I will be trying out a Hawk model, the Grandby is made for 8' beds, I have a 6'4" bed. My favorite layout is the front dinette but it is also one that limits a few possibilities, such as having A/C. In all honesty one has to ask themselves will they need the water and upright RV style fridge or would they be better served with a more off-road friendly style of fridge/freezer such as a Dometic/ARB/Engel/SnoMaster? Apparently most don't order a FWC with air conditioning but living in South Texas I have contemplated whether or not it makes sense to not order one with it? Granted most of the camping season is in the cooler months, but it can still reach up into the 90's in April and October. Food for thought!Are you going to try a Hawk or a Grandby? I was told that the load carrying capacity of the roof was close to 600 pounds on a FWC, what are your thoughts on solar panels and a spare tire up there? I sure like the idea of the hawk not protruding out past the rear bumper but I also like the extra room of the Grandby. Front dinette, side dinette? options? do tell........
Most of the full floor plan campers weigh 1200-1500+ lbs when fully outfitted so again one must ask themselves which amenities are absolutely necessary and how much of a weight penalty are they worth. After researching the subject and messing around inside of a few I have come to find that the Shell models are not only more appealing due to their lower cost and weight, they are more appealing because of the more spacious interior and the opportunities for custom options post purchase that they represent.
I don't see myself cooking inside of the FWC very often if ever, I'd likely limit that opportunity to extreme weather situations and I would likely keep my cooking inside down to simply boiling water for dehydrated meals should I ever find myself in that scenario. This means that I don't really see the need for the full on kitchen and all of the added systems needed in order to handle the water and the interior space those items and their necessary systems would consume.
Solar panels are a very nice option to have, I have read owner reviews stating that they can go weeks without ever needing to plug in when they run a solar panel system. Granted that means you need direct sun for portions of the day and obviously YMMV depending on your power consumption and needs. You must also consider where you store it when not in use and whether or not it'll maintain direct sunlight during that time. Odds are you will need to have it plugged in when not in use in order to keep the batteries from draining.
The spare tire location when running a FWC represents my biggest concern with the platform. I am in no way interested in running an extended (needed to clear the FWC as it slightly protrudes from the bed) spare tire carrier/bumper. I don't like the look, the limited selection, reduced break over, or the added weight and cost. Putting the spare on the roof is an option but it would be a struggle to mess with a 100+ lb spare tire on the roof of a tall lifted vehicle and having to lift that extra weight every time that you raised the roof would also be less than ideal. This is another reason why I am considering a Shell model, I like the idea of the extra room inside to possibly hard mount my spare along the drivers side interior wall where the sink and countertop would be in a full layout model. I am not sure whether or not it'll work without greatly hindering the space or if maybe there is a better location that I will become aware of once I have spent a little more time inside of one, but I am looking into this issue with great concern.
At the moment I am leaning towards a Shell model and adding my choice in a aftermarket fridge/freezer, a furnace, drivers side window, dual vent fans, exterior steps, exterior lighting, solar ready package, 6V batteries, inverter, flush mount interior cook top, the king size bed extension, roof rack tracks (for future rack possibilities) and possibly the roll over couch option. I will have to add the shore power hook up and solar panels myself post purchase as they aren't offered on the Shell models. I'd likely carry my own water eliminating the need to maintain pump systems and winterizing needs if I went for a built-in model.
I have a lightly used Shell model with the options I listed above available to me as well as a brand new, fully loaded roll-over couch model with A/C for my trial run this weekend. As much as I'd love to try out the new and fully loaded version, I am pretty sure I am going to go with Shell model for my experiment as it more than likely represents what I want and need from a FWC and will be a better representation of what it will be like to own one since I am leaning towards the Shell version as it is. Stay tuned for my post trip report.