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best vans for dirtbagging (or trucks)
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By BenCooper
From Wyoming
Mar 5, 2009
Washer Woman and Monster Tower.
If you are looking for affordable and reliable, and don't need 4WD, check out a late 90's to early 2000's Ford Ranger. Specifically, the 4 cylinder, 2-wheel drive version. The 6-cylinder engine consistenly craps out around 80,000 miles. These are pretty cheap little trucks, and the 4cyl. is known for being a reliable engine. I own an '02 and love it. Throw a decent canopy on there, and build yourself a sleeping/storage platform in the back. In Utah, I was getting 30-32 mpg. In the NW, that drops to about 26-28.

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By Jeremy
From Boulder, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Super Slide
This Sportsmobile. You seriously can't get much better. And it's for sale if you're interested.
picasaweb.google.com/freejerem...
Bert
Bert

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By Tits McGee
From Boulder, CO
Mar 5, 2009
How I Send
cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbt...

This is das boot

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By Stucker
From Centennial, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Old Greg with his downstairs mix-up.
No way to compete with the built in kitchens. Still, I love my ride/tent so much that I always have to jump in on threads like these. The Pontiac Aztek. Uglier than the Pacer, despised more than the Gremlin, but so much more clever...The entire back, from the front seats to the tail gate is completeley flat, sleeps two easily and has room for all gear on the tail gate and the whole thing is encapsulated by a tent. Now you could cook on the tailgate in inclement weather, but you would have to build a shelf that would take the slope out of the tailgate. However, not sure about carbon monoxide. I guess you would want to get the window vent visors so you could vent AMAP...There are stereo controls in the back of the car, intracabin tie downs for hanging clothes lines to dry yer spandex, etc. I've got 77k on mine with no problems after some early warranty work. 22 city/hwy. All wheel drive, seven inches clearance(which is not much).
Black Owl 1 at roost outside Penitente Canyon
Black Owl 1 at roost outside Penitente Canyon

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By Evan S
From Erie, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Me, of course
1992-1994 Ford Aerostar AWD Extended Sports Edition. I picked up one of these for $1900, put $400 worth of work into it and some new studded snows and that sucker took me up and down the mountains, on tons of road trips, to Idaho where I lived and worked for a winter regularly driving up to Grand Targhee from Driggs to work through 1-2 feet of snow at 4am every day, back to CO, all over the damn place, ran spectacularly at 10,000 feet while living in Breckenridge, and after over 30,000 miles (180,000 on the odometer) on it in less than two years the only thing that ever happened to it was a blown oil pressure line, inconsequential. Don't buy a Chevy Astro, the brakes go like gangbusters. The Aerostars drive great because they are the same width as an Explorer, and the AWD is bomber, I did plenty of light duty four-wheeling in that thing. If you take out the back seats, there is tons of room (I had the extended edition), and lots more interior space than other minivans of similar size. It's basically a four-wheel drive box with and engine on the front.

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By SAL
From broomdigiddy
Mar 5, 2009
good times.
Jeremy wrote:
This Sportsmobile. You seriously can't get much better. And it's for sale if you're interested. picasaweb.google.com/freejerem...




How much for this beast??

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By Michael Schneiter
From Glenwood Springs, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Goofin' on the Grand after soloing the Upper Exum ...
Evan Simons wrote:
Don't buy a Chevy Astro, the brakes go like gangbusters.

Do you know what happens with the brakes or more importantly, why? I'm curious because we have a Safari but haven't had any brake issues and we've got a lot of miles on it.

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By T.Ward
From Boulder, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Cooper's Rock in WVA
I've never liked the brake system on Astros, because the power steering and brake booster are a linked system, using the same fluid (unlike vacuum brake boosters, which are more common). So, if you have a problem with one system, both are affected.

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By Marc Seidenstein
From Jackson, NJ
Mar 5, 2009
The Black Boulder Problem, The Shawangunks
I lived out of a 91 Astro van for about two years. Bought it with almost 175K miles on it. It made the trip from Squamish, to SoCal, to Bishop, to Ontario Canada, back down to NJ, and then back out west with absolutely no problems. Payed CAN $2000 for it. Had shelves built onto the wall, and a bedding platform built into the back with room for extra storage under neath the bed. It was great for one person, but when a dog and a Canadian girlfriend were thrown into the mix, it got a bit cramped. Pretty decent gas mileage though.

