Alaskan drawbacks and thoughts?

grizzlyj

Tea pot tester
Hi

Apologies for what you will I'm sure view as a Newbie question. As I'm based in the UK I don't get to see many pop tops at all, and the usual discussions between makes on this forum are between people who have possibly seen several of the things! And the Alaskan website could be better!

I have a Mog camper, which was built well but heavily by the previous owner, ply throughout internally. The wife and I were looking into building something similar ourselves when this came up a few years back at a price it would have been stupid to ignore. We've lived in it for the last 25 months, UK and France only so far which was of course not the plan, but its still been fun! So these thoughts and ideas are for a camper for long trips to hopefully a wide variety of road and weather conditions, to live in fairly long term as we are now. But what we have now could be better insulated against the sun as well as containing heat a little more in the winter. It could certainly have a lower travelling height! Continental shipping will mean strapping on top of a container ship if we want to go that far, and a lot of that stuff never arrives! It could better distribute the weight we have, and that weight could easily be smaller. It could have a little more external storage space, possibly a little less inside. We don't have kids at the minute, but in the future???

So;

The big water tank that allows us to shower inside everyday for a week is a good thing. The diesel hydronic Eberspacher, compressor fridge, gas hob, fixed double bed, 30lb gas bottle and lots of internal storage are all things we want to keep. A little more external storage would be good, we can lose the oven, and mounting the two spares a little more up front and central would be ideal. More insulation for definite. Thetford I'm not decided on, too small capacity perhaps! Space to store a 1KW Honda genny, and run it where its stored is also needed. Around the chassis rails is full of fuel tanks and grey/black waste tanks at the minute.

I don't know for sure but the box probably weighs more than 2000kg empty easily. A common reason people say they won't have an Alaskan is weight, but we'd probably save a ton if not more ;) so that doesn't really come into it.

I know there is a stretched U500 having an Alaskan put on it, but no pics have yet surfaced of the two meeting?

Is an Alaskan the only pop top with solid sides without going to the extreme of Unicat $$$?

Our camper has an internal shower room, marine head mounted on ply, fold down basin, ply walls and a pvc type shower tray and none of it has minded getting wet since 2003 when it was finished. So why is putting a shower in an Alaskan a "bad" thing?

Our current box is 13' long plus overcab. I had thought that a similar length Alaskan, with the underside of the overcab camperbed within the box (as in the attached pic from the Alaskan site) like the U500's is a good plan, and avoids the folding bed walls. Dropping the camperbeds floor a little to allow a proper mattress would be needed. I also thought that typical truckbed sides like on Bill Caid's U1300l, but that were made to finish at the Alaskan top's bottom edge so as to protect the base at least, and then with doors to allow getting to the bed underside, would hang well together. These sides could go higher still to protect the windows fully in transit, but I don't think the popping height would make the windows fully appear? What is the total height difference popped to unpopped typically? The sides may have to be higher at the front to allow a big enough door to under the overcab (!), then curve down to allow an unfettered view out of the window with the top popped.

If the Alaskan is slightly higher than the cab, I could put a small rack on the cab roof to mount a pair of solar panels. If the Alaskan is lower then solar on there.

How tree friendly is the Alaskan build from a getting damaged point of view? Better than soft sided poptops but not as good as a rigid box? How do they hold up with really bad roads long term? Is the top only ever in contact with the bottom via the sealing skirt and the 4 jacks? Or is there some sort of bumpstop seating area for travel?

How drafty is the door? Is this the only area that does leak usually? So it really can be toasty, rather than a darn site warmer than something like a Flippac which I would kinda expect?! ;) Toasty with a lot of input from the heater, or is it really well insulated full stop? Are their nice big windows double glazed? We have Seitz at the minute, but are scratched and protrude, asking to be pulled off perhaps?

I think Alaskan can make several or any width(s) you like? Any reason to not take advantage of this to give more internal storage space?

I'm unsure about tyre storage. They hang on the back at the minute, which could almost not be worse for weight distribution. If the whole bed underside was external storage, then some sort of tyre lift could be rigged off the truckbed sides to get them in, horizontal on top of each other or vertically against the bed front wall.

I could however build a 500mm thick storage sandwich over the whole truck bed area, so batteries, watertank, oils, recovery stuff and tyres (horiz) could all live under this. The under camperbed bit could then all be, down to the camperfloor at least, internal storage. The top of the Alaskan would end up higher than the cab roof though, but if I dismounted it the truck could be driven wheel less into a standard (high version) shipping container, camper slid in afterwards. I could even play with the height of the dividing floor between truck floor and underside of camperbed to provide some underbed internal storage and enough external storage height for a trail bike. The spare tyres would go rearward of this "garage" within the 500mm deep sandwich.

