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best vans for dirtbagging (or trucks)
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By Monty
From Golden, CO
Mar 4, 2009
Just a teaser

thinking about buying a van that i can sleep/ cook/ dirtbag in... anyone have recomandations


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By Chase Gee
From Wyoming/ Logan Utah
Mar 4, 2009
My Top Secret Yet to be named crag.

there's pretty much only one van a dirtbagger can own......


VEE DUBYAH


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By Br'er Rabbit
From The Briar Patch
Mar 4, 2009
'Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox--bred en bawn in a brier-patch!'

Van: Toyota Previa
SUV: Toyota 4runner
Truck: Toyota Tacoma with shell

Not that I know.

I ran into a baller Dodge Sprinter in Moab last year, though...ultra roomy.


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By Chase Gee
From Wyoming/ Logan Utah
Mar 4, 2009
My Top Secret Yet to be named crag.

I know a band that tours in a sprinter. They're beasts.


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By Robert 560
From The Land of the Lost
Mar 4, 2009
Secret Crag

Get a truck with a camper, works great.


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By Monty
From Golden, CO
Mar 4, 2009
Just a teaser

not to be a cheap dirtbag... wait i am a cheap dirtbag so whats the best bang for the buck


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By Tom R
From Denver, CO
Mar 4, 2009
self portrait

Pickup with topper seems to be the most reasonable. But if money is no object... sportsmobile.com/ ...man, that'd be sweet!


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By Michael Schneiter
From Glenwood Springs, CO
Mar 4, 2009
Goofin' on the Grand after soloing the Upper Exum with my wife.

Everyone's got their opinion on this so hear's mine:

GMC Safari/Chevy Astro vans are pretty good dirt bagging vehicles.

Get an old service model van without all the windows, bells and whistles and upholstery. Makes it super easy to build your own setup and they have plenty of room to do so.

They'll get about 20 mpg on the highway (loaded down) if you don't drive super fast (under 75).

They're built on a full frame so in the words of a friend who is a used car dealer, "they're built like tanks." And, they have all wheel drive and good clearance for a lot of bad roads and 4WD roads.

You can get them pretty cheap. Look for companies selling their fleets. They get their money out of them so they're usually just looking to get rid of them. You can even haggle the price. They keep very thorough service records so you have some comfort in knowing you're hopefully buying something that has been well maintained. When we bought ours they gave us a record showing every time they had changed the oil, filled it up with gas, put in washer fluid, etc.

And, you can easily get parts for them most anywhere. We used to have a VW but would have a terrible time getting parts for them, especially when we broke down. We broke down in Wyoming and couldn't find anyone within 100 miles willing to work on it. Couldn't even find someone to buy it from us for $50 for parts.

Also, I got sick of going 25-35 mph over any kind of hill in our VW. We had to add an hour to our travel time when going from Glenwood to Vedawoo for example. In the Safari you can set the cruise at 75 and motor on down the highway.

We've been psyched on our Safari. We spend every summer on the road in ours. Here's some pics.


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Mar 4, 2009
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

The GMC Vandura is a decent choice. Gets 15MPG, the engine is solid.
Mine has only the frotn 2 seats, and a bed, and shelves, and a tile counter with an inset coleman stove...
Works great! Room for 2 to sleep comfortably, room for tons of Cargo. Doesn't go off road though.


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By Chase Gee
From Wyoming/ Logan Utah
Mar 4, 2009
My Top Secret Yet to be named crag.

Michael Schneiter wrote:
We used to have a VW but would have a terrible time getting parts for them, especially when we broke down. We broke down in Wyoming and couldn't find anyone within 100 miles willing to work on it. Couldn't even find someone to buy it from us for $50 for parts.
That seems odd to me my dad builds dune buggies and it seems like people are giving him parts left and right. They're way simple easy to learn to work on yourself. They are underpowered but just find a wrecked 911 with a 2700cc flat four and pop that beast in there.


