The Broken Horseshoe Lodge (99 F350 with a Skamper)

#1
The Broken Horseshoe Lodge (99 F350 with a Skamper)

I only just recently discovered the forum here through Gregor’s “Subtle Shuttle” thread and made myself a login to post up some 7.3l Powerstroke advice for him, having stuck around to browse further I’ve now found the pop-up forum and after browsing for a couple of day’s I’m excited to post up our rig and share a little bit.

I wouldn’t expect this to be the most exciting thread in the forum. It’s probably not going to have rapid and radical progress nor sexy high end fabrication, but I hope ya’ll dig our little rig and I’ll really appreciate the exchange of information as we gradually make some changes and modifications to our setup.

Our backstory:

My wife and I have been married for going on 8 years, but we’ve been friends and had common friends for over 20 by now, as we are both long standing members of this planets tribe of rock climbers and mountaineers. Though over 40 now, we aren’t doing anything too radical these days, though in the past both of us have climbed a variety of big-walls and desert towers, in some cases adventures near the top levels of the sport. At any rate, we’ve put in our time as tent campers and several years we decided that sleeping in a tent within sight of the car seemed kind of stupid, and thus the search for a slide in truck camper was begun. In addition to rock climbing and mountaineering, I’m also a very avid mountain biker, skier and backcountry skier. Amber is new to backcountry skiing but is digging it, and recently we’ve decided to get into the river game. Though some whitewater is likely in the future, our goal right now is to explore the longer stretches of flatter rivers in a pair of touring kayaks. We also have a nicely modified 1950 Willy’s CJ3a for some occasional moderate rock crawler and deep snow wheeling. I’m originally from Midland, MI and my wife hails from Alverado, TX though about 10 years ago we escaped the gravity of those places and find ourselves living in paradise in lovely Louisville, CO which is a great home base for a whole lot of outdoor adventure.

The truck:

We’ve owned our early 1999 Ford F350 for about 7 years, she’s a Lariat model with the 7.3l Powerstroke and the ZF6 six speed manual gearbox. Though she has about 310,000 miles on her long block, she doesn’t have much of the original parts anymore and has received almost constant repair, preventative maintenance and general mechanical love. If anybody is curious I’m more than happy to elaborate, in a nutshell she runs over 600hp with the parts to handle the abuse and she’s a total hoot to drive both on road and off, though obviously she’s a bit large for a lot of trails. Recent projects include a transmission rebuild (I blew up 6th gear, passing multiple trucks on highway 287 pegged at 3200rpm and 58psi of boost), a new South Bend Superstreet dual disc clutch, Morimoto HID projector retrofits (best upgrade ever), a rebuild of two of the King front shocks and replacement of the other two King shocks (shaft damage) in the front with Fox and the rears as well. Parts sitting in the garage waiting for me to have the time include a Hellwig rear sway bar and parts to fabricate some rear traction bars, as I get a fair bit of axle wrap and have a habit of destroying u-joints.

The camper:

Up until finding this forum, I didn’t even know what brand of camper I had! So, needless to say, I’m happy to have found an information source for this kind of stuff! So, now I understand it to be a Skamper, and I think it’s a model 100S. We’ve had it for about two years, and bought it off of craigslist at a very reasonable price from a nice young couple in Erie, CO. They were about to have their first kids (twins), and though they intended to stay outdoorsy didn’t think the bed camper was applicable to a family of four. It was a no-brainer deal for us as they had completely cleaned up and redecorated the interior, including painting it white, installing new faux wood floors and all new upholstery. Other than some organization it was pretty much move in ready for us. When the previous owners rebuilt the interior they found a broke half horseshoe, so it got named the Broken Horseshoe Lodge, and the name stuck.

The Good:

The electrical works fine, the water plumbing and pump works fine, the stove and heater work just like new. The interior is clean and functional, and after some extensive organization we’ve found a place for everything that needs to stay in the camper, and plenty of additional storage as may be needed depending on our recreational goals for the outing. The camper itself appears to be pretty darn solid and I don’t have any major structural concerns.

The not-so Good:

The fridge is toast, it’s never worked, not via electricity nor propane. The anchor for the driver side rear tie-down appears to be quite “soft” and needs to be looked at. The roof vent is broken and does not open. We are currently using a borrowed battery from our sons old car for power. I HATE the tripod jacks, they sketch me out and do not work well given how wide our truck is, especially when we have the 20x12 summer wheels and tires mounted up.

The Stuff We’ve Done:

We haven’t done a whole lot of projects with it since we’ve bought it, as I said it was in overall good condition.
First up was organization and properly securing all of the cabinet doors. For the first couple of trips half our stuff would end up on the floor, thankfully some bungies and hooks provided a good, easy and cheap solution.

