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 Post subject: Explora4WD D-max
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 3:47 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2016 5:45 pm
Posts: 23
Location: Digital Nomad, Australia
Designing an aluminium slide-on camper canopy.

This could be a bit ambitious for me (may too much), but I'm designing a new tray and slide-on camper canopy which I'll try and build next year. It'll be mainly aluminium, and getting a shop to make it all for me would incur thousands of $$ in labour. I figure instead, if I put that money towards a good TIG welder plus other necessary tools and make it myself, I'll still come out a few thousand ahead but have some tools and skills too.

My current lifestyle/geographical circumstances means I cannot start building anything until June next year, so that gives me plenty of time to design as much as I can in CAD and play around with different design ideas. We're currently living out of a Lifestyle Reconn camper trailer, so the missus has been treated to one of the best camping kitchens you can get; trying to pack that into a dual-cab canopy without wasting any space is a fun challenge.

June is still a long way out, and plenty could change between now and then that could prevent this from actually happening. For example, I've looked online extensively at the current slide-on market and we're not particularly satisfied with any of them. The Travelander unit is one we quite like, and if we inspect one in the flesh next year we might just go with one of those. But it's a lot of canvas, which we're not sold on. Most of the others are even more canvas, with big setup times and/or the kitchen and storage designs aren't good enough.

I'm planning to build using a regular aluminium canopy as a base, with a quick roof top tent and quick wrap-around awning. It will be a slide-on unit, but we won't take the legs on camping trips because I'll make it quicker to pack up than to slide-it off (and then back on again). Most anecdotal evidence points to people thinking they can slide their canopy off for a day trip, but it ends up just being a pain (especially on uneven ground) and then you're left with a fairly useless flat bed and no fridge or storage for the day. I'm only planning ours to be slide-on so it can be removed easily when we're back from a trip.

I'll continue this in further posts below, as a series of essays exploring different components that will comprise the camper.

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Last edited by explora4wd on Tue Dec 13, 2016 7:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Roof Top Tents
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 3:52 pm 
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Posts: 23
Location: Digital Nomad, Australia
With a custom canopy, there seems to be three different options to go with a roof top tent. I haven't look at any properly in person, so there might be more pros and cons that I'm not aware of yet. Here are my compiled notes:

1. Custom integrated pop-up tent

This could be a nice option, but it's a lot of extra work without too much benefit over off-the-shelf setups. Additionally, if we're not satisfied with how it works it's difficult to change the setup. I think the benefits of an integrated tent is it's more streamline and potentially lighter too. I'm not convinced that's worth the extra effort though.

There might be more to these than I realised, but since they're custom there's often not much info about them online.

2. Hard-shell roof-top tent

Not much different from the integrated types, but you can get them off-the-shelf. These are probably the closest to what we're treated to with our Lifestyle Reconn. A super quick, no-fuss straight pop-up and your bed is already made! Despite taking up more space on the roof, most of these can take a small load on top so you don't really lose too much roof storage. I think the hard-shell would provide better insulation too. Most models only take a couple of minutes to setup, but that comes a hefty price ($4k-$5k).

The hard-shells are less compatible with a canopy setup, since they only offer side access and ladder will get in the way of the canopy doors. I need to have a better look at how the ladders work, if they're quickly detached or telescope then it could just be a matter of moving them to open the door. There's potential for some crazy work-arounds though, the craziest idea being the ladder could actually attach to the opened canopy door. You'd climb the ladder and walk along the door and into the tent.

3. Soft-shell roof-top tent

Probably the cheapest option, and that's why they're so popular. These are good because they offer decent room inside, but when packed up don't take up much space on the roof giving you more roof storage. They can also be setup to folder over the rear or the side of the canopy. I'm preffering a driver-side entry setup, and these soft-shells should folder over far enough that the canopy gull-wing door can be opened without fouling on the tent ladder.

The downside is they take way too long to setup and pack down. Seriously, it's like 10 minutes, I reckon I could setup and make the bed in an OzTent faster. Probably even longer to pack away. You also cannot store anything on top of these. And at the end of the day, it's still a heap of canvas which we're trying to minimise.

You can also get walls for these to create extra closed-in and private space. However, these come with additional hefty setup times on top of what you already do and don't seem suitable for touring.

