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Old 02-27-2021, 07:18 AM   #1
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Interstate camper van on a diet

Concurrently with planned tire upgrades (see this thread) and suspension upgrades (thread not yet hatched), I am putting our 2007 Airstream Interstate camper van (this is not a trailer thread) on a diet, in order to shed some cargo that we can live without for most trips.

This initiative comes on the heels of a rear tire blow-out that I experienced a few weeks ago, and a tire stem failure that I experienced three years ago. Those two events separately point to the need for van improvements. If it had ONLY been an isolated blow-out, or ONLY been a tire stem failure, I would assign less seriousness to what might be hinted at in the context of our van’s overall configuration. But I’ve now seen two poorly-explained red flags, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So we are upgrading tires, upgrading suspension, and reducing load, all with an eye toward making our Interstate more resilient.

Three factors have contributed to our “load creep” over the years, and by that I mean “more and more weight added to the van as time goes by”:

(1) Every time some other Interstate owner has a parts failure on the road, we tend to expand our onboard inventory to compensate for a similar scenario – we buy up parts preemptively and add them to our van’s storage. As a result, our tools, hardware, and parts cumulative mass has expanded significantly.

(2) Every time we expand our off-grid capacity, we must expand our onboard inventory accordingly. That inventory comes with a weight penalty.

(3) The coronavirus pandemic has really nailed us from a weight perspective. Suddenly we began carrying much more food and much more water, as access to those commodities became increasingly restricted.

So, it’s time for a re-analysis of the entire manifest, time to find the sweet spot of load shedding, and this thread is dedicated to peoples’ ideas along those lines:

-- What have you added to your Interstate in response to recent events?

-- What can you set aside for many trips?

-- How do you organize your inventory so that you can efficiently switch from Scenario A (demanding less cargo) to Scenario B (demanding more cargo)? Mentally it’s far less burdensome to “set it and forget it”. It’s easier to simply put everything that you MIGHT need into your Interstate, and leave it there, without expending the time and energy to shift it back and forth between your home/garage and Interstate. But setting and forgetting comes with a weight penalty, so we are re-thinking that in our context. But at the same time, I need to be able to add and remove efficiently, and not waste time. That’s going to require a new organizational regime.

Here’s a pretty picture below of load creep that combines forcings (2) and (3) above. In August 2020, we entered Canadian quarantine on my off-grid property, having traveled there from Houston. We had to carry everything that two adults and a large dog would need for 14 days (minus a bit of fresh groceries that were dropped off to us, but we could not rely on that). My God, our Interstate was heavy – never before had we demanded so much of it. But of course, we couldn’t step a single foot off my land! To do so would have been a violation of federal law that might have resulted in my non-Canadian husband being banned from the country for 10 years minimum! This is really serious stuff!

Living off-grid in a van for 2 unbroken weeks demanded additional cargo such as that Clam Venture screened room you see in this photo below. That was a game-changer logistically – we loved how it gave us an additional living space for cooking and reading and resting and escape from sun, wind, and rain. But of course it was yet another 28 pounds added to the van’s inventory. Therein lies the rub.

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Old 02-27-2021, 07:57 AM   #2
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Nice lot and picture.

Sounds like you have it well figured out. Maybe just new tires every 3 years no matter what. I personally change tires every 4 years. I think tires loose strength with age and that damage is accumulative and that thick tread rides better than thin tread. Maybe you are just fine or at least close now.
Maybe you are running too low on tire pressure trying for ride? I doubt Fed X does not do that.

I do not see a valve stem failure as related to load so I would discount that.
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Old 02-27-2021, 09:39 AM   #3
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With all due respect to your cleverness and expertise, IB, you do seem to have a near insatiable drive to analyze the very hell out of things.

The bottom line is...you canít endlessly add to your vehicles weight, without incurring other costs and consequences to said vehicle.

Carry less stuff.

Maggie
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Old 02-27-2021, 09:54 AM   #4
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With all due respect to your cleverness and expertise, IB, you do seem to have a near insatiable drive to analyze the very hell out of things.

The bottom line is...you can’t endlessly add to your vehicles weight, without incurring other costs and consequences to said vehicle.

Carry less stuff.