We added a 10 watt Battery Tender solar panel with a built in charge controller. We have fairly minimal electrical demands at this time, so its worked quite well so far.
We added two stacked 2x10’s to the front of the camper to space it back in the bed about 3” and keep it from rubbing on the trucks taillights. We also added two 1x6’s to the bottom of the camper to lift it up a bit and keep it from resting on our bed mounted gooseneck hitch plate. This worked well and spacing the camper back a bit provided some room between the camper and the truck cab, we use this space to store a folding camp table, two camp chairs and two extendable paint poles that can be used to setup a Kelty Noah’s Tarp 20 if want to be outside in the rain.
I also added a 40” lightbar to the top of the camper. We’ll regularly get out of work at 4pm on a Friday and head west to the Utah desert. When you get to the desert at midnight and start looking for a campsite, you can’t have too much lighting. The very high position provides excellent peripheral vision.
Stuff we want to do:

Mentioned above, the fridge is toast. So far, we’ve been happy to just use our Grizzly cooler, but it would be nice to have a functional 12 volt fridge and reclaim that space for something useful and then maybe not need to drag along the Grizzly unless we are on an extended trip or have need for LOTS of beer. This is something I could use some help from ya’ll on, suggestions for a good model to replace this fridge with.

I assume we’ll have to upgrade our solar charging capability if we add a 12 volt fridge. I also plan to upgrade the batteries. Right now it just has a random car battery. My thought on this was to get two Group 63 AGM batteries for the camper. This way, the camper would have two identical batteries to the truck and add some redundancy to our electrical needs and the simplicity of just having the same stuff in both places.

I’d really really really like a better jack system for this thing. I actually take it in/out of the truck quite a bit as our needs require and I find the stock tripod jacks very unstable and inconvenient. The tripod feet of the jack are also very wide and its nerve wracking as I actually run the feet over with my rear tires. To help alleviate this I’ve added some 2x6 spacers, but this makes the jacks even sketchier.

That driver rear tie down doesn’t look very good. I’ll have to peal open some of the outer skin and give that a lookover and repair sometime soon.

I’d like to replace all of the lights on the camper with LED’s, including the interior dome lights, exterior marker lights and taillights. None of them work well, or at all.

I need to devise some better ways to carry some of our outdoor gear, most pressing is ski’s mountain bikes. Right now those just get tossed inside the camper, and this is emphatically not convenient and definitely very messy. I’d also like to conceive of some method to carry our kayak’s, though I expect this is going to be a real challenge.

Okay then, enough rambling. Since this post went beyond the allotted character county, the next post is photos!
 
#2
How about some picture to go along with further rambling?

Overall rear view: You can see that the driver/rear mount is pulling down a bit. The front mounts are steel that I fabricated and TIG welded, with receivers welded to the frame and removable L brackets. I need to paint the L brackets, that’s mostly Moab color, but some rust as well. You can also see the wiring running down the side from the solar panel and light bar.



Overall front view: Here you can see how we’ve gone overboard on the lighting. 40” lightbar on top, 32” lightbar on the bumper and LED fogs in the bumper. The headlights are aftermarket Recon units, which came with the truck and I DO NOT recommend. They were crap quality, but now work really well with Morimoto HID’s from the retrofit source. I highly recommend them for headlight retrofit parts. Excellent customer service and fantastic product. I have amber lenses to add to the lightbar for snow/rain driving, which work very well and knock down the light output enough that I can use them in traffic.



Lightbar and solar on top. Its nice to have so much room and now that the wiring is done I could expand the solar capacity really easy.



Interior view and bed. Very cozy. We use a two person sleeping bag from wallmart, and an extra blanket. Though the heater works well, we really haven’t bothered to use it much.



Interior view towards the back. We keep the little Honda genny mostly for emergency use. 7.3’s are hard on batteries and alternators, even though that stuff is all new now, it’s good to have a backup plan when you have to cold start a diesel back in areas where you’ve purposely avoided civilization. The grizzly cooler is not in right now, but is stored in the cubby under the genny. It works, but it’s not that convenient. Like I said, a working fridge would be super rad.



The kitchen area is really nice, this sure beats all those years of tent camping, especially when you just want to make coffee and a quick bite in the morning. The “tile” is actually a sticker, cute addition. The previous owner said she spent a lot of time on pintrest for “decorating” ideas. Hahaha, cool I guess!



On our first outing we headed up to the forest land above Dotsero, and kind of did a whole bunch of nothing. It’s a great spot to just go hang out and enjoy your new camper.



On that first trip, after getting into camp we enjoyed a couple hours of nice weather and I cooked steaks on the campfire, just about the time they were ready the weather turned. Heck yeah, we got a plan for that now! The camper also has a perfect place for Daisy to chill out.



