Adventure Vehicle advice for a growing family?

Photomike

White Turtle Adventures & Photography
We did a family of 6 and a dog with a truck camper (2 bench seats). We did it BUT it was VERY tight and not enjoyable at night 2 of us slept in a tent.

If I was going to do it again I would get a 4x4 van (first choice) or a larger SUV. Build a kitchen (fridge / stove top) in the back to use on day trips / exploring. Keep in as many seats / whatever configuration that you like if it is a van. Then pull a trailer.

That way you can still explore during the day with everyone and have the ability to cook. The extra fridge allows you to take more food and have food with you all day.

With the trailer you can leave it at the base camp so you can explore more. If someone does not feel well or needs a break you can still explore with the van.

My reasoning for the van is because of friends traveling with you or a pet. I LOVE THE ROOM OF A VAN for versatility.

At this point in my life (kids are gone) I have a camperized van for my travels but I am looking at adding a trailer for the wife. So when we are exploring I can leave her sleeping while I get up at 5am to go and take pictures or if I am out late shooting. Opens up a lot of options.
 

neilsonwheels

New member
What would it take to get a bench seat in there?


A major reconfigure of the interior. Not out of the question but we would lose quite a bit of storage and sleeping space.

May explore an e350 xlt but the cost of an equivalently equipped and 4x4 capable van is a barrier. That would also have be a 2014 or earlier, or a Field van/sportsmobile fiberglass body and that's like $200k+ I think, and a one ton truck with a flatbed camper can be done for less with probably a better platform.

Too bad big Sprinters and transits are (to my knowledge at least) no match for the quigley. Wouldn't take either on like White Rim trail but our van conquered it and plenty of other way off road places. Im repeating myself but kudos to quigley.
 

a.boelkins

Member
Interesting thread that I'll continue to watch, but figured I'd throw out my experience of going from 1 kid to 3 kids in less than two years (as you are about to do!):

It's pretty easy to add one kid into your pre-kid, outdoor-centric lifestyle and seamlessly incorporate them into your adventures. And with your current rig, it sounds like you've done a great job of this already! Huge props on that.

For my wife and I, adding twins to the family while raising a two year old was exponentially more difficult. Without exaggeration, the first two years of raising twins, plus our older son were the hardest of our lives (and we are well supported with both sides of the family local). Many days/week were spent in "survival mode". At this point with our 2.5 y/o boy/girl twins and 4.5 y/o boy, we are just starting to see the light and some potential to start adventuring more extensively. In hindsight, we completely underestimated how much raising twins would limit our mental, physical, and emotional energy.

My two cents: Don't try to figure out the perfect solution until you've had a chance to get your feet under you.

Cheers,

Alex
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
You already probably know kids and stuff- lots of stuff. That and base camping is pretty much the only way it goes well even with my family of 4 the occasional one night transit stay is ok but base camping is mandatory. Which case trailer is best. 5 don’t kid your self you need full sized seating even with 4 we also have had grand parents in the mix so unfortunately for me truck wasn’t working regarding butts in seats options. However hands down truck with big 2nd row and likely utility style cap for gear garage would be ideal.
My reality is a heavy tow Expedition 8 passenger with 2nd row that easily flips to captains chair format typically used when hauling 6-7. Bench 2nd row mandatory!!!! Fixed captains 2nd row just ruins SUV utility. Ie 5 with rear gear storage space.

A buddy with three kids teens now just bought his first SUV after many trucks. Needed the seating room. Has a 27ft travel trailer. He’s rolling a extra long heavy tow Expedition now has done several trips. Said he shouhave probably made the switch a few yrs ago. He does miss the truck bed but has found ways to work around it.

As for trailer size? Yeah it sounds like your like me regarding the smallest foot print possible is best. I have towed big trailers in the past. For my camping / travel interests 20-24ft bumper to hitch is my max length interest for many reasons. Both ease of towing given if we go bigger than our 4x6 its for extended trips in more diverse weather so yeah towing ease is important or it won’t get used. Airbnb starts looking real good with hot tub, garage, dog space, and just a SUV doing 70-80mph😆.