Maggie
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Old 02-27-2021, 11:13 AM   #5
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For every trip we re-analyze what goes with vs. what stays home, though I confess we don't weigh items as they go in and out of the van. We've also cut down considerably from the days when we had an entire 27FB trailer to work with. Vans are Definitely Different because they are so much smaller wrt storage and available weight capacity (even though ours is a "gigantic" 24+ foot long Sprinter 3500 170 EXT Lounge).

Like any good campers, when there's something we didn't use on our most recent trip we ask ourselves why we had it and whether it should be there for the next trip. That's a tougher nut to crack in the case of a minimal set of tools, which are there to help deal with emergencies, but otherwise we try very much to be hard core about it. We leave it home and see whether we missed having it. If not, we did good. If yes, we add it back to the van.

Regarding carriage of food and water in these times, we no longer assume we'll be eating out at restaurants and stock the pantry accordingly. We've so far assumed reasonable access to potable water and that's worked out, but to be fair, we've not engaged in any cross-continent journeys since the "mess" began. That's in our thoughts for the summer, but we're waiting for vaccinations before making big plans.
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Old 02-27-2021, 11:47 AM   #6
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How about attaching a small enclosed cargo trailer for your expeditions to the North?

Maybe some sacrifice in maneuverability but you could take whatever you wanted.
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Old 02-27-2021, 04:30 PM   #7
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How about attaching a small enclosed cargo trailer for your expeditions to the North?

Maybe some sacrifice in maneuverability but you could take whatever you wanted.
It's not a bad suggestion. Until now, I hadn't entertained it -- but I'm warming up to the idea. Not ready to pull the trigger, but warming up. That would certainly solve my kayak problem. I would so love to take my kayak with me but that is out of the question with our build as it stands (it's a modular kayak - breaks into two 5-foot sections).

Pic below from 2014, not our Interstate, but I don't think its owner would mind me posting it. IIRC, he had this little trailer fabricated especially for his Interstate and the gear he wanted to carry. He definitely had it custom painted with the blue stripe to coordinate.

Let's see how many expletives my husband utters at this suggestion, which we have resisted to date, but...

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Old 02-27-2021, 04:58 PM   #8
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We love our Clam screen room, and probably wonít go many places without it now. Sprung for a different brand of six-sided tent, and found out it was difficult to transport. Now we have two, as the five-sided tent fits nicely in the back of our model.

It would be tough to pack for a trip like that. Might be a good choice to think about looking at a trailer. I came across a decent option but would have to look it back up. I liked the option of carrying our bikes on the top. Iíll see if I canít find it. Would be interesting to see if anyone has come across it.
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Old 02-27-2021, 05:16 PM   #9
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Some examples of what I call "micro-trailers" (4' x 6'):

https://www.pinterest.com/interstateblog/trailers/

Edit: That one by the company called Leonard looks the most Airstream-y.
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Old 02-27-2021, 06:32 PM   #10
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My background is I spent 7 years working Trail Crew in the Olympics. 8 days at a time in the backcountry (trail only- no roads). Carry most on your back. Tools too much of the time (the mules packing us in was always super nice). Plus I did hiking since I was a little kid, so learned how to bring minimal stuff.
BUT figure out what is really critical.
For me
1. Warm dry place to sleep. Not too hard in AI
2. See #1

Yeah, if working out of the AI there are more thing you really have to bring. But filling every little nook and cranny is not the way to save weight. Organizers weigh extra too. So do luxuries (chairs, bikes, buckets, coolers etc).

Tools- I brought quite a bit of tools/spares on the 11k mile around the country trip, but I only have a handful I leave in or use for shorter trips (lamp bulbs, belt etc). I do always leave the small MB scanner in there- on the trip I took the C3 factory scanner. But I don’t think I would do that again. Too much weight/space.

Credit cards are pretty light

Minimal food- get some before heading to a place where no stores.
Dump anytime you can

But of course I have a lot different style and this works for me.
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Old 02-28-2021, 04:19 AM   #11
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...

Carry less stuff.

Maggie
And manage our next 14-day off-grid quarantine how, exactly? That would be the one where we are compelled by law to cross the border and have no contact with any human being or retail outlet, just like we did during the last one. I'm all ears.