Amber is clearly enjoying the dishes situation upgrade.



My buddy Mike and I enjoying a nice spot near Moab. We shuttled the Whole Enchilada Trail the next morning, something we do several times a years. Best trail on the planet overall. And yeah, if you can see the laptop, he’s actually working. What a punk.



It took some fun driving to reach that spot, sadly I think the BLM has since shut that spot down to camping. The camping situation in Moab has really gone downhill the last several years.



This is our river running setup. Typically we’ll pull into the “take out” location late at night on Friday and camp. Then in the morning we pull the Escape off the trailer and head up to the “put in”, float back to the “take out” after a long day on the river and eat/camp another night, then retrieve the Escape Sunday morning and drive back home. Great setup for a self-contained couple like us.
On a side-note, we love this Ford Escape. Its an 03 base model with manual trans, front wheel drive and the 2.3L Duratec 4 bangber. With larger Hancook Dynapro tires and the addition of a BorgWarner EFR turbo (and a lot of other stuff to make that work…) it’s a great little all season daily driver and scoots nicely with just under 250hp at the tires. My wife daily’s this and plans to keep it forever, she refuses to drive a slushbox and that 3rd pedal is pretty rare in the soccer mom vehicle department.



Though we obviously prefer to load the jeep on the trailer, its nice that we can also flat tow and leave the trailer behind. This is a nice setup so we can tow to the end of the pavement, then drive each vehicle separately (Amber loves driving the willys!) up the trail to our campsite, then we can just leave the truck and camper at the campsite for the rest of the weekend and runabout in the jeep.

The CJ is a neat little animal, though we hope it looks pretty stock aside from the 35’s, its had a lot of work done to it. Buick 225 engine, SM465 trans, Dana 30, Toyota FJ60 axles and steering, Jeep YJ springs, longer shocks and air bumpstops. It drives great and has wheeled some of the toughest trails in CO and Utah, though it excels at deep snow wheeling as its so lightweight.



And Lastly…. Sometimes pavement is fun too! Here we are in lightweight mode waiting our turn at Bandimere speedway. Our best time so far is 13.2 @ 111mph, though I’m sure we could get a better time than that, and I’d love to collect a 12 second timeslip, that’s no easy feat with a stick shift and a dual disk clutch in one of these. Picking on the Subaru’s is a whole lot of fun though!

Also worth noting, as you can see I'm wearing the stock Lariat wheels with Goodyear Duratrac tires. You'll pretty much trash a set of Duratrac in a day at the drag strip... so now we run 20x12 wheels with Firestone MT's during the summer and save the Duratracs for winter only. Great winter tire! but not up to summer abuse.



Well, that’s it for now. I hope ya’ll enjoyed my rambling and photos, this weekend we are off to TX to visit family and our grown kiddo for Mothers Day, but hopefully next weekend finds us loaded up and headed to the Upper Colorado River for some camper and kayak fun!
 
#6
Thanks for the comments guys. we've been having a lot of fun with it, taking us to a lot of great places for mountain biking and playing on the rivers.

a cool modification to the rig was finally getting a proper way to carry bikes. 3/4" marine plywood sandwiched inside and out with 1/4" stainless lag bolts, then bolted up a Rocky Mounts Driveshaft Track. Photo shows it in early test stage. now the plywood is painted and i've added an additional rack to the right for two bikes. On the rack is my trusty Nukeproof Mega 290.



we've also hung up the long touring kayaks. Good friends of our work for Alpacka Raft company In Manco's Colorado. After spending some time with them we got addicted to these amazing little whitewater boats. Lightweight and easy to pack in the camper, and boy are they CAPABLE. can easily hold as much camping stuff as the big boats, yet its like cheating in Class III whitewater. I have an Alpackalyspe and my wife got an original Alpacka, but with upgraded whitewater style seat and straps. Bonus is that now we can leave the Escape home and use the CJ3a as our shuttle vehicle.

 
#7
How the heck did I not know about Alpacka Raft? Those are pretty cool and they are less than an hour away. I may have to go check them out if they allow drop-ins.
 
#8
How the heck did I not know about Alpacka Raft? Those are pretty cool and they are less than an hour away. I may have to go check them out if they allow drop-ins.
yeah, definitely go stop in! they are more than happy to have anybody stoked about the boats show up and check them out. in fact... checking them out in person is HIGHLY advisable. when you think "inflatable kayak" its easy to picture a cheesy rubber ducky thing in your head, but when you see one in person you realize that these are seriously hardcore and uber well designed whitewater machines. Also, I'd advise you swing by about an hour before closing time on the friday, you'll probably end up at the cidery (excellent!) across the street with half of the staff. Downtown Manco's is a nice place to hang out!
 
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