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By no1nprtclr
From Front range Colorado
Mar 4, 2009

I've pondered this question many times. I've been an auto tech for seven years now. One thing I wouldn't do is buy an american vehicle for this sort of thing. But then again, I've only owned one dumb-estic vehicle in my life and doubt I'll ever own another one. Not all Astro vans are AWD, and a bit of a pain to do maintenance on them. Personally I like European vehicles, they just rock, from styling to engineering, etc.... But not all are meant for this endeavor. But VW's rock, especially the newer ones with the VR6 engine. However I would probably go with a Toyota 4runner, they rock and last a long time. Plus they have actual four wheel drive with some decent clearance. Also one thing about the Dog Spirit, high winds, high profile, uhm yeah, good luck with that. But if you must have a dumb-estic, a friend of mine has a '93 astrovan he wants to sell, cheap. My two greasy pennies, lol....

Juan


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By no1nprtclr
From Front range Colorado
Mar 4, 2009

One thing about the older VW vans, you don't have to go out and spend money on a Porsche engine. There are so many things that you can do with those engines it's not funny, and fairly inexpensive too. Found two more pennies in the parking lot....

Juan


Had to throw this in about gm, who wants to support a dying company? They've run their course and written their own obit... If you buy a vehicle from them now, will they be around long enough to take care of warranty, recall or tsb issues? Maybe for a short time, but long term??? Perhaps, perhaps not, personally, I hope not. Gosh opinions are great, like elbows, they get thrown around sometimes... ;)


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By T-Bob
Mar 5, 2009

These are the deal in Germany.
dvice.com/pics/smart-car.jpg
Unfortunately, You gotta be 2'3" max to sleep in 'em and cooking might be an issue too. All your gear just gets duck taped to the roof so that's easy.


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By Chase Gee
From Wyoming/ Logan Utah
Mar 5, 2009
My Top Secret Yet to be named crag.

no1nprtclr wrote:
One thing about the older VW vans, you don't have to go out and spend money on a Porsche engine. There are so many things that you can do with those engines it's not funny, and fairly inexpensive too.
yeah you could bore them out and screw with the carbs and turbo them with junk yard parts.


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By Monty
From Golden, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Just a teaser

Tony Metzger wrote:
These are the deal in Germany. dvice.com/pics/smart-car.jpg Unfortunately, You gotta be 2'3" max to sleep in 'em and cooking might be an issue too. All your gear just gets duck taped to the roof so that's easy.


dude that's perfect. i'd even save on gas money too. those compact euro's... all ways a step a head...


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By Mulligan
Mar 5, 2009
Close to the top of After Six.

I have an '05 Dodge Ram that works perfectly for my situation. I just have to get a cap on it and it will be the ultimate crag vehicle. The 4-whel drive is worth it when you're in a rough situation, the only real downside is gas money, but a failing economy seems to be working in my favor for the meantime.


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By Michael Schneiter
From Glenwood Springs, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Goofin' on the Grand after soloing the Upper Exum with my wife.

Chase Gee wrote:
That seems odd to me my dad builds dune buggies and it seems like people are giving him parts left and right. They're way simple easy to learn to work on yourself. They are underpowered but just find a wrecked 911 with a 2700cc flat four and pop that beast in there.

I totally realize that my opinion is based on our experience. We were on the road when we started having some mechanical issues and we had a terrible time finding parts, stuff as simple as a muffler, and we weren't in a position to be waiting around for a week to wait for parts. We always wanted to drop a V6 in our VW or a diesel engine but never got around to it.

I've heard such varying opinions on VWs that I don't know what to think. We had an early model Syncro which some people love and some people seem to hate. A friend who is a big VW guy and is constantly buying, rebuilding, and working on them was super interested in our Syncro until we told him it was a Syncro. Then he didn't want anything to do with it.

The Sprinters seem pretty sweet but they are ridiculously expensive, for a dirtbag anyway. We talked to a FedEx guy about what they do with their old vans and they crush them. They have some weird policy that says they can't resell them when they're done so they just crush them. Kinda had the idea that you could go to the crusher and slip them a grand to not crush it and drive away.


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By Dusty
From Fort Collins
Mar 5, 2009
just teasin' the sharks...

I owned an 88 VW Vanagon. It was great fun to own/roadtrip/live in, but I wouldn't buy an old model vw again. Some people make a hobby out of learning how to fix em, I started to learn, but after owning a civic for the last 4 years and worrying about nothing but oil changes, I realize that I'd rather spend my time climbing than tinkering with a vehicle.

I would love to own a new style eurovan.


