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Old 11-06-2014, 09:28 AM   #1
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Ideas for larger-scale meal transport in an Interstate?

My husband and I have a longer-trip predicament in that we occasionally wish to carry more food than the Interstate was designed to accommodate, particularly because it has been our tradition to meet extended family in somewhat remote wilderness locations that are poorly served by g-stores and eateries. We have one workaround for this in mind, but we are interested to know how other folks have addressed this scenario.

We successfully dealt with this challenge last summer by buying a Yeti 50 cooler, super-cooling it prior to departure (well below freezing), packing it full of our frozen home-made meals and ice, and loading it into the back of our minivan. Because the Yeti is so remarkably efficient, the food remained frozen for about the first week of our 3,000 mile (one way) travel (we replenished the ice every few days but really did not start losing ice until about 6 days into it). On Day 8 we arrived at our cottage and transferred the food into a very cold refrigerator, where it lasted unspoiled for the second week.

This was one of the smartest things I've ever done!!!! I fed five adults main meals for seven consecutive days using food I had dragged cross-continent. For the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was actually ON VACATION because I wasn't spending a few hours every day struggling to feed everyone in an area with limited resources (I am the family's chief cook and bottle-washer).

My husband and I knew that the Interstate (a) had a fridge way, way too small for any such workaround and (b) doesn't have the interior space to accommodate a large Yeti or similar device. We figured that, worst case scenario, maybe we could get one of those small grate-style hitch platforms and security netting and carry the Yeti that way.

Having the Yeti OUTside the Interstate would also present another option: I could use dry ice instead of water ice, which means I could keep the entire stock frozen for a couple of weeks if not longer. I wasn't comfortable using dry ice inside a minivan that was crammed to the ceiling with luggage, three adults and a large dog, with the A/C on Recirc 100% of the time because it was mid-summer. I was worried about dry ice sublimating and displacing oxygen in the tightly-enclosed small space.

However, I've already had several folks muse that perhaps I don't want that much weight on the AI hitch. The Yeti 50 containing sixteen four-quart Pyrex storage dishes plus ice comes to at least a hundred pounds. Plus the weight of the hitch platform itself, cables, locks, etc. The initial feedback we have received is suggesting that the Interstate does not respond well to that kind of load (this would be dead weight, not tongue weight, and it makes a difference). Some folks are speculating that it would adversely affect the handling in a conspicuous way (we have not yet experimented).

I know of an owner in the northwest who had a micro-trailer made for his AI (not sure if he reads this forum). This is another option but we would rather avoid a trailer unless there was no other workaround.

Any additional ideas here?

Thanks!
Alison and Lawrence
League City TX
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:33 AM   #2
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We bought one of the cargo hitch-haulers, and the expandable carry bag for it, which work very well.

If outside in heat, my only other thought is that you may go thru a lot of ice.


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Old 11-06-2014, 10:36 AM   #3
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Might also freeze your meals in the glass Pyrex dishes, then remove and wrap them for your Yeti, taking just a couple of the dishes with you for defrosting and reheating,

This would cut down a lot on weight, and conserve space.



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Old 11-06-2014, 11:30 AM   #4
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Might also freeze your meals in the glass Pyrex dishes, then remove and wrap them for your Yeti, taking just a couple of the dishes with you for defrosting and reheating,

This would cut down a lot on weight, and conserve space.



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If they remain frozen for the duration, yes, that's a good idea. I got an off-forum comment along those lines, too - the suggestion of maximizing the existing Dometic micro-freezer by freezing food flat in heavy-gauge zip-lock bags - that way you can pack almost every square inch full. Darned good idea for long weekend trips.

If the freezer bag contents must melt in the interim for whatever reason, it becomes a little bit more iffy because the bags don't stand up very well. I froze food that way almost exclusively for a few years while I was in university because I had so many housemates and we all had to share a small freezer. It worked OK until people started moving bags to the fridge to defrost and they'd leak.
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Old 11-06-2014, 11:33 AM   #5
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Of course, that makes sense.

Could still freeze in glass, wrap, then transfer to plastic for transport.

Or, once frozen, transfer to vacuum seal bags, which don't leak like ziplocs do when frozen. The vacuum seal bags come in all sizes, also in rolls so you can cut to whatever size you want.

Or....just forget about freezing in glass and just freeze in vacuum seal bags!

Just thinking of ways to reduce the weight of all that glass.


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Old 11-06-2014, 01:38 PM   #6
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However, I've already had several folks muse that perhaps I don't want that much weight on the AI hitch. The Yeti 50 containing sixteen four-quart Pyrex storage dishes plus ice comes to at least a hundred pounds. Plus the weight of the hitch platform itself, cables, locks, etc. The initial feedback we have received is suggesting that the Interstate does not respond well to that kind of load (this would be dead weight, not tongue weight, and it makes a difference). Some folks are speculating that it would adversely affect the handling in a conspicuous way (we have not yet experimented).
I do not believe that will be a problem. I have a cargo tray that weighs 40 pounds and has a 400-pound load capacity; some are heavier, not many are lighter. But an extended Interstate has a trailer tongue weight capacity of 500 pounds, and even with the Yeti cooler you won't be loading it to anywhere near that value.

Also, weight is weight. Trailer tongue weight and receiver-mounted accessory weight is all just weight, and it makes NO difference in the van's handling whether the weight is tongue weight or cargo tray weight. In fact, since there is no "pull" component to the cargo tray load on the receiver, unlike a trailer, the Interstate should be very well-behaved with that weight in the back. The ride in the back seat will even be less bouncy! As long as your total weight doesn't exceed 11,030 pounds, and your rear axle weight doesn't exceed 7720 pounds, you're golden.