You've issued a recommendation while describing no corresponding route to attainment. I don't understand an impulse like that - it makes no sense to me. It's the functional equivalent of (e.g.) telling a medical patient to skip the CPAP machine and just "breathe more deeply". "Carry less stuff". "Breathe more deeply".
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Old 02-28-2021, 04:30 AM   #12
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And manage our next 14-day off-grid quarantine how, exactly? That would be the one where we are compelled by law to cross the border and have no contact with any human being or retail outlet, just like we did during the last one. I'm all ears.

You've issued a recommendation while describing no corresponding route to attainment. I don't understand an impulse like that - it makes no sense to me. It's the functional equivalent of (e.g.) telling a medical patient to skip the CPAP machine and just "breathe more deeply". "Carry less stuff". "Breathe more deeply".
Avoid travel to socialist /nanny state countries??
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Old 02-28-2021, 04:35 AM   #13
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.... So do luxuries (chairs, bikes, buckets, coolers etc).
....
Items such as buckets and coolers are not luxuries off-grid (I have already deleted my bike from inventory, and our chairs are REI Flexlite, only 1 lb. apiece). It's extremely difficult for me to envision how life itself could be sustained without either of them during quarantine.

-- Without buckets, there's no way to fetch drinking water. I could go down to the lake shore and lower my face into the water like a wildebeest, sucking up water directly, but in Nova Scotia there's a cryptosporidium problem that would take me out pretty quickly if I opted for that approach.

-- Without a cooler, two active adults will not have enough food for 14 days. I suppose we could simply stop eating for part of that time, or eat an unbalanced diet consisting mostly of dried rice, but why would we make that kind of choice when we could instead find a way to solve the logistical problem that I'm describing in this thread?

For as long as there is ready access to retail, sure - people can do without this or that, because they can instead rely on that phenomenon which has proven to be so profoundly unreliable over the past year (and in so many different failed ways) -- just-in-time delivery.

Work the equation taking just-in-time delivery out of the picture, though. It yields a very different conclusion.
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Old 02-28-2021, 04:39 AM   #14
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Avoid travel to socialist /nanny state countries??
Yes, I could have abandoned my family responsibilities long before now. But I decided not to.
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Old 02-28-2021, 07:40 AM   #15
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And manage our next 14-day off-grid quarantine how, exactly? That would be the one where we are compelled by law to cross the border and have no contact with any human being or retail outlet, just like we did during the last one. I'm all ears.

You've issued a recommendation while describing no corresponding route to attainment. I don't understand an impulse like that - it makes no sense to me. It's the functional equivalent of (e.g.) telling a medical patient to skip the CPAP machine and just "breathe more deeply". "Carry less stuff". "Breathe more deeply".
Hardly the same, IB, but Iím not going to try to quarrel false equivalencies.

Iím sure you will find a way to pursue your choices.

Maggie
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Old 02-28-2021, 09:12 AM   #16
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Hardly the same, IB, but I’m not going to try to quarrel false equivalencies.

I’m sure you will find a way to pursue your choices.

Maggie
To clarify, in case I didn't scope it appropriately in the posts above.

I know my heaviest scenario extremely well, having spent about 100 hours planning it, and then 336 hours living it:

-- Two active adults plus one large dog 14 days off grid prohibited by law from contacting any person or retail establishment, entirely dependent on the van's cargo plus lake water to be purified for human consumption. No external source of electricity, sewer, potable water, or food. That is what I need to pack for, and that is why I have a weight challenge.

EDIT: For anyone who might be interested in what that ^^ scenario looks like in practice, you can see each of our 14 days (in August 2020) detailed on Instagram, username @interstate.blog.

I faced a lot of skepticism that relying exclusively on a van could be accomplished at all in that context, and I was up against the possibility that government agencies themselves would not believe the seriousness of my intentions (I was contacted daily, in person, by federal, provincial, and local police authorities). In response, I documented the entire process in real time, to legitimize it and put it on the record via social media.

https://www.instagram.com/interstate.blog/?hl=en
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Old 02-28-2021, 09:49 AM   #17
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Travel and Transport

Wondering if there are ways to ship some of what you would like to have in CA to an Amazon Locker or delivery recipient there that would allow you to access contact-free and in compliance with all protocols?

Maybe not the cheapest option but likely cheaper than buying a trailer.

Or have you ever considered taking 2 vehicles? Again, not the cheapest option but we travel that way when our adult kids go with us, vs buying a lager tow vehicle.