So far the BC built Escape 17 and 19 with me rigging bunks for kids, the Airstream 23d or FB with large front seating area again making it easy to rig kids bunks. The mantis was high on my list but price spikes, lack of a true bathroom (wife says if we’re upgrading bathroom makes sense) that and kids bunks would need to be totally reworked to work for my pre teens. Quality also is kinda crap.

So hard sided under 20-24ft max with workable self built bunk space options.

Kinda on my radar is the Geopro / epro 19fbth. The rear load door, air suspension ie gear hauling ability and bunk build ideas along rear side wall also has me looking at those but pre pandemic they were $19-20k new. Now 25-28k new mehh not really into it at that price. Would rather have a Airstream for 50ishk.

I could drop 100k on a fancy thing but we sail more than we road trip so would rather buy a newer sailboat 😆. I get way way way way more quality and value out of a sailboat than a crappy RV👍
 

Johnboyy

Member
Interesting thread that I'll continue to watch, but figured I'd throw out my experience of going from 1 kid to 3 kids in less than two years (as you are about to do!):

It's pretty easy to add one kid into your pre-kid, outdoor-centric lifestyle and seamlessly incorporate them into your adventures. And with your current rig, it sounds like you've done a great job of this already! Huge props on that.

For my wife and I, adding twins to the family while raising a two year old was exponentially more difficult. Without exaggeration, the first two years of raising twins, plus our older son were the hardest of our lives (and we are well supported with both sides of the family local). Many days/week were spent in "survival mode". At this point with our 2.5 y/o boy/girl twins and 4.5 y/o boy, we are just starting to see the light and some potential to start adventuring more extensively. In hindsight, we completely underestimated how much raising twins would limit our mental, physical, and emotional energy.

My two cents: Don't try to figure out the perfect solution until you've had a chance to get your feet under you.

Cheers,

Alex
I didn't want to be the one to say it.

Focus on getting used to family life rather than vehicle choices for a while

I'd suggest getting a bench seat and a big tent. It will allow you to get out there but if it transpires you don't get out much you don't have more money invested.
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
Yeah Boelkins comment definitely a major thing to listen too.

Keep in mind base camping and cool Airbnb are very similar in some ways. One has way more accommodating aspects than the other. And if you get COVID price crazy on vehicle crap you likely spent 15yrs of amazing Airbnb base camp $ and thats before insurance cost, fuel cost, maintenance cost and Tow rig cost.

Allot to be said about having a sweet SUV and arriving to a place already setup, beds ready, hot water ready. Just unload ice chest, luggage and toys then crack a beer.
If this back country back packer dragged into car camping with kids then Airbnb sucker can see the advantages you can too 😆😆.
I still go adventuring up to remote lakes and trails I just leave and return to a base camp I don’t need to setup, fight to get space in a crowd etc.

Our Trailer trips 4x6 utility with two full sized tent bunks is primarily our NP rig and the kids JR sailing boat rack, trailer. So any RV like upgrade will be for NP park type trips.

I have two active kids. One is Club Volleyball, Tennis, Swim team and Jr sailing. The other is Tennis, Jr Sailing and Robotics. Oh and we’re doing 6 days snow skiing this yr only time we can fit it in the scheduleYou’ll have 3..

We typically try to plan 1-2 camping style trips a yr 6-12 days long to hit National Parks. That’s between Trips to Europe, Hawaii and team sports tournaments.
One kid is crazy easy almost zero impact on Adult adventure ideas. Two kids is definitely an impact. 3 kids its 3x less time to do trips especially if they are active kids into healthy hobbies and sports etc.

I’m also a stay at home dad but manage my rentals and have elders I’m finding need more and more care. Just moved my mom in with us last month. If I do a trailer it might become my Man cave err escape pod 😆. Wife works long hours and travels SR management type stuff. 3 kids and two working parents my Brother is that model. He has a nanny part time.
 
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Ozarker

Explorer
The van only seats 4. Seating for 5 would be required.
He might swap out 2 seats for a bench seat.

