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Old 10-27-2020, 08:06 AM   #1
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Ground Clearance & Boondocking

This is a request for input on purchase of 1st RV. Trying to make some decisions. Do you see more travel trailers or Class C at boondocking sites? In general, do the units need modifications to achieve extra ground clearance? We have considered a 30' Sunseeker but wonder if its a practical choice for boondocking? Seems like things are pretty close to the ground . . . ?
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Old 10-27-2020, 09:03 AM   #2
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When I boondock, which is most of the time, I see everything from Class A's to Pop-Up Tent trailers.

If you boondock in the wide open desert areas that are relatively flat you don't need to worry too much about ground clearance or long tail ends that drag when going off the main road (or going back up on the road).

If you camp in the woods or in areas where roads are narrow, lots of hills or dips, then what you have becomes more of an issue.

Another consideration length. The longer the rig the more difficult it will be to negotiate many roads to and within the camping areas.

I tow a Travel Trailer and measure from front license plate on truck to rear bumper of my trailer 46 feet. Trailer is 26 ft in overall length so tucking it into a spot among the trees is often snug. Also sometimes a task to maneuver among those trees getting to that spot.

A long way of saying "It depends".
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Old 10-27-2020, 09:19 AM   #3
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TY Titan Mike. I am quickly learning that there are a lot of "it depends" in this process Appreciate your input.
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Old 10-27-2020, 10:22 AM   #4
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Class C MH often have a lot of overhang behind the rear axle. that can be a problem.
TTs vary a lot. Some have plumbing like drain valves too close to the ground. YOu can often flip the axles and gain some ground clearance.
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Old 10-27-2020, 01:01 PM   #5
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Since we go to the desert with our Class C 32' and tow a 12' cargo trailer, we watch out for the big pot holes and you go pretty slow once you are out in the dirt. Anything can get stuck. The one thing is go with family / friends and they will always help you out.

I lean something new every time we go out some where, it is either on our RV or something someone else has done to there.
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Old 10-27-2020, 02:21 PM   #6
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Agree with what others are saying. There are places i took my previous 40' DP that I would not take my 24' MB because of ground clearance. That said, we boondock another in the MB.
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Old 10-27-2020, 03:34 PM   #7
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If you want to boondock, the most reasonable option is a travel trailer and 4x4 tow vehicle (TV).

MANY rigs come standard with more than adequate ground clearance AND design features ESSENTIAL to not breaking things.

Ground clearance: As you look at a prospective rig, imagine yourself sliding under the frame on a sheet of cardboard. The best options will offer about 6" or more of clearance ABOVE your chest as you slide under...without mods.

Flipping axles and/or raising the rig. Leaf spring axles can be flipped...which means that you move the actual axle from above the spring leaves to below them. This usually requires a bit of modification, because, in most cases, you don't simply mount the axle upside down below the springs. The axle should be mounted "right side up" below the springs, and this requires some simple mods to the axle (by a competent welder) to create a proper "saddle" for the springs to rest on. That's a rule of thumb...not a hard and fast rule. Depending on the rig you choose, your mods will vary.

With torsion axles, you need a lift kit to gain about 3 1/2" of ground clearance. My previous rig, a Rockwood HighWall (HW) 277, needed this mod. You can see the support above the far side of the axle. (the photo features my freshwater tank support mod).

Design Features that are VERY important...as in VERY VERY important.

First understand these terms: approach, departure, and breakover angles. Breakover angle between the TV and RV is the most important.

1) Black and greywater tank drains MUST be close to the axles. The farther away from the axles these are, the more likely you are to ground them going through the whoop-de-dos - wave-like erosion caused by "traffic" on unimproved roads where there is a car-length or larger gouge in the road, followed by a ridge, and followed by another huge gouge....these are often about 12" deep. As your TV goes down into one and then begins to climb out the other side, this will cause your hitch to plunge down very low as your TV and rig form a Vee at the hitch. This is the "approach" angle for the RV as the nose plunges within inches of the ground at the hitch. This is where you lose stairs. Breaking off a black tank drain during departure is going to absolutely ruin your day!!

Then comes the "breakover" as the TV passes the ridge and goes down into the next gouge. Trailer axles will still be in the previous gouge, and as the TV bottoms out in the next gouge, it will yank the hitch downward. ANYTHING very far forward of the rig's axles will drag the ground on the "breakover." Once again, the stairs will likely take a hit.

