[Tristan’s Note: I had the pleasure of meeting up with SUV RVing reader and viewer Robert DeNike when I was in California in January. We had a great time chatting about adventures past and future, and we’ve kept in touch since then. He recently sent me a ton of fantastic photos and info about his sleeping/camping setup in his 1995 Jeep Cherokee Country. All of the photos and words below are his, but I will occasionally add my own thoughts, which will be in brackets. Thanks for sharing your adventure rig, Robert!]
It came off the assembly line in 1995, before some of you were born. But 22 years later it still runs like a Swiss watch, taking me over rutted, boulder-strewn roads far from the maddening crowd.
I’m a backpacker, so the Jeep’s purpose in life is to get me to trailheads at the edges of North America’s great wilderness areas. After 10 days out there, I am thinking fondly of the Jeep and the little luxuries within. It’s always with great joy and relief that I catch sight of it as I emerge from the wilds, waiting there patiently like a loyal dog.
The first modification I made was to remove the rear seat bench. Permanently. The seat back now folds down flat, creating a sizable cargo space. This left the seat belts hanging uselessly in the way, so I unscrewed and cut out all except mine. Finally, I detached the front passenger seat back so I can stretch out fully when lying down, which also opened up the cargo area even more.
The Jeep now accommodates exactly one rider: me. So if your wife or kids want to go camping with you, or even just shopping at the local Costco, forget it. But my wife would rather go to the dentist than go camping. That’s OK; I love her anyway. The point being: these modifications are for the committed solo SUVer only.
A month or so ago I went to the Utah Toyota Off-Road Expo. It was much smaller than the Salt Lake Off-Road Expo that I went to a week later (and both pale in comparison to Overland Expo West, which is going on right now). Still, there were some great rigs there, mostly 4Runners and Tacomas (no RAV4s, sadly). I noticed on one of the rigs (a Toyota Tacoma with camper shell, roof top tent, bike rack, and more) what looked like a DIY version of the Road Shower, so I went up to talk to the rig’s owner and ask about how he made the shower. Here are some pictures and info:
Let’s face it, these DIY PVC showers are all kind of ugly. Definitely not as sleek as the Road Shower. But this setup only cost about $50 or $60 versus the Road Shower’s $300. There are lots of videos and other information out there about how to make a PVC shower like this (here are the results for “PVC car shower” on YouTube, and this is probably the best build video I’ve seen), but there are a few things I like about this particular shower. I like that the water fill valve is low-profile and not too much of an eyesore. I’m intrigued by—if still a bit skeptical of—the simple lashing attachment system. And I like the super long hose, though if I were to make a shower like this, it wouldn’t be quite this long.
What are your thoughts?
I don’t know if I’ll ever actually make something like this, but I was excited to see it and figure out the details of how it was made. It works great for him, and I wanted to share some details of the build with you guys.
Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.
I took a break from my usual setup and decided to go on an overnight trip with basically just what I could fit inside a plastic bin. Check out the video below of my “RV in a box” setup for easy SUV camping! (Click here if you can’t see the video.)
This video (embedded below) by Bob from Cheap RV Living is an interview with Dave, a retired Greek Orthodox and Episcopal priest who is now a Buddhist priest that leads clients on vision quests in the wilderness. He took the back seat out of his 1991 Isuzu Trooper and laid a wooden platform in the back, and that gives him a surprising amount of space inside the vehicle. He also took out the passenger seat to give himself and his dog even more room. He has a metal divider between the front and back sections of the vehicle that he uses to hang gear. I love the headroom and large windows that the Trooper offers.
Dave’s approach to living in his SUV is very minimalist:
“My style and approach to living from … the Isuzu Trooper is more of a mountaineering/backpacking approach, so the gear that I use and the mindset I use tends to be a mountaineering/backpacking/expedition-type mindset. So I cook outside as much as I can. I tend to use backpacking equipment, and so the Isuzu is what carries it from one place to another. But I like being as close to nature as I can and having really good gear, so that if it is blowing a blizzard, even if I’m in a tent, I’m warm, I’m safe, I can make hot coffee, I can cook.”
To which Bob replied:
“Instead of having to fit it all into a backpack, all you have to do is fit it into an Isuzu Trooper.”
As a mountaineer and backpacker myself, this is definitely something I can relate to. If backpackers can spend 5 months walking with everything they need on their backs, you and I can certainly fit everything we need into any vehicle.
The first half of the video is Dave telling his story of how he came to be living in an SUV. If you want to skip all of that, the SUV talk starts at 16:35.
(Again, click here to view the video on YouTube if you can’t see it above.)
I was going to leave on my trip this morning, but there are snow storms a few hours south of here in the mountains, so I’m putting it off for one more day. Ugh. But I am definitely, definitely leaving tomorrow (Friday). Definitely.
For a lot of SUVs, a great sleeping setup is the “table,” where you’ve got a sheet of plywood that is held up off of the floor of the SUV by 2×4 supports at the corners. Your bed and bedding material go on top of the plywood, and your gear goes underneath. It looks something like this: Continue reading “A Unique Sleeping Setup in the Back of a Ford Bronco”
In chapter 2 of the SUV RVing book, I talk about how using a roof-top tent is an option for SUV RVing. I have no first-hand experience with these and so there’s only so much I can say about them, but I ran across this great article at Adventure Journal about using them from someone who is currently “traveling the planet” in a Land Rover with a roof-top tent on top. If a roof-top tent is something you’re considering, be sure to give the article a read.
Most roof-top tents don’t really appeal to me because they still have most of the drawbacks of a traditional tent (i.e., they’re a pain to set up and take down) but are way, way more expensive than most traditional tents, but I guess I’m just missing something. The hard-sided tents like this or this look simpler and appeal to me more than the style shown in photos in the link above, but they’re also more expensive.