The construction of this sandwich could be really simple depending on how much support the Alaskan actually needed. A bare framework within the truckbed sides would save weight. Or strong and fully plyed out, so I'd have a big blank truck bed for a ton or two with the Alaskan dismounted.

The door threshold would be about 6' up making access interesting?

The proper length for the truckbed is 10', so the last 3' (to get to the campers 13') of the 500mm deep storage sandwich could be angled to improve the departure angle.

Maybe I should try drawing it to be clearer! And mixing dimensions doesn't help I'm sure. It may be a Mog chassis, and I can't imagine a second hand anything meeting up with my thoughts, but that doesn't mean I've got money to burn making it happen! These are plans for the future to try and get more usability from my Mog, and a lot of earning will have to be done first!


All comments welcome!! (if you got to the end of that huge pile of words!)

Cheers

Jason

:)
 

Attachments

BigJimCruising

Adventurer
Wow that's a lot to get through! I'm not sure just what it is that you're trying to do here. Are you interested in the Alaskan camper to put on your Mog or a new truck and camper? And a few drawings would help make things easier to understand. Here are a couple links to Mogs and Alaskans.

http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=46740&highlight=unimog+alaskan

http://www.truckcampermagazine.com/bob-ragain:-unimog-meets-alaskan/

As for Alaskan campers I had long talks with them about 4 years ago about building me a camper to fit on a long bed truck. They were great to deal with and very open to building to plans of my design within their capabilities. Mostly I wanted to streatch the camper out to around 13 or 14 feet and add in a dry shower. Plus larger water tanks and other storage ideas. They were very helpful even with my crude drawings! You should open a dialouge with them as soon as possible if you can, as I recall they had about a 3 or 4 month backlog on orders. Don't know if that's still the case but it was pretty long back then. They were also able to add insulation as I recall also. Hope this helps a bit. Got to get back to work but others will help with the rest of your questions in short time I'm sure! Jim.
 

grizzlyj

Tea pot tester
Hi and thank you for replying!

Dzzz's camper is the one I was thinking of, and Bob Ragain's is also similar apart from have a square box for the bottom half of the camper rather than his slide in profile. I was thinking of having truck bed sides about twice as high as his to cover the windows, if the popping height still allowed you to see out!

Our camper at the moment is 22 and a bit feet long, 13' high and 21000lbs give or take when full. The Mog chassis is fab, but the size of the box compromises its capabilities too much.

So yes I'm thinking of replacing the current box with a pop top for future trips. That won't be a reality for a few years though.

Sorry about the size of the first post!

Current pics below. A big issue may be cutting up what we have now, we like her too much!!! :(

Cheers

Jason

:)
 

Attachments

BigJimCruising

Adventurer
Nice rig! What areas are you planning to go to next? For most of North America and Canada your current setup isn't that bad. I also remember reading about a guy with a Mog doing quite a lot of the world in his Mog but I don't recall his height. Here is his link, I think his spec's are in there some where..

http://www.xor.org.uk/ The picture on the face page is his new one, dig around and you'll find his old one that I think is like yours.

I'm about 25 feet long and 13'4 tall and have been able to get to most places without problems. If you're mainly looking to stay on highways with only some light off roading what you have will work pretty well. If anything you could get by with just putting on smaller tires. Most of North America has pretty good roads. If on the other hand you really want to off road in our famous forests then yes you'll need something shorter.

As for the Alaskan I think it's top raises about 2 and a half feet when it pops up. So I wouldn't put up very high bed rails on the sides. Rub strips (sometimes called "nerf" bars) might serve you better. While Alsaskan will build your camper how you like it I don't think they can make it any wider since widths here are dictated by how wide our traffic lanes are. So making one wider would cause you very big problems. Longer is ok, just not wider!

Perhaps if you give us some thoughts on where you're headed next and we can chime in with our thoughts about if your current rig will be ok there. I can't believe no one else is already in here but I guess with Christmas tomorrow they're pretty busy!

Happy Holidays! Jim.
 

grizzlyj

Tea pot tester
Hi!

Dude, smaller tyres?!?!?! Is that legal on this forum!?!?!?! Are you in fact on the wrong forum?!?:Wow1: ;)

Thank you replying! And while its Christmas Day here too! Have a good day when it gets to you all :)

Its good to hear you don't have an issue at the height you are. The Alaskan site says somewhere they do different widths I think. I'm not talking silly wide, but the width you can put on a Mog has to be wider than a Tacoma or something? Perhaps only a few inches different, and I don't know if that would just be a wider walkway or more storage cupboard width? If I can put storage under the Alaskan floor that will get rid of the tyres hanging on the back, and the box on the front bumper which together will take about 3' off the length too.