Meanwhile, as the rig is climbing out of a gouge, anything very far back from the axles will drag as the tongue of the rig goes sharply nose up...when the hitch point is right at the breakover. At the rear, this is your departure angle. Many rigs come with little triangular drags at the rearmost part of the frame to help keep you from dragging a bumper or spare tire mount, but in softer soils, these provide little protection.

NO conventional RVs excel at this stuff, but, as with mine, they can be pretty good...good enough presuming you aren't trying to go down 4WD-rated trails more difficult than mild. https://mhjc.clubexpress.com/content...dule_id=184968
I'd comfortably tackle a 3-rated trail, and under some conditions, like my last outing where the soils are sandy and not too rocky, I took on a 4 rated trail.

The stuff that hangs down on the rig you choose MUST be tucked in close to the axles to be safe. If your dump pipes are within 2' or less of the axles, you should be OK.

NOW ON TO STAIRS. The conventional stairs on my old HW 277 were far forward from the axle. Before I lifted the rig, I used to carry a 6# sledge with me to straighten them enough to function on site, and I frequently dismounted them and straightened them using an anvil and sledge once home. Obviously, you can't do this very often before they are ruined, and you might even damage the mounts where they attach to the frame. I ended up substantially reinforcing the mounts for my steps, because they had been bent and straightened so many times. Before reinforcing them, they were like standing on the very end of a soft diving board.

My new rig came with the same type of stairs. I only used them on the dealer's lot. When I brought home the rig, I had a set of these in the bed of my pickup. https://www.campingworld.com/morryde...B&gclsrc=aw.ds My brand new factory conventional stairs are stored away, and you can see the MORryde steps on my rig. The door/and stairs are far enough forward of the axle that I knew before I towed it home that I could not boondock where I go without doing something about them. These guys stow entirely INSIDE the rig, and they get bonus points for being rock solid because of the fully adjustable extending legs that rest on the ground.

My new rig can literally go anywhere my bone stock 4x4, 4-door Ram can go. Last time out, we drove 1/2 mile down an ATV trail that had several HUGE breakovers. These breakovers appeared to be deliberately created jumps for dirt bikes and Razors...the conventional side-by-sides didn't dare jump off these. The dump pipes cleared the breakover by about 6" (watching using the truck mirrors), and the rest of the rig was high above the hazards. The only other RV out there was a tiny, single-axle fiberglass job...a Casita. https://www.fiberglass-rv-4sale.com/ Everyone else was in 4WD trucks and sporting tents.

Length is a liability when boondocking. My rig is about 24' ball to bumper. It has a rear bed slide, but other configs in this length will be versatile enough to go wherever your TV can go...ASSUMING YOU HAVE OVERHEAD CLEARANCE. Don't forget that your rig, especially one with AC on the roof, will be 12 or so feet high, and overhanging branches can do a LOT of damage. Also don't forget that your TV is likely to be about 6'6" wide at most, so you must make accommodations for an 8' wide camper, turning radius and so on.

Since you are shopping, I strongly suggest that you start with something that has a lot of ground clearance when it's bone stock. And within one brand and model line, this may vary a LOT. My Jayco Jay Feather X-213 is way up there. My friend has a Jayco Jay Feather hybrid that's a true low rider. You must jack it up to even get your body under the frame. His rig has a 1 step stair.

I was hot to trot for a Lance to replace my popup, but I quickly discovered that they are, by and large, low riders, and that lifting them is more challenging than many...thus no Lance.

No doubt you see my solar setup. That's a whole other story. If you are serious about boondocking, you may want to budget about $1300 for decent solar, decent batteries, and a modest generator. Contact me if you want my 2 cents on that subject.

With VERY few exceptions, we boondock exclusively, and our rig gets us into some very desirable places...where most trailers can't go. But if you lookup the Jayco Jay Feather X-213...or any number of terrific choices from Forest River (I'm kind of fond of the new Ibex line, and I've always loved the Rockwood MiniLite 2104S)...with some thoughtful shopping, you can find something that can follow a stock 4WD 4-Door pickup pretty much anywhere, and they are all pretty luxe. If you're really serious, pare it down to a NoBo or GeoPro...or similar...and you might get that thing through trails rated 4 and 5 without much struggle.