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By Evan S
From Erie, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Me, of course
Michael Schneiter wrote:
Do you know what happens with the brakes or more importantly, why? I'm curious because we have a Safari but haven't had any brake issues and we've got a lot of miles on it.


Well, every car is different and I'm glad yours is running fine, but I have known numerous people who have had brutal issues with theirs. For example, the guy I bought my old van from had just gotten a brand new Safari for his family, and in less than a month the rotors were so bent they needed replacing. He was an aerospace engineer who drove like a grandma, so it wasn't his fault. I know there is a huge Chevy vs. Ford feud, but everyone I have personally known with GM vehicles has tons of problems, and all my friends, family's, and my own Fords (I have only owned 1994's, seems to be a good year) had very few issues. To be fair though, I have a Toyota now and would not buy American again simply because I can afford not to (barely). And Michael, if you see my uncle Kjell around Glenwood, say hi!

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By bwillem
From the wasatch
Mar 5, 2009
Potato Chip, RMNP
It depends on what you want:

VW's are sweet, but the older ones break down. Not so bad if you break down in moab or boulder or berkely, but big problem elsewhere. New ones you won't have to worry abotu but then they aren't cheap.

American may break down more (or maybe less depending on year and miles), but everyone i know with an old VW is always working on it. When they do break down, parts will be easy to find. Decent clearance if you need to get offroad as well (but not necessarily 4wd)

A tacoma will rock. good gas mileage, 4wd, room for equipment, room to sleep (but not both), and comfy to drive. you will also look in place at any worthy destination or hip outdoor city. A little more expensive but will never break down. The one drawback is sometimes camper tops leak, and there is not a ton of room if you are living in it for an extended time period.

you can live out of a subaru. sleeps one and gear. not comfy, decent gas mileage, hit and miss car problems. not a ton of clearance, but you are rarely going to need it. more of a weekend warrior car.

i personally have a 2000 dodge ram van that i tricked out. runs great, soso gas mileage (about 16 mpg). super cush when the weather is inclement. built in stove, bed, etc. lots of room for gear. giddy up.

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By Michael Schneiter
From Glenwood Springs, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Goofin' on the Grand after soloing the Upper Exum ...
Well, every car is different and I'm glad yours is running fine, but I have known numerous people who have had brutal issues with theirs.
I know there is a huge Chevy vs. Ford feud, but everyone I have personally known with GM vehicles has tons of problems, and all my friends, family's, and my own Fords (I have only owned 1994's, seems to be a good year) had very few issues. To be fair though, I have a Toyota now and would not buy American again simply because I can afford not to (barely). And Michael, if you see my uncle Kjell around Glenwood, say hi!
Agreed, every car can be different. Luckily our Safari has run really well (knock on wood). I've never had anything against Ford but I grew up in a serious GM/Chevy family who had a profound disdain for Fords. To my family's credit, we thoroughly beat on our farm trucks and cars and they always just kept on going with just regular oil changes.

I thought it was interesting that when I was looking up Consumer Reports list of best and worst cars, they said the Chevy Silverado had a better reliability rating than a Toyota Tundra. I didn't expect that. I just got rid of my old '79 Toyota pickup that had over 200,000 miles on it and probably has another 200,000 miles left in it. The thing just purred and ran like a champ.

I don't know your uncle but I'll certainly say hi if I run into him.

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By Evan S
From Erie, CO
Mar 5, 2009
Me, of course
He's the 6'6" redhead who runs the pool, you can't miss him

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

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By Jeremy
From Boulder, CO
Mar 6, 2009
Super Slide
SAL wrote:
How much for this beast??


I'm asking 17000. The blue book is closer to 20,000.

Here are a few more specifics.

Great roadtripping and camping van! It really is a must see. I will miss it alot, but we don't use it much anymore.
It's a Ford E350 extended body with an extended top (tall enough to stand in).
-two burner propane stove with fixed tank
-sink with running hot/cold water
-TV DVD player
-refrigerator
-solar panels and monitor to recharge batteries
-remote engine start/security system
-roof fantastic fan
-kitchenette that folds down into big bed and an "attic" loft
-Ipod hookup
-plenty of storage
-spinning captains chair
The van has 123,000 miles and runs great. It has a new battery and comes with snow tires ($1000 value). Other vans like this sell for well over $22000. This is a great deal on a great van.