All you have to watch out for are:
1 - your "departure angle" will be reduced because of the additional overhang. You could end up dragging the cargo tray on the pavement if you start up too steep a slope; and
2 - you'll want a cargo tray that's narrower than the width of the van so that you don't increase your tail-swing.

Suggestion, add DOT red-and-white reflective tape to your Yeti cooler, to improve visibility from the rear and sides, especially if you'll be on the road before dawn, after dusk, or in inclement weather. Some other drivers might not realize the tray is back there, and the reflectors help improve the visibility. Could help reduce the number of near-misses you'll experience.
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Old 11-06-2014, 01:48 PM   #7
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Alison,

To my mind there are many alternatives to bringing so much frozen food, but obviously you've considered and discarded these.

I would suggest that you look at one of the smaller trailers marketed for use with motorcycles as an alternative to a hitch carrier.

Motorcycle Cargo Trailers, Motorcycle Trailers, Motorcycle Pull Behind Trailers from Bushtec, Including the Turbo+2, Roadstar, Quantum Sport and Quantum GL, the Entourage and the Tow-Tow

Motorcycle Cargo Trailers : Open Road Outfitters, Motorcycle Campers and Trailers, Harley Hitches, Escapade, Time Out, Mini Mate

Motorcycle Trailers - Pull Behind Motorcycle Cargo Trailers - roswell / carlsbad new & used boats & motorcycles for sale - backpage.com

There are usually regional manufacturers that have inexpensive variations on these.
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Old 11-07-2014, 05:24 AM   #8
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Alison,

To my mind there are many alternatives to bringing so much frozen food, but obviously you've considered and discarded these.
I'd be interested in hearing all ideas. I am constantly seeing new things on this forum that I hadn't thought of.

I might add that my husband and I grow a lot of our own food and this is part of our motivation. Seasonal harvests either have to be canned or frozen. Freezing is a lot less work, especially when the stuff can be fashioned into meals instead of frozen as raw stock that needs to be cooked later.

Part of this derives from food snobbery - all our stuff is organically grown. But a lot of the motivation simply comes down to taste. The quality of what we grow is head and shoulders above anything that we can buy.

So I perhaps should have qualified my initial statement by noting that it is our intention to keep dragging organic gourmet food cross-continent. Not just "food".
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Old 11-07-2014, 05:38 AM   #9
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Part of this derives from food snobbery - all our stuff is organically grown. But a lot of the motivation simply comes down to taste. The quality of what we grow is head and shoulders above anything that we can buy.
You'd like south Louisiana then. Especially when it comes to seafood, you can buy it so fresh that it looks up at you all teary-eyed and begs you to reconsider!
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Old 11-07-2014, 05:43 AM   #10
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I think you might find a vacuum sealer worth the modest expense, Alison.

I have never experienced leaks with these bags, and you lay them flat to freeze so they are very space-efficient.

A local grocer had fresh raspberries for $.50 per carton! this week, so I got some more to freeze in bags with a bit of sugar for whatever next spring and summer.......frozen, with Prosecco or a light white wine poured over them...yum.

A hitch hauler or small trailer is probably still needed for your cooler, but weight would be so much less without all that glass.


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Old 11-07-2014, 05:45 AM   #11
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I do not believe that will be a problem. I have a cargo tray that weighs 40 pounds and has a 400-pound load capacity; some are heavier, not many are lighter. But an extended Interstate has a trailer tongue weight capacity of 500 pounds, and even with the Yeti cooler you won't be loading it to anywhere near that value.

Also, weight is weight. Trailer tongue weight and receiver-mounted accessory weight is all just weight, and it makes NO difference in the van's handling whether the weight is tongue weight or cargo tray weight.
Thanks for all this info! We are going to explore this weight issue in more detail, in fact have a plan to meet with another local AI owner this weekend. That owner has tried the hitch tray route and reported that it affected the vehicle pitch... but I don't know how much weight he had back there.

Additionally, I don't know how much handling difference, if any, might be due to differences in model years. I am assuming that MB put some type of additional stability control on newer models because they use terms like "lane holding" or something similar to that in promotional materials. If the newer ones have some sort of electronic assist, that might change the driver perceptions of what hitch weight does or does not do.
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Old 11-07-2014, 05:59 AM   #12
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Thanks for all this info! We are going to explore this weight issue in more detail, in fact have a plan to meet with another local AI owner this weekend. That owner has tried the hitch tray route and reported that it affected the vehicle pitch... but I don't know how much weight he had back there.
Maggie (Lily&Me) has the same model year you do, and can give you much more insight into the pros and cons of cargo trays on a 2006 Interstate. You may want to pick her brain a little more.

I apologize for one thing; when I was tossing numbers around, I forgot you had a Sprinter 2500-based Interstate. Then numbers I quoted were for the 3500 model. The Sprinter 2500 chassis has a GVWR of 8550 pounds, a gross rear axle weight of 5360 pounds, and a hitch capacity of 500 pounds (5000 pounds towing).
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Old 11-07-2014, 06:08 AM   #13
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Well, remember that I was not the primary driver til this year.

We have traveled with our hitch hauler loaded to the gills, tho, and Doug never complained nor did we have any difficulties. The biggest adjustment is the difference in length.

As I write, tho, I remember that I drove with it loaded with probably a couple hundred pounds of firewood for a family campout in August. I had no problems in that 150 miles or so.

We bought a hitch hauler specifically for a Sprinter van, and have used it when traveling with the grands and for hauling heavy firewood to rallies. All was well.


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Old 11-07-2014, 06:48 AM   #14
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Might take a look at The Vegetarian and Special Dietary Lifestyle Thread in the Stella's Kitchen sub forum here, InterBlog.

Started and perpetuated by members here with interests similar to yours.



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