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Old 09-22-2010, 06:09 PM   #1
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Default Modify or build?

Hi, I am a single mom, with two daughters, we are from Georgia, which explains the screen name. We are tent campers. We camp, because we can not afford a hotel. On our most recent camping trip, we ran out of room in our car. (It was only a three day trip.) We are planning a longer trip in January, so I think we will need a bigger vehicle (more food and charcoal, plus for three days we did not take any camp chairs and we will be wanting them on the longer trip, plus the cabin style tent instead of the dome tent, etc.). So was thinking we need a van for our camping trips, I could put a port a potty in it, so I wouldn’t have to stop every two hours for potty breaks, have plenty of room for our gear and in most full size vans the rear seat will lay flat for a bed (incase we arrive at our campsite late). Which led me to search the internet and I discovered the class b. Now, I see how much can fit in the van, and it leads me to a dilemma.

Do I buy an older class b and modify it to fit my needs (we are use to tent camping, not so sure we need all the plumbing, space I am sure could be used for storage)? Or buy a diesel van with a high top and do a conversion myself? You all have more experience than I do, will I eventually become spoiled to the class b and wish I had the plumbing (something I could not do on my own)? I feel confident I could take out seats, install cabinets, wiring, batteries, but I have always been afraid of plumbing. Possibly because my dad was an engineer and I helped him with finishing the basement, working on the car, repairing/ refinishing furniture; however, he never worked on plumbing, so I was never exposed to it. I suppose I could learn though.

I know I can not afford a class b with a diesel, I also know that diesel engines get better mileage and last longer, so that is a consideration in doing my own conversion. Other factors, a class b would be too small when we reach our destination, we would still take our tent(s) with us. How many tents? We don’t take every tent on every vacation. There is the backpacking tent (all mesh, except the rain fly), the heavy army style canvas tent with collapsible wood burning heater, the lighter weight nylon cabin tent, and we are considering a sub zero tent (backpacking in cold weather, possibly with snow falling). Yes, I am somewhat eccentric and turning my daughters toward the same bent, probably why my ex is just that. Of course having a larger vehicle means we could bring more “stuff” with us, inflatable kayaks, parasails (when the kids get a little older), backpacks, etc. We love to hike, and hope to start doing some multi day hikes soon, hopefully next year! I have the tent (we use it on our short weekends) and I, at least, am looking forward to using it for its true purpose.

So, I don’t want to know what you would do, if you were you. What would you do if you were me? All input will be gratefully accepted.
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Old 09-22-2010, 08:28 PM   #2
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Default Re: Modify or build?

First off welcome to the site. I read through your post three times to figure out what you should do. It sounds like you want to continue to tent camp but have an issue with storage. I know a friend that had the same problem. They rent a cargo van now and in the end it is cheaper due to no up keep, service or oil changes, insurance for van they use maybe 5 times per season, they get a reliable van and not something old they are putting money into, no worries with storing the van when not in use and they get a discount card that gives them a free rental every fifth time. When I first read your post I thought maybe a cargo trailer but then the storage issue, hitch setup, up keep with tires, lubing hubs, and blah blah blah I figured a rental would be best. I am sure in the end you will make the right choice.

Steve
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Old 09-23-2010, 02:02 PM   #3
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Default Re: Modify or build?

Thanks, Steve. Your right cargo trailer would not be good, besides all your valid points, I don't think my Camry could be fitted with a hitch. However, I am still not convinced about renting a van.