Anywhere in the UK height is an issue because of so many bridges. As you say we can stick to the main roads where its fine for trucks so its fine for us, but thats not what a camper is for?! France is not so bad. But as a for instance, assuming no more delays, we'll head for Barcelona soon via the Pyrenees where I've been in other vehicles plenty of times, absolutely gorgeous. But looking at the truckers map we would have to drive all the way around and south of the Andorran area, which is the middle chunk kind of, and approach it from Spain due to bridge heights. We can't get there without doubling the mileage, and would have to go out the same way. You see we have two extra spotlights just below the windscreen? They are there only to illuminate overhanging trees on small country lanes, so we don't rip the solar panels off :)

I was looking at some pictures of Meknes in Morocco (ferry from Barcelona soonish), and most is surrounded by a wall, lots of old low gates over most of the roads in.

The tyre sidewalls are tall and soft, its got long travel springs and a flexy chassis as all Mogs do. Any side to side movement when driving gets amplified at the top of the box, so driving close to overhanging buildings with a pot holed road edge is a little bit of a leap of faith!

With nothing on the back a Mog will fit (possibly wheels off) in a shipping container. So that stays possible with a dismountable Alaskan. Currently we'd be strapped on top of the ship where they don't usually do insurance! Whys that I wonder?!?

The last Turtle Expedition truck built for distance I think they settled on a 10' height limit, and they've been enough places to know what height can work.

Then theres mpg and speed. An unladen Mog like ours I know of does 14mpg, we are getting 11 at the minute. With about 150Hp it could not go above 50mph on the flat. Now we have more Hp it will go faster but drink more gojuice. Thats not so cheap this side of the pond! :) Take the brick off from above the brick shaped cab and it'll be as aerodynamic as just one brick, much better!!

That sounds like a whole load of moaning, and I suppose it is, but all of those things boil down to losing a decent amount of height. The last tyres were tiny 14.5 R20! Current 395/85R20s are just about OK. I'm told theres only one bigger tyre size available that still has a 55mph speed rating? Bigger truck required for that! I think a sleeping bag and a tent on the bed would be preferable to properly small tyres, but I'd have to find somewhere for the wife to live ;)

Why do I have a Mog? So I can go places others can't.
So why do I have a huge box on the back that limits where it can go?! Doh! I was thinking of buying a Mog chassis and building my own camper when this came up at a price I couldn't ignore almost three years ago now. Its been fab, and if I was starting from scratch maybe I could have ended up at this height myself, but lower is definitely better on the road having lived with it.

I think at the minute a smaller box is on the cards in a few years time, maybe an Alaskan. Once I've done it and spent a year living in it maybe I'll wish I had more space!!!


After Morocco we aim to head south. Most camper trucks I've seen that go that way are about a foot lower at least. The trucker map for France and the UK both tell me bridge heights, so I can pick routes to suit. Africa doesn't have that! So the lower the better really, and that applies everywhere. Driving slowly in the dark along tree lined lanes gets old really fast. The camper went from Canada and Alaska to Costa Rica with the previous owners, with only one big dent in the front! If we had the money I'm not sure we'd stop, we'd like to go everywhere we can, but home to earn a bit is the reality at some point. Specifically where the trip after this one will be we don't know.

End of rambling for now! Off for a beer :)

Cheers

Jason

:)
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
I also remember reading about a guy with a Mog doing quite a lot of the world in his Mog but I don't recall his height.
3.55m - about 11'8"

http://www.xor.org.uk/silkroute/panam2006/20060606.htm

Though he did take that Mog all over the world, somewhere on his site he recommends carrying a (non-conductive) pole with a T on the end to lift low-hanging wires (he also recommends rubber gloves when handling the pole). Several of his trip reports talk about having to squeeze under low-hanging stuff and also having to plan routes to avoid some bridges.

Not much though. I read all his trip reports and I got the impression that he didn't have many height problems.


To the OP:

All enclosed shipping containers are 7'6" inside width - so if you are going to make the camper fit inside the bed of the truck, and the bed of the truck fit inside a container - then the camper would likely end up needing to be no more than 7' wide.