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By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From Phoenix, AZ
Mar 6, 2009
Belay
Tom R wrote:
But if money is no object... sportsmobile.com/ ...man, that'd be sweet!

I respectfully disagree

Ford F-550 twin turbo
Diesel heating system
Enough batteries to run the A/C all night
Solar recharging
90 gallon fuel tank
Queen-size bed
etc.

They're around $200k though.

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By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From Phoenix, AZ
Mar 6, 2009
Belay
Also, a word of warning:

If you want to go the Westfalia route be prepared to spend plenty of time getting to know your toolbox and repair manual (see the first and last pictures in that link; I think we lost the contents of the coolant system 5 separate times that weekend)

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By Evan S
From Erie, CO
Mar 6, 2009
Me, of course
Earthroamer's are the shit, I'm trying to convince my parents to buy one so I can borrow it. That's the only way I'll ever come close to one of those things.

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By John Korfmacher
From Fort Collins, CO
Mar 6, 2009
Long's
Some require more TLC than others. I've known three Safari/Astro owners, and they all had insoluble and seemingly endless difficulties, especially with the front suspension and brakes. Without meaning any offense to AstroFans, my impression of those rigs is that they are badly underengineered. However, they can be had for very little $.

VW's, IF PROPERLY MAINTAINED, are pretty reliable. If not maintained, they're pretty bad. I'm partial to Vee-Dubs, but I enjoy things like adjusting valves, setting spark timing, etc. The classic mid-80s vintage beater Subie is still a good bet, although mechanically sound ones getting harder to find. Fairly roomy, decent mileage, cheap, lots of parts available in junkyards. With either an older VW or Subie, expect to get your hands dirty at least once in a while.

If you can afford the fuel costs, used pickups are a good deal--not too expensive, fairly sturdy, lots of room. Expect to spend a lot on gas, though, 10-15 mpg at best, maybe 17 if you get a small one.

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By Tom R
From Denver, CO
Mar 6, 2009
self portrait
Peter Franzen wrote:

I stand corrected. Now I know what I'll spend my lottery winnings on. When I win, of course.

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By john strand
From southern colo
Mar 6, 2009
Toyota Previa AWD with A supercharger- Mine is at 210,000 and runs sweet. Pull the seats and you have an 8' bed. 22 mpg and good ground clearance. To bad they stopped making them in '97, i would buy another for sure.

john

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By Jim Amidon
Mar 7, 2009
J TREE
Only one way to go,

SPRINTER....

Everything else is junk, will break down and won't last as long as a SPRINTER.

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By Eastvillage
From New York, NY
Mar 7, 2009
Me on the summit of Devil's Tower
The Sprinters have the Mercedes truck diesel and that engine will significantly outlast any gas engine of any make, hands down. Stand up height etc,
Reliability should be fantastic. Expensive though, new is around 40K.

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By Kevin Stricker
From Evergreen, CO
Mar 7, 2009
This wouldn't be too bad either....smaller carbon footprint and all.

I will add that you would really have to be dirtbagging it to live in a 4-runner or Subaru, and if you are over 6' just forget it.

Vans are awesome to have as you have a lot more options when traveling. Any hotel is a rest stop and you can have one person sleeping while the other is driving ( we are climbers after all). Rainy rest days are where a van pays for itself...unless you like laying down in your shell all day.

The people dissing on VW obviously don't own a Eurovan. Yes they are expensive but so much easier to live in than a trailer or camper. I70 Westbound I can keep it over 70 on both passes, going eastbound I usually am going 60-65. It gets 20 MPG and the only repairs besides routine maintenance I have done in 100K is replacing the rotors and replacing the ignition switch ($150).

It seems to me maybe the best option money wise might be going with a fleet minivan and doing your own conversion. So where are you taking this vehicle anyways??

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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Mar 7, 2009
If this is a dirtbagging vehicle that will be your full time home for a bit:

Get a van or a minivan. Trucks are cool if you work and climb, but I don't think would be fun or easy to live in.

has to be cheap, or you're not really dirtbagging. A 40k brand new mercedes van isn't dirtbagging. they are cool though.

Vans and minivans are cheap. I got a 98 dodge van for 4k. been in it for 9 months now, love it. a minivan would be about as roomy and get way better gas mileage, but have lower clearance and have a lighter frame (not as good for lots of dirt roads)

pick your vehicle budget
figure out where you'll climb the most (do you need clearance or 4x4/awd)
make a decision.

easy!

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