Four Wheel Camper - A Review

datrupr

Expedition Leader
Hurry up man, this is one of the best reads I have had in a while.

Thanks for the great review/trip report KC.
 

kcowyo

ExPo Original
david despain said:
....waiting with baited breath for the next installment.....and after the camper story is done just make something up!
Actually I still have to do a report on my 12 day solo trip last Fall to Utah and Arizona, that included stops on the White Rim Trail, Natural Bridges National Monument, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, the ExPo Rally, Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion NP's, Escalante and Capitol Reef NP. I promised Scott I would put a report together on this site, but the winter got away from me. The positive response I've received from this diatribe has encouraged me to drag out the notes and pics from that trip to start working on a layout.

I'm taking a week long trip to Canyonlands & Arches NP's, next week and I plan to take the camper along. We'll be spending time off road in all 3 regions of the park so I expect this to be a real test of the camper's mounting system and the new Air Lift airbag kit that's being installed as I type this. I'm also very curious to see the effect of the camper on my gas mileage for the 8 hour trip to Moab. So I guess those who are enjoying this report will have more to look forward to following my UT trip!

VikingVince said:
This guy buys a FourWheel camper and turns into a combination of Ansel Adams and Ernest Hemingway. I knew those campers had lots of potential but this is new ground!!!
What can I say Vince? I'm inspired by this little outfit. In all fairness, had I not had the chance to crawl around your Flip-Pac, I'm not sure I would have been so motivated to find a similar solution for myself. As much as I wanted a low profile camping solution, it was almost the unattainable goal. I took finding this camper as a sign that it was meant to be, but I give credit to you Vince, for re-motivating me to find one and to Jonathan Hanson, for his encouragement that helped to settle my pre-buying nerves.

I love the versatility of the camper and the feeling that I have an outfit ready for a trip to Alaska or Old Meheeco. Alaska was the goal years ago when I left NC, but I only made it as far as Wyoming & Colorado. With no more excuses, can my, "Prudhoe Bay in a FWC report" be far behind? Maybe I need to start taking Spanish lessons too. Hmmm.....cerveza por favor, carne asade, fish tacos....hmm, I'm practically fluent now!! :D
 

kcowyo

ExPo Original
Get me to the beach on time - With Officer Buzzkill fading away in my rearview mirror, I continue south towards Bear Lake. I'm hoping I can get far enough south to find a break in the clouds to dry out the camper. I've been incorrectly calling the tent fabric canvas, but it's clearly not in the traditional sense of tent canvas. Nor is it nylon like a tent. Jonathan has referred to it as "coated fabric" and that's closer to what it is than canvas or nylon. Really the material is similar to a tarp. Whatever it is, it was packed away wet and that's never good, regardless of the material.

Shortly thereafter I can see the clouds start to clear up and I can make out the lake on the horizon. Bear Lake lies high in the Rocky Mountains, and the lowest elevations on the valley floor are just below 6,000 feet. Mountains rim the valley on all sides. The Bear River Range lies along the western side, and form the boundary of the county on that side. Also considered part of the Wasatch Mountains, they reach to elevations above 9,000 feet, and are covered by green forests of evergreens and quaking aspens. Many pioneers passed through this area on the Oregon Trail in the mid 1800s, following the Bear River. Mormon pioneers arrived in the 1860's, founding small towns around the valley. The towns have changed little since their settlement. (*footnote - Several of the above facts were sourced from the Bear Lake CVB web site)

Looking for lunch, I stop at several of these villages, like Fish Haven, Paris, Dingle and Wardboro. Being Easter Sunday, I'm stuck with a questionable convenience store sandwich and a can of last summer's Pringles chips. Life is good....



After passing through Fish Haven and several private residences with private beach access, I found a small trail that lead out to the water's edge. The most unique feature of Bear Lake is it's turquoise hue from limestone sediments suspended in the water. It glows like the Caribbean and the lake is often referred to as the Caribbean of the Rockies. With its 18 miles of shoreline located in Idaho, Utah and a small portion of Wyoming, it is a great get away in a remote part of the country.