What you said about the cargo can makes sense to some extent, but I don't think a cargo van would have enough seats, most of them have seating for two up front and open space in the back. I couldn't get out of the state without breaking seat belt laws, although, there would definitely be room to put a port-a-potty. I am not sure where your friends rent, but around hear, they want $60 per day, 100 mile maximum per day $0.89/mile for overages. I could rent an SUV for $75per day, 200 mile per day, $0.30/ mile for overages, and no room for a potty. If a make an 500 hundred mile trip to FL, and stayed 10 days and didn't go anywhere, then I would pay $600 for that one trip (this is the trip I plan to make in January, but I would like to be able to go somewhere while I am there), a u-haul, that I could turn in and didn't have to return to the rental location might be cheaper, but I haven't looked those figures up. If I got the SUV, I could turn it in and rent again for the return trip, again, not able to go anywhere, and with my mileage overages I would pay $330. For $550, we could fly and spend a lot less time in the vehicle. I don't know how much it would cost to ship our cooler and tents down there though. This is just one trip. If we make numerous three day trips, because I had to leave things home on our last trip, the SUV would run about 150 per trip, six trips per year = $900/year. 330 + 900 = 1200 in rental fees this year alone, $1200 will pay for a lot of up-keep. I thought if I took a chunk of savings, ($4000-8000) and bought something outright, I would come out better in the long run. I just remembered, my insurance does not cover rental vehicles, so I HAVE to purchase the expensive stuff when ever I rent, whether it be a Ryder, a Hertz or what ever, add $15.00 per day for another $300 and I am up to $1500 for the year. I just booked an SUV to pick up a stove this weekend, if I had a vehicle in my driveway that had some cargo space, I could use it instead. So up my rental expenses from the previous section, but I don't feel like running the figures. Ryder would have been more appropriate, except for the mileage thing.

I am also looking for comfort during the journey. If I get tired and have to pull over and sleep before continuing, as happened on our last trip, a class b would let me do that, just about anywhere; I could not pitch a tent at the rest are, and sleeping in the front seat was uncomfortable. If we arrive in camp at 11:30pm, which seems likely for our planned January trip, it could be difficult pitching the tent in the dark, not to mention quiet time in the campground and trying to pitch a tent in the dark, again, a class b would provide a crash spot until morning. (The last trip and the January trip are both Disney trips, in case you are wondering why we are pushing so hard to arrive on time, etc.)

I also got to thinking last night that a class b at a pay campground, might result in them insisting I use the more expensive camper hook-up sites. Although having propane hook up on the outside of the vehicle would be convenient.

I guess all this taken together means I should just look at a conversion van. If I find one with the captains chairs in back and the let down bed, that could be removed. I could use it for cargo or camping. I could build a little kitchenette that can go in and out, fix some kind of removable screen for a potty on our longer trips and be set. I suppose a regular 15 passenger van could work as well, remove the last three rows of seats and have plenty of space; but then, the seats in those vans are uncomfortable on longer trips. I will have to look into adding seats to a regular panel van that would meet the seat belt requirements we have here for my minor children.
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Old 09-24-2010, 09:44 PM   #4
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Default Re: Modify or build?

Welcome! Well, looking at it from the "if I were you" perspective, I would opt for a budget B that was in good shape. There are a lot of middle ground rigs that aren't as completely "RV". I have seen a number of Ford Based Winnebago conversions that have fold down beds that are decent seating for passengers, legal with seat belts. The have basic cartridge type porta potties and shore power connections. Usually a small portable fresh water tank and gray tank that are hand carry/fill/dump under the sink, with simple connections and electric or hand pumps to run the water. There really are a lot of variations on how they come equipped. If you do some searching on Craigslist or some of the RV search sites, I bet you will see a bunch that would shine as good fits for you. As far as campgrounds forcing you to take hookup sites, I have never had that happen. The times I choose to use a campground, we almost always opt for a non-hookup site. We are equipped well enough not to need it which probably explains why we rarely use pay campgrounds.

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Old 09-26-2010, 10:59 PM   #5
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Default Re: Modify or build?

Hi there, My wife and I looked for a long time to find a "B" camper van that we could afford. I had not ever seen an American Cruiser class B but my wife ran accross one sitting in a yard with a for sale sign on it. I checked it out and it was just what we wanted and more. These Cruisers seat 7 with seat belts and can sleep 3 (friendly/close) adults. Lots of storage under the couch for tents, etc. There are several for around $20,000 with low miles and in excellent shape on the internet. The original asking on ours was $23,000 but we negotiated it down to $16,000. Not bad for a fully self contained, wet bath, generator, etc. and 25,001 miles on it. These units are very well put together but do not have the RoadTrek/Pleasureway mystique, nor do they have the cost. They are built on a Dodge 3500 one ton maxxie van at 20'. Some folks say they have handling problems with these but I believe it was the original equipment tires with soft sidewalls that was the culprit. I have aftermarket 10ply commercial tires and I haven't any handling issues at all. There are a couple of these units for sale in Florida right now when searching the internet. Just a suggestion, as my wife and I are extremely happy with ours. Oh, and by the way, I drive ours to work when the weather is bad and I can't take my motorcycle. Just like a second car.......................Mike


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Old 09-27-2010, 03:00 PM   #6
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Default Re: Modify or build?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3gabelles
Thanks, Steve. Your right cargo trailer would not be good, besides all your valid points, I don't think my Camry could be fitted with a hitch. However, I am still not convinced about renting a van.

