much. There have been a few times in my truck that I was glad that I had it, but more from knowing that I could use it if necessary rather than need. As you say, the real need is clearance. Did you just get bigger tires or something else for the clearance? Really ignorant about the process.

My fantasy for after winning the lottery was to be able to move to different places for 2-3 months for exploration and photography, but I was thinking more of cities. For reality, I figure if I have a mobile home, I can leisurely explore places other than cities as well. Again, most would be places that are easily accessible with a dirt road thrown in once in a while.

Good questions about the house and haven't come to any decisions yet. A friend and I own a duplex and both see quitting our jobs in 2-3 years. With the house gone, I don't really have ties, so can look at moving wherever. With stuff in storage, traveling a while will give me time to decide.
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Old 12-10-2013, 09:59 AM   #19
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Quote:
Originally Posted by BillinOaklandCA
...The 4-wheel drive isn't necessary. I'm not that adventurous that it would be needed much. There have been a few times in my truck that I was glad that I had it, but more from knowing that I could use it if necessary rather than need. As you say, the real need is clearance. Did you just get bigger tires or something else for the clearance? Really ignorant about the process.
^^^ sorry if i missed it, and im suprised no one else recommended it, but you can lift a 2wd van and put larger tires on it to gain you some clearance. ive seen a few members on here go that route with positive results. easy alternative to a 4wd conversion and still have some ground clearance.
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Old 12-11-2013, 12:52 AM   #20
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Re: SMB or truck & camper

Depending where you want to travel I feel you need to think of chains vs. 4x4. It is a big factor to dwell on. It's is nice to drive by a chain station.

As far as design if you only have to plan for one person rather than two, that alone can make a huge difference on the build. It can kill you on re-sale though. A single person design can go a long way. If I were full timing it (as a single dude) I'd want a livable design when on the road and things I'd consider are what is in a typical home. Climate control would be big but also a head and shower would have to be considered. I never thought I'd need a stove inside but after having to deal with a butane stove, I sure like the new propane stove that was installed. No you don't have to cook beacon inside but there are plenty of stove top or micro wave dishes that work well out on the trail.
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