AdventureTaco - turbodb's build and adventures

turbodb

Active member
September 4, 2018.

Our last camp fire had been both long and too short. We'd metered out all of our remaining wood - making it last - until the flames on the last logs finally went out. That meant we were working on less sleep that normal as we set out west - spirits high that the trucks were running, a bit bummed for the events from the day before.

But it wouldn't be long before the trucks would be patched up and we'd be on the road again - that we knew for sure!

 
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thezentree

pretend redneck
I dig the “what did/didn’t work” review posts you’ve been doing. I don’t get out in the woods as much as you do, but I’ve been trying to keep track of things that need to be improved when I do. Yours might save me some time, money, and frustration.
 

turbodb

Active member
I dig the “what did/didn’t work” review posts you’ve been doing. I don’t get out in the woods as much as you do, but I’ve been trying to keep track of things that need to be improved when I do. Yours might save me some time, money, and frustration.
Awesome, glad you enjoy them. My hope is that they can be helpful for everyone - so much I feel like everyone talks about how they "bought this" or "did that" to their truck, and then we never hear about it again - good or bad. The important part of course is how that thing works over time.
 

turbodb

Active member
Rig Review: What worked and what didn't on the Re-Tour?

Rig Review is a new type of post that I'm going to try to write up after most trips, where I'll note any things that worked really well, or could have been better. The idea has always been to optimize the Tacoma build and setup over time, so there's nothing really new from that perspective.

I won't talk about everything I've got going on - just new equipment to the trip and/or any outliers that deserve a mention. At the very least, I figure that long-term, real-world reviews of the products I use are good for everyone!


September 8, 2018.

The Re-Tour was an amazing trip. Sure, it had a bit of deja-vu with 2017's The De-Tour weather wise right at the beginning, but by the end we had sunny skies during the day and cool nights - a great combination if you ask me. All in all, the truck worked wonderfully on this trip, with just a few things that deserved a bit of discussion.

The Swing-Out Table (new this trip)
TL;DR - conceptually the fold-down-and-out table is cool but I need to rework how the far corner is supported for it to be useful. Oh, and it can't have any wooden components, since they swell up in wet weather.

It was just before The Re-Tour that I fabricated the fold-down-and-out table on the swing-out. On the trip, it sort-of-worked a couple times. However, there were two fatal flaws:
  1. It was never really level - the weight of the stove caused the far (unsupported) corner to sag. Note the rocks supporting the stove in the photo below.
  2. It never worked after it got wet (the third night) because the wood supports swelled up and were "stuck" in the closed position.

I've got ideas about how to fix all of this with a second revision of the table, but for now, the initial prototype has served it's purpose and is coming off the truck. Or at least, I'm not planning to use it as-is anymore.

The Coleman Classic Camp Stove and Lodge Cast Iron Grill/Griddle (new this trip)
TL;DR - There are pros and cons to this new system, but it's not quite right for me so I'm changing it all up again.

The Coleman Classic Camp Stove and Lodge Cast Iron Grill/Griddle were new to me on The Re-Tour, replacing the Weber Q100 grill that we've used for the last 5 years. My hope was that these would pack better and take up less room than the Weber, making packing of the bed easier.


They did a great job at that, and I also loved how little propane the stove used, and how quickly the grill/griddle heated up.

However, I grill almost every night when I'm camping, and I really missed the easy (read: none) clean-up of the Weber grill. With the cast iron griddle, there was real cleaning involved, and it was big, heavy and awkward to clean. Plus, due to the size of the grill, I couldn't use the it and a pan at the same time on the stove - something I could do on the Weber.

However, I think I have a solution. I'm going to get the Coleman Camp Grill/Stove, a combo unit that has a burner for a pan and a burner for a grill. I didn't get it the first time because I thought it was a bit kitschy, and that the burner for the pan would be too small. But now, I think it might be just right.

The Electrical System (long-term)
TL;DR - Though it's a great battery, my days of running a single Group 24F Toyota TrueStart battery are numbered; I'm moving to a dual battery system. And, I can no longer recommend the DBPOWER 600A 18000mAh Portable Car Jump Starter, since it failed to start my truck when I had a dead battery.

To date, I've run a single battery - the main starting battery - in my rig, and it's worked great. The battery I've been running (since 2011) is a Group 24F Toyota TrueStart, and it's done everything I asked of it - started the truck, run all of the communication equipment (Kenwood D710G dual-band ham radio) (Uniden Pro 520XL CB radio), charged phones and tablets, powered the ARB on-board air compressor, kept the ARB 50qt fridge at 35ºF, and even powered the Warn M8000 winch a couple of times.