I don't know if I'd bother trying to get the bed sides to cover the windows. If you put the camper on top of a storage box then the bed sides are going to be what? 4' tall? 5'? Whatever...it'll be quite a lot and they'll be heavy. Plus you won't be able to drop them without a LOT of clearance to the side. Certainly they won't be able to be dropped if there is another vehicle parked next to your Mog.
 

grizzlyj

Tea pot tester
3.55m - about 11'8"

http://www.xor.org.uk/silkroute/panam2006/20060606.htm

Though he did take that Mog all over the world, somewhere on his site he recommends carrying a (non-conductive) pole with a T on the end to lift low-hanging wires (he also recommends rubber gloves when handling the pole). Several of his trip reports talk about having to squeeze under low-hanging stuff and also having to plan routes to avoid some bridges.

Not much though. I read all his trip reports and I got the impression that he didn't have many height problems.


To the OP:

All enclosed shipping containers are 7'6" inside width - so if you are going to make the camper fit inside the bed of the truck, and the bed of the truck fit inside a container - then the camper would likely end up needing to be no more than 7' wide.

I don't know if I'd bother trying to get the bed sides to cover the windows. If you put the camper on top of a storage box then the bed sides are going to be what? 4' tall? 5'? Whatever...it'll be quite a lot and they'll be heavy. Plus you won't be able to drop them without a LOT of clearance to the side. Certainly they won't be able to be dropped if there is another vehicle parked next to your Mog.
Hi and thank you for that. We have a fishing pole to measure the underside of stuff, but I hadn't thought of insulating it and pushing stuff a little higher, good plan if its insulated enough!!

I hadn't thought that the sides would drop. They could be fixed, with doors in suitable places. Then there could be a frame strong enough to maintain the shape on all 4 sides apart from the access door of course! Infill pieces containing the doors wouldn't have to be as heavy, and door size and make up to suit narrow openings when parked close to stuff as you rightly point out. The only time the camper would come off would be for shipping, so dismounting would I think need craneage where the container is. The frame could also be a lifting point to get the spare tyres in and out. Maybe even for a side winch pull if we roll.

I could leave the back clear for rear dismounting, but with 500mm under the Alaskan, as well as how high the Mogs bed is anyway would need tall jacks, a bit too wobbly perhaps?

Cheers for looking anyway!

Jason

:)
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
I hadn't thought that the sides would drop. They could be fixed, with doors in suitable places.
Ahh...yea. I see. I was thinking of a red Mog I saw pics of with an Alaskan - it has drop sides (very cool ones actually). Didn't think of making the sides fixed.
 

Tennmogger

Explorer
Ahh...yea. I see. I was thinking of a red Mog I saw pics of with an Alaskan - it has drop sides (very cool ones actually). Didn't think of making the sides fixed.
The drop sides that become seat/table/workshop are one of the better camper features of ex-firetruck Mogs, IMHO.

We never have height problems with the Alaskan and really enjoy it. Being as low as it is the camper does not kill our mileage either. If I had been accustomed to a large hotel room on wheels like the one being discussed, the Alaskan would seem tiny. You'd miss the shower, too.

Of course Alaskan Camper could build anything you could think of!! I'd suggest keeping the undercuts (for pickup truck) under at least one side because of need for storage. I use the topside box on one side and the other side has gerry cans and other dirty stuff. Very convenient with the sideboard down, and secure with it up.

I would have posted pictures but the system won't let me because they are posted at other places on this forum.

Bob
 

dzzz

I have the alaskan and the U500, but the two have yet to be connected together. So I'm familiar with the build, but not yet sure of the wisdom of the decision making :)

Floor height is 56", Vehicle height closed is about 10' 8". That's tall but probably not the tallest vehicle on the roads I'll be using. I'm not concerned about roof damage, and will put solar panels on top.

Some of the mogs you mention have placed an Alaskan in the stock truck bed. That's a big compromise for extended use. Building a subframe will lower the camper and allow for better integration.

I stretched my mog chassis, and in the future can go with a full 16-18' "expedition" body. So I built the base truck up considering future uses. But the camper and other items are what I want over the next few years.

It'll all be put together and used within two months, so I can provide better feedback at that time. Currently I wouldn't change any of my major decisions.
 
Our camper at the moment is 22 and a bit feet long, 13' high and 21000lbs give or take when full. The Mog chassis is fab, but the size of the box compromises its capabilities too much.
Which Unimog chassis is your camper mounted on? i.e. U1300, 1550, 1700, 2150 etc.
If yours is a 1300 or 1550 one problem you could have is if you are ever weighed on the road or as part of a roadworthy inspection you might be a bit over GVM at 9.5 metric tons.

Charlie
 

grizzlyj

Tea pot tester
Hi Charlie, and sorry for not replying earlier.

The truck was an overladen U1300L, and now its a great deal more happy as a U1700, so same camper body mounted to an entirely different chassis.

:)
 
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