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FourWheel Slide-On Truck Camper
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History - how we ended up with a FourWheel Camper

 

On the trails, our truck and camper feels like a greyhound bus!compared to a regular slide-in, our camper is tinyRemote camping is possible with this rigSue and I needed a tough camper that could survive off-road and be reasonably comfortable in remote areas. Full size campers are usually too tall and too heavy for off-road use. Even low-profile pop-up campers are too tall at times, but there is a limit to how small a camper can be while providing enough space for two people who are stuck with each other for several months.

For our gear, we usually need more storage space for oddly shaped items but fewer "conventional" cabinets. The appliances that are usually installed in factory built campers are not intended for rough, expedition service, and we have experienced too much trouble from propane furnaces and refrigerators to trust them. What we wanted was an open floor plan with minimal built-in features. After looking at the market and weighing the features, the simple FourWheel Grandby shell best suited our needs.

We also needed storage space for tools, supplies and gear, and began to think about the wasted space in a conventional truck bed. Hmmmm - A utility bed provides large storage capacity with a low center of gravity. With a utility bed cut to fit the camper, there would be no wasted space. Diamond had experience building custom bed for campers, etc, and they were willing to build anything we wanted. So we ordered the camper and bed, and made plans to drive to California to get them.

Standard Features of the Grandby shell model:

Options we ordered:
Driver's side interior with sofa bed
Passenger's side interior with window

Additions:

Awning extended   A side awning protects the window from rain, provides a dry place for cooking and eating, and can be enclosed with tarps for taking a shower.
cabinets

  Additional insulation and storage cabinets were built behind the couch for clothes and gear storage.

Floor16t.jpg  The vinyl floor of the camper was cold to bare feed and very difficult to keep clean in sandy locations, so we installed carpet tiles over the vinyl. The carpet adds insulation for cold weather, holds water tracked into the camper, and keeps sand and dirt from being spread everywhere inside the camper. The tiles are easily remove to beat the dirt out of the carpet. I cut the tiles to fit tightly, and they have never lifted or moved. These were a major improvement!
window cover supports Simple figure-4 wood frames attach to the window's velcro closures and allow the upper window covers to be used as awnings for shade and rain protection. The original frames in the photo used 1/4"x1" pine, vinyl tubing stapled to the wood for a hinge at the top, and a dowel rod for the leg support. The revised versions are constructed of brass hinges and 1/4"x1-1/8" poplar, feature longer support legs and more velcro to resist wind, and they fold quickly for storage.
roof storage   Two 4" PVC pipes mounted to the roof rack provide storage for long awning, tent, and dining fly poles.
photo of camper rear   Four flood lights in the rear for backing through trees at night. These are Hella 55 watt lamps from Ohio Light Truck Parts. Two are attached to the hitch receiver below the bumper; two are mounted to the back of the camper.

 

Items we plan to add to the camper:

Our Experience with the FourWheel Camper

After having the camper installed, we left Woodland at lunch time and headed for the California coast to run north on Hwy 1. The camper is light weight and did not strain the truck at all. The smell from the new vinyl and other materials wasn't too bad, but the weather was fair and we slept with the windows open.  

  The next day we hit a large pacific storm (we would call it a tropical storm in the east, i.e. 50+ mph winds and heavy rain) and skipped out first choices for campsites due to 25' surf on the beaches, high winds, driving rain, and flooding. Seeking some shelter from the wind among the Redwood trees, we found a relatively calm site that was high enough to be safe from flooding.  Our soggy rain gear, and rain blown inside when the door was opened produced a miniature rain storm inside the camper as water vapor condensed on metal surfaces.  The wind was blowing the rain sideways, so the windows could not be opened for ventilation.
Tie Down Access Hatch   By cracking the roof vents open very slightly and opening the tie-down access hatch, we managed to get enough draft to stop the condensation. The access hatch was well baffled from the wind and rain by the truck bed. 