On this last trip though, I had a bit of trouble on at least two separate occasions, where the fridge went into an error mode overnight due to lack of battery capacity.

This issue was compounded by the realization that the DBPOWER 600A 18000mAh Portable Car Jump Starter I carry in the truck doesn't have enough power to start the truck when the battery is really dead - something I found out after I returned and tried to start the truck for the first time.

I don't blame this on the battery at all - quite the contrary; I think the Toyota battery has probably performed better than it was ever expected to perform. That said, it's time to make a change - a change to a two-battery setup, so that I can run the fridge at night without worrying that I may not be able to start the truck in the morning.

Likely I'll go with two Northstar Group 24F sealed lead-acid batteries, but I still need to do some research into exactly how I'll setup the whole system. Suffice it to say, this will be a winter project for me this year.

The Ham Radio Antenna (long-term)
TL;DR - I'd like to find a ham radio antenna that is more flexible/floppy than the one I've currently got, and that doesn't have a small section of wound metal in the middle, since that gets stuck on trees and pulls at the roof mount.

I've been running a Diamond NR770HBNMO mobile antenna since I got my ham radio, and from a Tx/Rx perspective, it's awesome. However, I'm always worried that when I hit low-hanging branches, it's trying to rip itself out of my roof. Evidence of this is often clear, as it was on my last trip to the Pryor mountains.


I'd like to find a whip antenna that I can replace the Diamond with so that - hopefully - when I hit a branch, it just flexes and scoots by, rather than catching itself on the foliage.

The CVT Roof Top Tent (long-term)
TL;DR - I continue to be really happy with the main tent, for the most part. I am not however, happy with the rain fly on it due to the "stargazer" windows never ever drying off.

The @Cascadia Tents Mt. Shasta Pioneer tent has been a game changer when camping. Being up off the (often wet) ground, having quick setup and tear-down, and just being all-around more comfortable are big pluses in my book. However, since the beginning there's been a problem: drying the rain fly.

When I ordered the tent, I splurged and extra couple hundred dollars for the "stargazer" option. These are two "windows" in the roof of the tent which allow you to look up at the stars as you fall asleep. However, they've never really worked, and now I hate them - for two reasons:
  1. The plastic they are made of is not clear enough to actually see the stars. I mean, you can tell there are stars in the sky, but everything's blurry because the plastic is all "warped." So, they fail at their reason to be.
  2. The bigger problem however is that they never dry off. Unlike a normal rain fly that heats up in the morning sun to evaporate any water (rain, dew, etc.), these plastic windows either reflect all sunlight/heat or just let it pass through, and so they never warm up. As such, any water on them (and water droplets form on both the inside and outside of them) takes forever - literally hours and hours - to dry.

So, nearly every morning I find myself balancing on the edge of the truck rails with a beach towel in my hand, toweling off the sopping wet stargazer part of the tent - while everyone else (with normal rain flys) just let their tents dry out in the morning sun.

#fail :annoyed_gaah:

Unfortunately, I don't have a solution to this problem. Really what I'd like is a non-stargazer rain fly. However, I don't know if CVT even makes those anymore since stargazers are now "standard" on all tents. Plus, I bet they are expensive.

My recommendation to anyone else getting a tent: do everything you can to avoid the stargazer (or similar roof-window) option.
 

turbodb

Active member
Eeking Out Another Inch Under the Bed Rack
September 24, 2018.

Ever since building the bed rack, I've been happy with it. It's done everything I've asked of it and more. The CVT tent @Cascadia tents has always been secure, and it's been a great way to carry the Hi-Lift, supply power to the fridge, and keep everything in the bed secure.

It's also been a great height, leaving the tent even with the roof line, and allowing a good amount of space underneath for storage, not the least of which is the custom bed slide I made to hold the ARB fridge.

Until now that is.

You see, I've recently been on a push to better organize the bed of the truck. Things have fit on previous trips - it's not that I've been low on room or anything - but they haven't fit well. By well, I mean three things:
  1. I've been taking some stuff that's "nice to have," but a bit excessive - and I want to transition to things that are a bit more functional. My best example here is that we've been using a Weber Q grill and 20lb propane tank for all of our cooking. It's absolutely amazing for grilling, and works well enough for heating pans, but it's big and bulky and doesn't pack well.
  2. Things tend to move around in the bed when I'm on rougher trails or take whoops a little too fast.
  3. Perhaps most annoying of all is that getting to anything in the bed often requires taking out everything. My fridge has been stored "close to the cab" - easy enough to get out with the bed slide, but it means taking out everything I've packed in after the fridge (shovel, grill, chainsaw, water, bundles of wood, etc.)...just to make a sandwich.
Taken together, these three things mean that it often appears that I'm having a yard sale at the back of my truck at lunch and in camp. And with trips getting more frequent and longer, I wanted to solve all of this.