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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
Mar 5, 2009
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of Twist of Fate, Oak Creek Canyon. <br /> <br />photo: Blake McCord

.."GMC Safari/Chevy Astro vans.....
broke down in Wyoming... psyched on our Safari. "

been there done that

I used to have a Safari. called it the Dreamtime. It was awesome. but
they are hard to work on, and expensive to take to the mechanic.

at anyrate, it was sooo nice for a minivan, set up for basic 3rd world living. someday i will post my old pics of my set-up.


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By Evan1984
Mar 5, 2009

I think old toyota SR5 pickups are the classic dirtbagger mobile.

I would get either or standard cab pick up with shell or some type of mini-van. I think MAzda MPV made a AWD drive van and my family had an MPV go forever.


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By Derek Beitner
From Moab, UT
Mar 5, 2009

get a cheap diesel truck or van(they run forever although maintenance can be a little pricey) and convert it to run on waste vegetable oil from restaurants. i did that with a 97 ford f-250. the conversion pays for itself super quick and i have run it all over the country.


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By Eastvillage
From New York, NY
Mar 5, 2009
Me on the summit of Devil's Tower

The best van or truck might be the one that has the lowest miles vs. year vs cost.
Most recent models of all types are reliable.
All US vans & trucks will do the job and in this recession you'll probably find a ten year old model for a good price (suburban toy car?). The truck frame vehicles, 2WD or 4 WD, will offer substantially better rough road durability than any car chassis based mini van. And yes parts will be much easier to find for US vehicles if you are out in the wilds of Wyoming Utah, etc
Have a great summer climbing - way to go!


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

Referring to "Smart Cars":

Monty wrote:
dude that's perfect. i'd even save on gas money too. those compact euro's... all ways a step a head...

Except that there are a few cars that are about 2X as big get just as good a mileage rating (actually, better) cost less, and have better saftey features than a Crisco can.

Michael Schneiter wrote:
I've heard such varying opinions on VWs that I don't know what to think.

It's a cult.


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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.

Michael Schneiter wrote:
GMC Safari/Chevy Astro vans are pretty good dirt bagging vehicles.


I agree with Michael. I have a 94 Chevy Astro, which I lived in for a little over a year. The big advantage of a MiniVan over a pickup is that you can easily get from the driving compartment to the living compartment without going outside. This is super nice in bad weather, or when you want to grab a guidebook out of the back, or when camping in a clandestine fashion. Can also be nice on cold nights, cause you can heat the entire living space while driving.

The Astro/Safari model is extremely roomy. The bed in mine is 6'x4'8" or so; plenty of room for two. I can also fit a 4'x8' sheet of plywood inside (laying flat, with doors closed) which was super awesome when I was building my gym. Many pickups can't do that.

As for AWD, I have the AWD model, but I wasn't looking for it. I had a Jeep Cherokee prior to the Astro, and I learned the hard way that 4WD is usually more trouble than its worth. But I was looking for a used Astro, and the best one I found happened to be AWD, so I took it. I don't think I ever really benefited from the AWD, but who knows. However, I haven't had any maintenance issues that were directly related to the AWD. I'm still driving the Astro, approaching 170,000 miles (I bought it at 85K). I have had several mechanical problems (fuel pump, wiring harness, alternator, drive shaft), but not more than any other American car I've owned. Half of those repairs I did myself, so I'm not convinced that its "hard to work on".


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By Allen Hill
From FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Mar 5, 2009
Slick Rock put in

German Unimog
German Unimog


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By Craig Randleman
From Phoenix, AZ
Mar 5, 2009
Tossing a back flip into the Colorado River in Parker, AZ.

VW! Of course, I had to put a Subara Legacy engine into it to get it to be reliable! Haha! Plus the mileage went from about 18 mpg to 24 mpg - seriously!

It's got a two-person bed in the back, a two-person bed in the pop-up, stove, fridge, sink, furnace, and lots of cupboard space. I've also tricked mine out a bit with additional storage areas, custom bike racks, kayak racks, a snowboard as the rear bumper, etc. And check out the paint job, which was done by a friend of my sons. I get people coming up to me all the time, "Dude! That's your van?! I saw that van at ...!" Too fun!


Chester in front of The Great White Book on Stately Pleasure Dome in Tuolumne Meadows, CA (2008).
Chester in front of The Great White Book on Stately Pleasure Dome in Tuolumne Meadows, CA (2008).


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