Taking 2 standard vehicles would allow you all to travel at normal highway speeds. If you trailer, you will have to slow down.
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Old 02-28-2021, 11:06 AM   #18
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Items such as buckets and coolers are not luxuries off-grid (I have already deleted my bike from inventory, and our chairs are REI Flexlite, only 1 lb. apiece). It's extremely difficult for me to envision how life itself could be sustained without either of them during quarantine.

-- Without buckets, there's no way to fetch drinking water. I could go down to the lake shore and lower my face into the water like a wildebeest, sucking up water directly, but in Nova Scotia there's a cryptosporidium problem that would take me out pretty quickly if I opted for that approach.

-- Without a cooler, two active adults will not have enough food for 14 days. I suppose we could simply stop eating for part of that time, or eat an unbalanced diet consisting mostly of dried rice, but why would we make that kind of choice when we could instead find a way to solve the logistical problem that I'm describing in this thread?

For as long as there is ready access to retail, sure - people can do without this or that, because they can instead rely on that phenomenon which has proven to be so profoundly unreliable over the past year (and in so many different failed ways) -- just-in-time delivery.

Work the equation taking just-in-time delivery out of the picture, though. It yields a very different conclusion.
It's really hard to add value to posts when advice is requested and then suggestions constantly refuted. It seems you know the answer and looking for confirmation. Safe travels.
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Old 03-01-2021, 07:30 AM   #19
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.....
Or have you ever considered taking 2 vehicles? Again, not the cheapest option but we travel that way when our adult kids go with us, vs buying a lager tow vehicle.

Taking 2 standard vehicles would allow you all to travel at normal highway speeds. If you trailer, you will have to slow down.
That's a novel suggestion, but for a 6,000-mile trip, it's not feasible for us. We are both employed people, and the only way my husband can manage that much time off is if he works remotely in the van while I do 85% of the driving. He can log 6 days of work (3 up and 3 back) if we travel that way. If he were a normal worker, he might be able to do even more on the road, but he's a federal contractor with access to controlled information, and is not permitted to take his computer across the Canadian border. We leave it in the custody of the local police in Houlton Maine, and pick it back up on the return trip.

In normal times, some of our weight was partially managed by me booking an air ticket to fly his [166 pound self plus luggage] to the destination. I drive up, he flies (I am self-employed and can juggle my time more than he can). But the pandemic put the kybosh on that procedure. He has to travel with me now because of the quarantine laws.
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Old 03-01-2021, 07:49 AM   #20
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It's really hard to add value to posts when advice is requested and then suggestions constantly refuted. It seems you know the answer and looking for confirmation. Safe travels.
You are refuting my response to buckets and coolers without elaborating on how I might manage my scenario without transporting buckets and a cooler with frozen food in it.

If you think there might be another way, I'm all ears.

For instance, you might suggest that I get someone else to bring me a cooler with food in it. Which is a viable solution theoretically, but that would leave us dependent on an idea for which there is no free market solution in a wilderness area that is a 50-mile round trip from the nearest grocery store.

To summarize the same thing another way, no poster here is going to know my situation as well as I already know it. Most suggestions I've already analyzed - I've been working this problem for 6 years now!!

But at the same time, someone may come up with a totally new idea that I was previously blind to. That's the beauty of threads.

EDIT: You can see an example of an un-blinding moment in the "meal transport" thread I've linked below, with the poster saying, "My husband thanks you, as you may have saved us literally thousands of dollars."

Here's my husband lifting one of our ice monoliths out of our cooler. We developed a means of freezing meals into ice blocks so that they will remain frozen in our Yeti cooler long term. There's a 6-year-long mega-thread here on the development of this particular strategy.

Of course this comes with an associated weight penalty. About 35 pounds per block, with 2 such blocks conforming to the interior shape of the Yeti.

But dang, we eat well in the bush! You can see how fit my husband is in this picture. We don't eat empty processed health-destroying foods. We eat a healthy diet and we keep fit.

Sustainability is critical in this context. Health sustainability trumps cargo weight. I follow the full-timer community on various social media channels and I will never forget the post in which a well-known full-timer announced that he had gained 45 pounds after 18 months on the road. Of course he did - he was eating crap for a diet because that's what most people do as they pursue some version of full-timer mythology. That's simply not sustainable.

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