The first order of business was changing out things that were just the wrong shape to be taking over bumpy roads in the bed of a Tacoma - namely, the grill and 20lb propane tank. I'd decided to replace them with a more easily pack-able Coleman Propane Stove/Grill, and a couple 1lb bottles of propane.


Not only would these things be more packable, but they'd fit nicely with my next optimization: fewer, bigger containers. By moving from smaller containers to larger ones, I'd help with the remaining two problems - namely, the larger containers could be made to sandwich themselves more solidly in the bed, and - because they were larger, I would be able to reach them without the help of the bed slide - meaning that everything could be arranged so that more commonly used items (e.g. the fridge) could be further back in the bed, making them immediately accessible when stopping for lunch.

I looked long and hard for what these containers would be. I wanted something cheap, durable, and waterproof. It seemed that no matter where I looked, I could pick any two.

It was the story of life.

In the end, I decided that durable and waterproof clearly won out over cheap - since, if I did this right, these would be my last storage purchase. I knew from other guys on the trail that Military Medical Boxes would fit great, came in multiple sizes, and were durable enough for the back of a HMMWV so I ordered three.

(OK, I actually initially ordered two, but eventually went with three. And by "ordered," I mean that Monte @Blackdawg was kind enough to pick them up for me.)


My plan was to use them for
  1. My OSK (Oh **** Kit) where I'd store the spare parts, tools, etc. that I may need on the trail if something were to go really wrong.
  2. Kitchen supplies - like the camp stove, propane tank, plates, silverware, etc.
  3. Dry food that would survive bouncing around in the back of the truck and exposure to the temperature swings back there. things like bread, chips, cereal, etc.
Contents determined, I set about arranging the bed with the new gear. The OSK could slide all the way in - the idea being that I'd rarely use it. The other two boxes would go next to the fridge, which would now be further forward and more easily accessible.

Win. Win. Win.

It did mean that the fridge would need to move to the left as far as possible on the bed slide, and that was an easy change - I simply unscrewed it's drawer slide and moved it over.


There was only one problem. The fridge could no longer slide under the bed rack, since the bolts holding the CVT protruded down past the bottom of the rack a little too far for the fridge to slide under.


That meant it was time for some tent-to-bed-rack attachment modification. I wanted a solution that would be as strong or stronger than the current clamps, but that also resulted in the bottom of the bolts holding the tent to the rack being about an inch higher than they currently were.

The solution I came up with was to add mounting tabs to the bed rack itself. I'd make these out of 1"x1.5" angle, and utilize the same mounting rails on the tent to thread a much shorter bolt down through the angle, and into a lock nut - all tucked up into the depth of the bed rack itself; nothing protruding below the 1-inch square tubing.

I got started by removing the tent from the bed rack and locating where the tabs would be installed. With an angle grinder, I cleared the paint off of these areas to ready them for welding.


Now, the stock attachment for a CVT (or any other brand) tent was to use eight inserts in the aluminum channel to create four attachment points - two inserts for each point, to account for different size rails. I decided that rather than rely on just four attachment points, I'd spread the forces out over eight points, spread evenly down the rails - essentially one at each cross-rail of my rack.

That meant I needed eight tabs, so I fabbed those up next. Simple enough - just cutting them to length and then using the bench grinder to round over the various edges.


Tabs in hand, I welded them to the rack, ground down the welds on the top (so the tent rails would sit flat), and primed and painted everything. Once that all dried, I came back with the appropriate size drill bit (7mm for CVT-sized mounting bolts) and drilled a hole in each tab to receive the respective bolt.







[/CENTER]

Now on the home stretch, I replaced the tent with the help of @mrs.turbodb and secured it with some 20mm M6 bolts and corresponding lock nuts. At 20mm long (just under an inch), these bolts were plenty long to engage the tabs and nuts but plenty short to stay above the bottom of the rail.




And with that, the bed rack modification was complete and everything seems to fit like a glove. I've got a trip coming up, so time will be the true judge as to whether this whole situation works better than what I had going on before.

I for one, obviously, hope it does!