Which reminds me, I just happen to have a power bench seat that opens up to a "queen" bed, tan and black, that was in my E 150, actually I think these sofa beds fit in any full size van. It even has a center fold down console with drink holders! In very clean condition, a hundred bucks and a case of Ultra will take it away.:D
 

Smitty619

New member
+1 to a.boelkin’s post!
Twins are exponentially tougher and given the fact that you already have a little one - it’s gonna be HARD.
I’d hold off on anything until the twins get a bit older. Mine just turned 3 and we’re just now to the point where we feel that they are ready for more adventurous outdoor trips. Well, to be fair, maybe it’s more of the fact that the parents feel ready. Surviving this far has been tough for us.
 

Mashurst

Adventurer
As a counterpoint let me offer this antidote...

A few years ago, I was camping with a buddy and my three boys. At the time, they were 3, 8, and 11. We also had my buddy's nephew, maybe 10 or something. At one point, the kids were all playing with a canoe down by the lake, and my buddy and I were puttering around camp, and this couple came by in a nice off-road camper, and we started talking. They commented on how it looked like the kids were having a good time and how they might should take their kids camping but that they didn't think they were old enough. I asked how old their kids were, and they said 11 and 14! I was actually dumbfounded and did not know what to say. What were they doing leaving those kids at home? By the sound of it, they had never taken the kids camping!

Time with your kids is so short. How is my oldest in high school? We may only have 4 more years with him. When they are young, it is harder to get out for sure, but please don't let any years go by without getting them out. Admittedly my kids are more spaced out, and I have never had twins, but I have had each of them out camping from the time their age was counted in weeks. None of them can remember the first 10 camping trips they went on, much less the very first. It is a part of them and a part of our family. I find it has a very positive effect on them as they age. It gives them confidence and independence, but also it is a kind of touchstone for our family that we have done fun and sometimes hard things together. I don't know what would fill the void if we did not do this thing together.

I presume I am preaching to the choir on this forum, and sure you need to keep it fun with the kids and meet them where they are, meaning the nature, duration, and experience of trips will change when you add kids and as your kids age.

Infants are actually easy to camp with and very rewarding. I have such great memories of my little ones in my lap wrapped in a blanket as we sat watching the waves crash on the beach or around the primal portal of a campfire with their little eyes twinkling in the firelight. I find the hardest age toddlers because they want to roam free but really struggle to stay out of dirt and danger. We kind of had to pick trips with grass, for instance, to make that work. The point is to make it work. It is worth the work and even the failures for the big wins.
 

Smitty619

New member
As a counterpoint let me offer this antidote...

A few years ago, I was camping with a buddy and my three boys. At the time, they were 3, 8, and 11. We also had my buddy's nephew, maybe 10 or something. At one point, the kids were all playing with a canoe down by the lake, and my buddy and I were puttering around camp, and this couple came by in a nice off-road camper, and we started talking. They commented on how it looked like the kids were having a good time and how they might should take their kids camping but that they didn't think they were old enough. I asked how old their kids were, and they said 11 and 14! I was actually dumbfounded and did not know what to say. What were they doing leaving those kids at home? By the sound of it, they had never taken the kids camping!

Time with your kids is so short. How is my oldest in high school? We may only have 4 more years with him. When they are young, it is harder to get out for sure, but please don't let any years go by without getting them out. Admittedly my kids are more spaced out, and I have never had twins, but I have had each of them out camping from the time their age was counted in weeks. None of them can remember the first 10 camping trips they went on, much less the very first. It is a part of them and a part of our family. I find it has a very positive effect on them as they age. It gives them confidence and independence, but also it is a kind of touchstone for our family that we have done fun and sometimes hard things together. I don't know what would fill the void if we did not do this thing together.

I presume I am preaching to the choir on this forum, and sure you need to keep it fun with the kids and meet them where they are, meaning the nature, duration, and experience of trips will change when you add kids and as your kids age.

Infants are actually easy to camp with and very rewarding. I have such great memories of my little ones in my lap wrapped in a blanket as we sat watching the waves crash on the beach or around the primal portal of a campfire with their little eyes twinkling in the firelight. I find the hardest age toddlers because they want to roam free but really struggle to stay out of dirt and danger. We kind of had to pick trips with grass, for instance, to make that work. The point is to make it work. It is worth the work and even the failures for the big wins.
While I agree with all of this sentiment…parents of multiples have a different set of challenges that seem hard for singleton parents to really fathom, based on my experience.
 

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