After using the camper for the last four months on our northern journey, which we traveled approximately 23,000kms/14,300 miles we have the following items to report.
The truck performed without any trouble what so ever. Never having issues with elevation changes, powering up the mountain roads easily and the engine brake doing its job on the downhill side. The mileage started to improve once we turned over 80,000kms/50,000 miles. We drove the Dempster Highway (750kms of dirt road each way) to Inuvik without airing down the tires, travelling about 80kph/50mph, and no punctures. The ICON suspension did its work smoothing out the corrugated and bumpy sections. The 60US/50 Imp. gal. Titan Tank was wonderful as we could drive over 1100km/685miles to a tank.
We designed the interior layout and find it works very efficiently for us. The solar power and house batteries work well, as we never needed to be plugged into shore power while in the north country, the long days of sunlight were certainly a plus. Once we became familiar with how the diesel appliances (cooktop/water heater/forced air heat) operated, they all performed as expected. Being able to carry 45gal. of fresh water we are able to live off grid for 7-8 days depending on usage. Part of our original discussions about our trip and the camper were to leave as small a foot print on the planet as possible while travelling, so the decision to use bio-degradable products was a no brainer. Using biodegradable soaps allows us to dump our grey water in the bush if needed. The limiting factor was the cassette toilet as it only holds about 4.5-5gal. of black water, the good news is, it can be dumped down any toilet and just flushed away as well as at a dump station.
It was never hot inside the camper even with temperatures in the high 20s C/low 80s F. We have plenty of well positioned windows to give maximum air flow. We have had many inquiries as to why we don’t have AC, and simply, it is not required. We look forward to enjoying warmer weather when we head south and we will report on the air flow if we find it to be different. The odd morning along the coast in Alaska it was a little chilly, however we used the Wallas cooktop in heat mode to warm the camper. Using the Espar to heat water to wash with or do dishes with usually takes 3-4 minutes to get hot, almost instant hot water.
We really like our custom 6”/15cm pocket coil bed from Halstead in Calgary. When we visit friends, we prefer to stay in the camper, as our bed is so comfy. (Also less work for our wonderful hosts)
The camper needed some warranty work taking care of when we returned to OEV, mainly a leaking skylight in very heavy rain and an open window support not letting us close one of the small side dinette windows. We also had a silencer added to our Espar exhaust as it was a little noisy. OEV also installed the awning and outside shower which they were unable to install prior to us leaving in the spring. (Possibly a good thing, as weight was a concern)
The Chevy 3500HD truck was just about at its Gross Vehicle Weight (GWV) when loaded, which was cause for concern, especially once we began meeting others who had breakdowns with their loaded vehicles. We did not know if these issues where because of their loads or just wear and tear. We also wanted bicycles and outdoor cooking facilities. With this in mind we decided to change out the Chevy 3500HD for a Dodge 5500, we probably could have gone with the Dodge 4500 but for the difference in price went with the 5500, we were lucky to get this truck as they are hard to come by at time of purchase. Southside Dodge, Red Deer had one on order for a customer who cancelled their order, we put a deposit on it at in mid August, with an expected delivery date the end of September (we where still in Alaska). We chose the Dodge over a Ford or a heavier Chevy because of the Cummins engine and its reliability. On the front we had a Bullet Proof Bumper installed. This new truck gives us a GVW of 19,500lbs. The truck came with a 198L/52US/44 Imp. gallon tank. Super Single wheels were installed all around in lieu of the Dually’s which came on the rear of the truck. Now when fully loaded we still have approximately 4000lbs of spare load capacity, it gets a workout when loaded but is well within the capability of the truck.
On the first leg of the trip bikes would have come in handy, but due to space limitations it was not possible. OEV built a platform in the back seat space of the cab of the truck to mount the bikes and the seat can still be used if need be. After researching folding bikes we decided to purchased two folding Voltbikes, these have four inch fat tires and electric assist when needed and have a range of approximately 40km/25miles to a charge.
OEV built an outdoor kitchen which has a Coleman Propane dual burner stove and a propane BBQ installed with a bowl for washing the dishes or keeping drinks cold, the legs fold in on the kitchen for storage and it all fits neatly into the outside storage box OEV built, which also gives an additional storage cabinet between the truck and camper. We have two 5lb propane bottles mounted in the lower storage cabinet below the deck mounted cabinet. We purchased a second cassette for the toilet which will extend our remote camping ability to 10-14 days, this is stored in one of the lower flatbed cabinets.
We also have a Solaroven, we will report on how all this works once we have given everything a good workout.
Next: Baja Mexico