The winner (for now): Backtrax Ascent Pro Hard-shell

Despite the ridiculous price tag, they come with a lot of neat features like integrated lights and fan built-in the roof. The motor-driven automatic unit is a bit of a gimmick for me, but if it's reliable I'm not going to complain (and it has a manual back-up). I'll try an mount a quick-remove solar panel on the roof. Keen to inspect these when I get back to QLD, and I hope they pass the 'sit-up-in-bed' test! The last piece of the puzzle is to solve the ladder/canopy door dilemma, but I need more info for that.

Another win for the off-the-shelf setups, is if you don't like one you can swap it for something else.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:52 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 19, 2013 10:23 pm
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Location: Darwin... sort of.
Why do you feel the need to move away from the van? during our trip we started out with a RTT and moved to towing a Tvan about halfway through, it's the best thing we ever did and I reckon anyone who's travelled long term with a RTT would know why... never again!

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:19 pm 
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Location: Digital Nomad, Australia
Danno wrote:
Why do you feel the need to move away from the van? during our trip we started out with a RTT and moved to towing a Tvan about halfway through, it's the best thing we ever did and I reckon anyone who's travelled long term with a RTT would know why... never again!


What type of RTT did you have?

Towing something in the first place was compromise for me. But I had to make that compromise as we are living full-time out of it. Unfortunately, that hasn't been working out though, so we're going to setup a 'base' back in QLD and do a ~2 month trip each year. If we don't need to lug around almost everything we own, I can make it work out of just a canopy and I don't have to worry about about parking and tracks being too tight or low-range-spec. Sometimes towing 2T through some of the 4WD tracks I have, has been a fun challenge, but I'd still have a hoot without that (and not have dings to fix on the CT at the other side).

We lose a few luxuries by downscaling, but every time I get to drive around without the CT hitched I feel like a free man again. The biggest thing we lose is we have room to get changed - while standing and privately - in Reconn, which I cannot replicate.

We still plan to hold onto the Reconn, and we'll revert back to it if the canopy plans don't work out.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 6:13 pm 
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Location: Digital Nomad, Australia
Upon further introspection, I think I mainly just wanna build a sweet canopy. I'm a tinkerer, rarely content with the current setup.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:26 pm 
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Location: Darwin... sort of.
Darsche panorama 2, the tent itself is beautifully made, the canvas work and quality is outstanding with the only let down being the actual roof mounting system itself which I heavily modified anyway, this is typical with these tents across all brands, I just wasn't comfortable with a 60kg tent being held onto my roof by 4 m6 bolts... Apart from the having to climb up and down which is a pita in itself putting it up and down in the wind and or rain was a nightmare, in fact down the Eyre peninsula we simply could not use it as it was too windy but also even on an ordinary day a very early start was near impossible because the tent was always wet from dew outside and condensation inside and packing 2000 bucks worth of canvas up wet every day is always going to end in tears, in the end we stopped using it and used our 3man tent instead until I flipped my lid near Port Lincoln and we decided to get the Tvan and never looked back, and our set up/down time changed from nearly 2hrs by the time we were fed, watered and in bed to about 1/2hr, it's for sale now so someone else can suffer the bloody thing.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:40 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2013 7:54 pm
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Location: Darling Downs. Qld
Off topic, apologies, but what model Tvan did you get Dan?

Tink


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 8:41 pm 
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Location: Darwin... sort of.
Tink wrote:
Off topic, apologies, but what model Tvan did you get Dan?

Tink


2010 mk2 muranji

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:51 am 
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Location: Darling Downs. Qld
Nice

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 7:19 am 
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Danno wrote:
Apart from the having to climb up and down which is a pita in itself


This is my main concern with any RTT, but we're still young (25) so it shouldn't be a big deal for us for a long while. Additionally, it's not easy getting in and out of our Reconn because of the small door... I have to go out backwards.

Danno wrote:
even on an ordinary day a very early start was near impossible because the tent was always wet from dew outside and condensation inside and packing 2000 bucks worth of canvas up wet every day is always going to end in tears


This is basically why I wouldn't ever get a canvas RTT. Even when they're dry, they seem like a pain to pack up.
I'm hoping a quality hard-shell will eliminate all of those problems (except for the ladder bit).


We had a brief look at Tvans several years ago, but the lack of a fridge slide wasn't ideal and the missus felt a bit claustrophobic in the bed. Like our Reconn, the hard-shell RTTs pop-up high giving you plenty of headroom and a big window on each side.

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