With blue skies above (finally!) and a gentle breeze it was the perfect opportunity for a lunch break and to dry out the camper. I'm so impressed with how easy it is to set this up that I keep thinking that I'm forgetting something and the whole thing will come crashing down around me. But it's just that easy, what can I say?






After the weather I'd been dealing with for 2 days, it was hard to pack up and leave the sun and water at Bear Lake, but I still had a long ways to go. Much of the afternoon's drive would be through the rolling prarie of western Wyoming, which likely meant more stiff winds, limited opportunities for gas and errant wildlife on the roads. But it's home and I'm glad to be getting back, but I can't resist another few minutes lakeside before I go -




********To Be Continued..................
 

kcowyo

ExPo Original
A brief interruption from our regularly scheduled thread. I wanted to post up some pics and information on the new Air Lift Airbag System that I had installed on the truck yesterday.

The 700lb camper squated the rear of the truck about an inch and half and effected the handling by allowing more roll and sway. There are a few options to solve this problem including an add-a-leaf, new spring packs, blocks and airbags. I chose airbags so when the camper is not on the truck I won't suffer a stiff ride with blocks or add-a-leaves. New spring packs are not in the plans right now but I'll try them if the airbags don't prove to be a complete solution.

The Airlift airbags are adjustable from 10 PSI to 100 PSI and can be controlled individually. This is a good selling point for those who have ever had to camp on a slope. With up to 3 inches of adjustable lift, they should help on those unlevel spots. Airbags will also help eliminate roll, lean and sway. So far those have been the most noticeable differences in the handling since adding the camper. Hopefully the airbags in conjunction with the adjustable Rancho shocks should provide the ability to handle most situations on and off road.

How about some pics?

The passenger side -


The drivers side -


Each bag has its own air line plumbed to it and they are commonly run out to a point on the rear bumper for easy air-up access. Most lines are run to the small slot where the spare is accessed by the tire crank. I didn't like the possibilty of snagging an air line while trying to lower my spare, and I wanted to keep things looking stock. So I came up with a different solution that shouldn't draw any attention from mischevious eyes and should be clear of most trail dust and debris.

You like?


Now where is all that Free Air?


With the airbags in place they were filled to 70 PSI which brought the rear of the truck back to the exact height it was before the camper was installed. I'm currently running 32 PSI in my 285's but I may play with air pressures next week in Utah to determine which settings give the appropriate ride for the conditions. A quick 20 mile drive around town last showed these airbags indeed made a huge difference. They totally eliminated the rear bounce and lean in the corners. In fact, the truck handles better now with the weight of the camper and airbags than it did with just the stock suspension and camper shell. Far less bounce and recoil through dips and the understeer in the corners is much more manageable. I also had the front brakes done last week, so the suspension is where it's going to be for now. Any other upgrades to the rear suspension will be based on necessity.

Some before, during and after pics -

Looking naked with no topper or tailgate -



In Idaho with the rear slightly squatted -


Last night in Lander, with airbags -





I like the looks of the clearence I now have but I still need to get out and measure from the diffs and t-case skid plate to see exactly how much there is. But the Toyota "rake" is back!



*******To Be Continued............
 

david despain

Adventurer
looks great. i had a friend with shocks that could be adjusted via an air line like those bags and he put the filler fittings in the exact same place as you. i think its super clean and discreet. great idea and great writing, posibly the only thread that can compete with a victory in moroco!
 

HongerVenture

Adventurer
kcowyo said:
Sorry man. I've been busy checking my email for pics.........:wavey:
Indeed... DOH! :eek: I do owe you some pictures. I have them all set out, I just need to resize them a bit and give you a good narrative... perhaps tonight. Life has been busy lately, what with a camping/wheelin' trip to Tennessee last weekend. :D

On a thread-related note... nice airbags! Those truly look nice and the clean install is super. Did you install them or have them done? Did you give any thought to an in-cab controller? Why or why not? On board compressor? Why or why not?
 

kcowyo

ExPo Original
Yeah, I knew you were on your trip. I was just giving you grief since I was not on a trip last weekend, you lucky dog. But now of course, you have to get me pics from your trip too! :jumping:

....and a fridge review? Did you finish the install in time for TN? I love east Tennessee, the mountains, the food, the Spring bloom.... Hope you and Amy had a great trip!