What you said about the cargo can makes sense to some extent, but I don't think a cargo van would have enough seats, most of them have seating for two up front and open space in the back. I couldn't get out of the state without breaking seat belt laws, although, there would definitely be room to put a port-a-potty. I am not sure where your friends rent, but around hear, they want $60 per day, 100 mile maximum per day $0.89/mile for overages. I could rent an SUV for $75per day, 200 mile per day, $0.30/ mile for overages, and no room for a potty. If a make an 500 hundred mile trip to FL, and stayed 10 days and didn't go anywhere, then I would pay $600 for that one trip (this is the trip I plan to make in January, but I would like to be able to go somewhere while I am there), a u-haul, that I could turn in and didn't have to return to the rental location might be cheaper, but I haven't looked those figures up. If I got the SUV, I could turn it in and rent again for the return trip, again, not able to go anywhere, and with my mileage overages I would pay $330. For $550, we could fly and spend a lot less time in the vehicle. I don't know how much it would cost to ship our cooler and tents down there though. This is just one trip. If we make numerous three day trips, because I had to leave things home on our last trip, the SUV would run about 150 per trip, six trips per year = $900/year. 330 + 900 = 1200 in rental fees this year alone, $1200 will pay for a lot of up-keep. I thought if I took a chunk of savings, ($4000-8000) and bought something outright, I would come out better in the long run. I just remembered, my insurance does not cover rental vehicles, so I HAVE to purchase the expensive stuff when ever I rent, whether it be a Ryder, a Hertz or what ever, add $15.00 per day for another $300 and I am up to $1500 for the year. I just booked an SUV to pick up a stove this weekend, if I had a vehicle in my driveway that had some cargo space, I could use it instead. So up my rental expenses from the previous section, but I don't feel like running the figures. Ryder would have been more appropriate, except for the mileage thing.

I am also looking for comfort during the journey. If I get tired and have to pull over and sleep before continuing, as happened on our last trip, a class b would let me do that, just about anywhere; I could not pitch a tent at the rest are, and sleeping in the front seat was uncomfortable. If we arrive in camp at 11:30pm, which seems likely for our planned January trip, it could be difficult pitching the tent in the dark, not to mention quiet time in the campground and trying to pitch a tent in the dark, again, a class b would provide a crash spot until morning. (The last trip and the January trip are both Disney trips, in case you are wondering why we are pushing so hard to arrive on time, etc.)

I also got to thinking last night that a class b at a pay campground, might result in them insisting I use the more expensive camper hook-up sites. Although having propane hook up on the outside of the vehicle would be convenient.

I guess all this taken together means I should just look at a conversion van. If I find one with the captains chairs in back and the let down bed, that could be removed. I could use it for cargo or camping. I could build a little kitchenette that can go in and out, fix some kind of removable screen for a potty on our longer trips and be set. I suppose a regular 15 passenger van could work as well, remove the last three rows of seats and have plenty of space; but then, the seats in those vans are uncomfortable on longer trips. I will have to look into adding seats to a regular panel van that would meet the seat belt requirements we have here for my minor children.
Sounds like you want to haul cargo. So if you just want a comfortable, inexpensive, way to get your tents to
base camp, you should probably consider a mini-van, or possibly a full sized window van. Not all large vans are
strictly commercial, many are outfitted nicely for longer road trips. You can add what you need, as you find
that you need it. And they can be used as a primary (slightly more expensive) vehicle, if you don't
drive far day to day. An air mattress on the back on the floor could be a "nap" bed if you get tired en route.
The Camry just isn't big enough for your camping needs, seems to be the main issue, in my opinion.
You sound like you're more of a hiker/tent camper than a B dweller/camper, so I don't think you need all
the extras in a B. If it rains, you can sleep in the van until the sun comes out, then back to your tents.
Just my opinion, of course.
Good luck.
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