Photos: stairs and more stairs; they don't call it Lost Park Wilderness for nothing; the shores of Lake Wellington...the road in is where most of my stair damage occurred.

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Old 10-27-2020, 03:59 PM   #8
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Our last trailer had an interesting feature. There was an aluminum triangle shaped bracket bolted under both frames at the very back. If the back started to drag on it made a nice screeching noise on the asphalt o I'mr concrete. I did not have an opportunity to test in the dirt or sand. Cheap warning system.
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Old 10-27-2020, 05:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Round Two View Post
We have considered a 30' Sunseeker but wonder if its a practical choice for boondocking? Seems like things are pretty close to the ground . . . ?
Are you planning on boondocking on the east coast? That's not as easy as boondocking in the West. You might want to research how easy it would be to find a boondocking site first.
Then the Class C has trouble with overhang and the truck TT has a trouble with the hitch area (picture a truck and tt making a V as they try to get over a dip or hill. We used to have to carry long boards to get our 19' tt over a friends driveway drainage.)
If you're planning on camping in the east, length will be a problem. Many of those campsites were constructed when tents or small popups were the favorite ways to camp. We couldn't get our 19' travel trailer into many National Forest campgrounds.
At the risk of offending the many people on this forum that boondock successfully, it's not as easy as it sounds. You need to find a site that is legal, where you're not going to get stuck in the sand or mud, and feel secure without anyone around to help you. That and have lots of battery power.
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Old 10-27-2020, 08:15 PM   #10
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Living in Colorado we boondock most of the time. We like having a camping trailer because we can drop it in a place we can get out of and explore for better sites with the truck. If you want total flexibility get a popup truck bed camper.
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Old 10-27-2020, 11:06 PM   #11
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JimMoore13 has some good points. I ran into another boondocking problem. Class A and C were asked to go to improved Forest Service campgrounds because they were a fire hazard. Humidity was 14%. Travel trailer haul vehicles were required to park in a designated area after parking. They said something about running generators being prohibited also, but I didn't have a generator at the time so I tuned that out.

I have observed Class A and C rigs high centered in forest road dips.
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Old 10-28-2020, 01:55 PM   #12
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Some brands have boondocking, off-road, or desert options that include lift kits and larger wheels/tires.
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Old 11-01-2020, 09:24 AM   #13
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Most important is the learning of good trail driving skills and knowing the capabilities of both the truck and trailer. My low points are the rear overhang and the waste tank dumps. I watch those in the mirrors. I am going to build skid protection for the waste valves and will probably build a lift for the torsion axles. Torsion axles don't transfer weight when going over rough spots and pot holes.

What I would consider is building a walking beam system for the lift with just a few inches of travel at the axles plus the torsion suspension built into the axles. Old Avion trailers used walking beam suspensions.
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Old 11-15-2020, 10:22 AM   #14
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While some rigs may have more ground clearance than others, the big thing you need to pay attention to is the strength of suspension. As in how are the hangers welded to the frame, and are they reinforced. What system is used for spring shackles and equalizers. Does the suspension have shock absorbers? You may need to modify a rig to truly make it off road capable. Along with that you need to check the installation of the water and holding tanks. (Many issues with some trailers about tanks falling out). You will very often be on rough roads with full tanks. (Water going in, holding going out). Also you need to consider electrical needs. Many default to generators, but solar is quieter, and with todays technology, a generator is basically obsolete. (Also more neighbor friendly).
Also look carefully at rear overhang. That will be the killer on many rougher situations. That is especially an issue on a number of motorhomes I have seen. Many trailers also hang out the back, so take a good look.
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Old 11-15-2020, 11:22 AM   #15
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most old st parks , IE.. texas,nm. colorado spaces are short. look close at length of space. behind axle is not usually needed to be considered in length. "SOMETIMES" TREE,OR ROCK. pics of spaces are not always recent. i get in most places with 30 ft trailer. do your researce early before trip to get a good spot.
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Old 11-16-2020, 04:09 PM   #16
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The axle makers have kits to under spring the axles for more clearance. Mine was a Dexter and cost $60. Welding not required but recommended to tack weld the new mount in place. It actually bolts up through from the original mount now on the bottom. I gained 5.5” without changing wheels & tires to a larger size. However, off-road/bad roads, bigger tires are usually best. My added clearance was for driveway and road clearance of the sewer pipe and factory rear rack.
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