PS. I sell the bed racks. Hit me up if you want one. If you've got a second or third gen, I'll do those too for the same price - if you're in the Seattle area and I can measure your truck.
 

turbodb

Active member
I'd returned from The Re-Tour a mere three weeks before our departure date, but that didn't mean there were only a few short days to plan for our next epic adventure. In fact, quite the contrary - we'd been planning our trip south to Arizona and Utah for nearly a year - knowing that there was way more ground than we could cover in the two weeks we had allocated for the excursion.

Our plan was simple, if long. Start in St. George, Utah, and work our way east - first along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then through Glen Canyon National Monument (Lake Powell), and then through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to Bears Ears National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monuments. Then, finally, we'd work our way back north through Capitol Reef National Park, having seen the plethora of sights and plenty of dirt roads along the way. It was, to be sure, the most ambitious trip to date!

Read the whole thing in part 1 of Exploring the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Bears Ears and more! (Oct 2018)

 
However, I think I have a solution. I'm going to get the Coleman Camp Grill/Stove, a combo unit that has a burner for a pan and a burner for a grill. I didn't get it the first time because I thought it was a bit kitschy, and that the burner for the pan would be too small. But now, I think it might be just right.
I have this stove / grill combo. It does work pretty good. Enjoyed the write ups and pictures. Thank you!
 

turbodb

Active member
...Monte sitting on the edge, any me laying out over it to snap shots down the cliff edge were more than Mike could stomach. "Stop it guys, I can't watch!" he finally said as he headed back to the trucks to wait, letting us know that @mrs.turbodb and @MissBlackdawg would surely not be happy with us....

 

turbodb

Active member
...It was a bit after noon, and as we pulled out of the gas station, I suggested that we eat lunch once we got out of town and back on dirt...Then, as we headed southeast, rain. Not just a little rain either - this was serious, truck-washing rain.

"And so it begins." said Monte over the CB, followed shortly by "F*ck you rain." It wouldn't be the last time...

 

chet6.7

Explorer
"However, I think I have a solution. I'm going to get the Coleman Camp Grill/Stove, a combo unit that has a burner for a pan and a burner for a grill. I didn't get it the first time because I thought it was a bit kitschy, and that the burner for the pan would be too small. But now, I think it might be just right."


I have wondered if that grill worked well.
 

turbodb

Active member
"However, I think I have a solution. I'm going to get the Coleman Camp Grill/Stove, a combo unit that has a burner for a pan and a burner for a grill. I didn't get it the first time because I thought it was a bit kitschy, and that the burner for the pan would be too small. But now, I think it might be just right."


I have wondered if that grill worked well.
I've liked it, generally. The stove/grill split is great. My only two complaints about it are:
  1. The burners seem to be "full on" or "off" - it's hard to get a low flame.
  2. The propane neck connects to the rear of the grill and then the bottle goes even further back (vs. the neck connecting in the front and the bottle being next to the grill). That makes it take up more room / bigger footprint, which is not ideal.
Other than that, great little unit.
 

ITTOG

Active member
If you are not aware you can buy a propane hose on Amazon that will make your bottle remote.

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk
 

turbodb

Active member
If you are not aware you can buy a propane hose on Amazon that will make your bottle remote.

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk
Yes, thanks. Actually, we have a hose for a 20lb tank, but not for the small 1lb-ers, and as time has gone on, I've been looking for ways to reduce the gear on a trip (for weight reasons). But, you got me thinking - I wonder if I could find - or make - a neck that had the "bend" for the bottle faced the opposite direction. If I could, the bottle would once again be next to the stove.
 

Louisd75

Adventurer
The Ham Radio Antenna (long-term)
TL;DR - I'd like to find a ham radio antenna that is more flexible/floppy than the one I've currently got, and that doesn't have a small section of wound metal in the middle, since that gets stuck on trees and pulls at the roof mount.

I've been running a Diamond NR770HBNMO mobile antenna since I got my ham radio, and from a Tx/Rx perspective, it's awesome. However, I'm always worried that when I hit low-hanging branches, it's trying to rip itself out of my roof. Evidence of this is often clear, as it was on my last trip to the Pryor mountains.


I'd like to find a whip antenna that I can replace the Diamond with so that - hopefully - when I hit a branch, it just flexes and scoots by, rather than catching itself on the foliage.
I've had good luck putting a large diameter section of heat shrink over the coils and shrinking it down. It won't shrink down enough to seal water out, but it will help keep things from getting stuck in the coils.
 
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