Regarding the air bags, I had intended on ordering Air Lift's Load Controller II kit. The kit includes a small air compressor, two guages w/ in cab controls for airing up or deflating the bags and a Smart Air System that kicks the compressor on if the bags get lower than 10 PSI. It's a great kit that allows you to monitor and control, from the cab, the levels in the airbags. That kit is $280 retail. The airbags, mounting brackets and air lines that I got are ordered in a seperate kit for $250 retail.

I decided to go with just the airbags for now for a couple of reasons. I already have an ARB compressor under the hood that I could put a T fitting on, to run an auxillary air line for tires and airbags. But the ARB compressor has some age on it so I want to keep it just for the air locker. I also have a portable air compressor, so I didn't think I needed to pay for a third compressor with the air lift kit. My portable should do the job just fine.

Another reason I passed on the kit for now is that I really don't have an ideal place to mount the guages. I knew that I'd be installing a new CB at this time too and I was more concerned with where I was going to put that. I'm thinking the CB and guages would look really smart in a custom overhead console display! That's the idea anyway.

I found out after ordering the airbag kit that the Load Controller II kit can be ordered without the air compressor. So since it can be added at any time to their existing air bag kit, I may eventually get the Load Controller II, without their compressor, if I have a place to mount the guages that looks factory.

I had the airbags installed at a shop since I got a deal on the kit from a friend who would sell them to me at his cost if he could do the labor. I managed to save a few bucks and time plus I have peace of mind knowing that it was professionally done. It's a pretty simple kit and if it fails on the trail, other than patching a line or bag with duct tape, there is not a lot that can be done to repair it. I'll be watching over the mounting brackets closely next week!
 

OutbacKamper

Supporting Sponsor
KC:
I have just discovered this thread, what a great right up!
I have a few suggestions for minor mods to your 4Wheel camper (sorry if these have already been discused elsewhere, but I am playing catch-up after being out of regular internet contact for the last 10 months). I will keep this brief so as not to hijack your excellent posts.
1) Safety wire those tie-downs (drill a 2mm hole through one of the threads of each tiedown and run a wire around the main alum tiedown leg)
2) Silicone around both sides of the window in the camper door, or the glass will eventually fall out - it is only held in by 2 small plastic pins
3) Run a strip of foam (I used a sleeping pad cut in 1/2 lengthways) down each side of the bed between the matress and fabric top to eliminate condensation wicking onto bedding.

Question: if there are no electrical hook-ups between your camper and truck, how is the battery recharged?

Keep up the great posts
Cheers
Mark
 

flywgn

Explorer
An absolutely great narrative, kc. Seems to me a copy of it would be suitable for the "Completed Expeditions" as well, just in case someone might miss this thread.

Your descriptions of the routes you took are so familiar to us. The Grey's River is one of our favorites; fussing around Bear Lk where one of the largest and longest-lasting rendezvous took place; sleeping in the Rest Area below Palisades Res; Craters of the Moon; and on.

We haven't had the pleasure of meetin Officer Buzzkill, but he sounds like a character out of Hoot.

As I said in another post, I know you'll enjoy your camper. We've never owned one (dang, is that possible?) but have been tempted oh-too-many times.

Thanks for taking the time to put this review together.

You gotta' love it.

Allen R
 

kcowyo

ExPo Original
Hey Mark! Welcome home!! :jumping: :jumping: :jumping:

I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed your pictures and reports with your Four Wheel Camper in Australia. Screensaver after screensaver...:bowdown: That's great you got to meet up with Sven too. It's a small world for such a big place!

Has your truck made it back to CA yet? I thought you all weren't due home till June..? I'd love to hear more about Tasmania and Cape York. Shoot, I want to hear about every minute of the whole trip! Do you have a mileage or KM total on the truck for the whole trip?

Thanks so much for the tips on the FWC. I have been warned about the turnbuckles working themselves loose but I haven't solved the problem yet. If your solution held up to the corrugations in the Outback, that's good enough for me! I've been reading Australian Monthly 4WD for the last few years and the trip reports all seem to mention common problems/annoyances; corrugations, dust, loose screws and isolation. Your Hawk, surviving those ultimate tests for nearly a year, with minor difficulties is huge boon to my confidence in Four Wheel Campers. It should definitely survive any trips I take in the US.