Other notes from additional experience:


Complaints/Problems/Modifications
link to larger photos of drip edge   On our camper there was no drip channel above the back door. Rain ran off the roof and cascaded down over the door, which was obnoxious for people trying to enter or leave the camper. Other FourWheel campers have a drip channel, but ours was either deleted because we ordered the shell model or someone simply forgot to install it.  I used some white vinyl siding J-channel to make a rain gutter along the rear of the camper roof and another above the door top. The J-channel was inexpensive, and a pair of tin snips removed most of the nailing flange. The "gutter" was glued to the camper with silicone rubber RTV.
   Velcro tabs were added to keep the sofa bed in place. Without the velcro, rough roads and trails would bounce the cushions free from the frame.
   The rear door sill is an aluminum extrusion that is unsupported and vulnerable to damage from boots and coolers. To protect the lip of the sill, an oak strip shaped to fit under the extrusion and protect the lip from damage. The wood was sealed with several coats of marine polyurethane varnish.
Unsupported door sill extrusion
Oak support protects the jamb from bending.

I forgot to have FourWheel Camper run 12 volt wiring to the storage area under the bed.  The original plan was to install two Optima deep cycle batteries inside the camper under the sofa bed and tie them into the camper electrical system, but later decided to mount them under the truck cab instead. FourWheel camper did not provide an access to the electrical cable (my oops, since I did not tell them I would need access) so it was necessary to cut into the wall to get power for the furnace. I measured the power cable location, and used a 2" hole saw to cut an access hole on the inside. The cable was tapped with solder splices, then sealed back into the wall with my tap running under the cabinets we installed.

We should have ordered the quad-cab version of the camper to get a larger over-cab bed. The overhang would act as a sun visor for our regular cab truck, and rain would not cascade directly into the cab door openings with the extra overhang of the larger bed. The standard version channels rain exactly in the middle of the door opening, making it unpleasant to get into and out of the truck in bad weather.

Other FourWheel Camper Owners

See the Turtle Expedition for what these campers can do. More Turtle.
   Rick Dusch installed a 4Wheel Camper on his 1993 Dodge Ram W250. Rick dives and his truck and camper are set up for serious off road camping. Some details and photos are posted in the gallery, more can be found on his photo page.

Chuck Mackey installed a 4Wheel Camper on his Dodge Ram 2500 QC. As I did, Chuck bought the shell model and built the interior to suit his family's needs. Larger photos are posted in my Camper gallery and a larger collection can be found on Chuck's photo page (NOTE: while you are there, be sure to see Chuck's nature photography).

   Bill Swails built a 98 Ram Diesel 4X4 QC SB with a Diamond utility bed and FourWheel Camper for an around the world expedition. Bill began his trip around the world in May of 1999 with an extended trip to Alaska. He found that the system was great for vacation type off road camping but for full time living, the camper was not what he wanted. Photos and details of Bill's 4Wheel Camper setup are posted in the gallery.

   Bill sold this FourWheel camper and Diamond utility bed, replacing them with a custom camper system from Safari Vehicles. For details of the problems Bill encountered, see his FourWheel camper comments, which are posted at Earthroamer.com. And check the side-by-side photos of my truck and Bill's new camper - now that is a serious expedition rig!

Jim Mast of vancamper.com builds custom campers on Ram trucks. The site also features used campers and owners photos.

Camper Tie-Downs

    Normally a FourWheel camper is attached to the bed  by installing four eyebolts in the bed floor, sliding the camper into the bed, and securing turnbuckles from the camper to the bed. To reach the turnbuckles, there are four access hatches from the camper interior.
     The utility bed matches the profile of the camper so closely that there is no space for the eyebolts and turnbuckles, so our camper is bolted directly through the floor of the camper and bed. To help prevent pulling the bolts through the bottom of the camper, old shock absorber bushings and washers were installed on the bolts to provide some flex.
     When off-road, this is much simpler than the previous method we used to mount our Sunlite Popup. Details of the system we used with the Sunlite are still posted.

Hellwig helper springs - support for camper loads



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Last update November 18, 2004