Great tip too on the rear window. That would really bite if that were to shatter while out on a dusty road! I'll try that trick for the mattress too. My camper is completely powered through an auxillary battery located in the camper. The PO would put it on a trickle charge before each trip and stated that it held up for 4-5 days of use before needing a re-charge. I'm going to try and be real frugal with the power next week for the 7 days I'll be off road in Canyonlands, NP.

It may work OK for me, but I don't want to be counting how many jigowatts of power I'm using every time I turn on a light or the heater. I'm going to look into small solar panels, that I can mount on the rooftop, to recharge the batteries. I could tie in the battery to the truck's alternator, but I've never used with solar panels and I would like to learn more about them. This seems like a good excuse.

Next week should provide ample opportunity to thoroughly test the mounting system, battery power supply, tire and airbag air pressures, LP supply and overall off road handling. I'll either come back with a big ol' smile or a big ol' For Sale sign! :D

Oh and Mark, with your vast experience, you can hijack this thread anytime! Heck, I'll give you the keys myself!!

Again, Welcome Home Globetrotter!! :beer:
 

kcowyo

ExPo Original
Hey thanks Allen!

I was thinking you had owned one of these before? Or did you get to spend some time with one on a trail ride somewhere....?

The Grey's River trail out of Alpine is on the to-do list this summer. There was still way too much snow on Easter, in fact most of the snowmobile trails around the Dam were still open. I just got turned on to SE Idaho in the last couple of years, but what a great area to explore! Gotta love all of the hot springs.

That's cool you know this area so well. Sometimes I feel so isolated up here, like no one has clue what I'm talking about when I mention certain roads and trails. But hey, if one person gets what I'm talking about, that's good enough for me!

I guess this could be moved over to Completed Expeditions, but calling this an expedition is being mighty generous. It was basically a 3 day roadtrip in crappy weather and one run in with Serpico. Some people like to make a long story, short. Me, I tend to make short stories long, but I promise never to let the facts get in the way of a good story! :D

***************

For everyone waiting for another installment or those who are just waiting for me to wrap this up already, I have to abandon my post, literally and figuratively, for the next week. I'm rolling out tomorrow afternoon for Utah and I'll be back on the 15th.

I don't mean to leave anyone hanging on the rest of the Sun Valley story. The remaining trip home was mostly more wind, some ballsy Pronghorns in the road and coasting into town on fumes, with a wet Spring snow falling all around me. I may elaborate more when I get back.

****************

Thanks so much to everyone who has taken the time to read this thread and for the encouragement to write more!! New pics and tales to follow!!
 

flywgn

Explorer
kcowyo said:
Hey thanks Allen!

I was thinking you had owned one of these before? Or did you get to spend some time with one on a trail ride somewhere....?
kc, during one our many searches for the 'right' mix of vehicle/camper/tent, or whatever (Goldilocks had nothing on us.), we 'borrowed' one for a few trips. Liked it immensely, but ended up with the "Conquerer" safari trailer.

Allen R.
 

OutbacKamper

Supporting Sponsor
kcowyo said:
Hey Mark! Welcome home!! :jumping: :jumping: :jumping:

I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed your pictures and reports with your Four Wheel Camper in Australia. Screensaver after screensaver...:bowdown: That's great you got to meet up with Sven too. It's a small world for such a big place!
Thanks KC, I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Given your obvious gift for writing (and my lack of same) maybe we could colaborate on some articles about Australia?

Has your truck made it back to CA yet? I thought you all weren't due home till June..? I'd love to hear more about Tasmania and Cape York. Shoot, I want to hear about every minute of the whole trip! Do you have a mileage or KM total on the truck for the whole trip?
Um thats BC (British Columbia) not CA, but thats ok, lots of aussies would say to me "so..what part of the US are you from". We decided to return a little earlier than planned for a bunch of reasons, but mainly because we were tired after doing 45,000km in 9 months. Truck is in transit.



Oh and Mark, with your vast experience, you can hijack this thread anytime! Heck, I'll give you the keys myself!!
Thank you, but stop, I'm getting all misty eyed.
Have a great trip!
Cheers
Mark
 
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